Bishop Robert McElroy issues statement on death of Richard Sipe

San Diego bishop responds to publication of 2016 letter Sipe wrote to him: "limitations on his willingness to share corroborating information made it impossible to know what was real and what was rumor"

Bishop Robert McElroy (image from LifeSiteNews)

The following is from the Diocese of San Diego website:

Dr. Richard Sipe was a controversial but committed advocate on behalf of sex abuse victims and reform in the Catholic Church.  A psychoanalyst and a former priest, his research on the roots of sex abuse in the Church goes back more than 25 years and played an important role in shaping the national conversation and the Church’s response to the sex abuse scandal.

Dr. Sipe passed away last week at his home in La Jolla, CA.  He was 85.  Before his death, he met twice with Bishop McElroy to discuss the abuse crisis and the Church’s ongoing response.  Since those conversations have been referenced in news stories and on social media, Bishop McElroy wanted to make sure the nature and context of those conversations was properly understood.

Here is Bishop McElroy’s statement:

“Shortly after I was appointed Bishop of San Diego, back in early 2016, Dr. Richard Sipe requested that I meet with him to discuss the clergy abuse crisis.  We had two long, substantive, cordial and frank discussions about the history of clergy sexual abuse in the United States.  In those conversations, Dr. Sipe made allegations against several past and present bishops.  He stated that he was in conversation with colleagues and was going to approach the new nuncio, Archbishop Pierre, to discuss these issues and the broader questions involved.  

“I shared with Dr. Sipe my concern that some of his information might not be accurate.  In two instances we discussed, I had certain knowledge of individuals being investigated and cleared yet he still leveled accusations against them.  Dr. Sipe stated that he was making many of his allegations against existing bishops based on information that he had received from his work in legal cases on behalf of survivors of abuse.  I asked if he could share this information with me, especially since some of his accusations involved persons still active in the life of the Church and Dr. Sipe was making substantive allegations about their personal misconduct.  Dr. Sipe said that he was precluded from sharing specific documentary information that corroborated his claims.

Richard Sipe in his San Diego home. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego U-T)

 “Two weeks later, in July 2016, Dr. Sipe called and asked for a third meeting.  My assistant returned the call and said that I could not meet with him that month.  Dr. Sipe subsequently hired a process server to come to my office pretending to be a major donor who would hand his check only to me.  I was not in the office that day and the process server eventually turned the package over to my assistant.  It contained a letter to me (which has since been published).  After I read it, I wrote to Dr. Sipe and told him that his decision to engage a process server who operated under false pretenses, and his decision to copy his letter to me to a wide audience, made further conversations at a level of trust impossible.

“Dr. Sipe made many significant contributions to understanding the dimensions of clergy sexual abuse in the United States and to the assistance of victims.  But the limitations on his willingness to share corroborating information made it impossible to know what was real and what was rumor.  

“Nevertheless, Dr. Sipe fought for what he believed in and dedicated himself to the service of others.  May his soul and souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”



  1. Anonymous says:


  2. A bishop hiding behind lawyerly language and criticizing supposedly deceptive tactics used by Sipe. It’s a comedy of tragic proportions. Oh, so it’s impossible to know the truth about clergy misconduct, but McElroy and his fellow bishops are so certain about ICE agents committing grave sin that they should be denied Communion. The care, concern, charity and restraint that McElroy extends to clergy accused of abuse does not extend the least bit to conservatives nor to President Trump. The Old Bishops Boys Club never stops, does it?

  3. Lou Varini says:

    Here you go, Bp. McElroy; ome of your brothersin the episcopacy admitting to the homosexual subculture and the ruin it has made among adult seminarians and priests, as well as minors:

  4. Anonymous says:

    So..Bishop McElroy just admitted that he had knowledge of Bishops and others sexually abusing minors and adults.
    There are priests who post here who claim to have knowledge of these things. The tipping point has come. If you know something, say something.

    • Lou Varini says:

      If sonething is to be said about known abuse, whether towards adults or minors, it should be reported to civil authorities. Forget about using the ecclesiastical route. It has proven to be completely futile.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This scandal pretty much guarantees that the bishops’ November meeting won’t be productive.

  6. This Dr. Richard Sipe Resigned to his priesthood. I have more admiration for those that were not captured by the spirit of the times and remained in the fight. If this psychoanalyst (a totally debunked fake science) refused to name names then he can go back home to mommy and Pope Francis. The Church needs real men interested in the survival of Western Civilization at this time.

    • Gratias, it’s ok to question the Bishop’s motives and actions and those of Richard Sipe. But, the psychoanalyst practice is not a debunked science. More importantly, the Church is not interested in the survival of Western Civilization. We are not a church of Western Civilization. Some might think it is because of the European heritage that came with previous immigration phases, but don’t forget that most Catholics live in the Southern Hemisphere.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dear Gratias, I don’t think he was a psychoanalyst. Where did you come up with that?

