BY MARK GREAVES
BISHOP JOHN Crowley of Middlesbrough has retired 10 years early because his nerves could "no longer adequately cope" with the stress of being a bishop.
Bishop Crowley, a protégé of the late Cardinal Basil Hume who has served as Bishop of Middlesbrough since 1993, said the responsibilities were taking "a big on his health.
He added: 'Much more than any physical wear and tear, it was the growing strain of those responsibilities upon my nervous resources which had begun to reach a point when! could no longer adequately cope."
The bishop, who has been on sick leave since February, said he became aware that the diocese needed someone with "new energy and vision to take on its spiritual leadership".
He explained that he felt extremely sad to leave a diocese where it had been his "greatest joy and privilege" to serve as bishop, and added that he "dearly wantedto exercise priestly ministry once his health had been restored.
The bishop said there was "a lot of new life and energy" in the diocese and that exciting initiatives were beginning to emerge in adult formation and youth ministry.
His resignation has been accepted by Pope Benedict XVI and a diocesan administrator will run the diocese until the Pontiff appoints a new bishop.
Bishop Crowley was born in 1941 in Newbury, Berkshire, and ordained at the age of 23 after studying at St Edmund's College in Ware, Hertfordshire.
He worked as the private secretary of Cardinal Hume for several years before the Cardinal appointed him as an auxiliary bishop of Westmin-. ster in 1986. The bishop moved to the Diocese of Middlesbrough seven years later.
In 1999 Bishop Crowley's close relationship with Cardinal Hume led him to deliver the homily at the Benedictine monk's funeral.
The bishop said that the cardinal was "a rock of spiritual strength" loved by people who were not even part oldie Catholic Church.
He told a congregation of 2,000 at Westminster Cathedral: "Among the sackfuls of letters which swamped Archbishop's House when his terminal illness became known, a considerable number actually began with the wonds: 'I am not a member of your Church...' or 'I am not a believer.; -Each letter bore its own witness to a man of God who had touched so many lives by his spirit-filled presence," he added.
The bishop emphasised that Cardinal Hume was sensitive to the needs of the poor in particular. In June 2001 Bishop Crowley became mired in scandal after agreeing to celebrate Mass at a service of thanksgiving for a 25-year homosexual partnership between two Catholics.
The Mass was intended to honour the "25 years of friendship and commitment to the pursuit of justice" of Julian Filochowslci, then director of the Catholic overseas development agency Cafod, and Martin Pendergast of the Catholic caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.
But Bishop Crowley withdrew as celebrant at the last minute after a telephone call from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who reportedly asked him not to attend.
Afterwards he apologised for causing distress and said he thought ,the service was a celebration of friendship.
The bishop caused further controversy in 2005 when, during a radio interview, he expressed the hope that married priests might be allowed in the Church within his lifetime.
He defended his statement in an article for The Tablet, saying that while he appreciated the value of a celibate clergy he also thought that in some cases marriage could add a "special dimensionto the priesthood.
Bishop Crowley wrote that in his years as a bishop "one of the less pleasant surprises ... has been the rancour which can too quickly infiltrate what would otherwise be good, healthy. horizon-widening discussions within the Church".
He also suggested in the article that diocesan clergy would find the challenge of celibacy easier to bear if they lived in small communities of priests rather than on their own.
A statement from the Church clarified that when a bishop resigns the vicar-generals and episcopal vicars of the diocese immediately cease to hold office.
The College of Consultors assumes responsibility for the diocese until a diocesan administrator is elected.
The diocesan administrator has a "care and maintenance" role and must ensure that no innovation is made.
For the duration of his office he is a member of the bishops' conference who can vote on all matters except declarations of doctrine. He cannot appoint parish priests until the see has been vacant for one year.
Editorial Comment; Page 11