Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Group wants Vatican oversight of Cleveland bishop

A group upset with a plan to close 50 Catholic churches in northeast Ohio appealed today for the appointment of a bishop to oversee the work of Bishop Richard Lennon.

Peter Borre, representing the group Endangered Catholics, went to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome but was told to file the appeal with the papal envoy in Washington, D.C., for possible forwarding to the Vatican.

Borre said by phone from Rome that he had seen to it that the paperwork was immediately sent to Washington.

Borre said getting the Vatican to name an overseer "is a real long shot because the Catholic Church is not a democracy. It’s a hierarchy and it’s very rare the people from the pews can overturn bishops."

But he said a recent example occurred with last month’s resignation of Scranton, Pa., Bishop Joseph Martino, who had been criticized for an autocratic management style. Martino, 63, said he was retiring for health reasons.

Borre said his group had complained to the Vatican about Martino last winter.

The papal envoy’s office in Washington referred questions to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which did not immediately return a message.

Church law allows for the appointment of a supervising bishop when the diocesan bishop is seen as incompetent.

Lennon, who became bishop of Cleveland three years ago after directing church closings in Boston, announced the downsizing plan in March. Many old, inner-city parishes have shrunk as the population of Cleveland has decreased.

Lennon issued a statement asking for patience amid the reconfiguration.

"It is my prayer that these members of our diocese will take the time and exercise prayerful patience to better understand what our clustering and reconfiguration plan is designed to achieve, a stronger and more vibrant church," he said.

Lennon said the downsizing emerged from five years of planning and said church law was followed.

Lennon has presided on nearly a weekly basis at final Masses at the affected churches and will continue to so into 2010, along with dedicating parishes created through mergers, diocese spokesman Bob Tayek said Thursday.

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