One of the Dallas Catholic Diocese's most prominent priests has remained on duty for several months despite an accusation that he grabbed the genitals of a worshipper who had asked him for help, correspondence and interviews show.
The case raises questions about whether the diocese is following its sexual misconduct policies, which were toughened in the wake of clergy abuse scandals that cost more than $30 million in legal settlements. It has also exposed deep divisions between Bishop Charles Grahmann and the man named as his apparent successor nearly three years ago.
Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante, one of the nation's most outspoken prelates on abuse issues, said he has been unable to persuade Bishop Grahmann to remove the Rev. Ramon Alvarez as head priest of the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The allegations against the priest surfaced in May, when a 58-year-old man told the diocese that Father Alvarez had assaulted him on a Sunday night in 1991. Garland Melancon said he was visiting Dallas and suffering severe back pain when the priest agreed to perform a pain-relief blessing, then pulled down his jogging pants, groped him and propositioned him.
Father Alvarez acknowledged "inappropriate contact" with the Houston-area man and was told to resume counseling about "boundary issues" that he'd previously undergone voluntarily, diocesan Chancellor Mary Edlund said. She characterized the encounter as consensual but would not discuss details. No civil or criminal charges have been filed; the legal deadline for doing so may have passed.