Report: Pope Plans to Appoint Controversial Liberal Archbishop to D.C. Archdiocese

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory speaks during a Mass to repent clergy sexual abuse and to pray for molestation victims.

Reports that Pope Francis is planning to appoint the very liberal Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta to serve as the next archbishop of Washington, D.C., are giving many conservative Catholics heartburn.

Gregory, who would become the seventh archbishop of Washington, is expected to succeed Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned in disgrace last October in the wake of last year’s Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse in the clergy. In the grand jury's report, Wuerl was accused of helping to cover up the crimes of predatory priests while serving as the bishop of Pittsburgh.

Archbishop Viganò, the former nuncio from the Vatican to the United States, piled on with his bombshell letter last August, accusing both Cardinal Wuerl and Pope Francis of knowing about former D.C. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick's history of sexual abuse, and doing absolutely nothing about it.

As the church struggles to recover from this latest wave of sexual abuse scandals, Catholics are hoping and praying that a faithful prelate is appointed to the Washington archdiocese. At the very least, one would hope the candidate would not be linked to other disgraced, scandal-prone prelates.

Alas, this does not seem to be the case with Archbishop Gregory, a McCarrick crony with skeletons in his own closet.

Gregory has strong ties to McCarrick and the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, a highly influential progressive who, like Wuerl, helped hide priestly abuse in Chicago for decades.

For eleven years, Gregory was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago and considered a protegé of Bernardin as he promoted his "seamless garment" philosophy that considered social justice issues as morally pressing as abortion.

Gregory also worked closely with McCarrick when he was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001–2004. During the presidential election year of 2004, McCarrick and Gregory withheld a powerful memorandum that was sent to the U.S. bishops by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The memo was intended to be read at an upcoming bishops' conference in the United States.

In the memo -- which was leaked to the Italian magazine EsspressOnline a week after the conference -- the future Pope Benedict XVI clearly and precisely instructed the bishops to deny Eucharistic Communion to politicians who publicly support and campaign for abortion. Some of the passages appeared to have been drafted specifically with then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry in mind. Throughout his long senatorial career, Kerry had always vocally supported and voted in favor of abortion rights.

"Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia," Ratzinger wrote, "when a person's formal co-operation becomes manifest, his pastor should meet with him, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist."

The memo continued: "When these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it."

Ratzinger's memorandum was sent as a confidential letter during the first half of June 2004, to McCarrick and to the president of the bishops' conference, Wilton Gregory. 

The leaking of Cardinal Ratzinger's memo to the media reportedly embarrassed McCarrick because it starkly contradicted what he told fellow bishops during the conference on Catholics in Political Life: "I would emphasize that Cardinal Ratzinger clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors, and leaders, whether to pursue this path [of denying communion]. The question for us is not simply whether a denial of Communion is possible but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent."

The judgements of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are not binding on individual bishops, but Cardinal Ratzinger's views are believed to be identical to those of the Pope on the subject of abortion. "He is authentically representing the thoughts of the Holy Father," said a senior American Catholic commentator and frequent visitor to the Vatican.

When challenged over the discrepancy between his presentation of Cardinal Ratzinger's views and the leaked memo, the habitual liar McCarrick claimed that the leaked text was only "an incomplete and partial leak," but he refused to release any further communications from the Vatican. Gregory stayed mum about the memo as well.

According to Lifesite, Gregory, as head of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, "has displayed an uncritical willingness to accept LGBT ideology in defiance of the Church’s Magisterium."

Gregory has permitted the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to act as a  center for LGBT events, including LGBT potluck socials and participating in the city’s Pride Parade. Since 2014, he has also allowed the pro-homosexual and pro-transgenderism “Catholic” group,  Fortunate and Faithful Families, to hold retreats in his Atlanta Chancery, while personally saying Mass for the group.

The shrine’s pastor, who has shown himself to be at home operating within Atlanta’s gay subculture, was chosen by Archbishop Gregory to serve as a spiritual director for victims of sex abuse for the archdiocese.

In 2010,  two priests in Gregory's archdiocese were involved in a sordid gay sex scandal. A gay man named Dale Chappell told  CBS Atlanta that the priests had conspired to "use him for sex."

 He provided chief investigative reporter Wendy Saltzman with the text messages and pictures that document 5 years of inappropriate relationships, concealed behind closed doors in Atlanta's Catholic church.

Saltzman asked Chappell if he had physical sexual relationships with these two members of the clergy.

"Yes, I did. With both," he responded.

Chappell said he was the victim of the two priests' conspiracy, a plan that did the unthinkable: to break the priests' vows to God, and the church.

"I know they do not have good character, I can tell you that. Because they are liars. They are chronic liars, and they duped me not once, but twice," Chappell said.

Chappell said he met Juan Carlos Arce at Tripp’s gay bar in Atlanta.

"If you met this guy, you would never guess that he was a priest," Chappell said.

They started a homosexual relationship back in 2005, which Chappell said included having sex on church property.

"We were intimate in the rectory. I didn't know it was a rectory at the time," Chappell continued.

Chappell said he had no idea Arce was actually a Catholic priest at St. Joseph's Parish in Athens. When he found out, Chappell said he ended the relationship because it conflicted with his religious and moral values. Chappell said Arce told him he was a social worker with the Catholic church.

"In retrospect, I see clues that he was hiding what he did," Chappell said.

He said that's when Arce introduced him to another gay "friend," Juan Fernando Areiza, whom he later learned was a priest at St. Andrews Church in Roswell.

"Somehow, I believe they may have conspired together just to use me for sex," Chappell said.

Text messages and pictures Chappell provided to CBS Atlanta News confirm his allegations of these homosexual relationships, including dozens of texts with Areiza.

"Here's one that says, 'Miss you and love you,'" Chappell showed us.

He read another text. "It says, 'I realize that I am not honest since I broke the promises I did to be with you,'" Chappell read.

Incredibly, in June of 2018, Gregory appointed Areiza to be the pastor at a parish in Conyers, Georgia.

A conservative Catholic group expressed "grave reservations” about the appointment of Gregory as archbishop of Washington.

“We urge the Holy See to seek out a worthy candidate who is without ties to Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Mr. Theodore McCarrick, or Donald Cardinal Wuerl,” Catholic Laity for Orthodox Bishops and Reform stated in a press release.

The group said the Archdiocese of Washington has already suffered enough “through nearly 20 years of failed leadership.”

“First, under a Cardinal Archbishop who has finally been expelled from the clerical state for his predation on minors and adults under his jurisdiction, then under a Cardinal Archbishop who last October had to plead with Pope Francis to accept his resignation because of his failure to protect minors from priests who were sexual predators and his prevarications and evasions regarding his predecessor in Washington,” the group stated.

“The Archdiocese of Washington needs a worthy shepherd with a proven record of teaching and practicing the fullness of the Catholic Faith. We need a robust leader for Catholicism, with the Heart of Christ, focused on the Gospel message, not liberal politics,” they concluded.

One source told the Catholic News Agency that the likely appointment of Gregory "could still be subject to change, even close to the announcement if the Holy See or Gregory himself had reason to be concerned about his ability to address the problems relating to sexual abuse and misconduct that have plagued the Washington archdiocese."