Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 3, 2022. Click here for additional coverage.
But the Pope’s most radical pick is Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, known to faithful Catholics as arguably the most pro-homosexual, left-wing prelate in the U.S.
In recent years, McElroy has sparked outrage for celebrating “LGBT Masses,” rebuking the Church’s position on homosexual acts, urging Catholic funeral rites for active homosexuals, and throwing his support behind dissident Jesuit Fr. James Martin while blasting conservatives’ “destructive” attitudes on sexuality.
His record on life issues isn’t much better. No bishop has defended giving Communion to pro-abortion politicians as vigorously as McElroy, who equates abortion with “climate change” and rejects the idea that abortion is the singular, “pre-eminent” moral issue facing the U.S. Church.
After Pope Francis released new restrictions on the Latin Mass last year, McElroy quickly eliminated two of his diocese’s three traditional Mass churches. During the COVID jab rollout, he pushed vaccination as the “only pathway” back to normalcy. And on clerical sex abuse, even liberal activists are raising the alarm about his history.
McElroy has long been a favorite of Pope Francis, who appointed him to the Diocese of San Diego in 2015, named him a synod father of the 2019 Pan-Amazon Synod, and last year tapped him to join the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The San Diego bishop is also a close ally of the Pope’s other leftist, pro-LGBT U.S. cardinals, including Cardinal Joseph Tobin and Cardinal Blase Cupich.
Bishop McElroy’s ultra-liberal stances and fast rise are all the more concerning due to his revolutionary vision for the Catholic Church. In a lengthy feature for America Magazine two days after his appointment to the cardinalate, McElroy detailed his goal of a “transformation” of the Church through the Synod on Synodality and further “sustained synodality.”
The “synodal process” aims at “nothing less than a recasting of the culture of the church that will endure for generations,” McElroy celebrated. “The deposit of faith is not an inert and abstract body of teaching,” he insisted, suggesting changes to “reformable Church doctrine.”
“Reformable Church doctrine,” canon lawyer and EWTN contributor Fr. Gerald Murray responded, “is a category that I’m not too familiar with, because doctrine is taught as truth coming from Christ, taught through the Apostles.”
McElroy’s appointment sends an unmistakable signal about the direction Pope Francis intends to take the Church in his waning papacy – a signal confirmed by a slew of other high-level Vatican appointments announced this week.
Below is a closer look at the San Diego bishop’s horrific background, from his incessant LGBT promotion and disturbing links to clerical sex abuse, to his longtime habit of downplaying abortion and his woke political posturing.
Bishop McElroy’s scandalous LGBT track record
The new cardinal-designate’s record of normalizing and promoting homosexuality is virtually unparalleled in the U.S. episcopate. Among other things, McElroy has:
- attacked the Church’s stance on homosexuality, saying that referring to homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered,” as do the Catechism of the Catholic Church and magisterial documents of the Church, is “very destructive language.”
- celebrated “LGBT Masses,” including one that featured openly homosexual state and local politicians and “married” same-sex partners with children.
- expressed support for ordaining same-sex attracted men as priests, despite the Vatican’s ban, in addition to his support of women deacons and married priests.
- affirmed that he would not deny the sacraments and Catholic burials to active, unrepentant homosexuals. Allowing such burials “is the appropriate policy that I would hope the priests would observe, especially in the times of funerals,” he told the dissident National Catholic Reporter in 2017. “Our fundamental stance has to be one of inclusion in the church, especially during a time of burial.”
- aggressively backed the LGBT activism of Fr. James Martin and wrote a glowing endorsement of Martin’s infamous 2017 book Building a Bridge.
- suggested that same-sex “marriages” “enrich the lives” of homosexuals, announcing in response to the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized homosexual “marriage” nationwide that his diocese would uphold Church teaching but “in a manner which profoundly respects at every moment the loving and familial relationships which enrich the lives of so many gay men and women who are our sons and daughters.”
