An article in Arkansas Catholic reports on a Sept. 4 letter from Bishop Anthony Taylor that says the diocese has found at least two cases of sexual abuse many years ago by a former priest, Robert “Bob” Torres, and has offered assistance to the victims and their families.
The diocese met with someone who said he’d been abused as a youth. A family member had contacted the Diocese of Little Rock earlier and a report was made then to the state Department of Human Services, the article said. That led to an investigation that apparently substantiated the first complaint and found another.
This abuse occurred over 35 years ago, and at that time both victims were members of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Little Rock. The abuser was Robert Torres, a now laicized former priest who served in the Diocese of Little Rock from 1966 to 1994. During that time, his assignments and/or places of residence included the following: Ashdown and Hope (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Our Lady of Good Hope); Little Rock (Cathedral of St. Andrew); Catholic High School; Christ the King; Good Counsel; St. Theresa); Malvern and Arkadelphia (St. John and St. Mary); North Little Rock (St. Mary and Immaculate Conception); and Paragould (St. Mary).
“Unfortunately, by Mr. Torres’s own admission and from the information we have been able to gather, it is evident that he likely sexually abused at least two or three other young people, whose names Mr. Torres no longer remembers and whom we have been unable to identify or locate. As best we can tell, the most recent of these acts would have been committed over 35 years ago, but I also know that his victims continue to suffer the damaging effects of his actions.
The bishop said he’d received no substantiated allegations of abuse by priests in recent years. But he said he was “deeply concerned for other possible victims of clergy sexual abuse from the decades prior to the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the implementation of our Safe Environment policies shortly thereafter — victims to whom we need to offer whatever assistance we can provide.”
He urged people to get in touch with the diocese if they had concerns.
A 35-year-old incident would be beyond the statute of limitations for prosecution in Arkansas. Prosecution of a sexual offense against a minor must commence before the victim turns 28. The bishop’s letter didn’t report Torres’ current whereabouts.