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NOLA native Bishop Aymond heads back to the Big Easy

June 12, 2009

imagesBig local religion news today: Bishop Gregory Aymond, who has led the Austin Diocese for the past nine years, has been named archbishop of New Orleans. People have talked for years about the possibility of Aymond getting a promotion, but this must be especially sweet for him because he gets to return to his native city. 

I first got to know Aymond in the midst of crisis. I had just taken over the religion beat the Austin American-Statesman at the same time the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team had uncovered a conspiracy among the nation’s bishops to cover up the abuse of children by priests. It was a tough time for both of us, but Aymond was incredibly accessible and media-savvy. And he had already created a progressive policy on sex abuse.

During that time, as a relatively young bishop, he really distinguished himself from the other members of the hierarchy, many of whom came across as defensive and unapologetic. 

As it turned out, Aymond’s record wasn’t completely blemish-free. Back in New Orleans, he did not take action against a Catholic school teacher accused of abuse because the victim would not talk to him. By the time authorities intervened, the teacher had molested other boys, according to the Dallas Morning News.

And I know of several victims who felt Aymond did not do enough to address their needs. 

But Aymond’s policies on handling sex abuse in the Austin Diocese served as a model for others dioceses — and other denominations. And while he certainly had his share of discord as the bishop here (there were tensions with, among others, the liberal faculty at St. Edward’s University, certain priests, some Hispanics and a few Irish-Catholics who wanted a dispensation to eat corned beef on a Lenten Friday one year), I think he won more admirers than detractors. 

I know the members of the press appreciated the great food and booze at his Christmas parties. And I think we also appreciated the pressure he faced in making difficult decisions. Remember the medical ethics case of Emilio Gonzales?

It seems a smart choice to send him home to the Crescent City. He faces big challenges in a post-Katrina New Orleans, as this Times-Picayune piece points out,  but he knows the place so well and is so connected to the people there that I think he will thrive. In any case, we’ll certainly be watching from Austin.

Bonne chance, Bishop Aymond.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alan Graham permalink
    June 12, 2009 9:00 pm

    I am personally a fan of Bishop Aymond and will miss him here in Austin!

  2. El chancho permalink
    June 16, 2009 4:22 pm

    A well-deserved and challenging move!

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