Dallas Resources – Editorials and Opinions
Dallas jurors decided Thursday that the local Catholic diocese could have done more to protect altar boys from a child-molesting priest. To emphasize its conclusion, the jury awarded a stunning $119.6 million to 11 plaintiffs for assaults between 1981 and 1992.
While the monetary award may seem excessive, it's hard to disagree with the jury's heart-felt opinion.
Former priest Rudy Kos is every institution's nightmare: the charming authority figure who cons parents and assaults their children. Most of those around him were deceived. He himself had no boundaries, molesting children even in the closely observed environment of a parish rectory.
It is not the fault of local church officials that a con man slipped through seminary and into a collar. But officials at any institution cannot expect child molesters to turn themselves in.
And they cannot expect children to navigate institutional hierarchy to report abuse. Institutional leaders must rely on reports and observations from other staff members, volunteers, parents, counselors and friends.
Leaders of the Dallas diocese received multiple warnings about Father Kos. Fellow priests complained about sleepovers in the rectory. His ex-wife noted suspicions about him when he entered a seminary. A social worker said he fit the profile of a pedophile.
None of these allegations proves guilt, but most youth development groups probably would have moved Mr. Kos away from youngsters until after an investigation.
It has been painful to watch high-ranking clergymen, who have dedicated their lives to the church, cross-examined on a witness stand. They have sacrificed much to follow their faith, and Father Kos' betrayal must pain them deeply.
But it is regrettable that local diocesan leaders waited until well into the trial to issue apologies and organize task forces. It would have been welcome for the top officials to remain in the courtroom for the jury statement, as a sign they truly understand and admit the problem. Open acknowledgement of problems is especially important now, as the church tries to recruit priests to fill the many positions that have been left vacant as aging clerics retire.
The Catholic Church and the diocese will survive this episode and the heavy financial burden of the judgment. Lay Catholics _ and most outside observers _ understand the verdict is not an indictment of the faith. It is, instead, this message: Every institution has a greater duty to protect children from abuse than to protect itself from scandal.
Editorial: On child sex abuse, when will bishops get it?
National Catholic Reporter
Twelve years have passed since NCR revealed to the wider world that some Catholic priests were betraying their priesthood in the most heinous way, by sexually abusing children.
One might reasonably expect that by now the scandal would have been subdued, that church leaders would have done everything necessary to rekindle the trust of the everyday Catholic and to reclaim the church and the priesthood for the pursuit of holiness.
Instead, we have had 12 years of bishops and others, with a few notable exceptions, doing what was minimally required, too often driven by legal and financial imperatives rather than by justifiable outrage at the violation of innocence and by heartfelt pastoral care for the victims.
The most recent proof that church leaders still don't get it, that they just don't understand how deeply this scandal continues to wound, was the trial that ended in a record $119.6 million judgment against the Dallas diocese. (See pages 6 and 7 of this issue and NCR's Aug. 1 issue.)
Before going any deeper into the horrors of the case, it is essential to point to Fr. Robert Williams, one example of outstanding courage and compassion in this sordid affair. He did what was right.
Williams became aware that fellow priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos was abusing youngsters. He repeatedly warned diocesan officials of his suspicions and detailed what he knew about Kos luring young boys into his quarters at the rectory of St. John's Church in Ennis, Texas. He wrote a 12-page letter to Bishop Charles Grahmann, detailing the accusations against Kos. Finally, he testified against the diocese. After the trial he said, "There has been a failure of responsibility by the leadership of this diocese."
Compare his actions with those who were supposed to be leading the church in Dallas. Given the testimony during the 11-week trial, the only reasonable conclusion one can reach is that both retired Dallas Bishop Thomas Tschoepe and his successor, Grahmann, refused to deal with a sexual predator who had been repeatedly brought to their attention and who was clearly under their control.
Their inaction is its own crime, an outrage against the victims that adds the weight of another layer of scandal onto the wider church.
It is unfortunate that there is no way to hold Grahmann and Tschoepe accountable, that the church has no mechanism for leveling a sanction against such egregious bad faith and gross negligence.
