Dallas Resources – June 2003
By Lesley Tllez
A Frisco priest accused of raping a nun 20 years ago resigned from his parish Sunday.
Monsignor Ernesto C. Villaroya of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church resigned through a letter that was read aloud during Sunday Masses, church officials said. Monsignor Villaroya could not be reached for comment. He has denied the rape allegation.
"Because of the situation which has developed, he feels in conscience that he needs to remove himself from St. Francis of Assisi parish in Frisco," Bishop Charles Grahmann said in a statement that was posted Sunday on the Texas Catholic Web site, adding that he had visited with the priest.
"He has asked for an extended leave of absence to think and pray about this experience," Bishop Grahmann said. "His request has been granted."
St. Francis pastoral associate D'Ann Williams said Monsignor Villaroya made the decision completely on his own.
"This was a very difficult process," Ms. Williams said. "I think he just wanted to gather [his] thoughts."
Monsignor Villaroya's replacement has not been discussed, she said.
His reassignment to the Frisco parish was announced in a May issue of Texas Catholic newspaper.
Several Hispanic parishioners protested Monsignor Villaroya's appointment from Day One, saying they were unhappy that their previous priest, the Rev. Armando Beltran, was dismissed in favor of a priest with a past.
Some boycotted Mass or refused to put money in the collection basket.
Church officials have since said that they regretted not informing parishioners in person in a town hall-style meeting.
Frisco resident Edgar Villalobos, who helped spearhead recent protests said Sunday was a victory.
"We've been fighting this for a long time, and I'm so happy I can't believe it," Mr. Villalobos said. "We've been working so hard for this, and finally our voice is heard."
Monsignor Villaroya was suspended from an Ennis parish last summer after the rape accusation surfaced in a California lawsuit. In the suit, Sylvia Abano Martinez Arambulo alleged that he attacked her 20 years ago in their native country, the Philippines.
Monsignor Villaroya denied wrongdoing. Before any evidence could be heard, a judge ruled that Ms. Arambulo waited too long to sue and fined her lawyer.
Church officials have said that there was a consensual relationship and that the lawsuit was Ms. Arambulo's attempt to extort $ 1 million dollars from the Catholic Church. Ms. Arambulo has denied those allegations.
She was not available to comment Sunday.
Church officials urged parishioners in a meeting two weeks ago to forgive Monsignor Villaroya and give him a chance. The priest was expected to minister to Spanish- and English-speaking parishioners.
Matt Lafata, who has attended St. Francis for four years, wasn't at Sunday Mass but heard the news about Monsignor Villaroya from a friend. Mr. Lafata said he wasn't surprised.
"I don't see how he could effectively be a priest at this parish, given the baggage that he is carrying around," said Mr. Lafata, who is also a Frisco council member. "I think, unfortunately, whether he did what he was accused of doing or not - I think the mistrust that was really developed among some parishioners anyway, they would have never accepted him. I think the smartest thing for him to do was to resign, and that sort of saves face for everyone."
[Staff writers Brooks Egerton and Eric Aasen contributed to this report.]
Seeing the Light
The departure of Monsignor Ernesto Villaroya from his new parish in Frisco is the first good news the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas has had in some time.
Monsignor Villaroya's appointment to St. Francis of Assisi Church last month roiled the parish. Despite Bishop Charles Grahmann's pleas to parishioners to forgive and accept the priest, a significant and noisy number of Hispanic church members refused. They believed that the bishop, particularly with his history of mismanagement, had no business expecting the parish to welcome a priest with a still unexplained past of sexual transgression and disobedience - especially after dismissing a popular Colombian priest for reasons the diocese did not trouble to explain.
They were right. One lesson to be learned from this public row between the laity and the diocesan leadership is that people in the pews do not have to sit quietly and take whatever the chancery dishes out. If they find the courage to speak out against abuse of power from higher up, and stick to their principles, they can change things for the better in their parishes.
The diocese says that Monsignor Villaroya requested to be removed from the parish, and that Bishop Grahmann agreed. This is exactly what needed to happen to restore peace to the St. Francis community. Monsignor Villaroya could not have ministered effectively there carrying such baggage from his past. St. Francis Parish in Frisco now has what it needs most of all: a fresh start.
Bishop Grahmann - A Commentary
By Marisa Treviño
Dallas, TX -- As a cradle-born Catholic, I was taught that I would spend my life struggling to satisfy the perennial question of how to be a good Catholic. Lately, Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann has made that struggle harder.
The answer used to be simple: do as you're told. Catholics have complied with this doctrine from our Baptisms to our deathbed confessions.
It has served the Church well, until now.
Until the revelations of priestly abuse surfaced and the fact that local Catholic leaders knowingly kept priests on parish duty who had violated their sacred vows.
With these revelations, Catholics have to wrestle with new questions: do we stay silent and thus keep our status as good Catholics, or do we use our God-given talent of reasoning and risk being labeled "bad Catholics?"
The Dallas Diocese would have us believe those who dare challenge Bishop Grahmann's decisions and call for him to step down are not good Catholics.
I beg to differ.
As a Catholic in a diocese that is home to the Rudy Kos crime, one of the most infamous clergy-abuse cases in the country, I have witnessed the pain caused by silence in the name of being a good Catholic.
Silence and inaction by Diocesan parishioners have done nothing more than enable and empower Bishop Grahmann to follow his personal agenda when it comes to the leadership and welfare of the North Texas Diocese.
The first hint that Grahmann has calculated the mean distance between Rome and Dallas is in his mystifying refusal to step aside to let Co-Adjutor Bishop Galante fulfill what the Vatican assigned him to do - assume Grahmann's position.
Grahmann cannot claim ignorance to the process. He himself was brought to Big D in December 1989 to serve as Co-Adjutor until he succeeded his predecessor in July 1990, a mere seven months later. Yet, Grahmann continues to parade on with his duties as if Galante was sent to be his personal assistant. It's been three years and understandably Bishop Galante is fed up with this spoiled behavior.
We should be, too.
We should also be alarmed that Grahmann has decided to let two priests, Ramon Alvarez and Ernesto Villaroya, continue with parish duties though each has admitted to gross violations of their priestly vows. Alvarez propositioned another man and Villaroya fathered a child.
In a recent Dallas Morning News opinion piece defending the assignment of Villaroya to a Frisco parish, Grahmann preaches that, as Catholics, we should forgive and forget. To do less is akin to not following Christ's example. In other words, you're a bad Catholic.
Well, is it not worse to have two men who pledged obedience, celibacy and servitude continue to serve in prominent role model positions while it's public knowledge they succumbed to temptation in the worst possible way?
Grahmann's disregard for the feelings of the people who feel uncomfortable being ministered to by questionable priests, his self-serving attitude to remain as Bishop and his interpretation of what constitutes compliance with the Bishop's sexual abuse policy illustrate one fact: Bishop Grahmann is failing to ask himself the perennial question.
It is time we start asking it.
