Diocese of Scranton: BOTH bishops resign

From CNA:

Pope accepts resignations of both bishops from Diocese of Scranton

Scranton, Pa., Aug 31, 2009 / 10:32 am (CNA).- An announcement from the Vatican this morning revealed that not only will the diocese’s bishop, Most Rev. Joseph Martino be stepping down due to health reasons, but Scranton’s auxiliary bishop will be retiring as well.

Last week, CNA reported that Bishop Martino, 63, would be resigning from his post in Scranton. The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of Martino in accordance with canon 401 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law which says: a diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfillment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office.”

Born in Philadelphia in 1946, Martino was ordained a priest in 1970 and was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia in 1996 before becoming Bishop of Scranton in 2003.

The Diocese of Scranton will not only lose Martino, but also one of its auxiliary bishops, Most Rev. John M. Dougherty, whose resignation was also accepted by the Vatican today. Dougherty, 77, submitted his resignation when he reached the age of 75.

Dougherty was born in Scranton in 1932. The Scranton auxiliary studied at the University of Notre Dame and was ordained a priest in 1957. He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Scranton in 1995.

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia will oversee the Diocese of Scranton as its apostolic administrator until a replacement is named by the Holy Father.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Watch the video (move ahead to 9 minutes in for start of presser). Interesting comments out of Martino not showing up in news reports.

    Presser video feed

    I’ve got comments, but those will have to wait for tonight.

  2. Keep in mind, this is the same bishop who stood up in November at the assembly and told his brother bishops, “we will have to someday account for our collective reticence”, referring to how Catholic pols were being handled.

    I might add, this is the same bishop who said, “the USCCB does not speak for me; I am the head of this diocese” back during pre-election period when he interrupted that meeting of Catholic dissidents.

    Keep all that in mind when he talks about his struggles with what seems like a lack of support. Is it the lack of support just confined within the diocese, or outside of it? Listen carefully to what he says.

    Also, it seemed tense enough to cut with the knife.

  3. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Another setback for American Catholicism, with an outspoken bishop calling it quits. Coming on the heels of the Kennedy funeral — and O’Malley’s caving to the liberals — it is disheartening, to say the least.

  4. We don’t know the health reasons for His Excellency’s resignation. I find the news devastating as he has been one of the best bishops in recent years, and his leadership will be missed by the faithful. I pray that his health issues can be overcome, as I believe that he will still be a vital voice for the Catholic faithful in this country as long as he draws breath. We need to follow his example.

  5. TNCath says:

    I’m wondering if Bishop Martino’s “health reasons” are the fact that he is literally “sick” of standing alone against a tide of seeming indifference from the majority of his confreres.

    I’m wondering if this resignation, Archbishop Sheenan’s recent comments, and appearances of Cardinals O’Malley and McCarrick at Teddy Kennedy’s funeral and burial are part of a movement by the USCCB to rebuild its relationship with the present administration?

  6. KAS says:

    How sad. We have such need of good shepherds and it is not an easy time for any of them!

  7. Virgil says:

    My speculation, just my speculation, but I think it was a gentlemen’s agreement.

    Martino, unlike other “ultra-right” and “political” bishops like Chaput, was not so careful in picking his fights. With him, it was more, “Shoot first, ask questions later.” His colleagues were more savvy: before they issued condemnations, they tended to dot their I’s and cross their T’s.

    Example 1. Although the USCCB voters’ guide was pretty lame, it could have been used as a basis on which to build. Instead, Martino chose to discredit it entirely. He thus caused scandal.

    Example 2. An African American Gay Evangelical was invited to address Misericordia University as part of its Diversity Week. Martino saw his name on the speakers list and issued a news release in objection, because “Catholic teaching on sexuality is not presented.” Had he asked the speaker or the university BEFORE issuing the news release, he would have discovered that Catholic teaching was in fact the entire context of the talk.

    Now, his principles may very well have been correct in both cases. A guy like Chaput might have used them both as teaching moments. The impression left would have been, “Hey, this bishop has something to say. He’s a teacher and shepherd of souls.”

    Instead, we are left with the impression that he’s just rude, or crabby, or a political partisan.

    Some may call these sorts of PR problems “courage” or “conviction.” But sometimes, it’s not what you say, it is how you say it.

  8. TNCath says:

    Virgil wrote, “But sometimes, it’s not what you say, it is how you say it.”

    You are probably right. Bishop Martino could be, at times, a bull in a china shop. Nonetheless, his speaking the truth should not mean he should have to resign.