Those among the hierarchy who are so ready to chase out loyal laity, who gasp in horror at the prospect of altar girls and lay eucharistic ministers, who niggle endlessly over inclusive language and who assert their authority by requiring congregations to kneel during the consecration, ought to be spending their time chasing down the real assaults against the body of Christ.
It is long past time to abandon the silly and lame approaches used by the nation's hierarchy in addressing this awful issue. The church is long ago discredited in its reasoning that the scandal involves but "a few bad apples."
The bishops' various spokesmen claim both that the media is constantly overstating the issue and that no means exist for determining the dimensions of the crisis. It is a ploy worthy of a second-rate politician caught in a jam, not men who claim the mantle of spiritual leaders.
But pity the spokesmen, too, for they are charged with answering for a body of bishops that steadfastly refuses to deal openly and honestly with a scandal that is tearing apart the fabric of the church.
Whether the number of priests who are sexual abusers is the same as the number in other helping professions -- as some claim in an effort to somehow soften the impact -- is irrelevant. It is clear that priests throughout the country, in a pattern repeated in numbing fashion, have brutalized children who trusted them.
It is time for church leaders to act as leaders and to stop hiding behind lawyers and further abusing good people who have already been victimized.
Parents need to heed the warnings of one of the attorneys in the Dallas case. In essence, the warning goes, Don't abandon your best instincts just because it's the parish priest who wants to hold an overnight or take your youngster on an attractive vacation. Don't presume the rectory is the safest place for your youngsters to be spending their time. Those are tough words, but our children are worth the caution.
Eleven years ago Fr. Thomas Doyle, once assigned to the apostolic nunciature in Washington, told a group of canon lawyers that the sex abuse crisis "is the most serious problem the church has faced in centuries."
He has since been marginalized, his career sent way off the track. He was correct then, and the truth hasn't changed since.
Opinion: A true hero emerged from the priest sex scandal
By Randolph Severson
Indeed, we are thriving – through the leadership of a true servant priest, Father Fred Caldwell; through a deacon whose homilies and classes regularly soar toward eloquence; through an almost exponentially expanding ministry by which non-Catholics join our faith; through numerous other active parish programs; and through a growing school.
Part of our success in rising from the ashes of betrayal, anguish and rage is that we remember. We remember Father Robert Williams, who was Rudy Kos' assistant. He truly was a priest for all seasons. Many of us believe that his perceptiveness, his steadfast courage and his dogged determination – often in the teeth of disbelief and resistance – were the ultimate reasons for Rudy Kos' removal.
Though a seasoned psychologist, Father Robert at first couldn't believe what he was seeing. But unlike so many others in our church, he acted swiftly and decisively when he did believe. He sought advice from friends and professionals. He alerted his superiors. He wrote a letter documenting Rudy Kos' behavior.
In an act of unfaltering courage that risked any hope for advancement in the church or utilization of his special gifts and education, he challenged the bishop face to face to act on the accumulating weight of the evidence, even if it didn't yet include a victim's allegation.
Father Robert first recognized the deviancy of Rudy Kos' behavior in the fall of 1991. Rudy Kos wasn't removed until the fall of 1992. Through the ordeal of that terrible year, I witnessed firsthand, through frequent conversations, Father Robert's agony.
Gripped by doubt, punished by his boss Rudy Kos and ignored by the bishop, he suffered through a dark night of the soul. But he didn't relent. His faith held firm. Through his suffering, his faith and his desire for holiness, he saved our parish.
What has happened at St. John's during the past decade can serve as a model for the renewal of the Catholic Church. Through servant priests, through sharing the beauty and power of the Gospels, through evangelization and Catholic education and through works of charity and outreach, the Catholic Church in America will thrive again.
I haven't lost faith in the church. I believe in it. I believe in the hierarchy. I even can believe it was doing the best it could. And I can forgive seven times seven. The Catholic Church isn't an institution based upon a book. It is a living community with a collective memory. What we need to remember is the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and the example of our saints and heroes.
