Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a retired auxiliary bishop of the Detroit archdiocese, is a leading voice for peace, justice, and civil rights in the United States. He is a co-author of the 1983 U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference Pastoral Letter, "The Challenge of Peace." One of the first bishops to speak out against the Vietnam War, he is a founding member and past president of Pax Christi USA, the American Catholic peace movement. He is also a founder and former president of Bread for the World.
Since becoming a bishop in 1968, he has traveled throughout the world calling for an end to war and the abolition of nuclear weapons. He has spoken out courageously on behalf the victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic church, and he has advocated for the full participation and the rights of women and homosexuals in the Catholic Church. He has met with victims of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Israel, Palestine, Colombia, Haiti, and Peru. He led a delegation to visit the American hostages in Iran in 1979. Among his many awards and honorary degrees are the 2007 Detroit Spirit of MLK Award and numerous lifetime achievement awards for peacemaking. His homilies are read by thousands each week in the National Catholic Reporter. From 1983-2007 he was the pastor of St. Leo Parish, a vibrant church in inner-city Detroit. In January of 2007 he was forced by the archdiocese of Detroit to leave his post and his home at St. Leo's. He continues to serve the people of Detroit as a priest and bishop, and to travel the world speaking and working on behalf of victims of war, violence, and prejudice.
"I have observed the American Catholic Church closely the past 40 years, and the leadership of Bishop Tom Gumbleton strikes me as light in the darkness, one prescient on virtually all the issues of consequence these 40 years. He resides in an inner city parish in Detroit. Gumbleton opposed Vietnam, led the way on the Bishops' pastoral condemning nuclear weapons as incompatible with the Gospel, championed conscientious objection, and took up the cause of the oppressed in Latin America. He actually accompanied Aristide back to Haiti when Clinton restored him to the presidency in 1994. He was in Iraq working to prevent the first Gulf war in 1990. He led the way among the hierarchy on the rights of gays and passionately defended the sexually abused victims of wayward priests. Bishop Gumbleton has repeatedly asked his fellow bishops to unequivocally condemn the ongoing war in Iraq.
His is a monumental legacy, but the fate of many prophetic leaders is to be ostracized by the institutional powers. I think he's viewed as out of touch, too radical, a confirmed pacifist, not compatible with the thinking of the moderate majority. For many of us Tom Gumbleton is a "Giant" in the American church; his legacy will endure. Compassion is the life-line he brings to the people."
-Joe Bradley, Catholic Peace Fellowship, Philadelphia
(from the Catholic Peace Fellowship Newsletter February, 2006)
Selected Interviews and Articles
Interviews with Bishop Gumbleton:
Carry, B. "Bishop Thomas Gumbleton on transforming our world into an
image of 'the reign of God,' on becoming an 'artisan of peace' and following more closely the radical teachings of Jesus." (2006, Jan-Feb) Catholic Peace Voice.
McKabe, K. "Detroit's Radical Catholic: Interview with Bishop Thomas
Gumbleton" (2005, July-August) Critical Moment.
“As he turns 75, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton reflects on Pope Benedict XVI,
polarization within the Church, and the challenge to reach out to young
people.” (2005, May-June) Catholic Peace Voice.
“Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton of Detroit said Jan. 24 he was
The Catholic Church and Sex: Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton. [Television
broadcast] Frontline:John Paul II, The Millennial Pope. PBS.(1999)
Recent Articles About Bishop Gumbleton:
Meyer, N. Catholic bishop tackles Palestine cause (2008, May 30) Arab
Chittister, J. "Gumbleton: Nothing but the Truth." (2007, February 1)
National Catholic Reporter.
Cooperman, A. "Bishop Says Priest Abused Him as Teenager."
(2006, January 11) Washington Post, A30.
Crumm, D. and Montemurri, P. "Detroit's Pacifist Bishop Resigns."
(2006, January 26) Detroit Free Press.
"Gumbleton's departure.(Bishop Thomas Gumbleton told to leave Saint Leo
parish)." (2007, February 2) National Catholic Reporter.
"Gumbleton's Role Closes at St. Leo's." (2006, January 26) Detroit Free
"Gumbleton told to leave, parish learns." (2006, December 20)
Detroit Free Press.
"Gumbleton Writes To Calm St. Leo's Faithful." (2006, December 23)
Detroit Free Press.
Montemurri, P. "Parish hopes bishop can stay as pastor." (2006, January 30)
Detroit Free Press.
Montemurri, P. "Controversial leader preaches against war." (2005, February
15) Detroit Free Press.
"People's Pastor: May Bishop Gumbleton's Voice of Justice Carry On."
(2006, January 27) Detroit Free Press.
Montemurri, P. "Bishop, Diocese Dispute Efforts." (2006, January 16)
Detroit Free Press.
Gallagher, B. "Republicans profit from Iraq Misery" (2008, May 27th)
Niagara Falls Reporter.
1930 Born in Detroit, Michigan
1948 Graduation from Sacred Heart Seminary
1952 Bachelor of Arts degree from Sacred Heart
1956 Master of Divinity St. John's Pontifical
Ordained to priesthood
Associate pastor, St. Alphonsus Dearborn
1960 Named Assistant Chancellor, Archdiocese of
1964 Doctor of Canon Law, Pontifical Lateran
1965 Vice-Chancellor, Archdiocese of Detroit
1967 Pastor, Holy Ghost Church, Detroit
1968 Named Bishop
1972 Co-founds Pax Christi USA and serves as its
1973 Pastor, St. Aloysius, Detroit
Travels to Vietnam to investigate the
situation of political prisoners
1976 President, Bread for the World
1979 Travel to Iran as representative of NCCB to
visit with American hostages
1980 Co-founds Michigan Coalition for Human
1983 St. Leo Parish in Detroit is slated to be
closed, requests and receives appointment as
Participates in drafting the U.S. Bishop's
pastoral letter "Challenge of Peace"
1989 Travel to Vietnam as a delegate for
Reconciliation for Vietnam
1991 Founds and co-chairs the Catholic Caucus of
1997 Initiates U.S. Bishop's pastoral letter, "Always
Our Children" Takes first of several trips to
Iraq to investigate the impact of war and
sanctions on Iraqi people
1998 Travels to Iraq to challenge sanctions and to
deliver medical supplies to hospital
1999 Arrested with other religious leaders outside
the White House gate while protesting the
NATO bombing of Yugoslavia
2006 Testifies before the Ohio House Judiciary
Committee in support of Ohio Senate Bill 17
(legislation that would have opened a one-
year window for victims to file lawsuits over
sexual abuse regardless of the number of
Retirement as Bishop mandated by Pope
2007 Retirement from pastoral duties at St. Leo's
and change of residence mandated by
Vatican over objections from parish
Leads delegation to El Salvador, visits Iraqi
refugees in Jordan and Syria
Participates in Beatification Ceremony for
Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter in Linz, Austria.
present Numerous visits to Haiti with Johanna
Berrigan and others to aid earthquake
victims and to establish a Haitian-staffed
health clinic, Project Kay Lasante