Thomas Roberts (bishop)

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Archbishop Thomas Roberts of Bombay.
Styles of
Thomas Roberts
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Monsignor

Thomas d'Esterre Roberts (7 March 1893 – 28 February 1976) was an English Jesuit priest, who served as Archbishop of Bombay, India from 1937 to 1950.


Born to English parents in Le Havre, France, Roberts was ordained as a Jesuit priest on 20 September 1925. He later served as a teacher in Liverpool.[1]

On 12 August 1937, he was appointed Archbishop of Bombay by Pope Pius XI. Roberts, who was informed of his appointment by a reporter, received his episcopal consecration on the following 21 September from Archbishop Richard Downey, with Archbishop Francis Mostyn and Bishop Robert Dobson serving as co-consecrators.[2] His episcopal motto was: Carior libertas - Rather freedom.

After thirteen years of service, the Jesuit prelate resigned as Bombay's archbishop on 4 December 1950, in order for a native Indian to govern his see. Bishop Valerian Gracias, who was responsible for the archdiocese during a leave of absence of Roberts',[3] was named his successor. Upon his resignation, Roberts was also named Titular Archbishop of Sugdaea. He went to London, and dedicated himself to lecturing, traveling, writing, and promoting theologically liberal causes. [clarification needed]

From 1962 to 1965, Roberts attended the Second Vatican Council; he once described an ecumenical council as "a football match at which all the players are bishops".[4] In reference to the third session of the Council, which discussed the guilt of the Jews for deicide, Roberts declared, "It is so plain that the guilt lay not with the Jewish people, but with the Jewish priestly establishment, that it seems legitimate to wonder whether the refusal to face up to this may not be a subconscious reluctance to face up to the analogy in the Church today".[5]

During the third session, Roberts also played a significant role in promoting recognition of conscientious objection to war, using the example of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian anti-Nazi farmer and also church sexton who was beheaded in 1943 for his refusal to serve in the army. People like Jägerstätter, Roberts argued, should be aware that they have the clear support of Church teaching.[6]

Because of his progressive views, he was forbidden by the right-wing Archbishop of Los Angeles, James Cardinal McIntyre from lecturing in Southern California.[1] He advised Pope Pius XII against dogmatically defining the Assumption of Mary in 1950, championed nuclear disarmament (regularly speaking at Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament meetings[7]), and rejected the idea that procreation was the primary end of marriage.[8] Moreover, he advocated the greater participation of the laity in ecclesiastical affairs, and reforming the Church's law on birth control and procedures for annulment.[citation needed]



Roberts died roughly a week before his 83rd birthday.[where?]


  1. ^ a b Time Magazine "Gadfly", 13 July 1964.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Novak, Michael. The Open Church. Transaction Publishers, 2001.
  4. ^ TIME Magazine. The Church in Council 5 October 1962
  5. ^ Catholics, Jews, and Vatican II: A New Beginning
  6. ^
  7. ^ Aspden, Kester. "Fortress Church: The English Roman Catholic Bishops and Politics, 1903-63". Gracewing, 2002.
  8. ^ Grant, Linda. "Sexing the Millennium: Women and the Sexual Revolution". Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 1995.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Joachim Lima
Archbishop of Bombay
Succeeded by
Valerian Gracias