Father Robert is such a hero. Life may go on, the media may pass on to
other stories, and even the memories of some of those most affected by
the tragedies and scandals of the past 10 years may fade. But in Ennis,
we will remember Father Robert and others like him. Many exist.
Time for Renewal
For the good of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and the 800,000 worshippers whom he leads, Bishop Charles Grahmann should resign. If he does not resign, the Vatican should remove him. It should install a new bishop who could restore local Catholics' faith in their leaders and propagate the spiritual and administrative renewal that the diocese still so desperately needs in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals that began to rock it several years ago.
During his 12 years in the job, Bishop Grahmann has served the special needs of Hispanic Catholics, has cooperated with leaders of other religions, has raised money for Catholic schools and social services and for the renovation of the church's Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in downtown Dallas. He appointed the first woman and noncleric as the diocese's chancellor.
However, he also has exercised poor judgment in his handling of the scandals. His misjudgments have cost the diocese millions of dollars in payments to abuse victims and in legal fees, and they threaten to cost it still more. It has become apparent that many Catholics feel alienated from the church and are reacting by withholding financial contributions to it. Is it not likely that the projects Bishop Grahmann has held dear, such as the cathedral's renovation and the construction of a Catholic high school in Collin County, would fare much better under new leadership?
By resigning, Bishop Grahmann would free himself to find other fitting and productive ways to serve God and man. He would give the diocese that he professes to love a chance at a new beginning.
Bishop Grahmann's most recent misstep is his handling of an incident involving the rector of the cathedral, about which The Dallas Morning News reported on Monday. A 58-year-old man alleges that the rector sexually abused him 11 years ago.
Bishop Grahmann allowed the rector to continue in ministry even though the rector acknowledged "inappropriate contact" with the man and resumed psychological counseling about "boundary issues," according to a diocesan spokesman. He allowed him to continue even though a policy that he installed to prevent and to manage such scandals, and that he touts as a model, declares that sexual misconduct "will not be tolerated under any circumstances" and defines sexual misconduct as "any kind of sexual interaction between a celibate cleric and an adult, whether initiated by one or the other, and whether or not consensual."
But that's not all. Bishop Grahmann allowed his representatives to publicly assign to the man impure motives for his accusation, thereby possibly discouraging other possible victims from coming forward. He did not ask lay and personnel review boards to review his handling of the matter. And he did not consult with co-adjutor Bishop Joseph Galante, who has criticized his handling of the matter.
Bishop Grahmann has exercised poor judgment before. After he became bishop, people reported to him their concerns that Father Rudy Kos was sexually abusing minors. He removed Father Kos only after a victim came forward. His delay helped victims to successfully sue the diocese for $ 31 million. He wisely responded to the ensuing negative publicity by toughening the diocese's policy against sexual abuse to include promises of openness, lay participation in decision-making and strict enforcement. However, he enforces the policy inconsistently - and sometimes not at all - at the diocese's great peril.
At the same time, Bishop Grahmann has ignored church custom and protocol by stubbornly clinging to his office three years after the Vatican named his putative successor, Bishop Galante. That far exceeds transitional arrangements in other dioceses.
Dallas Catholics deserve better - and that includes the legions of good diocesan priests and aspirants to the priesthood, whose morale suffers because of Bishop Grahmann's maladministration.
He has a chance to set things aright. The bishop who hoped to make his own anti-abuse policy a model for dioceses around the country should make a model of himself by resigning. He should hold himself accountable for his own mistakes and thereby present to his fellow bishops a model that is truly worth emulating.
[Photo caption: Bishop Charles Grahmann.]
Not Newspaper's Role to Pick Bishops
I am most displeased that The Dallas Morning News should have written its editorial of Nov. 16, pronouncing that Bishop Charles Grahmann should resign. It is not the role of The Dallas Morning News to decide who is the bishop of the Diocese of Dallas. Having so recently endorsed candidates for political office, The News has presumed to apply the same principles to the church. This is unacceptable.
