CONROE — Two alleged victims who claim they were sexually abused by a Conroe priest came forward separately. Both say that they were inspired to come forward after seeing recent news coverage of the church scandal in Pennsylvania.
KHOU 11 News spoke with one of the alleged victims by phone. She said she’s not yet ready to do an on-camera interview, or be identified. For the purposes of our report, she’s going by the name Anne.
“The only thing that I want from him is just to stop him from being around children,” she said.
She’s referring to Father Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, who bonded out of jail Thursday. He’s been charged with sexually abusing two parishioners - Anne and a male - when they were teenagers at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe.
Anne, now 33, said she first reported the abuse back in 2001. Her family moved out of the country soon afterward. In 2010, she says she again reported the past abuse to high-ranking leaders in the Archdiocese.
“I was told he wouldn’t be near children, anymore. That he would be removed from parish ministry. That obviously didn’t happen and I feel very betrayed,” Anne told us.
Anne says she recently confirmed that La Rosa-Lopez was currently a priest at St. John the Fisher Church in Richmond. She says that fact, along with now knowing there are no statute of limitations in Montgomery County to take legal action against him, is what prompted her to file a police report.
“I blamed myself for a very long time and when I became a mother, I realized that I was a child," she said. "If that happened to my child, what wouldn’t I do to make sure it was stopped?”
She and the male accuser allege that the abuse took place from the early 1990’s to the early 2000’s. The Galveston-Houston Archdiocese says that La Rosa-Lopez has denied the allegations against him in both cases.
The male accuser, now 36, first reported the abuse last month. Church officials released a detailed statement that said they contacted Child Protective Services to investigate Anne’s accusations, when they were reported to them years ago. They also say that after “an internal review,” the priest was allowed to return to parish ministry.
“Hopefully, justice will be served. We’ll get to the bottom of what really happened,” said Conroe City Councilman Jody Czajkowski. The councilman says that he and his family are active members of Sacred Heart Parish, and that no one currently in leadership was present at the time La Rosa-Lopez served there as a priest.
Anne says she wants to see broader changes in how the Catholic Church responds to sex abuse allegations.
“I want to see that the church protects the people that it claims to want to, because they’re not doing a good job of that.”
Members of the organization, “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,” or SNAP, are urging anyone who has similar allegations against La Rosa-Lopez , to come forward.