Dallas, Texas, May 15, 2019 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Police are conducting a search of Church premises in the Diocese of Dallas. Officers executed a warrant on the chancery offices at 7:30 am local time.
Investigators from the Dallas child exploitation unit arrived at the chancery Wednesday morning 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 is focused on Fr. Edmundo Paredes, Fr. Richard Thomas Brown, Fr. Alejandro Buitrago, Fr. William Joseph Hughes, Jr., and Fr. Jeremy Myers.
Local media have also reported that searches are being carried out at a warehouse storage facility and the parish of St. Cecilia in Oak Cliff.
All five men were included in a list of names of clergy “credibly” accused of sexual abuse released by the dioceses of Texas 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.
Local media have reported that police increased their investigations into clerical sexual abuse in the diocese following the January release of names.
Fr. Paredes is the former pastor of St. Cecilia’s. After serving in the parish for 27 years, he was suspended from ministry in June 2017, under suspicion of having stolen between $60,000 – $80,000 from the parish. In February of 2018, Paredes was accused of sexually abusing three teenage boys over the course of his time at the parish.
Paredes fled the diocese and his whereabouts are currently unknown, though Burns has previously said the diocese believes he returned to the Philippines, from where he originally came.
Both Meyers and Buitrago were removed from ministry in 2018.
On Wednesday morning, a diocesan spokesperson told local media that the diocese was “surprised” by the early morning search, but that chancery staff were “cooperating” with investigators.
“We’ve been talking with and working with police throughout the process,” said Annette Gonzales Taylor. “We’re obviously surprised by it this morning.”
The Diocese of Dallas is home to more than 1.2 million Catholics. Bishop Burns has served in the diocese since his appointment in December 2016.
Prior to his arrival, Dallas was led by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who now serves as the head of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in the Vatican.
This story is developing