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1972: A Dangerous Time to be a

Catholic Kid in Houston

In 1972 the Diocese of Galveston-Houston celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding. To honor the occasion, the diocese published a book, “Changing Times The Story of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston in Commemoration of its Founding.”

 

The book, written by Robert C. Giles and published by Bishop John L. Morkovsky, tells the history of the diocese within the perspective of the history of the State of Texas.


Bishop Wendolin Nold and Bishop John L. Morkovsky each contributed a forward for the book.

Photo Credit: Siobhan Fleming, PhD

Galveston-Houston: Two Bishops, One Eye

The anniversary book recounts in the biography of Bishop Nold that, "darkness covered him September 8, 1962," meaning he lost his sight. Not many people remember that the diocese had not one, but two Bishops from 1963 to 1975. In 1963, Bishop Morkovsky, ordinary of the Diocese of Amarillo, was installed as apostolic administrator and coadjutor of Galveston-Houston with the right of succession to Bishop Nold. However, Nold did not retire until 1975.

 

Author Jo Scott-Coe spent six years researching a priest on the credibly accused list (Rev. Leduc) and the (then) Diocese of Galveston-Houston resulting in her book, MASS: A Sniper, a Father, and a Priest.  In it Scott-Coe described the assault that caused Bishop Morkovsky to lose an eye in 1974 after an alleged botched robbery. Of the two bishops, one was blind and the other had lost an eye - leading one of Scott-Coe's interview subjects to share the description of Houston's apostolic leadership as, "two bishops, one eye."

The practice of having a coadjutor bishop is not uncommon. In fact, Bishop Nold himself was consecrated coadjutor Bishop of Galveston in 1948 during Bishop Byrne’s reign. But Nold’s tenure as coadjutor lasted only two years until Bishop Byrne died in April 1950 whereas Morkovsky and Nold worked side-by-side for 12 years.

Photo Credit: Siobhan Fleming, PhD

Photo Credit: Siobhan Fleming, PhD

Milestones

In addition to describing the Bishops of Galveston-Houston, the book also notes milestone events like the 1966 visit of Cardinal Josef Beran from Prague, Czechoslovakia who blessed St. Mary’s Seminary and henceforth had the library there named after him.

Another milestone noted was the the ordination of the first African-American in 1968, Rev. Clifton Ransom, who was featured with a photo of his ordination (Fr. Ransom subsequently left the priesthood in 1974ish and married).

The book features very few photos of pastors at their assigned church – Rev. Christopher Martin was one shown outside the church to which he had been assigned for more than 30 years: Holy Cross in Bay City (Fr. Martin would be included on the 2019 list of clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing children).

If Only We Knew Then What We Know Now

Perhaps the most interesting information in the book is the directory of active priests in 1972. Although the anniversary book does not include the parish to which the priests were assigned, many of the names are familiar because the priests are included in the list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor released by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston on January 31, 2019.

Photo Credit: Siobhan Fleming, PhD

Photo Credit: Siobhan Fleming, PhD

Photo Credit: Siobhan Fleming, PhD

Half of the priests named on the 2019 list were active in 1972. 

The list of credibly accused clergy includes 40 names with an additional two who are under investigation. Seventeen of those priests and four who were seminarians in 1972 were active at Houston parishes.

Photo Credit: Siobhan Fleming, PhD

Where Were They?

Archival documents and directories show that in 1972 the pedophiles were assigned to parishes across the city--there are no apparent geographic preferences or patterns. The parishes to which they were assigned are distributed across the city and across socioeconomic lines.

Here is a summary of the 1972 statuses of the priests on the 2019 credibly accused list (and see table below map for more information):

1 was deceased.

17 were active in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston.

4 were at St. Mary’s Seminary Houston, about to be ordained in 1972-1974, and were active in area parishes.

2 had already been “removed from ministry” -- Luis De Francisco (removed in 1960) and William Jimenez, (removed 1959). Emphasis on the quotes for sarcasm because DeFrancisco was alleged by the ADGH to have been removed from Ministry in 1960, but the 1961 OCD shows him the Diocese of El Paso and in the 1962 OCD he was active in the Diocese of Amarillo with none other than the author of this very anniversary book, John L. Morkovsky as Bishop of Amarillo. And then in 1963 he was sent to the unsuspecting Catholics in San Diego, whose children he also sexually abused.

5 had not yet been assigned to Galveston-Houston but were active in other dioceses (shown on map below).

1 retired: Joseph Tully. He returned to his native Illinois after being sent to DGH "On Sick Leave" to assist in Galveston and Beaumont parishes from 1953-1968.

1 had previously been in Galveston-Houston for 20 years, but was transferred in 1962, only to return in 1980 (O’Loughlin).

11 were not yet ordained.

Click the image below to view a google map showing the parish, university, seminary, city or country where the priests on the 2019 credibly accused list were in 1972. Zoom in and out for more assignments.

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Google Maps Diocesan Assignments 1972 created by Siobhan Fleming, PhD