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Pope accepts New Zealand bishop’s resignation after investigation

Bishop Charles Drennan (CNS)

Resignation follows complaint of unacceptable behaviour of a sexual nature

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Charles Drennan of Palmerston North.

Bishop Drennan tendered his resignation following an investigation into a complaint of unacceptable behaviour of a sexual nature. The complaint was made by a young woman.

Upon receiving the complaint, the New Zealand Church’s independent investigation body, the National Office of Professional Standards, contracted an independent, licensed an investigator to undertake an investigation under the oversight of Cardinal John Dew of Wellington. Bishop Drennan stood aside from his duties. Both Bishop Drennan and the young woman participated in the independent investigation.

Cardinal Dew said the woman had requested that details of the complaint remain private. He commended her for reporting Bishop Drennan’s behaviour.

The clergy, staff and Church leadership of the Diocese of Palmerston North have been told of the acceptance of Bishop Drennan’s resignation and provided with guidance and resources to help them support parishioners and other members of the Catholic community.

“The Catholic Church has no tolerance for any inappropriate behaviour by any of its members. I encourage anyone who experiences such behaviour to bring it to the attention of the Church, police or any organisation with which they feel comfortable,” said Cardinal Dew.

New Zealand media highlighted the fact that Bishop Drennan was a member of Te Roopu Tautoko. This body was established to coordinate and manage cooperation between the Catholic Church in New Zealand and the Royal Commission into Historic Abuse in Care.

A final report from the royal commission is scheduled to be released in 2023.

The royal commission is looking into what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults between 1950 and 1999. It will cover abuse, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.

Bishop Drennan, who worked for seven years for the Vatican’s Secretariat of State under St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI; he was appointed co-adjutor Bishop of Palmerston North on February 22, 2011. This was the same day as a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Christchurch, where he was based.

Bishop Drennan was ordained bishop in 2011 and took over the Diocese of Palmerston North in 2012.

Before being appointed bishop, he was a parish priest and served at Holy Cross Seminary and at the theologate, Good Shepherd College in Auckland. He also was chancellor of Christchurch Diocese. He is an ascribed member of the Institute of Charity – Rosminians. Bishop Drennan had previously been secretary of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

New Zealand’s bishops are scheduled to make an ad limina visit to Rome later this month; a meeting with Pope Francis is scheduled for October 28.

Bishop Drennan attended two synods of bishops at the Vatican – the synod on the new evangelisation in 2012 and the synod on the family in 2015.

Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican