I’ve lived in the Dallas, Texas metropolitan area all of my life and have seen more than a few oddities. But, on the morning of July 22, a driver captures this fool locomoting down I-35E into downtown Dallas. Sadly, it can mean only one thing: we have yet another Darwin Awards candidate.
Tag Archives: Dallas
“Most of the alleged victims were not raped: they were groped or otherwise abused, but not penetrated, which is what the word “rape” means. This is not a defense – it is meant to set the record straight and debunk the worst case scenarios attributed to the offenders.” – Bill Donohue, PhD, Catholics for Religious and Civil Rights, “Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report Debunked”, 16 August 2018
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”
Once more, the ugly head of hypocrisy has arisen for the Roman Catholic Church. A mammoth report issued by the state of Pennsylvania last month has left the oldest and largest denomination of Christianity in turmoil – again. According to the results of a grand jury, top Catholic leaders covered up roughly seven decades of abusive child behavior by hundreds of priests. More than 1,000 victims, the report alleges, fell prey to the antics of pedophilic clergy. During that lengthy period (more than half a century, if you think about it), the Church put the welfare of itself over that of the affected children. That should surprise no one. One of the wealthiest and most powerful institutions on Earth, the Roman Catholic Church has metamorphosed from its humble beginnings as an ideology that regards everyone as essential and vital to the construct of humanity into an omnipotent criminal organization more intent on destroying anyone who dares question its authority.
The Pennsylvania scandal is painfully reminiscent of a similar fiasco that tore through the diocese of Boston nearly two decades ago. That mess centered mainly on one man, John J. Geoghan, a former priest who had molested a gallery of young boys in the Boston area starting in the 1960s. The focus then shifted to Cardinal Bernard F. Law, the former archbishop of Boston who was forced to resign in 2002, when proof arose that he became aware of Geoghan’s perverted predilections not long after he had arrived in Boston in 1984 to helm the diocese. Like any criminal syndicate (think a street gang or a drug cartel), the Church decided to handle the matter quietly and internally. The results have been catastrophic – and sometimes deadly.
Instead of doing something reasonable and decent, such as turning Geoghan over to outside authorities, Law moved him around. Even one of Law’s own bishops thought assigning Geoghan to another parish was too risky and wrote a letter to the prelate that same year, 1984, protesting the transfer. As early as 1980, Geoghan himself admitted to church officials that he’d engaged in predatory behavior with children! In one case, he repeatedly abused 7 boys in one extended family – something he claimed wasn’t a “serious” problem.
These various allegations and the Church’s documentation analyzing them were eventually uncovered by the “Boston Globe” and revealed in 2002 in a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning editorials by 5 investigative journalists.
Not until the mid-1990s did some of the Boston-area survivors begin coming forward to tell their stories. These couldn’t have been easy decisions for them, especially when confronting such an indomitable monolith as the Roman Catholic Church. No one wants to believe that someone like a priest, or any religious official for that matter, is capable of such horrors as sexual assault and child molestation. People often look to their places of worship as refuges of safety and hope; places to seek guidance in moments of trouble and despair or to reaffirm their faith in the greater good of humanity. The men and women who function as leaders in these institutions are supposed to be above such humanly transgressions as sexual perversions.
We often forget those leaders and officials weren’t born into those roles. They came into this world like the rest of us; they’re human beings first and foremost. But they made the decision to lead lives of religious individualism. Being a faith leader may be a spiritual calling for some individuals, but it is also a profession; something that person chooses to do with their lives. People, therefore, choose to become drunk on the power bestowed upon them – supposedly by some deity – but, in reality, by elders in those organizations. They choose to take vows of celibacy or piety and to stand as the proverbial beacons of hope. And they choose to use their positions for good or bad.
In the Roman Catholic Church, priests don the fanciful regalia befitting their roles as leaders of the masses. They dress differently and (are supposed to) behave differently. Sex, which is a natural part of the human experience, is strangely viewed as base and demeaning. It is too much of a distraction for the individual; hence, the vow of chastity.
But the human libido is often stronger than the human-designed definitions of proper individuality. Thus, many priests (and nuns) stray from those vows and either hide their moral transgressions or leave the Church altogether. Church history is replete with priests and nuns who had the audacity to fall in love. I personally feel it’s perfectly normal and don’t see anything wrong with that.