- publicly defended and refused to remove a diocesan employee in a same-sex “marriage” who worked for a heretical “Catholic” advocacy group and promoted abortion.
- joined seven other U.S. prelates in signing a statement organized by a pro-homosexual lobby group telling young people who identify as LGBT that “God is on your side.” The statement made no mention of Church teaching on sexuality or gender.
- strenuously denied that homosexuality is linked to the clerical abuse crisis, despite evidence that the vast majority of priestly abuse in recent decades has been perpetrated against young, largely adolescent, males.
- allowed pro-LGBT retreats led by dissident groups in his diocese.
In October 2016, McElroy notably launched the “San Diego Synod,” which he said would “offer the diocese a new model for ‘being church’” that would include “embracing LGBT families” and allowing divorced and remarried Catholics living in the state of adultery to receive Communion liberally based on the “internal forum of conscience.”
In 2018, McElroy gave the keynote address at the annual meeting of the heretical Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, a group that has pushed for women and openly homosexual priests and same-sex “marriage.” Pro-homosexual merchandise was available at the event.
Dissident LGBT organization New Ways Ministry, formally blacklisted by the Vatican, warmly welcomed McElroy’s appointment, saying Monday: “His new position will help to re-shape the episcopacy of the Catholic Church in the U.S., which has been overwhelmingly and vehemently anti-LGBTQ.”
San Diego’s homosexual ‘LGBT Ministry’ coordinator
Also noteworthy is McElroy’s involvement with St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, which he praised for making “LGBT worshippers ‘feel particularly welcome.’” The parish, located in Hillcrest, the historic epicenter of homosexuality in San Diego, celebrates “LGBT Masses” and advertises monthly “LGBTQ ministry” events with a rainbow “pride” flag.
In 2016, Pope Francis appointed the radically pro-LGBT pastor of St. John the Evangelist parish, Fr. John Dolan, as McElroy’s auxiliary bishop. Dolan has presided over LGBT-themed Masses and has suggested that there is no problem with “the LGBT experience” or homosexual “marriage” in the Catholic Church.
The parish additionally employed a homosexual activist in a same-sex “marriage,” Aaron Bianco, as pastoral associate, allowing him to lead parish education programs and direct young adult and pastoral outreach ministry until his resignation in 2018 amid backlash and alleged vandalism of his office, though no suspects were found. The parish outrageously identified Bianco, who also worked for the heterodox pro-LGBT “Catholic” group Call to Action, as the point of contact for couples preparing for marriage.
Soon after McElroy’s arrival in San Diego, the new bishop personally assured Bianco that he would not fire him due to his lifestyle, which, of course, gravely contradicts Catholic morals. After a parishioner raised concerns about Bianco’s sexuality, McElroy “let me know that [being homosexual] should not hinder me from participating fully in the life of the church,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Bianco introduced pro-abortion pamphlets in the vestibule and promoted New Ways Ministry,” Church Militant reported about his involvement at St. John the Evangelist parish. “The group of faithful Catholics who complained – members of a group that met regularly to pray the Rosary – were targeted by Bianco, who locked the parish doors, forcing them to pray in the parking lot.” Praying the Rosary before Mass “bothered” people, he claimed.
The homosexual activist controlled the parish through his “very close” relationship with McElroy and Dolan, a parishioner told Church Militant, and was allowed to hold an “LGBT Bible study” group. Dolan shut down the parish’s Legion of Mary chapter after members confronted him about Bianco’s heterodox activity.
The Diocese of San Diego eventually hired Bianco as the coordinator of “LGBT ministry,” and he remains listed as a theology professor at the University of San Diego, a nominally Catholic university under McElroy’s jurisdiction. McElroy has not taken action against the University of San Diego’s scandalous LGBT activism, which has included hosting drag shows and funding “sex change” surgeries.
Bishop McElroy publicly defended Bianco at a “listening session” for the San Diego Synod, berating a female parishioner who brought up his employment. Guards tried to throw the woman out of the event – a typical scene at the sessions, according to Church Militant.
