Prosecutors from Montgomery County, Texas, entered the offices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston on Wednesday morning in search of “secret archives” and other records related to clergy sex abuse.
Prosecutors with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office teamed up with investigators from the Conroe Police Department and Texas Rangers to raid the offices of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, according to information first reported by KHOU. The team entered the offices on Wednesday morning in search of documents related to the ongoing sex abuse crisis and alleged coverups within the Catholic Church.
In September, Father Manuel LaRosa-Lopez turned himself in to Conroe law enforcement following the issuance of an arrest warrant that alleged he sexually assaulted at least two children nearly 20 years ago, Breitbart News reported.
A woman accused the priest in 2001 of kissing and touching her inappropriately at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe when she was 16-years-old, the Catholic news outlet reported. He is also accused by a now 36-year-old man of sexually abusing him for several years beginning in 1998.
In what KHOU called an “unprecedented action,” prosecutors entered the offices of the archdiocese to search for documents related to the LaRosa-Lopez case. The search warrant states that the DA seeks to examine confidential documents held in “the Archdiocese’s Chancery and secret archives.”
Officials with the office of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston issued a statement that said, in part:
This morning, the District Attorney of Montgomery County executed a search warrant for records and information related to an ongoing investigation. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston continues to cooperate, as we have since the outset, with this process. In fact, consistent with Cardinal DiNardo’s pledge of full cooperation, the information being sought was already being compiled.
Officials explained that the term “secret archives” is “merely a Church term pertaining to confidential documents kept in a secure manner” for privacy protection. The statement compared the protection to that provided for medical records.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon told the Houston Chronicle, “The good thing is, I’ve taken the burden off everybody in the Catholic Church. They don’t have to know anything. I’m going to find it all.”
The local CBS affiliate reported this is the fourth search warrant executed in connection to this case.
Breitbart News reported on the execution of one of those warrants issued for a rehabilitation center in the Conroe area. The Shalom Center was listed in 1995 by the U.S. Conference of Bishops as a treatment center for priests involved in sex-related crimes, the Houston Chronicle stated.
Since then, other warrants were executed to search St. John Fisher Catholic Church in Richmond, Texas and the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe.
DA Ligon said he expected the search to continue for up to two days if necessary.
LaRosa-Lopez remains free on a $375,000 bond. His next court date is set for January 10, 2019.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with a statement from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and additional information reported by the Houston Chronicle.