Yet no one in their right mind can look upon the scourge of pedophilia within the Roman Catholic Church and consider it misguided love. The tap-dancing semantics that people like Bill Donohue spit out to explain these transgressions doesn’t mitigate the significance of it; it only amplifies it.
I was once a strong devotee of the Catholic faith. Like most Hispanic-Americans, I grew up in it. It was a fact of life for me. I even became an altar boy at a church in Dallas in the 1970s and served that church – and what I felt was the greater good of my community – with some measure of faith and distinction. And, in case you’re wondering, no, I was never molested by anyone in the Church. I was never molested by anyone outside of the Church, for that matter. I never knew of anyone at that particular church who suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of a priest or a nun. In retrospect, I realize most were good and decent; a few of them were actually fun to be around. And sadly, some were assholes. But I can’t find that any scandal erupted within its walls.
It’s ironic, though, because the Dallas diocese was the nexus of one of the largest pedophile priest scandals within the Church. In 1997, a Dallas County jury awarded 11 plaintiffs of a class-action suit $119.6 million; the largest monetary award of its kind at the time. Eleven young men claimed they had been molested by a former priest, Rudy Kos. Tragically, by the time the case went to court, one of the young men had committed suicide. He was 21, and his family had pursued the matter. The Kos case served as the proverbial catalyst for the avalanche of similar claims and subsequent lawsuits across the U.S. Then Bishop Charles Grahmann testified in court that he knew nothing of Kos’s antics; claiming he’d never even opened Kos’s personnel file. If he had, he surely would have found letters dating to the 1980s from other priests warning of Kos; that the latter often gave alcohol and even drugs to some of the boys. Grahmann surely knew something was amiss, as he moved Kos around – which apparently had become standard procedure within the Church by then. Grahmann only exacerbated the dilemma when he blatantly insinuated that some of those boys were partly responsible for the abuse. That, of course, is a typical reflex-type response to sexual assault victims, especially those who are male. Remember, in the bloodthirsty psyche that is American culture, males – even very young ones – are never supposed to be victims. Kos was sent to prison, and Grahmann remained bishop for another decade before resigning. He passed away recently.
As with serial killers, I often wonder how many victims of a pedophile remain hidden. Who else is out there who just didn’t have the courage and / or support to come forward and tell their story? Like I stated earlier, these matters aren’t easy to discuss. Going up against an outfit as powerful and affluent as the Roman Catholic Church is overwhelming and sometimes impossible. What the Church has done to distance itself from these crimes – and even discredit the victims, in some instances – is beyond abominable. Their actions are truly monstrous.
One thing I find curious, though, is that other people within individual parishes had become aware of the pedophilia (or whatever crimes were taking place) and chose to put their concerns in writing. They apparently tried to do something; to bring it to the attention of higher authorities within the institution. Yet, when nothing was done, what did those other people do? Were they so bound to the laws and regulations of the Church that they felt it could go no further? It had to stop there and then? It is against the law to fail to report child abuse. But, with the separation of church and state a building block of the United States, how is that to be handled?
I haven’t waited for either the Roman Catholic Church or the U.S. government to respond. I left the Church more than a quarter-century ago over its disrespectful behavior towards women who comprise more than half of the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics. Like its siblings, Judaism and Islam, Christianity is patriarchal at its core. A number of men within its environs had dared to say women should hold more leadership positions than head nun or head housekeeper. While other branches of Christianity have moved towards gender parity, the Roman Catholic Church remains unyielding. But the pedophile priest scandals that have exploded over the past several years solidified my decision to leave the Church in the dust of its own glittering arrogance. Shortly after the Boston fiasco, many wondered if the Church would survive the chaos. And I thought, who cares? The real question should be if the Church will admit not only that it has a serious problem in its ranks, but that it has been conducive to that problem.
I also have to be fair in that I know the majority of people who run the Church aren’t pedophiles or accessories after the fact. Most do try to uphold to the Church’s two millennia old principals that all humans are valuable and should be treated with respect. They work hard to ensure a safe community for everyone. When I think of those who embodied this dogma, I always think of Oscar Romero; the former archbishop in El Salvador who spoke out against the country’s dictatorial regime and was gunned down while performing mass in 1980. While Romero tried desperately to feed and clothe his parishioners in one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, his counterparts in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world were paying out millions in settlements because they didn’t want any bad press.
