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The diocese of Steubenville, Ohio has been under threat of a merger over the last few weeks.
In tonight's In-Depth Report, Church Militant's Nadia Bullock gives us the latest update and hears from one concerned Catholic.
Philip Gray, canon lawyer, St. Joseph Foundation: "My initial thought when it — when I heard the announcement — was that it was definitely a premature action."
Monday, Bp. Jeffrey Monforton published a letter to the faithful, saying he requested the U.S. bishops' conference to remove the vote on Steubenville's merger with the neighboring diocese of Columbus.
He wrote, "Many have voiced their counsel, including disappointment and even fear. The results from the recent survey provide further evidence of a division in the future vision for the Church's service in the Ohio Valley."
Monforton added the future of the diocese will be discussed at the diocesan level.
Gray: "Really my opinion has not changed. And I don't consider that there's been any kind of victory in the faithful and priests, or anything like that. I think that we've simply gotten noticed at this point."
In recent years, Steubenville has been struck by two financial scandals and one lingering abuse case that has shaken the community.
Father David Morrier was a Franciscan University chaplain who was convicted of sexual assault earlier this year. And this week, an unfiled lawsuit was leaked, implicating him in ritual abuse, rape and coerced abortion.
When asked if these scandals would have any impact on the potential merger, Canon Lawyer Philip Gray says you can't know Bp. Monforton's motives.
There's way too much information that we don't know to be providing too much speculation on the matter. ... But I would say that if it does play into it that there's — it would be very disheartening because it would not demonstrate a proper spirit of pastoral action to care for the faithful.
In light of the merger, Gray and other Catholics have banded together as the United Voices for the Diocese of Steubenville.
Despite Monforton's turnaround, they are still going directly to the pope to petition him to not merge the dioceses.
On its website, United Voices for the Diocese of Steubenville has a formal petition called a procurator mandate, that, when signed, will be sent to the pope.
Gray: "There should've been some true collaboration and dialogue between the bishop and his people to explain to us what concerns he had to help find more viable options to address those concerns before going to the nuclear option of merging the diocese."
Catholics and non-Catholics can find the procurator mandate at onevoicesteubenville.org.
Church Militant will continue to follow this story out of Steubenville and bring further updates as it develops.