Bishop Zavala resigns after disclosing he is a father of two
Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala has resigned after disclosing to superiors that he is the father of two children.
The Vatican announced the bishop's resignation Jan. 4 in a one-line statement that cited church law on resignation for illness or other serious reasons (Code of Canon Law, canons 411 and 401 paragraph 2).
Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez announced the "sad and difficult" news in a letter to Catholics in the archdiocese. He said Bishop Zavala, who was auxiliary bishop for the San Gabriel pastoral region, had informed him in early December that he is the father of two minor teenage children who live with their mother in another state.
Archbishop Gomez announced early Jan. 4 that Msgr. James Loughnane, pastor of St. Denis Church in Diamond Bar, was appointed episcopal vicar for the pastoral region. Bishop Zavala had been San Gabriel Region bishop since his elevation to the episcopacy in March 1994.
Bishop Zavala told Archbishop Gomez that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. Since that time, Bishop Zavala has not been in ministry and "will be living privately," Archbishop Gomez said.
"The archdiocese has reached out to the mother and children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. The family's identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy," Archbishop Gomez said. He asked prayers for all those affected by the situation.
Bishop Zavala's resignation leaves a vacancy in the chairman's position of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Communications. Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had no immediate announcement about who would assume the chairmanship.
Tod Tamberg, Los Angeles archdiocesan spokesman, said the archdiocese had received questions about the possible usage of archdiocesan funds by the bishop to support his children and their mother. He said a financial audit of the San Gabriel pastoral region budget found everything in order.
"There's been no indication of mismanagement or misuses of archdiocesan funds," Tamberg told Catholic News Service. "This is unexpected, sad and disorienting news for many who know and like him.”
Bishop Zavala has been a long-time social justice advocate. He became the bishop-president of Pax Christi USA, the American arm of Pax Christi International, in 2003.
In a letter to members posted on its website Jan. 5, Pax Christi USA said a search had been under way for a new bishop-president prior to the announcement from Los Angeles because Bishop Zavala had served three three-year terms.
"We are grateful for his past leadership and for his longtime witness to peace and justice as a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Zavala consistently brought the power of the Gospel to bear on issues like immigration, worker rights, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and nuclear disarmament," wrote Sister Josie Chrosniak, who chairs the national council and is a member of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, and Sister Patty Chappell, executive director and a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
The organization also offered prayers that the privacy of Bishop Zavala and his family would be respected.
Born in Guerrero, Mexico, Bishop Zavala grew up in Los Angeles. He was ordained from St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo, in 1977. He was rector at St. John’s at the time of his appointment as a bishop in February 1994.
Throughout his tenure in Los Angeles, Bishop Zavala has spoken on behalf of working-class Americans, immigrant rights, ending the death penalty and reforming the criminal justice and prison systems. He also co-chaired Encuentro 2000, the U.S. bishops' jubilee year gathering to celebrate and better understand the ethnic diversity of the U.S. church.
Msgr. Loughnane, a native of County Galway, Ireland, was ordained in 1961 and served as an associate at several parishes including St. Joseph the Worker, Winnetka, where he later became pastor. He was named pastor of St. Denis in 1993, and in 2005 was named a protonotary apostolic by Pope Benedict XVI.
Prayer of the MonthPapal intentions for November: That priests who experience difficulties may find comfort in their suffering, support in their doubts, and confirmation in their fidelity. That as fruit of the continental mission, Latin American Churches may send missionaries to other Churches.
Papal intentions for December: That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.