Pope Accepts Resignation of Bishop Who Is Fighting for Ohio Bill

Associated Press, carried in The Beacon Journal
February 2, 2006

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of a Detroit bishop, a liberal voice in the U.S. church who recently said he was inappropriately touched by a priest and would fight for an Ohio bill to allow victims of abuse to sue the church.

The Vatican's brief announcement Thursday about auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton said the pope accepted the resignation for reasons of age. Gumbleton turned 76 last week, a year past the normal retirement age for bishops.

Gumbleton said last month that he was abused in 1945 when he was a ninth grader at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. He is believed to be the first U.S. bishop to disclose that he was a victim of sexual abuse by clergy.

Gumbleton requested that his resignation be approved 10 days after a Columbus news conference where he spoke about his abuse, the bishop said in a letter delivered to parishioners Sunday.

He had been negotiating to continue in his job past retirement age, but leadership indicated that wasn't acceptable, Gumbleton said in the letter.

"Finally, I decided to end the discussion," he wrote.

He has spoken out in favor extending the deadline lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests and has said he revealed his own abuse now because he thought it might help other victims.

He is supporting an Ohio bill that would remove time limits that have prevented past victims from suing the church over their alleged abuse.

Ohio bishops agree with extending the time limits for future abuse cases but have vigorously lobbied against a provision allowing a one-year window for victims to sue over abuse that happened up to 35 years ago.

The slowing down of Ohio's bill, which unanimously passed the Senate, helped prompt him to come forward, he said.

Gumbleton has also written that gay men should be ordained - putting him at odds with a recent Vatican document that said most homosexual men should not be admitted to the priesthood.

In a 2002 article in the Jesuit magazine America, Gumbleton denounced what he called the scapegoating of gay priests for the clergy sex abuse crisis battering the U.S. church, and said many gay priests he knew were carrying out their vocations admirably - often offering a "depth of compassion not always shared in a comparable way by heterosexual priests."

"For all of these reasons, I urge our church leadership to rejoice in the blessings that can come to us by recognizing and supporting gay priests rather than shunning or rejecting them," he said.

Gumbleton also writes a regular column for the National Catholic Reporter, an independent newsweekly.


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