Yet, I now feel the Church has run its course. It’s done; it’s served its purpose. It no longer has the right or the power to dictate how people should live their lives. Indeed, it is wishful thinking on my part that the mighty Roman Catholic Church simply fold up and somehow melt into the rest of society. It has too strong of a grip on the world.
In the late 1930s, my paternal grandfather, a carpenter, landed an ideal contract with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas: build a new parochial school. My grandfather, Epimenio, had mixed feelings about the Church. Sometime before then, my grandmother had fallen ill, and my grandfather had called their local parish priest to ask for some money to take her to the doctor. When he arrived at the rectory, the grumpy old priest flung the few dollar bills at his feet.
“If this wasn’t for my wife,” my grandfather told him in Spanish, “I’d make you pick this up and hand it to me like a real man should.”
One afternoon, as my grandfather and some of his men were atop the newly-attached roof of the school, the bishop appeared at the construction site to survey the project. One of Epimenio’s employees immediately stopped what he was doing and began bowing, as was the custom at the time, upon seeing a high-ranking Catholic official. Bowing to the bishop while perched on a slanted roof of a 2-story structure.
“Pendejo!” Epimenio muttered to the man, a Spanish curse word whose closest (polite) translation is moron. “You’re going to roll off this roof and die when you hit the ground! Then the bishop is going to wonder what happened!”
That’s what I’m thinking now. The Roman Catholic Church seems to be marching itself into oblivion. Its acolytes are literally dying to keep it relevant. Can any of them see that?
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro releases the findings of a two-year grand jury investigation into clergy abuse at six of the state’s Roman Catholic Dioceses:
How could it still be so cold less than a month into spring? Snow flurries had fallen the day before, and they’d made Carla nervous. It reminded her of the dust cascading down from the blast last week.
Her heels clacked hard against the sidewalk. They’d told her downtown could be so impersonal, and she was glad. Hardly anyone noticed her. She kept her arms wrapped her torso, as tight as she could get them, with the band of her purse intertwined.
A heavy hand suddenly grabbed her left shoulder. It frightened her like nothing else; the mere thought of someone touching her. But it also angered her. She whirled around to see a husky, bearded man with wild eyes looking at her. How dare you touch me, she screamed silently. Her father had warned her about people like that. “What?!” she snapped.
“You almost stepped right into traffic,” the man said. That heavy hand gestured to the road. His eyes went from wild to a normal-looking bright.
“Oh…wow,” Carla finally muttered.
“Didn’t mean to grab you like that,” said the man.
“No, no! That’s okay.” He wasn’t one of those people from the beige-colored building, but he looked friendly nonetheless. Still, she remembered what her father had said: unless he knew who they were and had pointed them out to her, don’t trust them! And say nothing to them, beyond ‘thank you’ or ‘hi.’
She continued walking, growing increasingly leery of fellow pedestrians. When she strolled passed the federal building, she got the feeling someone was following her. She always had that feeling. It had started in grade school, when a gaggle of mean girls tormented her from the moment she arrived every morning until the moment she made it into her front yard. Then her father taught her how to throw a punch.
“Just roll up your fist like this,” he’d explained one evening after dinner.
Her mother got mad. “Teaching her to fight like an animal?!”
“No,” her father replied matter-of-factly, “teaching her to stand up for herself.”
One punch, one punch – right to the face. And that’s what Carla did to one of those girls. Just swung around and swiped her puny fist across the girl’s upper lip. Not enough to bruise it or cause it to bleed, but sharp enough to startle her. Startle both of them.
Yeah, somebody was following her. But she knew, once she passed the federal building, she was near her next destination. She slowed her gait and glanced around as much as her stiffened neck would allow. She came to another intersection and stopped, seeing the traffic well in advance. She didn’t want anyone grabbing her, or needing to grab her to save her from herself.