    However, when I read that line, I couldn’t help but think about Teddy Kennedy’s letter to the Holy Father and Cardinal McCarrick’s comments at the burial on Saturday. It wasn’t what they said, it was how they said it.

  9. He thus caused scandal.

    Let’s be careful here; to give scandal is a grave matter and generally requires a trip to the confessional.

  10. Vincenzo says:

    TNCath: “I’m wondering if Bishop Martino’s “health reasons” are the fact that he is literally “sick” of standing alone against a tide of seeming indifference from the majority of his confreres.”

    Bishop Martino announced that for some time, “there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the Diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance. This development, he continued, “has caused him great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and at times a crippling physical fatigue.” – link

  11. Warren says:

    I like this fellow, this Bishop Martino. It is good to hear a bishop say what he means and mean what he says. The Church, especially in the 20th C, has been roundly criticized for apparently not speaking out enough (oh if only there were ears to hear!). At other times, She has been accused of being a loose cannon and criticized for putting lives in danger or jeopardizing relationships with politicians Catholic and otherwise who, frankly, couldn’t give a d*mn what the Church teaches.

    Pope Pius XII’s forthright warnings about the looming darkness and his sounding the alarm while the allies slumbered were just as necessary as his prudence in later years. Different times called for different approaches, different tactics. Bishop Martino’s approach has caused the complacent to assess their catholicity while exposing the frauds among us. Or, to put it another way: Bishop Martino comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. He get’s an A+ for defending the unborn and those who work to protect innocent life.

    Sometimes one just has to make a whip and challenge those who are committing evil acts. “Zeal for my Father’s house will consume me.” I cannot imagine our Lord and Savior negotiating with those who defiled His Father’s house. The milquetoast christ of liberal christianity is always presented as a weak, effeminate guidance counselor. Lame duck christians avoid preaching the Savior Who is Lord of history and the Lord Who calmed the storm, the Lord Who defeated Satan (oo, did I offend anyone by implying a belief that the devil exists?) and the Lord Who brings a sword to the earth.

    Thank God for bishops like Martino, Chaput and Burke.

  12. TheWork says:

    Having Bishop Martino around was a beautiful thing that helped give lie to the ridiculous assertion of Hilary and Joe Biden that they were from Scranton and shared the values of that area.

    In these days of priests being afraid to just simply speak the truth, Bishop Martino was GREAT GREAT GREAT!!! to have around. And no, he’s not “crabby” he was quite nice when I met him this summer, I think I’m **MUCH** more crabby than he is ;-)

    Sorry Virgil, it’s not how you say something, because, in the end, a properly formed conscience will see the lies of people like Kennedy, and the (to quote Bishop Martino) “reticence” of a good intentioned but shy man like Cardinal McCarrick. And it is most certainly NOT scandal to be opposed to a voters’ guide that in itself leads certain people to believe that they can excuse one of the most grave evils if there is some other issue that they erroneously think is more important. Poor people, like many in Bishop Martino’s diocese, can give glory to God, and be “a prophet unto the nations.” You can’t do that if you’re aborted. Can you?

  13. William says:

    The injustice of it all! Through the merits and intercession of Saint John Neumann, let us storm heaven with our prayers for this unusually good churchman. It is difficult not to despair over all this; but we must absorb the indignity and persevere with Christian hope. Hey, he’s young, he’s still a bishop of the Most Holy Roman Catholic Church; and there’s much, much more he can do to restore orthodoxy to the Church in this country. Stay tuned!

  14. Let’s hope and pray that Bishop Martino isn’t dealing with a more serious medical issue and has chosen, as is his right, to keep those details to himself, the Holy Father and those closest to him.

    That said, while “insomnia and crippling physical fatigue” can be challenging enough I suppose, this announcement as it stands simply sounds like an “I quit.” Of course Bishop Martino’s initiatives have not been entirely well received. Isn’t that to be expected when a shepherd is faithful?

    At any rate, I expect the liberals to feel enboldened by this resignation. Short of more information coming forth, the Bishop’s resignation statement today makes it sound like he simly grew weary of the opposition, regardless of where it originated.

    Let’s also pray that Bishop Martino’s replacement is not just energetic but as fiercely orthodox as he is so those who are dancing now will come to rue this day.

  15. Hidden One says:

    With his retirement, Bp. Martino does not cease to be a good bishop, merely bishop of Scranton. I wonder what he will do after a period of rest and recovery, and how long that period will be.

    I know that one retired American bishop (with guts) blogs regularly, both under his own name and under a pseudonym.