I have always publicly and privately acknowledged that Bishop Grahmann is the bishop of the diocese and that the responsibility for final decisions is his. I continue to affirm and acknowledge that the responsibility for final decisions is his. I continue to affirm and acknowledge his authority.
While we may not always agree about the various means to accomplish our goals, both of us are firmly dedicated to the service of the people of the diocese and the proclamation of the Gospel.
Joseph Galante, co-adjutor bishop,
Like many other Catholic dioceses, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas moved some sexually abusive priests from parish to unsuspecting parish rather than remove them from ministry. But the Dallas diocese found a novel way to handle a priest who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse and financial misconduct. It assigned him to run a charity for undocumented poor immigrants and did not supervise his running of the charity. Now the seamy and sordid results of that abysmal decision have come to light in a series of articles by Dallas Morning News reporter Brooks Egerton.
The articles reveal that the Rev. Justin Lucio's Casita Maria operated more like a slush fund for the priest and his associates than the nonprofit organization that it was supposed to be. In apparent violation of federal and state laws, Casita Maria:
*Provided Rev. Lucio and his associates with real estate, cars, entertainment and outsized bonuses.
*Charged its disadvantaged clients large fees for legal services that it was supposed to offer free of charge or at a nominal price.
*Loaned money to its board members.
*Made inaccurate or incomplete sworn statements to federal tax officials.
*Withheld its records from the public.
It's a story of rank and sickening corruption, of glaring mismanagement and of mercenary mistreatment of vulnerable people whom the charity was established to serve. It's a story of a diocese that put the interests of a credibly accused sexual predator over those of its flock. Instead of giving Rev. Lucio virtual free writ to continue his morally repugnant behavior, the diocese should have removed him from ministry or consigned him to duty so isolated and lacking in authority that he could harm no non-cleric.
It's a story also of a diocese that repeatedly takes inadequate action against credibly accused sexual abusers - even though a jury six years ago assessed it $ 31 million for coddling and protecting a convicted sex abuser and ex-priest, Rudy Kos. The rector at downtown's Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe continues in ministry despite the diocese's admission that he engaged in inappropriate but consensual contact with a man in apparent contravention of the diocese's policy against sexual misconduct.
Two things must happen. State and federal authorities - including the Internal Revenue Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service - must comb the charity's every aspect to determine which laws were broken and to begin legal proceedings against the suspected perpetrators. And, as we've advocated before, Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann must resign so that a new bishop can have a chance to clean up the diocese's mess and begin the spiritual and administrative renewal that the diocese still so desperately needs.
Keep the Faith
Dallas Morning News
Catholics do not easily rebel against religious authority. That characteristic distinguishes them from many other Christians. The church is very hierarchical, and Catholics tend to be supremely deferential to their pope, bishops and priests. So for prominent Catholic laymen to visit Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann in 1997 to demand his resignation for clerical malfeasance and nonfeasance was not just a big deal. It was huge, and possibly unprecedented in the annals of the American Catholic church.
The Dallas Morning News reported on Sunday that Bishop Grahmann acceded to the laymen's demand five years ago. He agreed, according to several of those who participated in the behind-the-scenes meetings, that he would resign after a few months, the delay being designed to distance the resignation from a jury's conclusion earlier that year that the Catholic Diocese of Dallas had concealed the sexual predations of the Rev. Rudy Kos. But months went by, and Bishop Grahmann did not resign. Today, he clings to his leadership of the 800,000-member diocese. He insists that he will remain until he reaches mandatory retirement age in 2006.
This shouldn't sit well with Texas Catholics. In Texas, one's word is considered one's ineluctable bond. Bishop Grahmann was born in Texas (Hallettsville, to be precise). He should immediately do what a proper regard for both his religion and his culture compels. He should resign and thereby save his reputation from further staining and his long-suffering flock from more scandal. If he refuses, the Vatican, which three years ago named his successor, should remove him. If the Vatican hesitates to remove him because it fears a possible "domino effect" of other resignation demands, it should consider the greater damage that its inaction is causing to the spiritual lives of its Dallas faithful.
