Bishop Accountability

Dallas Resources – February 2003

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Publisher's Note: The Bishop vs. the News
Why Won't This Bishop Go?

By Wick Allison
D Magazine (Dallas, TX)
February 2003

He reneged on a deal to resign. He stiff-armed the bishop sent to replace him. Now he says the News is trying to run the Church. For the good of the diocese, this prelate should pack his bags.

As a Catholic, I have watched with sadness the deteriorating morale of the Dallas diocese under Bishop Charles Grahmann (pictured at a confirmation on p. 59). The crisis that has engulfed the Church in the United States began with the largest jury award in Dallas County history—against our bishop. The drumbeat of bad news that began here doesn't seem likely to end soon. Commenting on the continuing disarray, in November the Dallas Morning News called for the bishop's resignation. His response, through a house organ called the Texas Catholic, has been to berate anyone who agrees with the News, based not on any refutation of its arguments but on the premise that the News, as a secular organization, has no business telling the Church how it should be run.

I beg to differ with the bishop's assessment. He is not from Dallas, so he may be unaware of the history of his own diocese. Perhaps it would be helpful to shed a little light on it.

When the first bishop of Dallas arrived in 1891, he was greeted at the train station by a group that included the two senior pastors in town and a prominent Catholic layman named James Moroney.

The Moroney name would be associated with the Church for the next century, but never more urgently than in the 1920s. By that time, Moroney's son had married a daughter of G.B. Dealey, publisher of the News. This was a dangerous era, when the Ku Klux Klan, riding a tide of anti-Catholic nativism, had become a potent political force in the South and the Midwest. Alone among the major newspapers in Texas, the News fought the Klan, debunking its nativist claims in editorial after editorial. Klan terrorists took their revenge by hijacking trucks carrying newsprint to the paper and beating the drivers. They firebombed the News building. The newspaper almost was driven out of business. But it didn't relent, and the issue came to a head with the election of 1924.

As it happens, the lore of that election has been passed down in my own, mostly Protestant, family. On the Sunday before the vote, the News ran a front-page editorial pleading with its readers to defy the Klan and to reject its message of hate. As happened all over Texas, that morning white-robed Klansmen marched down the center aisle of the First Methodist Church in Corsicana to deliver the Klan's get-out-the-vote message. My father was 9 years old, sitting with his five brothers and sisters and his parents in the Allison family pew. He had watched his father read the newspaper that morning and frown. Now he saw his father stand up and motion to the family to do the same. Behind his parents and siblings, my father walked out of the church his father had helped found. The entire congregation followed. Two days later at the polls, the Klan lost every race.

The bishop would have us think the News is part of a secular media opposed to the Church's mission. But that's not the case, as the bishop knows full well. On the day before the editorial calling for his resignation, News publisher Jim Moroney, great-grandson of the Moroney who met that train in 1891, visited the bishop and presented the paper's case face-to-face. In the same issue of Texas Catholic that denounced the News, a separate story announced the donation of a new 49-bell carillon by another publisher of the News, Jim Moroney's father, who is leading the campaign for the renovation of the bishop's own cathedral. That cathedral might not exist, and Dallas might not even have a bishop, if a Moroney had not been here to raise the money for it, to campaign for it, to protect it, to fight for it.

But that's not all to the story. In 1997, when a Dallas jury ruled against the diocese in the first sexual abuse case, the bishop announced he intended to appeal. That would have been a disaster. I went to the elder Jim Moroney to sound an alarm. He not only agreed with me, but also helped form an ad hoc committee. The committee met with the bishop and presented these facts: 1) There would be no appeal. 2) The lawyer who had bungled the case by taking it to trial in the first place, Randy Mathis, would be fired. 3) Monsignor Robert Rehkemper, who had publicly blamed the parents of the molested children, would be removed as pastor of All Saints parish. 4) When the dust had settled, the bishop would quietly step down.

His back to the wall, the bishop seemed to accede. He quashed the appeal, sent Msgr. Rehkemper to the hinterlands, and appointed Haynes & Boone to negotiate a settlement. The announcement of Bishop Joseph Galante as his co-adjutor seemed to pave the way for the final resolution.

