Joseph R. Cistone

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Joseph Robert Cistone
Bishop of Saginaw
AppointedMay 20, 2009
InstalledJuly 28, 2009
PredecessorRobert James Carlson
OrdinationMay 17, 1975
by John Krol
ConsecrationJuly 28, 2004
by Justin Francis Rigali, Robert P. Maginnis, and Michael Francis Burbidge
Personal details
Born(1949-05-18)May 18, 1949
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedOctober 16, 2018(2018-10-16) (aged 69)
Saginaw, Michigan, U.S.
Previous postAuxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia (2004–2009)
Styles of
Joseph Robert Cistone
Coat of arms of Joseph Robert Cistone.svg
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleBishop

Joseph Robert Cistone (May 18, 1949 – October 16, 2018) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who served as the sixth Bishop of Saginaw, Michigan from 2009 - 2018.

Early life and education[edit]

Joseph Cistone was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Daniel A. and Josephine R. (née Altomare) Cistone, Sr.[1] One of three children, he has two brothers, Daniel and Anthony. He attended Our Lady of Consolation School and graduated from Father Judge High School in 1967.[1] He then studied at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, from where he obtained a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy (1971) and Master's in Divinity (1975).[2]


Cistone was ordained to the priesthood by John Cardinal Krol on May 17, 1975.[3] He then served as parochial vicar at Epiphany of Our Lord Parish (1975–1979) and chaplain at St. Maria Goretti High School (1977–1979) in Philadelphia. He became parochial vicar at St. Jerome Parish in 1979, and advocate on the metropolitan tribunal in 1980.

From 1982 to 1987, Cistone served as parochial vicar at St. Jude Parish in Chalfont, member of the admissions board for the Archdiocesan Permanent Diaconate Program, and Newman Chaplain at Delaware Valley College of Science. He was also Defender of the Bond on the metropolitan tribunal (1983–1989), and parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Norristown (1987–1989) and St. Bernard Parish in Philadelphia (1989–1991).[1] In 1991, he became Dean of Formation for the Theology Division of St. Charles Seminary.[2]

Cistone was named associate to Msgr. Edward Cullen, vicar for administration of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in 1993.[2] He later served as assistant vicar for administration from 1994 to 1998, and vicar general and vicar for administration from 1998 to 2009. He was raised to the rank of Honorary Prelate of His Holiness in April 1998.[1]

Episcopal career[edit]

Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia[edit]

On June 28, 2004, Cistone was appointed an Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia and Titular Bishop of Casae Medianae by Pope John Paul II.[3] Cistone received his episcopal consecration on the following July 28 from Justin Cardinal Rigali, with Bishops Robert Maginnis and Michael Burbidge serving as co-consecrators, in the Cathedral-Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.[3] He selected as his episcopal motto: "Father of Mercy and Love". In addition to his duties as vicar general and vicar for administration, Cistone served as head of the Secretariat for Catholic Human Services and the Secretariat for Temporal Services.[1] He also had pastoral oversight for parishes in South Philadelphia and a portion of Delaware County.[1]

Bishop of Saginaw[edit]

Cistone was later named the sixth Bishop of Saginaw, Michigan, by Pope Benedict XVI on May 20, 2009.[3] He succeeded Robert J. Carlson (who was appointed Archbishop of St. Louis the previous April), and was installed on July 28, 2009. As Bishop, he serves as the spiritual leader for 120,000 Catholics in Central Michigan. Within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cistone was a member of the Committee for Protection of Children and Young People, Committee for Cultural Diversity in the Church, Subcommittee for African-American Affairs, and Committee on Budget and Finance.

In 2011, Bishop Cistone appointed a 19-member commission to make recommendations about parish closings. In January 2013, Cistone announced that many of the diocese's 105 parishes would be closed, reducing the number of parishes to 56. "I saw a need to position ourselves in a way by which parish communities are re-invigorated, liturgically alive and actively engaged in outreach to those in need."[4] However, many Catholics were angered by Cistone's announcement, holding protests against the parish closings. Retired priests spoke out against the parish closures, calling the recommendations a "complete injustice" and stating that nobody "on the planning commission or the Bishop understand."[5] Reportedly, 5,000 people in the Saginaw Diocese left the Catholic Church between 2013 and 2015.[6]


Cistone died suddenly at his home in Saginaw, Michigan, on October 16, 2018, aged 69 from lung cancer.[7][8][9]

Grand Jury Report[edit]

