The Bishop of Dallas says that a May 15 police raid on diocesan offices was sensationalism, traumatic, and a waste of resources.
“This event was most traumatic for those who were present in the building at the time, as some of the approximate 40 law enforcement agents approached employees in ski masks and SWAT gear,” Dallas Bishop Edward Burns said in a statement.
Burns said that while a subpoena would have sufficed for obtaining documents from the diocese, “the Dallas Police Department chose the sensational action of conducting this unnecessary raid.”
“We find this week’s events to be most troubling and consuming of significant resources that could have been put to much better use.”
Investigators from the Dallas child exploitation unit arrived at the chancery the morning of May 15 to search for information and evidence in relation to five current or former clergy of the diocese.
According to a search warrant affidavit, the investigation focused on Fr. Edmundo Paredes, Fr. Richard Thomas Brown, Fr. Alejandro Buitrago, Fr. William Joseph Hughes, Jr., and Fr. Jeremy Myers.
Searches were also carried out at a warehouse storage facility and a nearby parish.
All five men were included in a list of names of clergy “credibly” accused of sexual abuse released by Texas’ dioceses in January. The Diocese of Dallas released the name of 31 accused clerics, including 24 incardinated in the diocese and seven priests either from other dioceses or religious orders who had worked in Dallas.
Burns said that the raid was executed because police falsely believed the diocese was hiding from police information that seemed to be missing from its files.
“But in reality, the Diocese cannot turn over what it does not have. All of the files for the names in the affidavit have been turned over, and the Diocese was working directly with Police on this, spending hours combing through thousands of files, some of which were decades old,” he wrote.
While some 51 pages were given to police well after initial documents were given to police, Burns said this was because they were discovered during an ongoing review of 221,855 pages of relevant documents in possession of the diocese.
“To imply that these documents were intentionally withheld in any capacity is to truly misrepresent the nature of our correspondence with the Dallas Police Department,” Burns added.
The raid, Burns said, represented a breakdown in collaboration between police and the diocese.
“Despite months of working with members of the Dallas Police Department and civil officials with respect to the release of our list of credible allegations on January 31, 2019, some members of the Police Department still felt it necessary to write the affidavit and institute this raid,” the bishop lamented.
“In speaking to civil authorities, I say that the Catholic Church needs you; we do not want to feel as if we are your enemies, but that is precisely what we have been made to feel today. I will continue to work diligently in removing even the hint of sexual impropriety among the clerics in this Diocese, and I pray that the Dallas Police Department will help me to do this.”