Rome Blinks
Dallas a Loser in Bishops' Power Struggle

Dallas Morning News [Dallas TX]
March 24, 2004

The Vatican has now settled the long-simmering conflict between Charles Grahmann, the Roman Catholic bishop of Dallas, and coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante. Bishop Grahmann has won.

That's the meaning of Bishop Galante's transfer to Camden, N.J. At the start of 2000, Rome sent Bishop Galante to help administer the Dallas diocese in the wake of the catastrophic Rudy Kos trial, which revealed a scandalous leadership deficit in the Dallas diocese.

The Vatican's dispatch of a coadjutor bishop was a signal to the sitting bishop to wrap up his affairs. Whatever the pope's will for Dallas, Bishop Grahmann had other plans. He immediately said he had no intention of retiring until forced to by church law.

That icy welcome was a sign of things to come. The behind-the-scenes clash between the two became public in late 2002, when Bishop Galante openly criticized Bishop Grahmann for refusing to remove a priest accused of sexual misconduct. Months later, Bishop Galante took the extraordinary step of speaking to The Dallas Morning News about his frustration. Because Catholic bishops rarely break ranks like this, Bishop Galante's candor was interpreted as a sign of near-desperation.

Though not without his critics who say his geniality belies intense ambition, and that he hasn't been as tough on priests guilty of sex-related misconduct as he ought to have been Bishop Galante had real accomplishments locally. He became a gentler public face for the Catholic Church, and was seen by some alienated priests and laity as a more understanding leader than Bishop Grahmann. Meanwhile, he became familiar to national television audiences as a top spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the church's scandal year of 2002. He served in that capacity with a thoughtfulness and openness not typical of his colleagues.

Undoubtedly this transfer is a relief to Bishop Galante, though he leaves behind a situation that continues to stagnate, at great cost to this city's Catholics. In May, Bishop Grahmann will make his required five-year ad limina visit to Rome, where he will report to the pope on the state of this diocese. One wonders how he will explain his role in aborting Bishop Galante's mission to John Paul, the man who sent the new bishop of Camden to bring order and healing to this troubled diocese.

Then again, when faced with a stony stare-down from a scandal-mired bishop, Rome blinked. That lesson will not have been lost on Bishop Grahmann, or his colleagues.


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