William S. Skylstad
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William S. Skylstad

William Stephen Skylstad
Bishop Emeritus of Spokane
AppointedApril 17, 1990
InstalledApril 27, 1990
Term endedJune 30, 2010
PredecessorLawrence Welsh
SuccessorBlase J. Cupich
OrdinationMay 21, 1960
ConsecrationMay 12, 1977
by Raymond Hunthausen, Bernard Joseph Topel, and Bernard Francis Law
Personal details
Born (1934-03-02) March 2, 1934 (age 85)
Methow, Washington
Previous postBishop of Yakima
Styles of
William Stephen Skylstad
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleBishop

William Stephen Skylstad (born March 2, 1934 in Omak (Methow) in Okanogan County, Washington) is an American Roman Catholic Bishop.[1] He is Bishop Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane in Washington retiring June 30, 2010. He is a former President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), having served after Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory of Atlanta, Georgia and before Cardinal Francis Eugene George, O.M.I., of Chicago, Illinois. Bishop Skylstad was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baker, in Oregon, effective January 24, 2011, upon the appointment of Bishop Robert F. Vasa as Coadjutor Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in California.


The oldest of six children, William Skylstad was born in the Okanogan County town of Omak, delivered on a table in the garage. His father was an apple farmer and Norwegian immigrant. He grew up at a farm in the settlement of Skylstad, east of Ålesund in the fjord country of Norway. He was a Lutheran, but the mother (Reneldes Elizabeth Danzl-Skylstad) was a devout Catholic from Minnesota.

At age 14, William Skylstad left home to attend seminary, and was trained for the priesthood at Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio. Twelve years later, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Spokane on May 21, 1960. Father Skylstad went on to attend Washington State University and serve as an assistant pastor in Pullman, Washington. After that, he was principal of a minor seminary (a type of seminary preparatory high school for boys) in Colbert near Spokane, evaluating student fitness for the priesthood. He also served as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Colbert, and sat on a personnel board that counseled the bishop on problem priests. In the summer of 1974 Skylstad became pastor at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish, Spokane. In 1976 he was made chancellor of the diocese.

He was appointed Bishop of Yakima on February 22, 1977 and consecrated on May 12, 1977, and subsequently appointed fifth Bishop of Spokane on April 17, 1990 and installed on April 27, 1990. Skylstad was appointed Bishop of Spokane to replace Bishop Lawrence Welsh after Welsh was arrested for drunk driving.[2]

On June 30, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Skystad.[3]

Sex abuse crisis

Starting in 1974 Skystad had been pastor at a parish where the other priest was Father Patrick O'Donnell. It was later alleged by some of O'Donnell's victims that they had informed then-Father Skylstad in the 1970s that they were being abused by Father O'Donnell.[4]

USCCB offices held

After having served as the Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) since 2001, Bishop Skylstad was elected to a three-year term as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on November 15, 2004.


Amnesty International Abortion Policy change

During the years when the USCCB had Bishop Skylstad at the helm, the conference was confronted by the prospect of Amnesty International abandoning its neutral stance on the matter of abortion, and adoption of a policy of furthering abortion as an international human right in certain circumstances. The USCCB made several appeals that such a policy not be applied. In April 2007 the international leadership of AI did so nevertheless. On July 2, 2007, the U.S. Catholic Bishops renewed their earlier appeals to AI. In a statement signed by Bishop Skylstad, the bishops said that AI "trivializes the harm done by abortion. AI's new policy appears to apply to every stage of pregnancy and has already led AI-USA to oppose laws against the killing of partially delivered children. Similarly, the policy of advancing access to abortion to preserve women's 'health,' a word left undefined by AI, has not confined the practice to narrow circumstances, but in American law has led to abortion on demand."[5]

At a meeting in Mexico August 11-17, 2007, the International Council of Amnesty International decided to retain the stance laid down in April. Within days, this was decried by bishop Skylstad on behalf of the USCCB. The statement of August 23, 2007 called the change in the organization's longstanding position divisive and an affront to "people in many nations, cultures and religions who share a consistent commitment to all human rights".[6]

"Bloody Mary" Controversy

In 2006, Bishop William S. Skylstad weighed in on the "Bloody Mary" controversy, relating to an episode of the Comedy Central TV series South Park. In a letter to Viacom's president and CEO, Tom Freston he said that the Viacom-controlled network showed "extreme insensitivity" when it aired the episode.[7] When the series was rerun later in the US, the episode involving the Virgin Mary was omitted.

Diocese of Spokane matters

The Diocese of Spokane is a diocese of approximately 90,000 Catholics. Under Bishop Skylstad the Diocese of Spokane, in December 2004, declared bankruptcy to protect it from claims of people allegedly abused by clergy. The Diocese of Spokane as part of its bankruptcy agreed to pay at least $48 million as compensation. The money for the settlement would come from insurance companies, the sale of church property, contributions from Catholic groups and from the diocese's parishes.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Catholic-Hierarchy
  2. ^ Carla K. Johnson; Kevin Taylor (October 25, 2002). "Late bishop had secret". The Spokesman-Review. Archived from the original on November 6, 2013.
  3. ^ http://www.kxly.com/news/24095917/detail.html
  4. ^ Jonathan Martin; Ken Armstrong (October 27, 2004). "The past shadows a bishop's future". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on April 9, 2005.
  5. ^ A Plea to Amnesty International Members (July 2, 2007) Website last accessed 9 July 2007
  6. ^ USCCB.com website (24 August 2007) - Website last accessed 26 August 2007
  7. ^ "Bishops' president blasts South Park episode". Church Resources. 2005-12-21. Archived from the original on June 26, 2006. Retrieved .
  8. ^ "US Church offers abuse settlement". BBC News. 2007-01-05.

External links

Episcopal succession

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