Ed Martin, an ally and successor to the late right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly, slammed Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Wilton Gregory for criticizing President Donald Trump’s brief visit to the John Paul II Shrine Tuesday. Trump’s visit came while outrage was fresh from the violent removal of protesters near the White House Monday so Trump could stroll through Lafayette Park and wave a Bible at a photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Given the timing, many others viewed Trump’s visit as another cynical photo op, and Gregory released a statement that said:
I find 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, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree. Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.
Martin, a fervent Trump supporter, was outraged. He said Trump’s visit had been planned weeks in advance to commemorate the June 2 anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s first return to Poland as pope. “The scandal you are causing is dividing and upsetting,” Martin wrote in a letter to the archbishop Tuesday.
Martin wrote that Gregory’s statement about Trump was causing “scandal” and urged him to retract and apologize for it. “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,” Martin’s letter said.
On his podcast Tuesday, Martin went even further, saying Gregory was “making himself into a partisan hack.” Martin said he was not judging Gregory’s character but his conduct, which Martin called “terribly destructive, terribly hateful, terribly scandalous.”
Martin called Gregory’s statement “classic American social justice gobbledygook” and said it was “damaging to the body of Christ.”
“There is no teaching of the Catholic Church that allows an archbishop to judge others and to interject himself in the way he did that I know of,” Martin said.
“I, for one, am very tired of the Catholic leadership presuming that they get to speak for all of us,” Martin said, a statement that progressive Catholics may choose to remind Martin of when the bishops’ conference promotes anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ positions that most U.S. Catholics disagree with.
Gregory also released a statement Sunday decrying the “horror” of George Floyd’s death and other acts of racism.