|By Olivier Uyttebrouck, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The leaderless archdiocese had been rocked by allegations of clerical sexual abuse.
Just three weeks earlier, the popular Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez had resigned after five women alleged he had sexually molested them when they were teenagers. New Mexicans were shocked to hear several women describe those abuses on "60 Minutes,"
Sanchez was one of at least 14 priests accused of sexual abuse at the time Sheehan arrived and lawsuits were beginning to pile up. Sheehan ultimately dismissed an estimated 20 priests as a result of the scandal.
"I want to put the household of faith in order," Sheehan said following a flight from
Sheehan celebrated his 75th birthday last week and is required to submit a letter of resignation to
Catholics interviewed last week commend Sheehan for his handling of the priest abuse scandal and his dedication to the church.
"Considering all the things in the past -- not his past but other archbishops' -- he has regained a lot of faith from a lot of parishioners," said
Sheehan has for years been a leading voice in
In recent years, he has championed a
This year, Sheehan criticized the Obama administration for provisions in the Affordable Care Act requiring religious employers to cover contraceptive services in their insurance plans.
Sheehan has also shown himself willing to take actions that anger parishioners.
In January, he informed Dominican priests to leave Aquinas Newman Center at the
Several parishioners said the move had left them with a bitter taste for their longtime archbishop.
"I like (Sheehan), but I'm confused by him at the moment," said
Sheehan said he wants UNM to produce more vocations, or men who aspire to become priests, and named the archdiocese's director of vocations as Newman Center's pastor.
"I've always felt kind of cheated because I became a priest in 1964 to be a parish priest," he said in a recent interview, "and I didn't have much time as a parish priest."
Sheehan said he has no qualms about stepping down as archbishop.