Schulte waiting for official permission for retirement

Posted: Friday, January 04, 2002

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Archbishop Francis Schulte is waiting for a letter, one with the Vatican seal and signed by Pope John Paul II, telling him when he can officially retire as Roman Catholic archbishop of New Orleans.

''The archdiocese is ready,'' Schulte said.

Following church procedures, Schulte offered the pope his letter of retirement weeks before the deadline -- his 75th birthday earlier this month.

At Schulte's request, the Vatican moved the Rev. Alfred Hughes to New Orleans from Baton Rouge last summer and named him the next archbishop upon Schulte's retirement.

Schulte has spent nearly 13 years in the job and became known as a methodical organizer who brought order to schools, churches, housing complexes and social services that serve the archdiocese's 488,000 Catholics.

In the early 1990s, Schulte standardized salaries and fees, established middle school curricula, and set consistent policies and goals in the archdiocese.

He raised $22 million for schools, infirm priests and Notre Dame Seminary, along with erasing the archdiocese's debt of $10 million.

Schulte also struggled with sex scandals in the church.

In 1992, he created the archdiocese's first formal process for addressing complaints of sexual abuse by priests or other employees.

But the process did not help in the worst New Orleans-area case of its kind when Brian Matherne, a Catholic elementary school teacher and coach, confessed in 1999 to molesting boys in his care for more than 15 years.

Although a victim's father informed the archdiocese, Matherne was left on the job because church officials could not talk to the youth themselves. The archdiocese later retooled its policy to make greater use of clinicians experienced in evaluating claims of sexual abuse.

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