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Dallas Resources – May 2003

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Galante Expects to Leave Diocese
Tenure Marked by Animosity Between Coadjutor, Bishop

By Susan Hogan/Albach
Dallas Morning News
May 2, 2003

Joseph Galante, coadjutor bishop of the Dallas Diocese, said this week that he expects to lead another diocese soon, which would mark the end of a brief, stormy tenure under Bishop Charles Grahmann.

"It appears that I will probably be moved," the 64-year-old coadjutor said.

"For the good of the diocese, I would like to see this situation resolved. I would expect Bishop Grahmann to feel the same way."

Bishop Grahmann declined to comment.

Bishop Galante came to Dallas nearly 31/2 years ago with hopes of replacing Bishop Grahmann within 18 months - typical for coadjutors. Bishop Grahmann, now 71, immediately announced that he had no intention of hastening his retirement, then at least seven years away.

"I came to Dallas expecting to spend the rest of my life here," Bishop Galante said. "When I was appointed coadjutor, I was told that I would become bishop of Dallas in a reasonable amount of time."

Seven years wasn't reasonable, added the bishop, best known for his national role in addressing the priestly sex abuse scandals.

Animosity between the bishops has polarized the diocese's priests, rankled local Catholics and confounded the nation's bishops. Many characterize the rift as a classic clash of ecclesiastical egos vying for power.

Bishop Galante said he took a month off earlier this year to escape the tension. He has maintained an unusually low profile since publicly criticizing Bishop Grahmann in November for not removing a priest accused of sexual misconduct.

He broke his silence this week to address escalating rumors about his possible departure. But in doing so, he tried to distance himself from definitive statements he has made privately to friends and colleagues about leaving.

"The truth is that I've been told nothing concretely about my future," he said. "I go where I am sent, and I remain where I am sent. There's no negotiation. I gave that up when I became a priest. This is not like being a free agent."

He declined to say precisely when a move might take place.

'A peaceful end'

Even though their offices are only feet part, the two bishops are said to rarely speak, except through intermediaries. Bishop Galante said he felt particularly pained for Catholics caught in the middle of the leadership struggle.

"My prayer has always been that there would be a peaceful end to my time in Dallas," he said.

Colleagues say Bishop Galante's desire for change isn't entirely altruistic. He has told them he wants to lead a diocese now, while his retirement is at least a decade away. Under church law, bishops are required to offer their resignations at age 75.

"He's saying that it will probably happen, though he has no definite word at this point," said his good friend Sister Esther Dunegan, chancellor of the Beaumont Diocese.

A year ago, Bishop Galante commanded a national spotlight for his role in helping to draft the U.S. bishops' new sexual abuse charter. He served as the bishops' national spokesman as they gathered in Dallas to address the American church's worst crisis.

He appeared poised to head a bigger diocese, but predictions of an imminent departure proved wrong. He was passed over for high-profile assignments in Milwaukee and Palm Beach, Fla.

The Vatican doesn't reveal who is being considered to lead dioceses. Choosing a bishop can take months because officials try to match dioceses' needs with bishops' qualifications, said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"The favorite indoor sport for church insiders is to predict who is going where," she said.

Bishop Galante has made no secret of his desire to run a diocese in the Northeast, where he has family as well as a home on the New Jersey shore.

Over the last several months, his name has surfaced in connection with openings in Boston; Brooklyn; Paterson,N.J.; Hartford, Conn.; and three dioceses in his native Pennsylvania.

"There's always a lot of speculation, but you really only know who the successor will be when the Vatican makes the announcement," said Frank DeRosa, spokesman for the Brooklyn Diocese.

Boston a possibility

Bishop Galante isn't on the A-lists compiled by church experts as a potential successor to Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as archbishop of Boston in December. He was brought down by his acknowledged failure to deal adequately with sexually abusive priests.

Still, church historian Thomas O'Connor doesn't rule Bishop Galante out for the Boston post. He doesn't think the Vatican will select a prelate well known to Catholics, though he will be a leader among the bishops, someone with financial skills and a stellar record on sexual abuse issues.

Bishop Galante is on the U.S. bishops' sexual abuse committee and is credited with having rescued the Beaumont Diocese from financial crisis.

"They've got to be purer than Caesar's wife, and Galante would bring credibility on the sexual abuse issue," said Dr. O'Connor, a professor emeritus at Boston College.

"Historically, it's refreshing to get people from the B-list because they come as a surprise and people will give him a period of time to get on his feet and establish his agenda."

Bishop Galante was educated in his native Philadelphia and in Rome but has spent much of his life as a priest in Texas. He has a doctorate in church law and worked in the dioceses of Brownsville and San Antonio before becoming bishop of Beaumont in 1994.

More than 30 U.S. bishops will be eligible for retirement this year. The Vatican often allows bishops to continue serving long after they've submitted their resignations.

"If the Vatican has been displeased with the bishop, he's replaced very quickly," said Dr. Chester Gillis, a Catholic scholar at Georgetown University. "But for those who have served faithfully, the pope is happy to keep them on."

Bishops have mixed emotions about the practice.

"Some men are anxious to retire, but I'm in good health," said Bishop Anthony Bosco of Greensburg, Pa., who turned 75 last year. "Some people might question my mental capacities, but I still know which shoe to put on first."

Bishop Galante doesn't completely rule out remaining in Dallas and taking over once Bishop Grahmann retires. Although he expects to be moved, he reiterated that the matter is entirely up to the Vatican.

"I may be here for the rest of my life," he said. "I really do like Dallas; I like the people of the diocese."

[Photo Captions: 1. Bishop Joseph Galante 2. Bishop Charles Grahmann]

Editorial: Rome Should Take 2nd Look at Dallas Diocese

By Rod Dreher
Dallas Morning News
May 3, 2003

I am a Catholic," wrote J.R.R. Tolkien. "I do not expect history to be anything but one long defeat." Had Mr. Tolkien lived in the Dallas Diocese under Bishop Charles Grahmann, his pessimism would have been amply confirmed. The possible departure of Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante would be a personal triumph for Bishop Grahmann, his great rival, but another defeat for the local church. Bishop Galante's startling admission, on the front page of Friday's Dallas Morning News, that he soon may be leaving the diocese is another humiliation for Dallas Catholics, who are, it seems, expected to suffer indefinitely from the arrogance and pride of Bishop Grahmann.

Rome sent Bishop Galante here three years ago as coadjutor, a sort of apprentice whose arrival in a diocese signals the Vatican's loss of confidence in a sitting bishop and who traditionally has been a precursor to that bishop's departure. A coadjutor typically serves in that capacity for no more than 18 months before taking full control of a diocese. Now, it appears that the 71-year-old Bishop Grahmann, who has the tenacity of a barnacle, has outlasted his designated replacement.

