From the Australian Bishops Conference website:
"His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the Most Rev. Christopher Toohey as Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes, according to Canon 401 §2. This news will be made public in Rome on Tuesday 9 June, 2009 at Noon local time and until then it should be kept strictly confidential.
Most Rev. Terence Brady, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, has been appointed Apostolic Administrator of Wilcannia-Forbes sede vacante and ad nutum Sanctae Sedis until the successor of Bishop Toohey will be appointed."
The reasons now clearer
I'm updating this post as it is attracting a few hits.
The reasons for Bishop Toohey's mysterious resignation are now public, and it seems to be another shameful chapter in the Church's woes. The following statement was placed on the ACBC website (but not emailed out to the media list):
"Since resigning as Bishop of Wilcannia/Forbes in 2009 and living in retirement now, I have had the time to reflect back on my life. My behaviour within the context of my relationships with some young adults in my pastoral care during the early years of my ministry was not consistent with that required of a good person. I sincerely regret the hurt I have caused to these people and their families. In the light of these reflections I will not be returning to any active ministry in the church."
ACBC Secretary Fr Lucas advises that "Bishop Toohey will not be making any further statement out of respect for the privacy of all concerned."
Well, I suppose some expression of contrition is better than none.
The reasons - at the time of the bishop's resignation
Here is the The Australian's take on the subject:
"MYSTERY surrounds the sudden departure of the Catholic bishop of a western NSW diocese who resigned unexpectedly just after Easter.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference yesterday confirmed that Bishop Chris Toohey of Wilcannia-Forbes had resigned after taking extended leave.
While all manner of rumours have been circulating on the internet about the reasons for the sudden departure of Bishop Toohey, it is believed that he has had medical problems associated with servicing such a large area with diminishing resources.
The diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes runs from central NSW to the South Australian border and has the Victorian and Queensland borders as its other boundaries, with only about a dozen priests to service the area.
In a fax to priests in the diocese on April 23, Bishop Toohey said he had "accepted strong advice and have decided to take extended leave".
"I am really sorry for the bad timing, given the nature of the Confirmation Round this year. Nevertheless, is it something I must do."
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference secretary Brian Lucas would not give any reason for his departure, but said "it should be made clear he will continue to be a priest".
He said Terry Brady, an auxiliary bishop in Sydney, would be appointed as temporary administrator of the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese.
Bishop Toohey, 57, was appointed to the diocese in 2001 when he was only 49, and was regarded as having done a good job in the area.
But the Catholic Church -- like most other mainstream churches -- is facing problems in rural areas, especially the difficulties associated with replacing ageing priests."
The Sydney Morning Herald
And here is the SMH's take:
"A PROMINENT and outspoken Australian bishop who took extended leave without explanation six weeks ago formally resigned last night, citing personal reasons and ill health.
Bishop Christopher Toohey, known as the country's "eco-bishop" for his passionate environmentalism, took leave from his position in the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese in April amid keen speculation.
The Balmain-born clergyman, who was the subject of a recent Compass documentary, holds views on climate change that are sharply at odds with Cardinal George Pell.
Bishop Toohey announced his leave in a letter to his clergy, on April 29: "I have accepted some strong advice and have gone on extended leave," he wrote.
"I would appreciate your prayers at this time."
A spokeswoman for Cardinal Pell said last night the bishop had resigned "for health and personal reasons and is currently on leave".
When contacted by the Herald, Bishop Toohey said he "had his own personal reasons" for resigning but did not want to make any further comment.
Brain Crowe [sic!], of the Catholic news website Catholica, broke the news of his anticipated resignation last month.
The bishop's resignation has been met with sadness within the diocese, which stretches from Queensland south to the Murray River.
"He's been a very dynamic man," said Father Jim Victory, from Hay. "For a fellow that was born and bred in the city … he certainly endeared himself to people in the bush."
Sources from within the church said the sheer size and lack of human and financial resources held by the diocese were too much for the charismatic and vigorous clergyman.
Only 16 priests remain in the diocese, which has 20 parishes.
One priest also told the Herald that more could have been done to support the drought-affected area financially. "When you look at what was spent at World Youth Day," said the priest, who asked not to be named, "the people [in Wilcannia-Forbes] are not stingy but they just don't have the cash. His leaving should be a call to the whole of Australia to be more national and less parochial."