US bishops' conference president responds to claims in CBS News report
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, has denied that he allowed two priests to remain in active ministry despite credible allegations of sexual abuse against them.
CBS News aired a report Nov. 20, citing accusations against two Houston priests, Fr. Terence Brinkman and Fr. John Keller, who are presently in active ministry within the archdiocese.
During the meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference held in Baltimore last week, CBS asked DiNardo if he was aware that “you have two priests with credible sexual abuse allegations currently in active ministry in your diocese?”
DiNardo, who serves as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, asked which priests were being referenced. On hearing the names of Brinkman and Keller, he immediately responded that neither was a credible allegation.
“That’s not a credible one,” DiNardo said of the accusation against Keller. Regarding the allegation against Brinkman the cardinal replied that “[the accusation against] Terry was never credible.”
Under the Dallas Charter and Essential Norms governing how U.S. dioceses are to handle sexual abuse allegations against priests, a “credible” accusation is any allegation which has the semblance of truth or not found to be manifestly false or frivolous.
Since 2002, all accusations of sexual abuse against a priest in an American diocese are examined by an independent, lay-led diocesan review board which determines if they are “credible.”
Citing court documents, the report says that Fr. Brinkman was accused of sexually abusing a minor, but that a civil case was dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said that the accuser had offered a physical description “that does not match Fr. Brinkman.”
The website Bishop-Accountability lists the accusation as having been made in a civil suit filed in July 2010, and concerns alleged events in the mid 1970s. The CBS report made no reference to these dates but did display the same image of Fr. Brinkman that appears on Bishop-Accountability.
Fr. Thomas Keller is accused by Mr. John LaBonte of giving him alcohol and fondling him in his bed during an overnight trip. LaBonte was 16 at the time of the alleged incident.
LaBonte told CBS that he presented his allegation to the then-Diocese of Galveston-Houston in 2002, at the height of the last sexual abuse crisis in the Church in the United States.
Citing a letter received he in 2003, LaBonte says the diocese confirmed that Keller behaved in a manner “inappropriate for a priest” and was receiving “therapy” but that they “could not conclude” that that the incident “constituted sexual abuse.”
Both Keller and Brinkman remain in active ministry. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston could not be reached for comment.
DiNardo has committed to release a list of all clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston by the end of January 2019. That list will include accusations dating back seven decades.