I hold no particular brief for Bishop Galante, but the man was owed an opportunity to prove himself as vain, craven and altogether mediocre as nearly everyone else on "this hapless bench of bishops" (the phrase belongs to Fabian Bruskewitz, a Nebraska bishop who is a happy exception). Bishop Grahmann never let him, and no one in Rome saw fit to force the issue; hence, this embarrassing soap opera at the chancery.

The pain and suffering that Bishop Grahmann has inflicted on this diocese with his mismanagement of sexually abusive priests - most especially in the Rudy Kos case - would have made a priest with the barest hint of a conscience retire to a monastery to do penance for the rest of his days. Bishop Grahmann, whose motto might be, with apologies to Louis XIV, "L'Eglise, c'est moi" (I am the church), has carried on with a royal disregard for the good of the diocese and its people. Given the disastrous blow to diocesan morale, credibility and finances caused by his leadership, it was clear even to those of us who followed this story from afar that Dallas Catholics needed a fresh start. Bishop Galante would have given us that. Bishop Grahmann wouldn't have it.

Though he is incomparably more diplomatic than Bishop Grahmann, it must be said that Bishop Galante hasn't distinguished himself as a man of vision here, even in his limited role. He had to be prodded by media revelations into dealing responsibly with Cliff Garner, the local priest who participated in a pornographic and salacious Web site for gay Catholic clerics. As a designated point man for the U.S. bishops' conference on the priest abuse scandal, Bishop Galante has talked a lot about the problem but hasn't forthrightly addressed the root causes of the systemic corruption. (To be fair, he isn't alone among the bishops.)

Though Bishop Galante did us all a service in revealing how Bishop Grahmann thwarted him as he tried to remove alleged genital groper Ramon Alvarez from the cathedral, the coadjutor is seen as an ambitious time server by knowledgeable clerics, both here and in Rome. Be that as it may, Bishop Galante deserved a chance; Bishop Grahmann refused him and got away with it.

That the Vatican has allowed Bishop Grahmann to persist in his obstinacy suggests that he has a protector in Rome. Who in the Holy See is looking out for the laity in Dallas?

Surely somewhere in the Catholic hierarchy, there must be a bishop or two who see the episcopate as a form of service, not as personal property of the sitting bishop, to be defended no matter what the cost.

[Rod Dreher is an editorial writer and occasional columnist for The Dallas Morning News.]

Opinion: News Won't Give Bishop Ounce of Credit

By Bronson Havard
Dallas Morning News
May 6, 2003

http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/viewpoints/stories/050603dnedihavard.9c5c0.html

It is amazing that Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher, newly arrived in Dallas, can pose himself in one month's time as an expert on all that has happened here in the last 13 years. Of course, it doesn't take much knowledge to have an opinion and to offer it unabashedly with the same arrogance, stridency and viciousness that he so often accuses others of possessing.

Mr. Dreher's latest attack on the Catholic Church, on Saturday's Viewpoints page, was against the bishops of the Dallas Diocese – indeed, the whole of the Catholic Church except for a bishop in a small Nebraska diocese. (Mr. Dreher attacked Pope John Paul II's leadership on The Wall Street Journal's opinion page in March.)

I have lived here for 35 years and served in several leadership capacities in the church and community. Nowhere do I find things as abysmal as Mr. Dreher describes. If the columnist has a political agenda, he sees darkness contrasted starkly against the flicker of light that is his own bias.

Let me tell you that Bishop Charles Grahmann, a native Texan who grew up on a farm like many people his age, has contributed far more to the improvement of the religious and cultural life of Dallas than most of our leaders, religious or otherwise.

When he took office in 1990, there were about 300,000 Catholics in the Dallas Diocese. Today, there are more than 850,000. The churches are full and often overflowing at Sunday Masses. The landmark Catholic cathedral downtown was in decline. Today, it is the largest parish in the nine-county diocese. A record number of people have become Catholic in recent years.

The Catholic Church is vibrant and strong. The consequence of that is far-reaching in our community. Bishop Grahmann probably should be given singular credit for making the Catholic Church (and thus Dallas) a welcoming institution for hundreds of thousands of new immigrants. The multilingual Bishop Grahmann is highly esteemed in the immigrant community, but some prejudiced people don't value that.

Also, Bishop Grahmann perhaps has been the pre-eminent ecumenical leader in the Dallas area – so much so that when he faced previous personal attacks from The Morning News in February, a broad representation of Protestant leaders came to his defense.

And today he is the Christian leader most often seen in dialogue and fellowship with Muslim leaders, building a bridge of good will and friendship between peoples.

Surely, the Catholic Church's problem with a few abusive priests has marred the scene but not the way Mr. Dreher or The Morning News depicts it. Dallas isn't another Boston. In fact, The Morning News is on record as correcting a news column that depicted Bishop Grahmann as a bishop who transferred abusive priests.

But for whatever motive, The Morning News and some of its columnists don't want to give an ounce of credit to Bishop Grahmann for settling, within 11 months, the record $120 million jury award against the diocese in 1997 for $31 million ($11 million from the diocese and $20 million from insurance). He avoided bankruptcy, victims' further suffering and an extended legal conflict. I was in his office at that dramatic moment in July 1998 when the then-papal nuncio (ambassador), Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, called him and praised him on behalf of the pope and the Catholic Church.

A staunch fiscal conservative, he has led the diocese to grow within its means. Also, none of Bishop Grahmann's dramatic reforms on sexual abuse in the church – the most extensive of any diocese in the nation – is praised by Mr. Dreher. (It is doubtful he even knows them.)

The bishop established the first Conduct Review Board composed of lay members. He also appointed the first lay persons to the Personnel Board. (It still may be the only one like it in the nation!) He named the first lay woman as chancellor (a top official), was the first bishop to have an audit of compliance to strict policies to prevent sexual abuse of children and was the first to create several check-and-balance oversight boards.

Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante also is a good and capable man who was appointed to succeed when Bishop Grahmann retires. He is judged wrongly by Mr. Dreher. Already, Mr. Dreher, using a quote of someone else, labels Bishop Galante potentially "as vain, craven and altogether mediocre as nearly everyone else on this hapless bench of bishops."

It will be sad if extreme political ideologues ever gain influence over our Catholic Church and our community. I, for one, will oppose that until my dying day.

[Bronson Havard is editor of The Texas Catholic and a 35-year veteran of the Dallas-Fort Worth journalism profession.]

Bishop Letting Priest Work
He Has Admitted To Fathering Child; Diocese Cites Lawsuit Dismissal

By Brooks Egerton
Dallas Morning News
May 14, 2003

Dallas Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann has reinstated a priest who admitted fathering a child by a nun he was accused of raping and who disobeyed another bishop's orders not to exercise his ministry.

