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Father Ramon - A Commentary

By Marisa Trevino, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – I felt indescribable disappointment when I learned of the latest Catholic priest accused of sexual misconduct. Also, profound frustration when I realized it shouldn't have ended this way. I've known Father Ramon Alvarez, rector of the downtown Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, for several years now. To say he is the homegrown pride of the Dallas Latino community is an understatement.

His humorous, pithy sermons are his trademark among English-speaking parishioners, as much as his vocal activism for Latino causes is known among la raza.

His modest stature belies the strength and weight of his words. He is a perfect fit to preside in a pulpit that oversees the largest Latino parish congregation in the country.

Father Ramon can always be counted on to lend his support in empowering Latino families to demand equal education for their children, fair housing, balanced justice or receiving due medical attention.

Unfortunately, because of the recent accusations and his own admission that he had "inappropriate contact" with another man, Father Ramon's voice now rings as hollow as an echo in an empty church.

Nor does it help Father Ramon that Dallas Diocesan officials, in their quest to support him, have gone on the record deeming his accuser as "not credible." The diocesan officials are the ones viewed by many in the Catholic community as not to be believed because of their own pattern of adopting a line of defense discrediting sexual abuse victims.

Somehow church officials must think that because it was an adult who experienced this violation, it wasn't as serious as compared to the adults who were victimized as children.

But "inappropriate contact" by a priest is a gross violation regardless of age.

The situation should never have been allowed to reach this point. Had Bishop Grahmann removed Father when the accusations first surfaced, Father Ramon's continuing contributions to the Latino community could have been salvaged in some way. However, Bishop Grahmann chose to reward an old friend by essentially looking the other way.

I wonder how Fathers Ortega and Bierschenk must feel to know that they were not on Bishop Grahmann's "Favorites List" when they were forced from their parishes earlier this year, not for committing an unpriestly act, but simply for not completing paper work on their employees and volunteers as in accordance with the Dallas Diocesan sexual abuse prevention policy.

For his thoughtless impulse, Father Ramon will now be viewed as a person of half-truths. It's a heart-breaking shame that he did not have the willpower or strength of character to step down when Dallas' other Bishop, Bishop Galante, ask that he do so.

He should do so now.

As should Grahmann remove himself as Bishop from the Dallas Diocese and allow Bishop Galante sole authority.

Bishop Grahmann's habit of inconsistent behavior regarding the sexual abuse issue warrants his removal. His action in this latest incident is only proof that he will bend interpretation of the Bishops' abuse policy to meet his definition.

That is not what is needed in a diocese still reeling from the nightmare of Rudy Kos or in an institution trying to bolster morale among congregations beaten down by report after report of priestly atrocities.

During this past year, the Diocese of Dallas, like all diocese around the country, has asked its parishioners to keep the faith amid the upheaval the Church is experiencing.

Yet, how can we be expected to keep the faith when those who would lead us, don't honor it?

Marisa Trevino is a writer from Rowlett. If you have opinions about this commentary, call 214-740-9338.