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Past Haunts Temporary Head of San Diego Diocese

Past Haunts Temporary Head of San Diego Diocese

Following the September 6 death of the widely praised 66-year-old Bishop Cirilo Flores, head of the San Diego Diocese, after a bout with cancer, a temporary administrator needed to be elected to maintain the status quo in the diocese for six to eight months until Pope Francis chooses a successor.

On Tuesday, September 9, the six-member College of Consultors (a required body composed of bishops and priests) unanimously chose Monsignor Steve Callahan, who’s been vicar general of the diocese since January 2003. Callahan was already unofficially in charge of the diocese during the bishop’s illness, which began with a stroke in April. Callahan was also at Flores’ side at the time of his death.

But his election to his new, temporary post suddenly set off alarms among those who believe him complicit in the cover-up of abusive priests in the diocese. Around 2007, Callahan testified that he had destroyed personnel records from the 1990s.

Callahan said he did so in accordance with Church law, but attorney Irwin Zalkin, who negotiated a $200M settlement with the San Diego Diocese while representing about 100 people claiming to be sexual abuse victims, asserted his belief that the destruction of priests’ files and seminary records was part of a coverup.

No criminal charges have ever been filed against Callahan in the matter. He is not in the running to take over the diocese on a permanent basis. That job will go to an existing bishop chosen from a pool of candidates first submitted to the papal nuncio, then whittled down by bishops in Rome, and presented to the pontiff for the final decision.

A visitation and Vigil Mass for Bishop Flores will be held Tuesday, September 16, at St. Joseph Cathedral at 1535 Third Avenue, in San Diego. Visitation of the body will take place from 10:15 a.m. until 6:45 p.m., with the Mass commencing at 7 p.m.

A funeral Mass is then scheduled for noon the next day at Saint Therese of Carmel in San Diego, at 4355 Del Mar Trails Road. Bishop Flores will afterwards be interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, located at 4470 Hilltop Drive, San Diego.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of the schedule, which includes a request that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Bishop Flores Memorial Fund for Catholic Education, or to Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego.

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