LINCOLN, Nebraska, September 14, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Benedict XVI has appointed a strong pro-life bishop to succeed Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, who is considered by many as a hero in defense of Catholic orthodoxy and tradition amidst the upheavals in the Church in recent decades.
Bishop James Conley, auxiliary bishop of Denver since 2008, told a press conference in Lincoln today that he has admired the Lincoln diocese under Bruskewitz and has no intention of altering course. “I have held the Diocese of Lincoln in high esteem, it is rich with vocation, Catholic education and family life. I am not going to mess around with that,” he said, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “I plan to continue to build that up and encourage it.”
A convert from Presbyterianism who was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wichita in 1985, Conley is known as a defender of the Church’s teachings on life and family and a proponent of traditional liturgy.
At the press conference, he called Bishop Bruskewitz a “true champion of the Catholic faith” and a “personal hero of mine for many years.”
Bruskewitz, who retires after 20 years in Lincoln, made national headlines in 1996 when he announced the excommunication of all Catholics who maintain membership in Planned Parenthood, as well as Masonic groups, the dissident Catholic group Call to Action, and the Society of St. Pius X.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews last year, the prelate insisted that Catholic politicians who support Planned Parenthood, in addition to those who support abortion, should be denied Communion in accord with Canon 915.
“In this diocese, the priests and everyone who distributes Holy Communion would be instructed not to give Holy Communion to such people,” he explained. Advocates for abortion or euthanasia are “placing themselves in a position where they are not to receive Holy Communion because they’ve defected from the Church’s faith,” he added.
In the same interview he insisted that the current cultural climate demands priests speak boldly about the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, and not use concerns about “prudence” as an excuse to avoid the topic. “Caution and prudence are important, but I don’t think they should be excuses for not properly speaking when speaking is necessary or extremely important pastorally,” he said.
He was one of around a dozen bishops who had dropped funding for the controversial Catholic Campaign for Human Development because of its sponsorships of groups that advocate activities contrary to Church teaching.
He has also been a notable opponent of “brain death” as a criterion for organ donation.
On the sex abuse crisis, Bishop Bruskewitz has been a leading advocate of top-to-bottom reform. At the U.S. Bishops’ famous Dallas meeting in 2002 where they adopted the “Dallas Charter”, he stood as a lone voice in opposition because the only people it did not hold accountable were the bishops themselves.
As a result, he refused to comply with annual audits of compliance with the bishops’ guidelines on sex-abuse programs, noting that many members of the board responsible for them were opponents of fundamental Church teachings on issues such as abortion and human cloning.
His refusal resulted in a call from the U.S. bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection that the other bishops issue a “strong fraternal correction” against him. This despite the fact that his diocese had one of the lowest rates of sex abuse by clergy in the nation, and other bishops were known to have protected abusive priests and paid off plaintiffs with exorbitant settlements rather than face trial.
In a 2002 interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, Bruskewitz attributed the abuse crisis in the Church to “dissent” on sexual morality.
Bishop Bruskewitz has also been revered by many as a strong advocate for a devout celebration of the liturgy, including the promotion of the Traditional Latin Mass, known also since 2007 as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Notably, thanks to the prelate, the Diocese of Lincoln is home to the American seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, an order of priests dedicated to the celebration of the Extraordinary Form.
Under his leadership, Lincoln has remained the only diocese in America to reserve altar service to boys. It has also consistently had the highest number of seminarians per Catholics in the country. According to the diocesan website, they have 44 seminarians for 96,625 Catholics. For comparison, the Archdiocese of Boston - with about 1.8 million Catholics - listed 68 seminarians for the 2011-2012 year.
Bishop Conley, who served for a short time as Apostolic Administrator in Denver, worked in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops before being appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Denver under Archbishop Charles Chaput in 2008.
In 2011, he warned Catholics that the Girl scouts could make girls more receptive to the pro-abortion agenda because of their relationship with Planned Parenthood and their overall approach to sexuality.
In March of this year, while serving as Apostolic Administrator, he got Denver’s Theology on Tap booted from a local bar because of his strong denunciation of “atheocracy” and attacks on religious freedom in America.