Damn this cold! Spring, spring! It’s supposed to be spring. The wind hustled past her. The cutting edge of it reminded her of the old house where she and her younger sister had grown up. A breeze would roll through it, if both the front door and back doors were open at the same time. It created a tunnel effect. Carla and her sister and other kids from the neighborhood loved to stand in the middle area when sharp winds hurtled over and – with those doors open – through the house.
Her father liked it also and sometimes would stand with them and pretend the wind was too much for him; fake-slamming into the walls and onto the floor, yelling, “Help me!”
But they were the only ones. Her mother hollered about the electricity bill and yelled about the childishness of it all.
“You’re all acting silly!” her mother groused.
“But, mama, we’re having fun,” Carla would say, trying to rationalize.
“Stop acting so stupid!”
If she only knew how bad that word hurt, Carla snarled into her pillow. ‘Stupid.’ Her mother never liked to do things just for fun. But her father was different. He was whimsical and free-spirited. He could actually make her mother laugh – at times.
She stopped at Elm and Pacific, the northeast corner, looking south towards the Indian deli – just as she’d been told. She turned to her left and saw a woman slightly taller than her, wearing a police-style uniform with her hair pulled tightly back into corn rows.
Carla shuddered. She glanced at the upper left side of woman’s torso and saw the name on the bronze-colored badge: Jamal. Carla exhaled.
As the woman got closer, Carla began, “Are you – ?”
The woman silenced her with an upraised hand.
Oh yeah, she recalled. No questions. She felt embarrassed.
“They’ve found them, Carla,” the Jamal woman muttered. “The police are there already. Our man watched them. You did take the bottles with you – right?”
“Yes – of course. Into the dumpster on Turtle Creek – beside Cody’s.”
“Good.” Jamal smiled reassuringly.
Carla grinned, but she was beaming deep inside. Her father would be so proud. With each step, she believed more and more her father had been right. ‘Who says a low IQ means you’re too stupid to do anything?’
“You know where to go now, right?” Jamal asked.
“Yes, to the –”
Another upraised hand. “As long as you know.”
“Good. We’ll see you later,” she added with a smile. She wheeled around and hopped into the gray SUV – all so effortlessly and in a split second.
These people move and speak so fast, Carla mused with the same degree of wonder she’d had from the beginning. Entering that beige-colored building two years ago had intimidated her like nothing else. If her father hadn’t been with her, she would have screamed at the sight of the burly man and small woman with over-sized glasses at the front counter. They were genuinely scary! But the folks in the back were much different. Much kinder and soft-spoken – a lot like her father.
“How long have you known these people, daddy?” she asked, gripping his left forearm.
“A long time,” he quietly replied. “They’ve been good to us – to our entire family. They’re good to everyone who’s good to them. But you have to be good, too, you know. Understand?”
Carla looked at her watch – 2:54 p.m. – and strolled to the huge electronics store further down on Elm. She still couldn’t believe the number of people rushing about in downtown Dallas.
The training sessions had tested her ability to remain aloof and constrained in the midst of such human traffic. The heavy noises had bothered her more than anything. Enough to make the trainers question their selection.
But that’s when Carla’s mother (of all people) jumped into the mess – inherently jeopardizing the relationship they had with the group – and pulled her away for a few moments.
“Remember what I said about all those people? Remember?”
“Yes,” Carla replied meekly after a few terrifying seconds. Her mother – usually loud and intrusive – had vowed to stay in the background throughout the entire training procedure and let Carla’s father serve as liaison with the trainers.
“What was it I said?” her other queried.
“Just don’t talk to anybody. And don’t stare.”
“Yes, exactly!” Her mother smiled, which she rarely did. “Good Carla.”
The second trial run made Carla realize she could truly remain aloof and discreet; allowing her to move unnoticed from point A to point B without interacting with somebody. A third and fourth run solidified the group’s trust in her.
The snow flurries had stopped falling. Carla entered the electronics store and ambled to the pre-paid cell phone rack. Model A42997: it was almost hidden towards the back of the spindle. Paying with cash, she hurried back outside and found a shadowy overhead. Sticking her left forefinger into her purse allowed her to see the code embedded in the lavender fingernail polish: 990Y23L17. She input that reference into the phone’s text box and waited.
“This is Paula,” answered the woman’s voice.