Diocesan officials explained the move by citing the dismissal of a lawsuit against the Rev. Ernesto C. Villaroya and U.S. church officials, who were accused of harboring the Filipino in California and Texas.

A California judge ruled that the accuser had waited too long to sue, ending the case before evidence could be heard. The defendants denied wrongdoing.

The Dallas Diocese had suspended Monsignor Villaroya from his Ennis parish after Sylvia Abano Martinez Arambulo filed suit last summer. At the time, diocesan officials said he acknowledged having sex with her 20 years ago in the Philippines.

The diocese announced Monsignor Villaroya's reassignment, to St. Francis of Assisi parish in Frisco, in the current issue of its newspaper. The Texas Catholic article states that "paternity has not been determined," without mentioning that the priest has signed a sworn statement admitting that he is the biological father of Ms. Arambulo's son.

Bronson Havard, the newspaper's editor and bishop's spokesman, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Nor did Monsignor Villaroya, who started work in Frisco last weekend.

Ann Blackman, a member of the Collin County parish's finance council, said she didn't know enough about the priest to judge him. She said the fast-growing congregation had been "in desperate need" of a second priest, especially a Spanish speaker such as Monsignor Villaroya.

Ms. Blackman said she was glad to see the Texas Catholic report on the reassignment.

"The diocese, from what I've seen, hasn't always been so forthcoming," she said. "That was a good sign in terms of open communication."

1983 pregnancy

Ms. Arambulo, who left her religious order and now lives in the Los Angeles area, said she was not surprised to hear about developments in Dallas.

"That is how dirty they are," she said of church officials.

Ms. Arambulo said she was shunned after becoming pregnant in 1983 and found support only from Baptist missionaries in her overwhelmingly Catholic home country. She said she did not report the matter to police, out of shame and fear that she would not be believed.

Monsignor Villaroya, Ms. Arambulo said, pressured her to have an abortion and left the area before she gave birth. She later married a man who helped her raise her son.

As the boy approached adolescence and began asking to meet his birth father, the family learned that the priest was in Southern California. They moved there in the mid-1990s. Ms. Arambulo said she began pressing a child-support claim through county government in 1996. Around that time, Monsignor Villaroya moved to the Dallas Diocese.

Diocesan chancellor Mary Edlund told the Texas Catholic that Monsignor Villaroya "has been serving here for 15 years without incident." Last year, however, she said he had come here in 1996, after living in California and caring for his elderly parents.

Ms. Arambulo said she figured out he was in Texas last year and persuaded him to sign a paternity affidavit and to come meet his son. A handwritten note on that document says that "I will be giving the amount of $ 150 or more monthly to my son Jonathan and I will help too in his studies." It is signed "Ernesto C. Villaroya, father."

The child-support case against the priest is pending in a California court, with a hearing set for Friday. Ms. Arambulo said an attorney representing the Los Angeles County child-support department recently urged her to settle the matter for $ 1,000 and to sign two documents: one agreeing not to accuse the church further and the other stating that Monsignor Villaroya is not the boy's father.

"They want me to tell a lie," Ms. Arambulo said. Child-support department officials did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The Texas Catholic article makes no mention of problems Monsignor Villaroya had in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, where he lacked permission to function as a priest but did so anyway. Archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg said the priest was sent three "cease and desist" letters, in 1991, 1993 and 1995, after other clerics expressed concern that he was working in a parish.

Monsignor Villaroya initially failed to seek permission to serve, Mr. Tamberg said, and was rejected when he asked later.

"When someone breaks the rules that many times and then says, 'Give me faculties,' we say no," the spokesman said.

In an interview several months ago, Mr. Havard said that Dallas diocesan officials did not contact their Los Angeles counterparts before accepting Monsignor Villaroya. Instead, the spokesman said, they relied on assurances from the priest's original diocese in the Philippines, Masbate, that he was in good standing there.

"There's none of this casual stuff going on now," Mr. Havard said. "The church has learned the hard way. Now we do a lot more checking."

No investigation

The Rev. Quintin Feraren Jr., a top aide to the Masbate bishop, said church officials in the Philippines never investigated the circumstances surrounding Ms. Arambulo's pregnancy.

"We didn't give much attention to this," he said. "The allegation [of rape] was without basis."

Monsignor Feraren said Monsignor Villaroya moved to California in the 1980s with permission from his bishop. He said he didn't know why the priest left the Philippines, but it was "not to escape anything."

Monsignor Villaroya's reassignment was approved by the Dallas Diocese's personnel board, which includes priests and lay people. "After a thorough review of the case from the standpoint of his ability and willingness to serve, the board found no impediment that would prevent him from serving under church law," Ms. Edlund told the Texas Catholic.

The priest will serve in Frisco under the supervision of the Rev. Leon Duesman, the paper said.

And he "will undergo counseling and further evaluation," it added. "He also has undergone a background check as required of all priests."

Mr. Tamberg said Dallas church officials did not contact the Los Angeles Archdiocese as part of that process.

[Photo Caption: Ernesto Villaroya.]

Priest's Appointment Enrages Parishioners
Frisco Church Still Smarting from Dismissal of Popular Cleric

By Brooks Egerton
Dallas Morning News
May 17, 2003

Three months ago, Dallas Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann removed a popular Frisco priest so abruptly that the man was not allowed to say goodbye to the congregation. Instead, the Rev. Armando Beltran was sent packing to his home diocese in Colombia - and to this day, the Hispanic parishioners he'd served say they haven't been told why.

When their initial questions went unanswered, they began a petition drive and gathered hundreds of signatures. Some boycotted Mass or quit putting money in the collection basket. By March, they had a lawyer write to Bishop Grahmann and Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante, expressing concern about Father Beltran's dismissal and other matters.

Supporters of the priest said their anger turned to rage this week when they learned about Father Beltran's replacement at St. Francis of Assisi Church: a priest who has been accused of raping a nun and has admitted fathering her child.

"Why would Bishop Grahmann, knowing he has a wasps' nest in this parish, send us this other guy?" asked Jorge Mesta, a leader of the protesters.

The diocese's chancellor, Mary Edlund, issued a brief written statement Friday saying that Father Beltran, "like all visiting priests, was asked to follow specific diocesan and parish standards. He violated those standards and was asked to leave the diocese.

"The violations did not involve sexual misconduct," she added. "Because this is a personnel matter, we are not able to elaborate."

Ms. Edlund would not take questions. Neither the bishops nor the head pastor in Frisco, the Rev. Leon Duesman, responded to requests for comment.

One of the parish's deacons, Frank Reyna, described Father Beltran as "a very, very good priest, very inspirational." But he said he was also a "headstrong" young man - in his mid-30s and only recently ordained - who sometimes did things without asking permission from Monsignor Duesman.

