Wilton Daniel Gregory

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His Excellency, The Most Reverend

Wilton Daniel Gregory
Archbishop of Washington
Wilton Gregory.JPG
Wilton Gregory (2007)
AppointedApril 4, 2019
InstalledMay 21, 2019
PredecessorDonald William Wuerl
OrdinationMay 9, 1973
by John Cody
ConsecrationDecember 13, 1983
by Joseph Bernardin, Alfred Leo Abramowicz, and Nevin William Hayes
Personal details
Born (1947-12-07) December 7, 1947 (age 72)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Nationality American
ResidenceWashington, DC
ParentsWilton, Sr.; Ethel
OccupationArchbishop, Clergyman
Previous post
Alma mater
MottoWe are the Lord's
Styles of
Wilton Daniel Gregory
Coat of arms of Wilton Daniel Gregory (Washington).svg
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleArchbishop

Wilton Daniel Gregory (born December 7, 1947) is an American prelate of the Catholic Church who is the Archbishop of Washington. He was the Archbishop of Atlanta, from 2005 to 2019, the Bishop of Belleville, Illinois, from 1994 to 2004, and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago from 1983 to 1994. He was president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from 2001 to 2004.


Early life and education[edit]

Wilton Gregory was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Wilton and Ethel (née Duncan) Gregory.[1] One of three children, he has two sisters: Elaine and Claudia.[2] Gregory's parents divorced when he was quite young, and his grandmother, Etta Mae Duncan, subsequently moved in with the family at their home on the South Side.[3] In 1958, he was enrolled at St. Carthage Grammar School, where he decided to become a priest before even converting to Catholicism.[2] He was baptized and received his First Communion in 1959, and was confirmed by Bishop Raymond P. Hillinger later that year.[2]

Gregory graduated from St. Carthage in 1961, and then attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary South and Niles College in Chicago, and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein.[1] After ordination, he completed a doctorate in liturgy (SLD) at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome.

Ordination and ministry[edit]

At the age of 25, he was ordained to the priesthood by John Cardinal Cody on May 9, 1973.[4] He engaged in advanced studies at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome and earned the Doctor of Sacred Liturgy degree.

Gregory performed pastoral work in Glenview at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Parish in Park Ridge, Illinois.[5] He also taught at Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary and served as a Master of Ceremonies under Cardinals Cody and Bernardin.

Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago[edit]

On October 31, 1983, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago and Titular Bishop of Oliva.[citation needed] Gregory received his episcopal consecration on the following December 13 from Cardinal Bernardin, with Bishops Alfred Abramowicz and Nevin Hayes, O.Carm., serving as co-consecrators.

Bishop of Belleville[edit]

Gregory remained in Chicago until December 29, 1993, when he was appointed the seventh Bishop of Belleville;[citation needed] he was installed on February 10, 1994.

From 2001 to 2004, Gregory served as the President of the USCCB, the first African-American to head an episcopal conference,[6] as Vice President from 1998 to 2001[7] and also Chairman of several committees. During his presidency, the American bishops issued the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" in response to Roman Catholic sex abuse cases. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees at The Catholic University of America. In 2002, in recognition of his handling of the sex abuse scandal with repeated apologies and the defrocking of priests, he was chosen as Time's Person of the Week.[8]

Archbishop of Atlanta[edit]

Coat of arms as Archbishop of Atlanta

Pope John Paul II, in one of his last episcopal appointments before his death, named Bishop Gregory the seventh Archbishop of Atlanta on December 9, 2004.[9] His installation took place on January 17, 2005.

Gregory has been active in the Roman Catholic Church in advocating for the prevention of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic religious, and for implementing policies to protect the faithful from sexual abuse by Roman Catholic religious.[3] He has been one of the leading bishops in the United States regarding this endeavor.[3]

Gregory wrote a bi-weekly column for the Roman Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, The Georgia Bulletin titled "What I have seen and heard".[10] In it, he regularly shared reflections about his faith, work, and experiences.[10]

Gregory was complimentary of Pope Francis's 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia. At a 2017 conference at Boston College, he described it as "a document that recognizes the real and serious problems and challenges facing families today, but at the same time it is a proclamation of hope through the mercy and grace of God." Gregory spoke of Pope Francis as someone who "challenges the church and its pastors to move beyond thinking that everything is black and white, so that we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth."[11]

In 2018, a group of Catholics started a petition urging Gregory to remove "pro-LGBT" Monsignor Henry Gracz of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta from his position as a spiritual advisor to victims of sexual abuse for allegedly going against Church teaching. Gregory refused, saying that "there are [were] no plans" to remove Gracz from his advisory role. He added, "Msgr. Gracz is following the admonition of Pope Francis to accompany people on the periphery of society. His priestly heart is not closed to those who find themselves misunderstood or rejected."[12]

