News Analysis

The big story: Archbishop Gregory appointed to Washington

A promise of truth: Archbishop Gregory (CNS)

What happened?

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta has been appointed as Archbishop of Washington, DC. He succeeds Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned after a storm of criticism over his handling of the abuse crisis.

At the press conference announcing his appointment, Archbishop Gregory said the bishops had too often tried to protect themselves by “circling the wagons”. The archbishop pledged: “I will always tell you the truth as I understand it.”

What people are saying

Philip Pullella of Reuters noted that Archbishop Gregory was “the first African-American” to occupy the Church’s “most senior US position”. Pullella noted that Gregory “is considered a progressive who prefers dialogue and has largely shunned the US Church’s often strident culture wars”.

At One Peter Five, Steve Skojec was apprehensive. The archbishop is, Skojec said, close to “the wrong kind of ecclesiastical figures, the wrong sorts of issues”. For instance, he invited the controversial priest Fr James Martin SJ to speak in Atlanta. He was also involved in the 2004 dispute over giving Communion to openly pro-abortion politicians: Archbishop Gregory seemed reluctant to impose such a prohibition, and received – along with then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – a letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger urging that sacramental discipline be upheld.

Ed Condon of the Catholic News Agency suggested that Archbishop Gregory could become “the face of transparency and reform” in the US hierarchy. Alternatively, “he could opt to see out his term quietly, restoring a sense of normalcy to a diocese hit hard by scandal.”

At Catholic Culture, Philip Lawler said Archbishop Gregory would soon face a test. His new archdiocese contained “the office of the Vatican nuncio”, whose files could answer Archbishop Viganò’s questions “about how McCarrick rose to power and kept his position despite reports of flagrant immorality. When the new archbishop calls for the opening of those files, we’ll know he’s committed to giving us the truth.”