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The Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend announced at 2:28 p.m. Sunday that Bishop Emeritus John M. D'Arcy has died.
The bishop, 80, had been stricken with cancer just after Christmas.
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.”