Dan Morales’ lawsuit was settled but my troubles were not over. I had a Coadjutor Bishop, Bishop Roberto Gonzalez, who did not understand that he was no different from an auxiliary bishop except that he had the right to succeed me when I retired. He was constantly trying to usurp my authority. For example, when I went on vacation he fired several of the chancery employees. He did not have the power to hire or fire anyone and when I returned from vacation I had to rehire the people he had fired. I began to worry about what he would do to the Diocese after I retired and he succeeded me, my worries proved to be well founded
I had bought some land in the Hill Country and created Camp Corpus Christi as a place for young Catholics with or without their families could go for a vacation. Some of the poorer families never took vacations because they could not afford to do so. Every summer we had a week at the Camp devoted to all the altar boys in the Diocese. I would go to the Camp and spend the week with the altar boys. It was a great experience for me and it was a valuable means of promoting vocations to the priesthood.
In the first summer Bishop Roberto was in the Diocese I suggested to him that he should go spend the week with the altar boys at Camp Corpus Christi. He agreed to do so. When he came back after the week I asked him, “How was the week?” He replied, “It was the worst week of my life!”
I was close to celebrating my 74th birthday and I realized that in just one more year I would be 75 years old and on my 75th Birthday I would be required to submit to the Pope a letter of resignation. The more I thought about it the more I questioned why I should wait a year to do it. I was mentally and physically exhausted from the Kenedy lawsuit, the attacks by the bishops, other ‘slip and fall’ lawsuits and now the daily problems created for me by my Coadjutor. I decided that I would ask the Pope to let me retire a year early. I wrote to Pope John Paul II and asked him for permission to retire. He granted me permission and so on April Fools Day, April 1, 1997, I retired.
My worst fears about Bishop Roberto were soon realized. He closed Camp Corpus Christi and began closing different chancery offices such as the Office of Evangelization, the Office of Pro-life Activities and others. It was a disaster. Many of the programs that I had started that were successful were now shut down. Some people were comparing him to Attila the Hun laying waste the countryside. Thank God the Diocese of Corpus Christi was spared further damage when, after just two years as Ordinary, Pope John Paul II promoted Bishop Roberto to be the Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is not the place to recount all that happened in San Juan after he became its Archbishop. Suffice it to say that he has been the subject of an Apostolic Visitation and has been asked by the Holy See to resign.
I had moved out of the big house occupied by the bishops of Corpus Christi and had moved in 1992 into the little frame house across the street on the bayshore built by Bishop Drury for his retirement. The house was on Diocesan property and belonged to the Diocese. There I was relatively isolated from the chaos that was taking place in the Diocese but even being that close, across the street from the bishop’s house, was too close.
I had been thinking all along about what I might do after I retired. I looked around at all of the bishops who had retired ahead of me andd realized that many of them were vegetating, i.e. they were rapidly declining mentally and physically because they did not have enough mental challenges or physical activity to keep them in shape. In reflecting on my own situation I decided that since during the fourteen years I had served as President of the Kenedy Foundation I had had to review the operations of the Foundation’s cattle tenant on the 235,000 acre Kenedy Ranch I had been exposed to a lot of the workings of a cattle ranch. Our tenant ran 10,000 head of cattle on the ranch. It was important for me to visit the ranch frequently to help our ranch manager make important decisions affecting our tenant. Therefore, I decided I would start a little ranch of my own.
Since I had been exposed to the actual workings of a cattle ranch but had little scientific knowledge about ranching, as soon as I retired I enrolled as a student at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas, in the Beef Science Program. After having spent 32 years from 1927 to 1959 sitting behind a desk (except for the war years) in a classroom this would not be a new experience for me. By the end of the summer of 1997 I graduated with a Certificate in Beef Management Science and was ready to start my ranch.
I bought 80 acres just east of Mathis, Texas, just forty-five minutes by car from my house in Corpus Christi to the ranch. I named the ranch Rancho Milagro because I felt it was sort of a miracle that at my age I was able to even think about being a rancher. I bought a mobile home and put it on the ranch. I bought six cows and a bull. Over the next fourteen years I increased the acreage of the ranch to 240 acres, ran 100 cattle, 100 sheep, 25 chickens, 3 geese, 8 guinea fowl, 10 goats, four dogs and a cat. I bought a very large tractor, cultivated my hayfield, hired a neighbor to cut and bale my hay and then I moved and stacked 150 large round bales of hay weighing 1,000 pounds each summer. I vaccinated my animals, fed them, nursed them when they got sick and hauled them to the auction barn when they were ready to be sold.
I loved the rural life, the life of a rancher. I loved the animals and most of all I loved the solitude. I guess that that was one thing I missed very much after I left Saint Vincent Archabbey. I could go out on my deck at night and sit and pray and count the stars. Being out in the country one can see stars one never knew existed because on the ranch there were no city lights to interfere with viewing the heavens.
I did not retreat from my responsibilities as a bishop, now no longer an ordinary, to minister to God’s people. I accepted every invitation to speak, to celebrate Liturgies and to minister anyway I could. I had satellite internet servvice and I began to blog and soon had a large number of people corresponding with me with some asking for spiritual direction. In addition, I began to become involved in pro-life activities that did not involve the Diocese. For example, in 2005 Texas Right to Life asked me to host a Symposium on Brain Death at a hotel in Corpus Christi. I did and it resulted in a ‘conversion,’ not of faith but of a change of focus in my fight to protect innocent human life. From 1971 until 2005 all my energy in fighting for greater respect for the sanctity of innocent human life was focused on the unborn child, now my focus would also be on end-of-life issues.
The Roe v Wade decision gave impetus to my work as Chairman of the Commission for Pro-life Activities of the Province of Miami. My experience in the Province of Miami and in the Diocese of Pennsacola-Tallahassee, my participation in the Annual March for Life in Washington, my deep friendship with Nellie Gray, the founder of the National March for Life who was from Corpus Christi, all this fighting of abortion paid off when I became Bishop of Corpus Christi. As I have written, by organizing The Body of Christ Rescue and excommunicating the three abortionists the City of Corpus Christi has become abortion-free.
I had followed with great interest the cases of Nancy Quilan, Terri Schiavo and Nancy Cruzan and I was shocked by the public support that Bishop Robert Lynch of Saint Petersburg, Florida gave to the efforts of the husband of XXXX to obtain a court order that was the direct cause of her death. Terry was reported to have been insured for $250,000 and her death probably enriched someone. I was learning that the assault on the human lives of critically ill people can be traced in many instances to human greed. That the love of money is the root of all evil was being proved to be involved in more and more end-of-life cases. I began to become very active in end-of-life issues, not because I was approaching the end of my own life, which I look forward to with joyful expectation, but rather because when innocent human life is attacked, whether through abortion, infanticide, murder, unjust administration of the death penalty, passive or active euthanasia, the issue is still the same: the unjust taking of innocent human life.
I owe my education in understanding end-of-life issues to a number of holy, intelligent, brave men and women who patiently led me to understand all the factors that produced and continue to promote the “Third Path” of euthanasia. Here are the principle individuals: Dr. Paul Byrne, Neurosurgeon, Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life, Kassi Dee Marks an Appellate Attorney, Elizabeth Wickham, Publisher of LifeTree.org, Julie Grimstad, blogger, Ione Whitlock Publisher of BelburyReview.com, Francette Meaney, Founder of Birthright of Corpus Christi, Sister Anne Sophie, Foundress of The Society of the Body of Christ and Judy Brown, President of the American Life League.
My retirement activity was now to shift from ranching to fighting the forces of the “Third Path” and my fighting would once again bring me into conflict with the bishops of Texas.