Some Bishops Falling Short on Enforcing Sex-Abuse Policy
By Reese Dunklin
About a year ago, U.S. Catholic bishops battered by the clergy sex-abuse scandal pledged changes: no tolerance for offenders, new powers for lay investigative boards and an era of openness.
But not all bishops have been following that get-tough approach as diligently as promised, a check of several dioceses around the country found.
Some accused priests have remained on the job because their bishops say the misconduct didn't meet their new policy's definition of sexual abuse or didn't warrant removal from ministry. Others have been reinstated over objections of the bishops' lay review boards.
Several bishops have continued their secretive ways – failing to name accused priests, or account for the crisis' financial toll, or reveal who investigates abuse claims. Some have not enforced parts of their new national sex-abuse policy, passed last June in Dallas, until prodded publicly.
"What you have here is, each bishop is the czar of his diocese," said Jay Dolan, a University of Notre Dame professor specializing in American Catholic history. "Some will end up doing what they well please. Some dioceses are serious, and some are not."
Many Catholic leaders are serious about confronting abuse and are "doing the right thing over and over," said Bishop George Niederauer, the head of the Diocese of Salt Lake City and a member of the influential bishops committee that drafted the new policy. Several other bishops declined to comment or did not return calls.
"I think we should be very slow to say, 'Oh, it's not working,' " Bishop Niederauer said. "It's working."
One member of an Ohio diocese's abuse review board isn't so optimistic.
Dr. Robert Cooley said the Toledo Diocese withheld files from the board during several recent internal investigations and failed to inform the public about the panel's recommendations to oust priests. He said he's questioned diocesan officials but has received few answers.
"Nationally, there are still attempts [to crack down], but locally you run into dioceses like ours that aren't interested in the process," said Dr. Cooley, a psychiatrist. "Here, I don't think they're working hard to make it happen." Diocesan officials did not return calls seeking comment.
Shortly after the new policy was adopted, Phoenix Bishop Thomas O'Brien vowed that his diocese would "lead the nation in compliance" and would be "proactively cooperative" in any investigations of clergy misconduct.
In subsequent months, diocesan officials fought the release of more than 3,000 church records as part of the Maricopa County attorney office's inquiry, said Barnett Lotstein, a special assistant in the prosecutor's office.
"That was the lip service that was paid here in Phoenix: We want to fully cooperate. We want to end this controversy," he said. "Then they proceeded to put up every roadblock they could to prevent us from getting the full story."
The diocese has denied that claim.
Last week, the investigation culminated with Bishop O'Brien acknowledging that he had let priests accused of molesting minors continue working with children and had transferred priests without telling their new parishes about the allegations. The bishop's signed statement was part of an agreement he reached with prosecutors to avoid criminal charges.
Combating abuse crisis
The bishops' new policy was the centerpiece in the church's efforts last year to combat a sex abuse crisis that had led to hundreds of lawsuits and prompted several grand jury investigations around the country.
In the weeks leading up to the Dallas conference, four bishops accused of sexual misconduct resigned; three of them made admissions, the fourth denied the allegations but said he was stepping down for the good of the church.
Initially, the proposed abuse guidelines, as drafted in April 2002 after Pope John Paul II summoned U.S. cardinals to Rome, mandated the removal of "notorious" priests guilty of "serial, predatory" abuse with a minor.
But with the scandal intensifying, the bishops approved a more stringent plan at their meeting in Dallas. It called for removing any clergyman who committed a "single act" of misbehavior with a minor – even if it didn't include a "complete act of intercourse" or "force, physical contact, or a discernible harmful outcome." The broad definition of abuse remained after the Vatican later ordered revisions, including a 10-year statute of limitation that could be waived at a bishop's request.
Initially, several bishops moved swiftly on the new directives. They returned to their dioceses and began pulling priests. Some had been allowed to return to ministry after being sent – in some cases multiple times – to church-run treatment centers; a few had served criminal sentences for abuse. The Chicago Archdiocese removed eight priests, for instance, and the already short-staffed Amarillo Diocese removed five.
Many bishops established local review boards or reworked existing panels to include lay voices – and sometimes abuse victims, as was the case in Metuchen, N.J.
Following through on the bishops' pledge for openness, Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler had posted online and published in the archdiocese's newspaper a list of 60 priests and brothers who previously had been accused of sexual abuse.
"The cardinal felt that in the spirit of the charter, we had to be open and transparent," said archdiocese spokesman Ryan O'Doherty. "He also realized that [abuse] is a cancer. It's painful, but you have to cut it out."
Priests still serving
Yet in other parts of the country, some church leaders have continued
to hang on to their priests.
Months earlier, Bishop Sullivan's decision to reinstate a different priest led several members of the diocese's review board to quit in protest, saying they had not been consulted.
In the Belleville, Ill., Diocese, Bishop Wilton Gregory this spring reinstated a priest who had been the subject of three church reviews since the late 1980s.
A statement from the bishop did not elaborate on his decision or address the allegations. His vicar general, the Rev. James Margason, said in an interview that the claims were credible but didn't constitute abuse.
Bishop Gregory, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the most visible champion of the new tougher policy. Yet he had let this priest remain on the job after it was adopted. After inquiries by The Dallas Morning News last fall, Bishop Gregory suspended the priest while a review panel re-examined the priest's conduct and said he should have taken those steps immediately after the policy's adoption. The priest had been accused in the late 1980s of inappropriately touching a teenage boy and college-age men at a church-run camp.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has delayed taking action against three priests who have admitted to misconduct as well as a fourth facing allegations that it has substantiated.
Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk has waited because a Hamilton County grand jury is investigating, spokesman Dan Andriacco said. Disciplining the priests might "prejudice what they're doing," he said. At some point, the men "will have to be removed, but we need to do it in a prudent way," he said.
Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Allen scoffed at the archdiocese's reasoning.
"Anything they'd do would in no way, shape or form taint the grand jury investigation. That's patently false," said Mr. Allen, a Catholic whose office already has criminal cases against two other priests. "If they have any [abusive priests] on duty, they ought to remove them and not put it off on our investigation."
Mr. Andriacco wouldn't say where three of the priests work; the fourth has been assigned overseas in a diplomatic services job with the Vatican. "We have not dragged our feet on current cases," he added, noting that the archdiocese last year put three other accused priests on leave.
'A lot of variables'
Some diocesan leaders have said that they've struggled with applying their new sex abuse charter to cases that aren't clear-cut. Deciding those can leave church officials "caught between a rock and a hard place," said the Rev. Thomas Green, a canon law professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
"There are a lot of variables," he said. "There's a lack of clear criteria for difficult decisions. We still don't have a settled jurisprudence."
But sex-abuse victims groups said some bishops have been erring on the side of priests.
"The bishops rationalize it as [the charter has] ambiguities and gray areas, so how will they implement this?" said Lee Bashforth, a molestation victim from California and member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "They just evaluate the media damage, and if there is not any, they go back to doing business as usual."
