NEW YORK — Pope Francis has named Bishop David Talley to Memphis, Tennessee — a diocese still recovering from a tumultuous two years under its previous head that led to a Vatican investigation into his management style and his forced removal from office.
Talley, a 68-year old native of Georgia who was first made an auxiliary bishop in Atlanta, Georgia before being sent to lead the diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana, is a former Southern Baptist convert to Catholicism.
He will succeed Bishop Martin Holley, whose two-year stint in Memphis from 2016 to 2018 led to a dramatic departure last fall.
Soon after his arrival in the diocese, Holley reassigned more than 70 percent of priests, resulting in widespread upheaval. His controversial hiring of former exorcist, Father Clement Machado, as his vicar general would lead to the departure of much of the diocese’s senior staff, and was the cause of a Vatican visitation to the diocese last summer.
Last October, Pope Francis forced Holley’s resignation and appointed Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville to lead the diocese on an interim basis.
In Memphis, Talley will lead a diocese where Catholics constitute an estimated 3-4 percent of the local population.
Talley, who serves as a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) ad hoc committee against racism and left his Southern Baptist church during his teenage years over the issue of racial segregation, will likely be relied on to serve as a bridge builder in a diocese mostly made-up of white Catholics in a traditionally African American part of the country.
Last year he told Crux that his many years as both a priest and bishop in the south have given him real encouragement of the “faithfulness” of Catholics in wanting to confront racism.
“While there can be a blasé attitude among some…there’s an authentic spiritual hunger to do the right thing,” said Talley.
Prior to entering the seminary, Talley worked as a caseworker for abused and neglected children in his native Georgia. He holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and has since completed further studies in spiritual direction at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama.
On Tuesday, Francis also accepted the resignation of Bishop Armando Xavier Ochoa from the diocese of Fresno, as he had reached the retirement age of 75 years old. Bishop Joseph Brennan, previously an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, was named as his successor.
Rounding out the full slate of appointments, Francis also named Monsignor Alejandro Aclan, the previous vicar for clergy of Los Angeles, as an auxiliary bishop to the nation’s largest Catholic diocese.