Styles of
James D. Conley
Mitre (plain)
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Monsignor
Posthumous style not applicable

James Douglas Conley (born March 19, 1955) is an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He currently serves as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Early life

Raised in a Presbyterian family,[1] James Conley was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Carl (d. 2006) and Betty Conley (b. 1923).[2] The eldest of two children, he has an adopted sister, Susan (b. 1962). Conley is of Wea Native American descent through his paternal grandmother's family. He and his family moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1957, and later to Arvada in 1959.[2]

Conley attended Hoskinson Cottage School in Arvada before moving to Overland Park, Kansas, at age 8. He was a childhood friend and schoolmate of Paul S. Coakley, who became Bishop of Salina in 2004.[3] Conley graduated from Shawnee Mission West High School in 1973, and then entered the University of Kansas; given his Native American heritage, the Bureau of Indian Affairs paid for a portion of his college education. He studied in KU's Integrated Humanities Program, whose courses on Greek and Roman classics led him to convert to Catholicism on December 6, 1975.[2]

Conley obtained a Bachelor's degree in English literature from KU in 1977, and then worked in construction in Kansas City before traveling through Europe.[2] Like Paul Coakley, he also considered a monastic vocation at the Abbey of Notre Dame de Fontgombault in France.[2] Instead, Conley returned to the United States in 1978, and worked on a friend's farm in North Central Kansas. Following the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States, he decided to pursue a vocation to the priesthood and entered St. Pius X Seminary in Erlanger, Kentucky, in 1980.[2] He later studied at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, from where he earned a Master's degree in Divinity in 1985.[2]


Conley was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Wichita on May 18, 1985,[4] and then served as associate pastor at St. Patrick Church. In 1989, he was sent by Bishop Eugene J. Gerber in to further his studies in Rome, where he earned a licentiate in moral theology from the Alphonsian Academy of the Pontifical Lateran University.[1]

Upon his return to the United States in 1991, Conley became chaplain of the Newman Center at Wichita State University and diocesan director of the Respect Life Office.[1] His parents also converted to Catholicism in 1991, and it was Conley who administered the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation to them.[2]

In 1996, he returned to Rome to serve as an official of the Congregation for Bishops in the Roman Curia.[2] During this period, Conley also served as chaplain at the University of Dallas' Rome campus (1997-2003) and as adjunct instructor of theology at Christendom College's Rome campus (2004-2006).[2] He was raised to the rank of Chaplain of His Holiness by John Paul II on February 9, 2001.[2] Returning to the Diocese of Wichita in 2006, he was named pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church.

Episcopal career

On April 10, 2008, Conley was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, Colorado, and Titular Bishop of Cissa by Pope Benedict XVI.[4] He received his episcopal consecration on the following May 30 from Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., with Bishops Michael Jackels and Paul Coakley serving as co-consecrators, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.[4] His episcopal motto, "Cor Ad Cor Loquitur (Latin: "Heart Speaks To Heart"), is taken from the motto of English cardinal and fellow Catholic convert, John Henry Newman.[2]

In May 2009, Conley wrote a personal letter to Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame University, to express his opposition to the University's decision to have pro-choice President Barack Obama deliver its commencement speech and receive an honorary degree.[5] Speaking on health care reform in November 2009, Conley stated that Catholic bishops "have a few simple but important priorities. First, everyone should have access to basic health care, including immigrants...Second, reform should respect the dignity of every person, from conception to natural death...Third, real healthcare reform needs to include explicit, ironclad conscience protections for medical professionals and institutions so that they cannot be forced to violate their moral convictions. Fourth—and this is so obvious it sometimes goes unstated—any reform must be economically realistic and financially sustainable."[6]


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