Monday, March 05, 2007


Expected very shortly -- tomorrow, according to multiple reports -- is Pope Benedict's appointment of a new bishop of Dallas. According to several sources, Bishop Kevin Farrell, the 59 year-old auxiliary of Washington, will be named to succeed Bishop Charles Grahmann, whose retirement is due for reasons of age.

The seventh bishop of Dallas will enter a local church vastly different from the one to which Grahmann was sent in 1990. Fuelled by a surge in both Snow-Belt transplants and Latino immigrants, the diocese's Catholic population has since experienced an almost five-fold expansion to a number now hovering near a million; though Bishop-emeritus Thomas Tschoepe is still kicking at 91, it's the largest US diocese without an auxiliary bishop.

At the same time, Grahmann's blunt administrative style incited difficulties in the diocese to the point of polarization, particularly after the case of Rudy Kos -- a predator priest permitted to remain in ministry -- led the diocese to a civil trial and a record 1997 verdict of $119 million in damages to Kos' victims. (That amount was later reduced to a $31 million settlement, the largest payout made by a US diocese before 2002.)

In 1999, the Holy See attempted to quell early tensions by naming a coadjutor, Bishop Joseph Galante, in the expectation that Grahmann would move on after a transition period. However, Grahmann dug in and the two prelates were barely on speaking terms when Galante was returned to his native Northeast as bishop of Camden in 2004 after requesting to be moved.

On the ground, Grahmann's base of support is said to be drawn primarily from the Hispanic community; one source joked that the bishop's Spanish is better than his English. The need for administrative rebuilding also appears to be great, both given the divisions within the diocese, and as many of Grahmann's battle-wearied team are said to be keen to follow their departing boss out the door.

Dublin-born and a former member of the Legionaries of Christ -- for which he was ordained in 1978 -- both the administrative and demographic situations on-the-ground play to Farrell's strengths, making him the clear front-runner for Dallas since speculation began at Grahmann's 75th birthday last summer.

In 1986, after years of ministry in the Legion's home-base of Mexico, he was named the second director of Washington's Centro Catolico after its founder, Fr Sean O'Malley, was made bishop of St Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Since 2001, he has served as DC's moderator of the curia and chief vicar-general after 12 years as the capital see's top financial overseer. He's the brother of Bishop Brian Farrell LC, the Stato veteran currently serving as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

A runner and workaholic, Farrell's colleagues in Washington frequently cite their ability to trust him as the first of his standout qualities. Known for his uniquely personal outreach to victim-survivors of clergy sex abuse, he's said to be affable and gentle with a keen sense of humor, but "clear," "tough," and a straight-shooter when the task calls for it.

Reportedly, Farrell had indicated his preference to remain in the Northeast. However, it appears that months of buzz linking the DC prelate to the central Texas post have come to pass; Grahmann's sent word that he won't be making a scheduled meeting in the diocese tomorrow, and Farrell hasn't been seen in the District since earlier today....

As for the other shoe, stay tuned.

SVILUPPO: To serve all your (seemingly impending) D-Day needs, the Morning News has picked up the story, augmented by widespread echoes from the on-the-ground.

For the record, the first report pointing in this direction was received here early last Thursday, since which time everything's built... and built... and built some more. And of all the leads to piece together and track down, this one's been the most fun, by far.

Clearly, it's not confirmed in Bollettino-stone yet. To use the words of the first red flag, however, it simply appears "very possible."

How 'bout them Cowboys?

Archbishop Carroll High School