New Zealand bishop resigns over ‘unacceptable’ sexual relationship

Pope Francis attends a feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, at the Vatican, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. The ceremony takes place two days before a Synod of bishops on the Pan-Amazon region opens at the Vatican to address the ecological, social and spiritual needs of indigenous peoples in the Amazon. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Friday accepted the resignation of a New Zealand bishop over what church officials said was his “completely unacceptable” sexual behavior with a young woman.

Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan, 59, had offered to resign following an independent investigation into the woman’s complaint, according to a statement from Cardinal John Dew, head of the church in New Zealand.

Advertisement

The Vatican said Friday that the pope had accepted the resignation.

The removal is significant since the Catholic Church has long considered sexual relationships between clerics and adult women to be sinful and inappropriate, but not criminal or necessarily worthy of permanent sanction.

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

However, the #MeToo movement and the scandal over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, an American defrocked by Francis for sexual misconduct, have forced a reckoning about the imbalance of power in relationships between clerics and lay adults, nuns and seminarians _ and whether such relationships can ever be consensual.

Drennan was a member of the New Zealand church team of priests and sisters selected to respond to the country’s Royal Commission inquiry into sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults in state and faith-based care between 1950-1999. His status on the team wasn’t immediately clear.

Drennan is well under the normal retirement age of 75 for bishops. Ordained a priest in 1996, he worked for seven years in the Vatican’s secretariat of state before being made a bishop in 2011. He took over as the head of the Palmerston North diocese a year later.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

More recently, he was elected secretary of the New Zealand bishops’ conference and was a delegate at a 2015 meeting of the world’s bishops on the family.

Dew said the woman made a complaint, and the New Zealand church’s investigative body contracted an outside investigator to evaluate her claim. Both Drennan and the woman participated in the investigation.

Details of their relationship were not released. The woman asked for information from the complaint to remain private, Dew said. He added, however, that “In the eyes of the Catholic Church, Bishop Drennan’s behavior was completely unacceptable.”

Dew praised the woman for coming forward, said she had been told of Drennan’s resignation and is continuing to receive support from the church as well as her family. He urged others to bring reports of clergy misconduct to the church, police or other organizations.

“The Catholic Church has no tolerance for any inappropriate behavior by any of its members,” Dew said.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Thomaspj Poovathinkal
1 month ago

The People of God MUST take URGENT initiàtive to REPORT sexual immoralities of Bishops and Priests to SAVE the Church from DEATH and DESTRUCTION :

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.]

Advertisement

The latest from america

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president-elect of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, responds to a question during a news conference at the fall general assembly of the USCCB in Baltimore Nov. 12, 2019. Also pictured are: Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., and Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Conn. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
U.S. bishops: “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself.... At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”
Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 12, 2019
Refugees and migrants at a camp on the Greek island of Samos, on Oct. 18.  (AP Photo/Michael Svarnias)
More people have been forced to flee their homes than at any time in recorded history, writes Kevin White of Jesuit Refugee Service. But there is good news about global initiatives to address the problem.
Kevin White, S.J.November 12, 2019
On Nov. 12, the U.S. bishops elected Archbishop Gomez to be the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the first ballot.
J.D. Long-GarcíaNovember 12, 2019
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, right, applauds as Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles acknowledges the applause after being named the new president during the fall general assembly of the USCCB in Baltimore Nov. 12, 2019. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Archbishop Gomez leads the largest U.S. diocese, Los Angeles, home to more than four million Catholics, and has been a vocal proponent of rights for immigrants.
Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 12, 2019