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Retired bishop Thomas O'Brien of Phoenix Diocese dies at 82

Bishop Thomas O'Brien became embroiled in scandal at the end of his time with the church, admitting to sheltering bishops accused of molesting children.

Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, a retired Phoenix bishop, died Sunday of complications of Parkinson's disease, the Phoenix Diocese tweeted. He was 82.

O'Brien stepped down as bishop in 2003.

He was embroiled in scandal during the end of his time with the church. In 2003, he entered into an immunity deal with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office after admitting he played a role in letting suspected pedophile priests return to working with children.

Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said his investigation into Bishop O’Brien’s cover-up was taxing both personally and professionally.

"Probably one of the more difficult cases for me personally, but the children are better protected in Arizona," he said.

A Catholic himself, Romley knew he had a duty to protect the children and enforce the law. “I can't tell you how many Catholics come up to me to this day and say, 'Rick, thanks for giving us our church back.'" he said.

Just two weeks later that year, he struck and killed Jim Reed while driving and left the scene of the crash near 19th and Glendale avenues. He was later found guilty.

In 2017 lawsuit, a Tucson man alleged that O'Brien sexually abused him decades prior.