FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Bishop Emeritus John D'Arcy, who oversaw the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for 24 years during a time of church closings, a national sex-abuse scandal and some run-ins with University of Notre Dame leaders, has died. He was 80 years old.
Diocese spokesman Sean McBride says D'Arcy died Sunday of cancer at his home in Fort Wayne. D'Arcy, who was treated for prostate cancer in 2011, announced last month he was battling a rare form of cancer that had been diagnosed in his lungs and brain. He said the disease was discovered when he went to a Boston-area hospital after feeling ill while visiting relatives.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who succeeded D'Arcy, thanked those who prayed for D'Arcy while he was ill and asked them to pray again for him, his family and his loved ones.
"Bishop D'Arcy faced death as he lived his life: with deep faith and trust in God," Rhoades said. "He offered his prayers and sufferings this past month for the people he loved and served with joy and faithfulness these past 28 years in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend."
D'Arcy retired in 2010 as bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese that covers 14 counties in northern Indiana with more than 150,000 members.
He received national attention when he was one of the few church officials commended in a scathing 2003 report issued by the Massachusetts attorney general about the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests in the Boston Archdiocese. The report blamed then-Cardinal Bernard Law, his predecessors as archbishop and Law's assistants for sheltering abusive priests and other church workers who molested as many as 1,000 children between 1940 and 2000.
But D'Arcy, a former auxiliary bishop in Boston, was noted for his strong support of screening potential priests, as well as his warnings to his superiors about predatory priests.
Later in 2003, he disclosed that 33 children — most of them teenagers at the time — had been sexually abused over the previous five decades by 16 priests in northern Indiana diocese. D'Arcy said then there was too much secrecy surrounding the issue.
"I think people don't want to know a lot about it, but they want to know the bishop is handling it right. I think that means a lot to them," he said.
D'Arcy also made headlines for opposing some decisions by leaders at the University of Notre Dame, which is in the diocese. He wrote a nine-page "pastoral response" in 2006 criticizing the decision by the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, to allow "The Vagina Monologues" to be performed on campus.
D'Arcy also boycotted Notre Dame's commencement in 2009 because of the speaker, President Barack Obama, whose policies on stem cell research and abortion D'Arcy said ran counter to church teaching. But D'Arcy did attend an open-air Mass and rally on the campus that day, saying he wanted to support the students protesting Obama.
"All of you are heroes, and I'm proud to stand with you," he said.
Jenkins issued a statement Sunday saying the university joins many others in mourning D'Arcy's death.
"His life was one of loving service to God's people as a pastor and, since he became the bishop of this diocese in 1985, he has shown dedicated and affectionate care for the University of Notre Dame. We remember him with gratitude and, though saddened by his passing, we believe he will be an advocate for us in the heavenly kingdom," he said.
D'Arcy was born in Boston in 1932, ordained a priest in 1957 and served as a parish priest in the Boston area for nine years. In 1975, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Boston, and installed as bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese on May 1, 1985.