Defending the Dallas bishop

Defending the Dallas bishop

The editor of the Dallas diocesan newspaper defends his boss today from the criticism of Rod Dreher.

Rod took Bishop Charles Grahmann to task in his column on Sunday in the Dallas Morning News after the coadjutor bishop, Joseph Galante, went public on Friday with his dispute with Grahmann. Rod does not spare either Grahmann or Galante his ire for the way both men have failed the Church in dealing with priests who have flaunted her moral teachings and abused her children.

Yet, Bronson Havard, the diocesan newspaper editor, flails back at Rod with snobbish and inaccurate depictions of his statements. First, the inaccuracy. Havard claims:

Already, Mr. Dreher, using a quote of someone else, labels Bishop Galante potentially “as vain, craven and altogether mediocre as nearly everyone else on this hapless bench of bishops.”

But that’s not entirely accurate. Of course, every person is potentially craven and mediocre. That not’s exactly news. But Havard wants it to look like Rod has engaged in character assassination. What Rod said was:

I hold no particular brief for Bishop Galante, but the man was owed an opportunity to prove himself as vain, craven and altogether mediocre as nearly everyone else on “this hapless bench of bishops” (the phrase belongs to Fabian Bruskewitz, a Nebraska bishop who is a happy exception).

If you read it in context, you see that the comment, originally attributed not just to “someone else” but to a bishop, is more of a criticism of the US bishops as a whole and not Galante. Sure, Galante is criticized by Rod, but to interpret this as such is stretching it. And who can dispute that the US bishops, as a whole, haven’t been craven and (at least!) mediocre and hapless in dealing with sexually abusive clergy, never mind all the other issues facing them?

Havard also sneers at Rod for being newly arrived in Dallas and “can pose himself in one month’s time as an expert on all that has happened here in the last 13 years. Of course, it doesn’t take much knowledge to have an opinion and to offer it unabashedly with the same arrogance, stridency and viciousness that he so often accuses others of possessing.” It’s not as if the rest of the country, especially journalists who have been covering the story, don’t know all about what’s been going on in Dallas. The facts are clear and Rod doesn’t go beyond them. He also accuses Rod of racism, and as all who play the race card do, fails to offer any evidence. Assertions are enough for him.

The multilingual Bishop Grahmann is highly esteemed in the immigrant community, but some prejudiced people don’t value that.

Havard then recites a litany of the good works of Grahmann, boasting of the increase of Catholics in the diocese from 300,000 in 1990 to 850,000 today. So the bishop is responsible for the legal and illegal immigration of Mexican Catholics across the border? It takes no special skill to sit back and watch people move into your neighborhood.

I love Havard’s skill at understatement: “Surely, the Catholic Church’s problem with a few abusive priests has marred the scene but not the way Mr. Dreher or The Morning News depicts it.” It’s a “few priests,” don’t you know, not hundreds across the country. They’ve “marred the scene,” not raped children, committing spiritual murder, and destroying the faith of thousands. Havard doesn’t understand why everyone’s been making a big deal out of this the past year.

Havard also wants Grahmann to get credit for “settling, within 11 months, the record $120 million jury award against the diocese in 1997 for $31 million ($11 million from the diocese and $20 million from insurance).” According to several influential lay Catholics in the diocese, including magazine publisher Wick Allison, Grahmann had to be pushed to make any settlement, to cooperate with those trying to save the diocese from financial bankruptcy. Havard also fails to mention that the jury in the Kos trial took thehighly unusual step of writing a note to the judge, read in open court, castigating Grahmann for his unforthcoming testimony.

The whole thing would be amusing if not sad. It looks like Havard took lessons from the best Clinton spinmeisters: attack the critic personally, push only the facts that make the criticized look good, frame it as “us” v. “the outsiders.” The only thing he forgot to mention was that Bishop Grahmann was doing it “all for the children.”