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14 Clergymen Accused of Sexual Assault

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BROWNSVILLE – The Brownsville Diocese released the names of  14 clergymen who are credibly accused of sexual assault of minors in the Rio Grande Valley.

Critics believe that number may be too low.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke with an organization that represents victims of abuse at the hands of clergymen.

They're called Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

They say they not only think the number is too low, but they question those who investigated.

The Brownsville Diocese bishop here tells us he carefully selected the team and stands by their work.

The Valley's faithful pray, praise, and serve god throughout the 71 parishes established under the Brownsville Diocese.

Those who stand at their helms came under review in October following a decision made by bishops of Texas including Brownsville Diocese Bishop Daniel Flores. 

He knows the impact Thursday's announcement could have on the church. "We know that this was going to cause pain to victims," Bishop Flores said.

"The victims know who they are, and even if it goes way, way back it can still be a cause of pain. We want to be sensitive to that."

Bishop Flores selected the team of eight; it was comprised of seven women and a man.

 They reviewed the personnel files of 889 clergy from the Brownsville Diocese's beginning in 1965.

The team identified found 13 priests and a deacon who had credible allegations of sexual assault against them.

The most recent case was priest Lee Deacosta, who retired in 2012.

The review team found credible allegations of child sexual abuse.

That led to him being denied the ability to perform certain ministerial acts like funerals or marriage.

In spite of the findings of these 14 names, a spokesperson for SNAP believes there are more cases out there.

Patti Waller Koo, San Antonio S.N.A.P. Chapter Leaders, says, "I'm pretty appalled. That a very low number for such a large Catholic population in the Valley."

Waller Koo also questions who was selected to investigate the files.

"All SNAP is saying is let trained law enforcement do this job.

It's not the job of a church. Okay?" she said.

"They need to get in there and get witnesses and they're under oath and not wait this long to put out a list when people have died and the witnesses are gone."

Bishop Flores tells us he selected people from the private and public sector.

He describes them as people with family and a keen eye and trusts their work.

"Their background is impeccable and they did a great service to this church, because they reviewed everything. Most personnel files contain everything from a birthday card, but they reviewed everything."

We looked at another website tracking bishop accountability.

It mentions one person from the Valley: Humberto Medeiros.

An allegation of inappropriate touching is detailed. 

On the diocese website, it lists Bishop Medeiros as being named second bishop in Brownsville. 

His name did not appear on the list released Thursday.

Bishop Daniel Flores says, "Our review team looked at his file and every bishop who's ever served here, every priest, every deacon and that there was nothing that could indicate that. So it may be that those reports are something that that area have looked into but I've never heard that particular allegation before."

Bishop Flores says they acknowledge the scars left behind but hope this investigation helps create transparency and helps bring healing to old wounds.

SNAP critiques the church for taking it upon itself to look into the allegations rather than bring in police investigators.

Bishop Flores says they had to do this as a way of owning their past.

Anyone with possible allegations of sexual abuse is encouraged to report it to police in order to prompt a formal investigation. 

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