Robert W. McElroy

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Robert Walter McElroy
Bishop of San Diego
ChurchCatholic Church
DioceseSan Diego
AppointedMarch 23, 2015
InstalledApril 15, 2015
PredecessorCirilo Flores
OrdinationApril 12, 1980
by John Raphael Quinn
ConsecrationSeptember 7, 2010
by George Hugh Niederauer, John R. Quinn, and John Charles Wester
Personal details
Born (1954-02-05) February 5, 1954 (age 65)
San Francisco, California
Previous postAuxiliary Bishop of San Francisco
Alma materHarvard University
Pontifical Gregorian University
Stanford University
Santa Clara University
Styles of
Robert Walter McElroy
Coat of arms of Robert Walter McElroy.svg
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleBishop

Robert Walter McElroy (born February 5, 1954) is a Roman Catholic prelate and bishop. From 2010 through 2015 he was auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, California. In 2015, he became the sixth Bishop of the San Diego Diocese. McElroy was educated by the Jesuits and writes for their official publication in the United States, America.

Early life and education[edit]

McElroy was born into a Catholic family in San Francisco, California on February 5, 1954.[1] One of five children, he was born to Walter and Roberta McElroy.[2] He grew up in San Mateo county.[3] He earned an A.B. in history from Harvard University in 1975 and a M.A. in American history from Stanford University in 1976.[4][1][3] In 1979, McElroy graduated from St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, California, where he earned a M.Div. degree.[3][5] In 1985, McElroy obtained a S.T.L. degree from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, with a thesis entitled, Freedom for Faith: John Courtney Murray and the Constitutional Question, 1942-1954.[1][3][4] In 1986, he obtained a S.T.D. in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy with a dissertation entitled, John Courtney Murray and the Secular Crisis: Foundations for an American Catholic Public Theology, along with a Ph.D. 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.[3][6]


On April 12, 1980, McElroy was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop John Raphael Quinn at St. Mary's Cathedral for the San Francisco Archdiocese.[1][3] McElroy was assigned to St. Cecilia Church in San Francisco, California. From 1982 to 1985, McElroy served as secretary to Archbishop John Quinn.[3]

From 1989 to 1995, he was parochial vicar at Saint Pius Church in Redwood City, California.[7] In 1995, Archbishop Quinn appointed McElroy to be Vicar General of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, an office he held under Archbishop Quinn and Cardinal William Levada until 1997.[5][7][3] In 1996, McElroy was made a Honorary Prelate of His Holiness by Pope John Paul II.[3] From 1997 to 2010, McElroy served as the pastor of St. Gregory Church in San Mateo, California.[2][4][5][3]

As a priest, McElroy authored 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 magazine, a Jesuit magazine.[7][3]

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 the Eucharist 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."[8]

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.

Episcopal career[edit]

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. On September 7, 2010, McElroy received his episcopal consecration 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.[9] As auxiliary bishop, McElroy was the Archdiocesan Vicar for Parish Life and Development.[2]

Writing in America in 2014, 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.[10]

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.[11] His installation took place on April 15, 2015, at St. Therese of Carmel Catholic Church.[12][13]

McElroy is widely regarded as a supporter of the progressive policies of Pope Francis.[14] He has written frequently and extensively on social inequelity and the Church's social justice mission.[4][15] 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.[16]

In a discussion between over the formation of the 2015 document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), McElroy argued that the document focused excessively on abortion and euthanasia. He said that "alongside the issues of abortion and euthanasia, which are central issues in our effort to transform this world, poverty and the degradation of the earth are also central. But this document keeps to the structure of the world view of 2007. It tilts in favor of abortion and euthanasia and excludes poverty and the environment." He called for it to be scrapped entirely. His comments were reported to have visibly irritated Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who was then serving as vice president of the USCCB and who later became its president.[17] In a speech delivered on February 17, 2016, McElroy called on Catholics "to recognize and confront the ugly tide of anti-Islamic bigotry" in the United States. He denounced as "repeated falsehoods" claims that Islam is a violent religion and compared these allegations to 19th century anti-Catholicism in America.[18]

