NZ Bishop Resigns Over Sexual Misconduct Claim

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 7, 2019   

Pope accepts bishop's resignation following woman's private accusation

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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis quickly accepted the resignation of a New Zealand bishop accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by a woman.

On Friday, Pope Francis approved the resignation of Bp. Charles Drennan based on private allegations of sexual misconduct with an adult female. While the Francis pontificate usually takes months or even years to act on similar allegations involving homosexual behavior of bishops, the resignation of 59-year-old Drennan was approved in just two days.

Drennan, who worked in the Vatican's secretariat of state for seven years, was a made a bishop by then-Pope Benedict XVI in 2011. He was appointed bishop of Palmerston North, New Zealand, in 2012.

Cardinal John Dew, a longtime advocate of giving Holy Communion to the divorced and civilly remarried, is administering the diocese of Palmerston North in Drennan's absence as the archbishop of Wellington. Though few details of the case have surfaced, Dew issued a statement on Friday calling for zero tolerance on all consensual sexual activity by clerics.

"The Catholic Church has no tolerance for any inappropriate behaviour by any of its members," said Dew. "I encourage anyone who experiences such behaviour to bring it to the attention of the Church, police or any organisation with which they feel comfortable."

The following few facts of the private case are known:

  • Dew oversaw the investigation
  • The mature woman's complaint was reportedly made more than two years ago
  • New Zealand's Catholic National Office of Professional Standards (NOPS) ran the investigation
  • NOPS hired a licensed investigator to assist with the investigation

"The young woman has requested that details of the complaint remain private," related Dew. "It can be confirmed that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, Bishop Drennan's behaviour was completely unacceptable, and it fully supports the young woman for coming forward to NOPS."

Dew made headlines in June when he came out against priests being called "Father." In the name of fighting so-called "clericalism," Dew said he would like to be called by his first name, John, instead of being addressed by his title as bishop.

"The Holy Father appealed to all of God's people to take action against 'clericalism' which he sees as the source of abuse perpetrated by priest and bishops," said the bishop.

The Catholic Church has no tolerance for any inappropriate behaviour by any of its members.

Clericalism was the oft-used term used by Francis and other Church leaders that avoided any reference to homosexuality. It also avoids any reference to consensual relations that occur under the power differential between Church leaders and younger priests or seminarians.

Many Catholics wholeheartedly agree that there should be zero tolerance for consensual relations between clerics and females. Some lament, however, that the same standard is not upheld for seemingly consensual sexual relationships between clerics and males. In the latter case, the Vatican can take years to act.

One such case was in a Honduran seminary under the influence of Bp. Juan José Pineda of the archdiocese of Tegucigalpa. It involved two former seminarians who insisted that Bp. Pineda had molested them while in the seminary.

One man alleged Pineda, an auxiliary bishop of the diocese, had at night "came close to me and touched my intimate parts and chest." Other sources attest that the bishop also had a live-in relationship with a male assistant that was covered up by Cdl. Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, who was his archbishop at the time. This case dragged on for years.

While Dew is calling for relaxation on the use of so-called "offensive" language towards active homosexuals, other prelates are questioning if bishops really believe the Church's teaching on extramarital sexuality.

Speaking to the U.S. bishops in Baltimore last November, Bp. Thomas Daly asked bishops why some had turned a blind eye to disgraced Theodore McCarrick's homosexual predation of seminarians and priests.

"Did this come to be," asked Daly, "because we have certain bishops and priests who don't see anything wrong with consensual sex between adults?"

 

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