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A commenter asks: why is Dallas so politically conservative, but not so much Church-wise? October 14, 2013

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, General Catholic, secularism, silliness, Society, the return, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.

A great question.  I’m not sure I have a clear answer.  I am a native of Dallas. I have lived here 37 of my 42 years.  I spent 4 years in Austin and most of a year in Idaho (which, I really don’t recommend, especially eastern Idaho – sorry), other than that, I’ve been here my entire life.  In reality, though, I’ve only lived in Dallas proper for 3 adult years. The rest of my life has been in the northern suburbs.  That is one quick Dallas_Cathedral_pre1959distinction.  Dallas is a big city, with a substantial “inner city.”  That inner city, like all of them, is not conservative at all.  But the Diocese itself, which encompasses 9 counties in north central Texas, is overwhelmingly politically – and more importantly, socially – conservative.  Especially in the suburbs and rural areas, where the conservativism tends towards the “hard right” variety.  There are a lot of politically active people, too.

So, the commenter wants to know, how can Dallas as a Diocese be known for both the political conservativism of its people and yet have a reputation, even nationally, as something of a liberal Diocese?  I would say, first of all, these matters are all relative.  Dallas is certainly no Lincoln, but it’s not an LA or San Antonio, either.  Fort Worth Diocese exists in almost an identical social milieu and yet it seems to be, or has a reputation for being, more conservative as a Diocese. And yet, there is no permanent TLM parish in FW.  So, maybe reputations are unfair.

But let’s assume the commenter is correct, that Dallas is on the moderate to moderately liberal side.  How could the Diocese, in terms of priests, staff, and thCAL5H31Dleadership be at odds with the social and political views of the people who comprise it?  I think we need to look at the political aspect as possibly specious – the Church is not a political organization.  But socially, if there were some magic scale that could measure one’s liberalism or conservativism, it’s quite possible that many priests and staff would come out to the left of the people in the pews.

Here I’d like to introduce a curve ball.  The people of Dallas aren’t conservative at all.  In fact, compared to the constant belief and practice of the Faith, the vast majority of the residents of the Diocese, Catholic or not, are profoundly liberal, and, historically, radical. Even the most wildly right wing TEA partier from Van Alstyne is very likely, in the traditional Catholic sense, a raging liberal.  Why, how?  Well, because they probably accept, without question, all kinds of practices that are either difficult to reconcile with traditional Catholic theology and piety (the entire conception of liberalism, individual rights, religious “freedom,” etc) or are simply out and out immoral (contraception, fornication, liberal divorce and remarriage, etc).

The entire country and almost the entire world is gone over to this calamitous stuff.  Whether your Diocese is Lincoln or LA, none are truly traditional in the Catholic sense, although I hear Lincoln comes somewhat close (I really have no idea).  The difference, today, between a Procession2“liberal” diocese such as Tuscon, and a “conservative one” like Denver, is really not very meaningful, in comparison to the recent Catholic past.  Denver today is far, far more liberal, even radical, in some of its beliefs and practices, than it was 60 or 70 years ago. As is Dallas, New York, Westminster, Miami, Santa Rosa, Baker, and on down the line, around the world.

I think whether a Diocese has a reputation, in the current day sense, for conservatism or liberalism just comes down simply to leadership and the vagaries of episcopal appointments*.  Dallas at one time was actually known to be more on the conservative side, for an American diocese.  Bishop Gorman was quite conservative, and his predecessors even more so.  But I don’t think it unfair to say that both of his two successors, Thomas Tschoepe and Charles Grahman, were on the progressive side.  So, that right there would mean 40+ years of fairly progressive leadership. Coupled with the great changes in belief and practice introduced in the Church at that same time (Bishop Gorman retired in 1969, and not a moment too soon for him, I understand!), though, it’s hard to know what role episcopal leadership played, in reality.  It could be that the result would have been the same had virtually anyone else, outside of a Castro 3277559806_b33614edf7_zde Meyer (yes, I’m being provocative) or even a Fabian Bruskewitz been bishop. The commenter is correct, however, in noting that both of the at least somewhat progressive Tschoepe and Grahman were deeply implicated in the priestly pederasty scandal.  But I believe that to be more of a sympton, than a cause.

