Bishop Emeritus John D’Arcy dies at 80; he warned about sex abuse

Bishop Emeritus John D’Arcy, who oversaw the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana for 24 years during a time of church closings, a national sex-abuse scandal and some run-ins with University of Notre Dame leaders, died Sunday of cancer at his home in Fort Wayne, according to a diocesan spokesman. He was 80.

D’Arcy, who was treated for prostate cancer in 2011, announced last month that he was battling a rare form of cancer that had been diagnosed in his lungs and brain.

D’Arcy received national attention when he was one of the few Roman Catholic 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 his northern Indiana diocese. D’Arcy said then that 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. In 2006, he criticized the decision by the Rev. John Jenkins, the Catholic university’s president, to allow “The Vagina Monologues” to be performed on campus.

D’Arcy also boycotted Notre Dame’s commencement in 2009 because the speaker, President Obama, supported policies on stem cell research and abortion that D’Arcy said ran counter to church teaching.


D’Arcy was born in Boston in 1932, ordained a priest in 1957 and served in a Boston-area parish 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 in 1985. He retired in 2010.

He is survived by two sisters, one of whom is a nun.