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U.S. bishops official didn’t resign; she was forced out

NCR Staff

The story on Mercy Sr. Sharon Euart’s departure from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCR, Sept. 1) reported she had resigned. Euart did not resign. NCR later confirmed that Euart had been forced out.

Euart said, “Msgr. [William] Fay, in preparation for becoming general secretary, told me he wanted to appoint his own team of associates and that my term of office would conclude Feb. 2, 2001.”

For 13 years the conference’s associate general secretary, Euart was barred by the Vatican from promotion to the general secretary’s post. She was then asked to leave by a peer who was promoted over her.

The Vatican said no last year, when the U.S. bishops’ conference asked Rome if religious or other laypeople could be nominated for the job. The conference’s top bureaucrat, Vatican officials said, must be a priest.

The sole reason the Vatican gave for its priest-only decision was that appointing a religious or layperson “was not the custom around the world.”

In fact, however, both the South African bishops’ conference and the Scandinavian conference have had lay general secretaries, respectively a religious brother and a woman religious.

Several previous general secretaries of the U.S. conference told NCR the duties do not require a person be ordained. They and many bishops within the conference supported Euart for the post.

The current general secretary, Msgr. Dennis Schnurr, leaves Feb. 2, 2001, after six years. There are three associates, Fay, Euart and layman Bruce Egnew. When Fay, five years on the job, got the nod for the top job effective Feb. 3, he asked Euart to leave, but not Egnew.

Euart, who said she was “sad to be leaving,” will take a sabbatical before deciding “what I’ll be going into next.”

National Catholic Reporter, September 15, 2000