SAN DIEGO – A funeral mass will be celebrated May 17 for retired Bishop Robert H. Brom of San Diego, who died May 10 in San Diego. He was 83 years old.
Mass for Brom, who led the diocese from 1990 to 2013, will be celebrated at St. Therese of Carmel Church in Del Mar Heights, Calif., followed by interment at Holy Cross Cemetery.
“He was a natural teacher who worked consistently to bring the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council into the heart of the Diocese of San Diego,” Bishop Robert W. McElroy, current head of the diocese, said in a May 10 statement.
“This dedication to the council also framed his lifelong service in training men for the priesthood,” he added.
Robert Henry Brom was born on September 18, 1938 in Arcadia, Wisconsin. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Rochester-Winona in 1963.
In 1983 St. John Paul II appointed him bishop of Duluth, Minnesota, and in 1989 he appointed him coadjutor bishop of San Diego to assist Bishop Leo T. Maher.
When Maher retired in 1990, Brom immediately succeeded him, leading the diocese from July 10, 1990 until September 18, 2013, when he retired.
“Bishop Brom’s deep love for our parishes and pastoral vision has been complemented by a sharp administrative ability to guide San Diego through years of joy and difficulty,” McElroy said. “During his retirement years, Bishop Brom intensified the prison ministry he had begun as bishop and his service to the Missionaries of Charity.”
St. Therese of Kolkata, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, was one of the two people Brom often called the most inspiring in her life. The other person was Saint John Paul.
As with many bishops, Brom’s most notable challenge was the clergy sex abuse scandal facing the Catholic Church in the early 2000s.
He led a subcommittee of U.S. bishops whose task, he said, was to develop a process to “hold ourselves and each other accountable” under the “Charter for the Protection of Children and young people”.
The charter was originally established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002. It is a comprehensive set of procedures for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and other workers from the church.
In 2007, the Diocese of San Diego was sued by survivors of sexual abuse; the majority of these cases occurred before Brom’s time as head of the diocese. The bishop said the scale of the lawsuit could cause the diocese to declare bankruptcy, which it did in February of that year.
Brom was also stung by repeated allegations accusing him of abuse – allegations he says had been proven false a decade earlier.
“I consider it a grave injustice that my reputation and the good of the church have been harmed by those who now, and for years, have made me the target of their slanderous attacks,” Brom said during Christian Mass. which he celebrated in March.
“Personally, I am able to forgive them, but the harm they have done and are doing cannot go unmentioned,” he said.
In September 2007, the dioceses of San Diego and San Bernardino, California – the latter had split from the former in 1978 – agreed to pay $198.1 million to settle lawsuits with 144 victims of child sex abuse. priests between 1938 and 1993.
The dioceses initially offered $95 million to settle the claims. The plaintiffs claimed $200 million. At the time, it was one of the largest such settlements in the United States.
Brom has met with many abuse survivors and their families to promote healing and reconciliation. He also helped resolve several false allegations.
On other issues, Brom issued a statement in 1990, shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait, calling for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
He said he supported “international solidarity” to resist the aggression, as it offered hope “for the peaceful liberation of Kuwait”. The statement was read at an anti-war rally on the campus of the Diocesan University of San Diego.
In a pastoral letter published on Easter 1992, Brom called on Catholics to welcome immigrants even when available resources “seem to be exhausted”.
He called on parishes to actively seek out immigrants to bring into their faith communities and called on pastors to emphasize church teachings on the right to immigrate and responsibilities to the poor.
The pastor noted that in the diocese there were about 30,000 immigrant workers, the majority of whom were Mexican or Central American and many of whom lived among the rural homeless.
“Many have been homeless for years. They live where they can – holes in the ground, makeshift shacks, open fields – in appalling conditions of extreme poverty,” he said.
From the beginning of his ministry in San Diego, Brom believed that the many ethnic and cultural groups in the diocese enriched the local church.
He spent his first three months as coadjutor studying Spanish so he could effectively deal with the large Hispanic population in the diocese. As bishop, he authorized the creation of the Diocesan Office for Cultural Diversity.
Brom elevated the Diocesan Ecumenical Commission to full diocesan office status and became the first bishop in the country to appoint a vicar for ecumenical and interreligious affairs.
Another of his priorities as a shepherd in San Diego was to make pastoral visits to parishes. He made five visits to the approximately 100 parishes of the diocese in two counties and covering an area of 8,852 square miles.