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  Church Posts Bond for Convicted Priest

By Robert Patrick
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 6, 2005

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis has put up a half-million dollars to keep out of jail the priest convicted last week of sodomizing a teenage boy.

Using ten checks with values ranging from $10,000 to $350,000, church officials posted bond for the Rev. Thomas Graham on the same afternoon that jurors

recommended that Graham spend 20 years in prison for performing oral sex on the boy in the late 1970s, court records show.

The move attracted immediate criticism from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

"I find it hard to understand how the diocese can take the money that people donate every Sunday . . . and use it to post bond for someone who has been

convicted of a crime," said Barbara Dorris, SNAP's victim outreach coordinator.

"It sends a terrible message to victims - we will fight you tooth and nail. We have more money. We have more power," she said.

Bernard Huger, an attorney for the archdiocese, said Tuesday that he expected the church would continue to pay for Graham's defense until the conviction is reversed or Graham's appeals are exhausted.

"He's still a priest in the archdiocese. And he does have appeal rights," Huger said.

Graham's criminal lawyer said last week that he would appeal, and Graham has consistently denied the allegations.

Huger said that the archdiocese pays to defend priests for a number of reasons. Priests are not paid much, and most don't have many assets, he said. They are

also considered to be like family members.

"Whether they're guilty or innocent in the end - that's not the immediate question," Huger said.

Although the archdiocese released a statement last week that said they investigated the allegation after it first surfaced and "based on available information, did not find it to be substantiated," Huger said that the archdiocese was never able to fully evaluate the charges.

Graham's victim approached the archdiocese about a settlement but then backed off, according to Huger and trial testimony.

Huger said that after prosecutors filed criminal charges, the archdiocese was barred from investigating the allegations further.

"We don't know where the truth lies here," Huger said.

Huger said that the archdiocese posted bond after prosecutors charged two other area priests, the Rev. Bryan Kuchar and the Rev. Gary P. Wolken, with sexually based offenses and paid for or contributed to their defense.

Both are now behind bars.

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Angela Turner Quigless ordered Graham, 71, to surrender his passport and continue to stay at a local retirement home for

priests. She also barred him from unsupervised contact with minors and attending or celebrating Mass.

 
 

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