Dodge City — The Roman Catholic bishop of the Dodge City Diocese said Wednesday that he is retiring early because he found being a bishop “a burden.”
The Vatican also announced that Rev. John B. Brungardt, a 52-year-old parish priest the Wichita diocese, would replace Bishop Ronald Gilmore as bishop of the western Kansas diocese.
“Sometimes being a bishop feels like a blessing. Sometimes being a bishop feels like a cursing. For me, being a Bishop has always felt like a burden,” Gilmore said in a statement on the diocese website.
Gilmore, 68, did not specify what was burdensome about being a bishop, and messages left on the diocese phone were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Gilmore, who has been bishop since 1998, said in his statement that he asked Pope Benedict XVI last year if he could retire early. Priests normally retire at age 75.
“It became increasingly clear to me over the last two years that the Diocese needed fresh eyes, fresh hands, and a fresh heart,” Gilmore’s statement said. “I have done all I know how to do, all my strength permitted me to do, all my weakness allowed me to do. The good people of this Diocese deserve better from their bishop than what I was giving them.”
The pope granted the request under a church law that lets bishops retire early if they’re sick or some other reason makes them unsuited for office. Gilmore said the pope asked him to delay announcing his retirement until a replacement could be named for the diocese, which covers more than 23,000 square miles in western Kansas, where more than 20 percent of the population is Catholic.
Mar Munoz-Visoso, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that it is not uncommon for bishops to retire before age 75, but that she didn’t know what led to Gilmore’s decision.
Barbara Dorris, the outreach coordinator for the St. Louis-based group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, described the Dodge City diocese as “one of the most secretive dioceses in the U.S. regarding child sex crimes.”
The diocese told The Lawrence Journal-World in July that of 13 sexual abuse cases handled by the diocese since 2003, all the alleged abuse occurred more than 20 years ago and that nearly $700,000 had been spent on legal settlements with victims.
Dorris said in a news release that her group considers Brungardt’s promotion a positive move.
“We’re encouraged each time the Vatican promotes a parish priest, who likely knows less about clergy sex abuse crimes and cover ups, to a higher post like bishop.”