Ouster of Rockwall Priest Sought
Some Cite His Support of Layman on Probation for Indecent Exposure

By Brooks Egerton
The Dallas Morning News [Rockwall TX]
February 1, 2005

Some Catholics in Rockwall are urging Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann to remove their pastor, citing the priest's support for a lay minister who is serving a probationary sentence for indecent exposure.

The protesters say the Rev. William Richard is seeking the bishop's permission to continue employing the layman and is dismissing parishioners who oppose this from volunteer positions.

"There are several other grave matters we would like to discuss with you," adds a letter to the bishop that is posted on the group's Web site. It does not elaborate.

More than 110 people from Our Lady of the Lake parish have recently signed petitions calling for the pastor's removal, the Web site says. About 1,500 people attend Sunday services, according to the Dallas Catholic Diocese.

Bronson Havard, the bishop's spokesman, said the petitions are under review, as is the lay minister's status. He declined to comment further Tuesday.

Father Richard said the reviews had led him to be quiet.

"With the parish I haven't said a lot, out of discretion and so forth, but that's given a lot of people an opportunity to spin things their own way," the priest said.

He would say little else.

Todd White, a parishioner and lawyer who is administering the Web site, also wasn't talking Tuesday.

The layman in question is John Sarlay, a friend of Father Richard's who serves as director of liturgy and music at Our Lady of the Lake. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Sarlay was arrested in December 2003 for masturbating in view of an undercover police officer at a Dallas mall restroom. He pleaded no contest and is on probation until March.

He remained on duty at church until late last year, when an anonymous letter about the case began circulating among parishioners. Church officials then suspended Mr. Sarlay.

The sex-case controversy arose shortly after another public dispute at the parish ended Deacon Cliff Kopinski's ministry there. Details of that situation were not available Tuesday, though the protesters' Web site says the conflict began over anti-abortion literature that was available at a Bible study.

Mr. Kopinski declined to comment, as did Mr. Havard. Father Richard said, without elaborating, that protesters' version of events was "very distorted and wrong."


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