Bp. Conry (D. Arundel & Brighton) suddenly resigned. Fr. Z muses.

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As I write, the news of the resignation of Bp. Kieran Conry, 63, of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton in England is hitting social media.  I had an embargoed signal about it, but it is out now.   In a statement, Bp. Conry, clearly of the “progressivist” camp, says that he was not a faithful priest, he says that he didn’t do anything illegal, he resigns his post effective immediately, and he apologized to everyone who will be hurt.

I’m pretty sure this resignation falls on the eve of more information coming out.

The prolific Damian Thompson‘s tweets have been carrying running commentary.  The UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald has a piece already.

I note that, in a “related post” on CH’s sidebar, there is a piece about how the number of confessions is growing in England.  Bp. Conry is quoted.  This was from 5 September.

How quickly things can change.

However, also quoted in that 5 Sept. piece about confessions was my friend Fr. Tim Finigan, formerly of Blackfen and now of Margate.

Fr Tim Finigan, parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, Kent, said: “I have also noticed a rise in Confessions, particularly among young adults who are sincerely trying to live a good life. It is important to preserve the core meaning of the sacrament which is the forgiveness of sins. We can always have a more general chat outside of Confession.”

Within two week of Fr. Finigan’s being moved to Margate, the new parish priest at Blackfen began to dismantle what it took the better part of two decades to build.

How quickly things can change.

That said, three points.

First, I hope that faithful Catholics will avoid their own Lord of the Flies Dance with the resignation of Bp. Conry.  Instead, I hope they will recall that everyone in the Church is a sinner and it is precisely because we are all sinners that we have a Savior (that’s Saviour) and our Church.  Instead, pray that the Nuncio Archbp. Mennini will be able to secure an exceptionally good appointment for Arundel and Brighton.

Second, do not rest complacent in what you may have built or gained, even over decades.  Keep your heads on a swivel.  Keep working to build, improve, and strengthen.  Excel in charitable works as the mortar to secure your efforts.

Third, go to confession.  Examine your own consciences, and not other people’s consciences, and GO TO CONFESSION.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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44 Responses to Bp. Conry (D. Arundel & Brighton) suddenly resigned. Fr. Z muses.

  1. Warren says:

    Re: increase in confessions. Might that be a grace attributable (in part) to the UK’s return to fish Fridays?

    [I wonder how many Catholics in England and Wales observe it. Really. In practice. Still, even if only a small percentage, the knock-on effect will be felt in ways we cannot clear predict.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  2. jbosco88 says:

    Yes Father, going to Confession now – it’s been a month.

  3. Rachel K says:

    Just a first reaction as a UK cradle Catholic who as born at the end of the 60’s :
    We have suffered here so much as a result of what some priests and some bishops have said and done. Only some, but it seems to me that there is a whole package- no smoke without fire and by their fruits….
    Eventually, the truth of every situation is revealed and things are put into the light.
    Yes, we are all sinners and hopefully we are continually repenting. And we should pray much for those who carry the responsibility of leading and guiding and living in good example but who don’t do that.
    Lord have mercy on us all.

  4. aloysius atkinson says:

    Father, as an active member of Mgr Conry’s diocese, who has met encountered him on many occasions throughout his pontificate, I think it is a rather severe misjudgment to place him in the “progressivist” camp. He is, in fact, the bishop who championed the restoration of Friday abstinence in England and Wales, and is no enemy of the Extraordinary Form or of reverent liturgy and orthodox teaching in general. He always celebrates Mass in a dignified and reverent fashion, though eschewing some more extravagant devotions (that having been said, at Arundel Cathedral he has refused to move move Corpus Christi to the Sunday, and retains a highly traditional celebration, including the renowned carpet of flowers). Particularly at such a difficult time for our diocese, and for Mgr Conry personally, a more rounded picture of his episcopal service than many conservative Catholics put forth would be very welcome to the faithful of Arundel and Brighton.

