Mansell May Move up to Archbishop Spot

By Jay Tokasz
Buffalo News [Buffalo NY]
October 18, 2003

The Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, could be headed to the Archdiocese of Hartford.

Much of the talk about a successor to Hartford Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin, who is retiring, has centered on Mansell, the Hartford Courant reported today.

An announcement could come as soon as this weekend.

Mansell's imminent departure "is being widely discussed among priests" in the Diocese of Buffalo, said one priest, who asked not be identified.

Calls to the diocesan spokesman, Kevin Keenan, and the bishop's secretary, the Rev. David LiPuma, were not returned Friday night. The diocesan chancellor, Monsignor Robert J. Cunningham, declined to comment.

Mansell, 66, has been bishop of the Buffalo Diocese since 1995. Despite rumors early in his tenure here that he was being groomed to lead a larger diocese, he maintained that he expected to remain in Buffalo for a long time.

Mansell once was thought to be a possible successor to Cardinal John O'Connor as head of the Archdiocese of New York, but in recent years that post and archbishop positions in large archdioceses such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Boston were filled by other priests.

In Hartford, Mansell would oversee an archdiocese slightly smaller than the Buffalo Diocese.

The Hartford Diocese consists of three counties with nearly 700,000 Catholics, about 500 priests and 216 parishes.

The Buffalo Diocese has 709,000 Catholics, about 550 priests and 265 parishes in eight counties.

Cronin, who has been bishop in Hartford since 1992, submitted his resignation to Pope John Paul II in November when he turned 75, the mandatory retirement age for bishops.

In his eight years in Buffalo, Mansell has been a reserved leader who effectively steered the Catholic Health System through tumultuous changes in the health care industry and raised large sums of money for Catholic Charities and other diocesan operations.

He also has helped champion the cause for sainthood for Father Nelson Baker, the beloved Lackawanna priest who built Our Lady of Victory Basilica and ran an orphanage.

But Mansell also has been quietly criticized for being a bureaucrat who has failed to plan for the shortage of priests and for changing demographics in the diocese that have several small urban parishes struggling to survive.

This past year, he had to cut the equivalent of 14 full-time employees and one part-time employee to close a gap in the diocese's $18 million budget. Within the past year, he also announced the closing of several parish schools and Turner-Carroll High School.

Mansell has been criticized by some, and applauded by others, for his handling of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Buffalo Diocese.

In September, the bishop removed several priests from active ministry. He refused to name the priests. Some victims and victims' advocates have maintained that he hasn't been forthcoming about the extent of abuse in this diocese.

Mansell came to the Buffalo Diocese espousing many of the traditional, conservative views held by his mentor, O'Connor, under whom he served as chancellor in the New York Archdiocese for seven years.

Ordained in 1962, Mansell worked as a parish priest in Larchmont before moving into administrative work in the New York City archdiocesan offices.

Mansell serves as treasurer of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In September, he was named by Gov. George E. Pataki to serve on the 25-member state Commission on Education Reform.

Cronin was in Rome this week for the 25th anniversary of the pope's tenure. Sunday, Cronin will preside over a special Mass, the Holy Year of the Rosary Celebration, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford. Sources say an announcement is expected then, according to the Courant.


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