Withdrawn English Episcopal Nomination Triggers Multiple Investigations

Complaints against an English priest named to become a bishop also triggered a Vos estis lux mundi investigation into his own diocesan bishop, who was accused of failing to handle the allegations appropriately.

Canon Christopher Whitehead of the Diocese of Clifton has returned to parish ministry, the diocese announced in a brief statement on March 22, after a preliminary investigation into allegations raised against him determined there was no cause to initiate a full canonical proceeding.

But while the priest has now returned to parish ministry, the circumstances which led to his canceled episcopal promotion caused a major headache for multiple Vatican departments, and led to a Vatican-ordered investigation into Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, who resigned weeks after the investigation began.

The Vatican announced Dec. 15, 2023 that Whitehead had been selected by Pope Francis to become the next Bishop of the Diocese of Plymouth, with his episcopal consecration scheduled for Feb. 22 of this year.

But the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales announced Feb. 1 that the episcopal ordination would no longer take place, and that a “canonical process” related to Whitehead had been initiated instead.

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