"If you agree or disagree, sometimes you still have to do what they say," Mr. Reyna said. He declined to comment further.

Father Beltran, who's working again as a priest in Colombia, also did not respond to a telephone message Friday.

Monsignor Duesman's new assistant, the Rev. Ernesto Villaroya, was suspended from an Ennis parish last summer after the rape accusation surfaced in a California lawsuit. Sylvia Abano Martinez Arambulo alleged that he attacked her 20 years ago in their native country, the Philippines, and that church leaders in Los Angeles and Dallas had harbored him since.

A judge ruled that she had waited too long to sue, ending the case before evidence could be heard, and fined her lawyer. The decision, diocese officials said recently, paved the way for Monsignor Villaroya's return to ministry. All the defendants denied wrongdoing.

Diocese officials said the priest had undergone a reference check, but the Los Angeles Archdiocese said it was not contacted as part of that process. Monsignor Villaroya repeatedly defied written warnings not to work as a priest in Southern California, an archdiocesan spokesman has said.

The priest also is the target of a child-support case in Los Angeles. He signed a paternity affidavit last summer and wrote a note on it saying he would provide at least $ 150 a month to his son, 18-year-old Jonathan Arambulo. So far he has paid about $ 300, Ms. Arambulo said.

Church officials have called a town hall-style meeting to discuss Monsignor Villaroya's new assignment at 7 p.m. Sunday at St. Francis, although Mr. Mesta said he and others who have complained were not invited.

The uprising in Frisco emerges from a group Bishop Grahmann has counted among his most loyal followers, Latinos. He has set up Hispanic parishes, insisted that new priests be bilingual and has been quoted as saying, "The future of ministry in Texas is in the Spanish language."

The protest also comes at a time of great flux for St. Francis, which began as a Spanish-language mission project in the 1960s and was designated a parish in 1997.

By that point, the farm town of Frisco was becoming a suburban boomtown - but there was no worship center large enough for both the long-term Hispanic worshippers and the English-speaking newcomers moving in from all over the country.

Last year, a new church building opened on Eldorado Parkway. Today, the parish claims more than 1,300 families as members, more than six times the figure in 1998.

Father Beltran started work there last spring and quickly energized Hispanics, according to the letter the protesters' attorney sent the bishops.

The number of Hispanic parishioners grew to 1,500 from 500 in nine months, Dallas lawyer Martin Thomas wrote.

But many members have also felt "that they have not been welcome, have not had a voice, and have suffered from discrimination by Monsignor Leon Duesman against Father Armando Beltran," the letter said. "The Hispanic community wants Father Beltran back and Monsignor Leon Duesman moved from their parish.

"They also ask for an external accounting audit of the books of the church."

Edgar Villalobos, another of the protesters, said that they have received no answer to the letter. He speculated that Monsignor Duesman simply had come to resent Father Beltran's popularity and wanted to get rid of him.

"Even if something's wrong," Mr. Villalobos asked, "why hide it?"

Priest's Appointment Angers Parishioners

Associated Press
Amarillo Globe-News
May 18, 2003

http://www.amarillonet.com/stories/051803/usn_priest.shtml

Frisco - Parishioners at a Catholic church in the far north Dallas suburb of Frisco still aren't over the removal three months ago of a popular priest - for reasons they never were told, they say.

Now that Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann has replaced him with a priest who has been accused of raping a nun and has admitted fathering her child, they're livid.

Grahmann removed the Rev. Armando Beltran three months ago, returning him to his home diocese in Colombia so abruptly that the man was not allowed to say goodbye to the congregation, The Dallas Morning News reported in its Saturday editions, quoting members of the St. Francis of Assisi Church.

When their initial questions went unanswered, they gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions, and some members boycotted Mass or quit giving money to the church.

Their anger turned to rage this week when they learned about Beltran's replacement: the Rev. Ernesto Villaroya, who was suspended last summer from an Ennis parish after the rape accusation surfaced in a California lawsuit.

"Why would Bishop Grahmann, knowing he has a wasps' nest in this parish, send us this other guy?" said Jorge Mesta, a leader of the protesters.

Mary Edlund, chancellor of the diocese, issued a brief written statement Friday saying that Father Beltran, "like all visiting priests, was asked to follow specific diocesan and parish standards. He violated those standards and was asked to leave the diocese."

Cases Affecting the Church

Dallas Morning News
May 18, 2003

The Catholic Diocese of Dallas says that by year's end, it hopes to have settled most claims that it failed to supervise or covered up for the following priests and other employees. Defense attorney Randy Mathis estimates that the diocese and its insurers have paid about $ 38 million in settlements, the bulk of them with victims of former priest Rudy Kos. Here is a list of pending and recently settled cases:

The Rev. Ramon Alvarez - The diocese has rejected compensation demands from a Houston-area man, who accused Father Alvarez of groping and propositioning him during a blessing. Such adult-abuse claims are "an entirely different situation" from child-molestation allegations, Mr. Mathis, the diocesan attorney, said. The accuser's attorney has said she might sue. Father Alvarez remains on duty as head pastor of the Dallas cathedral. Diocesan officials say he has acknowledged "crossing boundaries" with his accuser but denies abuse.

The Rev. Thomas Behnke - A Dallas-area man filed suit last fall against the diocese, where Father Behnke served in the 1970s and 1980s. The suit also named his religious order, the Discalced Carmelite Friars. The plaintiff says he was abused from 1978 to 1980, when he was a boy and the priest was stationed at St. Mary of Carmel in Oak Cliff. Father Behnke, who is retired, has denied the allegation in a court filing. He lives in Jemez Springs, N.M., at a facility run by another religious order, the Servants of the Paraclete. It provides a home for priests who have been implicated in sexual abuse or have other problems that disqualify them from ministry. The Dallas Diocese says it did not send Father Behnke to Jemez Springs and does not know why he is living there. An attorney for the Carmelites declined to comment.

The Rev. Michael T. Flanagan - No lawsuits have been filed, but two men have asked the diocese to compensate them for abuse they suffered as boys. One such claim recently was settled. A third man has reported abuse but made no demands. Father Flanagan was suspended last year after the first man came forward. He has not responded publicly to the allegations. Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann had him retire in 1999 after learning that he previously had been arrested on public lewdness charges involving adults.

The Rev. Patrick J. Lynch - The lone lawsuit naming him has just been settled, while two previous claims from former altar boys resulted in out-of-court deals. Others have alleged abuse without seeking compensation. Father Lynch has been living in his native Ireland and in England. He faces no criminal charges. He has not responded publicly to the allegations but has privately denied wrongdoing, associates say. Diocesan officials first documented his sexual misconduct in 1966 and have apologized. Bishop Grahmann has suspended Father Lynch from ministry but not sought to remove him from the priesthood.

