Thursday, August 13, 2009

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr takes over in Cincinnati today

Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, the Dayton native who became the country’s longest-serving archbishop, turns 75 today, Aug. 12, and is required under church law to submit his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI.

It’s not certain when the pontiff will accept Pilarczyk’s resignation, but there’s no mystery about who will replace him. The pope in October named Dennis Schnurr, the former bishop of Duluth, as “coadjutor” archbishop and Pilarczyk’s heir apparent.

Pilarczyk, who became the archbishop of Cincinnati in 1982, has led the 19-county archdiocese, which includes the Miami Valley, through priest child abuse scandals, a priest shortage and the mergers of some parishes. He was not available for an interview this week.

“I think he’s been a very effective leader for the church in very troubling times,” said Rev. Paul Marshall, rector at the University of Dayton. “We (at UD) really respect the bishop and his leadership.”

Pilarczyk studied theology in Rome, holds a doctorate in classics and has authored a dozen books and many other works.

Yet he also is the only U.S. bishop to plead no contest to criminal charges in court on behalf of his diocese. The 2003 misdemeanor charges stemmed from the archdiocese’s failure to report child sexual abuse by priests. Under Pilarczyk, the archdiocese also strongly defended against civil lawsuits by purported child abuse victims and lobbied the Ohio legislature to shoot down a bill that would have given plaintiffs a chance to sue the church even though the statute of limitations had expired on their cases.

“If we had a dirty dozen list of the worst bishops, he would be on it,” said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. “Most bishops fight tooth and nail to cover up for abusive priests. Few have fought harder than Pilarczyk in both the courts and the legislature.”

Rev. Lawrence Mierenfeld, pastor of Centerville’s Incarnation Church, said Pilarczyk would “probably be the first to admit he’d do some things differently. (But) I think he’s been a good leader for the archdiocese ... theologically and financially.” Dayton Daily News

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