Latino Lawmakers Call for Resignation of Bishop O'Brien

By Elvia Diaz
The Arizona Republic
June 4, 2003

A group of Latino lawmakers is demanding the resignation of Bishop Thomas O'Brien, saying he got off the hook too easy from the sex scandal that has swept the Phoenix Diocese.

Rep. Ben Miranda, a Phoenix Democrat leading the charge, said that until now he was among the overwhelming number of Latinos willing to give the bishop a chance to correct his mistakes.

"The Catholic Church has lost considerable ground among Latinos," Miranda said Tuesday. "Latinos have traditionally giving the Catholic Church the benefit of the doubt. We're not willing to do that anymore."

Miranda and others are angry with O'Brien, accusing him of sending many of the priests accused of sexual misconduct to predominantly Latino neighborhoods without informing parishioners.

"The sinister part of this is that church officials know that many in the Hispanic community don't question the church," said Rep. Robert Meza, a Phoenix Democrat. "Many of these parishioners are undocumented immigrants who don't speak English."

Jose Robles, a spokesman of the Phoenix Diocese, didn't return calls Tuesday.

Lacking the authority to do anything legislatively, the group of Latino lawmakers will gather today at the state Capitol to express anger with the bishop and demand his resignation.

The decision to publicly denounce O'Brien grew, in part, when Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, a high-profile Latina, literally stood behind the bishop during a news conference on Monday.

"I will not speculate about her motives," Miranda said. "We just have to make it clear that not all Latinos are happy with him (O'Brien)."

Wilcox doesn't apologize for supporting O'Brien, a man she describes as one of the most progressive in the nation for agreeing to take measures to prevent sexual abuses within the church.

"As people of faith, we have done a lot of soul-searching lately," said Wilcox, who is Catholic.

Wilcox, who declined to discuss O'Brien's admission in an immunity agreement with the county prosecutor that he concealed allegations of sexual abuses in the diocese, said she rushed to his side in an effort to put things behind.

"I've been troubled by all this," said Wilcox, adding that she doesn't condone the actions of the priests who are facing sex crime charges. "It's time to move on."

She also declined to talk about claims by other Latinos that O'Brien deliberately sent some of those priests to Hispanic communities.

"The bishop is a good man and is trying very hard to heal the community," said Wilcox, emphasizing that she doesn't represent all Latinos but neither do the state lawmakers asking for O'Brien to step down.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.