Bishop Walsh retires; Bishop Vasa takes over in Santa Rosa
Just six months after being named coadjutor, Bishop Robert Vasa has become Bishop of Santa Rosa. The Vatican announced yesterday it had accepted the resignation of Bishop Daniel Walsh even though he has yet to reach the mandatory retirement age of 75.
Bishop Vasa, 60, formerly Bishop of Baker, Oregon, has developed a reputation as tough and outspoken defender of Catholic orthodoxy. When Bishop Vasa was named coadjutor of Santa Rosa on Jan. 24, Bishop Walsh, who has led the see since 2000, told a local newspaper he would likely retire within a year.
In a February letter to the diocesan faithful, Bishop Walsh, 73, said he had been seeking a replacement for several years. “On October 8, 2008, I wrote to the Apostolic Nuncio to suggest that the time had come to appoint a new bishop to lead the Diocese of Santa Rosa,” wrote Bishop Walsh. “I mentioned in that letter my reasons, particularly that I had accomplished all that I could here in the Diocese and that I was exhausted from dealing with the clergy abuse cases that had arisen over the years.”
“In response to that letter Archbishop Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio, phoned me and said he would forward my request to the Congregation of Bishops which decides such matters,” said Bishop Walsh. “I received a letter dated December17, 2008 informing me that the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Re, had determined that I should carry on as Bishop of Santa Rosa. The Apostolic Nuncio mentioned that in the future he would do his best to obtain a Coadjutor for the Diocese.”
“I let the matter rest until November 29, 2010 when the Apostolic Nuncio phoned me and told me that the new Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, had reviewed my file and suggested that I write to the Holy Father to ask for a Coadjutor,” Bishop Walsh continued in his February letter. “I followed this suggestion and wrote to the Holy Father on December 5, 2010. On Tuesday, January 11, 2011, Archbishop Sambi phoned me to announce that Bishop Vasa of Baker City, Oregon had been appointed Coadjutor for the Diocese of Santa Rosa. This was confirmed by a letter dated January 18, 2011. The announcement of the appointment was scheduled for January 24, 2011 when you were all informed.”
Bishop Vasa, who led the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, from 2000 until his Santa Rosa appointment, developed a national reputation for his orthodoxy and for his willingness to take decisive action.
“In more than a decade as spiritual leader of central and eastern Oregon’s Catholics, Bishop Vasa gained a national following for efforts to uphold Catholic teaching in the face of what he considered threats and laxity from inside and outside the church,” said a story posted Jan. 24 on the website of The Catholic Sentinel, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. “He had lay ministers sign an oath of fidelity of Catholic teaching and erased the Catholic identity of a Bend hospital where doctors performed sterilizations. He criticized pro-choice Catholic politicians and once warned against a group of schismatics that denied the Second Vatican Council.”
In 2003, Bishop Vasa banned the dissident group Voice of the Faithful from meeting on any church property in the diocese. In a 2006 column discussing pro-abortion Catholic politicians, Bishop Vasa suggested they might be guilty of “the right-to-murder heresy.” He has long held that Catholic politicians who bring scandal to the faithful by supporting abortion should be denied Communion.
Bishop Vasa was also a prominent and outspoken critic of ‘Obamacare,’ calling it “fatally flawed” for failing to protect the unborn from government-funded abortions and because it did not include ‘conscience’ protections for healthcare providers.
In February 2010, Bishop Vasa announced that the diocese was ending its relationship with St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon, because the hospital continued to perform tubal ligations.
Bishop Vasa took up residence in the Diocese of Santa Rosa on March 4. Bishop Walsh has said he will retire to St. Anne’s Rectory in San Francisco, his home parish.
In announcing that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted Bishop Walsh’s resignation, the Vatican Information Service said the Holy Father had done so “in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.” That provision of Canon Law says, “A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”