Having an even somewhat liberal, progressive, or “spirit of Vatican II” leadeship over a period of decades could influence the course of the Diocese in all manner of ways.  First of all, men of a like mind were more likely to be accepted into the seminary, and, more importantly, ordained. I have heard so many stories from faithful men in this Diocese who were one time seminarians. They all share the same horror stories.  A progressive or progressive-leaning seminary turning out progressive or progressive-leaning priests is sure to have an enormous impact.  Perhaps those dioceses with a reputation for being conservative simply had a more conservative/orthodox seminary.  But that, too, would really depend on the outlook of the bishop.

I’m really just scattershooting. I may get in trouble for posting this, I don’t know. I’m very interested to hear the thoughts of others who reside in the Diocese.  I’m not sure I’ve said very much that is cogent or relevant – as I said, it’s a very difficult question.  There is actually a great deal of subtlety in these matters – sometimes, a priest or bishop with a reputation for being progressive will take some action that appears to dramatically cut against that reputation, and vice versa.  Another important point is that, in all of this, everything is relative. One person’s raging traddy is another person’s liberal.  I have had this phenomenon highlighted for me of late.

*But even that is no sure guide. Bishop Robert Vasa is known to be one of the most conservative prelates in the US.  But he was, for some inexplicable reason (perhaps to rein in his conservatism?) assigned to one of the most liberal places in the country, Santa Rosa, CA, in the heart of the uber-progressive northern California whine country. So, is Santa Rosa now “conservative,” even by current day American Church standards?  Not at all. In fact, Bishop Vasa suffered a huge defeat with his attempt to get teachers in the Catholic schools to attest to their fealty to the Catholic faith, something he accomplished in his previous Diocese of Baker without much trouble.  But how conservative, or more importantly, traditional, is Bishop Vasa, anyways?  You can read in great depth about his history at Dr. Jay Boyd’s great blog for many insights into that question.


Some other interesting things I learned while researching this post:

Bishop Joseph Lynch holds the record for the longest serving American prelate at over 43 years.

The Diocese of Lincoln has 160 priests for a Catholic population of just under 100,000.  That equals one priest for every 625 Catholics, a great ratio in today’s terms, but historically, a bit higher than desirable.  By comparison, Dallas has 208 priests for what I was amazed to learn in the Diocesan newspaper is now 1.2 million Catholics (and increase of 100,000 in a year?).  That comes down to almost 5800 Catholics per priest. The pastoral implications of this ratio are staggering.

The high number of priests – which is shared by most of the dioceses that have a reputation for “conservatism” – is attributed by most sources to doctrinal orthodoxy.  Traditional Catholic piety + doctrinal orthodoxy (with a healthy dose of the TLM) = large numbers of vocations.

In addition, the Diocese of Lincoln has only 5 deacons, 3 permanent and 2 transitional.  Dallas has 160 deacons.  Interesting.



1. Kevin Shook (@DFWSHOOK) - October 14, 2013

I wouldn’t say that Dallas is conservative politically. Obama beat Romney 403K to 294K.

tantamergo - October 14, 2013

Note, I said city of Dallas is not conservative. But the Diocese? Overwhelmingly conservative. Also bear in mind, the population of Dallas proper is heavily African American.

Kevin Shook (@DFWSHOOK) - October 15, 2013

I know, it was more of a remark on the intial comments you received that kicked this entry off. And to echo MFG’s comments – I moved here in 1986 from Oregon and I was immediately surprised by the number of adult entertainment businesses located in the “Buckle of the Bible Belt.” And the Wet/Dry precincts of Far North Dallas made no sense to me at all.

DiscipleoftheDumbOx - October 15, 2013

This unfortunate statistic is due to the fact that no Texans actually live in Dallas, imho. It is as ‘cosmopolitan’ as any large metropolis has become in this century. Dallasites are about as Texan now as my goat is a bovine creature. Becoming as urban as it has, the people that dwell there have forgotten their Texas’ roots and are thus no longer a self-reliant, do-it-yourself folks but rather are a mass of self-indulgent and dependent people who lack the ability to drive well or even courteously.

2. Baseballmom - October 14, 2013

I helped start a very orthodox lay-run Catholic school in the Santa Rosa diocese about 20 years ago… Bishop Vasa has been extremely supportive of our efforts… The situation with the parochial school teachers is that they will be required to attend two years of solid catechesis and then will have to sign the loyalty pledge or not have their contract renewed. The bishop saw this as a way to bring those who are willing “back into the fold” and those who are not will be gone.

