Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Baffling and reprehensible

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 03, 2020

“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,” said Archbishop Wilton Gregory after President Donald Trump visited the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington.

Do you want to know what I find baffling and reprehensible, Archbishop Gregory?

I find it baffling and reprehensible:

  • … that a Catholic archbishop would issue a patently partisan statement at a time when our nation is already deeply divided.
  • … that any responsible leader would issue an inflammatory statement without checking the facts—and learning, in this case, that Trump’s visit to the Shrine was not connected with the demonstrations and riots in our cities, had been planned well in advance, and was intended to focus attention on the international quest for religious freedom—which, the last time I checked, was a cause that did not violate Catholic religious principles.
  • … that a Catholic prelate evidently didn’t bother to contact an important Catholic institution, to hear its side of the story, before issuing a public condemnation. The Knights of Columbus, who administer the St. John Paul II Shrine, have been scrupulously loyal to the Catholic hierarchy; they deserve at least this elementary courtesy in return.
  • …that a Catholic archbishop ripped into the President at a time when Trump was advancing a cause that is, in fact, unequivocally in accordance with Catholic principles. While at the Shrine, Trump signed an executive order that directs the US government to make religious freedom a high priority in foreign affairs, and provides funding for that campaign. Whatever else Catholics might think about White House initiatives, this one deserved support, not angry denunciation.
  • … that a Catholic pastor who has passively accepted the imposition of government restrictions which effectively prevent the public celebration of Mass would make a political matter—not the administration of the sacraments—his top priority.
  • … that Archbishop Gregory would be hypocritical enough to criticize someone else for allowing the manipulation of the Church for political purposes, when he has given over the pulpit of his cathedral to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose ardent defense of abortion on demand unquestionably “violates our religious principles.”
  • … and for that matter that Archbishop Gregory, who devoted a Pentecost Sunday statement to a condemnation of racism, so blithely overlooks the most evident display of racial disparity on our nation: the systematic extermination of African-Americans in the womb, aided and abetted by the liberal Catholic politicians who welcomed the archbishop’s latest petulant outburst.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: ILM - Nov. 06, 2020 11:37 AM ET USA

    His politics got him a red hat.

  • Posted by: khouri2014 - Jun. 12, 2020 12:39 PM ET USA

    The Archbishop is a sad, pathetic man who throughout his episcopacy has focused more on what the wrong people think than what the Church embodies and thinks. He was an architect of the Dallas Charter of 2002 that was cobbled together poorly and quickly because of media pressure. It unfairly opened all priests to false accusations and lack of due canonical process. He has consistently put the secular before the sacred. His partisan and political comments always follow the Democratic agenda.

  • Posted by: ptylermiddleton7124 - Jun. 09, 2020 1:56 AM ET USA

    Right on Phil. I agree with you 100%

  • Posted by: Jefesabella1011 - Jun. 06, 2020 2:25 AM ET USA

    Thank you, Phil. I already wrote to my own bishop about this kind of behavior in our clergy. I’ll likely send your remarks his way for further support of my anger at this blatant hypocrisy among some high ranking church officials.

  • Posted by: grateful1 - Jun. 05, 2020 7:10 PM ET USA

    I truly don't know what we'd do without you, Phil. "Shepherds" like Gregory are the reason I stopped donating to the USCCB years ago.

  • Posted by: gcreel8889204 - Jun. 05, 2020 6:49 PM ET USA

    Here's the email I sent Archbishop Gregory office. George Creel Wed, Jun 3, 9:37 AM (2 days ago) to communications I want to express my opinion about Archbishop Gregory's statement yesterday about Pres. Trump visit to JPII Center. I found his statement offensive and unwise and extraordinarily poor pastorally. It seems to reflect his political posture not the observation of a wise shepherd leading his flock. George C. Creel 900 Malvern Hill Drive Davidsonville, MD 21035 410-269-7556

  • Posted by: pclairegavin6676 - Jun. 05, 2020 7:37 AM ET USA

    thank you Phil Lawler-

  • Posted by: ILM - Jun. 04, 2020 9:53 PM ET USA

    May God bless you, Phil Lawler

  • Posted by: fwhermann3492 - Jun. 04, 2020 9:18 PM ET USA

    Is this the same archbishop who some fifteen years ago confidently assured everyone that the priestly sex abuse crises was a thing of the past?

  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Jun. 04, 2020 7:16 PM ET USA

    Amazing. You can even see the division within comments. We live in troubling times. ...we’re trading one clerical scandal for another. Please pray.

  • Posted by: tessermom3550 - Jun. 04, 2020 6:59 PM ET USA

    In addition to all Mr. Lawler has rightly observed, I would add, where was the ABp’s & Shrine’s pastoral presence? Here was a missed opportunity to invite the President into the Church to pray together for our nation & its leaders, & at Pentecost, to invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit in doing so, & to pray for peace. The ABp. & Episcopal clergy woman were both irresponsible & utterly disappointing!

