Cardinal Dew unsure why Charles Drennan remains a bishop

Charles Drennan

Cardinal John Dew is unsure why former Bishop of Palmerston North, Charles Drennan remains a bishop, saying it is entirely Rome’s decision.

Dew made the comment, Friday, in answer to questions from counsel Sally McKechnie, at the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care.

“The Pope is the only one that can remove a bishop from office.

“They have all the information from the investigation. I really don’t know why he is still a bishop,” said Dew.

Drennan tendered his resignation as the Bishop of Palmerston North following an investigation into a complaint by a young woman, of unacceptable behaviour of a sexual nature. The behaviour was not with a minor, nor criminal.

Pope Francis, October 4, announced he had accepted Drennan’s resignation as Bishop of Palmerston North, however for now he still keeps the title of bishop, and remains a cleric.

Dew told the Royal Commission that Drennan must however follow strict conditions imposed on him.

Drennan is required to

  • move out of the diocese of Palmerston North
  • find accommodation outside the diocese
  • not participate in any public ministry whatsoever
  • not wear any episcopal attire e.g. a bishop’s ring
  • not to participate in any celebration or function as a bishop.
  • ordinarily remain in New Zealand, but if he wants to leave the country he has to tell the Apostolic Nuncio, the Vatican’s diplomatic representative in New Zealand.

Asked if Drennan could not be a bishop but be ‘demoted’ to being a priest, Dew said there were cases overseas where this had happened, but he doubts it could be done in such a small country.

“If (Drennan) was (demoted to being a priest), I think they would have to be very careful where they put him and have clear safeguarding procedures put in place.”

Dew said no-one asked for Drennan’s laicisation and it was a grey area.

“I sent in my votum​ about the complaint and it was up to Rome to decide what his future might be.”



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