VATICAN CITY (RNS) — The Vatican announced Wednesday (Oct. 24) that Pope Francis has effectively fired the Roman Catholic bishop of Memphis. The unusual move reportedly came after Bishop Martin Holley refused to resign following a church investigation of mismanagement in the Tennessee diocese.
The action by the Vatican is another indication that the Vatican under Francis is moving, albeit fitfully, to hold bishops more accountable. The Vatican’s one-line statement on Holley’s resignation said only that Holley has been “removed from pastoral governance.”
Holley, 63, was named an auxiliary, or assistant, bishop in Washington in 2004 under former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, whose canonical trial on sexual abuse allegations is going on currently at the Vatican and could lead to McCarrick’s defrocking.
After Francis sent Holley to head the Memphis Diocese in October 2016, he quickly alienated many priests and parishioners with a peremptory style of leadership. National Catholic Reporter wrote that soon after his arrival, Holley ordered the transfer of some 75 percent of the diocese’s pastors. The diocese has about 65,000 Catholics and 42 parishes.
In June, the Vatican sent two U.S. archbishops, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta and Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, on a three-day investigation, known as a visitation, to determine what was wrong in Memphis and what needed to be done.
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