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ST. LOUIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - A leading conservative is calling on Washington's archbishop to apologize for criticizing President Trump's visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine.
In a personal letter, Ed Martin, executive director of Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, urged Abp. Wilton Gregory on Tuesday to walk back statements critical of Trump. Questioning the Shrine's decision to host the president, Gregory said he found 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."
The Shrine, anticipating criticism, included the following explanation (which has since been removed) on its website:
The White House originally scheduled this as an event for the president to sign an executive order on international religious freedom. This was fitting given St. John Paul II was a tireless advocate of religious liberty throughout his pontificate. International religious freedom receives widespread bipartisan support, including unanimous passage of legislation in defense of persecuted Christians and religious minorities around the world.
Martin makes a similar argument in his letter to Gregory. Echoing the cleric's own language, Martin tells the archbishop he finds it "baffling that on the 41st anniversary of the return of St. John Paul the Great to Warsaw in 1979, you would fail to see the importance of the United States supporting religious liberty throughout the world."
Abp. Gregory's use of the word "baffling" especially troubles Martin. "Shepherds of the Church should not be baffled. They should be telling the flock, 'Be not afraid,'" Martin told Church Militant. "In the history of world communism, June 2 is one of the most important dates. How partisan do you have to be, how shallow, to not understand or acknowledge the historic import of the American president's presence at St. John Paul's shrine on that date?"
Martin schools Gregory on the historic significance of the presidential event, explaining that St. John Paul's nine-day trip to Poland "was a watershed moment in the fight against world communism" and that many see that trip as "the end of Soviet oppression in Poland."
He also ties in Trump's Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom to the papal visit. "Millions were liberated and given their full religious freedom by his [St. John Paul's] courageous actions," said Martin.
After referencing the current scandals rocking the Church, Martin, a Catholic, told Gregory his statement "condemning President Trump is causing scandal." He advised the archbishop to retract the statement and to apologize.
Martin specifically called out the archbishop's political motive: "The blatantly partisan nature of your comments alienates half of your flock by expressing subjective political opinions rather than evangelizing using the objective truths of the Catholic faith," he said.
He recommended that as a shepherd, Gregory display a "more spiritual and less political attitude."
Gregory was recently criticized for claiming tear gas was used on protestors. This false assertion has since been debunked.
The appointment of Gregory as successor to disgraced Cdl. Donald Wuerl was a major disappointment to faithful Catholics. The D.C. archbishop is often considered the most important clerical position in the United States. This prominence, however, has been marred by a series of corrupt appointments.
For nearly 20 years, dishonorable men have led the archdiocese. In 2001, St. John Paul appointed Cdl. Theodore McCarrick; in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI appointed then- Abp. Donald Wuerl; and in 2019, Pope Francis appointed Gregory.
Gregory is distrusted by many Catholics owing to his support of homosexuality, exemplified by his aggressive promotion of Fr. James Martin. His recent criticism of Trump further reinforces his reputation as a leftist.