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Friday, August 10, 2007

Ohio's Top Roman Catholic Prelate: Word Is He's Preparing To Step Down

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk turns 73 on Sunday, leaving just two years before church rules force him to step down from the post as spiritual leader of more than a half million Roman Catholics in Southwest Ohio. He has begun making plans for the transition and has discussed, or considered, retiring early -- or serving out his term alongside a bishop coadjutor, according to church insiders. There is a sense that the possibility of a coadjutor has been on the front burner since June when Pilarczyk's No. 2 resigned due to ill health. The departure of 69-year-old Auxiliary Bishop Carl K. Moeddel due to deterioration from strokes and diabetes has some officials in the Vatican thinking deeply about a successor to Pilarczk, who has been in office for 25 years.

A coadjutor bishop is a co-equal and automatically becomes a senior clergy member's successor upon death, disability or retirement. The coadjutor would be appointed by the pope in Rome. Pilarczyk, a Dayton native, has suffered from health problems, but aides said he is in fairly strong condition for a man of his age and remains extremely mentally sharp. "He has his ups and downs, but right now he's in the ups," an aide told The Daily Bellwether Friday.

Cincinnati's archdiocese covers 19 counties with a population to 2.8 million. It has one of the highest Mass attendance rates in the United States, often vying with Milwaukee for that distinction. But there are only about 190 priests to serve some 220 parishes. Pilarczyk's years in office have been tarnished by the clergy-child abuse scandal that has roiled several other U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses. He had to enter a courtroom earlier this decade and plead the church guilty to a criminal charge involving failure to disclose records that Hamilton County prosecutors sought in connection with the scandal.

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