Wilton Daniel Gregory

His Excellency, The Most Reverend
Wilton Daniel Gregory
Archbishop of Atlanta
Archdiocese Atlanta
Appointed December 9, 2004
Installed January 17, 2005
Predecessor John Francis Donoghue
Ordination May 9, 1973
by John Cody
Consecration December 13, 1983
by Joseph Bernardin, Alfred Leo Abramowicz, and Nevin William Hayes
Personal details
Born (1947-12-07) December 7, 1947
Chicago, Illinois
Nationality  American
Denomination Roman Catholic
Residence Georgia
Parents Wilton, Sr.; Ethel
Occupation Archbishop, Clergyman
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Styles of
Wilton Daniel Gregory
Reference style
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Archbishop

Wilton Daniel Gregory (born December 7, 1947) is an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who is the Archbishop of Atlanta.

Gregory was Bishop of Belleville, Illinois from 1993 to 2004, and Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago from 1983 to 1993). He was president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from 2001 to 2004.


Early life and education

Wilton Gregory was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Wilton and Ethel (née Duncan) Gregory.[1] One of three children, he has two sisters: Elaine and Claudia.[2] Gregory's parents divorced when he was quite young, and his grandmother, Etta Mae Duncan, subsequently moved in with the family at their home on the South Side.[3] In 1958, he was enrolled at St. Carthage Grammar School, where he decided to become a priest before even converting to Catholicism.[2] He was baptized and received his First Communion in 1959, and was confirmed by Bishop Raymond P. Hillinger later that year.[2]

Gregory graduated from St. Carthage in 1961, and then attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary South and Niles College in Chicago, and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein.[1]

Ordination and ministry

At the age of 25, he was ordained to the priesthood by John Cardinal Cody on May 9, 1973.[4] He continued his studies at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome, where he earned a doctorate in Sacred Liturgy in 1980.

Gregory performed pastoral work in Glenview at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Parish in Park Ridge, Illinois.[5] He also taught at Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary and served as a Master of Ceremonies under Cardinals Cody and Bernardin.

Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago

On October 31, 1983, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago and Titular Bishop of Oliva. Gregory received his episcopal consecration on the following December 13 from Cardinal Bernardin, with Bishops Alfred Abramowicz and Nevin Hayes, O.Carm., serving as co-consecrators.

Bishop of Belleville

Gregory remained in Chicago until December 29, 1993, when he was appointed the seventh Bishop of Belleville; he was installed on February 10, 1994.

From 2001 to 2004, Gregory served as the President of the USCCB, the first African American ever to head an episcopal conference, as Vice President from 1998 to 2001[6] and also Chairman of several committees. During his presidency, the American bishops issued the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" in response to Roman Catholic sex abuse cases. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees at The Catholic University of America. In 2002, in recognition of his handling of the sex abuse scandal with repeated apologies and the defrocking of priests, he was chosen as Time's Person of the Week.[7]

Archbishop of Atlanta

Pope John Paul II, in one of his last episcopal appointments before his death, named Bishop Gregory the seventh Archbishop of Atlanta on December 9, 2004, and his installation took place on January 17, 2005.

Before deciding to elevate Archbishop Daniel DiNardo of Houston to the Sacred College of Cardinals in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI had reportedly considered Archbishop Gregory for that honor.

In late October 2007, Gregory was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and had surgery in November of that same year.

Gregory has been active in the Roman Catholic Church in advocating for the prevention of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic religious, and for implementing policies to protect the faithful from sexual abuse by Roman Catholic religious.[3] He has been one of the leading bishops in the United States regarding this endeavor.[3]

Gregory writes a bi-weekly column for the Roman Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, The Georgia Bulletin titled "What I have seen and heard".[8] In it, he regularly shares reflections about his faith, work, and experiences.[8]

Mitchell bequest use controversy

It was revealed in 2014 that a large donation ($15 M)[9] was made by the estate of Joseph Mitchell, a nephew of Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, in favor of the archdiocese Gregory runs.[10][11][12] From that amount, he took $2.2 M to build a new archbishop's residence on property donated to the church that would also serve as a banquet and conference facility.[13] His action was widely criticized by local congregants for not adhering to the model of poverty and simplicity encouraged by Pope Francis.[13] He later apologized to members of the Atlanta archdiocese for this action.[13][14]

In the March 31, 2014 edition of The Georgia Bulletin, Gregory's commentary, in part, addresses this issue, includes his apology, and his promise to perform his duties better in the future:
I failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services. I failed to consider the example I was setting...To all of you, I apologize sincerely and from my heart.... It is my intention to move deliberately forward and to do a better job of listening than I did before.... If it is the will of these trusted representative groups, the Archdiocese will begin the process of selling the Habersham residence. I would look to purchase or rent something appropriate elsewhere.... I would never jeopardize the cherished and personal relationships I have built with so many of you over something that personally means so little after all.[13]

In April 2014, Gregory announced he was planning to sell the house, though he had moved into it only three months earlier.[15]

Opposition to Safe Carry Protection Act

In 2014, Gregory announced his opposition to the passage of House Bill (H.B.) 60, the Safe Carry Protection Act, also known as the "Guns Everywhere" Law.[16][17] Gregory stated that guns will not be allowed in Roman Catholic churches in Georgia, but for those military and civil service personnel who are required to have them.[16][18] He stated that carrying guns in churches places vulnerable individuals, such as children, those who are disabled, and the elderly, at risk.[16][18] Gregory is further against the new law because it is against Jesus' teachings of peace.[16][18]

Gregory wrote about his views on the topic in his column that regularly appears in The Georgia Bulletin, the Catholic newspaper of the Atlanta archdiocese.

