Lawsuits were a daily preoccupation for me as Bishop of Corpus Christi. Some of the big ones were connected with the Kenedy Foundation but the majority of them involved slips and falls, workman’s compensation and the like. When I was Bishop in Florida, Catholics never sued the Church. Now in Texas it seemed that a lot of people, perhaps influenced by all the publicity about the great wealth of the Kenedy Foundation, decided to get rich at the Church’s expense. The only problem was that the wealth of the Kenedy Foundation was not the wealth of the Diocese; while the Diocese benefited from grants from the Foundation along with most of the other Dioceses of Texas, a successful lawsuit against the Diocese would hurt the Diocese and not affect the Foundation in any way.
In the fourteen years I was Bishop of Corpus Christi I only had to contend with one accusation of pedophilia against a priest. The parents of a boy accused Father Jesus Garcia of having sodomized their son. Immediately after the parents made their complaint in my office I launched an investigation. Father Garcia vehemently denied the charge; the boy testified that Father never touched him, the District Attorney refused to prosecute. Because of the months of bad publicity fostered by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the TV stations, I told Father Garcia that he would no longer be effective as a pastor in the Diocese and I suggested that he return to his native Spain. I wrote a letter of recommendation for him and he returned to Spain where the Archbishop of Madrid appointed him pastor of a Madrid parish where he still ministers to this day.
In addition to all the grief lawsuits caused me in 1991 I became estranged from the majority of the my fellow bishops in Texas over a moral question. Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, Bishop of Galveston-Houston, invited the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Boston to establish a branch office in Houston. The branch office was opened and Father Albert S. Moraczewski, O.P. (the founding President of the NCBC) was appointed its director. He probably suggested to Archbishop Fiorenza that the Office should make a big splash in the news in order to announce its creation. Accordingly he set to work writing a statement on the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration from comatose patients. I had acquired a reputation as being theologically conservative among the bishops of Texas by that time. I received in the mail, from the Archbishop’s office, a document identified as “Draft No. 8″ of the Statement of the Bishops of Texas on the Withdrawal of Nutrition and Hydration From Comatose Patients.” I had not received any of the preceding seven drafts. I read the Statement and was angry, not only because I had been kept out of the loop as the Statement was being developed, but because of the heterodox nature of the moral reasoning behind the Statement. The Statement called for the withdrawal of of nutrition and hydration, not just from terminally ill or dying patients but from all PVS patients, i.e. from all patients in a permanent vegetative state. The problem was that there have been too many cases where a ‘permanent” vegetative state proved to be a temporary vegetative state and if nutrition and hydration had been pulled from those patients it would have killed them.
I wrote a strong critique of Draft No. 8 and sent it to all the bishops of Texas. No one replied to my critique. Shortly after that we had a meeting of the Province and Draft No. 8 was adopted as a Statement of the Bishops of Texas, but not by all the bishops of Texas, Bishop Bernard Ganter and I voted against the adoption of the Statement. Shortly after that the newspaper of the Diocese of Dallas, the editor of which I had fired as the editor of the newspaper of the Diocese of Corpus Christi because of his extreme liberal editing of the paper, published a big expose of me as having dissented from a teaching of the Bishops of Texas, no mention was made of Bishop Ganter’s vote against the adoption of the Statement. The Dallas Diocesan papers story was picked up by NC News Service and spread all across the United States and I acquired a reputation as a dissenter. I did not want people to think of me in the same way they thought of the dissenters from Humanae Vitae, so I wrote a detailed dissent from the Statement and published it in my own Diocesan paper. Naturally, my published dissent was ignored by the media.
Shortly thereafter I attended a meeting of the NCCB Prolife Activities Committee, of which I was one of seven bishop members, and I moved that the Committee should issue a statement contradicting the stand taken by the bishops of Texas. The Committee approved my motion and Cardinal O’Connor appointed me and Bishop Donald L. Trautman of Eirie, Pennsylvania to write the statement. We did and submitted it at the next meeting of the Committee. Cardinal O’Connor felt that we should consult with the Holy See before issuing the statement so he sent it to Cardinal Ratzinger at the CDF in Rome. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote back that we should publish the statement but that we could not say that he approved it since the Holy See had not yet formally studied the subject. We published it. The bishops of Pennsylvnia and the Bishops of Florida soon issued their own statements that mirrored what I had written and fourteen years later, in 2004, Pope John Paul II in an address to the Pontifical Commission of Life said basically the same thing that I had said in my dissent from the Statement of the bishops of Texas. It was a Pyrrhic victory for me however; my relations with most of the bishops of Texas plummeted. The bishops of Texas have never retracted their Statement and I doubt that they will ever forgive me for my dissent. My relations with them only got worse as the 1990’s progressed, as you will see!
On a positive note. If I may be allowed to boast, I will boast about a legal victory. This time as President of the Kenedy Foundation. In 1985 Gary Mauro, the Land Commissioner of the State of Texas awarded petroleum leases on 35,000 acres of land belonging to the Kenedy Foundation. Those acres bordered the inter-coastal canal and had been subject to flooding during hurricanes. Mauro claimed that they were tidal flats and belonged to the State of Texas. The Kenedy Foundation filed suit to prevent him from collecting royalties from the oil companies and denying his claim that the land was tidal. The lawsuit dragged on for six years through the district court, the apellate court and on to the Texas Supreme Court. All the courts upheld Mauro’s claim even though we showed that the tides in the Laguna Madre were less than 12 inches, not enough to cover the land. If Mauro’s victory in the courts had been allowed to stand the property rights of all owners of coastal property from Brownsville to the Louisiana border would have been in jeopardy. We appealed to the Texas Supreme Court for a rehearing of the case and we won; the Court said that the decision of the Court in 1954 in the Case of Humble Oil v Texas (the Gardner decision) was decisive and the land belonged to the Foundation. The foundation collected over $5,000,000 in royalties that had been held in escrow by the courts.
Bishop Drury had applied to the Federal Communications Commission for a permit for the Diocese to own and operatea low-power FM station in Corpus Christi. He retired before the FCC acted on his application. The permit was granted after I became Bishop of Corpus Christi and I built a telecommunications center to house the FM station which I named KLUX, incorporating the Latin word lux which means “light”; I wanted the station to be Christ’s light on the world. We also created TV production facilities and began to tape programs to be shown on public television and commercial stations. I applied for another permit to build a low-power FM station in Laredo while Laredo was still part of the Diocese. I named the station in Laredo KHOY, hoy being the Spanish word for “today.” We also built a TV production facility in Laredo equal to the one in Corpus Christi. Both stations have become powerful means of evangelization in South Texas and, in the case of KHOY in Mexico. KLUX has been linked to the world on the intenet and now can be listened to any place on earth.