Pope Francis names Steubenville bishop as auxiliary bishop of Detroit

Bishop Monforton Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, Ohio gives the homily during Mass with members of the USCCB Region VI at the Basilica of St. John Lateran on Dec. 10, 2019, during their ad Limina Apostolorum visit. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Pope Francis transferred Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, Ohio, to the Archdiocese of Detroit on Thursday to serve as an auxiliary bishop.

Monforton, 60, is originally from Detroit and will assist 74-year-old Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit in the administration of the Michigan archdiocese.

“I offer a heartfelt ‘welcome home’ to Bishop Monforton,” Vigneron said after the appointment was announced. “This is the local Church in which his priestly vocation was nurtured, and we are blessed to have him be with us once again to help lead our efforts to unleash the Gospel.”

Monforton led the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville — home to the Franciscan University of Steubenville — for more than a decade.

The bishop described his transfer to Detroit as “bittersweet.” He said: “I have come to know and to love the good people of the Diocese of Steubenville, from Carrol County in the north to Lawrence County in the south.”

“It has been my distinct pleasure and profound joy to serve the faithful of this diocese for 11 years as their shepherd. The people of the Diocese of Steubenville will always remain in my prayers and have a special place in my heart.”

The retired bishop of Kalamazoo, Bishop Paul J. Bradley, will serve as the apostolic administrator of the Steubenville Diocese, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference.

As the bishop of Steubenville, Monforton proposed a merger between his diocese and the Diocese of Columbus, which drew negative feedback and disappointment from many within the Steubenville Diocese, causing him to put a hold on the plan one week before the U.S. bishops’ conference planned to vote on the merger at its 2022 meeting in Baltimore.

He also ordered an immediate end to the Latin Mass on Franciscan University’s campus earlier this year, saying that the diocese was “seeking to meet the pastoral needs of the faithful in accord with the norms, including the recent rescript, issued by the Holy See.”

Monforton has reportedly been the subject of investigation by the Vatican for his handling of sexual abuse cases, according to a 2022 report by The Pillar.

Auxiliary Bishops Arturo Cepeda, Gerard W. Battersby, and Robert J. Fisher currently serve the Archdiocese of Detroit, which has about 907,000 Catholics in its borders.

The Holy See is investigating an additional Detroit auxiliary who is not in public ministry — Archbishop Paul F. Russell, who has been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor dating to his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, according to Detroit Catholic. Pope Francis appointed Russell as an auxiliary in Detroit in 2022.

Monforton will begin his ministry in Detroit on Nov. 7, where he will join three other active auxiliary bishops and three other retired auxiliary bishops.

He was born in Detroit in 1963 and attended Wayne State University before he entered the seminary. He studied at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and the North American College in Rome before he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1994. He holds a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in sacred theology.

Monforton served as rector of Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary from 2006 to 2012 and was named an apostolic visitor for the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education’s visitation of U.S. seminaries in 2005. He also served as the personal priest secretary to Cardinal Adam Maida from 1998 to 2005.

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