In the May 1, 2014 edition of The Georgia Bulletin, Gregory writes about the new gun law, in part:
And before this legislation takes effect in July, I will officially restrict the presence of weapons in our Catholic institutions except for those carried by the people that civic authorities have designated and trained to protect and guard us - and those who are duly authorized law and military officials. The last thing we need is more firearms in public places, especially in those frequented by children and the vulnerable...Rather than make guns more available as a solution, we need leaders in government and society who will speak against violence in all aspects of life and who teach ways of reconciliation and peace and who make justice, not vengeance, our goal.[16][19]

The Safe Carry Protection Act is a controversial new law to take effect on July 1, 2014 that permits licensed gun owners to carry guns into many public and private places, including churches, school property, bars, nightclubs, libraries, and some government buildings in Georgia.[17][18][20][21][22][23] The law was supported by the Georgia Baptist Convention which includes 3,600 Baptist churches in Georgia in favor of increased church autonomy,[18] but is not supported by Catholic or Episcopalian church leaders due to their belief that it does not support Christian teachings.[18][24]


Gregory has been awarded Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Xavier University in Cincinnati, and McKendree University in Lebanon; Honorary Doctorates in Humanities from Lewis University in Romeoville and Saint Louis University in St. Louis; and an Honorary Doctorate in Theology from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

See also


  1. 1 2 "The Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.
  2. 1 2 3 Castranio, Mary Anne (2004-12-16). "New Archbishop Will 'Come To Know The People'". The Georgia Bulletin.
  3. 1 2 3 Bennett Kinnon, Joy (2002-12-01). "Bishop Gregory: Powerful Black Bishop Helps Catholic Church Confront Sexual Abuse Problems and a New World". Ebony.
  4. "Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory". Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
  5. http://www.mswparish.org/about-us/128-parish-history.html
  6. http://archatl.com/about/archbishop-and-bishops/most-reverend-wilton-d-gregory/
  7. Reaves, Jessica, "Person of the Week: Bishop Wilton Gregory", Time, Apr. 25, 2002.
  8. 1 2 "What I Have Seen and Heard", column home page, The Georgia Bulletin.
  9. Distribution of $15 million Joseph Mitchell bequest, The Georgia Bulletin, Smyrna, GA: The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, 3 April 2014, Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  10. Margaret Mitchell heir leaves estate to Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archdiocese of Atlanta, Smyrna, GA: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, 16 August 2012, Chivers, P., Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  11. Mitchell heir leaves millions, literary rights to Atlanta Archdiocese, Catholic News Service, Washington, DC: Catholic News Service, 17 August 2012, Keiser, G., Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  12. Margaret Mitchell's nephew leaves estate to Atlanta Archdiocese, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta, GA: The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 16 August 2012, Poole, S., Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Commentary: The archbishop responds, The Georgia Bulletin, Smyrna, GA: The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, 31 March 2014, Gregory, W.D., Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  14. "Atlanta archbishop apologizes over $2.2M mansion", column home page, Usa Today.
  15. Associated Press (5 April 2014). "Archbishop Says He Plans to Sell $2 Million Home". New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 Commentary: Decrying the state's new gun law, The Georgia Bulletin, Smyrna, GA: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, 30 April 2014, Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  17. 1 2 Georgia law allows guns in some schools, bars, churches, CNN.com, Atlanta, GA: Cable News Network/Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 23 April 2014, Sayers, D.M. & McLaughlin, E.C., Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Georgia’s sweeping gun law sparks religious backlash, Time.com, 5 May 2014, Sanburn, J., Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  19. Gregory, Wilton D. (May 1, 2014). Viewpoints: What I have seen and heard: Decrying the state's new gun law. The Georgia Bulletin. Smyrna, GA: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.
  20. House Bill 60, Official Code of Georgia Annotated, Georgia House of Representatives, Atlanta, GA, 2014, Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  21. Ga. governor signs 'guns everywhere' into law, USA Today, New York, NY: Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc., 23 April 2014, Copeland, L. & Richards, D., Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  22. Georgia governor signs 'unprecedented' gun rights bill, The Huffington Post.com, The Huffington Post.com, LLC, 23 April 2014, Lavender, P., Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  23. Georgia lawmakers pass controversial 'guns everywhere' bill, MSNBC.com, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 21 March 2014, Richinick, M., Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  24. Catholic archbishop: No guns in my churches, Newsmax.com, West Palm Beach, FL: Newsmax Media, Inc., 30 April 2014, Burke, C., Retrieved 25 May 2014.

External links

Episcopal succession

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John Francis Donoghue
Archbishop of Atlanta
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Joseph Fiorenza
President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Succeeded by
William S. Skylstad
Preceded by
James Patrick Keleher
Bishop of Belleville
Succeeded by
Edward Kenneth Braxton
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago
Succeeded by
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