Woman accuses top US cardinal of mishandling church sexual abuse case

Woman accuses top US cardinal of mishandling church sexual abuse case
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A Houston woman told the Associated Press in an interview published Tuesday that the cardinal responsible for the Catholic Church’s response to clerical abuse mishandled a sexual misconduct case involving a subordinate.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo is set to preside over a meeting of U.S. bishops next week to establish new rules addressing sexual misconduct or coverups thereof among church leaders. However, Laura Pontikes, a Houston construction executive, told the AP DiNardo has not taken sufficient action since she reported Monsignor Frank Rossi to the Galveston-Houston archdiocese in April 2016 for allegedly pressing her into a sexual relationship.

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Pontikes produced to both the AP and the archdiocese seven years of emails between her and Rossi that she said indicated how he had built up her emotional dependency on him.

“He took a woman that went into a church truly looking for God, and he took me for himself,” she said.

Pontikes told the AP that DiNardo initially told her she was “the victim” and his staff told her Rossi would never be a pastor or in a position to counsel women again, but months later, he allowed Rossi to take up a new assignment as a pastor at Woodville, Texas’s Our Lady of the Pines.

The archdiocese told the AP the relationship was consensual and that DiNardo put Rossi on leave after Pontikes’s complaint, returning him to active ministry in keeping with recommendations from a “renewal” course for clergy.

DiNardo’s archdiocese also said that Beaumont Bishop Curtis Guillory, Rossi’s new superior, had been informed that Rossi had violated his chastity vows. On Tuesday, after the AP reached out, Guillory said Rossi would be on temporary leave while the outcome of a criminal sexual misconduct investigation by Houston police based on Pontikes’s report was pending.

Under Texas law, sex between adults is not considered consensual in cases where a member of the clergy exploits a spiritual counseling relationship, and Pontikes’s Catholic therapist, Dr. Ken Buckle, said in a sworn affidavit that Rossi “seduced, betrayed and ultimately sexually victimized” her.

The archdiocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.