Archbishop of Washington[edit]

On April 4, 2019, Pope Francis named Gregory Archbishop of Washington.[13][14] He was installed on May 21, 2019.[15]

In an interview on August 1, 2019, Gregory criticized rhetoric from President Donald Trump. "I fear that recent public comments by our president and others and the responses they have generated, have deepened divisions and diminished our national life," he said. He added, "The growing plague of offense and disrespect in speech and actions must end."[16]

When asked by a transgender person about whether there was a place for them in the Church, Gregory responded by saying, "You belong to the heart of this Church. And there is nothing that you may do, may say, that will ever rip you from the heart of this Church. There is a lot that has been said to you, about you, behind your back, that is painful and is sinful."[17]

On June 2, 2020, President Donald Trump visited the shrine to coincide with an executive order on religious freedom.[citation needed] Gregory condemned the president's visit saying "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, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree."[18][19][20][21]

On September 18, 2020, following Hebert Bevard's resignation as Bishop of Saint Thomas, Pope Francis appointed Gregory to serve as the Diocese of Saint Thomas' apostolic administrator.[22]

Residence controversy[edit]

In 2014, Gregory was widely criticized after the Archdiocese used $2.2 million from a bequest to build a new archbishop's residence on property donated to the church that would also serve as a banquet and conference facility.[23][a] On March 13, Gregory apologized to members of the Atlanta archdiocese:[23][28]

I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services. I failed to consider the example I was setting...To all of you, I apologize sincerely and from my heart.... It is my intention to move deliberately forward and to do a better job of listening than I did before.... If it is the will of these trusted representative groups, the Archdiocese will begin the process of selling the Habersham residence. I would look to purchase or rent something appropriate elsewhere.... I would never jeopardize the cherished and personal relationships I have built with so many of you over something that personally means so little after all.

In April 2014, Gregory announced he was planning to sell the house, though he had moved into it only three months earlier.[29]

Opposition to Safe Carry Protection Act[edit]

In 2014, Gregory announced his opposition to the passage of House Bill (H.B.) 60, the Safe Carry Protection Act, also known as the "Guns Everywhere" Law.[30][31] Gregory stated that guns will not be allowed in Roman Catholic churches in Georgia, but for those military and civil service personnel who are required to have them.[30][32] He stated that carrying guns in churches places vulnerable individuals, such as children, those who are disabled, and the elderly, at risk.[30][32] Gregory is further against the new law because it is against Jesus' teachings of peace.[30][32]

Gregory wrote:

And before this legislation takes effect in July, I will officially restrict the presence of weapons in our Catholic institutions except for those carried by the people that civic authorities have designated and trained to protect and guard us - and those who are duly authorized law and military officials. The last thing we need is more firearms in public places, especially in those frequented by children and the vulnerable...Rather than make guns more available as a solution, we need leaders in government and society who will speak against violence in all aspects of life and who teach ways of reconciliation and peace and who make justice, not vengeance, our goal.[30][33]

The Safe Carry Protection Act took effect on July 1, 2014. It permits licensed gun owners to carry guns into many public and private places, including churches, school property, bars, nightclubs, libraries, and some government buildings in Georgia.[31][32][34][35][36] The law was supported by the Georgia Baptist Convention which includes 3,600 Baptist churches in Georgia,[32] but is not supported by Catholic or Episcopalian church leaders.[32][37]


Gregory has been awarded Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Xavier University in Cincinnati, and McKendree University; Honorary Doctorates in Humanities from Lewis University and Saint Louis University; and an Honorary Doctorate in Theology from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.[citation needed] Gregory was also awarded an honorary degree from Boston College in 2018.[38]


  1. ^ The Atlanta Archdiocese had received a $15 million bequest[24] from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, a nephew of Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell.[25][26][27]


