AP: Autocratic, imperious Catholic bishop retires

Oh-boy. No bias in this story… (See below.)

TODAY’S POP QUIZ:
When he announced his resignation Monday, Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino quoted:

a.) St. Francis of Assisi
b.) The Acts of the Apostles
c.) Mother Teresa
d.) Country-western singer Kenny Rogers
e.) Jesus

The correct answer is d: Country-western singer Kenny Rogers.

Now onto the story. The lead paragraph says Bishop Martino was “criticized for his autocratic management style” — autocratic meaning [according to my dictionary] “a ruler with absolute power; dictator, despot.”

Not his “allegedly autocratic management style”, mind you. The story presents it as a given that he was autocratic. Who are these people who disliked his autocratic style? The AP doesn’t name them or quote them.

Lower down, there’s a reference to those who “felt his imperious leadership” alienated people. Again, we’re not told that some people accused him of being imperious. His Imperiousness is presented as a given. Who thought he was imperious? It’s unclear. AP doesn’t name them or quote them.

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — A Roman Catholic bishop criticized for his autocratic management style announced Monday that he is stepping down for health reasons, saying that tension within the diocese about his ideas and governance style led to insomnia and crippling physical fatigue.

Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino, 63, had been leading the northeastern Pennsylvania diocese since 2003 and will be leaving more than a decade before the usual retirement age of 75.

“As the song says, you have to know when to hold them and when to fold them,” Martino said at a news conference. “And I think it’s time to move on.”

Martino had been heavily criticized by some parishioners who felt his imperious leadership and staunch defense of Catholic orthodoxy had alienated many in the diocese of 350,000. Supporters said Martino was simply enforcing church doctrine.

The bishop conceded Monday that the stress has taken its toll.

“For some time now, there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the Diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance,” Martino said. “This development has caused me great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and at times a crippling physical fatigue.”

Martino said he submitted his resignation to the Vatican in June. Pope Benedict XVI accepted it Monday under a provision of church law in which a bishop, due to illness or “some other grave reason, has become unsuited” to carry out his duties.

The pope also accepted the resignation of Scranton’s auxiliary bishop, John Dougherty, for reasons of age. Dougherty submitted his letter of resignation to the Vatican more than two years ago, when he turned 75, but it has not been accepted until now.

Martino made headlines earlier this year when he blasted a local Catholic university for sponsoring a lecture by a gay-rights advocate. He also threatened to cancel a traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade Mass if event organizers honored an abortion-rights supporter.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, who leads the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was appointed to oversee the Scranton diocese until the Vatican appoints a new bishop. Monsignor Joseph Bambera, pastor of two parishes in Archbald, will oversee the diocese’s daily operations, Rigali said Monday.

Rumors of Martino’s departure had been swirling for days after The Times-Tribune of Scranton reported last week that workers had started moving furniture from the bishop’s rectory residence in Scranton to a retreat home several miles away.

Updated: August 31, 2009 — 11:01 am

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  1. I didn’t know Catholics listened to country music. I’ve heard lots of country music about protestant churches, but never a Catholic country song.

    How about it, folks? Somebody come up with an idea for a Catholic country song!

  2. Nope, perplexed, that one was written by Steve Goodman, who is Jewish (he also wrote what is arguably the greatest country train song, “The City of New Orleans,”) so it is at least arguably the first Jewish Country Song. It’s an additional verse to “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.” Here are the lyrics as sung by David Allan Coe:

    WELL, A FRIEND OF MINE NAMED STEVE GOODMAN WROTE THAT SONG AND
    HE TOLD ME IT WAS THE PERFECT COUNTRY & WESTERN SONG. I WROTE
    HIM BACK A LETTER AND I TOLD HIM IT WAS NOT THE PERFECT COUNTRY
    & WESTERN SONG BECAUSE HE HADN’T SAID ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT MAMA,
    OR TRAINS, OR TRUCKS, OR PRISON, OR GETTIN’ DRUNK. WELL HE SAT
    DOWN AND WROTE ANOTHER VERSE TO THE SONG AND HE SENT IT TO ME,
    AND AFTER READING IT, I REALIZED THAT MY FRIEND HAD WRITTEN THE
    PERFECT COUNTRY & WESTERN SONG. AND I FELT OBLIGED TO INCLUDE IT
    ON THIS ALBUM. THE LAST VERSE GOES LIKE THIS HERE:

    WELL, I WAS DRUNK THE DAY MY MOM GOT OUT OF PRISON
    AND I WENT TO PICK HER UP IN THE RAIN
    BUT BEFORE I COULD GET TO THE STATION IN MY PICKUP TRUCK
    SHE GOT RUNNED OVER BY A DAMNED OLD TRAIN

  3. What defines a song “about a mom getting run over by a pick up truck when she got out of prison” as a Catholic song? I think that comment is way out of line. I’m a Catholic deep down in Dixie, and the local jails aren’t full of members of my church.

  4. Me, too, Perplexed. I am of the school of thought that all of the wisdom of the western world is contained in the lyrics of country music songs. When I was in law school, they made me an honorary Texan (from Massachussetts, Kentucky and Texas look the same), and we had a big country music dance with Tex-Mex food and Lone Star and Pearl beer. It was a lot of fun.

  5. I’m catholic too, it just reminds me of a time growing up in a church with members who owned the beer distributorships in the central part of the state. Needless to say there were several occasions that were simply diluted at best with lots of beer and fish and spaghetti. It was a good time for all of us.

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