Very often being assigned a big diocese means a bishop is on track to become a cardinal, so it is no surprise to Vatican-watchers that Wilton Gregory will soon become a member of the College of Cardinals. He is a Black American “first” — but there are already some Black cardinals in the College of Cardinals. “Liberal” Catholics are, of course, jubilant about this elevation. Finally, a Black United States cardinal! It’s a magnificent Vatican Optics move.
While I am encouraged by Pope Francis’s other recent shots over the bow — the call to bless the civil unions of LGBTQ Catholics, the pokes at and our dictator, Donald Trump; his sticking it to Carlo Maria Viganò, and, now, the appointment of Wilton Gregory whom the ultra-right, Trumper-trads detest — and not just because he is Black — I recognize that this appointment is largely an optics measure. I like that Gregory criticized Trump on June of last year at the time of Trump’s visit to the shrine to the pope, but Gregory is a team player.
He speechified prettily that day but, like most of the bishops, he’s been silent on other forms of bigotry and in the context of the Vatican clergy sex abuse/ child rape crisis and cover up.
Wilton Gregory is a member and former president of the the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a moral cesspit at present. (A significant number of bishops, a majority, possibly, support the “re-election” of Donald Trump.’ Along with his fellow bishops, Gregory, who spoke out publicly following Trump’s hideous remarks about Baltimore, favors playing the peace-maker pastor for reporters, but continues to hold the silence in the matter of the Vatican clergy sex crime ring and cover up.
Rare would be the occasion on which would I fail to applaud increased political power in the hands of a Black man in these United States, but to ascend in that particular hierarchy often requires exchanging goodness for political power. The “Christ priests,” as I have come to think if them, are at found at the lowest tier of the quasi-militaristic structure of the hierarchy, and they don’t have political power. They are ‘Christ priests.’
Both of Gregory’s predecessors were Vatican clergy sex abuse/child rape culprits. Wuerl resigned/was removed for knowing about the rapes of children in his midst and failing to act on their behalf, and McCarrick was defrocked and removed for sexually abusing seminarians and raping children.
But take a look at Wilton Gregory’s installation mass in the basilica in D.C. Which took place in May of last year, for it offers so many glimpses of what making deals with this particular “devil” (I’m speaking metaphorically.) entails.
Go to the 21-minute mark to hear Donald Wuerl speak.
And where are the women? (Kellyanne Conway’s front row gleaming countenance notwithstanding.)
Read “Wilton Gregory Gets a Biretta” in its entirety on Indie Theology.
October 26, 2020
Revised February 15, 2021