3. MFG - October 15, 2013

Tantamergo – an excellent piece. As a native New Yorker who lived in Texas for 16 years, I was struck how culturally liberal lifestyle Texas was compared to the liberal northeast. There seemed to be a California moral influence combined with a low church-protestant mentality that leads to the liberalism you mention even among political conservatives.

We can see it in the architecture, dreary landscape, disrespect for history (all the tear downs of historic buildings) and freeway based society replete with adult billboards along everyday thoroughfares (I-635, I-35, etc). Its still rare to see that in the northeast today (though its getting worse too). Perhaps that’s why Texas has higher rates of divorce and impure-internet use.

Dallas like most western states were founded late in history. Conversely, the northeast was founded only 100 years after Luther’s revolt and Catholic principles still echoed in colonial America’s design and way of life. Not so by the time Dallas was founded. Dallas did have its “glory” days of between 1890-1915, but that era was closed by modernism’s rise after Word War I.

Granted these analogies aren’t perfect, but you did accurately point out that the low-church protestantism causes a “anything goes” mentality. That does come in handy with good homeschool laws, 2nd amendment rights and low taxation. Not to mention some great BBQ brisket. Sadly, its too bad the Catholic influence in Texas wasn’t stronger as Texas really could be an incredible alternate society compared to the US – perhaps that’s yet to come. 🙂

4. Christopher Ekstrom - October 15, 2013

Thank you for the response: I appreciate the depth you went into & the many interesting references. Perhaps MFG is on to something by referencing the long view of history. My understanding is that University of Dallas was once a bastion of conservative & or traditional RC; to what degree is/was that so?

tantamergo - October 15, 2013

There are many concerns about UD. Several years ago, a really strident progressive priest named Milam Joseph was named its Chancellor, which is a position the Diocese of Dallas has direct control over. This was before the current bishop. Immediately, Joseph began taking steps to make UD far less orthodox and more like just about every other “Catholic” college, a secular paradise for modernists and academic leftists. A large group of very orthodox professors, including Janet Smith, walked. They went over to Ft. Worth. The alumni were in an uproar. Joseph eventually had to be sacked (I cannot overstate how liberal this man is). Bishop Farrell has done some things to restore a sense of orthodoxy, but there are still a great many concerns. I think MFG is right, UD is not as orthodox as it used to be, and, while not a bastion of left-liberalism like most Catholic universities, is much more secular than it used to be. Business tends to be the main focus now, and not upright theology. It’s still not a bad Catholic university, I think the Cardinal Newman Society sort of endorses them (but they are not on the list of the really orthodox colleges anymore), but it’s not what it once was.

So, I think UD was, for a Catholic university, pretty orthodox until about 2003, then went sharply downhill, but has recovered somewhat. That appointment of Joesph was really shocking, he had absolutely no experience in managing a university or any real academic expertise, it was plainly a move by the prior, very discredited Bishop Grahman to leave his mark on the university he inherited, and not a very good one.

God bless you! If you have to relocate, leave a comment, I’ll e-mail you directly and I might be able to provide some guidance on places to live, parishes, etc.

David - October 16, 2013

Tantamergo, I remember when Msgr. Joseph was appointed at UD. It was around 1999-2000. There were several good professors in the Institute for Religion and Pastoral Studies (IRPS) graduate program who walked, and the IRPS program was picked up by Ave Maria University, who had their campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I don’t know if the IRPS program still exists at Ave Maria University – if it does, it is probably at the newer campus in Florida.

I believe Msgr. Joseph left UD circa 2004 or 2005. Although I am not a UD alum, I know that many alumni ceased donations during his tenure. Quite frankly, I would have done the same, like I have for a “Catholic” school that I attended in San Antonio.

Christopher Ekstrom - October 17, 2013

Thanks! We anticipate relocating in the Spring of 2014. Any advice is most welcome & appreciated. Having been so fortunate to be a member of Father Rutler’s parish my standards have been elevated. Thanks!

MFG - October 17, 2013

Good comments on the UD situation. I would also like to clarify that my friend’s encounter was probably with people appointed prior to 2007 (when Bishop Farrell arrived). I would agree Bishop Farrell has helped to stabilize things at UD and overall.

Speaking of clarifications, I appreciate Fr. Smith’s stats on abuse. Certainly helpful to be accurate in our conversations.

5. Mary - October 15, 2013

Dallas had a sex abuse problem second only, if second, to Boston, and a seminary that was part of the problem. also, there was a real takedown of the healthy graduate ministry program at UD (which has alwAys had good academic theology) and a replacement of it with a new cast and program that is “Amchurch”.

