Birds of a feather

Birds of a feather

In Dallas this week, a priest was forced to resign from his parish following an uproar. The problem started when it was found out that the music minister/liturgist, John Sarlay, a friend of the pastor, was found to have pleaded no contest last year to charges that he committed a sex act in front of an undercover cop in a mall restroom. Fr. Bill Richard of Our Lday of the Lake parish in Rockwall, Texas, refused to dismiss Sarlay and that led to protests by some parishioners (some of whom set up web site with more info).

Interestingly, Bishop Charles Grahmann, who has shown little willingness in the past to bow to the demands of laypeople, asked Richard to resign, which he did on Sunday. Hmm, I wonder why.

Well, the Dallas Morning News says in its article that it turns out a complaint was sent to the diocese in 1993 about Fr. Richard, accusing him of sexually harassing several boys. Richard was reassigned in 1994 from a high school to the parish. According to the newspaper, Texas law says anyone “who has ‘cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse’ must notify state authorities. Abuse is defined as including not just physical violence and sexual conduct, but also any ‘emotional or mental injury’ that affects a child’s functioning.” No one from the diocese ever did so. (Why didn’t the lawyer who filed the complaint?) Meanwhile, the diocese claimed in 2002 that a review of the diocese’s clergy personnel records showed that none of the priests of the diocese remained in ministry who were accused of abuse. Oops.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how certain kinds of behavior cluster together. Birds of a feather, they say.

There’s often been talk of networks within the Church, of men with certain predilections protecting each other, helping each other. It’s hard to argue against the notion given the evidence of our eyes.

  • You know, this situation here really should make every Catholic concerned about his or her own diocese. The Gavin Group, the outside auditing team hired by the USCCB to look at the sex abuse prevention programs in every participating diocese, passed Dallas with flying colors, and even called our local “Safe Environment” program a model. What this latest news shows is that programs like this are only as good as the bishop who oversees it. You get a bad bishop, you get a bad program. Here in Dallas, parents have got to be wondering, “Is my priest like Father Richard? Does he have allegations against him, and is he being protected by the chancery?”