  5. Mike says:

    Your point about self-examination, Father, is well taken. For all the talk that is lately bandied about regarding sin and mercy, an outsider might still almost be justified in thinking that the Church is two ideologically opposed crowds crying “sinner! sinner!” at one another.

    We are not called merely to acknowledge our sinfulness, much less one another’s. We are called to become saints. And one can only become a saint by first acknowledging and confessing one’s own sinfulness and then corresponding with grace to conquer the world, the flesh and the devil. Thanks for the level-setting reminder.

  6. Kerry says:

    Hmm, mortar. Mortar for bricks, or the 81mm? Both?

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  8. Fr. Erik Richtsteig says:

    One thing I think that this does show is that the episcopacy needs to stop being a self-replicating club of the bishops’ conferences. The nuncios must go beyond the bishops of the conference or the provinces in surfacing and vetting names for the ternae. And the de facto power to veto names needs to be gone too.

  9. Thorfinn says:

    I’ve had 3 parish priests in the last 10+ years who later left the priesthood. Never an occasion for celebration, rather a sad ‘what might have been’ with better formation / fortitude / etc.

  10. Pastor in Valle says:

    I write as a priest of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.
    First, Let us never forget charity. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness.
    Second, it was actually Bishop Conry himself who obtained for us the restoration of Friday abstinence in England and Wales: the first, I think, of all the countries in the world. This stands greatly to his credit.
    Third, Bishop Conry has made no attempt to justify himself, but has meekly apologised. As Christians, let us accept that apology and move on, praying for a worthy successor.
    Fourth, Bishop Conry has been very kind to me personally. I wish to acknowledge that here.

    Please pray for us all in this diocese as we try to assimilate this shock.

  11. Gail F says:

    Thank you for this piece, and thanks to the people who have written in from Bishop Conry’s diocese. It does no good to speculate. Put your hand on the plow.

  12. lmgilbert says:

    Of course, the increase in confessions might well be a grace attributable (in part) to the UK’s return to fish Fridays, but it also corresponds roughly to the martyrdom of Christians in Iraq and Syria. Of course, we ( myself included) justifiably think many harsh things about Islam and Islamists, but at the same time one has to wonder if God permits these faithful Christian lambs to be led to the slaughter to bring down critical and soul-saving graces on their soft and self-indulgent brothers and sisters in Christ in the West. Since too many of us will not deny ourselves and keep ordinary garden-variety Catholic discipline, the Christian Near-East is on the cross. That seems a very strong possibility, does it not?

    St. Peter could say to them as he surely could not say to us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” ( I Peter 4: 12-14).

    Of course, one would like to see laws passed and steps taken to keep the Islamic tide at bay both here and in Europe and in the Near East, but it is very likely that staying in a state of grace ( and getting there!) and making some routine small sacrifices would be far, far more helpful and to the point than any political or military undertaking whatever.

    Could we pray and repent the Islamic cobra back into its basket? If the above dynamic is correct, there is no other way.

  13. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Friday abstinence was a very important feature of Catholic life in Britain. The Catholic anthropologist Mary Douglas wrote movingly about its significance, and the uprooting effect on British Catholics of its abandonment in 1967, in her groundbreaking work ‘Natural Symbols’ (1970). There is a useful commentary here
    http://bonald.wordpress.com/book-reviews-society/natural-symbols/
    Since f/a was re-instituted in E&W shortly after Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain I had tacitly assumed it was his suggestion. I’d not realized that Bishop Conry had been the moving force in re-establishing this spiritually – and also physically – therapeutic weekly abstinence, which (together with fasting for healthy adults) should have a firm place in all Catholic lives. So – if it was him – he certainly did some good there, and without grabbing the credit for it.

