December 25, 2020
By Katie Daniels
On November 28, Archbishop of Washington Wilton Gregory became the first African-American cardinal in a socially distanced ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. His appointment by Pope Francis comes during a period of political discord and renewed attention to racial injustice in the United States. Gregory said that his appointment was “a sign to the African-American community that the Catholic Church has a great reverence, respect and esteem for the people, for my people of color.” …
… Gregory was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2001, just as the sexual-abuse crisis began to make headlines in Boston and elsewhere. As president of the USCCB, he oversaw the groundbreaking document “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which established procedures for handling sexual-abuse allegations and set a “zero-tolerance” policy for priests found guilty of abuse. When Pope Francis appointed Gregory the seventh archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington in 2019, the area was still reeling from a new round of the sexual-abuse crisis. The previous cardinal, Donald Wuerl, had resigned amid the fallout from a Pennsylvania grand-jury report that accused him of mishandling clerical sex-abuse cases when he was the bishop of Pittsburgh. Wuerl’s predecessor, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, was defrocked after Rome received credible reports that he had sexually abused minors for years. “It’s not about the structures of the Church, it’s about the mistakes, the awful bad judgments that the Church made in not focusing on the people that had been harmed,” Gregory said in an interview with CNN. “We were so intent on caring about the clerics, priests, or bishops, that we did not see that the biggest pain to be endured was endured by the people that were hurt.”
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