Washington D.C., Feb 15, 2021 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Washington thought the U.S. bishops’ statement for President Biden’s inauguration “ill-timed,” according to NBC’s “Today” co-host Al Roker on Monday.
At the end of an interview segment with Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. that aired Monday morning on NBC’s “Today,” Roker noted “areas of disagreement” between the Catholic Church and the new Biden administration, including on the issue of abortion.
Roker cited the Jan. 20 statement of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) on Biden’s inauguration, which had warned that some of Biden’s proposed policies would “advance moral evils.” Roker then reported Gregory’s take on the USCCB statement.
“Cardinal Gregory told me he felt the statement was quote ‘ill-timed,’ and reiterated that the Church and the President agree on many other things,” Roker said, emphasizing Gregory’s message of “dialogue” with the new administration
The Archdiocese of Washington did not immediately respond to CNA’s request for comment on Roker’s report.
Cardinal Gregory’s NBC interview aired on Monday as part of Today’s “Changemakers” series, and in honor of Black History Month. The cardinal discussed facing racism as an archbishop, and outlined how he would dialogue with the new Biden administration.
President Biden is only the second Catholic president in U.S. history. Cardinal Gregory has previously said he would dialogue directly with the Biden administration, and would not deny Communion to Biden despite the president’s support for legal abortion and same-sex marriage.
The Jan. 20 USCCB statement on Biden’s inauguration was initially withheld by the conference on the morning of the inauguration. The USCCB then released it around the same time that Pope Francis issued his statement on the inauguration.
In the USCCB statement, conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles offered prayers for Biden and said the bishops spoke not as partisans but with the aim of guiding consciences. Gomez noted the unusual circumstance of a Catholic occupying the White House for only the second time in U.S. history, and outlined policy areas of agreement and disagreement between Biden and the bishops.
On the “preeminent” issue of abortion and on other matters such as marriage and gender ideology, Biden has proposed policies “that would advance moral evils,” Gomez’ statement read.
In an unprecedented move later that day, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago tweeted his criticism of the USCCB statement. He called it “ill-considered” and claimed it circumvented the normal administrative procedure of the conference on issuing statements. Other U.S. bishops stated their support for Archbishop Gomez in their statements on Biden’s inauguration.
During his NBC interview on Monday, Cardinal Gregory said he would actively dialogue with President Biden on his policies that both align with and contradict Church teaching. The cardinal said he would do so respectfully.
“But there will be moments when I will be able to speak to him about faith, about the works that he’s trying to accomplish that we can be supportive of, but also areas where we’re not going to agree,” Gregory said.
In November, Cardinal Gregory said that in dialogue with the Biden administration, he hoped he wouldn’t “highlight” one issue “over the other.” While he did not appear alongside Biden as the president was sworn into office on Jan. 20, the cardinal stood near Biden on the evening before while offering a prayer for COVID-19 victims at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Cardinal Gregory also addressed the topic of racism in his interview with Roker. Gregory was the first African-American president of the USCCB in 2001, and became the first African-American cardinal in 2020.
When asked why it took so long for an African-American bishop to be made a cardinal, Gregory responded that “we’re still grappling with racism and with exclusion. That’s still a part of the world in which we live.”
“I don’t know of any African-American who hasn’t tasted the bitter cup of discrimination,” he said, noting that he and other African-American priests have had to deal with racism firsthand.
Gregory said that while he is treated with respect in his clerical garb, “if I take off my clerics to go out, I’m in the pool of every other African-American man in Washington.”
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