A review board member in the Diocese of Orange, Calif., said she came to a similar conclusion last year and resigned. The woman, an abuse victim, said the panel was "a PR ploy." It didn't examine a single case in the six months she served, and diocesan officials told members they wouldn't have access to priests' personnel files or psychological reports, she said.
"They were very scared that any records would become public or that any review board member or the press would get the records," she said. "The major concern was that they protect the good name of the priests."
The diocese's chancellor, Shirl Giacomi, said the review board didn't get any cases because there were none.
Ms. Giacomi said the diocese combed through its files early in 2002, pulled a few accused priests who were still in ministry and alerted criminal authorities. Had the panel received a complaint, members would have been given "everything they need to make a recommendation."
"We're not fighting to keep this quiet," Ms. Giacomi said. "We're not fooling around. As far as removing priests, we move on the side of safety."
Elsewhere, victims groups said, some bishops have kept operating in secrecy.
Several dioceses, such as Cleveland, have refused to disclose the names of priests who have been credibly accused of misconduct. Dallas officials won't discuss the whereabouts of priests they removed from assignments because of abuse. And in recent weeks, some bishops have delayed in responding to a survey they commissioned last year to gauge the scope of the crisis. They have said they are concerned the data could be used in litigation against their dioceses.
Other leaders, such as Los Angeles' Cardinal Roger Mahony, have resisted turning over records to criminal investigators. In Cincinnati, Mr. Allen, the prosecutor, has argued in court that the archdiocese withheld documents that could be key to his investigation. The church has denied that charge.
Short of a Vatican reprimand, the only way to force dioceses to follow the charter is through the influence of a national review board the bishops' conference appointed to monitor compliance, said Dr. Dolan of Notre Dame. The question is, he said, "will this commission just be window dressing or is it serious?"
Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, who leads the board, said he hoped upcoming audits would put public pressure on dioceses that fall short. The board, however, has no authority to punish violators.
"Our moral trump card is the full public disclosure of the facts," he said.
Mr. Keating, who's been outspoken about bishops' role in scandal, said the church leaders should be implementing the policy and showing results by now.
"This is a serious matter," he said. "Bishops simply can't decide they'll review these cases in a casual, ad-hoc way. That's not acceptable.
"The bishops themselves adopted the zero-tolerance standard, not the board."
Lay Group: Grahmann Should Go
By Brooks Egerton and Reese Dunklin
About three dozen prominent local Catholics have asked Pope John Paul II's U.S. ambassador to remove Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann, signaling the latest and most serious fracture between the diocese's leader and some of his laity.
"The current sexual abuse and leadership crisis in the Diocese of Dallas has become a scandal and an embarrassment to the Church," the group wrote in a recent letter to Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo. "The local diocesan leadership is isolated and in denial about the gravity of the situation, and our concern grows daily."
The group said it would launch a petition drive and Web site unless the ambassador asked them not to by mid-June. The deadline passed without word from Archbishop Montalvo, who did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The archbishop is in St. Louis this week for a national meeting of bishops, who remain under fire for their handling of the church's sex-abuse crisis.
Bishop Grahmann's spokesman, Bronson Havard, brought the lay protest to light Thursday with an article in the diocesan newspaper, which he edits.
"People have a right to voice their opinion, but they have to rise above self-interest and be accurate in their assessments," he said in the article. "They cannot point to any continuing abuse crisis in the diocese."
It said that most people who signed the letter "are not known as major contributors to Catholic charities or the church." But two, the article acknowledged, are trustees of the University of Dallas, a Catholic school in Irving, and two are trustees of the Catholic Foundation, which funds diocesan projects.
The trustees include University of Dallas board member Ray Wooldridge, who just finished a term as chairman; fellow university trustee Neil O'Brien; and former Catholic Foundation chairman Joe Pete Wilbert.
Mr. Havard did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, and the Texas Catholic article did not identify any signers other than the group's spokesman.
The spokesman for the lay group is Dallas corporate lawyer William McCormack, a partner at Hughes & Luce who has served on the boards and finance committees of three Catholic schools.
Deciding on going public
He said that the group had tried patiently and unsuccessfully to resolve its concerns through the church's internal procedures. Some area priests, he said, have expressed support for the effort "but are awaiting a clear statement from the laity" before deciding whether to go public.
Harry "Buzz" Crutcher, a leader of the lay group, said members had not planned to act immediately upon the passing of their deadline so that Bishop Grahmann and the ambassador could confer in St. Louis. He said they plan to launch their campaign next week.
"We have secured funds in an effort to ensure that every Catholic in Dallas is made aware of this petition drive," the letter states.
Mr. Crutcher said he was disappointed that Texas Catholic "chose to minimize" the signers of the letter. "We're not just a few disgruntled malcontents."
Several prominent businessmen and civic activists are among the lay group - including Albert "Al" Casey, the former CEO of AMR Corp., the parent of American Airlines; William E. Cooper, the former chairman of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport board; and Anita N. Martinez, the first Hispanic City Council member in Dallas and founder of a prominent dance group.
Two other group members, Mr. O'Brien and former Jesuit Prep trustee Jerry Lastelick, were recognized in 1995 for their help in raising $ 7 million for Dallas parochial schools. Bishop Grahmann praised them at the time for "an exemplary commitment to their faith and the community as a whole."
In the Texas Catholic article, Mr. Havard said Bishop Grahmann "always welcomes the advice of lay people, even their criticism." It also said, however, that church law "prohibits anyone from holding a position in Catholic associations who has 'abandoned ecclesiastical community,' which can include those who publicly oppose their bishop."
Mr. McCormack said that members of the group have consulted with a church-law expert and believe they are on solid footing in seeking Bishop Grahmann's ouster. The Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, he said, "requires laymen to accept more responsibility for governing the church."
Mr. McCormack was among a smaller group of laymen that sought Bishop Grahmann's resignation in 1997, after a jury found the diocese liable for covering up abuse by the Rev. Rudy Kos and assessed the largest clergy-abuse penalty in history.
The bishop secretly agreed to quit then but later reneged, Mr. McCormack and D magazine publisher Wick Allison told The Dallas Morning News early this year. The pledge had come after lengthy negotiations with Mr. Havard and a threat to do what the McCormack group has now done: deliver a condemnation of the bishop to the Vatican ambassador.
Mr. Havard initially did not dispute the account. But after The News ran a story about the matter, he published a denial in Texas Catholic, along with a letter from local Protestant leaders that said news coverage of the bishop was "based on inaccuracy and bias."
In recent months, Bishop Grahmann has faced several new embarrassments.
The bishop has taken no action against one priest who was accused of groping a man during a blessing and another priest who testified that he sometimes handled parishioners' genitals when they had health concerns. The second priest also faces state and federal investigations of his independent ministry for immigrants, which has charged them millions while spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the priest and his associates.
Last month, Bishop Grahmann reinstated a third priest who had admitted fathering a child with a nun he was accused of raping and who violated orders not to work in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The move was rescinded after parishioners protested and The News reported that Dallas never checked with the archdiocese, which had invalidated marriages he performed and accused him of operating a ministry for personal gain.
