Pope Francis accepts resignation of Sartain from Seattle for medical reasons

Vatican City, Sep 3, 2019 / 04:41 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday accepted the resignation of Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who will be succeeded by Archbishop Paul D. Etienne, coadjutor of the archdiocese since June.

A coadjutor bishop is appointed to assist in the administration of a diocese and succeeds the bishop upon his retirement or death.

Coadjutors are often appointed when a bishop is in ill health; Sartain, 67, has had serious back issues and submitted his letter of resignation to Pope Francis in September 2018.

Etienne, 60, will now take over leadership of the Archdiocese of Seattle, which also has two auxiliaries, Bishops Eusebio Elizondo and Daniel H. Mueggenborg.

Sartain has been archbishop of Seattle since 2010. He had previously served as bishop of Joliet and before that, from 2000 to 2006, was bishop of Little Rock.

A native of Memphis, Tenn., Sartain studied English before entering seminary. He received a bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 1977 and after his priestly ordination in 1978, returned to Rome for further studies at the Pontifical University of St. Anselmo.

The Archdiocese of Seattle has 173 parishes, missions, and pastoral centers and serves over 579,500 Catholics.

The Archdiocese is facing questions after an AP story was published in August profiling a Seattle man who committed suicide. Photos in the article showed Fr. Quentin Dupont, SJ, blessing Robert Fuller, a parishioner of St. Therese church, before he committed medically assisted suicide May 10.

Fr. Dupont told America magazine Aug. 30 he was unaware of the man’s intentions, and that if he had known the man was planning to commit suicide, he would have acted differently.

Dupont also denied being the Jesuit priest referenced in a Facebook post, in which Fuller claimed to have received the approbation of a Jesuit priest for his planned suicide.

Neither the Archdiocese of Seattle nor the West Province of the Society of Jesus have indicated what priest Fuller might have been referencing, or if the matter is under investigation.

Nor has the archdiocese addressed questions related to the parish choir’s performance at the party Fuller hosted leading up to his suicide.

The archdiocese has addressed Fuller’s funeral, which he scheduled with the parish prior to his suicide.

In its Aug. 28 statement, the archdiocese said that when Fuller discussed his desire for a funeral with his pastor, Fr. Maurice Mamba, the priest discussed the gift of life and tried to convince him to change his mind. He made it clear that neither he nor the parish could support his plan to take his own life.”

Archbishop Etienne served as a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis from 1992 until 2009, when he was appointed Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

In 2016, Pope Francis named him to head the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.

At the time of his appointment as coadjutor of Seattle April 29, 2019, Etienne wrote in a blog post that he has known Archbishop Sartain for many years, and has nothing but “admiration and esteem” for him.

Etienne, an outdoorsman, grew up as one of six children. He has two brothers who are priests and a sister who is a religious sister.

He graduated from the University of St. Thomas/St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a degree in business administration before studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

After serving as an associate pastor and assistant vocations director in Indianapolis for a period, he returned to Rome to receive his licentiate in spiritual theology.

In the U.S., he later served as vocations director in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, vice-rector of the Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis, and as a parish priest.

He was appointed Bishop of Cheyenne in 2009. He has served as a metropolitan, the Archbishop of Anchorage, since November 2016.


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1 Comment

  1. A question from this Seattle-area reader about the news reporting of the Robert Fuller suicide…

    Curiously, the event was first reported in the Seattle Times on August 25, while the event itself took place more than three months earlier on May 10.

    One can only wonder if this really odd timing was intended by a toxic press to cast a cloud over the archdiocese only one week before the new Archbishop Etienne was to be installed.

    Of course, there may be other possible theories for such delayed and coincidental reporting, but even gross incompetence, for example, probably doesn’t extend that far.

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