Is Archbishop Wilton Gregory the right man for Washington?


It’s (almost) official: Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta will be appointed the next Archbishop of Washington, according to Ed Condon of the Catholic News Agency.

The office has technically been vacant since the last archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, resigned in October.

Wuerl had been damaged by claims that he covered up sex abuse in his previous diocese of Pittsburgh.

He had also maintained – in the face of claims to the contrary – that he knew nothing about the predatory sexual activities of his notorious predecessor, Theodore McCarrick.

Washington is perhaps the most sought-after diocese for ambitious American bishops – but a particular kind of bishop.

While the Archbishop of New York finds himself rubbing shoulders with media and cultural luminaries, Washington’s archbishop has priceless access to lawmakers and political lobbyists.

McCarrick’s talents as a fundraiser and Wuerl’s masterful diplomacy served them well in the post.

But because Washington is at the very heart of the current sex-abuse crisis, the Vatican couldn’t afford simply to hand the see to the next bureaucrat in line.

The Vatican had to decide whether it wanted a reformer who would expose McCarrick’s network of enablers and fellow-predators – or, shall we say, someone more discreet, who would protect the Church’s public image.

Which role will Archbishop Gregory play, if he has indeed been chosen?

Gregory, who would be the first African-American Archbishop of Washington, served as president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from 2001 until 2004, leading the American bishops through the first chapters of the Spotlight revelations.

It was under his leadership that the USCCB drafted its protocols for handling allegations of predatory priests, known as the “Dallas Charter” – though McCarrick was its principal author.

In any event, Gregory certainly has more experience in dealing with the fallout from clerical sex abuse than most of his brother bishops.

He is not, however, the sort of reformer that conservative Catholics were hoping for. Continue reading

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