PHOENIX, Arizona — Officials with the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix say retired Bishop Thomas O’Brien has died at age 82.
They say O’Brien died Sunday morning from ongoing health complications related to Parkinson’s disease. O’Brien served as bishop of the diocese in Arizona’s most populous city from 1982 to 2003.
An investigation by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in 2002 revealed O’Brien had protected suspected pedophile priests.
He was granted immunity from prosecution after signing a document admitting his part in cover-ups of alleged sexual misconduct by diocesan priests.
“I acknowledge that I allowed Roman Catholic priests under my supervision to work with minors after becoming aware of allegations of sexual misconduct,” he said in the statement. “I further acknowledge that priests who had allegations of sexual misconduct made against them were transferred to ministries without full disclosure to their superiors or to the community in which they were assigned.”
O’Brien resigned as bishop after he was arrested in the death of a pedestrian in a June 2003 hit-and-run accident.
He was convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal accident and sentenced to four years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service.
After his resignation, he continued to live in Phoenix but kept a low profile. However, in Aug. 2017 O’Brien was accused of sexually abusing a boy on several occasions at parishes in Phoenix and Goodyear from 1977 to 1982. The Diocese of Phoenix said O’Brien denied the allegation, which was based on a recovered memory.
City of Phoenix City Councilman, Michael Nowakowski, worked with O’Brien at the Diocese of Phoenix, and said the news left him with a “heavy heart.”
“As his Director of Hispanic Ministry for eight years, I witnessed his advocacy for the Hispanic community that ensured ministries and services for the Spanish speaking. His gentle spirit will be missed,” Nowakowski said.
“Please pray for the repose of his soul, and may he rest in peace,” the diocese said in a statement.
Crux staff contributed to this report.