Texas bishop to lead Orange County Catholics

The new bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange will preside over the transformation of Garden Grove's Crystal Cathedral into Christ Cathedral.
The new bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange will preside over the transformation of Garden Grove's Crystal Cathedral into Christ Cathedral. C. Strife/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

Pope Benedict XVI has named Ft. Worth Bishop Kevin William Vann to head the Diocese of Orange.

Vann announced the appointment on his Diocese of Ft. Worth blog early this morning. The formal introduction happens this morning at an 11:30 a.m. news conference at the Marywood Pastoral Center in Orange.

Vann, 61, has headed the Diocese of Ft. Worth since 2005. Born in Springfield, Illinois, Vann was ordained in 1981. He'll assume his new Orange County duties later this year in place of Bishop Tod Brown, who's led the Diocese of Orange for 14 years.

Brown celebrated his 75th birthday last November. Canon law requires diocesan bishops to submit their letters of resignation to Pope when they turn 75.

Vann led the Ft. Worth diocese while Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez was in charge of the Diocese of San Antonio. In a statement, Gomez praised the appointment of Vann to the Orange County post, noting that he has the "pastoral sensitivity and leadership skills" to lead the estimated 1.3 million Catholics in the Diocese of Orange.

In 2004, Vann - then a monsignor at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield - told the city's State Journal-Register that he would be "reticent" to give Holy Communion to Senator Dick Durbin because of the Illinois Democrat's pro-choice views.

Like nearly all Roman Catholic diocesan leaders in the past decade, Vann dealt with clergy abuse cases during his time in Ft. Worth. Last month, the diocese announced a settlement with a man who'd been abused by a priest. The name of the victim and the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but the Ft. Worth diocese said Bishop Vann apologized personally to the victim.

SNAP - the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests - criticized Vann's appointment to the Diocese of Orange post, saying he didn't do enough to oust abusive priests. SNAP has also been critical of Bishop Brown's record in rooting out clergy abuse during his time at the Diocese of Orange.

Brown directed the diocese through a two-year process that ended in January 2005 with a $100 million payout to victims of clergy abuse. It was the first major clergy abuse settlement in California. Brown also apologized publicly to 87 abuse victims when the settlement was announced.

Last year, Brown oversaw the $57.5 million bankruptcy purchase of the Crystal Cathedral from the once-prosperous Protestant ministry of Reverend Robert Schuller. Vann will now complete the process of transforming the Garden Grove church and surrounding property into Christ Cathedral, the Catholic Church's pastoral headquarters in Orange County.

The Diocese of Orange, established in 1976, is contiguous with the boundaries of Orange County. Its Catholic population includes many recent immigrants from Vietnam, the Philippines and Latin American countries.

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