Faith Not Shaken

By Jeff Tucker
Arizona Daily Sun [Arizona]
June 3, 2003

A Catholic church leader in Flagstaff said her faith in God, the church and Bishop Thomas O'Brien is not wavering, despite the news that the bishop signed an agreement, giving him immunity from criminal prosecution for obstruction of justice.

O'Brien signed the agreement on May 3 with Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, which essentially releases O'Brien from any authority over sexual abuse cases filed against diocese priests.

Mary Jean Bublitz said she believes O'Brien had no other choice but to sign the agreement. Bublitz defended O'Brien after it was discovered earlier this year that O'Brien knew that the Rev. John Picardi Jr., a Flagstaff priest, had been accused of raping a 29-year-old man and fondling a 10-year-old girl during his tenures on the East Coast, before he was sent to Arizona.

No criminal charges were ever brought against Picardi, who was placed on administrative leave from the San Francisco de Asis Parish and has not returned here to preach.

"I'm saddened by this, but I'm certainly not losing any faith in our bishop," said Bublitz, who serves on the Parish Council. "Our bishop is certainly not guilty of any personal wrongdoing. I think he was in a position almost like being in a vice."

According to reports, O'Brien had offered to resign from duty before signing the agreement. But bishops must first get permission from the Vatican before stepping down from their posts. According to the Arizona Republic, O'Brien was not given that permission.

"He's got the Vatican telling him 'you can't do that,' and I don't think at this point in time the Bishop had much of a choice," she said.

Bublitz came to O'Brien's defense earlier this year when others in the church, some upset over O'Brien's plan to consolidate congregations, began to call for his resignation after news of past allegations against Picardi reached the parish.

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