The Catholic archbishop of Washington, DC, Wilton Gregory, has doubled down on an earlier statement slamming the Saint John Paul II Shrine for allowing President Trump and the First Lady to visit the sanctuary before issuing an Executive Order on International Religious Liberty.
In that statement, which Catholic intellectual Robert Royal, editor of The Catholic Thing, described as “an absolute disaster,” Archbishop Gregory said that the Shrine’s decision to allow the visit to take place was “reprehensible” because it had let itself be “egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles.”
After an outcry from Catholics protesting the archbishop’s “blatantly partisan” statement, Gregory dug his heels in this weekend, participating in an online discussion organized by Georgetown University.
Asked what he would say to those who criticize him for acting in a partisan way rather than as a pastor, Archbishop Gregory compared his actions to the clergy who were active during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
“They are reminiscent of the criticisms that people gave to Catholic priests and nuns they saw marching during the civil rights period,” the archbishop said, while insisting that the Church and her pastors must be present in society, “beyond the four walls” of the church building.
“I want to thank the hundreds of people who have written and said: ‘Thank you.’ They don’t know me; I don’t know them. But somehow this moment has brought us into a communication that I hope will result in some personal change but also some systemic change,” he added.
Gregory went on to say that partisanship is a danger that the Church must avoid.
“The Church needs to remember that too close an alignment with any political party weakens our prophetic capacity,” the archbishop said. “When you get too close to any one party, you lose the capacity to speak the gospel truth to everyone.”
This particular statement seems curious in the light of the archbishop’s own actions.
In a recent letter to the archbishop, Ed Martin, president of the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund, said that “your recent statement condemning President Trump is causing scandal, Archbishop.”
“Please clarify your remarks by retracting the statement and apologizing,” he continued. “The blatantly partisan nature of your comments alienates half of your flock by expressing subjective political opinions rather than evangelizing using the objective truths of the Catholic faith.”
In a column last week titled “Baffling and Reprehensible,” Catholic author and journalist Phil Lawler noted that Archbishop Gregory has “given over the pulpit of his cathedral” to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an ardent defender of abortion on demand, while condemning the president’s visit to a Catholic shrine.
Such partisanship suggests a “hypocritical” double standard, he said.