    I’m surprised that since the rule was re-introduced I haven’t heard a single sermon on the subject. So it would be surprising if the average British Catholic’s understanding on the subject were very advanced. I suspect it may be one of those things a lot of the clerical ‘usual suspects’ believe is ‘far too traditional’, and ‘not in the spirit of the times’, ‘a meaningless ritual’ (rituals are always ‘meaningless’ in UK Catho-NuSpeak. Even – because it’s a question of ‘Catholic identity as the bishops of E&W themselves proclaimed – that worst of all naughty sins against ecumenism: ‘too divisive!’ :-)
    Now, for our next goal: let’s restore the Ember Days (which were also ‘never abrogated’, afaik) and restore also the fasting and abstinence on all their three days. I keep them myself, but it is better when the whole community is in union on these matters. We should also raise the permissible age of fasting – sixty is the new fifty after all, and it is arguably too young an age for at least many of us healthy bods to stop fasting.
    We need more fasting and abstinence, just as we need more Confession. And above all, less of it face to face in the sacristy and more use of the confessional boxes, which in some parish churches are not only disused, but often have been put entirely beyond use, and even removed in some cases.

  14. lmgilbert says:

    Padre, See http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/OCTOBERnewsletter13.pdf
    The articles on P. 4 of Catholic Truth should bring you up to speed regarding Bishop Conry.

  15. Netmilsmom says:

    This Bishop did the right thing. How can we have any bad feelings for those who repent?
    I’m an awful sinner who can’t look at anyone else and think “I’m above him.”
    Even after just going to confession this week. I’m praying for this Bishop and all the people in his diocese.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    I have been personally a supporter of this now resigned bishop for years, as there are many good things he has done. I am pained by his resignation, which is necessary. He was supportive of me trying to get back to the diocese I love so much, but without success in getting me back.

    I pray for him and know that I, too, am a sinner, never asked to take on great responsibility and, therefore in the envious position of not having to be perfect, yet.

    Let us all pray for this priest and for my beloved diocese of A and B in England.

    Also, pray for my son, a seminarian in this diocese. I have not spoken with him as of yet, but I am sure the young men feel the pain of the entire situation. This is no time to be censorious, but prayerful.

  17. gracie says:

    How about some pity for the husband and children betrayed by Bishop Conry.

  18. Athelstan says:

    Obviously there was much for faithful Catholics to be dismayed about in regards to Bishop Conry. But aside from prayers for all involved, I second the point made by Damian Thompson today – what indignation we might have ought to be directed less against Conry (now paying the price he must pay, and hopefully undergoing some thorough confession) but rather against the bishops’ conference in England & Wales, especially Cardinals Nichols and Murphy-O’Connor’:

    I don’t want to dance on Kieran’s grave because I feel sad that the warm, generous priest I knew turned out to be an authoritarian bishop – and because none of us should throw the first stone when it comes to lapses in personal life. But perhaps at last Rome will wake up to the fact that the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales is an old boys’ club that looks after its own. Kieran was one of the lads. If he hadn’t been, I suspect this scandal would have broken years ago.

  19. Athelstan says:

    Also, pray for my son, a seminarian in this diocese.

    Will do, Supertradmum.

    A very ugly affair for all involved.

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  21. I’m so uncharitable. My first reaction always is to see a photo of the erring cleric and think, ‘So the ordained guy gets to have an affair, and the struggling celibate Catholic can’t even get a date?’

    My second is to say sorry to God for being so small-minded.

    Sheesh.

  22. John Nolan says:

    In contrast to this rather depressing news, it has been announced that the recently-appointed Bishop of East Anglia, Alan Hopes, will celebrate a Pontifical High Mass in the Old Rite at the cathedral church of St John the Baptist, Norwich, on the Feast of All Saints. He will be the first diocesan bishop to do so in his own cathedral since the liturgical changes, although he is no stranger to the rite, having celebrated it in Westminster Cathedral as an auxiliary bishop.

    Bishop Hopes was an Anglican priest from 1968 to 1994.

    Shortly after his appointment to A&B, Kieran Conry publicly criticized a church choir in Hove, Sussex, for singing in Latin at the principal Sunday Mass on the grounds that it would alienate young families. The Mass itself was mostly in English. A few years ago he made some very silly comments in a full-page interview for the Catholic Herald. He always struck me as a practitioner of what the Duke of Edinburgh once described as ‘dentopedology’ – the art of opening one’s mouth and putting one’s foot in it.

