Thursday, May 15, 2003

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Dallas Policy...

...let us turn our attention to Dallas, where Bishop Grahmann has allowed a priest accused of rape in the fathering of a child (he has admitted to paternity, but not the rape) to minister in the diocese despite the fact that the LA Archdiocese (of all places) repeatedly refused the guy permission to work there before he headed to Texas.

Dom has details and commentary

...and the Dallas Morning News has an editorial pointing out some interesting inconsistencies in diocesan policy:

As The Dallas Morning News' Brooks Egerton reported yesterday, Bishop Grahmann and his review board have restored to ministry the Rev. Ernesto C. Villaroya, who had been suspended from his Ennis parish last year after a former nun from his native Philippines sued, alleging he raped her there 20 years ago. Whether forced or consensual (as the priest contends), the sexual encounter produced a child, which Mr. Villaroya has admitted in a sworn statement is his own. The current issue of the Texas Catholic, in announcing Mr. Villaroya's move to a Frisco parish, failed to mention this inconvenient fact, stating that the child's "paternity has not been determined."

That's not true, not according to both Mr. Villaroya and the story the diocese itself floated last year, when Mr. Villaroya was suspended.

The newspaper now says that the priest was reinstated to ministry because a lawsuit filed by his alleged victim had been dismissed by a California court. That's an evasion. The dismissal was on statute-of-limitations grounds. It had nothing to do with the quality of the evidence against Mr. Villaroya, which was not heard in court.

The Texas Catholic assures the faithful that Mr. Villaroya has undergone a background check. Some check: Relatives of the priest's accuser say they weren't contacted by diocesan investigators, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which refused Mr. Villaroya permission to work there over past episodes of disobedience, says it wasn't contacted either. With such a sloppy investigation, how can the Dallas diocese be certain that Mr. Villaroya didn't commit rape after all?

You might wonder how the people of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Frisco feel, having had dumped on them a priest with a shady, possibly criminal, past. You might wonder how the people of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in east Dallas are taking this news, given that Bishop Grahmann last year sacked their popular pastor of 11 years, the Rev. Stephen Bierschenk, for failing to complete background investigations on employees. You also might wonder what volunteers in all Dallas-area parishes are supposed to think about the latitude granted this troubled priest, inasmuch as volunteers have to undergo criminal background checks if they want to do as little as serve on the altar guild.

You might wonder.