Previous police raids of Catholic churches aided in Dallas search

Not everyone was happy with the Dallas Police Department's move Wednesday to raid the Dallas Catholic Diocese.

But police say past raids of Catholic facilities across the country made them think it was a necessary step.              

Dallas police raided three locations for Catholic documents related to on-going sex abuse investigations Wednesday. A detective working the investigation talked with law enforcement agencies across the country about what was uncovered during those raids.

The sight of officers carrying box after box out of Catholic diocese offices Wednesday was unusual, but not unheard of.

Last November, authorities raided the archdiocese which covers the Houston area. It was part of an investigation into Father Manuel La Rosa-Lopez.

This week, La Rosa-Lopez appeared in court on two counts of sexual abuse of a child. The district attorney in Montgomery County compiled 16,000 documents in the investigation, including some retrieved from the archdiocese. At the time, the DA said they were focused on the priest and not the church.

“This is not a shot at Catholic parishioners, and this is not a shot at the Catholic church,” said Montgomery County DA Brett Ligon. “This is an investigation into a Catholic priest who was employed by the church.”

On the other hand, Dallas detectives appeared more combative in their approach to the church.

The affidavit described how police attempts to get information from the Diocese of Dallas "were thwarted." In some cases, the diocese gave police files. And when police asked why something appeared to be missing, diocese reps "provided an additional 51 pages that were initially left out."

Suspicious, the DPD detective spoke with investigators on the Houston case who said during their search "they had to pick the lock in order to enter into the vault and they found files involving the priest for whom they sought."

But Dallas Bishop Edward Burns seemed to suggest Wednesday his diocese has nothing to hide.

“I recognize there are some even in the Dallas police department who continue to doubt. They want to probe the wounds,” Burns said. “We say much like Christ said to Thomas, probe if you must.”

A similar raid happened at the Archdiocese of Sante Fe offices in Albuquerque last fall. The New Mexico attorney general sought information related to sex abuse claims against two priests.

Those investigators told Dallas police during the search that "agents checked a random closet which only contained one box that looked out of place." That box "had victim information."

It could be weeks or even months before Dallas police know if they uncovered anything relevant. But police believe a tougher approach was necessary to make sure they got the whole truth.

As for what happened in Santa Fe after the raid, the next day the archdiocese announced it would file for bankruptcy in order to help pay victim claims.

In the Dallas investigation, police will soon have to file paperwork that says what they took during the search warrant, but that doesn't have to be very descriptive.