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Vatican Accepts Bishop O'Brien's Resignation

Phoenix, Jun. 18 ( – The Vatican has accepted the resignation of Phoenix Bishop Thomas O'Brien, who was arrested on Monday in connection with a fatal hit-and-run accident.

The terse Vatican announcement of the bishop's resignation announced that Pope John Paul II had "accepted the resignation to the pastoral care of the diocese of Phoenix, USA, of Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, in conformity with Canon 401, para 2, of the Code of Canon Law."

That passage in the Code of Canon Law reads: "A diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfillment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office."

Bishop O'Brien had reportedly offered his resignation earlier this year, after negotiating an agreement with local prosecutors in which he conceded that the Phoenix diocese, under his direction, had deliberately withheld evidence of priestly sexual abuse. After signing that agreement, the bishop had become involved in a public disagreement with Maricopa County prosecutor Rick Romley over the implications of his admissions. While the bishop denied a cover-up, Romley told reporters that he had ample evidence to prosecute O'Brien on obstruction-of-justice charges.

Bishop O'Brien was freed on bail after being formally charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, a felony in Arizona. Witnesses reported seeing the bishop's car hit a pedestrian, Jim Lee Reed, on Saturday night. Reed was killed by the accident. The bishop – whose car was later discovered with a broken windshield and body damage – reportedly told police that he thought he might have hit a dog or cat; he did not stop to investigate.


19 Jun 2003