McElroy is currently the vice-president of the California Catholic Conference and serves at the USCCB on the administrative committee, the ecumenical committee, the committee on domestic justice and the committee on international affairs.[2]

In 2017 he preached at the funeral of Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco.[19]

McElroy, like most members of the Church hierarchy, including Pope Francis and the USCCB, has opposed plans by U.S. President Donald Trump to a build a wall along the Mexico–United States border to limit illegal immigration. In March 2018, Trump visited California to view prototypes for the wall. After the visit, McElroy said, "It is a sad day for our country when we trade the majestic, hope-filled symbolism of the Statue of Liberty for an ineffective and grotesque wall, which both displays and inflames the ethnic and cultural divisions that have long been the underside of our national history."[20]

At a 2018 meeting, McElroy was asked by several lay Catholics about an openly gay man, Aaron Bianco, who was working at St. John the Evangelist Parish. In response to one of their questions, McElroy said, "If the Church eliminated all the employees who are not living out the teachings of the Church in its fullness, we would be employing only angels."[21]

In 2016, McElroy received a letter from psychotherapist and clerical sex abuse expert Richard Sipe discussing alleged sexual misconduct by retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In a previous discussion, had asked Sipes for any corroborating material to substantiate his allegations.

"I asked if he could share this information with me, especially since some of his accusations involved persons still active in the life of the Church. Dr. Sipe said that he was precluded from sharing specific documentary information that corroborated his claims....Dr. Sipe made many significant contributions to understanding the dimensions of clergy sexual abuse in the United States and to the assistance of victims. But the limitations on his willingness to share corroborating information made it impossible to know what was real and what was rumor."[22]

McCarrick's alleged actions became public knowledge in June 2018 and he was removed from public ministry after an allegation was deemed credible by the Vatican.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Pope Appoints Robert W. McElroy, Advocate for the Poor, as bishop of San Diego". America Magazine. March 3, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Diocese of San Diego". Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Service, Catholic News (March 4, 2015). "San Diego Diocese to be headed by California native Bishop McElroy". The Catholic Sun. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d "Pope Francis sends 'social justice' bishop to San Diego". Crux. March 2, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "Pope Names San Francisco Auxiliary Bishop McElroy New Bishop of San Diego". Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  6. ^ "Morality and American foreign policy : the role of moral norms in international affairs".
  7. ^ a b c Rowe, Peter. "Pope's champion to lead local Catholics". Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  8. ^ McElroy, Robert W. (January 31, 2005). "Prudence and Eucharistic Sanctions". America. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  9. ^ "Bishop Robert Walter McElroy". David M. Cheney. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  10. ^ "Market Assumptions". America.
  11. ^ "Pope's champion to lead local Catholics". UT San Diego. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Pope Francis to send 'social justice' bishop to San Diego". Crux. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  14. ^ Rowe, Peter (March 3, 2015). "Pope's champion to lead local Catholics". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  15. ^ "In California, two bishops strike different chords". Crux. April 16, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  16. ^ Rowe, Peter (March 4, 2015). "New bishop for San Diego". San Diego Union Tribune.
  17. ^ Winters, Michael Sean (April 20, 2018). "Bishop McElroy: Politics should pursue common good, not special interests". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  18. ^ Grasska, Denis (February 22, 2016). "Bishop challenges Catholics to combat 'ugly tide of anti-Islamic bigotry'". Catholic News Service. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Guidos, Rhina (March 14, 2018). "Trump looks at prototypes for border wall that bishop calls 'grotesque'". Catholic News Service. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  21. ^ Morris-Young, Dan (October 19, 2018). "San Diego gay church worker resigns after months of harassment". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  22. ^ McElwee, Joshua J. (August 17, 2018). "San Diego bishop responds to survivor advocate letter that alleged abuse by McCarrick". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  23. ^ Sisak, Michael R. (June 20, 2018). "Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop, removed from ministry after sex abuse reports". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. Archived from the original on June 20, 2018. Retrieved July 29, 2018.

External links[edit]

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