After those events, Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the president's own party, accused Trump of using the Bible as a political prop, and numerous religious leaders made similar criticisms.
Gregory is the most prominent African-American Catholic in the U.S., and was by that point already a significant and impactful voice of Catholic leadership on racism, social justice, and police brutality in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd. It is not surprising that he wanted to address forcefully the president's handling of the country's turmoil.
Gregory's June 2 statement made headlines in major news outlets around the world. And a few days later, Gregory doubled down on his criticism of the visit.
Gregory did not say when he had learned of the event. But many Catholics speculated, given the force of the archbishop's statement, that he must have been caught by surprise, perhaps learning of it only when the White House had announced it the night before.
On June 7, a Crux analysis of the situation reported that "Gregory was not informed of the visit until Tuesday [sic] night when the White House issued a statement announcing it." The news agency said it had "independently confirmed" that "widely reported" fact.
Gregory has not disputed that reporting.
But later on June 7, the White House told CNA that Gregory had been invited to the event the week prior, and declined the invitation.
CNA obtained a May 30 note from Gregory's office, in which the archbishop declined the invite, and which mentioned that Gregory had personally discussed his inability to attend with a White House staffer on May 29.
The Archdiocese of Washington declined to answer questions from CNA about the timeline. A reporter said the archdiocese had not answered questions from the Washington Post as well.
Since CNA's June 8 report, Gregory has been frequently accused on social media of dishonesty. A small firestorm has begun.
It should be clear: Archbishop Gregory has not said on the record that he did not have prior knowledge of the event.
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And some Catholic voices seem to have taken advantage of this controversy to malign Gregory uncharitably and unfairly, for reasons that often seem partisan, in both the ecclesiastical and secular senses. He has been accused of on-the-record lying, while the facts do not support that account. Such demagoguery never proves useful, especially at fractious moments or on difficult issues.
But beyond the demagogues, Gregory is perceived by some Catholics to have misrepresented himself, failed to address competing reports about himself, and declined to answer questions about both the timeline and the reasons for a marked change in his tone, from a polite initial response to a subsequent forceful denunciation.
It is easy to speculate about the archbishop's reasons, but Gregory himself has not been willing to express them.
There is no reason to suspect that Gregory could not offer reasonable responses to the questions he's been asked. It is not clear why he has not yet done so.
In the calculus of Catholic morality, there are sins of commission, and sins of omission. Gregory has not committed an on-record act of dishonesty. But some Catholics who took his pledge seriously seem now to expect that an archbishop will not fail to omit details from public statements, or at least that he will clarify competing accounts, and will answer questions on significant and controversial issues.
These are, to be sure, unprecedented times. And Trump's visit to the shrine touched on a laundry list of controversial, serious and sensitive topics, especially for an African-American bishop in the nation's capital: The president himself, Catholic institutional alignment with Trump, racism, the protests roiling the country. Disagreement should be expected in a moment like this.