Boston priest tapped for Vatican role

Boston priest, Fr. Robert Oliver, has been tapped by Pope Benedict XVI to be Promoter of Justice for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith.  You can read the Boston diocesan press release here. The position is akin to a prosecutor in the American legal system. The CDF is charged with protecting Catholic doctrine, but also handles all serious crimes against the church, including the sexual abuse of children, desecration of the Eucharist, violation of the seal of confession, heresy and schism. He will be essentially the Vatican’s chief prosecutor of sex crimes against minors.

Oliver, a member of the Brotherhood of Hope, has served as judge and promoter of justice in the archdiocesan tribunal, and he has also advised Cardinal O’Malley on  issues including pastoral planning. He was the point-person on all canonical aspects of pastoral planning, including the question of whether it is canonically permissible to have one finance council serve multiple parishes. He was a longtime professor of theology and canon law at St. John’s Seminary. This past year he served as a visiting professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is a very smart orthodox priest.  With his departure from the Pastoral Center, Bishop-elect Deeley and Cardinal O’Malley lose a trustworthy adviser with a lot of horsepower who worked quietly behind the scenes to make critical things happen.

Here is the press release:


Braintree, MA (December 22, 2012) – Today, Pope Benedict XVI announced the appointment of Rev. Robert W. Oliver, S.T.D., J.C.D. as Promoter of Justice for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the central offices of the Holy See which is located in Vatican City State in Rome.  Fr. Oliver currently serves as Assistant to the Moderator of the Curia for Canonical Affairs and is a Visiting Professor of Canon Law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C..

Cardinal Seán said, “Fr. Robert Oliver is a gifted priest who has served the Archdiocese with distinction. We are pleased to learn of the Holy Father’s wish to appoint him as Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Oliver  is a distinguished canon lawyer who brings the requisite experience and an understanding of the importance of this office within the life of the Church. We assure him of our prayers and our support for this important ministry.”

Fr. Oliver said, “It is with deep humility and gratitude that I received the news that the Holy Father is entrusting me with this service to the Church.  Having been so blessed to serve the Archdiocese of Boston with Cardinal Seán and Bishop-elect Deeley, I wish to express my sincere gratitude for their confidence and support.  Receiving this assignment during the Year of Faith is inspirational and it is challenging.  The Congregation’s role is to promote and safeguard the doctrine of the faith and morals in the universal Church.  I humbly ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and grace to assist Archbishop Müller and the Congregation in fulfilling this important work.”

Bishop-elect Robert P. Deeley, J.C.D., Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, said, “In appointing Fr. Robert Oliver to this important position as Promoter of Justice, the Holy Father has chosen a priest who will serve faithfully and effectively. Fr. Oliver is an experienced canon lawyer who has served as a Judge, taught, developed policy and offered counsel as a canonical advisor.  He has had an important voice in many of the major decisions we have faced as an Archdiocese and in the national Church. His experience, intelligence, understanding, compassion and respect for all of God’s people have prepared him well for this important ministry of justice. Fr. Oliver’s talents and good counsel will be missed here in Boston but we are comforted in knowing that his presence will be felt across the universal Church.”

Fr. Oliver succeeds Msgr Charles Scicluna who recently was named Auxiliary bishop in Malta.  The position of Promoter of Justice at the Congregation is similar to that of prosecutor in civil law and carries responsibility for investigating  more serious crimes in the Church such as desecrating the Holy Eucharist, or violating the seal of confession.  It also includes responsibility for the investigation of the sexual abuse of minors by clerics.

Born in New York, NY on April 7, 1960, Fr. Oliver was ordained to the priesthood in Holy Cross Cathedral on May 27, 2000.  He is a member of an association of the faithful, the Brotherhood of Hope.  He was raised in St. Patrick Parish, Bay Shore NY (Long Island).  His mother Virginia D. Oliver and brother Kevin T. Oliver reside in Ave Maria FL.  His late father, the Honorable Robert W. Oliver, served as Justice of the New York State Supreme Court.  His late grandfather the Honorable Webster J. Oliver was Chief Justice of the U.S. Customs Court.

Fr. Oliver attended The Catholic University of America, Washington DC, J.C.L. (1996) J.C.D. (2002), Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, S.T.B. (1992), S.T.L. (1994), S.T.D. (1997) and Dartmouth College, Hanover NH, A.B. (1982)

Most recently he has served as Assistant for Canonical Affairs to the Vicar General and as a Judge and  Promoter of Justice in tribunals, and a consulter to the Review Board.  Previously he was Special Assistant to the Vicar General and a faculty member of St. John’s Seminary.  This past year he has been a Visiting Professor of Canon Law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C..

BCI wishes Fr. Bob Oliver well in his new role. The Vatican gain is a big loss for the Boston Archdiocese. BCI has hoped for some time that Cardinal O’Malley would tap Fr. Bob with bigger responsibilities, such as the canonical role of Chancellor (separate from CFO) or heading the search committee for a critical opening. But alas, in Boston, more often we find the good people who care about the ministry eventually leave while the high-paid folks who are less committed to the saving ministry of Jesus and just want a good paycheck continue as the norm. If you want to congratulate Fr. Bob and wish him well, you can reach him via email at: ReverendRobert_Oliver(at)

2 Responses to Boston priest tapped for Vatican role

  1. […] Boston Priest Tapped for Vatican Role – Boston Catholic Insider […]

  2. Texdon says:

    This is a positive article about an apparently very good priest.

    Not being from the Boston area the only thing I knew about Fr. Oliver was from the very snarly article in the NY Times which was not at all positive.

    Despite the lamentations of the NY Times, Benedict XVI seems to have the ability to pick those appropriate for the job.

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