Accused Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky, Resigns

Insists on His Innocence in Wake of Abuse Allegations

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LEXINGTON, Kentucky, JUNE 11, 2002 ( John Paul II accepted the resignation of Bishop Kendrick Williams of Lexington, Kentucky, the third U.S. prelate in recent months to exit under the shadow of sexual allegations.

According to the Vatican Press Office, the bishop handed in his resignation in keeping with Canon 401, 2 of the Code of Canon Law, part of which reads, «if because of illness or another serious reason, his capacity to carry out his office is diminished.»

On May 31, Bishop Williams, 65, submitted his resignation through the papal nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo. Its acceptance was announced today.

«I do not want my resignation to give any credence to the allegations made against me,» Bishop Williams said in a statement. «I offered my resignation to the Holy Father, stating that I believe that by my stepping down, the diocese can rid itself of the cloud that hangs over it and me at this time.»

The bishop had been accused of abuse by three plaintiffs, the Associated Press reported.

«I agonize that while this process continues, the diocese suffers without a leader,» he said. «Since no one knows how long this will last, I believe it is best for me to step down, so a new bishop can be appointed as soon as possible. The Holy Father concurs, and my resignation is effective today. This will allow him to begin the process to appoint a new bishop.»

A standing body of priests of the diocese, known as the College of Consultors, will now convene to elect an administrator to oversee the diocese until a new bishop takes over.

Bishop Williams´ statement may be read on the diocese´s Web page.

In March, Anthony O´Connell resigned as bishop of Palm Beach, Florida, after admitting he abused a seminary student in Missouri more than a quarter-century earlier. And last month, Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland´s resignation was accepted by the Vatican a day after he acknowledged paying a man $450,000 to settle a sexual misconduct allegation against him.

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