Fr. Clifford Smith - October 16, 2013

Be cautious about castigating the Diocese of Dallas as “second, if second” with respect to the Sex Abuse Crisis:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas paid $30.9 million in 1998 to twelve victims of one priest.

In July 2003 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville paid $25.7 million to “settle child sexual-abuse allegations made in 240 lawsuits naming 34 priests and other church workers.”

In 2003 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston also settled a large case for $85 million with 552 alleged victims.

In 2004, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange settled nearly 90 cases for $100 million.

In April 2007 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon agreed to a $75 million settlement with 177 claimants and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle agreed to a $48 million settlement with more than 160 victims.

In July 2007 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles reached a $660 million agreement with more than 500 alleged victims, in December 2006, the archdiocese had a settlement of 45 lawsuits for $60 million.

In September 2007 the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego reached a $198.1 million “agreement with 144 childhood sexual abuse victims.”

In July 2008 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver agreed to pay $5.5 million to settle 18 claims of childhood sexual abuse. The Associated Press estimated the total from settlements of sex abuse cases from 1950-2007 to be more than $2 billion.

Being first in the news does nor make us the worst … and you shame a lot of good priests by painting the whole diocese with the same brush as the few who were abusers.

David - October 17, 2013

Mary, part of the problem with the sex abuse scandals is the secular media is always looking for Catholic bashing. Quite frankly, there are higher incidents of sexual abuse done by teachers, day care workers, coaches, and youth organization leaders (including youth pastors) than by Catholic priests.

When a Catholic priest is accused of something, many newspapers print it as front page news. Had this been a coach, a Protestant pastor (including a youth pastor), or a teacher, the accusation if it was mentioned at all would appear in the Tuesday newspaper on page 18. (Now, if this was a Scout leader, it would also make front page news – read more).

While there was a small percentage of priests (3%) indicated in these scandals which broke in 2002, these 3% made the good faithful priests look bad.

Mary, Some of these scandals hit home to me. I knew a Scoutmaster from a different troop when I was a teenager (mid-1980’s) who was found guilty of child molesting (one victim I knew personally) and this now former Scoutmaster spent six years at Huntsville. Not long after this incident, the Boy Scouts began a very serious child protection policy that is still active today (and due to recent events, may need to be expanded).

6. Mary - October 15, 2013

UD was a Bastion of good Theology and Philosophy and then a lot of OD and RC people came, and there was a reaction against them. RC only appears to be traditional RC.

7. Mary - October 15, 2013

the reaction I meant was not in the academics but there was a kind of polarization in which all of what used to be considered normal healthy orthodox Catholics were seen as the same as OD and RC.

8. MFG - October 15, 2013

Two points:
Re: Christopher’s question about UD, I’m not UD alum but did a hear an alums experience at a UD regents meeting a few years ago. He was surprised at how disconnected the regents were on students spiritual life and interests (uniquely orthodox). They or those that spoke did not have an idea what tgey were learning or passionate about. More business oriented than academic. Since the diocese has a hand in choosing the regents this may influence how the school drifts.

As for why Texas is more liberal, one other note is Texas is highly baptist, yet it’s brand of Baptist, the Texas General Baptist Convention, has always been more liberal than the conservative Southern Baptist Convention which dominates the south. There was infighting for decades to keep the Southern Baptist Convention out of Texas. It’s not a b&w example and they’re both baptist so it may be splitting hairs trying to show what influences Texas culture.

tantamergo - October 15, 2013

It’s interesting to hear these comments about Texas being liberal. In many ways, it is, but I think more and more the entire USA is. I was reading some divorce statistics from 200 years ago, and the USA divorce rate was 3-4 times the rate in most European countries. Britain was the only one that was close – which, given how both embraced enlightenment views so early as part of their culture-defining makeup, that would make sense.

But this liberalism plays out differently in different locations – in some places, it is more social, and in others, more economic. I think you hit on a salient point regarding Dallas being like California – specifically, LA. Dallas has always wanted to be LA. The whole region has an inferiority complex regarding glamorous southern California. Or not so glamorous, if you ask me, but whatever.

Out of time for now, I do think it’s an interesting topic.

Woody - October 15, 2013

So, then, how does FW compare to DAL with regard to conservatism/liberalism? Since moving here a few years ago, it is obvious that FW is for real cowboys and DAL is for wanna be cowboys.

tantamergo - October 15, 2013

That’s certainly true. Except for me. I’m totally country.

