Paper: Bishop resigns over 'compromising images'

Buenos Aires, Argentina - The resignation of a leading bishop, Juan Carlos Maccarone, shook Argentina's church hierarchy as a published report alleged his departure was triggered by an improper relationship.

Church authorities on Friday reported the resignation of the bishop of Santiago del Estero, but did not give a reason why he was leaving his diocese in central Argentina.

On Sunday, the prominent newspaper Clarin ran a front-page story citing sources as saying a video containing "compromising images" had been received by church officials that purportedly linked Maccarone to a 23-year-old man.

The paper said its report was based on authoritative sources it did not identify by name. Church officials had no immediate comment on the report.

Local diocesan church authorities have denied the report and said the churchman was leaving due to health reasons, local news agency Diarios y Noticias reported.

The 64-year-old theologian, who has not been in public view since Friday's announcement, has not spoken publicly about his reasons for resigning.

The Vatican said Friday the pope had accepted the resignation under a church law provision that calls for a bishop to step down if he "because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfillment of his office."

The Vatican's statement did not elaborate further.

Santiago del Estero, 600 miles (940 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires, has been the scene of bitter feuding by political rivals in recent months, and Maccarone was often outspoken in his criticism of local officials.

Local church leaders said they did not rule out a possible political plot by those opposed to his frequent statements in defense of the poor.

"It's not farfetched to think ... that this might have been orchestrated," said one of the local church officials, Jorge Lamberti.

Maccarone's resignation at age 64 came 11 years before the normal retirement age for bishops. At 75, bishops must submit their resignations to the pope, who then can decide whether to keep bishops on in their posts.

Ordained in 1968, Maccarone served as a well-known theology professor in several posts and was a prominent member of a church-sponsored dialogue committee that sought to ease the fallout from a devastating economic crisis that rocked Argentina in 2001-2002.