All three priests have denied wrongdoing.
Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante, who became nationally known last year as a reform advocate, publicly criticized Bishop Grahmann last fall for not demoting the priest in the blessing incident. He has since adopted a much lower profile and said he expects to be transferred instead of taking over the diocese, which the Vatican sent him to do 31/2 years ago.
Evidence in the 1997 cover-up trial showed that Bishop Grahmann had let Mr. Kos keep working after the priest ignored repeated orders to stop having boys sleep over at church residences. The bishop also testified that "there was no reason" to remove Mr. Kos after a social worker who specializes in child abuse said the man sounded like a "textbook pedophile."
Damages paid to victims of Mr. Kos and several other priests now total about $ 38 million. There are pending abuse claims against seven clerics, as well as at least one layman.
In an interview last year, when clergy scandals were rocking Boston and several other cities around the country, Bishop Grahmann denounced accusations that his colleagues had been covering up abuse. "That's a bunch of bull," he said.
This week's Texas Catholic article said "there have been only two child abuse cases [in the Dallas Diocese] since 1997 when new procedures were put into place." One involved a priest who has since been imprisoned; two lay day care workers have been implicated in the other.
In both cases, the article said, "the diocese cooperated fully and turned the cases over to the Dallas police" promptly.
It said that several people listed as signatories of the letter "have sought to do business with the diocese or complained about business matters that reflect self-interests."
The article did not give specifics on this point, but did say that "others listed include five persons who opposed the diocese selling the old St. Ann School property near downtown Dallas. They wanted the diocese to turn the land over to them for a museum to honor early Mexican immigrants to Dallas, but they never raised sufficient funds to purchase the property."
Still others, the article said, had protested Bishop Grahmann's demotion of a pastor who had not fully implemented the diocese's "safe environment policy." That policy, Mr. Havard has said, leads the nation in "efforts to protect children and vulnerable adults."
Members of the Lay Group
Dallas Morning News
The group of local lay Catholics pressing for Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann's resignation includes business executives, lawyers, civic activists and philanthropists. Many have been active in local Catholic organizations and schools. Among them:
Albert "Al" Casey - Now retired, he led several major corporations during his career, including AMR Corp., the parent of American Airlines. Three presidents have tapped him for federal appointments, as postmaster general, chief executive of the Resolution Trust Corp., and a member of the U.S. Postal Service's board of governors.
Charles "Corky" Clark Jr. - He is a business executive who has served on the Catholic Foundation board. In 1999, he was named a distinguished alumnus of Jesuit College Preparatory School, where he has served in various board positions. He is a past chairman of the Byron Nelson golf tournament.
William E. Cooper - He is a former board chairman of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and a former president of the Dallas Market Center.
Harry "Buzz" and Carolyn Crutcher - He is a hotel owner and has served on the Jesuit Prep board. He also led a committee supporting a DART bond election to build light rail. Ms. Crutcher has served in leadership positions with Catholic Charities of Dallas, the Catholic Foundation and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
Albert Gonzalez - He is a funeral home owner who was a leader of the effort to keep the diocese from selling St. Ann's School to pay for sex-abuse legal settlements.
Frank and Julie Hubach - He is managing partner of the Jones Day Reavis & Pogue law firm's Dallas office and a past chairman of Jesuit Prep's board of trustees. She has been active in various church organizations.
Jerry Lastelick - He is a lawyer and a past president of the Dallas Bar Association. In 1991, he was selected as a distinguished alumnus of Jesuit Prep and has served on the school's board of trustees, including a term as chairman.
Anita N. Martinez - She was the first Hispanic member of the Dallas City Council and founded a prominent dance group. A recreation center in West Dallas is named in her honor.
William McCormack - He is a partner at the Hughes & Luce law firm and has served in governance roles for three Catholic schools - Jesuit Prep, St. Anthony and Bishop Dunne High School. He also is on the executive board of the Boy Scouts' Circle Ten Council.
Neil O'Brien - He is a partner at the law firm Gardere Wynne Sewell. He serves on the University of Dallas board and has been active with the Jesuit Foundation and the Catholic Foundation.
Frank Ribelin - He is a retired businessman and an art dealer who donated the first works of art that helped start the Jesuit Dallas Museum at Jesuit Prep.
Gloria Tarpley - She is a retired lawyer who was appointed to Dallas' Ethics Advisory Commission. She led the effort at St. Thomas Aquinas Church to oppose the transfer of the Rev. Stephen Bierschenk, who the diocese said had not fully implemented its safe environment program.
Ray Wooldridge - He is a retired businessman who serves on the University of Dallas board and just completed a term as chairman. He also has worked on the committee that raised money for the school's construction projects.
Joe Pete Wilbert - He is a past president of the Catholic Foundation and was selected in 1990 as a distinguished alumnus at Jesuit Prep.
Text of Group's Letter
Dallas Morning News
Below is the text of the letter a group that calls itself Committee of Concerned Catholics sent the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo. About three dozen people signed the letter.
The current sexual abuse and leadership crisis in the Diocese of Dallas has become a scandal and an embarrassment to the Church. We strongly urge you to end this crisis by promptly replacing the Most Rev. Charles V. Grahmann as Bishop of our Diocese.
We, the undersigned, are faithful Catholics who believe with the church fathers that the bishop is the vicar of Christ in his diocese. As lay Catholics, we also understand the obligation the church fathers have placed on us to protect and defend the Catholic faith. In keeping with that trust and in order to restore the dignity of the sacred office of bishop in our city, we are compelled by conscience and by a pragmatic assessment of the damage to the church in Dallas to petition you to act. We believe that daily harm will continue to accrue to the church unless this crisis is addressed.
We have chosen to act only reluctantly, after despairing of being heard through conventional channels. The local diocesan leadership is isolated and in denial about the gravity of the situation, and our concern grows daily. We do not take lightly our plea for intervention, and make it only after much thought and reflection, and only for the purpose of seeking relief from an untenable situation.
We respectfully request that you meet with several of us so that we can present a first-hand report on the gravity of the situation. We request this meeting outside of the normal juridic procedures of the church because the situation has become so serious that it requires the immediate attention of the Holy See.
Realizing that the signatures of a few may count for little on such a serious matter, we plan to begin a media campaign and to establish a web site within ten days to solicit the signatures of our fellow laypeople and devoted clerics and religious in Dallas in support of our petition. We have secured funds in an effort to ensure that every Catholic in Dallas is made aware of this petition drive.
Unless you request us not to do so before a meeting with you, we will proceed to gather this petition citywide in order to present to you and to the Congregation of Bishops a full picture of how deeply the Catholic community feels about the urgent need for the replacement of Bishop Grahmann.
If you are able to accommodate us, we would hope to meet with you at your earliest convenience. Representatives of the undersigned will be available to travel to Washington for any meeting you suggest.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We realize that other matters urgently seek your attention, but due to major missteps by the bishop that have received widespread media attention and due to the recent announcement that Bishop Galante is leaving, the situation in Dallas requires immediate action.