I don’t know, are we talking diocese or overall? I think FW is somewhat more conservative than Dallas – even the city proper is not totally democrat, they still hav a fair amount of conservative representation, I think. Dallas city government is corrupt as all get out and totally dominated by business interests and the Dallas Council. I don’t know if FW is the same. Texas, overall, however, tends to be a state where business interests predominate.

DiscipleoftheDumbOx - October 16, 2013

That is part of the problem, my friend, with Dallas and its denizens. It is not composed of even ‘wannabe’ cowboys, unless you consider that a cowboy wears tight pants, a plastic helmet and throws a strange oblong object around a 100 yard plastic field that we dare to call a ball. No. There is more boy than cow residing in the Dallas-area, hence the problem we experience concerning our moral, social, political and spiritual world view. In short, Dallasites are all hat and no cattle. Naturally, I am painting with a broad brush here. I am sure that there are a few who recall their history as Texans and live accordingly, however, the influx of outsiders whether physically from other states and countries or through various media outlets especially in these latter days have had its negative impact on our fair state. I pray that we can turn it around before all is lost. We still mandate the instruction of Texas history in the public schools, do we not? Oh, but wait…it is the public school system. Never mind. We are doomed so long as we remain in this #@$%! Union. Secede or we shall surely die. http://texnat.org

9. Thomas - October 16, 2013

Great post and analysis. I’ve asked questions myself along these lines and have had a hard time understanding the more moderate or liberal vibe within some Catholic Churches in an area that is politically conservative. Like I don’t get the parishes in Plano bringing in social justice speakers as you have documented on this site. And I don’t get why one of the Plano parishes is on a national list of gay friendly churches and has such an effort to promote this in their ministries.

David - October 16, 2013

The last time I looked at that list, Holy Trinity Catholic Church in downtown Dallas was also on that list. I’ve known several (at least 12) former parishioners of Holy Trinity who now go to other parishes that give much better homilies. The sad thing is this parish is located within walking distance of the Chancery Office.

tantamergo - October 16, 2013

Walking distance?! It’s practically across the street!

Yes, Holy Trinity is listed by radical homosexual group “Dignity” as a homosexual-friendly parish. One of only two so listed in the Diocese (the other is Seton).

I did a good deal of writing some time back about the support group at Seton for its homosexual members. It is not a support group, really, it’s an advocacy group that seeks to change Church doctrine on homosexuality, fake homosexual marriage, etc. They were using some really wild, homosexual lobby materials as the basis for thier group, and the materials were listed on the Seton website. I did a post about that (search: outstreched hands, seton) and several follow ups, and the only response was not to reform the group, not to disband, not to stop using the radical pro-gay materials, but……..to remove the materials from the website! That’ll fix it.

And some people ask why I seem to have a chip on my shoulder with regard to getting redress for some scandals from the Diocese. Perhaps it’s because I’ve tried many times, and the response has almost always been rather weak. As far as I know, this pro-homosexual Outstretched Hands group is still at Seton, encouraging homosexuals not to live lives of chastity in consonance with the belief of the Church, but to be “out and proud” and seek to change the unchangeable.

Mitchell H - October 16, 2013

Which begs the question – if we all agree that Dallas proper is more politically/culturally liberal than the surrounding areas, does that go for the parishes as well? I know that as far as Dallas goes, St. Thomas Aquinas has a good reputation, and perhaps Christ the King as well (though perhaps not so much) – without considering Mater Dei (which is in a league of its own) would one also be more likely to find “less orthodox” parishes in Dallas than in the ‘burbs?

tantamergo - October 16, 2013

I don’t know. It’s very hit of miss. Some of the most liberal parishes are in the suburbs. Prince of Peace is pretty notorious. Seton was bad for a while but I think it’s getting better. Our Lady of Angels in Allen is quite liberal, especially if one considers the absence of kneelers. It really comes down, to a great extent, to who the pastor is and his outlook.

David - October 17, 2013

I went to Our Lady of Angels once about 6 years ago just to check it out, and I didn’t return. While I don’t attend Prince of Peace (POP) for Mass, I’ve heard from people I know there that the newer pastor is making many changes for the better. Last year, I did a Hike for Life at JPII high school that had quite a bit of participation from POP, and it seemed that their is more of a Pro-Life presence there. I did go to the Men’s Conference at POP and all of us kneeled during Mass.

Tantamergo, I agree that it really comes down to who the pastor is and his outlook.

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