Machado resigned from his positions in the Diocese of Memphis on June 29, shortly after the apostolic visitation to the diocese concluded. In a letter to priests announcing Machado’s resignation, the bishop asked priests to pray “that he may successfully complete his degree in the upcoming academic year, as it will greatly benefit his service to the diocese," Holley wrote.
But criticism of Machado in the diocese, he said, was motivated by resentment toward the administrative decisions Holley made. He said the priest was tasked with carrying out his controversial decisions, and that made him a subject of criticism.
Allegations of misconduct
After Holley’s resignation was announced, reports emerged that the bishop had been previously accused of sexual misconduct.
In 2009 a former seminarian published a blog post alleging that in 1986, Holley, who was then a deacon, “used all the creepy predator tricks to get me to give in to him sexually,” at Washington, DC’s Theological College. CNA attempted to contact the former seminarian but was unable to reach him.
A senior Church official told CNA that the complaint was forwarded to the apostolic nuncio this summer, and that it might have impacted the Vatican’s decision to remove the bishop.
Holley told CNA that the apostolic nuncio has not raised the issue with him at any time.
He told CNA that while he could not comment directly on the allegation, he is concerned the matter is being raised in order to cast aspersions on his character, linking him to bishops recently accused of predatory sexual behavior.
“I am not a part of the lavender [mafia],” he said.
“I would never belong to that evil,” he added, referring to allegations of predatory sexual behavior raised against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and other senior Church figures.
He added that he was not particularly close to McCarrick, under whom he served for less than two years as auxiliary bishop. Sources told CNA that it is widely believed in the Archdiocese of Washington that McCarrick opposed Holley’s 2004 appointment as an auxiliary in that diocese, preferring a local candidate.
“I couldn’t help that I was his auxiliary,” he said.
The bishop added while he might have heard that McCarrick had a beach house, he had no knowledge of the prelate’s alleged predatory behavior, much of which is reported to have taken place there.
“I didn’t know anything about McCarrick,” he said. “The poor victims, my gosh.”
Most important, Holley said, in 2009 or 2010 he informed Wuerl, McCarrick, and Bishop Barry Knestout, then another Washington auxiliary bishop, about the seminarian’s allegation. He said he was “completely transparent” with Wuerl about the allegation, and that Wuerl thanked him for reporting it. McCarrick, he said, told him “not to worry about it.”
The matter was not raised again, he said.
Wuerl’s spokesman told CNA that “Cardinal Wuerl has no recollection of any conversation with Bishop Holley regarding any allegation from any period of time.”
Knestout's spokesperson in the Diocese of Richmond told CNA that “Bishop Knestout has no knowledge of such a conversation with Bishop Holley nor did he receive any allegation on this matter.”
McCarrick could not be reached.
Questions remain unanswered about the canonical process by which Holley was removed. While Pope Francis established in 2016 norms by which a bishop can be removed through a Vatican process, it is not clear whether that process was used in Holley’s case, or whether the Congregation for Bishops, on which Wuerl sits, was involved.
Holley told CNA that he had not spoken with Pope Francis before he was relieved of his responsibility.
He said he is not sure what next he will do. He is now 63, the ordinary retirement age for bishops is 75.
“There is evil at work here,” he said.
“This is a spiritual battle.”
This story has been updated to include comment from the Diocese of Richmond submitted subsequent to publication.