New bishop appointed to lead Vermont Catholics
BURLINGTON, Vt. –Vermont Catholics have a new leader. Pope Francis appointed Christopher Coyne as the 10th Bishop of Burlington.
“Bishop Coyne arrives as our new bishop and spiritual leader with many rich and varied experiences of church lives,” said Monsignor John McDermott, introducing Bishop Coyne Monday morning in Burlington.
The New England native comes to Vermont after four years serving in Indiana. “I come with no pre-established plans or any agenda other than to serve my brothers and sisters as a faithful disciple,” Bishop Coyne said.
Coyne was ordained as a priest nearly 30 years ago. Since then he’s become the Catholic Church’s first blogging priest, and calls social media a new way to spread the gospel. “Inside of each person is this longing for something more than just the ordinary things of life. There’s an opportunity for us as a church to be present to them,” he said.
Bishop Coyne will be present to 118,000 Catholics in Vermont, but not everyone was happy with his appointment. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests notes that Coyne was in the midst of the biggest priest sex abuse scandal in the country when he worked for the Boston Archdiocese in the early 2000s.
In a statement the national advocacy group said: “In many ways, Francis is very different than Benedict. When it comes to the abuse crisis, however, he really isn’t. Both popes promote church officials who ignored or concealed known or suspected clergy sex crimes …”
“I’m ready to help and listen to any victim of the church or their family if they need to meet with me if they think this will help them in their healing,” Bishop Coyne said.
But Jerry O’Neill, the lawyer for the victims in over 40 abuse cases in Vermont, says he’s not sure Bishop Coyne is the one to help. “One of the things this diocese has never been willing to do is to be transparent about those who molested children,” O’Neil said.
Coyne admitted he knew of the abuse allegations in Vermont, and called the cash settlements reached with victims an appropriate response. “I know that it was contentious, and I know that there were people who felt the church was a little more hard lined than it needed to be,” he said.
Vowing to change that hard line, Coyne called for a new era in evangelism and a new conversation in Vermont about Catholicism. “At which we set aside the normal agenda in favor of a conversation about re-booting or re-thinking who we are as Jesus’ disciples within the larger community,” he said.