Rudy Kos - One lawsuit is pending, and another has just been settled. More than a dozen victims settled previously. Mr. Kos is serving a life term in prison for abusing boys. The Vatican removed him from the priesthood at Bishop Grahmann's request.

Julio A. Marcos - Lawsuits cite the layman's abuse of several girls at St. Pius X Catholic Church's day care center, for which he is serving a life sentence in prison. Mr. Mathis said parish officials, not diocesan leaders, supervised Mr. Marcos. There were no warning signs of abuse before victims spoke up, he said. Plaintiffs' attorneys say management knew the employee had abused drugs and attempted suicide.

The Rev. Emeh "Anthony" Nwaogu - One suit is pending, from a Dallas girl he abused in 1999. Father Nwaogu was convicted in that case and sentenced to five years in prison; he could be paroled in December and faces deportation to his native Nigeria. Bishop Grahmann has suspended him but not sought to remove him from the priesthood.

The Rev. Kenneth Roberts - Two brothers have litigation pending. They are from the St. Louis area, where the Dallas Diocese sent Father Roberts in the late 1960s after concluding that he had abused a boy here. Another claim, from a Dallas-area man who did not file suit, was settled recently. Earlier, at least three other men were compensated. All allege child abuse except one, a young cleric who said he was abused as a young adult when he consulted Father Roberts about entering the priesthood. A spokeswoman has said Father Roberts denies some charges and can't respond to others, because they date to a time when he suffered alcohol-related blackouts. Medical records show that he has acknowledged at least one incident of abuse; he has not been criminally charged. Father Roberts is now affiliated with Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood, where officials say he helps with nonministerial tasks. Bishop Grahmann has suspended him from ministry but not sought to remove him from the priesthood.

SOURCES: Catholic Diocese of Dallas; plaintiffs' attorneys; court records; Dallas Morning News research

Shadow of Abuse Lingers
As Diocese Seeks Resolution This Year, One Priest's Case Proves Particularly Difficult

By Brooks Egerton
Dallas Morning News
May 18, 2003

Six years after losing a high-stakes courthouse gamble with victims of the Rev. Rudy Kos, the Dallas Catholic Diocese is still besieged with sexual abuse cases.

Pending or recently settled claims allege that the diocese covered up for or failed to supervise seven priests, most of whom have served under Bishop Charles Grahmann. One lawsuit stems from abuse by a layman at a parish day-care center.

Diocesan attorney Randy Mathis said most of the problems predated Bishop Grahmann. The bishop, he said, is determined to settle the cases - most of which involve child abuse - and "to make sure it never happens again."

"There's no question that the cases are winding down," Mr. Mathis said. "The goal is to resolve all the cases in 2003."

He reached out-of-court deals this spring with victims of four priests: Mr. Kos, the Rev. Kenneth Roberts, the Rev. Michael T. Flanagan and the Rev. Patrick J. Lynch.

The Lynch lawsuit proved particularly difficult for the diocese - for starters, because church leaders had documented the priest's misconduct three decades before pressing him to retire. Then new evidence emerged that Bishop Grahmann had continued to aid the priest. And the suit led to a court ruling that could limit the church's insurance coverage in abuse cases.

Father Lynch, 68, did not respond to the lawsuit and was judged liable by default; a lawyer who briefly represented him said he had denied wrongdoing. Neither the bishop nor his aides responded to recent requests for comment. His spokesman, Bronson Havard, said last year that the bishop did not know where the priest was, although "we presume he's living in Ireland," his native country.

Mr. Mathis said victims seem to understand that the church has limited resources and have accepted significantly smaller settlements lately.

In the landmark 1997 civil trial of the diocese and Mr. Kos, jurors awarded 11 plaintiffs a total of nearly $ 120 million, the largest clergy-abuse verdict in history. Post-trial negotiations cut the amount to about $ 31 million. Settlements in other cases have added up to about $ 7 million more.

Diocesan insurers have paid roughly two-thirds of the total. Some, however, have been arguing in court that they shouldn't have to pay for their clients' malfeasance. Two recently won a ruling to that effect from Dallas County state District Judge Jay Patterson.

Mr. Mathis said he expects to succeed in overturning the ruling on appeal. Even if it stands, he said, he doesn't think that it would prevent the diocese from settling other cases.

But Brad Dickinson, an attorney for one of the companies, Interstate Fire & Casualty, said the ruling "will have a dramatic effect in the short term on the diocese's contention that insurers have to fund the settlements."

And if upheld on appeal, he said, the decision could set a precedent in similar cases around the country.

In the case that led to the insurance ruling, Mr. Dickinson cited evidence - previously reported in The Dallas Morning News - that diocesan officials first protected Father Lynch when he was a young priest in the mid-1960s.

Memo from 1966

An aide to one of Bishop Grahmann's predecessors wrote a brief personnel-file memo in 1966 saying that the cleric had been "sexually involved with a student while stationed at St. Pius X Church," which had a school for kindergarten through eighth grade. "This should be kept confidential."

In 1995, after the diocese received other reports of misconduct by Father Lynch during the 1960s, Bishop Grahmann granted the priest early-retirement benefits based on a heart condition - which already had been treated successfully with a single angioplasty and overnight hospital stay, church records show.

The bishop did not suspend Father Lynch from ministry until 1997, shortly after The News first reported on these matters. By that point, the diocese had compensated two accusers and knew of others, representing at least four of the 12 parishes Father Lynch had served.

The recently settled lawsuit was filed in late 1999 and led to major new revelations, diocesan records show.

For example, Father Lynch didn't simply deny abuse after being confronted in the mid-1990s, as diocesan representatives have said. Rather, his responses led several questioners to doubt him.

A priest who initially quizzed him on behalf of Bishop Grahmann wrote that Father Lynch "commented that he may have wrestled" with one boy and "significantly, he did not deny wrongdoing. I felt that without stating it, he did admit to this offense and hinted that there were others as well."

The diocese subsequently had Father Lynch evaluated at the Shalom Center, a Catholic treatment facility in Splendora, near Houston. There, a nun's report said, "he made incriminatory statements such as, 'At my age, I can't go back over all that happened 30 years ago. Things were different then.'" A psychologist wrote that Father Lynch denied abuse but "was not very convincing" and probably suffered from "serious personality pathology."

Despite these warnings, Bishop Grahmann then let him retire in good standing - a status that permits continued ministry. Father Lynch moved overseas with an upbeat letter from the bishop that made no mention of abuse.

"I commend you," the bishop wrote, "on doing such a great job for the people of the diocese."

Two years later, Bishop Grahmann issued a suspension decree that said Father Lynch had "refused to confirm or deny" additional allegations and had to be prevented "from having free access to further potential victims under the guise of being a priest in good standing."