McElroy’s ‘LGBT Masses’
In 2017, McElroy concelebrated a Mass for “Families of the LGBT Community” with Bishop Dolan that featured “married” homosexual partners and transvestite city commissioner “Nicole” Murray-Ramirez, LifeSiteNews reported. The Mass commemorated the 20-year anniversary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) letter on homosexuality “Always Our Children,” which was censured by the Vatican within a year of its release.
The event was well-publicized and included pro-LGBT San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and California state assemblyman Todd Gloria, an open homosexual.
After Communion, “Nicole” Murray-Ramirez approached the lectern and said that after decades of living in San Diego his “prayers were answered by these two bishops [Dolan and McElroy],” who had “spoken out for equality and civil rights.” Two “married” homosexuals said that they attended the “LGBT Mass” with their 8- and 9-year-old legal children to teach them about “equality.”
Tables with rainbow-colored tablecloths were set up for the post-Mass reception in the playground of the parish’s K-12 school.
While McElroy has criticized fellow bishops for “weaponizing” the Eucharist by banning pro-abortion politicians from Holy Communion, San Diego parishioners accused him of the turning “the celebration of the Holy Eucharist into a media event” with his sacrilegious Mass.
“The whole event seemed to be choreographed, with the TV cameras, the VIPs, including the mayor and city council member, the imported rich homosexuals (at least two of them were from Palm Springs),” a local Catholic who attended the event to pray for the participants told LifeSite.
The 2017 “LGBT Mass” apparently wasn’t McElroy’s first. McElroy, who was consecrated auxiliary bishop of often pro-homosexual San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer in 2010, said Mass at “a largely gay parish in the city’s Castro district” while in San Francisco, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Defending Fr. James Martin
Bishop McElroy may be the most passionate supporter of LGBT activist priest Fr. Martin, SJ, among the U.S. bishops and has consistently defended the notorious, dissident Jesuit, who encourages same-sex “marriages” and has suggested that Catholic teaching about the sinfulness of homosexual acts is not “authoritative.”
In 2017, McElroy blasted criticism of Martin over his dissident stances, accusing the priest’s detractors of overemphasizing chastity and engaging in “homophobia” and “verbal violence” and framing them as part of a “cancer of vilification.” The bishop argued that Fr. Martin is not heterodox, despite his blatant support of homosexual “marriages,” and said his critics were motivated by a “veiled attack on Pope Francis.”
In the context of Martin being disinvited from speaking engagements due to his pro-LGBT views, McElroy said: “We have to face the fact that there is a group of people across all religious views that are particularly antagonistic to LGBT people.” “That comes from deep within the human soul, and it’s really corrosive and repugnant,” he continued.
McElroy has regularly condemned Catholics who object to homosexuality and transgenderism for being “destructive” and prejudiced.
In 2016, he blamed the mass shooting at a homosexual nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on “a counterfeit notion of religious faith” and said that the incident “is a call for us as Catholics to combat ever more vigorously the anti-gay prejudice which exists in our Catholic community and in our country.” The shooting, committed by a radical Islamist himself at one point accused of homosexuality, is believed to have been an act of revenge for U.S. military strikes against ISIS.
McElroy and McCarrick
Like many of his leftist brother bishops who pin the clerical abuse crisis on the Church’s hierarchical structure, McElroy has been criticized for personally mishandling abuse allegations, including in relation to ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
In 2016, the San Diego bishop received a 13-page letter detailing allegations against McCarrick from A.W. Richard Sipe, a leading researcher of priestly sexual abuse. Sipe wrote that he had interviewed 12 seminarians and priests who attested to sexual propositions and harassment from or sexual activity with McCarrick. McElroy didn’t respond to the letter and later said that he ignored it because he couldn’t substantiate the accusations.
