Robert Brom Dies at 83; San Diego Catholic Bishop Oversaw Diocese Bankruptcy

Bishop Robert Brom led the San Diego diocese from 1990 to 2013. Image via dicoese

Roman Catholics are mourning Bishop Robert Brom, the San Diego spiritual leader for nearly a quarter-century who oversaw a major bankruptcy amid the predatory priest scandal. He died Monday morning at his home.

The San Diego-Imperial Diocese made the announcement. Cause of death wasn’t immediately released. He was 83.

“Bishop Brom was a pastor, teacher and servant leader of the Catholic community in San Diego and Imperial Counties for 23 years,” Bishop Robert McElroy said in a statement. “He oversaw the building of many beautiful churches in our Diocese, as well as the establishment of two magnificent high school campuses” — Cathedral Catholic in Carmel Valley and Mater Dei in Chula Vista.

Bishop Brom met with Pope Francis. Undated photo via diocese

Brom was appointed coadjutor bishop of San Diego on April 22, 1989, to assist Bishop Leo Maher and became the fourth bishop of San Diego on July 10, 1990. He retired Sept. 18, 2013.

“Bishop Brom’s deep love for our parishes and pastoral vision were complemented by a keen administrative capability in guiding San Diego through years of joy and hardship,” McElroy said.  “In his retirement years, Bishop Brom intensified the prison ministry that he began as bishop and his service to the Missionaries of Charity.”

Robert Henry Brom was born Sept. 18, 1938, in Arcadia, Wisconsin. He was ordained a priest of the Winona, Minnesota, diocese on Dec. 18, 1963.

In 1983, Pope John Paul II appointed him bishop of Duluth and then to be coadjutor bishop of San Diego.

We ask that our community pray for the repose of the soul of Bishop Emeritus Robert Brom (1938-2022), who passed away this morning. Bishop Brom served as the Bishop of San Diego for 23 years. May he rest in peace. San Diego Union-Tribune pic.twitter.com/0ZcKqil0Ee

— Cathedral Catholic High School (@CCHSdons) May 9, 2022

His tenure was tainted by the worldwide priest scandal.

In 2007, the San Diego diocese agreed to a settlement of nearly $200 million with 144 people who said they were sexually abused by clergy members under lax supervision from the church.

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization — the largest diocese in the United States to file for such protection, reported The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Boston Globe “Spotlight” series that brought the priest scandal to light was guided, in part, by the late A.W. Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist who died in 2018 at his Mount Soledad home.

In 2015, he said he was blackballed by the San Diego diocese.

“Bishop Robert Brom sent his chancellor here to say I was not welcome in the chancery,” Sipe said. “If I came, it would only be in the presence of a lawyer.”

Bishop Emeritus Brom was involved with a prison ministry. Image via diocese

Sipe posted a file on Brom in which he said Brom “came to San Diego … under a cloud of a credible allegation of abuse by a former seminarian from the Winona MN seminary where he had been Rector.” (Brom’s attorney at the time repeatedly denied that he had gay relations with any Winona seminarians, also alleged by the Bishops Accountability project.)

In his statement, McElroy called Brom a natural teacher who “constantly labored to bring the ecclesiology of the second Vatican council into the heart of the Diocese of San Diego. This dedication to the council also framed his life-long service in forming men for the priesthood.” Services for Brom will be held at 11 a.m. May 17 at Saint Thérèse of Carmel Church in Del Mar Heights. Burial will be at Holy Cross Cemetery.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego serves more than 1.3 million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties with 98 parishes and 49 elementary and secondary schools.