LINCOLN, Neb. - The Diocese of Lincoln announced Friday that Bishop James Conley will take a medical leave of absence, effective immediately.
Due to serious medical issues, Bishop Conley formally requested a temporary leave of absence from Pope Francis, and the request was accepted.
Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop George Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha, to serve as apostolic administrator during Bishop Conley’s temporary leave of absence.
In a letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Lincoln (below), Bishop Conley announced that he has been medically diagnosed with depression and anxiety, along with insomnia and tinnitus.
“My doctors have directed me to take a leave of absence for medical and psychological treatment, and to get some much-needed rest. After prayer, and seeking the counsel of my spiritual director, my brother bishops, and my family, I have accepted the medical necessity of a temporary leave of absence,"Bishop Conley wrote.
The bishop announced his plans to “undergo the best psychological and medical treatment available to me,” before returning to his ministry as diocesan bishop.
Archbishop Lucas said Friday: “I offer my full support to Bishop Conley as he steps away from the Diocese of Lincoln to focus on his personal health and well-being. As a brother bishop, I know the demands of being a diocesan pastor; as a friend, I want Bishop Conley to avail himself of the time and the setting that will help him to return to full health and strength. I look forward to welcoming him back when he is ready to return.”
“In the meantime, I am eager to work with the priests and lay faithful of the Diocese of Lincoln, to further the mission of Jesus Christ in the parishes, schools and apostolates of the diocese. I know that all will join me in praying for health and peace for Bishop Conley,” Lucas added.
During his leave of absence, Bishop Conley has requested privacy. Prayers and letters can be conveyed to the bishop via:
Bishop James D. Conley
Diocese of Lincoln
3400 Sheridan Blvd
Lincoln, NE 68506-6125
Below is the letter from Bishop James Conley:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
A few weeks ago, I requested from Pope Francis a temporary medical leave from my ministry as Bishop of Lincoln. The pope has granted my request, and, effective immediately, I will be on a leave of absence, to be treated for a set of related medical problems.
I would like to share with you some information about my health, because of the friendship I share with so many of you, because I do not want you to worry unnecessarily, and to avoid any speculation about my absence.
I also want to tell you about my health because I hope, in some small way, to help lift the stigma of mental health issues.
I have been medically diagnosed with depression and anxiety, along with chronic insomnia and debilitating tinnitus, which is a constant ringing of the ears. For months, I’ve tried to work through these issues on my own through spiritual direction, counseling, and prayer. It has been difficult to accept that my mental health problems are real health problems, and not just a defect of my character, especially during a year of difficulty for our diocese.
But the truth is that depression and anxiety are real psychological problems, with medical causes, requiring medical treatment. For me, those problems have been coupled with physical symptoms: lack of energy and exhaustion.
My doctors have directed me to take a leave of absence for medical and psychological treatment, and to get some much-needed rest. After prayer, and seeking the counsel of my spiritual director, my brother bishops, and my family, I have accepted the medical necessity of a temporary leave of absence.
I will be at a diocesan retreat facility in the Diocese of Phoenix, thanks to the kind invitation of Bishop Thomas Olmsted, while I undergo the best psychological and medical treatment available to me.
Archbishop George Lucas, the Archbishop of Omaha, has been appointed apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Lincoln during my temporary absence. We have planned for a smooth transition, with the full support of my senior staff.
Jesus Christ is the Divine Physician, who offers us the grace of healing. I entrust myself to the healing power of Christ, and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I am grateful to be your bishop, and I love the Diocese of Lincoln. It will be difficult to be away. Please pray for me, as I pray for you.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop James Conley