Archbishop Carlson Reaches out to Parishioners at St. Raphael Parish

By Barbara Watkins and Joseph Kenny
St. Louis Review
August 7, 2009

“Abuse of any kind is always wrong.”

That was the message of Archbishop Robert Carlson at a July 30 press conference at the Catholic Center, called shortly after the archbishop was informed of the arrest of an archdiocesan priest for recruiting a minor for sex.

Archbishop Carlson, in a homily at a Mass Aug. 1 at the priest’s parish, noted parishioners’ pain — with some hurting, scandalized or embarrassed — and apologized on behalf of the Church.

On July 30 Father James P. Grady, pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in St. Louis Hills, was charged in federal court with recruiting a minor for a commercial sex act. Father Grady was arrested the evening of July 29 in an undercover operation by FBI agents and local law enforcement officers.

Father Grady was released on $10,000 signature bond July 31 after appearing before a U.S. magistrate judge. A signature bond requires no money be put up front. He was ordered to wear an electronic ankle bracelet and stay at a treatment center in Jefferson County, a place described as monitored and secure.

Shortly after learning of the charges, Archbishop Carlson announced that Father Grady was suspended from his duties as pastor of St. Raphael, pending the outcome of the investigation.

“Obviously, if (the allegations) are true, Father Grady will never work again in the Archdiocese of St. Louis,” the archbishop said at the press conference.

The archbishop said that he had personally gone over Father Grady’s file and saw nothing “of this nature in it. And I am not aware of anything in his past.”

Archbishop Carlson said he wanted to go to St. Raphael Parish for the Saturday Mass for several reasons. “Number one is the whole question of trust. If I had kids in that school, I’d be pretty upset. If the archbishop isn’t concerned, who is?”

He said in the homily that it is he was seeking to help the parish community begin the process of healing. After Mass, he stayed to answer questions. “I stand shoulder to shoulder with you. We will get through this challenging time and we will continue, with God’s help, to heal and grow.”

Archbishop Carlson said that “Jesus is with us always in moments of great joy and in moments of great sadness.”

The archbishop appointed Msgr. Henry J. Breier Jr., formerly secretary to the archbishop, as pastor of the parish.

Ann Perryman, president of the St. Raphael School Board, said she appreciated his visit. “It was very healing for all of our parish to hear that,” she said.

Perryman also was glad to see that the text of the archbishop’s homily was released to the news media. “It is important for all Catholics to see his level of concern,” she said.

Many parishioners came to that particular Mass to hear his message, she said, noting that “most people felt very good about it.”

The archdiocese sent a letter to all of the registered members of the congregation and notified every parish where the priest served of the charges against him.

“I want people to be aware of the charges. And if anyone has any information that he wants to bring to my attention, I want people to be aware that I would be interested,” Archbishop Carlson said July 30.

The archbishop also stressed that he wanted the priests of the archdiocese to understand “I know that the vast majority of them are doing excellent work. This is a black eye for all priests.”

Archbishop Carlson said he was notified of the arrest around 9 a.m. July 30 by the archdiocesan vicar for priests and told of the charges around 2:30 p.m.

“The FBI has not talked to me,” he said.

Father Grady, who was the pastor at St. Raphael for four years, was ordained in 1977. He served as an associate pastor at Little Flower Parish in Richmond Heights, Assumption in South County, St. Ferdinand in Florissant, the Basilica of St. Louis and the former Holy Family Parish in South St. Louis. He was named pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Elsberry in 1995 and Holy Innocents Parish in South St. Louis in 2001.

At the press conference, the archbishop said that the archdiocese’s Safe Environment program to prevent child sexual abuse had been in place “long before I got here.”

“We try to do everything we possibly can to make sure this never happens. And when it happens, you have to be very pro-active,” he said.

“We’re looking at a federal crime here. That’s a serious thing,” Archbishop Carlson said. And even more, “a serious fracture in the trust relationship. You can break a trust relationship in seconds, and it can take years to build it up again.”

Archbishop Carlson acknowledged that the Church has been dealing with the abuse issue for a number of years.

“This is a setback. We have to ask ourselves, what more should we be doing that we haven’t done?”

A conviction could bring a range of 10 years to life in prison plus a fine up to $500,000.


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