D'Arcy died late Sunday morning at his home, where he was surrounded by loved ones, the diocesan announcement said. He died on the 56th anniversary of celebrating his first Mass as an ordained priest.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and the diocese ask for and offers prayers for Bishop D'Arcy, his family, loved ones and friends as people grieve the bishop's loss, the announcement said.
Funeral arrangements are pending at this time.
A Boston native and the son of Irish immigrants, D'Arcy was installed as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend on May 1, 1985. He succeeded the retiring William E. McManus, who was appointed bishop in 1976 and died in 1997 at age 83.
Born Aug. 18, 1932, in Boston, D'Arcy studied at Saint John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass., and was ordained Feb. 2, 1957. He also studied at the Angelicum in Rome, from which he received a doctorate in spiritual theology in 1968.
He was ordained as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston on Feb. 14, 1975, and also served as spiritual director and professor of spiritual theology at Saint John's from 1968 to 1985.
D'Arcy's effort to improving the quality of priests was one of the highlight his tenure as bishop – and also generated its share of controversy.
“I became known as 'D'Arcy the hatchet man,' ” he told The News-Sentinel in 2005, shortly before celebrating his 20th anniversary as bishop. “In addition to helping the good guys become priests, I would help others out of the seminary, and I was criticized for that.”
D'Arcy also removed priests from parishes – often without warning or explanation.
The reason for D'Arcy's actions became clear in late 2003 when he announced 17 priests in the diocese had apparently molested about 33 people – mostly minors – since 1950. D'Arcy also said he had removed 12 priests; the rest had either died or left the priesthood.
D'Arcy had warned of the sex-abuse problem in the priesthood even before leaving Boston to become bishop here. In December 1984 – just two months before being named bishop of this diocese– D'Arcy wrote a letter to then-Boston Archbishop Bernard Law in which he questioned the fitness of the Rev. John Geoghan to serve as a priest.
More than 130 people ultimately accused Geoghan of sexual abuse. He was convicted in 2002 and murdered by a fellow inmate in 2003.
He also had begun working to strengthen the priesthood before the Boston scandal broke. In 1979, he had written “A Letter on Priestly Formation,” in which he argued the church should reject candidates for the priesthood who are not emotionally or psychologically able to live celibate lives of service to the church and its members.
“I had a duty to call attention to the problem,” D'Arcy explained in 2002. “Priests not only have to be good, they have to look good. People have the right to expect their priests to live good, moral lives – to be in private what we claim to be in public.”
Bishops are supposed to step down from their position at the age of 75 but D'Arcy's work was extended by the Vatican until late 2009, when Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., was announced as his successor.
In a guest column published in The News-Sentinel in May 2002, in which D'Arcy was writing about the priest sex-abuse scandal, he said, “For myself, at the time of my appointment I believed, and believe even more strongly now, that my mission . . . is part of the mission of Jesus Christ, which he has received from the Father. This was explicit in the gospel of Pentecost: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you.” (John 20: 21)
“I expect to be judged by Christ at the end as to whether I have been a shepherd after his heart," he said. "I will rely on his mercy.”
Bishop Rhoades' statementThe Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend provided this statement from current Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on the death of Bishop John M. D'Arcy
Feb. 3, 2013
"Today our beloved Bishop Emeritus John M. D'Arcy died in the peace of Christ. I am filled with deep sadness at the death of a dear friend and brother bishop. We mourn the death of a good shepherd after the heart of Christ, a bishop who loved the Lord and his people with all his heart. We are comforted at this time by our faith in the Resurrection. As we share the pain of loss, Our Lord's promise of eternal life gives us joy and hope.
"Bishop D'Arcy faced death as he also lived his life: with deep faith and trust in God. He offered his prayers and sufferings this past month for the people he loved and served with joy and faithfulness these past 28 years in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
"I thank the faithful of our diocese for the many prayers offered for Bishop D'Arcy in his final days. Your loving and prayerful support brought him much joy and comfort. I thank Maureen Schott, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, Dr. Joseph Muhler and the other doctors, nurses and hospice care workers who assisted Bishop D'Arcy with such great care in his final days.
"On behalf of the priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful of our diocese, I extend heartfelt condolences to Bishop D'Arcy's beloved sisters, Sister Anne D'Arcy, a Sister of Saint Joseph, and Mrs. Joan Sheridan and her family.
"I invite all to join me in prayer for our deceased shepherd that God may bring Bishop D'Arcy to everlasting peace and rest. The Lord has called him home. May the Lord welcome him among the saints in glory!"