ST. LOUIS (AP) — The newly-appointed head of the Archdiocese of St. Louis vowed Wednesday to be an agent of healing, as the region and the nation continue to react to the death of George Floyd and the threat of the coronavirus.
The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis had appointed Springfield, Massachusetts Bishop Mitchell Rozanski to lead the St. Louis diocese, replacing Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, who is retiring.
“This is a troubled time for our nation,” Rozanski said during a news conference in St. Louis. “We're still experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 virus, the death of Mr. George Floyd and the sad spectacle of racism that tears at the very fabric of our country. ... It is my hope that called to lead this church of St. Louis, God's grace will be in abundance in helping me to be part of that healing process and resolution to all the daunting issues that we face."
The appointment drew immediate criticism from advocates for victims of priest sexual abuse. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests chastised Rozanski for not releasing the names of three accused predator priests in the Springfield, Massachusetts, who were suspended last week.
David Clohessy, of SNAP, said Rozanski said bishops have generally released the names of accused priests since 2002, when they signed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that set out procedures for responding to widespread allegations of priest abuse in the church.
“I can't think of a single instance the last five to 10 years where a bishop said ‘This guy is too dangerous for my parish but I’m not going to tell you who he is,'" Clohessy said.
Rozanski said he didn't release the names because the diocese and law enforcement are still investigating the credibility of allegations against two of the priests, while a district attorney has already cleared the other man. He also detailed several steps the diocese took to enhance its transparency on the issue.
“Healing begins with transparency,” Rozanski said. “So I know we can't seem to do things perfectly but we're trying as best we can.”
Rozanski, 61, is considered a moderate and is taking over an archdiocese that has long been led by conservatives. Prior to Carlson, St. Louis was headed by now-Cardinal Raymond Burke, a leading point of reference for conservatives in the U.S. and beyond.
And prior to Burke, St. Louis was headed by now-Cardinal Justin Rigali, who went onto head the archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Rozanski is the 10th archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which has more than 500,000 members in 182 parishes across 11 counties.
Rozanski was an auxiliary bishop in his hometown of Baltimore before being named to lead the Springfield, Massachusetts, diocese in 2014. In another appointment Wednesday, Francis named a new auxiliary bishop for Baltimore, Bruce Lewandowski of the Redemptorist religious order.