It took courage for the laymen to confront their bishop and to expose the secret deal. Their actions appear even more right in light of The Dallas Morning News' recent revelations that Bishop Grahmann retains two priests in ministry who are credibly accused of having violated the diocese's policy against sexual misconduct. Bishop Grahmann should demonstrate similar virtue and thereby put his anguished diocese on the path of healing and rebirth.
[Photo Caption: Charles Grahmann.]
Opinion: Why Bishop Relied on Others to Circle Wagons
By Wick Allison
The day that six Protestant leaders issued their statement defending Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann will be remembered as the day the ecumenical movement finally went too far. I don't mind people holding hands and singing "Kum-Ba-Ya." But when they are issuing preachments against this magazine publisher, it is time to blow the whistle and stop the guitars.
For those joining the soap opera late: The bishop, I revealed last month,
agreed to a series of demands in l997 from a group of laymen trying to
prevent further damage to the Roman Catholic Church from the sex-abuse
scandal. One of those demands was his resignation. He reneged on that
agreement and now denies it ever was made. As the unseemly business has
played out on the front pages and on television in recent weeks, the bishop
has stiff-armed the man sent to replace him and rounded up a posse of
Protestants to circle the wagons around his beleaguered chancery.
While it is nice of those Protestant leaders to set aside all of that old Reformation unpleasantness, and while I do appreciate their willingness to help run the Catholic Church, there are a few considerations they seem not to have taken into account. If I didn't regard their lofty positions with so much respect, I even might think they allowed themselves to be buffaloed.
Their statement fails to cite the examples of inaccuracy and bias that would make attacks unwarranted and, by the very use of the word "unwarranted," leaves open the possibility that some attacks are warranted. (Presumably including those made by John Wycliffe, Martin Luther and John Calvin.) If the mismanagement, obliviousness and deceit that the Catholic Church has suffered in Dallas aren't enough of a warrant, nothing is. If they are, the Protestant leaders owe an apology to the Catholic laity who are attempting to put our grand old house back in order. They also may want to explain to their own denominations' laity just whose interests they intended to serve by their statement – their flocks or a tight clerical fraternity.
I detect a Catholic hand in the drafting of the Protestant statement, because the fallacies in thinking are so similar to our bishop's. His statement, issued on the same day, makes assertions that are breathtaking in their audacity. Let's start from the beginning:
"I deeply regret the decision of certain Catholics to use their positions to take the internal affairs of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas into the public forum. It is my belief that this is an inappropriate use of the media and of their positions."
The bishop believes that the internal affairs of the church aren't to be discussed in public. Considering the disaster he made of the Rudy Kos trial, which was broadcast nightly into Dallas homes, I can understand why. But if the church's internal affairs aren't to be discussed in public, where should they be discussed?
Six years ago, a group of laymen met with the bishop and, after prolonged negotiation over several weeks, forced him to take actions to save the church from more shame than he already had caused. He never invited that group back for further discussion. In fact, the meeting itself seems to have embarrassed him more than the trial did.
The reason it embarrasses him is that he doesn't want fellow prelates to know he caved in. For a man of the temperament and character of this bishop, to be seen losing control is a fate worse than watching one's church pilloried on the nightly news.
But it wouldn't be a drama if there weren't tension. It is worth considering the tight spot the bishop finds himself in. He can't dismiss the role of the laity in the church publicly, no matter how much he ignores it privately, without contravening one of the chief tenets of Vatican II. The worldwide council, pushed by a young bishop who later would become John Paul II, spoke emphatically of the role and responsibilities of the laity in the church. Hence, the next sentence: "I met with the group at the Tower Club, because I value the advice and counsel of the laity." In San Antonio (home of the archbishop and metropolitan), in Washington (home of the papal nuncio) and in Rome (home of everybody else who matters to the bishop), those words will receive a nod of approval. Consulting with the laity is a good thing. Unfortunately, those good gentlemen have no way of knowing the bishop never does.