  7. St. Christopher says:

    One cannot accept much that B. McElroy says. He has an obvious agenda of advocating for changes in the Church regarding sexual ethics, particularly homosexual sex. He should not even be a priest much less a bishop.

  8. Gratias, do you really know who Richard Sipe was?

  9. “Dr. Sipe said that he was precluded from sharing specific documentary information that corroborated his claims.”
    This is a suspicious statement. Sipe was MORE than willing to talk (and write) about specifics and name people.

  10. I believe Bishop McElroy with regards to this case. Dr. Sipe performed an important service for the Church in researching the sex abuse crisi and advocating on behalf of victims. However, I think he couldn’t see the forest for the trees. He started claiming that nearly all priests were guilty of sexual abuse. This is not true! The majority of priests are trying to live lives of holiness and service to our Lord! Not all priests and bishops are child abusers!

    • Can you verify your claim or cite a source for your statement: “He started claiming that nearly all priests were guilty of sexual abuse…”? I don’t think Sipe ever stated this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Fred, I haven’t read everything that sipe wrote, but where did he say the things you say he said? Where did he say that nearly all priests were/are guilty of sexual abuse? I think what he said was that at any one time half of priests are not living celibate lives. As shocking and saddenning as that might be, it is not the same as abuse. Do you have a specific claim that you say Sipe claimed about abuse?

  11. Faithful and True says:

    As O’Malley warned all Bishops: “Tick Tick!”
    Tick tock McElroy. Tick tock!

  12. I for one believe the late Dr. Richard Sipe over anything that Bishop McElroy might have to say concerning just what he knew and when he received his information. Just consider Bishop McElroys’ track record when deciding whom to believe. Earlier this year in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Bishop McElroy attended and gave the opening address to the annual meeting of the Association of U. S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) a dissident group that advocates for open homosexual lifestyle, among other things. Also, it is the same Bishop McElroy who wants the wording of the Catechism changed as calling homosexual acts disordered is too harsh. Bishop McElroy is also one of those who wrote a forward to James Martin, S.J. Building Bridges. ENOUGH SAID?

  13. Vince Ryan says:

    The time when Catholics could more or less without question trust what bishops and Cardinals say has passed. In my opinion we are even passed the ” trust but verify” stage. We are now in simply the ” verify” stage.

    • Vince , Amen ! , the credibility is gone , the hostility of the laity to the various forms of abuse and condescension is real and I think growing . with these current scandals those who remain will have to be more vocal in not challenging but demanding accountability . Based on stories on this site in the past month the hierarchy is either ignorant or possess such hubris to think that we can be manipulated as in the past , I have held my tongue and stayed my hand to long , time to remind them at collection that we will be respected and that they are answerable to us .

      • JUST THE FACTS, PLEASE says:

        Vince, it’s the condescension that kills me: the audacity of some bishops’ acting like their views on matters of prudential judgment are the only morally permissible ones. They insult all educated, thinking Catholics. That’s the bad news. The good news is that their hubris is apparent, and Catholics are not bamboozled by them anymore. McElroy is the best [worst?] example.

    • Thinking Catholic says:

      Vince, it’s the condescension that bothers me most. Some bishops act as if their personal view on matters open to prudential judgment, is the only morally correct one. McElroy is the best [worst?] example. He insults the intelligence of every educated, thinking, prayerful Catholic. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we won’t let him get away with his hubris anymore.

      • This “opinion” by Thinking is contrary to the Church’s discipline, if not a lack of faith. Note the CDF document “Donum Veritatis”: “it would be contrary to the truth, if, proceeding from some particular cases, one were to conclude that the Church’s Magisterium can be habitually mistaken in its prudential judgments, or that it does not enjoy divine assistance in the integral exercise of its mission.” The goal of the Church is UNITY—unity with God, unity within the Church, and that the human race be united in love to God.

  14. I had the privilege and honor to work with Richard Sipe for many years. Together we created his website which continues to be a beacon of hope. I can honestly say that Richard was one of the most dedicated men I have ever known. His work was scholarly and sincere. I for one will miss him greatly.

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      Patrick there have been many incorrect interpretations of Mr. Sipe’s work on this website. Perhaps you can stick around and help correct them?

  15. Arun P Mathew says:

    I am a practicing Catholic from Kerala, India. The language of the Bishop gives me an impression that he is trying to mask his role in overlooking the issue, in a polite but sophisticated language. Dear Bishop, your role questions the very foundation of our belief. Unfortunately, you are not alone. Even the good Pope, when he was a Cardinal had refused to meet victims whose allegations later proved to be correct. So you were nothing but imitating the policies of your higher ups who have always striven for secrecy and suppression of the facts. Shame on you!

    Arun P Mathew

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