New Portland bishop criticized by SNAP

Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Peter Leslie Smith, 55, as auxiliary bishop of the Portland Archdiocese, March 4, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Peter Leslie Smith, 55, as auxiliary bishop of the Portland Archdiocese, March 4, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Archdiocese of Portland has a new auxiliary bishop appointed by Pope Francis.

The Vatican Information Office identified him as Msgr. Peter Leslie Smith, 55. It will be only the third such appointment of an auxiliary bishop in the 168-year history of the Portland Archdiocese.

A news conference announcing the appointment was held Tuesday morning at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center.

According to the Vatican Information Office, Smith was born in South Africa and was ordained as a priest in 2001. He was a priest at the St. Rose of Lima parish in Portland and is currently vicar general and moderator of the Curia.

He has a law degree from the University of Natal Law School in South Africa, with a master’s degree in theology from Mount Angel Seminary in Saint Benedict, Ore.

The Survivors Network of the Abused Priests (SNAP) issued a news release Tuesday, calling the choice “disappointing.”

“Smith is a civil and a canon lawyer,” SNAP wrote. “In our view, the church hierarchy needs fewer lawyers, not more lawyers. Kids and victims need prelates who are trained to deal with this horrific, on-going crisis from a pastoral perspective, not a legal perspective.

“He is also the vice chair of the presbyteral council, the vicar general and moderator of the Curia – all high ranking posts. So we strongly suspect that he knows of or suspects clergy child sex crimes and cover ups that he’s not helping to uncover.”

According to the Portland Archdiocese, there are an estimated 417,000 Catholics in Western Oregon.

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