Sunday, January 26, 2003

The laity get involved in Dallas, revealing the details of deal:

Five and a half years ago, reeling from weeks of embarrassing testimony about cover-ups and the largest clergy abuse judgment in history, Dallas Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann cut a secret deal to resign.

It wasn't Pope John Paul II forcing his hand, however. It was a group of influential laymen threatening to publicly denounce him – a group that today, concerned about resurgent scandal in the diocese and the bishop's refusal to yield to his Vatican-appointed successor, is finally talking.

This is not the way things ordinarily work in the hierarchical Catholic Church. "Telling a bishop what to do is very contrary to our mentality spiritually," says the group's leader, D Magazine publisher Wick Allison.

....Mr. Allison's group of businessmen and corporate lawyers say they began pressing Bishop Grahmann in August 1997, starting with a meeting at the Tower Club, high above downtown. In addition to Mr. Allison, those present included lawyers Daniel Hennessy and William McCormack, investor Mike Maguire and James M. Moroney Jr., retired publisher of The Dallas Morning News and former chief executive officer of its parent company, Belo Corp. In recent interviews, they all confirmed various elements of the following account but largely deferred to Mr. Allison for elaboration.

A jury had recently concluded that diocesan leaders conspired to conceal the Rev. Rudolph Kos' predations, and it assessed the church a penalty of nearly $120 million. Four things, the lay group said in a series of communications with the bishop's office, now had to happen, and three quickly did:

The bishop dropped plans for an appeal. He fired Randy Mathis, the defense lawyer who had taken the Kos case to trial in the face of much damning evidence. (Mr. Mathis continues to represent the diocese in other abuse lawsuits.) And he removed the pastor of All Saints parish, the Rev. Robert Rehkemper, who had blamed parents for letting Mr. Kos molest their children.

But Mr. Allison and other members of the group say Bishop Grahmann dug in his heels on the fourth point, his resignation.

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