February 07, 2005

Parishioners asked to forgive GP priest

The Dallas Morning News

02:44 AM CST on Monday, February 7, 2005

By CHRISTY A. ROBINSON / The Dallas Morning News

GRAND PRAIRIE Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann, in an address laced with tears, asked parishioners in Grand Prairie on Sunday to forgive their priest who four days earlier was arrested on charges of child pornography possession.

The bishop stood before the standing-room-only congregation at Immaculate Conception Church to announce the allegations against the Rev. Matthew Bagert and deliver words of comfort.

"It's with profound sadness that I address these words to you," he said before stating the accusations against Father Bagert, 36. "We all know this is a federal offense. This is in the hands of the Grand Prairie police."

He publicly thanked the church's associate pastor, the Rev. Jesus Belmontes, who alerted the Dallas Catholic Diocese of his suspicions, and added that it's proof the diocese's reporting procedures with regard to sexual misconduct are working.

He also told parishioners a crowd of varied ages and ethnicities that their priest had been suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation.

Emotion broke the bishop's normally reserved demeanor as parishioners listened intently.

Posted by kshaw at February 7, 2005 06:58 AM