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obfuscation hurts the innocent

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Dec 04, 2009

Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark, in England, has stepped down. Since he is only 62—13 years short of the normal retirement age for bishops—his resignation calls for an explanation. But none is forthcoming from Rome. The wording of the Vatican announcement is familiar:

The resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese of Southwark, England, presented by Archishop Kevin John Patrick McDonald, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

That announcement, with only the proper nouns changed, exactly matches the one that the Vatican uses when a bishop resigns in disgrace—as for example, when Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish resigned just before his arrest on child-pornography charges. Canon 401-2 is broadly worded, saying that the Pope may accept a bishop’s resignation if it is warranted by “illness or some other grave reason.” The official Vatican announcement never gives any further clarification.

In Archbishop McDonald’s case, the real reason for resignation is illness. He suffers from heart disease—he has had triple-bypass surgery—and crippling arthritis. The poor man deserves sympathy, not suspicion.

Unfortunately, suspicion comes naturally after a decade of watching misbehaving prelates slip out of town under the protective cover of the 401-2 explanation. The deliberately uninformative announcements from Rome draw no distinction between the McDonalds and the Laheys. Clarification would protect the good name of the innocent, while obfuscation serves only the interests of the guilty.

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  • Posted by: koinonia - Dec. 07, 2009 12:09 PM ET USA

    A St. Pete aux. bishop banished a devoted priest from his parish in the 1980s. Devotions ceased and a bust of Pope JP II was found later in the trash. The bishop was promoted by the same pontiff. Several years ago he admitted to sexual indiscretions and "retired." Right now the Jesuits face 500 new "victims" in the NW US. The damage is staggering in so many ways- far beyond the $1 BILLION paid out to date in the US alone. Obfuscation is a big reason we have this mess in the first place.

  • Posted by: JARay - Dec. 05, 2009 12:36 AM ET USA

    This resignation can also be found on several of the solidly Catholic blogs from England and they make it quite clear that this is a genuine resignation because of very ill health. If I remember aright, when Archbishop MacDonald was appointed his appointment came as a surprise to some who had feared the appointment of a rather liberal bishop who thought that he had the job in the bag!

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