But the bishop reneged. Once the heat was off, he decided to stay. He has now announced that he plans to hold on to his office four more years, until he reaches mandatory retirement age.

According to the bishop's logic, I shouldn't comment on this matter because D Magazine has no right to tell the Church what to do. So I won't. Instead, I'll advise my fellow Catholics what to do. Give your money to organizations like the Catholic Foundation, Catholic Charities, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which are independent of the diocese but faithful to the Church. Do not give money that will go to pay legal bills and cover up continuing blunders.

If the bishop thinks he can run this diocese by himself, let him try.

Opinion: Why Bishop Relied on Others to Circle Wagons

By Wick Allison
Dallas Morning News
February 13, 2003

The day that six Protestant leaders issued their statement defending Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann will be remembered as the day the ecumenical movement finally went too far. I don't mind people holding hands and singing "Kum-Ba-Ya." But when they are issuing preachments against this magazine publisher, it is time to blow the whistle and stop the guitars.

For those joining the soap opera late: The bishop, I revealed last month, agreed to a series of demands in l997 from a group of laymen trying to prevent further damage to the Roman Catholic Church from the sex-abuse scandal. One of those demands was his resignation. He reneged on that agreement and now denies it ever was made. As the unseemly business has played out on the front pages and on television in recent weeks, the bishop has stiff-armed the man sent to replace him and rounded up a posse of Protestants to circle the wagons around his beleaguered chancery.
Here is what they had to say: "We deeply regret and challenge the recent unwarranted attacks on churches and religious leaders based on inaccuracy and bias, particularly those on Bishop Charles V. Grahmann."

While it is nice of those Protestant leaders to set aside all of that old Reformation unpleasantness, and while I do appreciate their willingness to help run the Catholic Church, there are a few considerations they seem not to have taken into account. If I didn't regard their lofty positions with so much respect, I even might think they allowed themselves to be buffaloed.

Their statement fails to cite the examples of inaccuracy and bias that would make attacks unwarranted and, by the very use of the word "unwarranted," leaves open the possibility that some attacks are warranted. (Presumably including those made by John Wycliffe, Martin Luther and John Calvin.) If the mismanagement, obliviousness and deceit that the Catholic Church has suffered in Dallas aren't enough of a warrant, nothing is. If they are, the Protestant leaders owe an apology to the Catholic laity who are attempting to put our grand old house back in order. They also may want to explain to their own denominations' laity just whose interests they intended to serve by their statement – their flocks or a tight clerical fraternity.

I detect a Catholic hand in the drafting of the Protestant statement, because the fallacies in thinking are so similar to our bishop's. His statement, issued on the same day, makes assertions that are breathtaking in their audacity. Let's start from the beginning:

"I deeply regret the decision of certain Catholics to use their positions to take the internal affairs of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas into the public forum. It is my belief that this is an inappropriate use of the media and of their positions."

The bishop believes that the internal affairs of the church aren't to be discussed in public. Considering the disaster he made of the Rudy Kos trial, which was broadcast nightly into Dallas homes, I can understand why. But if the church's internal affairs aren't to be discussed in public, where should they be discussed?

Six years ago, a group of laymen met with the bishop and, after prolonged negotiation over several weeks, forced him to take actions to save the church from more shame than he already had caused. He never invited that group back for further discussion. In fact, the meeting itself seems to have embarrassed him more than the trial did.

The reason it embarrasses him is that he doesn't want fellow prelates to know he caved in. For a man of the temperament and character of this bishop, to be seen losing control is a fate worse than watching one's church pilloried on the nightly news.

But it wouldn't be a drama if there weren't tension. It is worth considering the tight spot the bishop finds himself in. He can't dismiss the role of the laity in the church publicly, no matter how much he ignores it privately, without contravening one of the chief tenets of Vatican II. The worldwide council, pushed by a young bishop who later would become John Paul II, spoke emphatically of the role and responsibilities of the laity in the church. Hence, the next sentence: "I met with the group at the Tower Club, because I value the advice and counsel of the laity." In San Antonio (home of the archbishop and metropolitan), in Washington (home of the papal nuncio) and in Rome (home of everybody else who matters to the bishop), those words will receive a nod of approval. Consulting with the laity is a good thing. Unfortunately, those good gentlemen have no way of knowing the bishop never does.

