BISHOP TOD DAVID BROWN — Nov. 15, 1936 to Oct. 15, 2023
Bishop Kevin Vann and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange community are saddened to announce the passing of Bishop Emeritus Tod David Brown.
Bishop Brown died Sunday morning at St. Joseph Hospital after being hospitalized. He was 86.
Sustained and heartened by the knowledge of all who had been praying for him, Bishop Brown received the anointing of the sick and the Apostolic Pardon.
“With his tireless spirit and witness to Christ, Bishop Brown faithfully served the people of the Diocese of Orange since 1998, when Pope St. John Paul II appointed him bishop and ordinary of our Diocese,” said Bishop Vann. “I remember especially his kindness to me when I was a newly ordained priest at the Casa Santa Maria in Rome in the fall of 1981.
“I ask for prayers for the repose of Bishop Brown’s soul and for the thanksgiving to God for his many years of ministry and evangelization. Let us pray: Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he and all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.”
A vigil is scheduled for Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. at Holy Family parish in Orange. The funeral Mass will be celebrated on Oct. 30 at 10:30 a.m. at Christ Cathedral. Both will be livestreamed.
Bishop Brown, the third bishop of the Diocese of Orange, will be laid to rest in the St. Callistus Chapel and Crypts, which are being constructed beneath Christ Cathedral and are scheduled to be completed in 2024.
Bishop Brown came to Orange in 1988 after serving as bishop of the Diocese of Boise. He was ordained a priest on May 1, 1963, for the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno.
Bishop Brown’s resignation as bishop of Orange was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI on Sept. 21, 2012, in accordance with Canon Law, which requires all bishops to offer their resignation to the pope upon reaching their 75th birthday.
Notable within Bishop Brown’s tenure was spearheading the purchase of the Crystal Cathedral campus in Garden Grove after its ministry fell into bankruptcy. The sprawling 34-acre property, home to the popular “Hour of Power” broadcast, later became Christ Cathedral following a years-long transformation that culminated with the cathedral’s solemn dedication on July 17, 2019.
Aiding in the sale, which was completed in 2012, was that Bishop Brown had a good relationship with Crystal Cathedral founder Dr. Robert Schuller, who once told a priest that “Bishop Brown is my bishop.”
When Dr. Schuller addressed the Catholic priests in 2012 after the sale, the Protestant televangelist referred to the Catholic Church as “my mother church,” and admitted that he wanted his campus to go to the Catholic Church, a steward of art and architecture.
“I trust it to you. It’s yours … this could be a global place for dynamic energy to be generated,” Dr. Schuller said. “And that’s what the church needs today and tomorrow — dynamic creative energy. If it’s to be found anywhere, it’s got to be in you. You are the church. I know that, respect that, honor that, and thank you for taking charge of a physical facility that can be used for the glory of God.”
In 2021, Bishop Brown told Orange County Catholic that “Christ Cathedral will be here for generations to come, and it will become — even more than it is now — the spiritual home of our Catholic Church in Orange County and a religious center for people of all faiths. I think it will become one of the primary Catholic cathedrals in the country.”
During Bishop Brown’s tenure — where he was regarded as a collaborative leader who hired women to key diocesan leadership positions — Orange County parishes saw boosted Mass attendance and an increasingly diverse Catholic population.
With the intent of ensuring that Orange’s leaders reflected their communities, in the late 1990s, Bishop Brown requested the installation of a Hispanic bishop. This led to then Monsignor Jaime Soto, a Stanton native, becoming an auxiliary bishop for Orange in 2000 and one of the nation’s few Hispanic bishops at the time.
Bishop Brown later requested a Vietnamese bishop, which led to the appointment in 2003 of Dominic Dinh Mai Luong, then serving in New Orleans, becoming the first Vietnamese American bishop in the U.S.
Bishop Brown was also regarded for helping guide the Diocese or Orange through the sex abuse crisis of the early 2000s. In 2005, he was the first bishop in California to settle sex abuse claims, agreeing to pay $100 million to 90 victims and publicly releasing files on clergy abuse allegations. At the time, it was the largest abuse settlement payout in the U.S. Catholic Church.
Bishop Brown also agreed to personally apologize to each of the victims. His leadership put in place a series of policies and procedures to ensure parishes and schools remain safe for both children and adults.
The new protections included requiring stringent and comprehensive background checks for all clergy and lay employees, mandating safe environment training, creating a diocesan office dedicated to protecting children, strengthening abuse reporting education at schools and parishes, and establishing an independent Oversight Review Board comprised of volunteers to consider all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor presented against clergy or staff.
Many of the policies in place in the Diocese of Orange for over two decades have been replicated at other organizations and institutions across the U.S “I hope that what we have done — the changes we have made in our policies and our personnel practices — will guarantee that, as much as is humanly possible, these things will never happen again,” Bishop Brown said in 2005.