    Incidentally, he has not broken his promise of celibacy since he has never married. He obviously broke the sixth commandment and also ignored AH Clough’s ‘modern’ version of it – ‘Do not adultery commit; advantage rarely comes of it’.

  23. Muv says:

    Philippa Martyr, don’t be so hard on yourself. My first reaction was “Oh no, not another… what is wrong with these erring priests…”

    My true confession is that I saw this on the Daily Mail website first. What struck me was the photo of the bishop in casual trousers and shirt strolling along with a woman in a short skirt, looking like an ordinary bloke with his eldest daughter.

    Why couldn’t he dress as a bishop all the time, with a clerical shirt and collar?

    The clerical collar sends out a clear message. The full power of that message took me by surprise some years ago when my husband had a part in an amateur production as a vicar (English parlance, ie. Anglican clergyman). I had to make him a collar, which took all of twenty minutes, using a piece of white cotton stiffened with cardboard. Once he put it on and was in his complete stage outfit, he started with a few thespian antics and grabbed me for a kiss. Great larks for him but hideous for me. I started screaming and beating him off because I could not stomach being kissed by a man in a clerical collar – not even my lovely husband in a moment of jest.

  24. JARay says:

    The readings for today are so appropriate. We are told of the sinner who repents and is granted eternal life whereas the good man who sins but dies in his sin is condemned to everlasting damnation.
    I am also aware of there being a group of clergy within the UK whom Damien Thompson called the “magic circle”. They seem to be largely centred on Eccleston Square. I grew up in the Leeds diocese and it has been “sede vacante” for two years since the “promotion” of its previous incumbent to a Vatican Archbisopric. Sadly, the new appointee seems to spring from this “magic circle” and, although I know nothing about his dispositions, that very fact makes me more than a little concerned for the future well-being of Leeds.

  25. Kennedy says:

    Father,

    A fair article as usual. I’m very sorry that this has happened to such a good man. I was back in the diocese in February and thanked Bishop Conry and the parish priest for allowing me to speak a small tribute to my late sister during the Mass. I explained why the practice was banned in some dioceses, and made sure to be respectful of the rubrics. I never met Bishop Conry and am very sad that this has happened. Still, my experience of Arundel and Brighton is that we/they have been blessed with great shepherds.

    On a side note, I wish you had a vote up/vote down button. some of the previous comments deserved an assessment.

  26. majuscule says:

    Let us all pray for priests. If you aren’t doing it already, how about offering a rosary a day for all priests?

    The book Praying for Our Priests has rosary meditations and many other prayers for priests. You can pay for a hard copy or you can download a PDF of the book for free here.

    We pray that all priests will remain faithful to the discipline of celibacy and be diligent by their words and their example in promoting purity and chastity in all vocations.
    We pray that every priest who, through weakness and neglect of his relationship with Christ, has fallen into sin, ignored or rejected the teachings of the Church, or abandoned his vocation, may repent and return to the merciful love of God.

    (There is also a book on praying for vocations.)

  27. jacobi says:

    As, I trust, an ordinary orthodox faithful Catholic, I have felt myself more in the shoes of Ralph for some time now. The “dance” it seems to me, is the role of the liberals in the Church

    The lesson is that here we have yet another example of bishops letting us down. Yes, he was a nice man, well so was Jack to begin with. But he was known as a “leading liberal and moderniser”, he complained constantly about “trivial obstacles” and I think we can all guess what they were, he supported homosexual groups (i.e., not homosexually inclined groups, no not those, not fashionable after all) as well as groups supporting the idea of women priests and of course he thought people who went to Confession regularly were obsessive or suffered from scruples or something like that.

    Oh Lord, I had better go to ground. Perhaps I am now in the shoes of Piggy? When is the forest fire going to start and attract some attention from those in white uniforms?

    “St Michael defend us in our day of battle…………….”