Yours in Christ
By Susan Hogan/Albach
"My brother bishops and me remain committed. We will continue to move forward," said Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
A year ago, awash in scandal and meeting in Dallas, the bishops adopted a new charter that calls for the permanent removal of any priest or deacon guilty of a single instance of child sexual abuse.
While the bishops say they've made great strides in carrying out that charter, with more than 400 priests who had molested minors removed from ministry, others remain skeptical. Groups representing victims of sexual abuse suggest the main thing that has changed is that the bishops have become more savvy at deflecting bad publicity generated by the scandals.
"The whole tone of the [Dallas] charter was openness and transparency," said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. "But what we get is silence and secrecy."
Mum on Dallas situation
At times this week, the bishops' public pronouncements on what they have accomplished seemed hastily choreographed. Originally, according to the meeting's agenda, they hadn't planned to utter a word publicly on the subject of sex abuse. They did an about-face after stinging publicity early last week stabbed at their credibility.
First, Frank Keating, head of the review board monitoring compliance with the charter, quit after lashing out at some bishops for withholding information about predator priests. Then Thomas O'Brien, the Phoenix bishop, quit after being arrested in connection with a fatal hit-and-run crash.
And in Dallas, revelations surfaced about a possible petition drive by some lay Catholics to unseat Bishop Charles Grahmann over his handling of sexual misconduct cases. The lay group recently wrote to the Vatican's U.S. representative, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.
Stopped at the bishops' meeting Saturday, the archbishop said he was aware of the lay group's concerns and of reports of strain between Bishop Grahmann and his coadjutor, Joseph Galante, who was brought in more than three years ago as Bishop Grahmann's presumed successor.
Archbishop Montalvo declined to discuss what the Vatican might do about Dallas.
"You will know when it happens," he said. Asked whether that meant some action would be taken, he smiled and said, "Certainly," before walking away. He wouldn't say whether Bishop Galante might be moved to another diocese or whether Bishop Grahmann might step aside before he turns 75 in three years - the mandatory age for bishops to submit resignations to the Vatican.
A year ago when they met in Dallas, most of the bishops hid from the news media behind security guards. About 850 journalists descended on the city to see what the bishops would do about the sex scandals enveloping the American church hierarchy.
This week, only a fifth as many journalists were in St. Louis. Instead of dodging the media, the bishops made a point to shake hands, smile and tout their gospel of progress.
In a closing address Saturday, the head of the bishops' sexual abuse committee, Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis, recounted efforts over the last year to combat abuse. He noted that more than 200 lawyers specializing in church law have been trained to serve on tribunals for accused priests who demand a church trial.
"We have far fewer priests going this route [a church trial] than we expected," he said in an interview.
Removed priests who are elderly or infirm will be confined to special quarters, he said. But "almost all others" will be "laicized" - defrocked - and monitored by civil authorities rather than the church.
One bishop asked whether guidelines should be adopted on how to foster reconciliation between victims and abusers. Archbishop Flynn cautioned that such a process should be handled delicately, never forced on victims.
"As victim-survivors move forward on their journey, some may reach that point, and that can be arranged," he said. "Many of the bishops have already been involved in doing this."
Only four hours of the three-day meeting were public. Behind closed doors, the bishops discussed how to regain the trust of lay Catholics disillusioned by the scandals.
"I didn't join the priesthood to be one of the bad guys," Utah Bishop George Niederauer said in an interview. "I'm concerned about the church, and every bishop I know is diligently working to turn this thing around."
The bishops repeatedly stressed two points in St. Louis: They aren't getting proper credit for what they've done to address the crisis; and other institutions, particularly public schools, have yet to confront abuse on the scale that the Catholic Church has.
Board's work praised
Bishop Gregory called the work of the lay review board "nothing short of miraculous."
In St. Louis, he said, the bishops met privately with board members and gave "full support" to the monitoring process. A year ago, many of the same bishops balked at the notion of submitting to scrutiny from laity.
Holding their own national conference just down the street, abuse victims said they feared that many bishops continued to drag their feet. The flap that led to Mr. Keating's resignation as head of the review board began when some bishops resisted completing a survey aimed at assessing the scope of the abuse problem.
The bishops and the review board announced in St. Louis that concerns about the survey had been resolved. New coding will permit the gathering of statistics on abusive priests without revealing their identities.
Of the handful of bishops driven from office by the scandals, only retired Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston attended the conference. Although he arguably gained the most notoriety, for having shielded predator priests in scores of cases, he was the only bishop forced out in the scandal who had not committed sexual misconduct.
SNAP leaders said the bishops deserved a "D" for their efforts over the last year.
Bishop Galante countered that a more accurate grade would be "I," for incomplete.
"This problem wasn't created overnight and it won't be solved overnight," Bishop Gregory said. "But we've made great strides - really, really great strides."
[Photo Caption: Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston (left), with Bishop Thomas Dupre of Springfield, Mass., attended despite being retired.]
To most Catholics, particularly those "cradle" Catholics who, attended parochial elementary and high schools, priests traditionally have been viewed with unconditional respect and esteem: We were taught to see the clergy as direct representatives, of Christ on earth.
Before the Vatican II Council, the number of priests and nuns available to staff parishes, schools and hospitals generally was such that lay volunteers were needed only to play minor roles as supporting cast for the clergy. When "Father spoke," everyone listened and seldom disagreed vocally. Our Catholic faith made us comfortable with our conditioned reflex of acquiescence to the church leadership reflected in our parish priests.
Magnify that respectful subservience we Catholics afforded our priests in days gone by, and one can imagine the respect we held for our bishops. By their elevation to the top of the local hierarchy, they were viewed as royalty. They were the vicars of Christ in our dioceses, serving as our shepherds, and we owed them strict and unquestioning allegiance.
Understanding that background and the pre-Vatican II church environment in which Catholics, were raised, one perhaps can appreciate how difficult and awkward it is for a group of mature, involved, committed and faithful Catholics to have the temerity to ask the Most Rev Charles Grahmann to resign his office as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
The Committee of Concerned Catholics was formed for one specific purpose - to persuade the church hierarchy and Bishop Grahmann himself that Catholics in our diocese think it is timely, if not imperative, for the bishop to resign. That is why we have opened a Web site, www concernedcatholics.com, to provide the many Catholics who wish to be heard with an opportunity to join our effort.
A review of our organizing committee will show that, collectively it isn't a group with single-issue grudges or complaints against Bishop Grahmann. To the contrary, our committee members are faithful and committed Catholics who have had and continue to have active leadership roles in parishes, local Catholic educational institutions and many charitable and welfare agencies endorsed or supported by our Catholic diocese. Many have received awards or recognition from Catholic organizations for their contributions as leaders, fund-raisers and volunteer activists.
