A new lawsuit alleges the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and a Plano church failed to protect a young girl from a priest who repeatedly sexually assaulted her in the 1980s and ‘90s.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Dallas County, says Richard Thomas Brown — who has admitted abusing dozens of children — assaulted the girl from ages 5 to 9 while he was serving as a priest at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church. It names the diocese, the church and Brown as defendants and seeks damages of more than $1 million.
The accuser, now 38, alleges that a years-long coverup in the Roman Catholic Church protected abusers instead of children. Brown, along with four other priests, was at the center of a police investigation into abuse allegations in the Dallas Diocese, according to a search-warrant affidavit police obtained in 2019 to raid diocese offices.
Annette Gonzales Taylor, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said in an email Saturday that diocese leadership was aware of the lawsuit but had not yet reviewed it.
“The priest, who is already on the list of priests with credible allegations posted by the diocese in January 2019, was arrested by police and laicized stripping him of the ability to function as a priest,” she said.
St. Mark the Evangelist did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
According to the lawsuit, Brown frequently pulled the girl out of her Sunday-school classes and into a dark, empty classroom to sexually assault her. Brown “made certain” she attended confession with him, and used that time to assault her, too.
The lawsuit says Brown also sexually assaulted the girl at her home in Plano, where he started coming by telling the family he was going to “bless the house.” Brown sometimes stayed overnight to baby-sit their children; the lawsuit alleges he would read the girl stories in bed before sexually assaulting her after she fell asleep.
The lawsuit also alleges Brown would take the girl and her siblings to IHOP, have the girl sit in his lap and rub her genitals as a “game.”
The woman’s life since the abuse “has been marred by long, tragic episodes of periodic substance abuse, depression, severe anxiety, eating disorders, and self-cutting,” the lawsuit says.
Brown has admitted to sexually assaulting the girl’s older sister but said she “was responsible for initiating contact with him,” the lawsuit says. He faces charges in Dallas County because of his abuse of the sister, according to the lawsuit.
Court records show that at least two other lawsuits against the Dallas diocese involving Brown have been settled in recent years, including a lawsuit filed in 2020 that accused Brown of repeatedly sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl in the 1980s while he was an assistant pastor at Holy Family of Nazareth in Irving.
Brown was forced out as pastor of Rockwall’s Our Lady of the Lake in 1994, almost a year after a woman told church leaders he had abused her in 1981, when he was in Washington, D.C., on a summer study leave.
The diocese sent Brown to a church-run treatment center in Connecticut, where a psychiatric evaluation indicated he “had a long history of pedophilic behavior,” according to an arrest-warrant affidavit. Brown continued to work as a priest, and he led conferences and spiritual retreats for adults in multiple states.
When the Irving victim’s aunt notified the Dallas diocese in 2004, it said it didn’t know where Brown was. In October 2018, the aunt again contacted the diocese about Brown’s actions, and the diocese alerted police.
Brown was arrested in Missouri in 2020 on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child in Dallas County. Court records show that Brown, now 80, has been released on bond and the case is pending.
Following Brown’s arrest, Bishop Edward J. Burns of the Dallas diocese released a video message saying that Brown was removed from public ministry in the early 1990s. Although Brown was stripped of his authority to act publicly as a priest, he wasn’t laicized, or defrocked, until September 2019.
The Dallas diocese released its list of 31 “credibly accused” clergy members in January 2019. Five more names have been added to the list since then.