Robert W. McElroy

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His Excellency, The Most Reverend
Robert Walter McElroy
Bishop of San Diego
Church Catholic Church
Archdiocese Los Angeles
Diocese San Diego
Appointed March 23, 2015
Installed April 15, 2015
Predecessor Cirilo Flores
Ordination April 12, 1980
by John Raphael Quinn
Consecration September 7, 2010
by George Hugh Niederauer, Archbishop of San Francisco, John R. Quinn, and John Charles Wester
Personal details
Born (1954-02-05) February 5, 1954 (age 63)
San Francisco, California
Previous post Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco
Alma mater Harvard University
Pontifical Gregorian University
Stanford University
Graduate Theological Union
Styles of
Robert Walter McElroy
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Bishop

Robert Walter McElroy (born February 5, 1954) is a Roman Catholic prelate. From 2010 through 2015 he was auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, California. He became the Bishop of San Diego in 2015.


Early life and education[edit]

McElroy was born in San Francisco, California. He earned a A.B. in history from Harvard University in 1975 and an M.A. from Stanford in 1976. He then attended St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, California, where he earned an STL degree in 1985 from the Jesuit School of Theology in the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, with a thesis entitled, Freedom for Faith: John Courtney Murray and the Constitutional Question, 1942-1954.

Ordination and ministry[edit]

McElroy was ordained to the priesthood for the San Francisco Archdiocese on April 12, 1980. He was secretary to Archbishop John Quinn and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He was parochial vicar at St. Cecilia Church in San Francisco and St. Pius Church in Redwood City, California. He was pastor of St. Gregory Church in San Mateo, California from 1996–2011. He spent the last several months at St. Gregory as pastor and bishop. In 1986 he was awarded a doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, with a dissertation entitled, John Courtney Murray and the Secular Crisis: Foundations for an American Catholic Public Theology, along with a PhD in political science from Stanford University in 1989 with a dissertation entitled, Morality and American Foreign Policy : The Role of Moral Norms in International Affairs.[1]

He is the author of The Search for an American Public Theology: The Contribution of John Courtney Murray (Paulist Press, 1989) and Morality and American Foreign Policy: The Role of Ethics in International Affairs (Princeton University Press, 1992). He has written four articles for America.

In 2005, he published an essay on the denial of the Eucharist to public officials because of their political positions. He criticized those who adopt what he called the "sanctions position" for a lack of "pastoral solicitude", noted the expansion of grounds for sanctions from abortion to euthanasia and other issues by one diocese or another, questioned the lack of clarity as to what behavior triggers sanctions, and cited the occasions when Pope John Paul II distributed communion to political leaders who favored legalized abortion. He proposed that the church's traditional "theology of scandal" should be invoked rather than employing Eucharistic practice as a means of discipline. He warned that imposing sanctions on individuals harms the church by appearing coercive, strengthens the argument of abortion advocates that the church is attempting to impose its religious beliefs on society at large, downplays the breadth of the church's social agenda, and tends to "cast the church as a partisan actor in the American political system."[2]

He taught ethics at St. Patrick's Seminary and was guest professor of social ethics at the University of San Francisco in the Fall of 2008.

Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco[edit]

On July 6, 2010, McElroy was appointed an auxiliary bishop for San Francisco and titular Bishop of Gemellae in Byzacena by Pope Benedict XVI. He received his episcopal consecration on the following September 7 from Archbishop George Hugh Niederauer of San Francisco, with Archbishop Emeritus John Raphael Quinn of San Francisco and Bishop John Charles Wester of Salt Lake City serving as co-consecrators.[3]

Writing in America, he argued that the emphasis of Pope Francis on inequality in Catholic social teaching

did not go over well with many American Catholics, who criticized his statement for being radical, simplistic, and confusing. This rebuff stands in stark and telling contrast to the otherwise enthusiastic reception the new pope has met with in the United States. From the moment of his election, Pope Francis has captured the attention of the American people with his message and manner, even as he has challenged us all to deep renewal and reform in our lives. Americans take heart in the pope’s call to build an ecclesiastical culture that casts off judgmentalism; they applaud structural reforms at the Vatican; and they admire Francis’s continuing focus on the pastoral needs of ordinary men and women.[4]

Bishop of San Diego[edit]

On March 3, 2015, McElroy was appointed the sixth Bishop of San Diego by Pope Francis, succeeding the late Bishop Cirilo Flores. The diocese serves about one million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties.[5] His installation took place on April 15, 2015, at St. Therese of Carmel Catholic Church.[6][7]

McElroy is widely regarded as a supporter of the progressive policies of Pope Francis.[8] In his first public appearance in San Diego, he pledged to champion the cause of the homeless; to support comprehensive immigration reform; and to ban anyone who has abused minors from serving in the clergy or other employment in the diocese.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Morality and American foreign policy : the role of moral norms in international affairs". 
  2. ^ McElroy, Robert W. (January 31, 2005). "Prudence and Eucharistic Sanctions". America. Retrieved March 5, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Bishop Robert Walter McElroy". David M. Cheney. Retrieved January 23, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Market Assumptions". America. 
  5. ^ "Pope's champion to lead local Catholics". UT San Diego. Retrieved March 2, 2015. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Pope Francis to send 'social justice' bishop to San Diego". Crux. Retrieved March 2, 2015. 
  8. ^ Rowe, Peter (March 3, 2015). "Pope's champion to lead local Catholics". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 11 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Rowe, Peter (March 4, 2015). "New bishop for San Diego". San Diego Union Tribune. 

External links[edit]

Episcopal succession[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Wilson Tadeu Jönck
Bishop of Gemellae in Byzacena
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Cirilo Flores
Bishop of San Diego
Succeeded by