Thomas Gumbleton

The Most Reverend
Dr Thomas Gumbleton
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Detroit
Church Roman Catholic Church
See Archdiocese of Detroit
In office 1968–2006
Ordination 1956
Consecration March 4, 1968
Personal details
Born (1930-01-26) January 26, 1930
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Previous post Vicar General
Styles of
Thomas Gumbleton
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Bishop
Posthumous style not applicable

Thomas John Gumbleton (born January 26, 1930) is a retired Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Education and career

Born in Detroit in 1930, Gumbleton attended Sacred Heart Seminary High School, and later Sacred Heart Seminary. He then went on to study at St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, and also the Pontifical Lateran University. He earned a B.A. degree in 1952, a M.Div. degree in 1956, and then later earned a J.C.D in 1964. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 2, 1956, by Cardinal Edward Mooney.

In 1968 Gumbleton was made the Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and was later named Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit on March 4, 1968. He served as the pastor to a number of parishes including St. Aloysius, Holy Ghost and also at St. Leo's in Detroit until 2007.

Gumbleton founded the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights in December 1980 with former Episcopal Bishop Harry Coleman McGehee, Jr. and Rabbi Richard Hertz.[1][2]

Gumbleton has been awarded a number of honorary degrees, including an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from a number of Education Institutions.

Gumbleton was the founding president of Pax Christi USA in 1972. Pax Christi is an organisation devoted to promoting peace, and Bishop Gumbleton remains one of the organisation's "Ambassadors for the Peace".

Bishop Gumbleton has traveled extensively, given speeches, and has participated in prayer vigils and television and radio appearances. Gumbleton's Sunday homilies from St Leo's parish are documented by the National Catholic Reporter, where he also wrote a regular column.[3]


Civil disobedience

In 1999 he was arrested outside the White House along with eleven other anti-war protesters for disturbing the peace. Gumbleton has more recently been a very vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, being arrested once again outside the White House for engaging in civil disobedience; he was arrested along with United Methodist Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Jody Williams, and members of pacifist organisations.[4] Gumbleton is the only Roman Catholic bishop in America to have taken such action in protest of the war. Gumbleton has also in the past been arrested due to protests against nuclear weapons.

Catholic teaching regarding homosexuality

The bishop has written extensively on Catholic teaching regarding homosexuality. Gumbleton often draws from his personal experience of having a homosexual brother.[5] His brother Dan revealed to his family that he was a homosexual through a letter. Gumbleton has discussed how he had previously ignored the topic; however his brother's revelation, he said, forced him to consider the matter.

Gumbleton has consistently been a supporter of New Ways Ministry and has also called for homosexual priests and bishops to "come out" and be truthful to themselves and others.

During his time as bishop, Gumbleton wore a mitre at a church service on which were symbols of the cross, a rainbow and a pink triangle. The pink triangle caused particular complaints by some due to its history as a symbol of gay rights, after its use to identify homosexuals in Nazi Concentration Camps.[6]

Ordination of homosexuals

Gumbleton also came into the public eye before the Vatican's Instruction with regard to the ordination of homosexual men was released, arguing against Fr. Baker's article on the issue in America.[7]

Resignation controversy

In 2006, he gave a written testimony to the Ohio House Judiciary Committee that explained his support for a bill that would extend the statute of limitations to 20 years past the victim's 18th birthday, a bill opposed by Ohio bishops.

Gumbleton claimed that he was sexually abused by a priest as an adolescent while in the seminary. This attracted some media attention. He stated; "I don't want to exaggerate that I was terribly damaged. It was not the kind of sexual abuse that many of the victims experience", further adding, "They are intimidated, embarrassed, and they just bury it. I understand that", explaining that, "I never told my parents.... I never told anybody." Gumbleton spoke out as a measure to encourage Catholics who have been abused to make complaints through the official channels.[8]

Gumbleton was notified that, through his actions in this case, he had violated the solidarity of communio episcoporum (communion of bishops) in canon law. He said at a conference in 2011 that as a consequence he was forced to give up his position as pastor at St. Leo's in January 2007[9] and asked to resign from the office of auxiliary bishop.[10]

In 2012, Gumbleton signed the Catholic Scholars' Jubilee Declaration on reform of authority in the Catholic Church.[11]

Gumbleton was required under church law to submit his resignation when he turned 75. At that time, he petitioned to remain in office.[12] However, his request to remain there was denied.


Bishop Gumbleton has been presented with various awards during his lifetime.


  1. Montemurri, Patricia (March 15, 2013). "Retired Episcopalian Bishop H. Coleman McGehee has died at age 89". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  2. "Michigan Coalition for Human Rights – History". Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  3. National Catholic Reporter. French Against Vatican Sacking of "Red Cleric"
  4. Pax Christi. Civil Disobedience Action By Religious Leaders March 25, 2003
  5. National Catholic Reporter. Bishop Wants Clergy and Laity Out of the Closet March 21, 1997
  6. New Ways Ministry. 1995 Building Bridges Award Recipient 1995
  7. America. Yes, Gay Men Should Be Ordained September 30, 2002
  8. Washington Post. Bishop Says Priest Abused Him as Teenager January 11, 2006
  9. Sean, Michael. "Retired bishop asked to leave Detroit parish for testimony | National Catholic Reporter". Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  10. "Blog offline". Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  11. "Bishop Thomas Gumbleton".
  12. ""Pope retires liberal Bishop Gumbleton", ''Christian Century'', February 21, 2006". 2006-02-21. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
New position
Founding president of Pax Christi USA
Succeeded by
Walter Francis Sullivan
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