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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  • Posted by: - Jul. 09, 2003 6:36 PM ET USA

    John Plick said: What do we need, a rotting dead body draped across our doorsteps before definitive actions are taken?? Sadly, even one found bounced off a Bishop's windshield is not yet sufficient to sound the alarm bells nationwide. May God rest his soul.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 09, 2003 5:37 PM ET USA

    Quote: But prophets, and even lowly commentators such as Diogenes, don't let themselves be bound by the rules of polite society. Amen. This pseudonymous cynic agrees. More!

  • Posted by: - Jul. 09, 2003 3:15 PM ET USA

    How can a person be considered to be whining when issues that have such a horrendous impact on the Church are not address - and a person has enough perserverance to continue to point out that they have not been addressed? Are we to say that the pro-life people who have fought abortion since Roe v. Wade are whiners because they keep on about it? Diogenes should continue until he finds a wise man (bishop). What would redeem this mess for me is to some day find out that Diogenes is a bishop

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jul. 09, 2003 2:59 PM ET USA

    Gentlemen, if Catholic men had been Catholic men during the time of the Reformation the soon-to-be Protestants would have never despaired of the "system" and formed a seperate "body" of believers which continues to be a scandal to Christian unity to this very day. What do we need, a rotting dead body draped across our doorsteps before definitive actions are taken??Tapping on a computer keyboard is easy, putting your life, reputation and security on the line is hard.Who will be prophets today!?.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 09, 2003 12:32 PM ET USA

    Plick, anyone who is "astute and focused" will sound like a whiner if he keeps at it long enough. In polite company, one complains of an injustice or a wrong and then casually moves on to other conversation. But prophets, and even lowly commentators such as Diogenes, don't let themselves be bound by the rules of polite society. They exhort and cajole until the situation is made right or their heads leave on silver platters. Keep it up Diogenes. I don't always agree, but I'm always enlightened.

  • Posted by: shrink - Jul. 09, 2003 11:08 AM ET USA

    To David: the blackmail suggestion by Diogenes would seem to cast this bishop's inaction in a relatively favorable light. The collapse of clerical discipline on moral matters is so extensive throughout the US & Europe that other plausible explanations of these inactions bode more ominously than blackmail. Hence the point of my note below; I'm confident that Sanchez was not committed to advancing pedophilia as a lifestyle, tho some clerics in his diocese were.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 09, 2003 9:42 AM ET USA

    I favor moral cowardice or corrupted conscience as an explanation, but it's not uncharitable to suggest blackmail--at least not now, after years and years of corruption. Until the scandal broke last year, the current batch of bishops had been riding the good feelings and trust built up by their predecessors. It was considered absurd to suggest a bishop might not be a great guy or at least good at heart. But now we know who they are and what they have done and even wild speculation seems credible

  • Posted by: David Ancell - Jul. 08, 2003 11:01 PM ET USA

    Well, if speaking against a speculation made in the face of absolutely no concrete evidence makes me dangerously naive, then let me be so. Until there is concrete evidence, this whole post is all mere speculation and is morally dangerous to the one who does it. As a commenter on another blog said: Are we to assume that people are blackmailing Pope John Paul II when he doesn't discipline bishops?

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jul. 08, 2003 6:27 PM ET USA

    First, to David, I think you are dangerously naive. I think it is sheer foolishness not to at least consicer the truth of these issues. And to Diogenes, your reporting, though astute and focused, is surely beginning to sound like so much whining. I would hope that at this point any number of intelligent and God-fearing Catholics would realize that reasonable ecclesiastical discipline at the higher levels is twisted and/or absent. Where are the courageous theologians that will do something???

  • Posted by: shrink - Jul. 08, 2003 7:48 AM ET USA

    Was there blackmail? Your decide: Bishop Sanchez of New Mexico was having sexual escapades with the ladies at the same time that the (now notorious) Paraclete rehab facility for priests was operating in his diocese. In 1982 Sanchez was approached quietly by some of his own priests---with proof in hand of gay advocacy at the facility--to shut it down. Sanchez refused. --a footnote: in 1987 the facility sponsored the first PRO-pedophile conference in the US--an invitation-only affair.

  • Posted by: David Ancell - Jul. 07, 2003 10:38 PM ET USA

    Well, their may be a great case, but I find presuming the blackmail theory is still uncharitable. What does the Church have to gain by this kind of assumption? Methinks you are playing with calumny, even if you are not guilty of the sin.