Dallas Resources – March 2003
By Brooks Egerton
[One in an occasional series]
For the 10 Catholic Diocese of Dallas priests removed from pastoral jobs because of child molestation, fortune has been fickle. Some have gone on to new careers, while others went to prison.
But at least one man identified by diocesan leaders as a perpetrator has been allowed to keep working as a priest: the Rev. Richard T. Brown. Bishop Charles Grahmann and his aides will say little, though, about where Father Brown is and what he has been doing since he left his Rockwall parish nine years ago.
A Dallas Morning News investigation has uncovered some answers. Father Brown, it turns out, has been working under the wings of two prominent priests in other states - both champions of conservatism with connections at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church.
One, the late Rev. John Hardon, was a Vatican adviser, prolific author of religious books and spiritual director for Mother Teresa. The other, Father Benedict Groeschel, leads the New York Archdiocese's retreat center for clergy and has counseled clerics from around the country about sexual misconduct and other matters, arranging for many to return to duty.
Father Brown has helped run the retreat center in recent years. Before that, he was based in Detroit with Father Hardon and helped him lead conferences and spiritual retreats for adults, there and in other states.
Father Brown could not be located for comment. He moved to a hermitage a few months ago, said Father Groeschel's aides and associates, who would not elaborate. Father Groeschel declined interview requests.
Bishop Grahmann's spokesman, Bronson Havard, said in September that Father Brown was already living in a "cloistered monastery" where the priest could not be near minors. He said the priest's ministry was restricted to serving fellow residents of the facility.
Mr. Havard did not respond to recent interview requests and has refused to identify the hermitage, citing "privacy reasons."
The nation's bishops, at their meeting last summer in Dallas, pledged a new openness in dealing with the abuse scandal and said that even one confirmed case of abuse would permanently disqualify a priest from ministry.
Father Brown joined forces with Father Groeschel and Father Hardon after completing an out-of-state therapeutic program in 1994. Diocesan authorities had concluded several months before removing him that he had abused a girl a decade earlier, according to correspondence released during a 1997 civil trial of the Dallas Diocese and another abusive priest, Rudy Kos. No civil or criminal charges were ever brought against Father Brown.
Parishioners at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Rockwall weren't told the real reason Father Brown quit, and those at Detroit's Assumption Grotto were kept in the dark about his past. Father Hardon, a Jesuit, had an office there. Father Brown did not formally work for the parish but lived with a group of Holy Cross order priests who help staff it, parish council president John Doyle said.
Parishioner Jay McNally said he was shocked to learn from The News about Father Brown's history. "I knew and trusted him," he said, "as a good and holy man."
Mr. McNally, who has written investigative pieces about the abuse scandal for Catholic publications, said he had never understood why Father Brown always refused his interview requests.
Although the priest took pains to keep his name out of print, he was known in conservative circles because of his connection to Father Hardon. "He was his right-hand man for years," Mr. McNally said.
Another person associated with the parish said Father Hardon, who died in 2000, was willing to help anyone, including abusers, and believed deeply in rehabilitation. Among his books is a biography of the Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, who founded religious orders for men and women devoted to serving troubled priests - the Servants of the Paraclete and Handmaids of the Precious Blood.
An accused priest named Anthony Cipolla also worked with Father Hardon
occasionally in Detroit despite having been suspended in his home Diocese
of Pittsburgh. The Vatican recently removed Mr. Cipolla from the priesthood.
Bishop Accountability © 2003