Robert W. McElroy, an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco and a leader in the Catholic Church’s social justice wing, was named head of the Diocese of San Diego. Crux reported the move Monday, and it was confirmed by the Vatican Tuesday morning. He will be installed April 15.
McElroy, 61, has written extensively about the Church’s social justice mission, promoting Catholic engagement with society that places economic and human rights issues on par with abortion and same-sex marriage.
“We are called to see the issues of abortion and poverty, marriage and immigrant rights, euthanasia and war, religious liberty and restorative justice, not as competing alternatives often set within a partisan framework, but as a complementary continuum of life and dignity,” he wrote in America magazine in October 2013.
McElroy’s appointment to San Diego is the latest sign that Pope Francis intends to make his mark on the Church in America.
Last fall, Francis handpicked another moderate, Blase Cupich, to serve as archbishop of Chicago. McElroy was present at Cupich’s installation Mass.
McElroy, a San Francisco native, graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history, and holds a doctorate from Stanford University as well as a doctorate in moral theology from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.
Though he’s worked in the San Francisco chancery for many years, McElroy was pastor of a San Mateo, California, parish for 14 years.
Speaking last month in San Francisco, McElroy praised what he called the pope’s emphasis on mercy, and said that the church must gravitate toward pastoral responses to believers.
“To be judgmental is a cardinal sin for religion,” he said, according to the National Catholic Reporter. “It is easy for the church to get lost in the rules, but pastoral theology trumps rules.” He went on to say he favors allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion, a position that allies McElroy with bishops attempting to overturn the ban at this fall’s synod on the family in Rome.
He’s also made economic inequality one of his signature issues, praising the pope’s emphasis on poverty. He told Crux last summer that Catholic laypeople have a special responsibility to fight inequality.
“I think Pope Francis’ statements on the challenge of global poverty and questions of inequality provide a unique opportunity for the Catholic community to deepen its institutionalized lay resources,” he said.
McElroy succeeds Bishop Cirilo Flores, who passed away in September after less than a year on the job. The diocese, with a little less than 1 million Catholics, is among the largest in the United States.