McElroy was “well aware of McCarrick’s abuses,” according to the 2018 testimony of former Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who added that McElroy’s appointment to the Diocese of San Diego was “orchestrated” by powerful forces within the Vatican.
Even SNAP, the far-left abuse survivors’ activist network, warned in a statement Monday that “Bishop McElroy has work to do to gain credibility,” and “news reports say that nearly 100 new cases have been filed against his diocese and that Southern California now is facing over 500 new cases.”
“McElroy himself, while in San Francisco, was the Vicar General and lived with priests who, it turned out, were abusing kids,” SNAP noted.
Under McElroy’s leadership, the San Diego Diocese did not tell a parish that police had launched an investigation into an associate pastor for alleged sexual battery of a seminarian when the diocese removed the priest in 2018. Diocesan spokesman Kevin Eckery defended the decision by saying the accuser was an adult and the diocese didn’t want to influence a criminal case.
Downplaying abortion and contraception
Bishop McElroy is also well-known for minimizing abortion and particularly for raging against the U.S. bishops’ designation of the legal slaughter of hundreds of thousands of babies per year as the “preeminent” issue for the American Church.
Ahead of a vote on the USCCB’s 2015 voting guide, McElroy slammed the document for allegedly breaking with Pope Francis by putting too much emphasis on abortion and euthanasia and not enough on poverty and the environment. Calling life “preeminent” made sense in the outdated “worldview of 2007,” he told fellow bishops.
McElroy again attacked the guide in 2019, stating: “It is not Catholic teaching that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as the world in Catholic social teaching. It is not.” Continued insistence on abortion as the “preeminent priority” is “at least discordant with the Pope’s teaching if not inconsistent” and is a “grave disservice to our people if we’re trying to communicate to them what the Magisterium teaches,” he added.
In February 2020, while speaking at the University of San Diego, McElroy named both “the environment” and abortion as “core life issues in Catholic teaching.” He also frankly downplayed the gravely sinful nature of contraception, remarking that “it is a far greater moral evil for our country to abandon the Paris Climate Accord than to provide contraceptives in federal health centers.”
In 2016, McElroy banned a San Diego priest, Fr. Richard Perozich, from writing columns in the weekly bulletins of his church after the priest stressed Church teaching on abortion and other matters of intrinsic evil and criticized unregulated immigration, restrictions on legal gun ownership, and militant Islam. Fr. Perozich soon retired.
Demanding Communion for pro-aborts
Even before joining the episcopate, McElroy vocally supported giving Holy Communion to politicians who flout Church teaching and facilitate the murder of the unborn. In 2005, McElroy criticized the Archbishop of Newark for banning pro-abortion politicians from Communion, as the move made the Church look too “coercive,” he said.
Bishop McElroy reiterated his stance last year in the context of the Biden presidency, claiming that denying pro-abortion “Catholics” the Eucharist would be “instrumentalization” of the Blessed Sacrament “for a political end,” which “must not happen.”
If politicians who promote abortion cannot receive Communion because “worthiness requires integral union with all of the major teachings of Catholic faith,” then few people would be able to receive at all, he wrote, saying: “failure in fulfilling that obligation in its fullness cannot be the measure of eucharistic worthiness in a church of sinners and questioners, who must face intense pressures and complexities in their daily lives.”
Employing his standard rhetoric on LGBT issues, McElroy said last year that it would be “destructive” to ban Joe Biden or other pro-abortion politicians from Holy Communion. “The [USCCB] has no right role in this,” he stressed. “The proposal to exclude pro-choice Catholic political leaders from the Eucharist will bring tremendously destructive consequences,” he insisted on another occasion.
And in May 2021, McElroy joined a letter signed by more than 60 prelates telling USCCB president Archbishop José H. Gomez to halt discussions of Eucharistic worthiness.
McElroy’s appointment as a cardinal came less than two weeks after San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone formally prohibited U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from Communion, a fact liberal media immediately interpreted as a snub of Archbishop Cordileone, who was again passed up for a red hat.