So, why does the Committee of Concerned Catholics think the time has come for Bishop Grahmann to step down? The primary reason is that his actions, starting with the Rudy Kos case and continuing to the present, systematically have eroded his leadership and the confidence of his flock. He has become an impediment to, rather than an inspiration for, Catholic action and support in the diocese. He has drained the enthusiasm of those who love and support the church.
We aren't connected with The Dallas Morning, News, and we aren't trying to run the church. Our committee includes members who are critical of a number of Bishop Grahmann's actions or perceived omissions in recent years. But that isn't why we came together. We came together because we see our Catholic community suffering and strongly believe it is time to begin a healing process.
For many reasons not necessary to enumerate, our diocese won't heal as long as Bishop Grahmann remains in office. He is a good and, in many ways, a holy man. But he no longer is capable of uniting or leading our Catholic community. He has become a lightning rod, largely through his own actions and those of his closest advisers.
We aren't here to accuse Bishop Grahmann. He has been faced with many difficult and challenging issues. His burden hasn't been light, and we cringe to add to that burden, but there are times when the only solution is to have a change.
Bishop Grahmann has become a flashpoint for conflict and, controversy in the Dallas diocese. Instead of providing positive leadership, he has been on the defensive, resorting to denials and personal attacks made through his spokespeople. It is time - it has long been time - for Bishop Grahmann to be replaced by a new bishop who can begin the healing process.
As our leader, he must do what is right for our diocese. Our committee members have seen a general decline in the morale and enthusiasm of mainstream Catholics and the many good priests in our diocese. Some of that is a result of the improper behavior of a number of U.S. cardinals and bishops in the last several years. But much is a result of Bishop Grahmann's lack of open, genuine and forthright leadership.
Our diocese needs new leadership.
[Harry "Buzz" Crutcher is a businessman and a member of Holy Trinity Parish. William A. McCormack is a lawyer and a member of Christ the King Parish. Neil J. O'Brien is a lawyer and a member of Christ the King Parish.]
Web Site Targets Bishop
By Susan Hogan/Albach
The Catholic Diocese of Dallas has found itself thrust into an unwanted national spotlight by prominent local laypeople seeking Bishop Charles Grahmann's resignation.
In what's believed to be one of the first such responses to the clergy abuse crisis, the group unveiled a Web site Thursday inviting priests, nuns and laypeople to add their name to a petition asking the bishop to step down.
"We are soliciting the support of many Catholics who feel that they don't have a voice on this issue," said Bill McCormack, one of more than three dozen prominent laypeople organized under the name Concerned Catholics.
The bishop's spokesman, Bronson Havard, issued this statement: "We are disappointed this small group seems to be seeking to divide the church. There appears to be several motivations and agendas. It is curious that they could not cite abuse of children, as this problem has been addressed in our diocese. Bishop Grahmann stands ready to discuss other critical issues facing the church and diocese."
U.S. bishops have been the target of lay anger over the scandals that led more than 400 priests and a handful of bishops to lose their ministries last year. The pressure led bishops to gather a year ago in Dallas and adopt national standards calling for the removal of any priest or deacon who molests a child.
Bishop Grahmann has touted the diocese's safe-environment policy as a national model.
An investigation last year by the The Dallas Morning News showed that the policy wasn't being fully implemented in several parishes. The diocese disciplined at least three priests after its audits revealed that they were not following the policy.
The petition drive is yet another blow to the bishop, who has tried to overcome the legacy of pedophile priest Rudy Kos with get-tough statements on abuse. But over the past few months, the bishop has come under fire for backing three priests accused of sexual misconduct.
Federal and state authorities began investigating one of those priests after The News reported early this year that his independent ministry to immigrants had spent large sums of money to benefit its leaders.
"The time has come for a change," said Harry Crutcher, one of the sponsors of the petition. He said the group would place ads in The News to call attention to the petition drive.
The petition states that as a matter of conscience, signers agree that the diocese "can no longer endure the scandals, embarrassment, lack of leadership and financial peril it has suffered" under the bishop's leadership.
Bishop Grahmann isn't required to submit his resignation to the Vatican until he turns 75, which is just over three years away. Under canon law, his coadjutor bishop, Joseph Galante, has the right to succession. The group said it would accept the coadjutor's leadership.
Before launching the Web site, the group appealed by letter to Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Vatican's U.S. representative, to remove Bishop Grahmann. They told him that Bishop Grahmann had not effectively addressed the sexual abuse crisis, and that that failure caused a leadership crisis in the diocese.
Archbishop Montalvo has not responded to the letter, but last week he told The News that he was aware of the movement. When asked whether he would be taking action in Dallas, he said: "Certainly," but declined to elaborate.
"Clearly, his comment gave us hope," Mr. Crutcher said Thursday.
The group initially planned to call its Web site bishop.org, but changed it after learning that the bishop's spokesman, Mr. Havard, had acquired the rights to a similar name: please bishop.com.
"It was dirty trick," said Mr. Crutcher, who said that after
his group decided on a new name, he acquired the rights to as many similar-sounding
domains as he could think of.
By Susan Hogan/Albach
New Mexico Archbishop Michael Sheehan partially blames the Catholic clerical culture for his being buffaloed by the Dallas Diocese's most notorious pedophile priest.
"Rudy Kos was my wakeup call," said the archbishop, who was rector of the Irving seminary where Mr. Kos trained in the 1970s. "I learned that you can't just take the priest's word as gospel truth when an accusation is made."It's a lesson some bishops still struggle to absorb, he said, despite the enormity of last year's sex scandals, which have cost more than 400 accused priests and a handful of bishops their ministries.
While Mr. Kos sits in prison for his crimes, the archbishop has become something of a white knight among the nation's bishops in confronting scandal. Last decade, the Vatican tapped him to rescue the Santa Fe Archdiocese; last week, it called on him to clean up Phoenix.
Like almost all of today's bishops, he grew up in a clerical culture now under heavy scrutiny. Honoring the code of secrecy that existed around the private lives of clergy was once considered part of "being a good bishop."
Today, it's rejected as clericalism, a mindset of ecclesiastical privilege in which leaders operate as an anointed culture accountable to no one, except those above them in the church hierarchy.
Many Catholics - lay and clergy alike - said the dismantling of clericalism is necessary to overcome the leadership failures that contributed to the scandals. But no blueprint exists on how to undo a culture that took centuries to create and permeates the church.
"We know that the accountability of the bishops to Rome did not prevent the clergy sexual abuse crisis," said Steven Krueger, a Boston-area leader of the lay reform group, Voice of the Faithful. "Put another way, it was under the watch of this system that the scandal occurred."
Catholics - even clergy - don't corner the market on clericalism. The most notorious religious scandals have had their feet, or at least a big toe, firmly rooted there. Consider the sex and money scandals that were some televangelists' undoing.
In all cases, the uncritical pedestal upon which many believers put clergy allowed clericalism to thrive. The Rev. Donald Cozzens, author of The Changing Face of the Priesthood, said those most guilty of clericalism are sometimes laypeople.
