Parish Predators

Despite the bishopís remarks to the contrary, the Galveston-Houston Roman Catholic Archdiocese had child molesters and let them go. But donít blame just the Church.

The charter states that sexual abuse "need not be a complete act of intercourse. Nor, to be objectively grave, does an act need to involve force, physical contact, or a discernible harmful outcome."

Yet earlier this year, when a host of women accused a Houston priest of kissing them when they were children and young adults, the priest's attorney argued that kissing is not sexual abuse, stating that none of the girls accused him of attempted "genital contact."

The conference in 2002 also issued a 140-page indictment of how most bishops harbored predators and revictimized children who were abused. Findings included:

• The threat of litigation caused some bishops to disregard their pastoral role and adopt an adversarial stance not worthy of the Church

• Some bishops and other Church leaders placed the interests of the accused priests above those of the victims and too often declined to hear from victims directly

• Dioceses and orders did not screen candidates for the priesthood properly. As a result, many sexually dysfunctional and immature men were admitted into seminaries and later ordained into the priesthood

• The fear of scandal caused [bishops and Church leaders] to practice secrecy and concealment

Also in 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ordered all dioceses to implement a program known as "Safe Environment," whereby all diocesan personnel and volunteers would undergo criminal background checks. Furthermore, the archdiocese would bear the costs of training anyone who has regular contact with youths how to spot potential predators. The same year, Fiorenza issued a statement proclaiming that the archdiocese would "make the protection and safety of children and young people a top priority."

Three years after Fiorenza's proclamation, boys were still spending nights at Moreno's apartment and sitting on his examination table at Dynamic Health Care.

While a diocese spokeswoman has repeatedly told the Houston Pressthat Fiorenza was well ahead of the curve when it came to church policies for protecting children, internal memos from 1996 indicate otherwise.

That year, a 14-year-old boy told parish leaders that a seminarian named Juan Carlos Patino-Arango had molested him. That boy and two others would give affidavits in 2005 describing similar abuse.

Predators within the Catholic Church often indulge in fetishes that show a methodical approach to abuse. Father Rudy Kos in Dallas had to masturbate himself with the feet of boys wearing white athletic socks. Father Thomas Teczar of Fort Worth liked to take pictures of erect boys sitting in his mother's rocking chair.

For Patino-Arango, it was pubic hair.

The boys -- referred to in the case as John Does I, II and III -- stated in affidavits that Father William Pickard introduced Patino-Arango as "the priest who would be in charge of the Spanish-speaking masses."

The 27-year-old ingratiated himself with the mothers of the boys, offering to counsel them about sex and masturbation -- topics that the parents might not be able to comfortably discuss with their boys.

Patino-Arango held the "counseling sessions" at the parish rectory, telling the boys to pull down their pants so he could see their pubic hair. He wanted to observe their development from "boy to man."

John Doe II stated that during his second counseling session, Patino-Arango "took me to his room and told me to lie down on his bed. He then pulled down my pants. He started massaging my legs and told me he was going to take away all the 'bad energy' that had got me in 'trouble' with my parents. He then grabbed my penis and put it in his mouth and the same time, started masturbating himself...After the second incident, Father Juan Carlos gave me the Bible. I burned it."

John Doe II told the Press in July, "He came up to me after the second time and he just came and told me, 'Who you think you are? You think they're going to believe you? You're a stupid kid -- who's going to listen to a little kid instead of a priest? So just keep it to yourself.' "

He was abused in eighth grade. A year later, he was running away from home and failing high school. That first year of high school, he was called to the principal's office 52 times.

In 2004, Dallas attorney Tahira Khan-Merritt sued the archdiocese on behalf of the boys. The suit dug up memos showing just where the parish's allegiance lay.

The memos show that the parish terminated Patino-Arango as a seminarian shortly after the allegation, although his health benefits would last for another month.

On May 30, 1996 -- four days after John Doe I reported the abuse -- Monsignor Frank Rossi wrote in his log: "Masturbating did occur. Juan Carlos minimized it. Says boys showed pubic hair and denies touching penis."

May 31: "Juan Carlos: anxiety attack. Given anti-depresant [sic] med. Could stay at Mary Knoll [a diocesan treatment center] for a one [sic] month."

June 16: "J.C. is very remorseful about the incident. He plans to immediately return to Colombia because he fears his mother would try to come see him here."

June 26: "Juan Carlos Patino has a return ticket from his mother to return to Colombia on July 7. He is trying to get a ticket for an earlier date. Giving $550 to pay for $650 ticket."

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