Bishop Accountability

Letter to Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, Papal Nuncio

By Committee of Concerned Catholics
Reprinted in the Dallas Morning News
June 20, 2003

Your Excellency:

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,

Opinion: How Can A Bishop Be Replaced?
Please, Bishop Grahmann, It Is Time To Step Down

By William McCormack, Harry Crutcher and Neil O'Brien
Dallas Morning News
June 27, 2003

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, 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
Grahmann's Critics Urge Other Catholics to Join Call for Resignation

By Susan Hogan/Albach
Dallas Morning News
June 27, 2003

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, but changed it after learning that the bishop's spokesman, Mr. Havard, had acquired the rights to a similar name: please

"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.


Bishop Accountability © 2003