New Zealand bishop resigns over 'unacceptable behaviour' with young woman

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The Vatican announced Friday that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a bishop in New Zealand, following an investigation into a complaint of "unacceptable behaviour of a sexual nature" made by a young woman.

Bishop Charles Drennan, 59, was the subject of an investigation by Cardinal John Dew of Wellington. Drennan had led the Diocese of Palmerston North since 2012.

Under Vos estis lux mundi, recent guidelines for investigations into misconduct claims against bishops which Pope Francis announced in May, metropolitan archbishops are placed in charge of investigations into suffragan bishops. Cardinal Dew is Archbishop of Wellington, to whom the rest of New Zealand's diocesan bishops are suffragan.

Dew said Oct. 4 that upon receiving the young woman's complaint, the New Zealand Church's independent investigation body, the National Office of Professional Standards (NOPS), contracted an "independent, licenced investigator" to investigate under Dew's oversight. The woman requested that details of the complaint remain private, Dew said.

In its Oct. 4 bulletin announcing episcopal resignations and appointments, the Vatican did not specify the reason for Drennan's resignation.

Bishop Drennan stood aside from his duties during the investigation and both he and the complainant participated in the investigation. Dew said the Church has been in ongoing contact with the woman and is committed to continuing to support her.

"The Catholic Church has no tolerance for any inappropriate behaviour by any of its members. I encourage anyone who experiences such behaviour to bring it to the attention of the Church, police or any organisation with which they feel comfortable," Dew said Oct. 4.

The Associated Press reports that 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. He was also secretary of the New Zealand bishop's conference.

Drennan was also chosen by the nation's bishops as a delegate from New Zealand to the Vatican's 2015 Synod on the Family, and he also attended the Synod on the New Evangelization in 2012.

He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Christchurch in 1996, and was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Palmerston North in 2011, succeeding as ordinary the following year.

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