New Green Bay Bishop Has Broad Background

By Tom Heinen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

July 9 2008

Cheyenne Bishop David L. Ricken, whose appointment by Pope Benedict XVI as the 12th bishop of the Green Bay Diocese was announced today, has been a bishop since 2001and has had a wide range of responsibilities since being ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pueblo, Colo., in 1980.

Ricken, 55, is a member of the United States bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, which advises the bishops and oversees plans and programs related to their response to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

A past president of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, he has licentiate degree in canon law (church law) from the prestigious Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, is former chancellor and former vocation director for the Diocese of Cheyenne. He served three years in the late 1990s as an official of the Congregation for Clergy, a department in the Vatican. That department's main role is to oversee and promote the sanctity, development and well-being of priests, but it also oversees the disciplining of priests up to and including laicization.

He also serves on the bishops' Committee on Catechesis and is a member of the bishops' advisory council for the Institute for Priestly Formation.

Peter Isely, Midwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, praised Ricken in a press release today for the bishop's sending of a letter in 2005 to the Wyoming Board of Parole opposing the release of a priest who was imprisoned in 2004 for 15 months to seven years for committing sexual acts with a 17-year-old boy.

But Isely also noted the court-documented history of cover-ups of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Green Bay and called on Ricken to do something the previous bishop had refused to do -- release the identities, records and current residences of the more than 50 priests who were determined by church authorities to have sexually abused minors over the past several decades. Isely said that SNAP officials will Ricken five "benchmarks" -- concrete, measurable actions that the group wants him to take in his first 100 days.

Ricken will be installed Aug. 28. He succeeds Bishop David A. Zubik, who left Green Bay to become the bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in September 2007.

Ricken is in Green Bay today to meet parish leaders and diocesan employees, and to begin preparations for his transition. Until he is installed, Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan will continue to oversee the diocese as apostolic administrator.

Ricken was ordained a bishop by the late Pope John Paul II at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on Jan. 6, 2000. He succeeded Bishop Joseph Hart in Cheyenne on Sept. 26, 2001. Hart, who is retired, has been accused in pending civil lawsuits of molesting minors.

Diocesan officials did not know early this afternoon whether Ricken plans to visit Wisconsin to attend the Green Bay Packers' first pre-season game on Aug. 11, against the Cincinnati Bengals. Known as the annual Bishop's Charities Game, it raises money for charities of the Green Bay Diocese and is traditionally attended by the bishop.

A native of Dodge City, Kan., Ricken graduated from Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., in 1974, and did his theological studies for the Diocese of Pueblo, Colo., at St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana and at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

Established in 1868, the Diocese of Green Bay has nearly 350,000 Roman Catholics. Its 160 parishes serve people in a 16-county area that includes Brown, Calumet, Door, Florence, Forest, Kewaunee, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara and Winnebago counties.


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