Goodbye to Gumbleton

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 26, 2006

Well, it happened 37 years late, but the Holy See finally appears to have pulled the plug on Bishop Thomas Gumbleton. This from an open letter released yesterday:

On Thursday of this past week, Pope Benedict XVI accepted my resignation from the office of auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Maida. In the revised Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, there is a canon directing every bishop to request permission of the Pope to resign from the Episcopal office at the age of 75. For a variety of reasons when I turned 75 last year, I wrote a letter requesting that I not resign at that time.

During the past year I have carried on correspondence with Cardinal Giovanni Re, the head of the Congregation for Bishops, regarding this request. However, some time ago he indicated that my request to defer my resignation was not acceptable. Finally, I decided to end the discussion. On January 21, 2006, I wrote to Pope Benedict asking him to accept my resignation from my office as auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Maida.

To pinch a line from Tom Stoppard's Travesties, Gumbleton was a man "who wished his total indifference to public notice to be universally recognised." His humility was spectacularly well-photographed, and journalists managed to make his private austerities as famous as his heterodox opinions. A minor league Archbishop Tutu, Gumbleton somewhat too obviously relished celebrity and celebrities, and was frequently pictured at Leftist rallies squeezed shoulder to shoulder with Martin Sheen and Eleanor Smeal and the other stars that get to hold the banner at the front of the march. The graf below from a decade-old radical newsblatt, concerning a Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal demonstration, is typical:

A broad range of organizations and prominent individuals endorsed the demonstration, including former New Mexico governor Toney Anaya, actor Ed Asner, writer Alice Walker, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Jesse Jackson, and movie producer Oliver Stone.

Celebrated as a peace activist, Gumbleton has always been a strangely un-peaceful man himself. The homilies he posts at the NCR -- as a comparison with Mother Teresa's writings will show -- convey less love of the poor than bitterness at their oppressors: militarists, capitalists, ecclesiastics, etc. It's all about class warfare, in his view, and we shouldn't be surprised that his campaign for "peace" takes on that baleful truculence familiar from Marxist rhetoric. In latter years, Gumbleton added gay liberation to his roster of causes, and his recent announcement that, as a lad, he'd been sexually groped by a priest assured that he'd go out in a blaze of publicity.

Certainly the Vatican apparat Gumbleton so disparaged was lavish in its forbearance toward him. Were it half as intolerant as he claimed, he'd have been out selling vinyl siding by 1980. That makes me wonder whether this heartless institution realized that they had damaged goods on their hands, that his need for self-display was merely the surface symptom of a much deeper problem, and that, in charity, the best thing to do was to isolate his tantrums and leave him booting theological nerf balls in the basement of the NCR. The pastoral approach.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 27, 2006 10:16 AM ET USA

    I prefer the phrase "Mini-me" Tutu.

  • Posted by: Eleazar - Jan. 27, 2006 7:24 AM ET USA

    I hate to through cold water on the celebration, but this news may not be as good as it seems at first glance. Gumbleton will now have more time and less supervision. At least, when he was “Auxiliary to Cardinal Maida," he knew that he would occasionally see the Cardinal and therefore might have been a little more cautious. I actually expect to see and hear more from him, unless someone in the Vatican has the foresight to order him “silent” or cloistered. All the same, the end can't come soon.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 26, 2006 4:29 PM ET USA

    Ah yes. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of blessed forgetting. Of him Bill Buckley once deftly remarked "...he gives the impression of meddling even when he's not." Let's hope that this "minor league Archbishop Tutu" (well done, Uncle Di!) will join his mentor in the shady groves of oblivion. Soon.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 26, 2006 2:14 PM ET USA

    Bishop Gumbleton should have been removed a long time ago. He came to my diocese contradicting the Church's teaching on homosexuality and nothing happened. He also was blind to communism and similar totalitarian threats espousing a mindless pacifism and visceral anti-Americanism.

  • Posted by: Phil - Jan. 26, 2006 1:04 PM ET USA

    Sorry to complicate things, Uncle Di, but as of today the Vatican has not published any announcement about Bishop Gumbleton's resignation-- that is to say, it's not official. What the bishop is telling us, then, is that he has offered his resignation to the Pope-- 360 days after it was due. For that, he thinks a public announcement is necessary.