Bishop Accountability

Time for renewal: Dallas' bishop should step down

Dallas Morning News
November 16, 2002

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.

Statement of Bishop Charles V. Grahmann

Texas Catholic
January 31, 2003

January 28, 2003

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. This course of action escalates disagreements within the Catholic community and contributes nothing toward the healing and reconciliation needed within the church and the community.

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. The description of the 1997 “Tower Club Meeting” in the press has given such a portrayal. In fact, the 1997 meeting with businessmen, lawyers and Catholic lay leaders was conducted in a positive spirit of concern and support, and suggestions were offered to me as we moved forward as a church in the aftermath of the Rudy Kos trial. Let me state for the record what did and did not occur at that meeting.
* I did not agree to resign my position.
* I did not agree to remove Msgr. Robert Rehkemper. (That decision was made some days later.)
* I did not agree to fire (and never fired) the trial lawyer, Randal Mathis.

Some of the suggestions made by the group and later enacted include:
* I moved forward on settlement talks with the plaintiffs to negotiate in good faith. • I brought in an additional law firm (Haynes and Boone) to provide diverse and pertinent legal expertise in the areas of appellate, bankruptcy and insurance.
* I appointed a group of high-profile Catholics to form a lay board to advise me through the days after the trial.
* I sought the advice of communications experts so that the church’s relations with the community could be enhanced.

I met with the group at the Tower Club because I value the advice and counsel of the laity. I further demonstrated this value by establishing or reconstituting diocesan advisory boards that include lay women and men around strategic decisions I make for the church. All of us in ministry bring both our gifts and our weaknesses to the church.

Acknowledging that I have both, with God’s help I pledge to continue my service as bishop to the people of the church of Dallas.

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,



Bishop Accountability © 2003