Matt C. Abbott
February 8, 2007
Bishop Gumbleton: gays "make love more humanely"
By Matt C. Abbott

Not surprisingly, I've received a few e-mails taking me to task for my previous column regarding Bishop Thomas Gumbleton. In that column, I quoted Catholic journalist Jay McNally.

McNally has more to say on the subject:

    Gumbleton is being hailed as some sort of hero for his supposed outspokenness regarding priestly sex scandals. I disagree. He has little credibility on this issue because, I believe, he was a participant in the obstruction of justice regarding pedophile priests about whom he surely had personal knowledge of their criminal behavior, and has yet to acknowledge any of it.

    A few questions:

    1) Can Bishop Gumbleton list any instances in which he went to the police to report this abuse? Let's see it.

    2) Has Bishop Gumbleton acknowledged his personal involvement in the cover-up of many priests we now know were sexual predators? Surely he had some dealings with the notorious pedophile Father Shirilla in the 1970s, when complaints were made to the chancery from victims. Gumbleton was running the archdiocese under Cardinal Dearden at that time. What was Gumbleton's role in the Shirilla episodes? How many times did he personally approve Shirilla being sent back into parishes and to teach at the seminary?

    3) Has Bishop Gumbleton ever provided testimony about his role in the cover-up? Has he ever explained exactly what the archdiocese did to prevent offending priests from being removed from ministry, and to keep them out of jail? Has he told us which of his peers are untrustworthy? I'd like to see it, if he did.

    Bishop Gumbleton has hardly come clean on his involvement.

    Back in 1993, I was told by the investigative reporter from the Detroit News who broke the story of Shirilla's misdeeds that one of his victims committed suicide. I often think of that young man when I see bishops pretend they were ever-so-innocent about what they were involved in, as they dodge and weave when asked simple questions about their own involvement in the situation.

    I spent virtually my whole life in the Archdiocese of Detroit and have often wondered why Gumbleton has taken contradictory positions.

    Back in the 1960s and '70s, for example, he was a major leader in trying to shut down all Catholic schools, especially in the City of Detroit. Cardinal Dearden called them 'bastions of racism,' and Gumbleton actually said there should not be Catholic schools because they create a ghetto mentality. Yet, only a few months ago, Gumbleton was protesting the closing of Catholic schools in Detroit and urging people to picket and write letters to the chancery.

    I don't think he has ever explained why he changed his mind. Such an explanation would, at least to me, require some kind of intellectual honesty in admitting he was dead wrong when he was in power, and offer an apology to the hundreds or even thousands of Catholic families he damaged by forcing the closing of the schools.

    Nowadays, he joins groups like Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful and adds his name to those protesting the way chanceries are run. He claims to want 'collaboration' and 'dialogue,' but back in the 1970s and '80s (which often seems like yesterday to me), he wielded his authority ruthlessly. I have spoken to many priests who bitterly complained that he was the worst kind of ideologue as an administrator, and 'punished' conservatives by assigning them to undesirable parishes.

    How does one change his stripes so easily?

Also, Randy Engel, author of The Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church, provided me with the following bits of information regarding Gumbleton:

    In March 1992, New Ways Ministry held its 'Third National Symposium on Lesbian and Gay People and Catholicism: The State of the Question' in Chicago. Five hundred people attended the event, including three members of the American hierarchy: Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Bishop William Hughes of Covington, Ky., and Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Mich.

    Gumbleton's statements in favor of homosexuality and 'gay rights' have frequently graced the pages of Bondings, the newsletter of New Ways Ministry.

    In June 1992, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the statement 'Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons.' The statement condemns civil legislation that directly or indirectly serves to legitimize homosexual acts or lifestyle. Bishop Gumbleton, along with Bishop Walter Sullivan of Richmond, Va., and Bishop Charles Buswell of Pueblo, Colo., signed a New Ways Ministry protest ad containing 1,621 signatures that appeared in the November 13, 1992 issue of the National Catholic Reporter.

    The ad was timed to coincide with the National Catholic Conference of Bishops' annual meeting in Washington, D.C. A copy of the ad was presented to former NCCB president Bishop James Malone of Youngstown, Ohio, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, and Archbishops Thomas J. Murphy of Seattle and John Quinn of San Francisco, who subsequently announced that their archdiocesan policies of defending human and civil rights for homosexuals would remain the same.

    On October 4, 1995, Bishop Gumbleton received New Ways Ministry's 'Bridge Building Award' for his advocacy of 'gay rights' and defense of Dignity and New Ways Ministry.

    Homosex is healthy sex, claims Gumbleton, who was ordained by John Cardinal Dearden in 1968 and has a brother, Dan, who is an avowed homosexual. At a 2002 New Ways Ministry pre-symposium conference for parents of homosexual children and pastoral ministers, the bishop explained that 'homosexual people are as healthy as anyone else,' and that 'somewhat surprisingly, they make love more humanely, largely because they are better able empathetically to feel what their partner is feeling.'

Engel says that in the 17 years of researching The Rite of Sodomy, including two years spent exclusively on New Ways Ministry, she never came upon any statement or article that indicated a serious concern on the part of Gumbleton or New Ways Ministry for victims of clerical pederasty.

"It was not until January 2006, when Gumbleton publicly stated that he was sexually abused as a teenager by a priest, that I began to hear his name in connection with his advocacy for victims of sex abuse," Engel said.

Gumbleton reportedly will receive Voice of the Faithful's "Priest of Integrity" award on Feb. 24, 2007.

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback from readers. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me. However, I reserve the right to forward and/or publish emails – complete with email addresses – that are accusatory, insulting or threatening in nature, even if those emails are marked confidential. Also, please be aware that RenewAmerica is not my website; RA's president and editor is Stephen Stone, who can be reached here. I'm just one of RA's columnists, for which I'm very grateful. I don't speak for the other RA columnists, so please don't email me to complain about what someone else has written. Thank you and God bless!)


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