Cardinal Daniel DiNardo is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, making him one of the most powerful Catholic officials in the country. He has also been one of the most vocal critics of the church’s handling of its sex abuse scandal.
But this summer, Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, a priest whom DiNardo had promoted, was arrested for allegedly molesting two children. DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston since 2006, has vowed to release by January a list of all the priests in Houston who have been, in the church’s judgment, “credibly accused” of sexually abusing a child.
Now, a CBS News investigation has uncovered a lack of action by DiNardo in handling sex abuse allegations in his own archdiocese.
John LaBonte said Rev. John Keller molested him when he was 16 years old. He said DiNardo has allowed Keller to continue presiding over one of the largest Catholic churches in Houston.
“I shrank. I was like, I’m not here. I left my body. They say there’s the flight and fright. Well, I was frozen,” LaBonte said.
He said he felt it was his “duty as a Catholic” to speak out about his experience. He brought his allegations to the archdiocese in 2002. He said he told them that Keller plied him with alcohol and fondled him in his bed on an overnight trip.
A letter from the archdiocese said Keller acknowledged “holding [LaBonte] in a manner inappropriate for a priest,” but “[denied] any sexual intent.” Ultimately, the church “could not conclude that” what happened “constituted sexual abuse.”
The church promised to put Keller into therapy. DiNardo kept him in active ministry at Prince of Peace Church, where CBS News cameras recently captured DiNardo visiting.