Bishop Lennon Admits ‘Disconnect’ with Priests

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WOOSTER, Ohio -- Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon met privately with diocese priests Thursday in the first of a series of meetings intended to try to repair any conflicts that may exist between them.

Lennon met with the priests at St. Mary's Church in Wooster after having sent them a letter offering to do whatever he could to smooth over their differences.

The diocese confirms that Lennon wrote diocese priests telling them, "I have become aware of a growing disconnect between many of the priests who serve faithfully in this diocese and myself."

The letters and meetings follow an order from the Vatican for Lennon to reopen 11 area churches he had already closed.

Members of the 'Endangered Catholics Coalition' that worked to get those churches reopen are unhappy about the process that Lennon has taken to get the churches back in operation.

They are concerned about reports that several area priests have already written to the Vatican asking for Bishop Lennon to move on.

"That's a clear indication, from what we know, that the priests, the diocesan priests aren't happy with Bishop Lennon," said Pat Singleton.

The coalition released a statement on Thursday encouraging priests to air their grievances regarding Bishop Lennon, but to do so directly to the Vatican.

"By broad consensus Endangered Catholics strongly endorses Cleveland diocesan priests in their efforts to make known to the Vatican that Bishop Richard Lennon's leadership is unpastoral, disruptive to clergy and laity," reads the statement.

Some area Catholics are not surprised that there may be a conflict between Lennon and priests in the diocese.

"There is a divide, and I know a lot of people who have stopped going to church, you know, they just don't like the way he has been handling things, especially with the closing of all of those churches," said Mary Ann Hudec.

"Especially after the closings, and then having to reopen some of the churches, I'm not sure that went over too well," said Frank Pantuso, of Akron.

Lennon would not answer questions before Thursday's meeting.

In his letter to priests, Lennon urged them to attend the meetings, and said he will listen to what they have to say.

"Know I am entering this process willingly and open to change," wrote Lennon.

Many area Catholics are praying for just such healing.