Resignation of Philadelphia’s embattled archbishop is imminent

Finally, it appears that the Holy See is set to accept the resignation of Philadelphia’s embattled archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali and to name his replacement. A source tells me a press conference can be expected as early as tomorrow or, more likely, early next week.

The announcement can’t come soon enough: a chancery official described the situation in Philadelphia as “quicksand…everything feels like it is sinking.” Ever since the release of a second Grand Jury report in February indicated that the archdiocese had failed to follow its own procedures regarding child protection, and the subsequent removal of some two dozen clergy from ministry, the clergy and the people have felt demoralized. Few dioceses have maintained the esprit de corps among their clergy as has Philadelphia. A friend joked, “You know, they never needed lectures on priestly identity in Philly.” But, in addition to the sense of shock at the behavior of some of their fellow priests, the sense that the administration of the archdiocese was perfectly content to throw the innocent and the guilty alike under the bus to make it appear like the problems were being addressed has left the presbyterate deeply demoralized. The people of God, of course, feel betrayed by the hierarchy yet again.

The processes for naming new bishops are, understandably and appropriately, cumbersome and lengthy. But, no diocese should be expected to survive six months in quicksand. Rome must devise a policy: If a bishop is shown to be non-compliant with his own child protection policies – or with those of the Episcopal conference to which he belongs – he is removed immediately, and an apostolic administrator is named. There are plenty of fine senior pastors or retired bishops who could step in handle things for six months while a permanent replacement is found. I understand that, in this case, cardinal Rigali’s stature and influence in Rome may have slowed the process down as he tried to figure out where he would next hang his hat. But, a diocese in trouble should not have to wait. [more]


National Catholic Reporter