Resignation of Davenport Bishop accepted, days after filing bankruptcy

.- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop William Franklin today, two days after his Diocese of Davenport, Iowa filled for bankruptcy.  The Pope also named his successor in Bishop Martin Amos, currently an Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Cleveland.  

Bishop Franklin, who had served the diocese for almost 13 years and was the second oldest active US bishop, had tendered his resignation last May in accord with Canon Law.

In a press conference today, Bishop Franklin said the announcement was a welcome one, “for the past seventeen months, we have prayed for a new bishop. Today, our prayers have been answered.”

His successor, Bishop Martin Amos, 64, served as a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland for almost 33 years, mostly in the field of education, before being named an auxiliary bishop in 2001.  

According to a press release from the Diocese of Cleveland, Bishop Amos’s duties have focused on the southern districts of the diocese, where he maintained a separate office about 40 miles south of the chancery, in Akron, Ohio.

Responding to the appointment of his former auxiliary, Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland asked the people of his diocese to give thanks to God for the gifts of Bishop Amos and to “pray for God’s blessings upon him as he will soon begin this new ministry.”

The incoming bishop will have a great deal of work to do, both in spiritual healing and financial reconciliation.  Faced with 25 new sexual abuse claims against former priests and a shortage of funds, the Diocese of Davenport filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday.

Since 2004, the diocese has paid more than $10.5 million to resolve dozens of claims filed against priests, including a $9-million settlement reached with 37 victims in the fall of 2004, reported the Associated Press. And in the last two years, both diocese and former priests within its jurisdiction have been held liable in civil trials, the report says.

In a letter posted on the diocesan website, retired Bishop Franklin said bankruptcy was the only alternative to provide “just and fair compensation to victims” and to ensure the financial health of the local Church and continue its mission.

Davenport is the fourth diocese in the nation to seek financial protection to deal with priest sex abuse cases, following Portland, Ore., Spokane, and Tucson.

The new claims are against the diocese and retired Bishop Lawrence Soens, reported the AP. Bishop Soens, who was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Davenport and chosen as bishop for the western Iowa diocese of Sioux City, has been accused by as many as 15 former students during his tenure as priest and principal at a Catholic high school in Iowa City during the 1960s. Bishop Soens denies the allegations; he retired in 1998.
The first of three trials was scheduled to begin Oct. 23, but it may be dismissed in light of the bankruptcy filing.

Bishop Amos said he is quite aware of the issues he will face, “I know we need to continue to reach out to those touched by abuse and to continue to strengthen the protection of children and young people. The recent decision to declare Bankruptcy will have serious implications.”

“Certainly God has been with me on many twists and turns in life and I know that God is with me as I come here today,” Bishop Amos said this morning.  “I pray I will be…a loving father, a gently shepherd, and a wise teacher.”

The Diocese of Davenport was erected in 1881; it has more than 105,000 parishioners in 84 parishes.   Bishop Amos will be installed as the diocese’s ordinary on November 20th.

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