The decree stated that Dallas diocesan officials would alert bishops' organizations in Ireland and England about Father Lynch. Bishop Grahmann's top aide in 1997, the Rev. Glenn "Duffy" Gardner, said then that the cleric was spending time in his native land and with his sister, near London.

Getting word to Europe

But the diocese, according to its own records, waited a year to notify the bishops' groups about the suspension. At that point, in July 1998, another senior Grahmann aide sent this message to Cardinal Basil Hume in England:

"We have heard indirectly that Father Lynch is living in the London area and may be functioning as a priest," the Rev. John Bell wrote. "We pray that this is not the case."

Monsignor Bell's letter said the priest "continues to allude [sic] diocese and local authorities." By December 1998, however, he was visiting Monsignor Gardner in Dallas and asking to have his suspension lifted.

After the visit, Father Lynch submitted a letter from a Dallas psychiatrist endorsing him for further priestly duty. The suspension "was a grave stressor that can impact negatively his health," Dr. Raphael Emanuel wrote, making no mention of abuse. "Please lift his suspension, for both physical and psychological reasons and so that he may be able to be of service to those who may need him."

In May 1999, the bishop of the area in central Ireland where Father Lynch grew up wrote to Bishop Grahmann with concerns. Father Lynch, he said, was living in the little town of Castlepollard, where "the local pastor had contact with him but was unable to ascertain what his status or intentions were."

Meath Bishop Michael Smith added that Father Lynch "has involved himself minimally in religious celebrations in the parish but has been very involved in some social activities, especially the local tennis club.

" Perhaps you could let me know what his present relationship is with your diocese and also if there is any reason why he should not be involved in parish activities, especially those involving the young."

After Dallas Chancellor Mary Edlund sent him the suspension decree, Bishop Smith wrote back and said he had asked Father Lynch to come see him. He also said he had received no warning about the priest.

In an interview with The News, Bishop Smith said Father Lynch did meet with him but divulged little. The priest said that "his own side of things might not have been taken into account as much as it should've been," the bishop said.

He said Father Lynch has not worked as a priest in the Meath Diocese or been the target of complaints or suspicions. Citing fear of litigation and lack of information from Dallas, the bishop said he had not told Castlepollard parishioners about the priest's past.

"Irish people are generally very astute," Bishop Smith said. "There's no great risk involved."

Father Lynch still lives part time in Castlepollard, the bishop said, and also spends long stretches in England. Some of his closest neighbors in the village have children and mow his lawn, according to a reporter for the newspaper Ireland on Sunday.

The plaintiff in the recently settled suit is Lance Donohue, a former altar boy at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson. He said in a deposition that he was 10 when Father Lynch first made him engage in fondling, in 1977.

Victim's testimony

"He told me that it's OK," Mr. Donohue testified, "that if there was anything wrong with it that God wouldn't allow it to happen, and that it would upset my family [if someone found out] ... and that if I didn't do it I would go to hell."

Three times over the next two years, he testified, Father Lynch raped him. He kept the secret, he said, and began abusing drugs and alcohol by age 14.

Mr. Donohue, now 36, said he finally spoke up in the late 1990s, when he became suicidal and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Several months of diocese-funded inpatient therapy "saved my life," he said in an interview.

His gratitude for that help is tempered by his feeling that the diocese remains "an organization steeped in denial," he said. Church officials, he said, apologized for Father Lynch's behavior, but "they weren't apologizing for their own."

Mr. Mathis, the diocesan attorney, said that the diocese admitted no wrongdoing in the Lynch case or others, but "has clearly apologized for the entire thing."

He said he has seen no "piling on" effect - no sign of people inventing abuse claims after others publicly accuse a priest. False accusations, he said, have been "minimal."

Mr. Mathis declined to reveal the amount of the Lynch case settlement. So did Mr. Donohue and his attorneys at the law office of Windle Turley, who have represented victims of several Dallas priests.

The diocese has spent large sums to defend itself in the case, according to a letter Bishop Grahmann sent Father Lynch 18 months ago. Legal fees "incurred as a result of your misconduct" exceeded $ 130,000 at that point, the bishop wrote, and therapy for "victim Donohue" cost $ 40,000.

"There's no amount of money that can repay me and the others he's affected," Mr. Donohue said, adding that he wants to reach out to fellow victims. "I feel like I've been given a voice."

Court records show that Houston lawyer Lawrence Greer, another former Lynch altar boy, briefly represented the priest. The attorney said he bowed out because Father Lynch couldn't afford his services and the diocese wouldn't pay for them.

"I think he feels that the church has treated him badly," Mr. Greer said. "The church seems to feel that he has treated them badly."

Mr. Havard, the diocese spokesman, acknowledged last year that Bishop Grahmann had not sought to remove Father Lynch from the priesthood. Nor had he ordered the cleric to disclose his whereabouts.

"We don't have a church reason for knowing where he is," the spokesman said.

Pension payments

Mr. Havard added that the diocese had indirect contact with the priest, via a bank where his pension check was deposited. He said federal law requires payment of the pension.

Last year, at the height of the church's sex-abuse crisis, U.S. bishops said that not all abusers should be laicized - returned to the lay state. One reason cited was the need for continuing oversight.

The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a church-law expert and former official at the Vatican embassy in Washington, said Bishop Grahmann remains responsible for Father Lynch as long as he is a priest of the Dallas Diocese.

"He should order him to come back" and face the accusations, Father Doyle said. "He should tell him, 'We're going to hold your checks until we know where you are.'"

Bishop Grahmann did not seek to laicize Father Lynch, Mr. Havard said, because "we think it's a moot question." He would not elaborate.

Mr. Havard also would not explain why the bishop had sought to remove only one man from the priesthood: Mr. Kos.

[Photo Captions: 1. (FILE/Staff photo) Bishop Charles Grahmann, shown at Rudy Kos' 1997 trial, supervised most of the Dallas priests who had claims brought against them. Their problems reportedly predated the bishop. 2. (FILE 1998/Staff photo) Mr. Kos, who was sentenced to life for abusing boys, faces one pending suit. More than 12 other victims settled. He was removed from the priesthood, at Bishop Grahmann's request. 3. Patrick J. Lynch CHART(S): CASES AFFECTING THE CHURCH]

Accused Priest Will Remain
But Diocese Says It Will Monitor Whether Frisco Parish Accepts Him

By Brooks Egerton and Lesley Tllez
Dallas Morning News
May 19, 2003

Frisco - Dallas Diocese officials said Sunday that a priest accused of raping a nun 20 years ago and fathering her child will stay at a Frisco church, but officials will continue to monitor whether parishioners accept him.

