Cat got your tongue?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 07, 2003

The Dallas Morning News has another in a series of scathing editorials on Bishop Charles Grahmann, this concerning his inaction regarding Fr. Justin Lucio, found to be scamming the faithful through a charity called Casita Maria:

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. ... Bishop Grahmann could order the disgraced Father Lucio to dissociate himself from the charity this very day. The bishop has that right, and that responsibility. Why won't he?

Good question. Although Casita Maria is not listed among the charities of the Diocese of Dallas, the Catholic Directory lists Lucio as a priest incardinated in that diocese, and Grahmann has full authority to pull the plug on him.

The obvious explanation for official inaction or amnesia in the face of the criminal activity of subordinates is ... blackmail. Blackmail may be direct, as when the subject explicitly says to his superior, "Give me grief and I'll go public with your own escapades," or indirect, as when the superior thinks, "I've got a past -- or I've got friends with a past -- that I don't want to become known, and I have to go real easy on the fondlers so they don't bring me down with them."

Charity and common sense argue against over-quick recourse to the blackmail hypothesis; one or two suspicious incidents may be reasonably dismissed as administrative lethargy or cowardice. But sooner or later a man's unrebuked scandalous conduct becomes so damaging to his superior that only one explanation serves for inaction, namely, that pro-active discipline would bring with it consequences more damaging still.

In the case of Rembert Weakland, a bishop's blackmail -- albeit blackmail of an old-fashioned shillings-for-silence kind -- is an acknowledged fact. None of his brethren has seen fit to instruct us on how widespread the phenomenon might be. Perhaps the bishops feel sexual blackmail is, after all, a fairly trivial lapse, like a slice in one's golf swing, and unworthy of censure. Perhaps they feel public discussion would cause alarm and despondency. In any case, by their silence and by their unwillingness or inability to hold their brethren accountable, they have given us the liberty to connect the dots in the way we find most persuasive, if not most edifying.

It would be great to be wrong here; to wake up one morning and read that there was a perfectly innocent explanation all along; to have the spiritual satisfaction of a long series of apologies to be written and published. What I can't understand is, if I am wrong, why the bishops can't show me now.

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