Endorsing Biden, ‘disrupting’ Trump
McElroy is also one of a handful of bishops who have offered public support for Joe Biden’s grotesquely pro-abortion, pro-LGBT, far-left administration.
Just three weeks before the 2020 presidential election, McElroy defended Biden’s purported Catholic identity and complained that anyone questioned it. “Such denials are injurious because they reduce Catholic social teaching to a single issue. But they are offensive because they constitute an assault on the meaning of what it is to be Catholic,” he said, slamming “repugnant” attempts “to reduce” Catholicism “to a single question of public policy.”
Those remarks earned a direct rebuke from Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Washington, who said McElroy’s comments “effectively constituted a defense of Biden and other prominent Catholic elected officials who publicly support unrestricted abortion.”
Soon after the 2020 election, Bishop McElroy encouraged Catholics to work as “proud collaborators” with the Biden regime, including on “climate change” and the COVID jab rollout. After Biden took office last January, McElroy lamented that some prelates thought the USCCB “must adopt an overall stance of confrontation with the president and his administration” due to the “centrality of abortion.”
Conversely, within days of President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, McElroy attacked the pro-life Republican president and urged participants at the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Popular Movements conference to become “disruptors” of the Trump administration.
“He was ‘the disruptor.’ Well, now we must all become disruptors,” he said.
COVID jabs an ‘obligation’
During the COVID-19 shot rollout early last year, McElroy strongly pushed his parishioners to take the novel, abortion-tainted jabs, telling them that there was “only one real pathway for us as a society out of the pandemic, and that is through the embracing of vaccinations by the whole of our community, so I encourage you to get vaccinated.”
He added that it was “vitally important that all of us receive the Covid vaccine,” including to “bring back the joys of life.” McElroy later instructed priests not to sign religious exemptions for mandates.
Leaflets about the COVID shots distributed by the San Diego diocese read: “Getting the vaccine is a way to follow Jesus’s command to love your neighbor … Catholics also have an obligation to protect their family, friends and community by vaccinating as soon as feasible in accordance with public health guidelines and protocols in their area.” The leaflets didn’t mention the lack of long-term testing of the injections or potential serious side effects.
Cracking down on the Old Mass
Within days of the release of Pope Francis’ motu proprio last summer that limited celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), Bishop McElroy ordered two of the diocese’s three sites offering the Old Mass to stop doing so, relegating the TLM to the Church of St. Anne, far from parishioners in northern San Diego County, until “a single non-parochial setting for the future celebration of one weekly Mass in the North” could be agreed upon.
“There will be no other public celebrations of the Eucharist utilizing the Roman Missal of 1962 permitted in the diocese of San Diocese,” he wrote in the letter, dated August 2. “Priests who wish to celebrate the Mass using the 1962 text privately are to seek specific permission from me to do so,” he noted.
Church in crisis
Pope Francis’ elevation of Bishop McElroy comes amid a historic crisis in the Church, with top prelates close to the Pope openly espousing apparent heresy with no repercussions.
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the Synod on Synodality, for example, recently claimed that the Church’s millennia-old condemnation of sodomy is now “false” because “the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct” – comments that Australian Cardinal George Pell has called “explicit heresy.”
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisers, has similarly remarked that homosexual acts are not sinful and disparaged the authoritative Catechism of the Catholic Church as “not set in stone.” People are “allowed to question what’s in there,” he said.
And the German Church continues to veer into unchecked heresy and schism with the “Synodal Way,” an initiative seeking to change immutable Church teaching on sexuality, the priesthood, and the structure of the Church.
At the same time, Pope Francis has ratcheted up attacks on faithful and traditional Catholics, such as popular Puerto Rico Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres, who was removed from his diocese in March with no explanation or formal decree, allegedly for backing parishioners’ conscience exemptions to the COVID-19 jabs.
Last week, the Vatican told tradition-minded French Bishop Dominique Rey to halt ordinations of priests and deacons, again without giving an explanation.