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James Francis Stafford
Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary
Archbishop Emeritus of Denver
James Cardinal Stafford.jpeg
InstalledOctober 4, 2003
Term endedJune 2, 2009
PredecessorLuigi De Magistris
SuccessorFortunato Baldelli
Other post(s)Cardinal Priest of San Pietro in Montorio
OrdinationDecember 15, 1957
by Martin John O'Connor
ConsecrationFebruary 29, 1976
by William Donald Borders, Lawrence Shehan, and Thomas Austin Murphy
Created cardinalFebruary 21, 1998
by Pope John Paul II
Personal details
Born (1932-07-26) July 26, 1932 (age 90)
DenominationCatholic (Roman Rite)
Previous post(s)
In the beginning was the word
Styles of
James Francis Stafford
Coat of arms of James Stafford.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeeDenver (Emeritus)

James Francis Stafford (born July 26, 1932) is an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary from 2003 to 2009.[1] He previously served as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity (1996–2003), archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver (1986–1996), bishop of the Diocese of Memphis (1982–1986), and as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore (1976–1982).[2] Stafford was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1998.[3]


Early life

James Stafford was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of Francis Emmett and Mary Dorothy (née Stanton) Stafford.[4] His father was the owner of a furniture store, which had been opened by his grandfather (an Irish immigrant) in 1902.[5] James Stafford was raised in Irvington, a Baltimore neighborhood, and graduated from Loyola High School in Towson, Maryland, in 1950.[5]

Stafford then entered Loyola College Maryland in Baltimore, planning a career in medicine.[6] However, in 1952, the death of a close friend in a car crash caused Stafford to rethink his future and to enter St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. Stafford attended St. Mary's Seminary for two years.[6] Archbishop Francis Keough then sent him to the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.[3]


While in Rome, Stafford was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Baltimore by Bishop Martin O'Connor on December 15, 1957.[2] He earned a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Gregorian University in 1958.

After his return to Baltimore, Stafford was assigned an assistant pastor at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish[7] in Baltimore, remaining there until 1962.[1] He then entered the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he earned a Master of Social Work degree in 1964 with a thesis on the foster care of children.[3]

From 1964 to 1966, Stafford served as assistant director of the archdiocesan Catholic Charities and assistant pastor of St. Ann Parish[8] in Baltimore.[1] He was named in 1966 as director of the Archdiocesan Catholic Charities by Cardinal Lawrence Shehan, serving in that position for ten years.[5]

In 1970, Pope Paul VI named Stafford as a chaplain of his holiness.[3] He was elected president of the Presbyteral Senate for the archdiocese the following year.[1] Stafford also helped reorganize the central services of the archdiocese and create its collegial structures.[6]

Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore

On January 11, 1976, Paul VI appointed Stafford as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and titular bishop of Respecta[2] He was consecrated on February 29, 1976, by Archbishop William Borders, with Cardinal Shehan and Bishop Thomas Murphy serving as co-consecrators, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore.[2] Stafford selected as his episcopal motto: In principium erat Verbum, which is Latin for: "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:15).[3]

As an auxiliary bishop, Stafford served as vicar general of the archdiocese from 1976 to 1981.[1] From 1978 to 1984, he led the U.S. Catholic Conference Commission on Marriage and Family Life.[6] He also served as administrator of Sts. Philip and James Parish in Baltimore[9] (1980–1981).[1] Stafford attended the Fifth Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Vatican City from September to October 1980.[3]

Bishop of Memphis

On November 17, 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed Stafford as the second bishop of the Diocese of Memphis.[2] He was installed on January 17, 1982.[5] During his tenure, Stafford revised the structure of the Pastoral Office, improved the fiscal conditions of the diocese, and concentrated on the evangelization of African Americans.[10]

In addition to his duties in Memphis, Stafford was chairman of the USCCB Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (1984–1991) and co-president of the Dialogue between Roman Catholics and Lutherans (1984–1997).[1]

Archbishop of Denver

Following the death of Archbishop James Casey, John Paul II appointed Stafford as the third archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver on June 3, 1986.[2] He was installed at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on July 30, 1986.[5]

In a July 28, 2005 article in the Denver Post. five men described being fondled as boys during the 1960s by Harold Robert White, a priest in the archdiocese. In August 1983, one of the men wrote to Stafford complaining about White. A response letter from the Archdiocese said that White was to "...receive an evaluation from competent personnel to determine whether there are any recurring difficulties.” White continued to work in parish ministry until 1993 and was laicized in 2004.[11]

During his tenure in Denver, Stafford hosted the 1993 World Youth Day, which was the first such event in North America. In his last year as archbishop, he launched the first capital campaign in forty years and a "Strategic Plan" for Catholic schools.[6]

St. John Vianney Theological Seminary

In 1990 the Vincentian Fathers announced the closing in 1994 of St. Thomas Seminary in Denver due to falling enrollment. Stafford decided to buy the seminary property and plan a brand new institution, St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. The new facility opened in 1999 under the guidance of Archbishop Charles Chaput.[12]

Career in the Roman Curia

Stafford was appointed president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity on August 20, 1996, he became cardinal-deacon of Gesù Buon Pastore alla Montagnola Parish in Rome in the consistory of 1998.

