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Issue Date:  February 3, 2006

Gumbleton resigns as Detroit auxiliary bishop

Pledges 'to carry on my work for justice and peace'


A year late and under some pressure from the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit has submitted his resignation “from the office of auxiliary bishop to Cardinal [Adam] Maida.”

Gumbleton turned 75 in January 2005 and should have submitted a letter of resignation at that time. But he didn’t.

Instead he wrote the Congregation for Bishops asking that he be allowed to serve as long as he was healthy. The congregation deemed the request unacceptable, and on Jan. 21, after a year of correspondence with the congregation, Gumbleton submitted his resignation.

In a message that was to appear in the Jan. 29 bulletin of St. Leo Church, the inner city Detroit parish Gumbleton has served as pastor since 1983, the bishop said that he expected Pope Benedict XVI to accept the resignation on Jan. 26, Gumbleton’s 76th birthday.

At press time, neither Gumbleton’s office nor the Detroit archdiocese could confirm whether or not the resignation had been officially accepted.

Also uncertain is whether Maida will allow Gumbleton to continue as pastor at St. Leo Church. In his statement, Gumbleton said the resignation “affects the canonical office of bishop only.” He said his ministry at St. Leo would continue to be a priority.

He pledged to “continue to exercise my ordained ministry as a bishop as long as I am physically capable of doing so. This means that I will continue to teach, preach, celebrate sacraments and carry on my work for justice and peace wherever I am called to do so.”

Archdiocesan spokesman Ned McGrath told the Detroit Free Press that he would not confirm that Maida will keep Gumbleton at St. Leo.

“It’s up to the cardinal now,” McGrath said. “I don’t know about staying pastor at St. Leo’s. They’ll have to have discussions about that.”

Gumbleton is the longest-serving active Catholic bishop in the United States, elevated by Pope Paul VI in 1968 as the youngest American priest ever to hold the title. He is longtime activist in peace and justice issues and a frequent critic of U.S. policy, especially on war and nuclear weapons.

The homilies Gumbleton preaches at St. Leo are posted each week to

Gumbleton made headlines last month when he lobbied Ohio legislators to extend statute of limitations provisions for cases of sexual abuse of minors, legislation opposed by the Ohio Catholic bishops’ conference. Several other state bishops’ conferences, including Michigan’s, oppose similar legislation in their states.

While in Ohio, Gumbleton revealed that as a teenage seminarian, he was abused by a priest.

He has said his resignation is not related to either his revelation or his support for the statute of limitations legislation.

Following is the text of Gumbleton’s letter to St. Leo Parish, which was dated Jan. 26:

Dear Friends,
On Thursday of this past week, Pope Benedict XVI accepted my resignation from the office of auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Maida. In the revised Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, there is a canon directing every bishop to request permission of the pope to resign from the episcopal office at the age of 75. For a variety of reasons when I turned 75 last year, I wrote a letter requesting that I not resign at that time.

During the past year I have carried on correspondence with Cardinal Giovanni Re, the head of the Congregation for Bishops, regarding this request. However, some time ago he indicated that my request to defer my resignation was not acceptable. Finally, I decided to end this discussion. On January 21, 2006, I wrote to Pope Benedict asking him to accept my resignation from my office as auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Maida.

However, it is very important to understand what this means. It affects the canonical office of bishop only. It does not change anything as far as the sacrament of Holy Orders is concerned. I will continue to exercise my ordained ministry as a bishop as long as I am physically capable of doing so. This means that I will continue to teach, preach, celebrate sacraments and carry on my work for justice and peace wherever I am called to do so. This, of course, includes as a priority my ministry at St. Leo’s.

My one request is for your continued prayers for me.

Bishop Gumbleton

Dennis Coday is an NCR staff writer. His e-mail address is

National Catholic Reporter, February 3, 2006

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