Diocese of Victoria names 3 priests 'credibly accused' of sexually abusing children

Fourteen priests who have ministered to Crossroads residents since the 1940s were among those named by the Catholic dioceses of Texas on Thursday as being “credibly accused” of sexually abusing a minor.

Fourteen priests who have ministered to Crossroads residents since the 1940s were among those named by the Catholic dioceses of Texas on Thursday as being “credibly accused” of sexually abusing a minor.

Brendan Cahill, the bishop of the Diocese of Victoria, named the Revs. David L. Collela, Alfred Prado, Guido Miguel Quiroz Reyes as being “credibly accused” of sexually abusing a minor during their assignments in the 1980s.

Colella and Reyes were assigned then to Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Victoria, while Prado was assigned to Our Lady of the Gulf Church in Port Lavaca.

Colella, Cahill said, retired from the ministry. He lives in Baltimore, Md.

Prado was removed from the ministry in 2006, but “has since been attempting to conduct ministry in a cult-like community setting in Costa Rica,” Cahill said.

Reyes retired from active ministry in 1988 and died in 2008.

The Diocese of Victoria was established in 1982 and so did not include the names of the other priests.

The Victoria Advocate reviewed the names released by other Catholic dioceses of Texas. Each diocese was different in terms of how much information it gave about the priests.

The Archdiocese of San Antonio, for example, organized the priests by decade of when the abuse was alleged to have occurred. It also named two priests because the allegations that they sexually abused minors were public record. One of those priests, the Rev. Donald Ruppert, now serves the Diocese of Victoria in East Bernard.

Ruppert was named in a lawsuit in 2003. The plaintiff alleged that Ruppert sexually abused him in 1978. The case was eventually dismissed because the plantiff did not “actively pursue the case,” the Archdiocese said.

Ruppert has denied the allegations.

David E. Fellhauer, who served as the bishop of the Diocese of Victoria from 1990 until 2015, was informed of the allegation and determined the allegation against Ruppert was not credible. Since Cahill became the bishop of the Diocese of Victoria, he’s reviewed the allegation against Ruppert twice and each time determined it was not credible, he said Friday.

Also among the 14 named was the Monsignor Michael Harrold, who ministered throughout the Crossroads from the time he was ordained in 1950 until he died in 2015. Some of his stops included St. Patrick’s in Bloomington and St. Mary’s, St. Joseph High School and Our Lady of Victory in Victoria. He was also the campus minister for Victoria Junior College and for the University of Houston-Victoria.

In 2018, it was alleged that he sexually abused a teenage girl in the 1970s. Since he was part of the Archdiocese in the 1970s, the Archdiocese was the one to review the allegation and it determined that it was credible.

“It will be surprising for people,” Cahill said of Harrold being named by the Archdiocese, “but I really want to maintain that I want to stay focused on the victims of clergy sexual abuse and for their voices to be heard.”

Cahill said a grand jury report about clergy abuse in Pennsylvania that came out in fall 2018 inspired him to review the allegation against Ruppert and others again. He said the diocese hired Victoria attorney Casey Cullen to review its files on the priests. He said that he listened to what Cullen thought of each allegation and then made a decision as to whether it was credible.

Cahill said above all, he named the priests so the victims would know the church was listening to them and that they were not alone.

“It’s different than saying, ‘I’m sorry for the sins of the past.’ It puts a name on it,” Cahill said. “I have to be careful, too, because I don’t think it necessarily offers closure or complete healing...”

During an interview with the Victoria Advocate, Cahill said he couldn’t recall the circumstances of the alleged sexual abuse or whether law enforcement was called on any of the priests without reviewing the priests’ files again.

Cullen declined to comment on what his process of reviewing the files entailed or if he consulted law enforcement.

Cahill said he is not currently reviewing any allegations of clergy sex abuse and that church has gotten better at responding to them.

“That I can say for sure. Number one, we encourage people to call the police,” he said.

In 2003, the Diocese of Victoria established the Office of Safe Environment. The director of that office, Melissa Perales, “gives regular reports” while Vicki Pyatt serves as the victim assistance coordinator.

“If there’s a criminal proceeding going on, she can help with the pastoral care,” Cahill said.

The office has also trained more than 14,800 adults across the diocese how to identify and report the sexual abuse of a minor.

The Diocese of Victoria is made up of Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, Matagorda, Victoria, Wharton and Colorado counties as well as part of Fayette County west of Colorado River. This totals 9,609 square miles. It has 50 parishes and 17 missions.

This story was updated Feb. 1, 2019 to correct the name of the Office of Safe Environment.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Former Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest worked for the Victoria Advocate from August 2012-September 2019, first as the courts reporter and then as the environment/investigations reporter. Read her work now at www.jessicapriest.me.

(1) comment

Betty Williams

This reminds me of the Salem Witch trials

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