  16. Traductora says:

    I don’t live in his diocese so there are probably things I don’t understand about people’s resentment of his internal administration. Egan did the same thing (closed churches and consolidated clergy), and people didn’t like him for it; but Cdl Egan had the personality of a hatchet man and Bp Martino probably didn’t.

    Also, wasn’t this the diocese that had the scandal with the Community of St John (I may have the name wrong), which was supposed to be an orthodox traditional community but unfortunately had at least one and probably two priests with an ephebophilia problem, sent from Argentina by the cynic who was in charge of that community down there? I would suspect this was a real stake in the heart.

    Aside from that, I think this is a sign that Obama is winning. There was really very little objection to Kennedy’s lavish funeral and Obama’s addressing the assembled throng from the pulpit, and Obama was actually pretty toned down because he knows that he is now the top dog in the Catholic Church in America. But there was an indignant statement from some USCCB spokesman about how the “minority” (100 bishops, which is about 1/3rd of the membership) that objected to Obama’s presence at ND had been just a fluke and an embarrassment to the Church and that he hoped things would be better now.

    The only person Cdl Rigali has removed so far has been a priest who was an orthodox moral theologian, former advisor to Abp Burke, who had just been appointed to supervise educational programs. I don’t think this is good at all. But I’m famed for being a Cassandra.

  17. avecrux says:

    Dear Virgil –

    Perhaps you are the one who should be dotting I’s and crossing T’s. Here is what LIfeSite news had to say about your example #2 – not exactly how you presented it, my friend:

    SCRANTON, Pennsylvania, February 17, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino has condemned Misericordia University for “seriously failing” in its Catholic identity by inviting homosexual rights advocate Keith Boykin for two lecture appearances scheduled for today.

    “Bishop Martino wants Catholics of the Diocese of Scranton to know of his absolute disapproval of Misericordia University’s hosting Mr. Boykin,” reads a statement from the diocese of Scranton.

    “By honoring this speaker through allowing his positions, so antithetical to Catholic Church teaching, to be broadcast on its campus, the University has rejected all four essential characteristics of a Catholic institution of higher learning,” which are “its Christian inspiration, its obligation to reflect on knowledge in light of the Catholic faith, its fidelity to Catholic Church teaching and its commitment to serve the people of God.

    “The faithful of the Diocese of Scranton, the Bishop observed, should be in no doubt that Misericordia University in this instance is seriously failing in maintaining its Catholic identity,” the statement concludes.

    Keith Boykin, a classmate of President Obama’s at Harvard Law School and a former assistant in the Clinton administration, is an avid supporter of homosexual rights and was president of the National Black Justice Coalition, an organization established in 2003 to organize African American support for same-sex “marriage” rights.

    Boykin is the New York Times best-selling author of “One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America,” in which he discusses his own “coming out,” his first sexual experience, and the lives of prominent black and homosexual individuals. Boykin’s three books have all been nominated for a literary award from Lambda, a pro-homosexualist legal group.

    Boykin’s talks at Misericordia were scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Bevevino Library and 8 p.m. in the Lemmond Theater at Walsh Hall.

    Bishop Martino called Boykin’s beliefs “disturbingly opposed to Catholic moral teaching,” according to The Times Tribune.

    In response, Misericordia issued a release Monday that Boykin’s appearance “is not meant to be a forum for advocacy on any singular issue,” and that the university “is committed deeply to its Catholic Mission” but is also “an academic institution where ideas and positions are explored critically and freely.”

    The Cardinal Newman Society, which reported on the planned lectures last week, praised Bishop Martino for calling Misericordia to task in the abuse of its Catholic identity.

    “We join with the families of Misericordia students and other concerned Catholics, who no doubt will be praying that the university responds admirably to Bishop Martino’s pastoral call and lives up to its Catholic identity,” said Patrick Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society.

  18. EXCHIEF says:

    Virgil (and others)
    The Bishops being politically correct and reluctant/unable to speak out for over 40 years has led us to the pit we are currently in as a church in the United States. Bp Martino had the intestinal fortitude to tell it like it is which, if Bishops and Priests had done so all along, would likely have prevented the CINO’s who now populate the Church in America. Instead of receiving widespread support from the clergy for the most part Martino got silence at best and avoidance at worst. His strongest supporters have been the laity not his brother Bishops. I’d tire of that too.

    Bless both Bishops upon their retirement and pray that those appointed to replace them share some of Bp Martino’s strong qualities.

