James Kendrick Williams, head of the Diocese of Lexington, KY, has become the third American bishop to step down since the sex abuse scandal hit the US Catholic Church in January. Three men allege that Williams abused them more than 20 years ago. Williams denied the charges and went on leave voluntarily under a diocesan policy that requires clergy to be removed from public duties while an accusation is pending. Williams then submitted his resignation to Pope John Paul II under church law for “illness or some other grave reason.”
Today’s announcement by the Vatican that Pope John Paul II has accepted William’s resignation comes just two days before American bishops meet in Dallas to decide on proposals to deal with sexual abuse in the clergy. Williams has denied the charges of sexual abuse against him. His resignation follows the resignations of Rev. Anthony O’Connell as bishop of Palm Beach, FL in March and Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland last month.
A total of 218 priests have resigned or been removed from their positions since the scandal began this year, according to a survey done by the Washington Post. The survey also found that at least 850 U.S. priests have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors since the early 1960s, and that more than 350 of them were removed from ministry before this year.