Bishop Robert Barron, described in media accounts as an “evangelical rock star,” was ordained as the new auxiliary bishop for Santa Barbara at a service presided over by Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez this Tuesday, replacing longtime Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry. Barron was ordained at the Los Angeles Cathedral with two other auxiliary bishops for the Los Angeles archdiocese in a ceremony co-celebrated by 500 priests.
Barron — who was named a new bishop by Pope Francis on July 21 — was ordained as a priest in 1986, served as a pastor for a parish outside of Chicago, and functioned as a visiting professor at a Catholic seminary and at Notre Dame. Mostly, he’s known for his energetic use of social media as a tool for evangelizing, producing regular commentaries and documentaries for YouTube via his WordOnFire.org website. According to press reports, Barron claims more followers than any other Catholic leader except Pope Francis.
Curry, whom Barron replaces, has served the archdiocese since 1992, but his tenure was marred by accusations by law enforcement that he thwarted investigations into three allegations of sexual misconduct by priests. Curry, though never criminally prosecuted, has been named in litigation and apologized for his actions, “which in hindsight, appear to be inadequate or mistaken.” When Los Angeles diocese’s cardinal Roger Mahony was replaced in the scandal, Gomez took the unusual step of barring him from presiding over confirmations, among other things. Groups and attorneys who track Catholic priests for their role in such scandals say they know nothing about Barron.