Next Archbishop of Hartford Cites a Need for New Priests

By Marc Santora
The New York Times [Hartford CT]
October 21, 2003

HARTFORD, Oct. 20 Bishop Henry J. Mansell, who was introduced as the next archbishop of Hartford, said on Monday that the most pressing issues he expected to face were the continuing challenge of attracting new priests and dealing with the fallout from the sexual abuse scandals of recent years.

Bishop Mansell, who has led the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo since 1995, will succeed Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin, who announced his resignation last year when he turned 75, the mandatory retirement age for bishops. Archbishop Cronin will remain in his position until Bishop Mansell is officially sworn in on Dec. 18.

In an interview after a news conference, Bishop Mansell, 66, said that many of the challenges he would face here were similar to those the church faced across the country.

"I think it is important to address those concerns," he said. "What we need is to realize how serious the issue of sexual abuse is," he said, adding that it was important to see the subject not only in regard to the church but also to society as whole.

"It's a societal issue," he said. As such, he said, it is the duty of the church to help society provide a safe environment for children.

In Buffalo, some advocates for victims of sexual abuse by clergy members criticized Bishop Mansell for not disclosing the names of priests he dismissed as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct.

While not dealing with that criticism specifically, Bishop Mansell said that news reports that he dismissed a group of priests in September were not accurate. "I asked a certain number of priests in a certain number of years to retire," he said at the news conference. "I do not feel at this time that it is necessary to reveal names or numbers. It is a violation of who they are. But I can say that in Buffalo now there is not a single priest involved with any sexual abuse allegations."

Bishop Mansell also had to deal with budgetary shortfalls during his tenure in Buffalo, leading him to cut 15 employees and close several schools. As the leader of the church in Hartford, Bishop Mansell will oversee a Catholic population of about 720,000 people and more than 500 priests.

Bishop Mansell, who was born in the Bronx, earned his bachelor's degree from St. Joseph's Seminary in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1962. He worked in parishes in New York City and Westchester County before going to Buffalo.

In recent years, he has acquired a reputation for fund-raising for Catholic Charities and championing the cause for sainthood for Msgr. Nelson Baker, who ran an orphanage and built Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, N.Y., just south of Buffalo. Bishop Mansell said that he was still studying the needs of Hartford, but that he viewed his selection as a "high privilege." He told reporters that he would try to increase church attendance by tapping into what he saw as a stronger connection to faith, in some ways as a result of recent high-profile challenges the church has faced.

"I think what's happening today is we are no longer taking for granted our faith," he said. "I see, in the aspirations and the greater ideals of youths, a greater hope."


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