In 2003, Stafford was appointed major penitentiary, overseeing matters pertaining to indulgences and the internal forum of the Church. He was thus one of the highest ranking American members of the Roman Curia and the second one in that role. Stafford participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.

Stafford submitted his letter of resignation to Benedict XVI on his 75th birthday in 2007. On June 2, 2009, Benedict XVI appointed as his successor Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, then apostolic nuncio to France.[13]

On March 1, 2008, Stafford took the option, after ten years as a cardinal deacon, for promotion to the rank of cardinal-priest, and was assigned the titular church of San Pietro in Montorio.[14] In 2009, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology and inducted into their College of Fellows.

Criticism of Barack Obama

The online version of the National Catholic Reporter reported on November 19, 2008, that Stafford had criticized President-elect Barack Obama, saying he has "an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic".[15] The story was first reported by The Tower, the student newspaper of the Catholic University of America, where Stafford made those remarks.

Saying that the United States experienced a "cultural earthquake" when Obama was elected president, Stafford said the president-elect "appears to be a relaxed, smiling man" with rhetorical skills that are "very highly developed". "But under all that grace and charm, there is a tautness of will, a state of constant alertness, to attack and resist any external influence that might affect his will", he added. Stafford then predicted that the Obama administration would compare to "Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane".[16]

The Catholic News Agency revealed more details about Stafford's remarks on November 17, 2008: "If 1968 was the year of America's 'suicide attempt,' 2008 is the year of America's exhaustion," he said, contrasting the year of publication of Humanae vitae with this election year. "For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden," Stafford told his audience.[17] Catholics who weep the "hot, angry tears of betrayal" should try to identify with Jesus, who during his agony in the garden was "sick because of love". Stafford also attributed America's so-called decline to US Supreme Court decisions such as the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which Stafford claims imposed "permissive abortion laws nationwide".

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "STAFFORD Card. James Francis". Holy See.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "James Francis Cardinal Stafford". David M. Cheney. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Miranda, Salvador. "STAFFORD, James Francis (1932– )". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.
  4. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church - February 21, 1998". Archived from the original on December 30, 2017. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e Noel, Thomas J. "Vehr: The Flowering of Catholicism (1931–1967)". Colorado Catholicism. Archived from the original on August 21, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Most Rev. J. Francis Stafford". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archived from the original on December 12, 2010.
  7. ^ "". Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  8. ^ "". Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  9. ^ "". Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  10. ^ "History". Roman Catholic Diocese of Memphis. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011.
  11. ^ ""Our little secret"". The Denver Post. July 28, 2005. Retrieved December 15, 2021.
  12. ^ "A bold step for priestly formation, and now a leader in the New". Denver Catholic. August 29, 2019. Retrieved December 14, 2021.
  13. ^ "Cardinal Stafford steps down as Penitentiary Major". June 2, 2009. Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  14. ^ "Cardinal Protector". Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  15. ^ "Domain Unavailable!".
  16. ^ Grden, Elizabeth (November 14, 2008). "Cardinal at CUA: Obama is 'Aggressive, Disruptive and Apocalyptic'". The Tower. Archived from the original on May 3, 2009. Retrieved November 20, 2008.
  17. ^ "Cardinal Stafford criticizes Obama as 'aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic' :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)". Catholic News Agency. November 17, 2008. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
Catholic Church titles Preceded byAlexis Phạm Văn Lộc — TITULAR — Titular Bishop of Respecta 19 January 1976 – 17 November 1982 Succeeded byCornelius de Wit Preceded byCarroll Thomas Dozier Bishop of Memphis 17 November 1982 – 30 May 1986 Succeeded byDaniel Mark Buechlein Preceded byJames Vincent Casey Archbishop of Denver 30 May 1986 – 20 August 1996 Succeeded byCharles Joseph Chaput Preceded byEduardo Francisco Pironio President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity 20 August 1996 – 4 October 2003 Succeeded byStanisław Ryłko Preceded byJozef Tomko Cardinal Deacon of Gesù Buon Pastore alla Montagnola 21 February 1998 – 1 March 2008 Succeeded byVelasio De Paolis Preceded byLuigi De Magistris Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary 4 October 2003 – 2 June 2009 Succeeded byFortunato Baldelli Preceded byAloísio Lorscheider Cardinal Priest of San Pietro in Montorio 1 March 2008 – Incumbent