"They have a 'Father knows best' attitude that sees the priest as doing no wrong," he said. "They mistake showing respect for treating him like God. This is partly fueled by a power structure that gives laypeople little authority."
Dallas Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante said that when he was ordained a priest in 1964, he struggled with the special treatment immediately given him by virtue of his position - a favored status he felt he hadn't earned.
"To make Holy Orders mean that I'm above others and entitled to special privileges not attached to my call to service is wrong, wrong, wrong," he said.
William Donohue of the Catholic League, a media watchdog group, said many people believe success breeds clericalism.
"Some clergy become so successful that they become disconnected from the laity and the church becomes increasingly bureaucratic," he said.
Fraternity of faith
Most bishops grew up in an era in which priests learned to unquestioningly trust and look after the interests of brother priests. They formed a fraternity of faith whose human weaknesses were fodder for club gossip but no one else.
When adversity struck, they staunchly defended the brotherhood with a Three Musketeers zeal: All for one and one for all. They were the holy ones, the vessels of Christ on earth, and nothing could be allowed to tarnish their image.
"The critical misstep of clericalism is to think that the church and her mission belong mainly, perhaps exclusively, to the clergy, and especially to the bishops," the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, recently wrote in his Catholic journal, First Things.
The Rev. Kilian McDonnell, a Minnesota monk, theologian and Vatican consultant, said it's nearly impossible to have a healthy church when clericalism is thriving.
"Your view of the church gets skewed," he said. "We saw this in the pre-1960s mentality that holiness was really for the clergy, though we condescendingly admitted laypeople. Clericalism is also implicit in the thinking that clergy are the doers of holiness and laypeople are the receivers."
Priests don't molest children because of clericalism, but there's no question it played a significant role in bishops' failure to respond appropriately to abusers and victims, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America.
"When accusations of abuse came forward against priests, the bishops and other priests simply couldn't believe it," he said. "It's like someone comes and tells you that your brother abuses. Your first response is denial. It wasn't until victim after victim came forward that they said, 'Oh my God, there's something here.'"
But some bishops said the role clericalism played in the scandals is overstated. Much of the abuse happened at a time in which the church looked upon child sexual abuse as more a moral failing than criminal behavior, they said.
Archbishop Sheehan holds the dubious distinction of having admitted Mr. Kos to an Irving seminary that had previously turned him away. At the time, the archbishop was a Dallas priest serving as the seminary's rector.
"That Rudy Kos was ordained a priest, then did all of these terrible things, may have been the saddest part of my priesthood," Archbishop Sheehan said. "I was completely fooled by him."
After being duped by Mr. Kos, he said, he developed a "zero tolerance" policy for priests who molest children - long before U.S. bishops made that their national standard.
He credits the approach with turning around the Santa Fe Archdiocese, which was awash in pedophile priest scandals when he arrived in 1993.
He believes the same approach will work in the Phoenix Diocese, where Bishop Thomas O'Brien resigned last week after being arrested in connection with a hit-and-run fatality, just weeks after admitting to a county prosecutor that he'd shielded abusive priests.
Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, a prelate widely thought to be on the fast track to cardinal, said there was a time when clericalism was a "healthy part" of the church because strict expectations were placed on priests.
"The priest was held to accountability by the way he dressed, how he lived and his social life," he said. "You had to wear your clerical collar so people knew you were a priest. It was much like the wedding ring that spouses wear so that everyone knows that they're committed. The Roman collar said that very loudly."
Utah Bishop George Niederauer said that no priest, bishop or deacon is immune to clericalism. It surfaces when clergy see people as existing to serve them.
"Jesus calls us to be servant leaders, not self-serving leaders," he said.
Defining clericalism is easier than identifying it, many clergy said. Those guilty of the behavior often don't see themselves as purveyors.
Some Catholics said that clericalism fueled last week's abrupt resignation of Frank Keating from the national review board monitoring U.S. bishop's compliance of their sex abuse policy. Mr. Keating stepped down after prelates threatened to force him off the board for likening some bishops to the Mafia for their resistance to disclosing data about abusers.
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer who advocates for victims, said Mr. Keating's comments were a major moment in the church. As the former governor of Oklahoma, a seasoned law enforcement officer and devout Catholic, Mr. Keating should be taken seriously, he said.
"He is not an amateur," Father Doyle said. "The governor is quite obviously not infected with the clericalist virus that manifests itself in a number of ways, not the least of which is timidity and fear in the face of the bishops."
Clericalism or support?
Wick Allison, the publisher and editor of D magazine, accused six Dallas-area Protestant ministers of clericalism for issuing a statement in January supporting Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann, who was under attack in the media for his handling of priests accused of sexual and financial wrongdoing.
"They may want to explain to their own denominations' laity just whose interest they intended to serve by their statement - their flocks or a tight clerical fraternity," he wrote in a column for The Dallas Morning News. The leaders said they hadn't engaged in clericalism, but simply showed pastoral support to a friend.
Chris Dixon, a former priest in Missouri's Jefferson City Diocese, said once he left the priesthood, none of his clergy colleagues contacted him. Priests abused Mr. Dixon as a teen at his seminary, including Anthony O'Connell, the former Bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., one of last year's clergy casualties.
"Priests exist in a tight-knit culture," he said. "I knew priests who were not celibate and priests who were alcoholics. But to speak out was to kill your future."
Some bishops said they concealed predatory priests to protect the image of priests and the church. Victims suggest that, perhaps, bishops were trying to shield themselves from scandal.
"It's like a Shakespearian tragedy," said Peter Wisely of Milwaukee, an abuse survivor and board member of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "The very thing they were trying to avoid is the very thing that happened."
Clergy Sex Abuse: Bishop Joseph Galante Responds
By Susan Hines-Brigger
Bishop Joseph A. Galante, coadjutor of Dallas, Texas, remembers exactly when the enormity of the clergy sex-abuse crisis hit home for him. As a member of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, he has had the opportunity to listen to numerous stories of victims and their families.
One couple talked about their son who had been abused and committed suicide in his early 20s. "Altogether there were five young men who had committed suicide—all of whom were victims of the same priest," Bishop Galante says. "The horror of that, the pain that the families had experienced—that's mind-boggling."
"Horror" is a word Bishop Galante uses repeatedly to refer to the sex-abuse crisis. And he should know. As head of the U.S. bishops' Communications Committee, a position he has held since November 2000, Bishop Galante has had a front-row seat for the national fallout from the crisis. He has also served as a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, working to help get the message out on how the bishops are responding.
In addition to those two committees of the bishops' conference, Bishop Galante, who has a doctorate in canon law, also serves on the Canonical Affairs Committee. That committee is helping to set up the tribunals mandated by the Norms passed last November and made Church law for the United States the following month. All cases of credible accusations of abuse must be reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. The Congregation will then decide whether or not they will judge the case themselves or refer it to the diocesan tribunals. The tribunals will determine whether an allegation of sexual abuse is true. If the allegation is found to be true, then "the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state" (Norms #8).