He also wants to make it clear he can't be pushed around. "Unfortunately, recent media reports contain misstatements and factual errors which infer that outside sources can dictate to a bishop how he should govern the church." Among "outside sources" are the very laity whose advice and counsel he only a sentence before valued so highly. But who else do those "outside sources" include? After all, it wasn't a magazine publisher or any other member of the laity who sent a coadjutor bishop to replace him as bishop of Dallas. Those assignments are made and approved in Rome. So is it the Holy Father himself the bishop is talking about? By his refusal to resign, has the bishop placed himself in schism?

Somehow, I don't think his Protestant friends can help him out with this one.

Wick Allison is publisher of D Magazine and a parishioner at Holy Trinity Church in Dallas. This column is excerpted from the March issue of the magazine, which will be published next Thursday.

Their Faith Shaken, They Take a Message to the Streets

By Steve Blow
Dallas Morning News
February 17, 2003

The late afternoon sun was exceedingly bright. But Claudette Allen's dark glasses seemed more about protection from stares than the glare.

She stood on a busy Dallas street corner in the bitter cold on a recent Friday, holding a big sign that said: "Bishop Grahmann, Please Resign."

This wasn't just any corner. It was Blackburn and Oak Lawn, directly across the street from the offices of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and the chancery of Bishop Charles Grahmann.

"I hate to be out here, I guarantee you that," she said. "It's so embarrassing."

Then she added, "And so hurtful to be out here protesting what used to be the most precious part of my life."

With that, Mrs. Allen began to weep. "I'm sorry," she said, wiping away the tears that rolled out from beneath those dark glasses.

"I'll always be Catholic in my heart," she said, patting the chest of her thick coat with a gloved hand. "But I can't go to church right now."

Perhaps like many other Protestants, I have watched the troubles in the Catholic Church with a certain detachment. I didn't feel entitled to say much on the matter. This wasn't my fight.

After all, as a Southern Baptist, we've had our own fish to fry. In fact, we could probably feed the five thousand with our little fish fry.

But I felt drawn to visit with the tiny cluster of Catholics who have been carrying out a lonely protest on Friday afternoons since Dec. 20. They plan to continue until April 18, Good Friday.

To say that this protest hasn't caught fire is putting it mildly. Only four people were on hand when I arrived. One of them was a neighborhood woman, a non-Catholic, who simply seemed desperate for conversation. Another couple arrived later.

Organizer Bill Betzen held a sign saying "Grace In Truth - Not In Secrecy!" At the bottom was the address of the Web site he has created,

For both Mr. Betzen and Mrs. Allen, their protest is rooted in the bishop's handling of the Rudy Kos case. The priest was repeatedly assigned to new parishes in spite of clear warnings that he was sexually abusing boys.

Mr. Betzen, a former child-abuse investigator, was working for Catholic Charities at the time. Mrs. Allen and her husband, Cliff, were parishioners in Mr. Kos' last church, in Ennis.

"We thought he was the problem," Mrs. Allen said, "and we found out it goes much, much higher. They're still hiding all kinds of stuff."

Mr. Allen stood beside his wife on the street corner with a sign saying "Catholic Silence Allows Bishop Grahmann To Stay." He said, "We're just trying to make a statement that after all these years and all the things that were supposed to change, our bishop hasn't changed anything. So it's time to change the bishop."

What about that Catholic silence? Where are the others who share their feelings?

"That's a very good question," Mr. Betzen said. "I don't know."

He clearly thought his protest movement would have grown by now. "Maybe during rush hour is a bad time," he said. "But I envisioned that people going home would stop here and join us."

Instead, the most they get is an occasional honk and a thumbs up - and a few jeers.

The Catholic Church has always struck me as the ultimate "top down" organization. "Amen!" Mr. Betzen said.

And these Catholic protesters wonder if that's the biggest problem. "Too many are indoctrinated in the Catholic dogma - you don't say anything against the priest and bishop," Mr. Allen said.

"I'm puzzled by the lack of reaction," Mr. Betzen said with a shrug. "But I've made a commitment to be here until Good Friday."

In the chancery across the street, Bishop Grahmann seems committed to stay even longer.


Bishop Accountability © 2003