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RNS) A Pennsylvania Catholic bishop whose public scoldings of politicians — including Vice President Joe Biden — created a stir nationwide resigned on Monday (Aug. 31), citing stress and lack of confidence in his leadership.
Bishop Joseph Martino was appointed in 2003 to head the Diocese of Scranton, a heavily Catholic corner of northeastern Pennsylvania. His relatively brief tenure was marked by battles with local parishes, a teachers union, college administrators and a number of politicians, particularly over abortion rights.
“For some time now there has not been a clear consensus among clergy or lay people regarding my leadership style,” Martino said Monday at a press conference. The Vatican appointed Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, as temporary head of the Scranton diocese, which encompasses about 350,000 Catholics in 11 counties.
At 63, Martino resigned well before the Vatican’s mandatory retirement age of 75. A statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Martino was retiring for “health reasons.” The bishop said he is “certainly not prostrate with illness,” but the stress of running the diocese had led to insomnia and “crippling physical fatigue.”
“I think stress has always affected me and members of my family in a very bad way,” Martino said.
The bishop burst into the national scene during the 2008 presidential campaign, when he frequently criticized Catholics — including fellow bishops — who suggested that abortion was only one of many issues by which to assess candidates.
Shortly after the election last November, Martino stood on the floor of the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore and pledged to withhold Communion from Biden, who was raised in Scranton, because he supports abortion rights.
Martino later issued similar threats to Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., after he voted to confirm Kathleen Sebelius, who supports abortion rights, to head the Department of Health and Human Services.
Martino also warned Scranton politicians that he would close the diocese’s cathedral on St. Patrick’s Day if they honored any politicians who support abortion rights; he tried to shut down a local Catholic college’s diversity program after it hosted a gay rights advocate; and he refused to recognize a local Catholic teachers union. He also presided over mass consolidations of schools and parishes, many of which were contentious.
“By the world’s standards, perhaps I have not been successful,”
Martino said Monday. “But I have been faithful.”
By Daniel Burke
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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