Sins of Omission?

The local Catholic diocese gets accused of covering up a '96 sex abuse case

Shea became a major figure in the scandals two years ago when he helped unearth an old secret church document that many plaintiffs' attorneys believe to be Vatican instructions to priests on how to cover up sexual abuse.

"There had never been any criminal action initiated against Patino-Arango until the client got involved with me, and I insisted that they make a police report," Shea says.

He says the parents of the first altar boy don't recall ever being contacted by Houston police, and that the boy's father never said he would refuse to cooperate in a criminal investigation.

Fiorenza says the diocese reported the abuse.
Fiorenza says the diocese reported the abuse.

Moreover, Shea's suit accuses the diocese of allowing Patino-Arango to act as a deacon, even though he was not ordained as such. "By placing him at St. Francis, the Diocese and Fiorenza represented to the parish community that Patino-Arango was a celibate Catholic cleric and therefore sexually safe to all the children," the suit states.

Patino-Arango's last known address was in Tampa, Florida. The Catholic diocese there has no record of him enrolling in the seminary or holding another position in one of its churches. According to Fiorenza's letter, Patino-Arango returned to Colombia after he was kicked out of the seminary. But if members of the diocese have any proof that he ever left the country, or that his hometown diocese was notified of his alleged crimes, they won't share it.

"We cooperated fully with the police investigation and continue to do so today," Taylor offers instead.

Shea asks, "Why was no criminal action ever initiated back then? That's what's puzzling about the sequence of events here."

Meanwhile, eight years after the sexual abuse, all the victims have is a letter of apology.

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