DALLAS — The Most Rev. Charles Grahmann, whose 17-year tenure as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas was marred by one of the first church sex abuse scandals to explode into public view, died Tuesday. He was 87.
Grahmann, who had endured a long illness, died during cardiac surgery in San Antonio, according to current Bishop Edward Burns.
Grahmann was the sixth bishop of the Dallas diocese and served from 1990 to 2007, overseeing dozens of parishes and upward of 800,000 worshippers. He was appointed in 1982 as the first bishop of the Diocese of Victoria, in South Texas, before moving to Dallas, where he was known for his ministry to the poor and marginalized.
“He built a number of parishes and schools and, of course, embraced the Hispanic community here within the Diocese of Dallas,” Burns said Tuesday. “And it was, of course, during his tenure that he, too, shepherded this church during very difficult days.”
Burns was referring to the case of a priest, Rudolph “Rudy” Kos, who in 1998 was sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting children. A Dallas County jury a year earlier returned a $120 million civil judgment in favor of 11 victims after finding that the Dallas diocese committed gross negligence and concealed information about its handling of Kos.
The judgment at that time was the largest ever awarded in the country involving a clergy sex abuse case.
Grahmann had Kos defrocked and apologized to the victims, but his time as bishop was dogged by charges that he didn’t move earlier to stop Kos from preying on children. The diocese at the time also was accused of failing to remove at least two others from the priesthood who displayed abusive behavior, according to the Massachusetts-based research and advocacy organization, BishopAccountability.org.
Grahmann died on the same day a Pennsylvania grand jury report was released accusing church officials there of systematically covering up abuse complaints. More than 1,000 children were molested since the 1940s by some 300 Roman Catholic priests, according to the report.
Bishop Burns, who spoke Tuesday during a news conference, said details in the report were “heart-wrenching.”
“I know all of us who love our faith can’t believe that we must once again ask the question, ‘How can this happen in our church?’ ”