Palmerston North, October 9, 2019: Catholics of Palmerston North diocese in New Zealand have questioned the circumstances leading to the acceptance of the resignation of their Bishop Charles Drennan by Pope Francis.
Pope Francis on October 5 accepted Bishop Drennan’s resignation after a young woman complained about his unacceptable behavior of a sexual nature.
Bishop Drennan tendered his resignation following an investigation into the complaint.
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, but participated in the independent investigation along with the young woman.
Cardinal Dew said the woman had requested that details of the complaint remain private. He commended her for reporting Bishop Drennan’s behavior.
“The Catholic Church has no tolerance for any inappropriate behavior by any of its members. I encourage anyone who experiences such behavior to bring it to the attention of the Church, police or any organization with which they feel comfortable,” said Cardinal Dew.
New Zealand media highlighted the fact that Bishop Drennan was a member of Te Roopu Tautoko, a body set up 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.
On October 7 night parish members met at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Palmerston North to pray, sing hymns and ask questions of the diocese leadership about the situation.
Diocese general manager Tony Murphy said the young woman had made the complaint “some months ago,” leading to Bishop Drennan step aside from his duties while an investigation took place.
The complaint did not warrant police attention, he said.
Drennan tendered his resignation on October 2, but the Pope took three days to accept it.
The young woman was being given all the support she needed from the Church, while Cardinal Dew was acting head of the diocese.
Bishop Drennan, who had worked for seven years for the Vatican’s Secretariat of State under St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, was appointed co-adjutor bishop of Palmerston North on February 22, 2011.
Bishop Drennan took over the diocese 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.