Mary Edlund, chancellor of the Dallas Diocese, said that if parishioners don't accept the Rev. Ernesto C. Villaroya, he won't stay. She acknowledged that the diocese should have told the more than 1,300 families in the parish about their new priest's past.

During a nearly two-hour meeting with parishioners Sunday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Frisco, Ms. Edlund urged hundreds of parishioners to forgive Monsignor Villaroya, who was recently reassigned to the church.

Monsignor Villaroya failed to show up for Mass on Sunday after parishioners demonstrated outside the church, carrying signs that called him a rapist and that demanded Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann resign.

Monsignor Villaroya, in his first interview about the matter, said he would quit if Bishop Grahmann asked him to. He denied allegations that he raped a nun 20 years ago in their home country, the Philippines, and backed away from his previous sworn admission that he fathered her child.

"There was some intimidation" involved in getting his signature on a paternity affidavit he signed last year, Monsignor Villaroya said. He would not elaborate but did say he wants to have DNA testing done.

Told that he closely resembles 18-year-old Jonathan Arambulo, the priest laughed and said, "Well, no problem, as they say." He would not say whether he believes the youth is his son.

Ms. Edlund, Bishop Grahmann's top aide, arrived at the priest's living quarters during the brief interview and declined to comment on the situation.

Jonathan Arambulo's mother, Sylvia Abano Martinez Arambulo, said she is willing to have DNA testing done and has been trying for years simply to get Monsignor Villaroya to pay for the consequences of his acts. She is pressing a child-support case in Los Angeles County, where she and Jonathan live.

Last summer, Ms. Arambulo also filed a lawsuit that formalized the rape accusation and alleged that church leaders in Los Angeles and Dallas had harbored the priest. He left the Philippines for California after unsuccessfully pressing her to have an abortion and came to Texas after she discovered where he was, she has said.

Bishop Grahmann removed Monsignor Villaroya from his Ennis parish after the suit was filed. Its recent dismissal paved the way for his reinstatement this month in Frisco at fast-growing St. Francis of Assisi Church, the bishop's aides have said.

All the defendants denied wrongdoing. A judge ruled that Ms. Arambulo had waited too long to sue, ending the case before evidence could be heard.

Monsignor Villaroya is supposed to be succeeding the Rev. Armando Beltran as associate pastor in charge of Spanish-language worship at St. Francis. Bishop Grahmann removed Father Beltran so abruptly three months ago that the popular priest was not allowed to say goodbye to the hundreds of Hispanics he had brought into the church over the previous year.

The bishop and other church officials have refused to answer questions about why Father Beltran was sent back to his home diocese in Colombia. He has not responded to inquiries.

Protesters steadfast

Anger over his dismissal led some of his followers to organize in protest even before Monsignor Villaroya arrived. Now organizers say they are even more determined to bring about change.

"The majority don't support him," Jorge Mesta of Prosper said after the meeting ended. "We've already rejected him."

About two dozen demonstrators carried signs before Sunday services, most of which were aimed at Bishop Grahmann, and many more people wore buttons calling for Father Beltran's return.

"Obey Pope's Wishes," one sign said. "Resign." That's a reference to the Vatican's appointment, more than three years ago, of a successor to Bishop Grahmann, Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante.

Bishop Grahmann has said he plans to stay in office until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75, in about three years. Most coadjutorships last a year or less, and Bishop Galante recently said he expects to leave Dallas soon.

Many parishioners leaving the English-language Mass passed by demonstrators without commenting. One woman, who would not give her name, said "Shame on you" repeatedly.

Another member of the congregation, Elizabeth Vela, said she feared that the controversy would split whites and Hispanics. And demonstrators, she suggested, were "casting a stone" without sufficient information.

But she also said that Monsignor Villaroya and other church officials aren't helping matters by staying quiet. And she said she agreed with protesters on one point: the need for the bishop's resignation. "It would help the healing," Ms. Vela said.

Head pastor responds

Some protesters focused their anger on the head pastor at St. Francis, the Rev. Leon Duesman, and accused him of driving away Father Beltran. Several confronted him in the sacristy Sunday as he hurriedly prepared to fill in for Monsignor Villaroya.

"You don't give us nothing," protester Lourdes Sandoval shouted. Monsignor Duesman brushed past her and headed toward the altar; he later declined to speak with a reporter.

The confrontation led one parishioner, Frisco City Council member Matt Lafata, to summon police as a precautionary measure.

Earlier, during the English-language Mass, Monsignor Duesman spoke about the protesters outside. He made it clear that all the key decisions are Bishop Grahmann's, Mr. Lafata said.

Mr. Lafata said Catholic Church leaders should learn from the example of successful government officials that silence isn't golden. "When you try to keep secrets," he said, "people become very suspicious. Everybody has the right to protest and to be told what's happening."

[Photo Captions: (1-2 MEI-CHUN JAU/Staff Photographer) 1. Most of the two dozen protesters outside St. Francis of Assisi on Sunday carried signs aimed at Bishop Charles Grahmann. 2. Parishioners filed out after Mass on Sunday at St. Francis. The Rev. Ernesto C. Villaroya didn't show up for the service. (3-4 Collin County ed. p. 7B) 3. Ernesto Villaroya. 4. Charles Grahmann.]

Priest's Fund-Raising Misdeeds Detailed
LA Infractions Mirror Those Cited in Frisco Predecessor's Dismissal

By Brooks Egerton
Dallas Morning News
May 25, 2003

Dallas Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann has, after weeks of protest by parishioners, gone public with his reason for firing a popular Frisco priest: that the Rev. Armando Beltran repeatedly violated orders to get permission for fund raising.

But the priest recently named to replace him was similarly disobedient to Los Angeles church officials, documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News show. They chastised the Rev. Ernesto Villaroya for operating an unauthorized ministry for personal gain and invalidated marriages he performed.

These revelations follow widely publicized reports that Monsignor Villaroya had been accused of raping a nun 20 years ago and had admitted fathering her child. He declined to comment for this story.

Bishop Grahmann and his aides have spent the past week trying to calm the storm over Monsignor Villaroya's reinstatement to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Frisco. They have said he deserves forgiveness because they believe the sex was consensual, it was a long time ago and he has behaved well ever since.

Last week, the bishop's top aide, Chancellor Mary Edlund, told The News that the priest's more recent problems in the Los Angeles Archdiocese occurred because he "did not understand the protocol of the archdiocese" and were merely an administrative infraction.

After being shown Ms. Edlund's written statement, Los Angeles Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg late Friday released three letters that a top archdiocese official sent to Monsignor Villaroya in the 1990s. Each one asked him to return to his native country, the Philippines.

"It has once again come to my attention that you are continuing to perform sacramental liturgies without holding faculties," a 1993 letter stated.

