Former priest accused of sexually assaulting children pleads not guilty

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – Former Catholic priest Manuel La Rosa-Lopez was arraigned in Montgomery County Court Monday and pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault of a child.

Lopez walked into court with his attorney and said nothing to the KPRC2 camera.

"This is a pattern that we've seen around the world with ministers who are guilty of misconduct or abusing children being kept in the ministry and not protecting the children," said Carol Midboe, a group leader of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Court documents said the alleged crimes date back more than 20 years to when the victim was a minor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

"The allegations are that she was sexually abused when she was 15 and she thought he had been taken out of the ministry. When she discovered he was still in the ministry, she came forward and made her report to law enforcement," Midboe said.

Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said Lopez is due back in court in 60 days.

In the meantime, there will be a lot of documents to go through, such as witness statements and search warrants at Lopez's home and the archdiocese.

There are about 16,000 documents in the county's case against the former priest.

"When you have a transient population or a transient defendant then it adds to the volume of discovery as being thorough. You want phone records, you want disciplinary records, you want claims of anyone he came into contact with," Ligon said.

Ligon believes that there could be more victims.

Victim advocates with SNAP believe it, too, but say there are many why are too afraid to come forward.

"It's very difficult, especially in the Latino community, because you realize a lot of victims are not here legally and they're very afraid to speak. If they're afraid, then justice will never be served," said Eduardo Lopez De Casas, with SNAP.

Montgomery County officials and SNAP are urging any more victims to come forward.

"People can still come forward today and make the report to law enforcement," Midboe said.

KPRC2 reached out to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for comment and they referred us to Lopez's attorney, who did not want to speak to us in court.

If you or someone you know may be a victim of sexual abuse, call the police. You can also contact the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests at 877-762-7432.

Lopez is due back in court in 60 days. He is currently out on bond.

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