Pioneering Rev. Clements paved the way for Cardinal Wilton Gregory

Chicago Sun-Times

November 1, 2020

By Laura Washington

Clements led Black Catholics out of the shadows of a Church that had underappreciated and unrecognized them.

Pope Francis will soon install Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., to the College of Cardinals. Roman Catholics — and, especially, Blacks like me — should celebrate this long-overdue arrival of the nation’s first African American cardinal.

Gregory was born, raised and ordained in Chicago. He served as associate pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview and taught at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein. He became an auxiliary bishop in 1983 and was later ordained the bishop of downstate Belleville.


As we celebrate, we must also remember. Remember there could be no Cardinal Wilton Gregory without the Rev. George Clements.

Clements, the iconic, pioneering cleric, was once the most famous Black priest in America. Last November, he died after a heart attack and stroke. He was 87.

Last year, Clements was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 1974 while he was pastor of Holy Angels.

In August, after an 11-month investigation, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Independent Review Board determined that, “in light of the information presented, there is not reasonable cause to believe that Fr. Clements sexually abused” the accuser when he was a minor.

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