Vatican reviewing complaints against Cleveland bishop
Jason Berry draws a scathing portrait of Cleveland’s Bishop Richard Lennon in his new book, Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church for closing solvent parishes in Cleveland and, earlier, in Boston when he was an auxiliary bishop. He writes:
Lennon approached Cleveland like a banker redlining loans in poor neighborhoods. As chief executive officer he would follow the trail of prosperity, shift priests to suburban parishes, recapitalize the diocese. Shuttering inner-city churches and historic gems in old enclaves was pragmatism. In Boston he had suppressed wealthy parishes in order to sell churches in plugging a deficit that trailed back to the 1990s, exacerbated by the abuse cases. In Cleveland he would prevent deficits with early, tough chopping-block decisions.
So it is interesting to see that Bishop John M. Smith, bishop-emeritus of Trenton, is to visit the Cleveland diocese in behalf of the Holy See this week to review Lennon’s actions. Bishop Lennon explained it this way in a press release:
“While I am confident that I am faithfully handling the responsibilities entrusted to me, I personally made this request earlier this year because a number of persons have written to Rome expressing their concerns about my leadership of the Diocese. This visit will be an opportunity to gather extensive information on all aspects of the activities of the Diocese and will allow for an objective assessment of my leadership. I ask for prayers that this process will support the vibrancy and vitality of our Diocese going forward.”
Bishop Lennon was not the only one to request a Vatican investigation; according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a local pastor and others did as well. Many are embittered over the plan Lennon announced in 2009 to close 29 of the diocese’s 224 parishes and merge 41 more into others.
Is Bishop Lennon trampling the parishioners’ rights under canon law?