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Joseph Francis Martino

Joseph Francis Martino
Bishop Emeritus of Scranton
Province Philadelphia
Diocese Scranton
Installed 2003
Term ended 2009
Predecessor James C. Timlin
Successor Joseph Bambera
Other posts Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia (1996-2003)
Titular Bishop of Cellae in Mauretania (1996-2003)
Ordination December 18, 1970
Consecration March 11, 1996
Personal details
Born (1946-05-01) May 1, 1946 (age 68)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality  American
Denomination Roman Catholic
Alma mater St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
Pontifical Gregorian University
Styles of
Joseph Martino
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Monsignor
Posthumous style None

Joseph Francis Martino (born May 1, 1946) is an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church and the Retired Bishop of Scranton. He served as bishop of Scranton until his resignation was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI on 31 August 2009.

Early life and ministry

Joseph Francis Martino was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Joseph F. Martino, Sr., and his wife Eleanor Devlin. He has a sister, Eleanor. He studied at Saint Joseph's Preparatory School; St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood; and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, from where he obtained his doctorate in ecclesiastical history and licentiate in sacred theology. Martino was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop James Aloysius Hickey on December 18, 1970, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

He worked as an assistant pastor in Philadelphia (1971–1975, 1987), Penndel (1975–1977), and Jenkintown (summers of 1977-1981). He taught at Bishop Shanahan High School in West Chester from 1982 to 1984, and wrote the official document requesting the beatification of Katharine Drexel, who was later canonized in 2000.

From 1986 to 1992, Father Martino served as Dean of Formation in the Theology Division and assistant professor of Church History at his alma mater of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary; during his tenure there he was raised to the rank of an Honorary Prelate of His Holiness in 1991. He was Director of the Archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (1990–1993, 1997–2003) and for Renewal of Pastoral Life (1992–1997).

Episcopal career

On January 24, 1996, Martino was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia and Titular Bishop of Cellae in Mauretania by Pope John Paul II. He was consecrated on the following March 11 by Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, with Archbishop Francis B. Schulte and Bishop Edward Peter Cullen serving as co-consecrators, at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Bishop of Scranton

He was later named the ninth Bishop of Scranton on July 5, 2003, and was formally installed on the following October 1 at St. Peter's Cathedral.

In January 2007, Bishop Martino decided to close high schools. They included Bishop O'Reilly, Seton Catholic, Bishop Hafey, Bishop Hoban, Bishop O'Hara and Bishop Hannan, along with several grade schools. In total he closed about 30 schools.

In January 2009, Martino announced that, due to a priest shortage and diminishing financial resources, the Diocese of Scranton would either close or consolidate almost half its 209 parishes.[1]

He resigned from his office as Bishop of Scranton in early June, 2009, due to poor health. He was suffering from "insomnia and crippling physical fatigue."[2] He resignation was accepted by the Pope on August 31, 2009.[3][4]

2008 presidential election

During the 2008 presidential election, Martino issued a pastoral letter that declared "public officials who are Catholic and who persist in public support for abortion...should not partake in or be admitted to the sacrament of Holy Communion."[5] This was particularly controversial since the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Joe Biden, is a native of Scranton; the Bishop confirmed that Biden would be refused Communion should he tour the region.[1]

In late October, he made an unexpected appearance at a Catholic political forum in Honesdale, PA, where he stated, "No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese...There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable."[6]

Following Obama's inauguration, Martino accused Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), a Catholic who supposedly opposes abortion, of "cooperating with...evil" by supporting Obama's repeal of the Mexico City Policy, which prohibited federal funding for foreign family planning aid groups who offer abortion services.[7] He declared that Casey's opposition to the Mexico City Policy "will mean the deaths of thousands of unborn children."[7] Casey contended that funding these groups would reduce the number of abortions by promoting contraception and other methods of avoiding unintended pregnancies, to which Martino said, "I remind you that it is never permissible to use immoral means (e.g., artificial contraception) to achieve a good end."[7]

Martino has explained his pro-life statements by saying, "I speak so forcefully about the right to life—the sanctity of life—from its beginning at conception to natural death, [so] that we not make ourselves God, the way Nazi Germany did."[8]

Keith Boykin appearance

On February 17, 2009, Martino expressed his "absolute disapproval" of Misericordia University having Keith Boykin, a best-selling author and gay rights advocate, speak at its annual dinner and as part of Black History Month.[9] The Bishop described Boykin's views as "disturbingly opposed" and "antithetical" to Catholic teaching, and stated that "Misericordia University in this instance is seriously failing in maintaining its Catholic identity."[9]

In response to Martino's comments, Misericordia University insisted that it "is committed deeply to its Catholic mission. Inseparable from that mission is our identity as an academic institution where ideas and positions are explored critically and freely."[9] The university also noted that Boykin’s speech was not meant to be a forum for advocacy on a particular issue.

Earlier that month Martino condemned a production of the Eve Ensler play The Vagina Monologues and had the diocese threaten the jobs of two Diocean employees if they were involved in the show. A high school student at Diocese operated Holy Redeemer High School was also threatened with expulsion if she participated.

St. Patrick's Day celebrations

In late February 2009, Martino advised three local Irish American organizations that he would close St. Peter’s Cathedral during Saint Patrick's Day celebrations if the groups featured pro-choice elected officials at their annual events.[10] Martino, "determined to prevent a scandal," stated that such officials should not be "given parade positions or dais opportunities either to be recognized or to speak to the assembled participants," which would "honor pro-abortion officials" or make it appear that “the Catholic Church is seen to be involved in this honoring.”[10]


Bishop Martino formally resigned from the office of bishop of Scranton in early June, 2009 [11] in accordance with Canon 401 § 2 of the Latin Rite Code of Canon Law, which states that: "A diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfilment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office." He sent his letter of resignation to the Congregation for Bishops in the middle of June 2009, and learned that Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation at the end of July. On the same day the resignation of his Auxiliary Bishop John M. Dougherty, who resigned because he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, was also accepted. Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, was named to assume the powers of the Apostolic Administrator (sede vacante) of the Diocese of Scranton on an interim basis until a successor to Bishop Martino was appointed. Monsignor Joseph C. Bambera was named as Rigali's Delegate to run the day-to-day operations of the Diocese,[2] and on February 23, 2010, Bambera was appointed the Bishop-elect of Scranton, succeeding Bishop Martino.


External links

  • Catholic-Hierarchy
  • Diocese of Scranton
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
James Clifford Timlin
Bishop of Scranton
Succeeded by
Joseph Bambera

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