Catholic Leader Urged to Resign
Lay Group Says Pilarczyk No Longer Effective

By Tom Beyerlein and Jim DeBrosse
Dayton Daily News [Cincinnati OH]
Downloaded November 29, 2003

A group of concerned Catholic laity has called on Daniel Pilarczyk to submit his resignation as Cincinnati archbishop to Pope John Paul II.

The group said Pilarczyk can no longer be effective after his archdiocese's criminal conviction last week on charges related to the priesthood child sex abuse scandal.

"We believe your understanding of the tragedy of sexual abuse and your actions to resolve the crisis have come far too late and in the main mostly after glaring media and legal attention was focused on the problem," the Voice of the Faithful's Dayton affiliate told Pilarczyk in a letter delivered to him by courier Tuesday.

The letter cited church law that says a bishop is "earnestly requested to present his resignation from the office when he has become less able to fulfill his office due to ill health or another serious reason."

"We believe this is a serious reason," Dayton VOTF co-founder Mike Knellinger said. "We won't (be able to) move forward without a change. When this (scandal) is the topic of conversation, we're not moving ahead with the real work of the church."

About 70 VOTF members participated in the decision Monday to call for the resignation. Its leaders said Pilarczyk failed to take responsibility when he pleaded no contest last week on behalf of the archdiocese to five misdemeanor counts of failure to report a felony in Hamilton County. A judge found the archdiocese guilty and fined it the maximum $10,000. The offenses occurred from 1978-82, when Pilarczyk was auxiliary bishop, the second in command in the 19-county archdiocese.

As part of a plea bargain, the archdiocese agreed to more stringent reporting requirements in Hamilton County and set up an archdiocesewide, $3 million compensation fund for victims who agree not to sue the church.

After the plea, the spiritual leader to 500,000 area Catholics said he won't resign, even if his credibility has become impaired.

"First of all, I do not serve at my own pleasure I serve at the pleasure of the pope," Pilarczyk said after the plea. "And it's not the case that you can serve and walk away."

Besides, he said, "my resignation will not solve all the problems. There are still (civil) lawsuits to settle and (abuse) prevention policies to implement, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to step down at this time. I want to stick with this and see it through."

Pilarczyk added that the laity's perception of his credibility is beyond his control. "I will try to be as open and as credible as I can be. But I can't make people see me as credible."

Canon law does not require Pilarczyk to resign, said Charles Reid, an associate professor at St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, who specializes in canon law.

"The underlying theory is that, in a sense, the bishop is married to his diocese," Reid said. "He's not like a CEO who steps down at a hint of scandal."

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