  1. ^ a b "The Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.
  2. ^ a b c Castranio, Mary Anne (December 16, 2004). "New Archbishop Will 'Come To Know The People'". The Georgia Bulletin.
  3. ^ a b c Bennett Kinnon, Joy (December 1, 2002). "Bishop Gregory: Powerful Black Bishop Helps Catholic Church Confront Sexual Abuse Problems and a New World". Ebony.
  4. ^ "Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory". Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
  5. ^ http://www.mswparish.org/about-us/128-parish-history.html
  6. ^ "Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, SLD : African American Catholic Bishops". August 8, 2003. Archived from the original on August 8, 2003.
  7. ^ "Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory".
  8. ^ Reaves, Jessica, "Person of the Week: Bishop Wilton Gregory", Time, April 25, 2002.
  9. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 09.12.2004" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. December 9, 2004. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  10. ^ a b "What I Have Seen and Heard", column home page, The Georgia Bulletin.
  11. ^ O'Loughlin, Michael J. (October 6, 2017). "Listen to families on 'Amoris Laetitia,' bishops and theologians say". America Magazine. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  12. ^ Poole, Shelia M.; Branch, Ben (September 4, 2018). "Catholic petitioners take offense to Atlanta pro-LGBTQ pastor's role". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  13. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 04.04.2019" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. April 4, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  14. ^ "Pope Francis Names Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory as New Archbishop of Washington". Archdiocese of Washington. April 4, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  15. ^ Rodrigo, Chris Mills (May 21, 2019). "DC archdiocese installs first African-American archbishop". The Hill. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  16. ^ "Gregory: Offensive speech, actions a 'growing plague' that 'must end'". Crux. August 1, 2019. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  17. ^ Martin, James (August 30, 2019). "What does a church open to L.G.B.T. Catholics look like?". America Magazine. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  18. ^ "Archbishop Wilton Gregory Issues Statement on Planned Presidential Visit". Archdiocese of Washington. June 2, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  19. ^ Jackson, David; Collins, Michael; Wu, Nicholas (June 2, 2020). "Washington archbishop denounces Trump visit to Catholic shrine as 'baffling' and 'reprehensible'". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett. Retrieved June 3, 2020. “I find it baffling that and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” Gregory said in a statement.
  20. ^ "George Floyd death: Archbishop attacks Trump as US unrest continues". BBC News. London: The British Broadcasting Corporation. June 2, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2020. Washington's Catholic Archbishop strongly criticised President Donald Trump's visit to a shrine as civil unrest continues in the US over the death of a black man in police custody. The visit "misused" and "manipulated" the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said, adding that he found it "baffling and reprehensible".
  21. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/06/02/trump-catholic-shrine-church-bible-protesters/
  22. ^ Catholic News Agency (September 18, 2020). "Pope accepts resignation of Bishop Bevard of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands". Crux. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  23. ^ a b Gregory, W.D. (March 31, 2014), "Commentary: The archbishop responds", The Georgia Bulletin, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, retrieved May 26, 2014
  24. ^ "Distribution of $15 million Joseph Mitchell bequest", The Georgia Bulletin, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, April 3, 2014, retrieved May 26, 2014
  25. ^ Margaret Mitchell heir leaves estate to Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archdiocese of Atlanta, Smyrna, GA: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, August 16, 2012, Chivers, P., Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  26. ^ Mitchell heir leaves millions, literary rights to Atlanta Archdiocese, Catholic News Service, Washington, DC: Catholic News Service, August 17, 2012, Keiser, G., Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  27. ^ Margaret Mitchell's nephew leaves estate to Atlanta Archdiocese, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta, GA: The Atlanta Journal Constitution, August 16, 2012, Poole, S., Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  28. ^ "Atlanta archbishop apologizes over $2.2M mansion". USA Today. April 1, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  29. ^ Associated Press (April 5, 2014). "Archbishop Says He Plans to Sell $2 Million Home". New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  30. ^ a b c d e Commentary: Decrying the state's new gun law, The Georgia Bulletin, Smyrna, GA: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, April 30, 2014, Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  31. ^ a b Georgia law allows guns in some schools, bars, churches, CNN.com, Atlanta, GA: Cable News Network/Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., April 23, 2014, Sayers, D.M. & McLaughlin, E.C., Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  32. ^ a b c d e f Georgia’s sweeping gun law sparks religious backlash, Time.com, May 5, 2014, Sanburn, J., Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  33. ^ Gregory, Wilton D. (May 1, 2014). Viewpoints: What I have seen and heard: Decrying the state's new gun law. The Georgia Bulletin. Smyrna, GA: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.
  34. ^ House Bill 60, Official Code of Georgia Annotated, Georgia House of Representatives, Atlanta, GA, 2014, Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  35. ^ Ga. governor signs 'guns everywhere' into law, USA Today, New York, NY: Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc., April 23, 2014, Copeland, L. & Richards, D., Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  36. ^ Georgia governor signs 'unprecedented' gun rights bill, The Huffington Post.com, The Huffington Post.com, LLC, April 23, 2014, Lavender, P., Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  37. ^ Catholic archbishop: No guns in my churches, Newsmax.com, West Palm Beach, FL: Newsmax Media, Inc., April 30, 2014, Burke, C., Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  38. ^ Sippell, Margeaux (May 21, 2018). "Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory urges BC graduates to heed power of words". Boston Globe. Retrieved February 24, 2019.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Donald William Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington
Preceded by
John Francis Donoghue
Archbishop of Atlanta
Succeeded by
Gregory John Hartmayer
Preceded by
Joseph Fiorenza
President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Succeeded by
William S. Skylstad
Preceded by
James Patrick Keleher
Bishop of Belleville
Succeeded by
Edward Kenneth Braxton