  • Posted by: patbroem4361 - Jun. 04, 2020 12:58 PM ET USA

    Thank you for publishing this powerful retort to Archbishop Gregory's reprehensible, Indeed! actions regarding President Trump. What is happening on our streets, in our nation and in our church is spiritual warfare. To quote HH Pope Paul VI "From some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God." Many churches remain locked, The Eucharist has been taken from us, US bishops allowed it to happen.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 04, 2020 12:28 PM ET USA

    If it is actually the case that Trump's visit was arranged well in advance (even before Minnesota?), then any photo opportunity or "prop" would have been the symbol of him signing the religious freedom legislation in an appropriate venue. As usual, a smart symbolism.

  • Posted by: emkay - Jun. 04, 2020 10:31 AM ET USA

    Whether or not the Archbishop's statement was appropriate, the President's visit to the shrine was not of pure intent and neither was his visit the night before, Bible in hand, to the Episcopal church. No political figure of whatever party or persuasion should be allowed to use a church as a prop

  • Posted by: Montserrat - Jun. 04, 2020 10:30 AM ET USA

    Would that we had a pope with the mindset of Phil Lawlor - to rid the Church of its despicable, cowardly minions.

  • Posted by: Cory - Jun. 04, 2020 5:19 AM ET USA

    Aye, aye to what everyone else has said. Bravo! But to be realistic, it is easy to speak better when you are on the side of truth than when you lie. Hence your advantage :-)

  • Posted by: philtech2465 - Jun. 03, 2020 10:39 PM ET USA

    I'm not sure it was a good idea for Donald Trump and Melania to carry on this event in the current atmosphere. But it certainly was not wrong. Archbishop Gregory's response was blatantly political and wrong, especially given his warm relations with that Catholic pro-abortion politician named Nancy Pelosi.

  • Posted by: PTabbita5370 - Jun. 03, 2020 10:01 PM ET USA

    Fact check: You stated "While at the Shrine, Trump signed an executive order that directs the US government to make religious freedom a high priority in foreign affairs . . ." I think you will find that President Trump did not sign the EO at the Shrine, although that was the Shrine's expectation. He signed it later that day at the WH. It was a visit and that is OK. No public statement or discussion of the EO while at the Shrine. Phil Tabbita

  • Posted by: ph48 - Jun. 03, 2020 6:56 PM ET USA

    Well done. I am disappointed at my archbishop's diving into partisan politics and attacking a Catholic institution located in his archdiocese which honors the legacy of St. John Paul II. The President's visit was to promote respect for religious liberty. Ironically, the Little Sisters of The Poor are located right next door. Let's acknowledge how much the Administration has tried to help ensure their religious liberty.

  • Posted by: frauhahn19515444 - Jun. 03, 2020 6:48 PM ET USA

    Thank you for giving voice to the opinion of many Catholics, Mr. Lawler. I was so offended by Archbishop Gregory's statement. I do hope he sees and hears this.

  • Posted by: e_kise2585 - Jun. 03, 2020 3:28 PM ET USA

    Thank you, Mr. Lawler. Eloquently and succinctly stated, as usual. I am thoroughly disgusted by the "virtue signaling" of bishops who are obvious partisans; the same bishops who eagerly collaborated with Caesar to close our churches when we needed the sacraments the most. Pray for the Lord to send us true shepherds-and soon.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Jun. 03, 2020 2:55 PM ET USA

    Thank you Mr. Lawler for your courage in daring not being politically correct. Clearly, Archbishop Gregory is a worthy successor in Washington DC for his predecessors, one of which is, as we all know, Uncle Ted. Let us not forget to congratulate Pope Francis for his excellent choice.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Jun. 03, 2020 1:53 PM ET USA

    Gee Phil, couldn’t you make it a little stronger. This is what happens when a little pressure is put on a weak bishop. Just like their reaction to the Covington kids. Abo Gregory - we don’t care what you think.

  • Posted by: susanw - Jun. 03, 2020 1:24 PM ET USA

    Very well said. Thank you very much. Susan Wiant

  • Posted by: Sed contra - Jun. 03, 2020 1:07 PM ET USA

    Very well said, Phil, and so necessary. The archbishop's statement was a disgrace.

  • Posted by: filioque - Jun. 03, 2020 12:50 PM ET USA

    Oh, bravo! A thousand times bravo!

  • Posted by: FrHughM - Jun. 03, 2020 12:34 PM ET USA

    I wonder if he will now try to make sure that the shrine's side of the story gets equal coverage. I somehow doubt that the media will, in an election year.

  • Posted by: chancellor - Jun. 03, 2020 12:30 PM ET USA

    Thank you having the guts to say what the rest of us were thinking!

  • Posted by: feedback - Jun. 03, 2020 12:24 PM ET USA

    Amen! I, on the other hand, find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic prelate would allow himself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles. Where is the tolerance, welcoming, inclusiveness, gradualness, accompaniment, and where is "All are welcome, all are welcome in this place"? Even if Trump's visit to the shrine were not planned in advance, there'd be nothing wrong with the President going to church in a time of serious crisis