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Cozzens to leave presidency of Ohio seminary

By NCR Staff

Fr. Donald B. Cozzens, whose most recent book is The Changing Face of the Priesthood: A Reflection of the Priest’s Crisis of Soul, has resigned as president-rector of Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Wickliffe, Ohio. He will be leaving the 153-year-old seminary at the end of the academic school year to begin a seven-month research sabbatical June 1.

“The decision to leave was my own,” Cozzens told NCR. “I’ve been rector here for six years, and six years previous I served as vicar for clergy and religious. I think it’s just time for me to move on. I think I’ve found my soul expanded by work here at the seminary. And I’ve enjoyed my work with the seminarians and the lay students.”

Cozzens’ book The Changing Face of the Priesthood, was the subject of controversy when published little more than a year ago. The book explores the state of American priests through personal reflection and analysis of statistical data dealing with such subjects as celibacy, sexual abuse of children and homosexuality in the ranks of the clergy (NCR, March 31). Cozzens speaks candidly about these subjects in the book and writes of his conviction “that the priesthood is at the edge of a new day following a painful yet purifying dark night.”

Cozzens said that there was no connection between the controversy and his resignation. Anthony M. Pilla, Cozzens’ bishop, commenting in a written statement on the resignation said, “I am grateful for his service to the diocese. My personal prayers are with him in this time of transition and my pastoral affection for him as a brother priest and as his bishop remain unwavering.”

The book, in its sixth printing, has now sold about 32,000 copies, Cozzens said. It “has been translated into three languages, French, Italian and Portuguese.” Negotiations for translations into other languages, he said, are ongoing.

“I knew the book would be controversial,” he said, “but I have had too many priests and bishops and laity tell me that my read of the situation was accurate in their judgment. And I wrote the book hoping that it would provoke serious conversation about issues facing the priesthood. It seems to have done that. Now we need to see where the conversations will go.”

Asked about his next project, Cozzens said he is going to write in the area of spirituality and ministry. After the sabbatical, he plans to return to college teaching.

National Catholic Reporter, March 2, 2001