According to a 2005 grand jury investigation into clergy sexual abuse, while serving as assistant vicar for administration in 1996, Cistone was involved with silencing a nun who tried to alert parishioners at St. Gabriel parish about abuse by a priest. A week after being named to lead the Diocese of Saginaw, Cistone was asked by a mid-Michigan newspaper reporter about the grand jury investigation and his reported role in covering up instances of sexual abuse. Cistone expressed unhappiness with how little opportunity he had been given to respond to the report, saying, "Unfortunately, the grand jury procedure, as followed in Philadelphia, did not allow for any opportunity to address such questions to offer explanation or clarification."[10] Cistone also expressed surprise that he had not been questioned about the grand jury report during his introductory press conference and told the reporter, "Had it come up, I certainly would have addressed it."[10] However, when given the opportunity to answer questions about his actions by the newspaper reporter, Cistone refused to answer specific questions on the matter.[citation needed]

On June 9, 2009, a group of survivors of clergy abuse protested Cistone's appointment outside the Saginaw Diocese office.[11] Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) demanded that Cistone hold a public forum to explain his actions as described in the 2005 grand jury report. SNAP President Barbara Blaine said the actions had to be taken because, "the innocence of children was shattered needlessly because of the action and inaction of this bishop."[11] In response to the group's calls for transparency, Cistone said, "If someone wants to go back and rehash what the church may have done based on knowledge and experience or lack of experience the church had, well, that's OK, but that's not productive. What's productive is what we can do to move forward."[11]

On August 31, 2009, representatives of SNAP invited Bishop Cistone to attend a town hall meeting and participate in a discussion on the topic of clergy abuse. The town hall meeting was scheduled to be held on October 25, 2009.[12] The group asked Bishop Cistone to disclose the whereabouts of two priests accused of sexual abuse.[13]

Alleged abuse at Bishop's home parish[edit]

A maintenance worker alleged that in July 2009, he was groped, kissed and sat on by a deacon in the rectory of the Cathedral of St. Mary in Saginaw. The Cathedral is the home parish of Bishop Cistone. The maintenance worker reported that after he went to the rector of the parish with his allegations, he was fired from his position in retaliation. The rector of the Cathedral later resigned from his post in November 2009, taking a leave of absence from active ministry. Bishop Cistone explained that the rector's resignation was due to "personal health" issues.[14] Cistone made no further comment on the allegations made by the Cathedral maintenance worker.

Named Sexual Abuse "Kingpin" in 2012[edit]

In August 2012, Cistone was named in a lawsuit surrounding clergy sex abuse allegations at his former assignment in Philadelphia. Cistone was described by Philadelphia attorney Slade McLaughlin as a "kingpin" of the Catholic sex abuse cases.[15] Press reports indicate that he admitted that in 1994 he watched as Church records with the names of abusers were shredded.[16]

Search Warrant 2018[edit]

In March 2018, the Bishop's home was searched by police who cited his lack of cooperation in their investigation of sexual abuse in the Church.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Pope Benedict XVI Names Bishop Joseph Cistone As Bishop Of The Diocese Of Saginaw, Michigan". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. May 19, 2009. Archived from the original on December 5, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Pope Names Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Cistone To Saginaw, Michigan". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. May 20, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d "Bishop Joseph Robert Cistone". David M. Cheney. Retrieved January 21, 2015.[self-published source]
  4. ^ "Saginaw diocese to undergo parish restructuring by 2015 - The Michigan Catholic". January 24, 2013.
  5. ^ "Rally protests church closures - August 15, 2013 - - The Huron County View".
  6. ^ "'Cost' to close Catholic churches too high (Letter)".
  7. ^ "Bishop Joseph R. Cistone". Catholic New York. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  8. ^ Saginaw bishop dies after battle with lung cancer,; accessed October 19, 2018.
  9. ^ Conference, Michigan Catholic (October 17, 2018). "On the Death of Saginaw Bishop Joseph Cistone | Michigan Catholic Conference". Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Lackey, Angela. "Bishop addresses abuse issue." Midland Daily News, May 29, 2009. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 1, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved November 30, 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Gully, Paul. "Sex abuse survivors group invites Saginaw Catholic Bishop Cistone to town hall", Saginaw News, August 31, 2009.
  13. ^ Group wants answers from new Saginaw Bishop. August 31, 2009. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 2, 2009. Retrieved September 12, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Camp, Terry (February 24, 2010). "Parishioners at a Catholic Church in Saginaw were surprised this fall when its priest suddenly resigned". Archived from the original on June 29, 2011.
  15. ^ editor (August 28, 2012). "Saginaw's top Catholic bishop -- called 'kingpin' by lawyer -- to be named in Philadelphia clergy sex abuse lawsuit, reports indicate - CathNewsUSA".
  16. ^ a b Kransz, Michael (March 22, 2018). "Police raiding Saginaw diocese, bishop's home in priest sex abuse probe". M Live. Retrieved March 23, 2018.

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