He also wants to make it clear he can't be pushed around. " Unfortunately, recent media reports contain misstatements and factual errors which infer that outside sources can dictate to a bishop how he should govern the church." Among "outside sources" are the very laity whose advice and counsel he only a sentence before valued so highly. But who else do those "outside sources" include? After all, it wasn't a magazine publisher or any other member of the laity who sent a coadjutor bishop to replace him as bishop of Dallas. Those assignments are made and approved in Rome. So is it the Holy Father himself the bishop is talking about? By his refusal to resign, has the bishop placed himself in schism?
Somehow, I don't think his Protestant friends can help him out with this one.
Wick Allison is publisher of D Magazine and a parishioner at Holy Trinity Church in Dallas. This column is excerpted from the March issue of the magazine, which will be published next Thursday.
Learning from the Blair Watch Project
By Rod Dreher
There's a world of difference between Times Square and St. Peter's Square, but they are alike in one way: Both are headquarters to institutions of enormous reach, influence and - it goes with the territory - arrogance. Now that The New York Times finds itself in a mess as humiliating and destructive to its own mission as the Roman Catholic Church's scandal, it's instructive to compare the two situations to see what they tell us about the hubris of leadership.
Certainly there is no moral equivalency between the sexual abuse of children by priests, and ex-Times reporter Jayson Blair's fraud. Still, the church scandal is not really about a relative few child-molesting clerics, but the reckless management of bishops. Similarly, while Mr. Blair, who is black, bears ultimate responsibility for his professional sins, one 27-year-old reporter is no more exemplary of the Times newsroom, or minorities in journalism, than Rudy Kos is of the Catholic priesthood. The real fault lies with the Times' top editors - the bishops of the broadsheet - who knew exactly what kind of destruction Mr. Blair stood to wreak, and promoted him anyway.
It only takes one or a few bad men to do extraordinary damage to an institution that depends on the faith and confidence of the people it serves. In both cases, upper management preferred to ignore mounting evidence of employee corruption.
How many warning memos, phone calls and documented instances of child abuse not acted on have been found in diocesan files and made public? Likewise, the Times' 7,000-word story detailing Mr. Blair's kamikaze career there catalogues an astonishing number of times the young reporter was cited for dereliction of duty that would have gotten employees in an organization operating under normal standards of professionalism fired.
But the Times under publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and executive editor Howell Raines plays by different rules. To cite one of many examples, metropolitan editor Jonathan Landman sent newsroom administrators an e-mail in April 2002 saying, "We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now." Earlier, Mr. Landman had registered his objections to a proposed Blair promotion, but was overruled. When Mr. Blair got the advancement, the Times explained, Mr. Landman "did not protest the move. The publisher and the executive editor, he said, had made clear the company's commitment to diversity."
Protected by autocrats, Mr. Blair was unstoppable. No rules can protect an institution when those in charge flout its standards, reign with haughty disregard for those below them and, crucially, are never made to pay for their mistakes. This dynamic is familiar to those who have followed the church scandal. Commentator Andrew Sullivan aptly observes that "Raines is the Times' Cardinal Law."
The root of each crisis is a lack of leadership accountability. You can see why the church hierarchy thinks it only has to answer to God; it is less understandable why the Times hierarchy appears to think that of itself. From such elevated self-regard - pride - comes a false feeling of invincibility. Governing elites forget that their personal interests and the interest of their institutions are not the same. "We all know," wrote historian Barbara Tuchman, "that power corrupts. We are less aware that it breeds folly; that the power to command frequently causes failure to think."
It is hard to know how the church or the Times can fully recover if the leadership of each isn't capable of honestly assessing the problem. At this point, there is no reason to expect progress in either case. Mr. Sulzberger was quoted in Sunday's piece as saying, "Let's not begin to demonize our executives." In other words: Mistakes were made, let's move on. Is that man worthy of a miter, or what?
