Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday)

Catholic bishop opposed war and promoted social justice



DETROIT — Thomas Gumbleton, a Catholic bishop in Detroit who for decades was an internatio­nal voice against war and racism and an advocate for labor and social justice, died Thursday. He was 94.

Mr. Gumbleton’s death was announced by the Archdioces­e of Detroit, where he was a clergyman for more than 50 years. A cause was not disclosed.

Mr. Gumbleton became a national religious figure in the 1960s when he was urged by activist priests to oppose the U.S. role in the Vietnam War. He was a founding leader of Pax Christi USA, an American Catholic peace movement.

“Our participat­ion in it is gravely immoral,” Mr. Gumbleton said of the war, writing in The New York Times. “When Jesus faced his captors, He told Peter to put away his sword. It seems to me He is saying the same thing to the people of the United States in 1971.”

His opinions led to hate mail from people who said he was giving comfort to cowards, authors Frank Fromherz and Suzanne Sattler wrote in “No Guilty Bystander,” a 2023 book about Mr. Gumbleton.

The archdioces­e said he spoke out against war and met victims of violence in Iraq, Afghanista­n, Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Israel, the Palestinia­n territorie­s, Colombia, Haiti and Peru.

He was ordained a priest in 1956 and promoted to auxiliary bishop in 1968. He worked at numerous parishes but was best known for 20-plus years of leadership at St. Leo in Detroit, which had a large Black congregati­on. He retired from active ministry in 2006, the archdioces­e said.

In 2006, Mr. Gumbleton spoke in favor of legislatio­n in Colorado and Ohio to give sexual abuse victims more time to file lawsuits. He disclosed that he was inappropri­ately touched by a priest decades earlier.

Mr. Gumbleton in 2021 joined a Catholic cardinal and a group of bishops in expressing public support for LGBTQ+ youth and denouncing the bullying often directed at them.

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Thomas Gumbleton

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