“This Ms. C496233.” Oddly, remembering all those codes was easier than remembering which way was north and which was south.
“Hi, Carla,” Paula replied. “How’s your hand?”
She knew she had the right person. “It’s okay.”
Carla had been nervous about Paula at first. But her father told her it was just another test. “It’s just one of those things called a coincidence,” he said.
Paula had been the name of her kindergarten teacher; the one who said she was “too stupid to know day from night.”
“Paula, la pendeja,” her father had said one evening at home.
“¡Callarse!” her mother had shouted back. (Shut up!)
Carla didn’t speak Spanish – then or now – and she certainly didn’t know why her father felt compelled to silence the teacher with a shotgun blast to the head late one Saturday night. Sitting in the back seat of their old Buick, Carla became mesmerized by the sight of the brilliant neon lights slathered all over a part of town she’d never seen before. “Stay down, girls,” her father ordered her and her younger sister, Andrea.
Carla peered above the rim of the window and was startled by the sight of a large group of women stumbling out of a building; all of them wearing very short dresses and skirts and very high-heeled shoes.
“There she is,” the girls heard their father mumble. “Paula, la pendeja.” They were parked across the street from the building. He picked up what Carla later realized was a shotgun and pointed the tip out the window. “Cover your ears, girls!”
They did as ordered. But the loud boom still echoed through their heads and made them shriek.
The screaming from the crowd of women overwhelmed them instantly.
Carla’s father slowly pulled out of the parking lot and onto a street in the opposite direction.
“What happened, daddy?” Carla asked.
“Don’t worry about it. You girls want some ice cream when we get home?”
“Yes!” the screamed in unison. Carla glanced back and wondered what those words above the doorway to that building meant: B-E-E-R and D-A-N-C-I-N-G.
She still didn’t know what they meant. But she wasn’t thinking about them now. Paula on the phone instructed her where to go next.
“The furniture store two blocks down on Elm. The one with the big clock hanging outside the front door. Remember?”
The word ‘good’ meant so much to her. It was actually everything. It told her she was doing things right. Outside the furniture store, she again found herself beneath some shade and stuck her right forefinger into her purse. The code on the fingernail read, 990Y23L18. Just one number different. But the text didn’t produce another call on the phone.
Instead a picture displayed.
She recognized it: a large house; different from the other one. It was the mayor’s house. The last house had belonged to someone called an attorney. “He’s a lawyer who works for the city,” her father had told her. “He’s bad, too. Like Paula, la pendeja.”
This person, the mayor, was another bad one, the people from the beige building had told her. Once she got there, they said, her job was done. Done for now. If she handled this one right, they’d give her a bigger job. Bigger jobs – done right – meant more clothes and more music.
She boarded the bus, number 359, at Elm and Akard. It took her to the Bishop Arts section south of downtown where she found another deli; this one an Italian place.
The young woman in a blue coat met her at the doorway. “Ms. C?”
“Ms. C496233,” Carla announced.
“Good! I’m Brittany. Let’s eat.”
They entered the deli and found a booth off to the side. Brittany ordered for both of them. They ate mostly in silence, before Brittany pulled a soft drink can out of her purse. “Remember what this is?”
“Yes – soda.”
“Good. Now, on to the house.” Brittany followed Carla into the bathroom, and then they left the diner.
Carla got onto another bus at Zang and Bennett and arrived at the Arthur Court neighborhood; actually two blocks from it. The residents of those monster houses didn’t want the buses coming too close to their gated estates, Carla’s father had told her. She didn’t understand why. “Everyone takes the bus!”
“Most everyone,” her father had corrected.
She still didn’t know what the problem was, but she couldn’t bother with it at the moment. Brittany had put the soda can into a box and sealed it up. Along with the mayor’s name and address, the letters ‘T-O B-E O-P-E-N-E-D B-Y A-D-D-R-E-S-S-E-E O-N-L-Y’ were printed in several spots around the front of the box. Like so many sets of letters she’d seen, Carla didn’t know what they meant. But, as instructed, she didn’t ask questions about them. The drawing beside what her father had told her was the return address piqued her curiosity, though: a blue-tinted dome atop an otherwise flat-roofed building that had what appeared to be several columns lined up in front of it. She didn’t recognize the name on that return address, Senator somebody.
