U.S. Bishops generally know that they’re not supposed to be getting involved in politics. They also generally embrace the fact that the Catholic Church is very welcoming.
But that wasn’t the attitude that Washington, D.C. Catholic Archbishop Wilton Gregory displayed when President Donald Trump and Melania Trump, who is Catholic, visited the shrine of St. John Paul II on Tuesday, to show support for religious liberty, a long-planned visit.
Gregory blasted Trump and the visit.
From Fox News:
“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” the archbishop said in a statement.
“Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth,” Gregory added. “He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”
Stunning that any U.S. Catholic bishop would be so political.
He does the opposite of what he claims to support: defend the rights of those with whom he might disagree. So he would deny a visit to a shrine to the President because he disagrees with him? That’s contrary to any known Catholic thought. What’s ironic on top of that is that he would never deny communion to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or any other Catholic in favor of abortion and killing babies.
In fact, here she is even speaking at a mass he was officiating, as Fr. Dwight Longnecker points out, citing Gregory’s words back at him.
I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated… pic.twitter.com/G0cOtgy2V4
— Fr. Dwight Longenecker (@dlongenecker1) June 2, 2020
That mass was for the funeral of Cokie Roberts.
But on top of that, Gregory’s just flat out repeating a lie. He was referencing Trump’s walk to St. John’s Church. The media falsely claimed that tear gas was used against peaceful protesters moments before Trump passed through the area. But the Park Police explained on Tuesday that the protesters had been attacking them and that the police found other weapons stashed in the park and that’s why they had acted to clear them out of the area. They also noted that there was no tear gas used by anyone.
Moreover, Gregory doesn’t appear to know his history. There is no one who stood more against the evils of Communism than John Paul II. He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk, doing everything he could to fight their takeover, not only in his native Poland but even within the Church. Unfortunately, after his death, not everyone carried on the fight with the same vigor which explains in part some of the issues in the Church today.
John Paul would have welcomed anyone who was peaceful, but he would have condemned the harm caused by the rioters as antithetical to life.
Brian Burch, the president of CatholicVote, called Gregory’s words “regrettable” especially when the country is in “need of healing and unity.” He said millions of Catholics are grateful for the action Trump took to protect vulnerable religious minorities around the world.
After Gregory’s scathing remarks, the shrine released a statement calling the visit “fitting given St. John Paul II was a tireless advocate of religious liberty” and noting that “international religious liberty receives widespread bipartisan support,” adding “the shrine welcomes all people to come and pray and learn about the legacy of St. John Paul II.”
Edward N. Peters, a Roman Catholic canonist and professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Detroit, tweeted that Gregory’s condemnation is “devoid of any sense of Christian sentiment.”