Pope John Paul II accepted the resignation of Bishop Thomas Daily last Friday and named Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Camden, New Jersey, as the new administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens.
Daily, who has headed the Diocese since 1990, submitted his letter of resignation to the pope on his 75th birthday, as required by canon law, last September.
He has been criticized over the past year for his alleged role in covering up child sex abuse by priests when he served as an advisor to Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law years ago.
A native of Belmont, Massachusetts, Daily was the founding bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, prior to heading the Brooklyn Diocese. He served as the vicar for administration in Boston from 1976 to 1984.
Last month, in a report by the Massachusetts Attorney General, Daily, as well as half a dozen other high-ranking priests, was cited with transferring priests accused of sexual misconduct to other parishes and failing to take steps to limit contact between abusive priests and children.
The Brooklyn chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a nationwide Catholic lay organization that arose in response to the Boston scandal and quickly grew, issued a statement last month in response to accusations. “We are hopeful that Brooklyn will soon have a new leader in whose moral integrity we can be confident,” the statement read.
But the group acknowledged positive steps Daily took in the last year. He cooperated with Brooklyn and Queens prosecutors, turning over information about allegations of sexual abuse in the past 20 years. He also agreed to report future allegations to civil authorities.
The new leader of the diocese, Bishop DiMarzio, 59, comes with a mixed reputation regarding his response to allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
The Camden Diocese, where he was named bishop in 1999, has also been hit by lawsuits regarding sexual abuse. Although the diocese recently made a substantial settlement to victims, DiMarzio has been accused of making it difficult.
But, DiMarzio has reportedly also been hailed for talking openly about reform, creating an anti-abuse panel that included a victim, and ordering his diocesan newspaper to do an exposé on the issue.
“It's hard to know how the new bishop will approach scandals of the past,” said Manhattan attorney Michael Dowd, originally of Queens. "I've heard from lawyers in his old diocese that he took a hard line with victims.”
Dowd is currently representing dozens of former abuse victims in a lawsuit against the Brooklyn Diocese. One case is now before the appellate courts and he is planning to file another suit soon on behalf of other victims.
“I hope the new bishop will take a broom and sweep the diocese clean,” Dowd said. “The attack-dog lawyers have to be replaced. Their attitude has always been to try to discredit the victims. There has to be a message that change has come. Only time will tell.”
During a news conference last week, DiMarzio said, “We have to show people we are here to protect the youth entrusted to our care. We need to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again.”
The diocesan chapter of Voice of the Faithful, which has more than 400 members from parishes all over Brooklyn and Queens, are encouraged by the steps DiMarzio took to make reparations to past victims of sexual abuse in his Camden diocese, even though the statute of limitations had run out.
“Bishop DiMarzio's record in Camden makes us hopeful that he will make resolution of these claims a priority,” Voice of the Faithful said in a statement.
They also hope the new bishop will continue the dialogue that the group had recently been successful in engaging with diocesan officials. Bishop Daily had originally banned members of VOTF from holding meetings on church property. He reversed that decision in April.
On Friday, Daily declined to formally comment on the scandal that has surrounded him in the past year. However, in his official statement he said, “I have seen the gift of faith alive among all our people. Despite the difficult challenges which we have all encountered, and still encounter, there have been tremendous signs of hope and growth.”
Bishop DiMarzio, a native of Newark, will become the seventh bishop of the Brooklyn Diocese, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Frank DeRosa, diocesan spokesperson, said the date of his formal installation has not yet been determined, but will probably be in about two months.
During his tenure as spiritual leader of the nearly two million Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens, Daily convened the first diocesan synod in 70 years. It brought together representatives of the clergy, religious and laity, to make recommendations on matters affecting the church.
Daily also launched a five-year capital and endowment campaign to assist the diocese in meeting current and long-term needs. The effort raised nearly $80 million, exceeding the original goal. He also forgave more than $100 million in debts owed by parishes and schools to the diocese.