“A senator is a very important person,” her father had told her. “Not too important that we can’t get rid of them.”
“Okay,” Carla answered. Her father always knew what he was talking about. She barely trusted the people from the beige-colored building. But, when her father said they were okay, she felt safe with them. They always had to talk with him first – in private.
Carla arrived at the tiny building in front of a gigantic set of wrought-iron gates and handed the package to the little man wearing a police-type uniform inside. He studied it for a minute or so and then said, “Oh, okay.” He grabbed a clipboard from the desk behind him. “Sign here,” he added, giving her a pen.
She signed the name, ‘M.S. Carl.’
“Say nothing else and do nothing else,” her father had ordered her. “Absolutely nothing. Do you understand me?”
“Of course, Daddy.”
“Thank you,” the little man in the little building grumbled.
“Thank you,” Carla responded brightly. She could say that much – only that much.
That night, after her parents had treated Carla to dinner at her favorite restaurant, she spoke briefly with her sister and the latter’s two young children.
“Say nothing about what you’ve been doing,” her mother warned her – as usual.
Carla’s sister always tried to cull information from her; more than just, ‘How was school?’ or ‘What did you have for lunch today?’
Afterwards, Carla plopped down onto her favorite spot on a couch in the den, the family’s two corgis curling up on the floor nearby.
“Well, would you look at that,” her father muttered at the TV.
The local news was awash with terror. A frazzled reporter stood outside, her stringy hair whipping uncontrollably in the wind. Behind her Carla could see a small building and a set of gates that looked familiar.
“I’ve been there!” she suddenly said.
Her parents turned to her. “Ay, Carla!” her mother scolded.
“Don’t say anything!”
She looked at her father.
“No – don’t say anything,” he repeated.
“Oh – okay,” Carla finally said. She hated when her mother snapped at her like that. But what could she do? She turned to the dogs. They simultaneously rolled over, fighting for her ticklish fingers.
“…the explosion ripped through the house. Officials say both the mayor and her personal assistant were present and critically injured.”
Carla glanced to the TV for a few seconds. She recognized the reporter’s voice. But she became too consumed with the dogs.
“Reports that they were killed have not been substantiated. We need to emphasize: NOT substantiated.”
She heard her father sigh heavily, before he muttered – loud enough for her to hear – “Good Carla.”
The dogs were too important for anything else now.
Cleanup has begun from the massive storm system that rolled through the Dallas / Fort Worth metropolitan area yesterday afternoon, generating heavy rain and wind and spawning a number of tornadoes. Amazingly there have been no reports of serious injuries or deaths. Here’s just a sampling of the tempests and the damage left in their wake.
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, a series of tremendous storms passed over Northeast Texas, hitting the Dallas / Ft. Worth metropolitan area particularly hard. The video below is actual footage of a tornado plowing through a truck yard in Hutchens, just south of Dallas, lifting up many of the trailers like balsa wood. I actually saw this live on CNN earlier today. Some 240 flights at DFW International Airport were cancelled. Fortunately, no one was critically injured, and no deaths have been reported yet. Nothing humbles a person like the power of nature!
The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge over the Trinity River. Designed by Spanish engineer Santiago Calatrava, the bridge links downtown Dallas to predominantly Hispanic West Dallas. It opened this past weekend with much fanfare and hope for a brighter future. Another bridge is planned across the Trinity River, but further east where it swoops southward; it’ll link downtown Dallas to predominantly Black South Dallas. Ah hah! I see a connection!
As you might have guessed from the title of my blog, I’m a genuine dog lover. My parents and I owned a German shepherd many years and, even though we had to put him to sleep in 1985, we still remember him fondly. I feel I saved my current dog from what could have been an unhappy life, when an ex-roommate and I agreed I’d take the puppy. It remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. There’s nothing like a dog! I hate to see dogs – or any animals – suffer because of human neglect and stupidity. Animal lovers just don’t understand of course. But, most of them are idiots anyway, so I don’t care what they think. It’s obvious that, in a city as populous as Dallas, there’d be countless cases of animal trauma – and animal hoarding. This extraordinary editorial that appeared recently in the truly independent Dallas Observer highlights the problems the city faces with dog hoarders.