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Issue Date:  April 4, 2008

Belleville priests call for bishop to resign; Braxton says no

BELLEVILLE, Ill. -- More than half the active priests of the Belleville diocese have signed a public statement calling for Bishop Edward Braxton to resign, citing frustration with his leadership and their conclusion that “he has lost his moral authority.”

In response, the bishop issued a letter to Catholics in the diocese dated March 20, Holy Thursday, in which he stated he intends “to serve as bishop of the diocese of Belleville for as long as the Holy Father wants me to do so.” The bishop asked priests to read the 1,700-word letter at Masses on Easter weekend.

In their March 14 statement, the priests said that “because of the bishop’s lack of cooperation, consultation, accountability and transparency, it is the judgment of a great number of the presbyterate that he has lost his moral authority to lead and govern our diocese.”

“Therefore, it is requested that Bishop Braxton resign from his office as bishop of the diocese of Belleville for his own good, for the good of the diocese and for the good of the presbyterate.”

Forty-six priests signed the statement, which was sent to local news media, which posted it on the Internet. The statement was the latest public airing of an often contentious relationship between Braxton and some of the priests and laity of his diocese.

Three weeks earlier, the regional superior and five regional council members of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ religious order wrote to Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the United States, asking him to intervene in the diocese “to create a moment of change that will touch everyone in the diocese and will eventually bring healing, reconciliation and a renewed faith in this body of Christ.”

“The fatigue, confusion and depression that are visible among many church members are symptoms of a deeper strain for this local church,” the women religious said in their Feb. 23 letter.  “And we ask, ‘What more can be done to intervene in this scenario?’ ”

Sr. Jan Renz, the order’s regional superior, is a member of the diocesan finance council.

-- Catholic News Service

National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2008

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