On September 13, following several days of intense pain, Bishop Braxton underwent surgery at Belleville’s Saint Elizabeth Hospital to remove a nonmalignant blockage between his large and small intestines. The diocese reported at that time that the bishop’s schedule would be adjusted for the next four to six weeks.
Today, a friend asked for continued prayers for His Excellency’s full recovery, reporting that he continues to experience post-surgical complications.
* * * *
Bishop Braxton has been a strong leader, albeit a controversial figure, in the American church:
In 2004, he was the subject of criticism, as 45 of his priests signed a letter to Apostolic Nuncio Pietro Sambi complaining about the bishop’s leadership and calling for his resignation. The precipitating issue was his use of restricted funds to purchase vestments, altar linens and office furniture. The funds should, instead, have been sent to Rome for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith.
In a 2008 letter of apology, Bishop Braxton explained that he had mistakenly believed he had discretionary power over the money he used. A benefactor stepped forward to replenish the disputed funds, but Bishop Braxton noted that the controversy has caused confusion, mistrust, and a loss of confidence. “I regret this very much,” he said, “and I apologize for anything I may have done, even unwittingly, to contribute to this situation.”
In 2007, he made news again when he refused the sacrament of Confirmation to a 20-year-old woman in his diocese who was, in his estimation, not sufficiently prepared. He issued a statement to St. Michael’s pastor Rev. James Voelker, and by inference to all diocesan pastors, that they need to ensure that those who seek confirmation, whether adults or young people, should first receive the necessary educational and spiritual preparation. When the controversy became public, Bishop Braxton responded in writing to questions from the Belleville News-Democrat, explaining,
“The case in question involves a candidate who was presented to me moments before the celebration of the sacrament with no catechesis (religious instruction) of any kind, stating that she had been told, quite incorrectly, that as an adult she needed no preparation. … This is simply not true and contrary to everything the Church intends in the sacraments.”
He told the woman she would need at least 10, one-hour education sessions and “some time for prayer and reflection.”
In 2009, Bishop Braxton became aware that parishioners at Corpus Christi Church were not kneeling during the Consecration. He directed a letter to Monsignor James Margason, pastor of Corpus Christi, imposing a deadline and reminding the parishioners that they must kneel during the high point of the ceremony, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
* * * *
On a card commemorating the 40th anniversary of his priestly ordination, Bishop Braxton wrote:
“While there have been days in my life as a priest when I have been unhappy, there has never been a day that I was unhappy that I was a priest!”
* * * *
Lord, please grant your faithful servant a full recovery, and restore him to holy and energetic leadership in Your Church. Send your Holy Spirit to direct his steps, and keep him close to Your sacred Heart.