Last Thursday, a cluster of nine microphones mounted to a podium waited to catch the words of Rev. Edward J. Burns, bishop of Dallas, who read his opening statement to those assembled in the quiet room as well as online viewers streaming in. A large crucifix hung on the front of the stand. Two steps to the right of the press room, a framed photograph of Pope Francis faced the reporters.
In an effort for greater transparency, on Jan. 31, all 15 Texas dioceses released the names of their priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. The Diocese of Dallas published the names of 31 priests who have been accused since 1950.
Nearly a third of these names have something in common: 10 of the 31 priests have either attended or been ordained at Holy Trinity Seminary (HTS), according to diocesan spokeswoman Annette Taylor.
Research in the University of Dallas Archives and online records revealed eight of the 10 priests who received formation at Holy Trinity Seminary. Jose Saldana, Robert Peebles, Robert Crisp, Timothy Heines, Rudy Kos and Edmundo Paredes were ordained priests from Holy Trinity. William Hughes and Richard Brown attended Holy Trinity, but it is unclear whether they were ordained there or not.
James Reilly, another of the 31 accused priests, was too old to have graduated from HTS, but worked as an instructor there from November 1967 to September 1987, retiring in October 1987, according to UD archivist Shelley Gayler-Smith.
“All of those dated back to classes in the 70s, 80s and 90s with the most recent graduating from HTS in 1992,” wrote Taylor.
The University News contacted Holy Trinity Seminary Rector Rev. James Swift, but he declined to comment based on diocese policy, directing all questions to Taylor.
Among the most notorious of the alleged abusers is Rudy Kos, who was incarcerated in 1998 for sexually assaulting altar boys, according to an Associated Press article published April 2, 1998.
Kos is serving multiple life sentences and the Diocese of Dallas was fined $119.6 million in damages for “ignored evidence that a priest was sexually abusing boys and that it had then tried to cover up the abuses,” according to a New York Times article from July 25, 1997.
Kos attended Holy Trinity Seminary from 1977 to 1981, when he was ordained a priest. His time overlapped with that of Edmundo Paredes, who entered in 1981 and was ordained four years later.
Paredes, a former pastor of Blessed Sacrament St. Cecilia, spent his seminary years at Holy Trinity from 1981 to 1985. Paredes was suspended in 2017 and has been charged with molesting three boys and embezzling between $60,000 and $80,000 from the church. Paredes has fled the country and is believed to be in the Philippines, according to an August 2018 article by the Dallas Morning News.
“Formation at Holy Trinity has greatly changed since the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s,” wrote Taylor. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People signed in 2002 by United States bishops called for reformed safety measures in churches, schools, and seminaries.
“Holy Trinity Seminary began conducting both criminal and psychological background checks of the men seeking entrance into the seminary,” wrote Taylor. “Holy Trinity also does follow-up psychological testing before men are ordained.”
“Following allegations regarding Cardinal McCarrick, Bishop Burns provided seminarians with an outside resource, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sex abuse, to report any serious concern that might arise without fear of having to notify seminary or diocesan staff,” Taylor added.
The Texas bishops collectively decided to publish these lists last September. Burns said Thursday that he opened files of 2,424 priests in the diocese of Dallas to a private investigative team made up of former FBI, state troopers, and other law enforcement experts in order to compile this list.
In an effort to “promote healing and a restoration of trust in the Catholic Church,” Burns stated that the diocese is sharing these records to offer more transparency, according to an Oct. 10, 2018 letter from the Dallas Diocese Office of Communication.
“The fact that there is one [name] on the list disturbs me,” Burns said Thursday. He added that these men “no longer wear the Roman collar.”
Burns said that any further allegations will be added to the list. He encouraged anyone with information to contact the diocesan Victim’s Assistance Coordinator, Barbara Landregan, at 214-379-2812.
“We are not going to be complacent,” Burns added. “We have to do what is right in being accountable.”
Of the priests listed, four have been prosecuted, according to Taylor. One prosecution is confirmed as ongoing. Four of the priests on the list have committed sexual crimes since 2002, the most recent recording of which was 2009.
Burns noted that these priests are listed for crimes committed while in Dallas, and their names may be on other lists.
Further, since Holy Trinity forms priests to serve in multiple dioceses, according to its website, it is possible that some of the priests publicized by other dioceses may have studied at Holy Trinity as well.
The current list addresses only offenses against minors by ordained priests. Taylor said this is because Bishop Burns “feels the need to address those most vulnerable” first.
Taylor confirmed that there will be future investigations into the records and files on deacons and seminarians as well. She added that once the diocese is given information regarding sexual abuse, it immediately turns this knowledge over to law enforcement.
Burns acknowledged the challenge to remain faithful amid clergy abuse within the church. But, hands clasped, he told the journalists:
“You never separate yourself from Jesus because of Judas.”