  28. Supertradmum says:

    I think the laity forgets where priests and bishops come from-Catholic homes and Catholic schools. If there is a crisis among the clergy, we have only ourselves to blame. It is not the case that young men are completely set on the wrong track morally or theologically all of the sudden in seminary when they are in their twenties. By that time, they are formed.

    No, parents form their children first. Then teachers, and only then, college or university teachers and peers. If the lay people want holy priests and holy bishops there are several things we can do.

    1) Be holy ourselves.
    2) Raise holy children
    3) Avoid wishy-washy Catholic schools; home school
    4) Make sure the children have strong Catholic friends-go to TLMs
    5) Teach the faith at home
    6) Encourage leadership skills, morality and counter-cultural values in our teens.
    7) Fast and pray for our clergy, bishops, seminarians
    8) Give to good seminaries
    9) Fast and pray some more
    10) Stop being judgmental. Luke 6:37 from the mouth of Christ Himself
    “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

  29. philbert says:

    Thank you, Father, and all here who have written with charity and understanding about this sad matter. It is a commendable contrast to some blogs that sound as though they relish Bishop Conry’s situation. Who among us CAN throw the first or any stone?

  30. Gerard Plourde says:

    This is truly a sad event. I will second the observations of philbert – The charitable remarks of the posters here reenforces my love of the Catholic faith and my fellow Catholics.

  31. frjim4321 says:

    We’ve certainly seen various difficulties emerge on the part of priests and bishops of all ideological stripes so whether this prelate is or is not progressive is really not pertinent. There have, after all, been some rather sad departures from a certain religious nostalgia cable channel. That being said, I hope this situation will pass with a minimum of hardship on the part of everyone involved. If there is scandal (and I certainly hope there is not) it will be very damaging.

  32. Marianna says:

    I know we should never cast stones, as Our Lord said. I will pray for this Bishop. But I can’t help feeling angry about this. He is a bishop, the shepherd of his flock, not just some ordinary guy. And I’m ashamed that we have come to such a pass that we actually have to be grateful that one of our ordained clergy is accused of *only* having an affair with a married woman, rather than of criminal behaviour.

  33. benedetta says:

    Supertradmum, you are right in that excellent outline. The fruits of such a program are already in evidence. “Let the dead bury their dead…”

  34. Joe in Canada says:

    I find it hard to believe that when a bishop has an on-going affair, no one in his own diocesan staff knows. We’ve been through this in Canada with a former bishop who had a long-standing affair with a man, and we were expected to believe it was a surprise to everyone. Perhaps it would be good to have a general policy that when this happens, all the top-level curial officials should be fired.

    I do wish we would do away with “Fish Friday”. We’ll be back to arguing about whether Sole meunier is more penitential than fried bologna. Permitting fish was a concession to European dietary needs, which is surely not generally necessary any more.

  35. Suburbanbanshee says:

    So far as I can tell, there is no such thing as a “religious nostalgia cable channel.” I suppose that one could have a bunch of atheists, agnostics, and apostates sit around discussing the good bits of the religions they used to follow, but this doesn’t seem to be a popular activity.

    However, there is an intensely evangelistic, didactic, and apologetics-oriented Catholic media channel called EWTN, which is the leading Catholic educational source in the US and several other countries, and which puts out programming in several languages. I’m surprised you’ve never heard of it.

    And yes, there was one guy who left EWTN and his order to get married, and another who left EWTN and his diocese in order to break obedience to his bishop. But they did leave fairly quickly, and didn’t hang around pretending for twenty years. Nor were they bishops – or abbots, or even parish priests in charge of many souls.

    It is shocking when a teacher or a clergyman messes up; but a bishop is something beyond that. He is the watchman for all his diocese’s souls. Even to be neglectful or “sleep on watch” is a great offense. But if he deliberately does wrong and does it for years and years, he is endangering all the souls in his charge. Whether he drags other people into his mortal sin or allows them to drag him, he does them great wrong when he should be saving them. He is supposed to be teaching them, not using them.

