Three priests who served in Tyler Diocese named in sexual abuse of minor allegations

Local News
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Thursday afternoon, the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, Texas, released the names of three priests who with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor who have served within the diocese since it began in February 1987.

Only the former Rev. Gustavo Cuello, who is serving a life sentence in federal prison for his crime, served at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Tyler from 1995-97, is on Tyler’s actual list, but two other priests who served in the diocese turned up on lists of other Texas dioceses.

Those priests are the Rev. Michael Barone and Monsignor John A. Flynn, from the Catholic Dioceses of Dallas and San Antonio, respectfully.

Flynn, who served at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Longview for four years, served the previous 45 years in the San Antonio Archdiocese.

He resigned after 16 years at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in San Antonio amid sexual allegations from a woman who claimed he sexually abused her 20 years earlier when she was a juvenile.

Then Archbishop Patrick Flores stripped him of the faculties of the priesthood (administering the Sacraments), forbade him from any priestly ministry and shipped him off to a psychiatric hospital that works with priests accused of sexual misconduct for several months.

From there, Most Rev. Edmond Carmody, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, who knew the whole story, picked him up in 1998 anyway, first putting him in the marriage tribunal, and then appointing him pastor of St. Matthews Catholic Church in Longview.

Flynn served there until 2002, when he retired after 50 years in the priesthood, and coincidentally after two women who were aware of the allegations, claimed they were uncomfortable with him serving as pastor.

But Flynn continued to minister in the area, with the exception of from 2005 to 2008, when the new Tyler bishop, Bishop Alvaro Corrada, SJ, stripped him of his priestly privileges during an investigation, but ultimately restored his credentials and he was back at it again. 

It was only after Most Rev. Joseph Strictland was ordained Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler that Flynn was ultimately forbidden from exercising any priestly ministry in the Tyler diocese.

Flynn was never tried in a court of law, and his accuser did not press formal criminal charges, nor bring a lawsuit against Flynn or the Catholic Church.

Though the Tyler Diocese doesn’t claim Barone, who was ordained in the Catholic Diocese of Dallas in 1975, the Dallas Diocese claims he was incardinated (joined) into the Tyler diocese in 1987.

The sexual abuse allegations against Barone were not released, and Strictland said he is unaware of the charges, but has placed Barone on administrative leave. He said when he receives the information from the Dallas Diocese, he will present it to the review board in the Tyler Diocese.

Barone served 11 years at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Paris, Texas, before moving on to serve as a chaplain at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and a number of other assignments in east Texas, before settling in at St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Catholic Church in Madisonville, where he served until April 2017.

According to his public Linked-in account, Barone now travels with a cruise line, serving as a volunteer chaplain.

Cuello, who was ordained a priest in 1989 in Ecuador, was arrested in 1997 and charged with aggravated sexual assault of a minor female in Tyler.

Upon his arrest, Cuello was immediately removed from the priesthood. After bonding out of jail, he escaped to Ecuador. After hiding out for six years, the FBI tracked him down in Ecuador in 2003 and he was extradited back to the U.S.

In a confession to FBI agents, Cuello admitted to having sex with the 13-year-old victim once or twice a week for six-to-eight months in the church, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

After he was returned to the Smith County Jail, Cuello pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child and was sentenced to 50 years by then 4th District Judge Cynthia Kent. But he didn’t like that, so requested a Smith County jury decide his fate.

After hearing the victim recount one of the 22 times she could remember, along with a calendar he kept with codes indicating the Wednesdays and Sundays he had sex with her before he preached, the Smith County jury voted to sentence him to life in prison.

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