  19. thomas tucker says:

    From the description, it sounds as if he is suffering from depression.
    Let us pray for him.

  20. Melody says:

    The reason so many Bishops don’t do the right thing and speak is not always because they are so terribly heretical. It’s because they are weak. Being a bishop like Martino must be incredibly hard with the constant demands and dissent one faces. One can understand how he might suffer some health problem due to the stress. All traditional bishops need our prayers.

  21. Clinton says:

    Bishops like +Martino are pearls of great price, and this story shows me that we cannot take fine bishops and priests like him for
    granted. Of course we include them in our prayers. But it would also help if we contacted them with a sincere ‘thank you’ when we
    hear of them fighting for the Faith. Especially if we notice that in doing so they are being left twisting in the wind by their colleagues.

    I have a feeling that most of the correspondence received by rectories and chanceries is negative. I’m sure the authors feel they
    have good reason for those calls and letters. But we must also support our clergy when we see them taking a stand. Perhaps we’d still
    have +Martino on deck in Scranton if we’d communicated our support.

    Years ago, Bishop Bruskiewicz in Nebraska issued a statement pointing out that Catholics who were associated with groups like
    Planned Parenthood and those so-called “Catholics for a Free Choice” were excommunicate. The press was derisive. The response of
    his brother bishops was underwhelming. But I did hear that within a couple of days his private chapel at the chancery was stuffed
    with flowers sent from all over the country. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about. We have got to show men such as these our love.

  22. mrteachersir says:


    1) Martino disregarded the USCCB’s document because he was not present when it was drafted. He never signed off on it, so it was in fact, not “the law of the land”. Canonically speaking (I remember this part well from that event), the USCCB does not teach for a particular diocese unless the bishop has agreed to it. Martino issued his own encyclical letter concerning the topic. His letter is the “law of the land.” His I’s were dotted and his T’s were crossed in this account.

    2) In the second instance, Misericordia was not concerned with the Catholic teaching on sex and sexuality. In fact, after this event, Martino asked all of the “Catholic” colleges in the Diocese to provide him a curriculum that illustrates how the Catholic position on sex and sexuality was taught at those colleges. All three hemmed and hawed and balked. They never produced any documents. Clearly, they didn’t focus on the Catholic perspective of sex and sexuality.

  23. “Bishop Martino could be, at times, a bull in a china shop.”

    History is full of saints who were exactly the same. Those types really bring the party down, don’t they? If he ever comes to visit DC, I’m taking that man to one of Georgetown’s finer restaurants. Somebody pass it on.

  24. mrteachersir says:

    In speaking with several diocesan clergy, Card. Rigali’s choice as Vicar General, Msgr Bamberra, is very heartening.

    I am, however, extremely saddened by this. Bishop Martino is a great man, and his unequivocal leadership will be missed. He was a staunch supporter not only of the unborn, but teaching the truth about marriage, chastity, and was a staunch supporter of Catholic education. The religion curriculum he promulgated is outstanding.

    It would be an extreme setback for our Diocese if someone as wishy-washy as what we’ve experienced in the last week were named.

  25. Girgadis says:

    While Bishop Martino’s efforts to protect the sanctity of life are exemplary, I also applaud his actions surrounding Miseracordia University’s diversity week. Sadly, that event was probably his undoing. I know of a priest in another state who was banished to a diocese hundreds of miles away after he spoke out against condoning and embracing the homosexual lifestyle. This issue seems to be a third rail for clergy unwilling to compromise by embracing the sin with the sinner. More than anyone on earth, our priests and bishops are responsible for saving souls from falling into hell. Bishop Martino fulfilled this responsibility to the point of his own physical destruction. He can walk away knowing he did the right thing. Those whose silence contributed to his demise need our prayers more than he does.

  26. ssoldie says:

    I am in full agreement with Bishop Martino when he said ‘the USCCB does not speak for me: ‘I am head of this Diocese’ The USCCB is a stumbling block for many Bishop our(Shepherds) who want to teach ,govern, and sancitify thier sheep, as individuals, unincombered by the USCCB and its sugar sweet programs, always politically correct and empty of any strong doctrine. The USCCB has reduced the Catholic Church in America to ‘just’ another religion, a big buerocracy ,a good ole boys club, who thinks it is a canonical entity empowered to govern the Church in America, (and if this be true), then we must pray that Pope Benedict XVI will change the governing canons.

