Wilton Gregory: The link between first African-American cardinal, 'Gone With The Wind' and a $2.2M mansion

Archbishop Wilton Gregory served thrice as the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and was picked by Pope Francis last year to lead the prestigious US capital diocese


                            Wilton Gregory: The link between first African-American cardinal, 'Gone With The Wind' and a $2.2M mansion
Wilton Gregory (Getty Images)

On Sunday, October 25, it was announced that Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory was among 13 new cardinals named by Pope Francis. He will become the first Black US prelate to earn the coveted red hat. Gregory served thrice as the head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and was picked by Francis last year to lead the prestigious US capital diocese. Francis made the surprise announcement from his studio window in St Peter's Square in Vatican City. He informed that the men would be elevated to the rank of cardinal on November 28.

He was also among a select group of Catholic leaders who criticized President Donald Trump for his photo in front of St John's Episcopal Church near the White House in 2020 during protests for the death of George Floyd. NBC News reports, Gregory had said that previous pope, John Paul II, would “not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace”.

The Guardian reports that Gregory has also been a frontrunner in addressing the church’s sexual abuse scandals and taking up a zero-tolerance policy. In a statement on October 25, he shared that becoming a cardinal would allow him to work more closely with the pontiff in caring for the church. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the pope’s decision. Gomez said, “Pope Francis is sending a powerful message of hope and inclusion to the church in the United States. The naming of the first African American cardinal from the United States gives us an opportunity to pause and offer thanks for the many gifts African American Catholics have given the church.”

Link between Archbishop Wilson Gregory and ‘Gone With The Wind’

In 2014, as reported by USA Today, Gregory, who was the Archbishop of Atlanta back then, had apologized for building a $2.2-million mansion for himself. The around 6,400 square-foot residence’s construction was made possible by a large donation from the estate of Joseph Mitchell. He was the nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of ‘Gone With The Wind’. In 2011, when Joseph died, he left an estate worth more than $15 million to the archdiocese on the condition it be used for “general religious and charitable purposes”.

Gregory who had faced criticism for the incident through emails, letters and phone calls, in a column posted on the website of the archdiocesan newspaper, The Georgia Bulletin, wrote, “I am disappointed that, while my advisors and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia.” He added, “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.”

Later, as reported by CBS News, he told the Associated Press (AP) that he will sell the house. He said, “I have decided to sell the Habersham property and invest the proceeds from that sale into the needs of the Catholic community.”

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