In mid-March, Bishop Galante spoke with St. Anthony Messenger about the crisis, the media coverage of it, the priesthood and what it will take for the Church to move forward.
Work Is Progressing
Bishop Galante says the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the accompanying Norms "is progressing." He points out that just that morning he had had a conference call concerning the training sessions held in Washington, D.C., for those involved in setting up the Church tribunals to hear abuse cases.
"There's a real commitment to deal in a canonical, juridical way with these cases and situations," he emphasizes.
Also in March, the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection announced that diocesan safe-environment programs to protect children and youth should be in the planning process by June 20, and fully implemented for the 2003-2004 school year. The adoption of such programs was called for in the Charter.
Not a New Issue
The issue of clergy sex abuse is not a new one for the U.S. bishops. They have been addressing it as a conference, in one way or another, for about the past 15 years.
In June 1992, the bishops established the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, which is currently overseeing the bishops' response to the current crisis, and of which Bishop Galante is a member.
At their November 1992 meeting, the U.S. bishops adopted five principles for dealing with cases of sex abuse. But as Bishop Galante pointed out to the Catholic Press Association in May 2002 in Minneapolis, "They were voluntary. And sadly, a number of bishops didn't follow them."
Those guidelines were:
Bishop Galante became a bishop in 1992 when he was ordained as an auxiliary bishop in San Antonio, Texas. Two years later, he was named bishop of Beaumont, Texas. In 1999, he was appointed to his current position as the designated successor of Bishop Charles Grahmann in Dallas.
What's different now about the bishops' response to the problem? Bishop Galante thinks, "What's been different since the early '90s has been a greater awareness of the problem."
He notes that the conference has repeatedly had discussions and reports on the problem of clergy sex abuse throughout the '90s. "So much of what came out over the past year and a half was very much centered around abuse that happened before the '90s. There have been some since then, but the bulk of so many of these cases that came out go further back." He says he thinks the bishops have become "far more sensitive and aware for the last 10, 11, 12 years."
He does not, however, overlook the fact that mistakes have been made. During the past year he has been quoted as saying that "secrecy has killed us"; a number of criticisms made of the bishops "have merit" and the fact that some bishops reassigned abusers cannot be defended.
‘They Reported What Was’
Since the latest round of this crisis started making news in January 2002, some Catholics—and many bishops—have chastised the media for its reporting. And reporters, as was evident both at the June 2002 meeting in Dallas and at the November 2002 bishops' meeting in Washington, D.C., have struggled to understand the intricacies of canon law and Church procedures.
Bishop Galante is quick to point out, "The media didn't create the problem, they reported it," but notes that their extensive reports did not always make it clear that so many of the cases were from the past. But, he reiterates, "I don't see the media as the villain. The media reported what was."
As for the media's struggle to report on Church issues, he chalks that up to individual perceptions and a lack of understanding of how the Church works. Numerous times during press conferences at the June and November 2002 meetings, Bishop Galante helped explain to reporters what his fellow bishops were struggling to make clear.
"We all tend to interpret things on the basis of our own experience, of our own perceptions," he says. "Oftentimes the interpretation of the Church would be the same interpretation as any large corporation. The problem is the Church isn't per se just a corporation," he explains.
The fact that the story continues to make headlines is, in a way, "a left-handed compliment, because it says priests are still held to a higher standard—to the standard that we profess we are called to live," he says. "And when we don't live it, then that makes news."
An Understanding of the Priesthood
A big issue that Bishop Galante believes has contributed negatively to the current crisis and must be addressed is a sense of privilege and entitlement that has been associated with the priesthood and episcopal leadership. He first spoke to the issue last June during the bishops' meeting in Dallas.
"Ordination to the priesthood brings about an interior, spiritual, theological change in a man," he notes. "However, what it should not grant that person is privilege and entitlement in a social setting.
"The Second Vatican Council talked about the fundamental equality of all the baptized. And within that community there are different roles and offices that are distinct. The priesthood is one of those roles.
"But when we lose sight of the mission, the calling to be a servant, be someone who is a guide, then we become self-centered and self-absorbed. We don't live out that vocation to which we are called. If [priests] see it as entitlement to special privileges, that's very unhealthy. We really need to reestablish that to be a disciple—a disciple of Jesus in the priesthood—is to die to self. It is to take up the cross each day and follow Jesus."
The True Meaning of Celibacy
Celibacy is another issue he thinks needs to be focused on as we move forward. No, he doesn't think it should be done away with, as many have suggested since the crisis broke. Rather, he believes there needs to be a greater understanding—by clergy and laity—of exactly what priestly celibacy means and represents.
"Too often priests and people think about celibacy in terms of just not getting married. That's not it. Celibacy is a positive orientation to life—to live and to love as Jesus does. It is a gift from God to enable us to love others as Jesus loves—without selfishness, without exclusivity, without keeping them for ourselves.
"A corollary to that gift of celibacy is that, because we're called to this kind of love, we can't devote ourselves exclusively to one other person, to a spouse. And also, we willingly make the sacrifice, if you will, of sexual activity in light of loving others in the way that Jesus loves others. It's not a negation. It's a positive orientation to life and that has to be more and more understood and appreciated first by celibates and then by our people."
Sadness and Horror
On a more personal level, Bishop Galante says he has dealt with the crisis "with a profound sense of sadness, and even—it may not be too strong to say—horror at the damage done to victims. That distresses me, disturbs me to no end." He says he also feels sadness for the perpetrators, and is determined "to see how we can prevent these things from happening in the future."
As for where the Church goes next, he believes this can be a "graced time" for the Church. "We always need to reform ourselves. Hopefully, this crisis gives us the opportunity to look at ourselves as Church, to look at our relationships in Church, to look at the meaning of the experience of the priesthood," he says.
A key component to that healing, he says, is for the clergy and laity to work together, adding that the laity are "very integral to the life of the Church."
The laity's role in the healing of the Church will be to "call the clergy to fidelity, at times challenge us and to interact without mythologizing the clergy," Bishop Galante emphasizes. "We have to see one another as brothers and sisters."
Steps Toward Healing
Bishop Galante knows that the healing process for the Church from this crisis will be a long and difficult one. He likewise realizes it will take time for the bishops to regain credibility. But he believes both will happen through "prayer, the acknowledgment of mistakes or faults, repentance for those faults, a firm purpose of commitment that this won't happen again—and also time.
"I think a lot of it has to come about by our interaction as bishops, by our commitments to safeguarding the children, by our visibility and our presence to the community and by just our commitment to be good shepherds. We've got to be shepherds."
He is realistic, though. "It's not going to come overnight. We shouldn't expect it to come overnight. We bishops have to work to have trust and respect. But we always should have to work for it."
At the end of the bishops' meeting this November, Bishop Galante will step down as chairman of the Communications Committee. He says he would love to continue serving—on that committee and others—seeking ways to address the crisis facing the Church.
Susan Hines-Brigger is an assistant editor of this magazine and a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Bishop Accountability © 2003