"The marriages you perform without benefit of those faculties are rendered invalid, and the harm being done as a result to unsuspecting families appears to be great.

"It would seem that you have decided to follow an independent course for your own material gain, without concern for the rights and needs of members of the Catholic Church in Los Angeles."

Monsignor Villaroya said he could not comment without permission from Ms. Edlund. She did not respond to requests for comment on the correspondence, which Mr. Tamberg said he also faxed to the Dallas Diocese on Friday.

Mr. Tamberg said the archdiocese would not discuss its experiences with Monsignor Villaroya.

Tenure in California

A parishioner who knew Monsignor Villaroya in the suburb of Carson, Calif., said he worked as a "guest priest" at St. Philomena Church for years before the first warning letter was sent, in 1991. The parishioner, Mely Cerame, said he also was consecrating homes and "collecting money, which [the head pastor] was not aware of," she said. "My home was one of those he blessed."

Monsignor Villaroya also "would call you on birthdays and say, 'I have included you in my Masses today.' That implied that you're obligated to give a little donation," Ms. Cerame said.

In an e-mail sent before the letters were released, Ms. Edlund said Monsignor Villaroya did not seek permission to serve in Los Angeles because he had moved there to care for his ailing parents. The last letter, from 1995, shows that he ultimately did seek an assignment - and was rejected.

"This decision is based on testimony of priest leaders in the Filipino community as well as past discussions with Cardinal [Roger] Mahony and the Archdiocesan Priests' Personnel Board," the letter stated.

Dallas Diocese officials did not ask the Los Angeles Archdiocese for information before hiring him, Bishop Grahmann's aides have said. They said they relied on an assurance from his home diocese of Masbate in the Philippines that he was a priest in good standing.

And "when we recently learned of LA's communication to Fr. Villaroya, he already had a history with the Dallas Diocese which was a good one," Ms. Edlund's e-mail said.

At the time the Dallas diocese hired him, in 1996, Monsignor Villaroya apparently had not worked officially as a priest in 12 years. A top Masbate Diocese official recently told The News that his diocese never investigated the circumstances of his accuser's pregnancy, during which the priest left the Philippines. The accuser has said he departed after pressing her to have an abortion.

Mr. Tamberg, the Los Angeles Archdiocese spokesman, said the Dallas Diocese has not sought information about Monsignor Villaroya since the accuser sued the priest and church leaders last year. The suit led to his removal from an Ennis parish last summer.

After the suit was recently dismissed before evidence was heard, Monsignor Villaroya was reassigned to St. Francis of Assisi. That decision has touched off further controversy among parishioners who were already angry over the firing of their previous associate pastor, Father Beltran.

The predecessor

For three months, Hispanic parishioners have been asking why the bishop removed Father Beltran and sent him home to South America. They got no answers until the priest went on nationwide radio last week in Colombia to say that Dallas church leaders had unjustly accused him of fund-raising improprieties.

Ms. Edlund then provided a written statement saying that the head pastor in Frisco, the Rev. Leon Duesman, "had spoken to Father Beltran on at least six occasions regarding his fund-raising activities and solicitation of funds from parishioners."

Those conversations led to a September 2002 agreement requiring the priest to get permission for solicitations. An excerpt from his termination letter says he was accused of further violations, such as seeking help for new church construction in Colombia.

"Such solicitations exploit the benevolence of the people of the parish who feel obliged to accommodate the requests of a priest," states the excerpt, which Ms. Edlund released. "Further, the violations of a signed agreement have torn asunder the essential trust needed" between Father Beltran and Monsignor Duesman.

Father Beltran said one accusation was that he had asked his Frisco parishioners for a plane ticket to vacation in South America. "That's a lie," he told Radio Caracol, making his first public comment on the controversy. "I never sought money for that."

Instead, Father Beltran said, parishioners surprised him with the ticket as a Father's Day gift last year and showered him with presents on his birthday.

Edgar Villalobos, a leader of Frisco parishioners who have protested Father Beltran's removal and Monsignor Villaroya's reassignment, said that parishioners freely gave gifts.

He said Monsignor Duesman seemed threatened by the popularity of Father Beltran, who had brought in hundreds of new Hispanic worshippers to the church.

Monsignor Duesman has declined to comment. He and Ms. Edlund met Friday with several of the parishioners who organized a protest at the church last Sunday and who have called on Bishop Grahmann to resign.

The parishioners said they agreed to quit protesting while officials determine, over the next couple of weeks, what to do. One option being discussed is a parish vote on whether Monsignor Villaroya should stay at St. Francis.

Monsignor Villaroya did not celebrate the Spanish-language Mass as planned last Sunday. He will not celebrate it again this week, Ms. Edlund said in her e-mail, "so that he can focus on contacting and meeting with parishioners so they can get to know him."

Woman responds

In the latest edition of the Dallas Diocese's newspaper, Monsignor Villaroya said the woman who accused him of rape tried to enlist him in a scheme to extort millions of dollars from the Catholic Church.

The priest again denied raping Sylvia Martinez Arambulo but admitted fathering her son. He told Texas Catholic that they had two sexual encounters in the early 1980s, when both were living in the Philippines.

Monsignor Villaroya said he has since learned Ms. Arambulo might have already left the Sisters of Charity when he first met her. "She decided to be a Baptist, even though she wore her habit still," he said.

The two met again in Southern California last year to discuss child support. That, the priest said, is when she tried to enlist his help in a lawsuit against church leaders and offered him a $ 250,000 share of the proceeds.

Ms. Arambulo scoffed at the allegations. She said that no one from the Dallas Diocese or its newspaper has ever asked to speak with her.

"He's like a man in quicksand," she said of Monsignor Villaroya. "The more he moves, the more he goes down."

Ms. Arambulo moved to Southern California in the mid-1990s with her son and the man she married after leaving her religious order.

She has said she began a child-support action - which is still pending - but lost track of Monsignor Villaroya. Last year, she tracked him down, got him to sign a paternity affidavit and had him meet their son for the first time.

Then Ms. Arambulo filed a lawsuit accusing him of rape and alleging that diocesan leaders in Dallas, Los Angeles and Masbate had conspired to hide him. A judge dismissed the case, saying that she had waited too long to sue and lacked evidence of wrongdoing by the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

He also fined her attorney and wrote, according to California news accounts, that the suit apparently "was filed to obtain publicity and not for any proper purpose."

Ms. Edlund has questioned why Ms. Arambulo and her family took the priest into their California home last summer, saying that "a rape victim doesn't invite an alleged rapist" to visit.

Ms. Arambulo said she welcomed Monsignor Villaroya into her home because she wanted her son to know his father - and wanted the father to start paying for the consequences of his actions.

[Photo Caption: Ernesto Villaroya]

 
 

Bishop Accountability © 2003
     
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