Bishop Thomas O’Brien – Diocese of Phoenix

| Aug 10, 2019 | Catholic Church

Bishop Thomas O’Brien

Diocese of Phoenix

Ordained: 1961

Resigned: 2003

Died: 2018

Assigned as follows:

  • 1970-1975       St. Anne (Santa Monica, CA)
  • 1975-1976       Tenejapa (Ciapas, Mexico)
  • 1976-1984       On Duty Outside the Archdiocese
  • 1976-1995       Yajalon (Chiapas, Mexico)
  • 1996-1997       St. Maria Goretti (Scottsdale, AZ)

Summary of Abuse Allegations against Bishop Thomas O’Brien :

According to media reports, Bishop Thomas O’Brien, who previously served as Vicar General for the Diocese, was Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix from 1982 to 2003. According to media reports, in June 2003, after a Maricopa County Grand Jury investigation of Bishop O’Brien and the Diocese of Phoenix regarding clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese, Bishop O’Brien was granted immunity from prosecution after he admitted to covering up child sex abuse by priests.  The prosecutors described the agreement as the most serious legal admission of personal wrongdoing by a Catholic prelate since the sexual abuse scandal erupted in the United States.

According to the investigation, he admitted that he allowed at least 50 priests under his supervision to work with minors after he became aware of sexual abuse allegations. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office noted that the grand jury uncovered evidence that Bishop O’Brien “failed to protect the victims of criminal sexual misconduct of others associated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.” He admitted that priests were transferred to other assignments where children could be victimized without disclosing the priests’ dangerous tendencies to their new assignments.

Days later, Bishop O’Brien was arrested on charges related to leaving the scene of a car accident that killed a pedestrian. A witness followed the vehicle, took down the license plate and reported it to the police. He said he thought he had hit a dog or cat or that someone had thrown a rock at his car.

Soon after the arrest, he resigned as bishop.

In February 2004, he was found guilty of leaving the scene of the fatal accident. He was sentenced to four years probation and 1,000 hours of community service.

In January 2017, Bishop O’Brien was accused in a lawsuit of repeated sexual abuse of a boy when he was a student at St. Aquinas in Litchfield and St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix. At the time, the alleged abuse occurred from 1977-1982, when the boy was in 2nd to 5th grades. The Diocese of Phoenix was notified in September 2016.

The lawsuit alleged the boy was forced to perform oral sex on Bishop O’Brien and that Bishop O’Brien did the same to the boy while he was swinging a container of incense.

Bishop O’Brien is alleged to have repeated “I am not a sinner” after one of the encounters, and told the boy to do penance, the lawsuit said. Bishop O’Brien denied the allegations.

He died as Bishop Emeritus in August 2018.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Phoenix.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Phoenix, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Phoenix now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims.  Call us at 888-283-9922 or send an email to [email protected] to discuss your options today.