Rod Dreher is an editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Opinion: Church Goes from Too Little to Too Much
By Timothy O'Leary
The sex abuse scandal that is roiling the Catholic Church has claimed another victim.
It has cost me my pastor, the Rev. Stephen Bierschenk of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Dallas.
The Catholic Diocese of Dallas reassigned him because he hadn't completely enforced its policy requiring criminal background checks of all church employees and volunteers who work with children.
I have been as angry and disappointed as any American Catholic that church leaders failed to inform civil authorities about priests whom they suspected of sexually abusing children and that they failed to keep other deviants away as well. However, I never felt the sting of the scandal as much as when I read the shocking news of his punitive reassignment.
Father Bierschenk is the emblem of a good Catholic priest. He is modest and upright, holy and unselfish. He loves his parishioners, and they return his love.
What most impresses me about him is his sermons, which consistently and eloquently reinforce the Gospels' central themes. He never varies from the platform of the first priest - you know whom I mean - that love, faith and forgiveness are paramount and that a better life awaits.
I appreciate that because I know through personal acquaintance some of what goes on in some other churches, synagogues and mosques. There is a jumbling of God's province and Caesar's. One might as well be attending a political conference. One learns which national governments are worthy of praise or denunciation, which policies, interests or individuals should be promoted or not. Father Bierschenk sticks to the outline.
He puts me in mind of many other good priests whom I have known, particularly the Salesians at my Virginia high school. They were gentle, erudite men who expressed their devotion to God by lifelong service to others.
I once asked Father Bierschenk how he managed it - the only priest in a diverse, growing and needful parish of 5,000 families. "I like my job," he responded with characteristic understatement and good humor.
Father Bierschenk committed no crime, sexual or otherwise. He failed to fully implement the diocese's policy, which it instituted after a diocesan priest, Rudy Kos, was convicted of having sexually abused boys. He didn't willfully disobey. In fact, he says he agrees with the policy; he says he just hadn't known that workers with little or no contact with children needed to be checked.
It was an administrative mistake. No child was molested because of it, as far as I am aware. The nature of the mistake undoubtedly requires that the diocese mete out some punishment to show it is serious about protecting children from sexual predators - but not one so severe.
A decade ago, I read Joseph Persico's biography of William J. Casey, a businessman and old spy runner who had been President Ronald Reagan's director of central intelligence. One of Mr. Casey's pet peeves was people making "the perfect the enemy of the good." He felt that bureaucracies sometimes were so zealous in their attention to particular details that they unintentionally undermined the very enterprises they wanted to advance.
The Dallas diocese is behaving in this manner.
I respect the diocese's wanting to send a loud and clear message that it means for priests to obey orders. I endorse its efforts to protect children - not least of all the two of mine who attend school at St. Thomas Aquinas. But I believe the same message could have been delivered in a way less humiliating to Father Bierschenk and less hurtful to his flock.
The victims of the church's sex scandals multiply, now to include me, my fellow parishioners and a good if imperfect priest who is being ripped from his parish family. Having done too little to create a safe environment for children, the church now does too much, to the detriment of us all.
[Timothy O'Leary is an editorial writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News.]
Rome Should Take 2nd Look at Dallas Diocese
By Rod Dreher
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
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.
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.
We won't second-guess the attorney general's office, whose investigators have more information and legal expertise than we do. But we take issue with the position taken by the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, whose spokesman, Bronson Havard, washed the bishop's hands of Father Lucio. Mr. Havard says that the charity is independent of the church and receives no church money, and thus the bishop has no responsibility to take any action in this case.
In reality, however, Father Lucio is not independent of the bishop's authority. Bishop Charles Grahmann's predecessor allowed Father Lucio to start the charity after removing him from parish ministry amid allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Father Lucio, who admitted in 1991 that he had rubbed parishioners' genitals, spent the charity's money lavishly on himself and his pals while wringing millions out of immigrants.
This may not technically qualify as criminal behavior. But it's certainly un-Christian. It's called getting rich on the backs of the poor (Proverbs 22:16).
