Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Bishop-elect: Rehab won't help

Foys discusses priests who are guilty

By Stephenie Steitzer, ssteitzer@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ERLANGER — The man selected by the pope to be the new bishop of Covington told reporters Monday that he does not believe priests who have been found guilty of sexual misconduct can be rehabilitated.

        In his first visit to the 89,000-member Diocese of Covington, Monsignor Roger J. Foys, 56, also said at a Monday news conference that he is unsure whether he favors a “zero tolerance” policy for church leaders accused of abuse.

        “I'd have to see exactly what that means in terms of the crimes,” he said.

        Archbishop of Cincinnati Daniel E. Pilarczyk has said in the past that he believes such priests can be rehabilitated.

        When asked if he knew of the archbishop's belief, Monsignor Foys, appearing embarrassed, said “no.”

        “I'm the new kid on the block,” he said jokingly. “Don't get me in trouble.”

        Roman Catholic bishops plan to release their proposal today for a national policy on disciplining priests who molest children.

        The plan will be put to a vote when bishops, including Monsignor Foys, meet June 13-15 in Dallas. Diocese spokesman Tim Fitzgerald said he doubted Monsignor Foys has seen the proposal but didn't know for sure.

        Monsignor Foys, who served for 20 years as vicar general of the Diocese of Steubenville, would not comment on the $50 million lawsuit filed last week against the Roman Catholic dioceses in Lexington and Covington, alleging both covered up complaints of sexual abuse. He said he does not know the details of the suit yet.

        Most of the bishop-elect's meeting with the press focused on his hopes for the Diocese of Covington.

        Monsignor Foys, who will lead a diocese with well over $30 million in assets and annual revenues of about $3 million, told reporters he was honored, humbled and surprised by his appointment by Pope John Paul II, announced by the Vatican on Friday. He is one of only four bishops in the Commonwealth: The others are in Louisville, Lexington and Owensboro.

        Monsignor Foys, who has been described by the Diocese of Steubenville as a dynamic leader and speaker, planned a whirlwind tour of the 14-county diocese, which includes the newly refurbished Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. He was unsure of all the stops planned by the diocese, and when asked where he was going, responded jokingly, “To heaven, I hope.”

        The Chicago native replaces Bishop Robert Muench, who became bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, La., on March 14 after six years in Covington. Monsignor Foys, who will be installed July 15, will be the spiritual and pastoral leader of Catholics in the diocese. His duties will include planning for the diocese's future, leading the community in prayer, directing the priests and collaborating with other U.S. bishops.

        Monsignor Foys said he often uses his sense of humor to defuse difficult situations, but added: “It's not always appreciated, and I know that. I've learned that.”

        The bishop-elect said he had never been to the area and has no agenda for the diocese except to meet the priests and parishioners and “listen, listen, listen.”

        He will be installed July 15. In a statement released Friday, Archbishop Pilarczyk said Monsignor Foys is “an experienced and dedicated servant of the Church (who) brings to Northern Kentucky a vast store of wisdom.”

        While Monsignor Foys doesn't know much about the needs of the Diocese of Covington, which is one of 194 dioceses in the country, he said the state of the Catholic church in general is strong.

        “I know these are trying times ... that are testing people's faith,” he said.


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