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Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Peace Activist & Advocate for Survivors of Church Sexual Abuse, Dies at 94

HeadlineApr 05, 2024

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a longtime leader in the U.S. Catholic peace and justice movement, has died at the age of 94 in Detroit. He helped found Pax Christi and Bread for the World and was a war tax resister. He was also a survivor of sexual abuse in the church who was forced to resign in 2007 after he spoke out publicly in favor of an Ohio bill to extend the statute of limitations for cases of sexual abuse by clergy. In 2013, Bishop Gumbleton spoke to Democracy Now! about his work with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton: “Well, what really opened my eyes was when a friend of mine — in fact, the person who started SNAP — came to me and asked me to intervene with the local bishop, because the priest who had abused her, and who had also abused other people that she was aware of, was still functioning. And I said, ’That’s impossible.’”

Amy Goodman: “You were the bishop of Detroit, and he was in Toledo.”

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton: “Well, I was an auxiliary bishop in Detroit. But I was a friend of Barbara Blaine, the founder of SNAP, from decades — for decades. And when she came to me and told me this, I said, 'Well, I'll go see the bishop, and I’ll talk to him, and I’m sure he’s not going to continue to keep this covered up.’ Well, I went to see him, and he assured me, ’I’ll do something about it. I’ll take care of it.’ So I took him at his word, but nothing ever happened. And so, that made me realize that some of the, well, best bishops around were not dealing with this issue the way it needed to be dealt with. I mean, it just was terribly wrong to allow a priest to continue to function in a situation where he could abuse other children. And it turned out he was still abusing other people. And so, that” —

Amy Goodman: “The priest was.”

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton: “Yes, and the bishop was allowing this to go on.”

That was Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who passed away Thursday at the age of 94.

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