'Resolution' reached in lawsuit filed against Catholic Diocese of Brownsville

Sep. 15—Although a summary judgment was issued in one civil lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville alleging church officials tried to protect a priest accused in the alleged sexual assault of two siblings, a second lawsuit in reference to same case indicates a "resolution" was reached with one of the victims.

The initial lawsuit was filed March 26, 2019, nearly two months after the Diocese released a list containing the names of 12 priests accused of sexually assaulting children. The accused priest, Father Benedicto Ortiz, was one of the 12 named in the list released by the diocese in 2019.

According to the diocese, Ortiz died in 2011.

The second lawsuit was filed Oct. 18, 2021, after 445th state District Judge Gloria Rincones ruled that the case involving the victims needed to be severed. According to court documents, this case is still pending, although a resolution has been reached between the victim (L.C.) and the diocese, church officials said.

In response to a request for comment, the Diocese said "We have always taken and continue to take all allegations seriously. As the allegations in this case date back more than three decades, the diocese could not fully investigate the allegations while witnesses were still alive. However, it tried to reach a resolution with the plaintiffs, and offered counseling services to each one. The diocese was able to come to a resolution with one plaintiff, but not with the second.

In the wake of the court's decision, we nonetheless express our profound sorrow on behalf of the Church for any victim, and we remain firm in our commitment to take care of those who are most vulnerable in our midst. Our Victims Assistance Coordinator stands ready to assist anyone who at any time brings an allegation of abuse forward."

The lawsuit filed in Cameron County alleges that in 1982 Ortiz was a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Brownsville, where the individuals — referred to as L.C. and D.S. — attended church. They were between the ages of 10 and 13 at the time Ortiz began to assault them, the lawsuit alleges.

According to the lawsuit, the assaults started when L.C. and D.S. would spend the night with Ortiz and continued when he moved them into the rectory with him. Ortiz is accused of sexually abusing L.C. and D.S from about 1982 to 1985 by exposing himself to the children.

The lawsuit states the priest required "them to be naked in his presence, fondling them, requiring them to touch him, and engaging in oral sex, providing Plaintiffs with drugs and alcohol, playing pornographic videos, and masturbating in front of them." Ortiz also took the children on trips with him to South Padre Island where the alleged abuse continued, the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, the bishop at that time, Bishop John Fitzpatrick, knew the siblings were living in the rectory with Ortiz

The lawsuit states that then-Bishop Fitzpatrick knew L.C. and D.S. were living with Ortiz and that he transferred the priest from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church to St. Anne Mother of Mary in Pharr. L.C. and D.S. moved with Ortiz where the alleged assault continued, the lawsuit alleges. L.C. and D.S. lived with Ortiz for about three years until Fitzpatrick ordered Ortiz to not have any contact with them, according to the lawsuit.