BRENHAM, Tex. (KBTX) - A Catholic priest that served in Brenham earlier this year is now at the center of a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse and misconduct.
The lawsuit filed in Austin raises concerns against Father Isidore "Izzy" Ndagizimana and the Austin Diocese. Six anonymous women claim the priest was abusive while serving at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Austin. They are seeking more than $1 million in damages.
The court documents claimed he was abusive even when the women were in a confessional. The plaintiff's attorneys accuse the church of not addressing the problems and moving the priest to other parishes. The lawsuit claims the misconduct happened in Austin and not in Brenham.
The Austin Diocese said KBTX Father "Izzy" started in Brenham on July 2 and served until August 21, when we was placed on leave.
"They really hit a brick wall and something needs to change here. There need to be some change in policies and procedure with the diocese," said Sean Breen, who is the attorney representing the women. He says they hope the suit will bring changes to the church for allegations of misconduct.
"It appears and the allegations are in the case that essentially he would have a pattern of abuse. The church would be notified that is the Diocese. It would be swept under the rug and he would be moved to a difference diocese," said Breen.
"The other big goal for my clients is the people who have suffered this kind of abuse and harassment for them to know they're not alone and they can come forward," he added.
The law firm representing the women said they aren't sure of the priest's location and still need to serve him court papers.
"If the diocese wants to visit, we will and if not then we’re going to visit with a jury on this," said Breen.
Residents in Brenham told KBTX they were saddened to hear the allegations against the priest. One resident told KBTX she wasn't completely surprised by the claims.
Church leadership declined an interview request. The Diocese of Austin released the following statement:
On Nov. 14, the Diocese of Austin, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez and Rev. Isidore Ndagizimana were named in a lawsuit filed in Travis County.
The Diocese of Austin was made aware this afternoon that a lawsuit was filed today in which unnamed plaintiffs make allegations against Rev. Isidore Ndagizimana, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez and the Diocese of Austin. The Diocese of Austin is currently reviewing a copy of the lawsuit. Bishop Vásquez is currently attending a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. and has not had an opportunity to review the lawsuit. However, upon being notified of the lawsuit’s filing, Bishop Vásquez authorized the extension of an invitation to meet with the unnamed plaintiffs. He also extends his prayers for the unnamed plaintiffs.
It is difficult for the diocese to respond to the allegations because of the lack of specificity in the lawsuit. A response at this time would require the diocese to make assumptions about the allegations and the unnamed plaintiffs. Out of respect for all those involved, the diocese will respond to the allegations in its answer to the court after it is formally served with the lawsuit and had a reasonable time to investigate the claims.
Father Isidore Ndagizimana became pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Austin on July 2, 2012. He resigned that position on Oct. 9, 2017, and was placed on leave. He returned from leave and was then assigned to St. Mary Parish in Brenham on July 2, 2018 as an associate pastor (where the priests also serve the churches in Somerville and Old Washington on the Brazos). He was again placed on leave Aug. 21, 2018, and he remains on leave at this time.