  27. eulogos says:

    Girgardis, Do you have more than a supposition that Bishop Martino’s opposition to Keith Boykin’s speaking at Misericordia was his undoing?
    How exactly would this have come about? Do you envision that Boykin called his old friend Obama, who had someone call Rigali, who put pressure on Martino to resign? Is the Holy Father supposed to be in on this and acceding to it?

    It seems to me that you have made an ominously plausible guess. He offended someone who was both black and gay…and a friend of the POTUS besides. But how was this pressure brought to bear?

    Susan Peterson

  28. Patrick J. says:

    I did get the distinct feeling that this was/is not the “end of the road.” There was a slight contradiction. The bishop denied being ill, at least according to what was seemingly being echoed abroad, and that his “illness” was a fatigue brought on by stress, not some sort of disease, IOW. OK, we get that part. He said a more “physically vigorous” man would be required. But as the bishop himself noted, and viewers could easily see, his mental vigor has remained solidly intact, and he is going to exercise that, and don’t be surprised to hear about a higher calling. God is not mocked, and the one who would stand vigorously and unflappably for the gospel values and especially for the children God so much loves, well, this man will be more than OK. This allows for a graceful and artful departure, and to the glory of God, he has raised the bar, not lowered it, in Scranton. He puts to shame those other weak kneed bishops and don’t think that they themselves don’t know that. They most certainly do.

    If someone else says “Obama is winning” I will scream. Another guy on the “winning” team just went out with a whimper, controversey, a sad letter of “justification” to the Pope. Sad, sad, pathetic. Who here will want or need a letter to the pope to “explain” yourself, delivered by a “man of great faith.” The same man that thinks it is fine for victims of botch abortions to die without medical attention in a metal pail. Beyond the pale, if that is indeed possible anymore. Stomps on the church even in death with that pathetic show at the funeral, with one last photo op/dems talking points opportunity. Mind boggling. It is truly amazing how people that are almost without accomplishment of any tangible quality ride the “pro choice train” so very far, to the point that others do confuse things and think there actually IS accomplishment there. Most of these are fueled by atheist and Hollywood(hedonist)money, just pathetic when these types don’t even know how pathetic they are.}

  29. Patrick J. says:

    Correction, should say “survivors” of botched abortions, not victims, although they are that as well.

  30. trespinos says:

    I’m old enough to remember the end of Archbishop Sheen’s service as the ordinary of Rochester. Does anyone sense the similarities with this situation? Two outstanding teaching types who provoked opposition from lesser lights, perhaps?

  31. Gus says:

    I agree with you. Its not just the content of the message but also the presentation of the message. Many times, presentation can be an obstacle to reception of the content. Not that presentation should compromise the content but there has to be a middle ground between presentation being an obstacle or a compromise. I guess every bishop has to find that middle ground and walk that high wire. Please continue to pray for them.

    Pax et Bonum

  32. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I strongly disagree with the insinuation of some that Martino was forced out. A man who speaks truth to power is not so easily cowered by his enemies within the Church. However, I do know of the experience of trying to make financially failing parishes solvent once again, and the stress can indeed by crushing.

    Bishop Martino, as an administrator, had many irons in the fire. He was not just trying to prop up financially failing parishes, which is overwhelming in itself, but oversee the financial problems of an entire diocese. As if this full-time, CEO role was not enough stress, he also had to deal with the issues of orthodoxy and conflict with some of his clergy.

    Most Catholics do not have a clue how many meetings and how many stacks, volumes of, paper and stats a bishop goes through in running an American diocese. That is just dealing with labor law, insurance questions, liability cases (and lawsuits for injuries on parish grounds), and financial records. It’s mind boggling, and a successful bishop has to *love* this kind of administrative paper work not to be drowned in it.

    Then you get to the constant, incessant calls and letters from every parish expecting you to mediate every problem–from an unorthodox homily to the pastor knocking down a tool shed which had only been put up two years before by the previous pastor. In previous times, parishioners rarely went to the Bishop. Now they are knocking at the chancery door because they don’t like the new missalettes which have been ordered in their parish.

    Most of us priests who have seen this circus just shake our heads and say, “thank God it’s not me.” It’s enough stress running a parish. Add on to the stress the nasty political fights and retaliation which come from speaking truth to power, and it can easily be overwhelming.

    When you are trying to save a parish school, and four of the most generous five donors, just stopped their pledge because of something you said–you bet it can give you insomnia and fatigue.

    If Bishop Martino is guilty of anything, it is possibly that he did not pace himself and leave certain fights for another day. Otherwise, his resignation is very understandable when you take into account all that he was dealing with.

Comments are closed.