Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, the Roman Catholic bishop of Phoenix has relinquished some of his authority in an unprecedented agreement with prosecutors that will spare him from indictment on charges of protecting child-molesting priests.  Under the agreement, he acknowledged he concealed sex-abuse allegations against priests.

O'Brien is now also charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident by the same prosecutor who struck the deal that allowed him to avoid indictment for sheltering molesters in the clergy.  He was arrested Monday after police investigating the weekend hit and run traced a license plate number to the bishop's car and found the windshield caved in.  A pedestrian, Jim Reed, was killed in the accident.

Acting with unusual speed, Pope John Paul II accepted yesterday the resignation of O'Brien after outraging parishioners with his handling of priestly sex abuse and charges of leaving the fatal car accident.  The Vatican said the pope accepted O'Brien's resignation under an article of Catholic law that says bishops should offer to quit if they are incapable of carrying out their duties for serious reasons.  

(Phoenix, Arizona)