AUSTIN (KXAN) — Six women have filed a lawsuit against a local priest, bishop and the Austin Diocese, on Wednesday, alleging they were sexually abused.
According to the lawsuit, a Catholic priest within the Austin Diocese, identified in the suit as Father Isidore Ndagizimana, would regularly prey on, abuse and harass female parishioners.
The victims of the lawsuit, who are all remaining anonymous, allege that the Austin Diocese, Bishop Vasquez and Cardinal DiNardo knew about Ndagizimana’s predatory behavior.
The women are all part of the St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Austin, which is on 10205 N. Farm to Market Road 620.
They say during his time as a priest at St. Thomas More, Ndagizimana, who was known as “Father Izzy,” would corner women in the confessional and grope them. The women claim he would often try to kiss them and touch them inappropriately.
The women’s lead attorney, Sean Breen, says Ndagizimana would also show up to women’s homes uninvited and when their husbands weren’t home.
The victims claim that the Diocese would move Ndagizimana from parish to parish instead of dealing with his abuse, which is how he ended up at the St. Thomas More Parish.
Breen says when his clients went to church leaders to try to report what happened, they were told to keep quiet.
“After he left St. Thomas More, the diocese told these women he had been sent to counseling and that they hoped he had been healed,” Breen said. “And he was reassigned to a church in Brenham. Unfortunately, the diocese didn’t tell the people in Brenham about this, and that’s part of the problem.”
Breen’s clients also say there’s a problem with the church’s reporting system. The Austin diocese uses a program called “Ethics in Ministry.” All who work or volunteer for the church go through training to spot sexual abuse. It also outlines the steps for reporting abuse, but it only specifies abuse that involves children or vulnerable adults, meaning the elderly or people who are mentally handicapped.
The women in this case felt it created a loophole for the church when it came to responding to their claims.
“Part of the purpose and hope of the lawsuit is that gap currently in the policy, this notion that if you’re a woman, you’re not a priority,” Breen said.
The lawsuit was filed with the Travis County District Court. The suit alleges that Ndagizimana had numerous victims, and only a small amount is included in the petition.
“The system has been hijacked by a clerical bureaucracy that is allowing victims to be injured and re-injured by Church inaction,” Breen said. “That system needs to change.”