A newcomer to town wouldn’t give it a second thought. Off West Jefferson Boulevard, in southwest Dallas, between Dallas National Golf Club and Cockrell Hill, there’s a small working-class subdivision called Santa Clara. The entry road is called Via Bishop Grahmann. What could possibly be remarkable about that?
Charles Grahmann served as the sixth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, from 1990 to 2007. It was on his watch that a jury in 1997 found the Diocese guilty of gross negligence, conspiracy, malice, and fraud in trying to hide the heinous acts of a child-molesting priest named Rudy Kos. One of Kos’ victims committed suicide. The jury returned the largest clergy-abuse verdict in history, nearly $120 million (later reduced). On the witness stand, Grahmann claimed to have no knowledge of the abuse. Here’s how the jury forewoman described Grahmann’s attitude to the Dallas Morning News: “It looked like he was bored to death and thought he was above it all. I don’t know how you can be in that much denial and have that much evidence.” As the full extent of Grahmann’s culpability was laid bare, the News and D Magazine, both owned by Catholics, called for his resignation.
That is the man whose name the street bears. How that happened remains a bit of a mystery. The land that Santa Clara now occupies once belonged to the Cockrells, one of the founding families of Dallas. It changed hands over the years and eventually came into the possession of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and Refuge, who still have a convent a little ways to the north. From them it passed to a number of owners, until a developer called Lennar Corporation, through a subsidiary named NuHome Designs, bought it. The land was platted in 2000, just three years after the Kos trial.
It appears that the developer named the street as a tribute to Grahmann, adhering to Santa Clara’s religious theme. Other streets are named Via San Eduardo, Via San Antonio, and so on.
Asked if the name was appropriate given that Grahmann presided over the darkest period in the history of the Church in Dallas, Annette Gonzales Taylor, spokeswoman for the Diocese, responds: “The Church is always sensitive to anything that causes pain to victims and supports any measures that could promote healing for them.” She also says the Diocese works hard to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults.
As it turns out, the Dallas city code prohibits naming a street after someone until at least two years after his death. Grahmann is 86 and very much alive. Would he support renaming the street to bring it into compliance with the city’s code?
“I had nothing to do with it, so I don’t want to have anything to do with it now,” he says from his home in San Antonio. “Or they could send a Green Beret with an AK-47 to shoot me and then leave the thing up there.”