Maj. Max Geron of the special investigations division said the raids are related to five new allegations of sexual abuse that emerged after police issued an arrest warrant for a priest named Edmundo Paredes, who was previously assigned to St. Cecilia’s Parish in Dallas.
Dallas authorities said they consider Paredes a fugitive.
The parish was one of the locations searched Wednesday, along with the diocese headquarters and a storage facility, Geron said.
“In addition to the allegations against Mr. Paredes, detectives are investigating at least five additional allegations of child abuse against other suspects,” Geron told reporters.
“These investigations stem from additional allegations made after the case against Mr. Paredes became public.”
Geron said police were searching for “any documentation, any data that would tend to further the investigation into these allegations of child abuse.”
In August, the diocese informed parishioners at St. Cecilia of allegations of sexual abuse by Paredes, the former pastor. The alleged criminal offenses occurred more than a decade ago, church officials said.
The raid comes as the church — both in the United States and around the world — wrestles with a fresh wave of scandals that have spurred criminal investigations, roiled the faithful and damaged the institution’s moral credibility.
The raids took the diocese by surprise since church officials have been cooperating with authorities for months, according to Catholic Diocese of Dallas spokeswoman Annette Gonzales Taylor.
“We feel like we were being transparent,” Gonzales Taylor told CNN.
The diocese was not subpoenaed, she said.
The watchdog group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests praised Wednesday’s searches as a sign “police and prosecutors are taking the issue of clergy abuse in Texas seriously and are not just relying on the promises of church officials.”
“We hope that this raid today sheds more light on the clergy abuse scandal as it relates to the Diocese of Dallas and will uncover the full truth of who knew what, when they knew it, and what steps church officials took in response to allegations of sexual abuse,” the group’s statement said.
The search warrants were executed at various properties Wednesday, including the pastoral center and administrative offices, Gonzales Taylor said.
Gonzales Taylor said police were looking for files of priests who were on a list the diocese released this year of clergy who had been the subject of credible accusations.
Dallas church officials have said they alerted law enforcement last year of allegations from three adults who said Paredes sexually abused them when they were in their mid-teens. The allegations were found to be credible, the church said.
The Dallas diocese suspended Paredes, and he’s no longer allowed to function as a priest, the church said.
“With the utmost sensitivity to victims, I have pledged to continue efforts of transparency and need to make you aware of this atrocious and sad event,” Bishop Edward Burns told St. Cecilia’s parishioners in August.
At least 298 clergy members across the state have faced “credible abuse” allegations going back to the 1940s, according to the lists compiled by the 15 Texas dioceses.
Leading the number of clergy members accused is the Archdiocese of San Antonio — the largest one in the state — with 56 priests and other clergy listed. Next is the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the dioceses of Dallas, El Paso and Amarillo.
Texas church leaders and the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter agreed to identify those accused in October as part of an effort “to promote healing and a restoration of trust in the Catholic Church.”
Advocates for survivors of sexual abuse consider the self-reported lists unreliable and incomplete. The lists do not detail when accusations were made, where the abuse occurred or what was done after an accusation was made.
More than 13 states have launched investigations into sex abuse within the Catholic Church.
There are 8.5 million Catholics and 1,320 Catholic parishes in Texas, according to the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.
Within the Diocese of Dallas, 69 parishes and five missions serve about 1.2 million Catholics, according to its website.