Wilton Gregory Is the Deep Church

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No one should be surprised by the recent revelation that Pope Francis believes that civil unions between same-sex couples ought to be legal. Just as no one should be surprised by the promotion of Wilton Gregory—Archbishop of Washington, D.C., oligarch, and political activist—to the College of Cardinals this past Sunday. The two are intimately connected, as many are probably aware. The character and quality of Francis’s papacy is abundantly clear by now and represents a continuation of the Catholic Church’s theological, cultural, and intellectual emphases since the mid-twentieth century. We should not be surprised when, fifty years hence the Church itself is performing same-sex marriages and nominating female cardinals. This is the path we are on.

One need look no further than the writings of Jacques Maritain and the mid-century papacies that shared his secular outlook, including John XXIII and Paul VI. Taylor Marshall’s recent book Infiltration (Crisis Publications, 2019) details the nefarious plans of Freemasons to destroy the church, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and culminating in the election of Pope Francis. He mentions the influence of the papacies of John XXIII and Paul VI in revolutionizing Church teachings, orienting it away from its historic spiritual mission and toward a secular pantheism. Although undoubtedly correct in identifying the pernicious influence of Freemasonry on the Church, Dr. Marshall omits the powerful cultural influences that have permeated the Church from within and without for at least the last century.

The spirit of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who has influenced not only the West’s idealistic understanding of democracy but also life itself, has arguably had a greater influence over Catholic thinking and teaching than has any other sect or individual in the last century. At first resistant to the type of thinking about life and politics that Rousseau advocated in his first and second discourses, the Church has since welcomed his interpretations of democracy, human nature, and the sanctification of earthly political projects. Maritain, for his part, helped to provide a Catholic veneer for Rousseau’s political religion of democracy. Maritain enjoyed an extended correspondence with the “community organizer” Saul Alinsky, encouraging him to publish Rules for Radicals. He also helped to facilitate three meetings between Alinsky and the future Pope Paul VI.

Second only to the Rousseauean influence on the modern Church is that of Marxism. We might recall the desire for communists to compromise the Church from within, a goal that has arguably been accomplished. We should also remember the explicit Democrat Party plan to launch a “Catholic Spring” prior to the 2016 election. In a leaked 2012 email, non-Catholic progressive political activist Sandy Newman suggests to John Podesta that he should “plant the seeds of a revolution” by capitalizing on divisions within U.S. Catholic thinking.

Archbishop Gregory seems to represent just the type of figure these political activists had envisioned leading the Catholic Church in a radically new direction. Known for his outspoken political beliefs—lately deriding President Donald Trump—as well as his profligate spending, Gregory signals the entrenchment of the left-wing ideology within the Catholic Establishment. Another in a growing list of social justice warriors who have confused the things of God and Caesar, Archbishop Gregory has made it his mission lately to decry Americans’ sins against racial justice.

In June of this year, he and the bishops of Maryland issued a letter sounding the now-familiar theme to look beyond mere prayer and the spiritual life and toward a comprehensive political program to ameliorate our worldly woes. They list the typical left-wing litany of demands on the state including “access to health and maternal care, meaningful educational opportunities, prison reforms, restorative justice initiatives, housing anti-discrimination efforts, juvenile justice reforms, and ending the grossly disparate practice of capital punishment.”

Bear in mind, Archbishop Gregory is a protege of Theodore McCarrick, his predecessor as Archbishop of Washington. Gregory was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when Pope Benedict XVI handed down a letter to the USCCB saying that pro-abortion politicians ought to be denied Holy Communion. He and McCarrick refused to share the letter with their brother bishops; worse, they said the Holy Father urged them not to deny Communion to the pro-aborts. It was a patent lie—one that has done incalculable harm to the Church’s pro-life witness. It was a great boon, however, to Catholic Democrats like Joe Biden and John Kerry.

John XXIII in the encyclical Pacem in Terris said that the “rights of man” ought to include everything from financial security to higher education to the right to emigration. Paul VI, who was canonized by Pope Francis, similarly argued for the spiritual necessity of the secular welfare state:

There must be made available to all men everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright norm of one’s own conscience, to protection of privacy and rightful freedom even in matters religious.

This dangerous intermingling of the Church’s spiritual mission to minister to souls and its self-appointed political mission suggests its commitment to the modern, secular belief that accomplishing material equality will bring about an attendant spiritual equality and liberation. The Marxian dialectic holds that economic and material conditions are definitive of human existence. Until material equality is accomplished through evolution and, more importantly, a revolution of existing social and political norms, human relationships will remain tainted and genuine moral behavior will be impossible. Morality and spiritual fulfillment are only possible, according to this philosophy of historical materialism, after social engineering programs have accomplished their aims in equalizing humanity.

Those who stood in the way of communist collectivization were considered existential threats to the realization of this New Jerusalem. Of course, the inner circle of communist governments who oversaw and administered the redistribution of property amassed tremendous power and wealth in the countries in which this rapacious behavior took place.

Wilton Gregory, another friend of the downtrodden, enjoyed lavish living in the $2.2 million mansion that he had built for himself in Atlanta until he was forced to sell it in 2014, pressured by unamused local parishioners. This mansion was an upgrade from his previous estate, which he sold for $1.9 million. Among other extravagances, his upgraded residence included a “safe-room” protected by two steel doors. It is certainly curious that an archbishop should need or want such protection, perhaps indicating something about the Mafioso quality of many in the Catholic hierarchy today.

Paradoxically, it is Donald Trump, a politician, who seems to be trying to further the spiritual mission of the Church to the chagrin of hierarchs like Archbishop Gregory. Of course, the Archbishop famously said that it was “baffling and reprehensible” that the John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C., allowed President Trump to pay a visit so he could sign an historic executive order on religious freedom.

It is Gregory’s statement that is baffling, excoriating a president for giving publicity to the Catholic Church and one of its most ardent defenders, John Paul II. He might have considered defending the right of President Trump and his supporters to exercise their freedom of speech and religious expression despite his disagreement.

Others have written about the Deep Church and its parallels with the Deep State in America and the West. Wilton Gregory is undoubtedly an establishment figure in the Deep Church and his promotion to cardinal signals the direction that the Catholic Church is going in entrenching a political theology that bears all of the marks of its secular influencers from Rousseau to Marx to Freemasonry to the modern Democrat Party of the United States.

Pope Francis, Wilton Gregory, and many others who follow this tradition seem to represent the dominant Catholic position today. On the other side, Pope Benedict XVI, Raymond Cardinal Burke, Robert Cardinal Sarah, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Bishop Joseph Strickland, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider to name a few, represent a very different understanding of Catholic teaching. These and others harken to the older, Augustinian tradition that stressed the separation of the things of God and Caesar and called on us to spiritual formation above all.

Politics cannot be a substitute for the faith. If there are in fact, two de facto Catholic churches, united in name only, we must wonder how long this can continue, for it cannot continue indefinitely. The gospel is clear on that point: “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

[Photo credit: Shawn Thew/AFP via Getty Images]

Emily Finley

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Emily Finley holds a Ph.D in Politics from The Catholic University of America and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University. She is the managing editor of Humanitas, an academic journal of politics and culture, published by the Center for the Study of Statesmanship.

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