Vatican City — Pope Francis on April 13 accepted the resignation of Crookston, Minn. Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who had been under investigation for more than a year over allegations of mishandling cases of clergy sexual abuse.
The announcement of the move was made in a brief note in the Vatican’s daily bulletin. The note did not say whether the resignation came as a result of the investigation, which had been initially conducted by St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda.
Hoeppner, aged 71, had been under investigation since September 2019. The initial claim made against the bishop regarded an allegation he had coerced an abuse victim not to report their abuse.
After sending an initial report to Rome that fall, Hebda was later asked by the Vatican in February 2020 to investigate further.
The investigation of Hoeppner had followed a new procedure for bishops accused of abuse or cover-up. Outlined in the May 2019 ‘motu proprio’ Vos Estis Lux Mundi (“You Are The Light Of The World”), the procedure involves the empowering of archbishops to conduct investigations of prelates accused in their local regions.
Although some survivor advocates and canon lawyers have praised the new procedures, others have questioned a lack of transparency over which prelates are being investigated and the result of those inquiries.
The Diocese of Crookston and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis did not immediately have statements available regarding Hoeppner’s resignation. The U.S. bishops’ conference issued a terse note repeating the information from the Vatican’s daily bulletin.
Should Hoeppner’s resignation be confirmed as a result of the investigation, he would be the first U.S. bishop to effectively lose his job because of the Vos estis procedures.
Francis has not named a new bishop for Crookston, instead asking retired Des Moines, Iowa Bishop Richard Pates to temporarily oversee the diocese.