How Can a Bishop Be Replaced?
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.]
Priestly Abuse: Boston Scandal Shows Need to Toughen Laws
A year and a half after the Boston priest sex abuse cases appalled the nation, news from that deeply troubled archdiocese still has the power to shock.
The Massachusetts attorney general's report on the violation of children by Catholic priests alleged that the scope of the scandal was broader than previously reported. Attorney General Thomas F. O'Reilly's investigation spanned 60 years. It found 237 priests – far more than previously identified – were at least suspected of, and in many cases confessed to, molesting 789 minors, though he estimated the number of victims was even greater.
He also discovered that Cardinal Bernard F. Law, his predecessors, their auxiliary bishops and a variety of clerical underlings not only knew what some of their priests were doing to children, but chose not to intervene effectively to stop the systemic abuse of the city's most vulnerable Catholics. By choosing to protect priests and shroud their misconduct in secrecy, Mr. O'Reilly said, the church "in effect, sacrificed children for many, many years."
The wickedness of these churchmen's callous indifference to human suffering beggars description. And yet, despite his best efforts, the attorney general could find no legal grounds on which to prosecute Cardinal Law and his men. There were too many gaps in the state law, which allowed church authorities to slip through. These loopholes must be closed, not only in Massachusetts, but in every state.
Fortunately for Texas minors, the child abuse reporting laws here are fairly strong, and have long included the clergy as mandatory reporters. But they could be made stronger by requiring reporting directly to police, not to child welfare authorities, and to make failure to do so carry more than misdemeanor penalties. And the Legislature could clarify current law regarding statutes of limitations in such cases, to keep those who commit or facilitate child molestation from escaping justice thanks to the passage of time.
The attorney general knew that his investigation probably would not turn up evidence of criminal conduct by church authorities. To his very great credit, he pursued it anyway, to establish a public record, stamped with the imprimatur of the state's top law enforcement officer, of what the report called "a massive and pervasive failure of leadership" wrought upon Catholic children and their families.
The moral condemnation could hardly be more thorough or damning. History will judge the church hierarchy for what it has done; history will judge us all if we let it happen again.
Yes, Virginia – Bishop Did Disparage Background Checks
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say that at the big Catholic
bishops' conference last week, Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann questioned
the need to investigate foreign priests before they minister to Catholics
here. I find this very hard to believe, given what the diocese has been
through under our bishop's leadership, but Papa says, "If you see
it in The Dallas Morning News, it's so." Please tell me the truth,
did Bishop Grahmann really say this?
Virginia, your little friends are right. Bishop Grahmann's actual words were, "Do we all have to do this background check for someone who just wants to come in for six weeks?"
Yes, Virginia, there have to be background checks. They must exist as certainly as clerical pederasty, the plaintiff's bar and multimillion-dollar jury awards exist, and you know that they abound and give to Bishop Grahmann's ministry in Dallas its greatest distinction.
Alas, how carefree would be the world if there were no background checks! It would be as carefree as if there had been no Bishop Grahmann. Now, we should have no enjoyment except in seeing our woebegone bishop resign and make way for one who understands what the present moment requires.
Not believe in background checks! You might as well not believe in Rudy Kos, or, more to the point, Ernesto Villaroya, the very naughty Filipino priest our bishop installed in a Frisco parish earlier this year, with only the flimsiest pretense of a background investigation.
Bishop Grahmann forces his pastors to put lay volunteers through criminal background checks if they want to do volunteer work in their parish, but if he does not hold himself to the same standard, what does that prove?
Bishop Grahmann doesn't see the danger, but that is no sign that there is no danger. Did he ever see sexually abusive priests dancing with Mickey Mouse ears on the chancery lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there.
No background checks! God have mercy! They will be with us forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, if it takes that long to restore trust and create accountability, they will continue to burden the lives of Catholic priests and laypeople.
Bishop Grahmann, however, reaches retirement age in 2006.
(Apologies to Francis Church, late editorial writer of The New York Sun.)
Bishop Accountability © 2003