Cardinal DiNardo denies mishandling abuse allegation

Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Texas Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, denies a characterization of how he handled an accusation by a woman who said she was manipulated into a sexual relationship with his former deputy, a priest.

An account of the situation was published days before he is set to lead a meeting that will focus on how the U.S. Catholic Church can better handle abuse claims, including holding bishops accountable.

Advertisement

"The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston categorically rejects the unprofessional, biased and one-sided reporting contained in today's Associated Press story headlined 'The Reckoning.' At each step in this matter, Cardinal DiNardo has reacted swiftly and justly," said a June 4 statement.

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

It was released hours after the news agency published a story about Laura Pontikes, who told the AP that she reported to the archdiocese what had happened between her and Msgr. Frank Rossi, a former vicar general in Galveston-Houston, whom she said she met in a confessional at a time when she was having problems in her marriage.

The incidents in question date from 2007, according to Pontikes' account to the AP. She reported the incidents to the archdiocese in 2016.

"After Mrs. Pontikes reported an inappropriate relationship with Monsignor Rossi to the archdiocese on April 6th, 2016, Cardinal DiNardo removed him from the parish less than a week later and then sent Monsignor Rossi on April 21 to a treatment center for an assessment," the statement said. "Upon his return to Houston, Monsignor Rossi formally resigned from the parish on May 6th. He then went to a rehabilitation program until early December."

After that point, the accounts of what was agreed to differ. The archdiocese's statement says Cardinal DiNardo told Laura Pontikes and her husband, George, that Msgr. Rossi would not be reassigned in Galveston-Houston. Msgr. Rossi was, however, assigned to a parish in the Beaumont Diocese in Texas after having "completed his rehabilitation process and was recommended to active ministry by the professionals who assessed him," the statement from Galveston-Houston explained.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

But the AP story said Cardinal DiNardo told the woman that Msgr. Rossi would not serve as a pastor again.

A letter by Bishop Curtis J. Guillory posted on the website for the Diocese of Beaumont said Msgr. Rossi is on administrative leave "pending the outcome of a criminal investigation of sexual misconduct" involving a woman and an incident of "alleged misconduct" while he served in Galveston-Houston. Bishop Guillory explained that Msgr. Rossi arrived in Beaumont "as a priest in good standing" from Galveston-Houston after having a completed a "renewal" program for clergy that placed no restrictions on his ministry.

The news agency in a subsequent article said it had tried to clear up questions with the archdiocese and the cardinal before the publication of the story, but requests for comment were denied. But what happened or didn't happen remains in dispute. The AP story mentions incidents between Laura Pontikes and Msgr. Rossi that it alleges took place in the confessional but says the archdiocese said Msgr. Rossi did not hear the woman's confession.

The statement from Galveston-Houston said "a mutual agreement to enter into a confidential mediation process" exists and added that in August 2017, "Laura Pontikes, accompanied by her psychologist, met with a representative of the archdiocese and Laura made, among other requests, a demand for a $10 million payment." In the AP story from June 5, Pontikes admits a demand took place, but it was done in anger, the story said.

The USCCB, headed by Cardinal DiNardo, is set to meet for its 2019 spring general assembly in Baltimore June 11-14 and a main focus of the gathering is how the church will handle abuse cases going forward in light of Pope Francis' "motu proprio" instructing the world's dioceses on handling allegations against bishops.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Craig B. Mckee
8 months 3 weeks ago

Di Nardo's continuing presidency of the USCCB is an affront and public scandal to the American church, his fellow bishops who elected him, and worst of all to the American Catholics who are attempting to follow their leaders.
His first official action in Baltimore next week should be his last: IMMEDIATE RESIGNATION.
Anything less, should empower American Catholics to take any and all documents and/or statements issued by the USCCB next week to be used to line their birdcages. Period. No more deceit. No more apologetics. No more Papal Bull!

Ron Martel
8 months 3 weeks ago

Mister McKee you seem to know a lot about the investigation. MYbe they should hire you.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.]

Advertisement

The latest from america

Tucker Redding, S.J. guides listeners through contemplative prayer in this 10-part mini-series "Imagine: A Guide to Jesuit Prayer."
Tucker Redding, SJFebruary 26, 2020
We are always tempted to make faith into something that we handle, not a way by which we surrender.
Terrance KleinFebruary 26, 2020
How perfectly the prophet Joel summons us to Lent with those two adverbs: “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.”
Terrance KleinFebruary 26, 2020
Join us throughout the Lenten season as we offer a special presentation of the Gospel, Passion and Resurrection narratives. 
Isabelle SenechalFebruary 26, 2020