US police raid diocesan sites for files on alleged abusers

US police raid diocesan sites for files on alleged abusers Fr Edmundo Paredes (left) and St Cecelia Catholic Church in the Dallas suburb of Oak Cliff (right)

Dallas police have executed search warrants at three Diocese of Dallas sites yesterday (May 15), saying the process was an extension of their ongoing investigation of sexual abuse allegations into six current or former priests.

This includes a priest accused of sexually abusing three minors. He is believed to have fled the country to his native Philippines.

Maj. Max Geron, who heads the Dallas Police Department’s special investigations division, said that detectives had been meeting with diocesan officials over the past several months.

The searches include a pastoral centre, an offsite warehouse where diocesan records and documents are kept and at St Cecilia Catholic Church offices, the parish where one of the accused priests, Fr Edmundo Paredes, was the pastor for nearly 20 years.

At a news conference at police headquarters and responding to a question of cooperation by diocesan officials with the police investigation, Maj. Geron said: “We have had a number of meetings with them, characterising that in varying degrees of cooperation. We believe that the execution of the warrants was wholly appropriate for the furtherance of the investigation.”

He declined to give specifics of the investigation, other than saying that “these investigations stem from additional allegations made after the case against Mr Paredes became public”.

Diocese spokeswoman Annette Gonzales Taylor said that the search warrants on the three sites were a surprise because Church officials believed that they had been fully cooperating with investigators.

Throughout the day, numerous plainclothes law enforcement officials were seen entering and exiting the main pastoral centre building. Marked police cars and a cargo truck blocked entrances to the garage and main parking area. As of early afternoon, nothing had been brought out of the building.

The issuance of search warrants in Dallas is one of two so-called raids at large diocesan offices in Texas. Last November, law enforcement officials executed a search warrant at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

The execution of the Dallas search warrants comes after months of reports from around the US and the world about clergy sex abuse that have rocked the universal Church and efforts to combat it locally and globally.

In August 2018, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania found that more than 300 priests and other Church workers in six dioceses were linked to sex abuse claims by more than 1,000 victims over a 70-year period, and calls by numerous bishops and clergy across the country for due diligence and transparency.