  36. Kathleen10 says:

    Has it become so wrong to be “judgmental” that we are all unable to definitively identify egregious error on the part of a cleric? Don’t get me wrong, I certainly have no desire to be in the camp of those who “judge”, but I do wonder if we are all getting a little phobic about stating something that is a very big problem, that of Bishops and clergy who have made decisions to blatantly break vows, which of course has great impact on every decision they have made including what paper towels to put in the rectory. This type of wrongdoing is above what sins we “run of the mill” Christians commit, not in particular, but because of the very real impact it has on so many people. My heart goes out to the people of that geographic area. This is a devastating blow for them and it is a horrible scandal. It encourages the blather about married priests and celibacy, and gives support to heretics and their enablers. It causes further division and another big, black eye to our Catholic faith, once again, and more hearts are broken.
    There is a greater responsibility on a cleric than on a layperson. And I don’t wish to gather stones, God help Bishop Conry, but I also fear we are becoming so fearful of being labeled “judgmental” that we are losing our ability to publicly identify something that is devastatingly improper. That would perhaps be just as damaging as being “judgmental”, maybe more so.

  37. Antonin says:

    Fr. Jim:

    Great point! But I think the bishop handled it well. Crisis Managment 101, get out in front of the problem and take proactive steps to address and acknowledge it. The Church is larger than any one person (or ego) and good on him that he puts the needs of the diocese above his personal reputation. A certain commissioner of the NFL should take a lesson from that as well.

  38. Mike says:

    The temptation is mighty to bristle at the ESPN innuendo and the dead ends into which it could lead, were one not mindful of the Pharasaism of cataloging others’ sins, which I think was our blogmaster’s point.

  39. Mike says:

    Make that EWTN, not ESPN: mea culpa.

  40. Kathleen10 says:

    @Suburbanbanshee….well put! I happen to agree with you 100% about this situation and definitely, about EWTN. Thank you for putting that so well.

    I notice the Bishop quoted by Catholic News Agency as stating that the fact that his affair with a woman six years ago is now public knowledge is “liberating” and “a relief”.
    Is that right. I find those words absolutely astonishing in light of what he has done. I do not congratulate him on his errors, his behavior, his choices, his leadership, his default of his moral and spiritual responsibility to his God, his people, his church, nor of his decision to do damage control by finally taking responsibility for it and getting out so he can pursue his hobby without being encumbered by his actual responsibilities, the ones he signed up for some time ago, the ones he has completely turned his back on repeatedly. His decisions all along the way have been harmful to the people who looked to him as a spiritual leader. He has utterly and repeatedly abandoned them. As a Bishop he committed adultery, and caused a women to commit adultery. These are grievous sins. I am not above them, but I am not a Bishop. There is nothing wrong in stating that this is the truth of this sad situation.
    I fear we are becoming too timid in calling out sin and error. This will not help us in any way. Right now we need to be spiritually sharp, as these are odd and perilous times. If we get weak-kneed about calling out such terrible acts out of fear we are being judgmental, we are going to make things that much more difficult. This is no time to be reticent.

  41. benedetta says:

    frjim4321 above would like us all to believe his mythic premise, that EF hating clerics break their vows no more or differently than orthodox. As to being able to say yes to frjim4321 on that, we all will need a little more info.

  42. Unwilling says:

    New to Fr Z’s blog, I checked back on previous posts re +Conry (mostly positive) and found one, a markup by Fr Z of an interview that is very much worth (re-)reading for Fr Z’s penetrating and judicious remarks on TLM.
    Catholic Herald: Bp. Conry (Arundel & Brighton) speaks out
    Posted on 18 December 2008 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

  43. John Nolan says:

    When Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in Westminster Cathedral in September 2010 Bishop Conry complained that there was too much Latin and accused the cathedral’s director of music, Martin Baker, of overriding the wishes of the Holy Father and of Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Completely untrue – Baker was simply told to do ‘what we normally do’. I, for one, will shed few tears over Conry’s ignominious departure.