Parish Predators: Trial Set in Molestation Case Against the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

After three years of legal wrangling, a trial has been set in the case of four men who sued the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for alleged negligence related to sexual abuse they suffered at a diocesan parish in the mid-1990s. The trial has been set for February 25, 2008, in U.S. District Court in Houston.

The case involves Colombian seminarian student Juan Carlos Patino-Arango, who admitted to molesting one of the men (then 14 years old) in his quarters at St. Francis de Sales Parish Church. Patino-Arango left the country shortly afterwards and is believed to be living in Medellin, Colombia.

In a Sept. 26th memorandum discussing which claims were sufficient for trial, Judge Lee Rosenthal allowed the plaintiffs’ claim that the Archdiocese was negligent in hiring Patino-Arango. The 77-page memorandum includes an excerpt from Patino-Arango’s psychological evaluation stating that “difficulties reported in his past [involving] authority and sexuality” meant that Patino-Arango “may need to be supervised closely and his progress monitored regularly.”

Attorneys for the Archdiocese maintain that Patino-Arango was properly supervised and that church authorities could not have foreseen the likelihood of sexual abuse.

The suit was filed in federal court because it originally named Pope Benedict XVI as a defendant. However, that claim was dismissed because of head-of-state immunity. At an Oct. 10 hearing, both parties agreed to keep the matter in federal court. – Craig Malisow

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