Thomas J. O’Brien, the Phoenix Catholic bishop beleaguered by a sexual misconduct scandal involving clergy, was arrested yesterday in connection with a fatal hit-and-run accident, the Arizona Republic reports.
The newspaper said that the prelate’s new calamity throws Arizona’s Catholic leadership deeper into limbo and rocks a diocese that has endured months of scrutiny about priests accused of sexual misconduct with children.
Investigators say O’Brien, 67, was behind the wheel of a car that struck and killed a 43-year-old man on Saturday night. Maricopa County Superior Court records say that O’Brien did not contact police about the accident after a fellow priest informed him Sunday night that detectives were looking for him and the vehicle. When first questioned, O’Brien told officers he thought he hit a dog or cat or someone threw a rock at his car.
News of the bishop’s latest turmoil stunned Catholics and elicited sorrow and sympathy from even strident critics. Rep. Robert Meza, a Phoenix Democrat who was among a group of Hispanics who sought O’Brien’s resignation over the handling of the sex abuse scandal, offered words of compassion.