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Calif. bishop quits amid abuse cases

Bishop Daniel Walsh’s diocese has been hit with several lawsuits. Bishop Daniel Walsh’s diocese has been hit with several lawsuits.
Associated Press / July 1, 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO - A Catholic bishop in Northern California whose diocese has been embroiled in priest sex abuse cases resigned yesterday from his post after 11 years.

The Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Daniel Walsh of Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa.

Deirdre Frontczak, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said Walsh was very tired and had been seeking to hand over his responsibilities for about two years. His resignation, effective yesterday, comes a year short of his mandatory retirement at age 75, Frontczak said.

“It’s been a difficult decade,’’ she said. “He walked into miserable situation and has done a heroic job of restoring the diocese financially and restoring the dignity of the priesthood.’’

The diocese has been hit with several lawsuits under Walsh’s tenure involving alleged child sex abuse by former priests.

In 2006, Walsh was threatened with criminal charges for failing to report accusations of misconduct against the Rev. Xavier Ochoa for five days after the priest admitted the abuses to Walsh. Authorities said the delay allowed Ochoa time to flee to Mexico before he could be arrested.

California law requires clergymen to immediately report suspicion of child sex abuse and to follow up by fax or e-mail within 36 hours. Walsh agreed to participate in a four-month counseling program and was not charged.

The Vatican announcement of Walsh’s resignation said he was stepping down under the code of canon law that says bishops are asked to offer their resignation for some serious issue that makes them unfit for office. Often it is used for bishops who are ill or have been dogged by scandal.

The Vatican’s spokesman said he had no information on why Walsh was resigning.

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