Detroit archdiocese criticizes ‘racist and derogatory language’ from Church Militant

vigneron Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit. CNA file photo.

The Archdiocese of Detroit responded Thursday to a video produced by a website operating in the Detroit archdiocese, which it said used "racist and derogatory language" to describe the African-American Archbishop of Washington D.C.

The Church Militant website, which produces Catholic-themed articles and opinion videos, released a video June 11 entitled "AFRICAN QUEEN BUSTED LYING."

The video consists of commentary from Church Militant founder Michael Voris about recent events concerning, in his words, the "accused homosexual, Marxist bishop" of Washington D.C., Wilton Gregory.

In the video, Voris characterized Gregory as a "liar" and repeated a claim Church Militant has made in other videos, articles, and on social media, that Gregory is an "active homosexual" and has promoted active homosexual clergy to a "gay cabal" in the dioceses he has led.

On June 11, the archdiocese released a statement in response.

"The Archdiocese of Detroit has been made aware that an organization located in southeast Michigan has published racist and derogatory language in reference to Archbishop of Washington D.C. Wilton D. Gregory. The organization in question is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Archdiocese of Detroit," the statement said.

"Racist and derogatory speech wrongfully diminishes the God-given dignity of others. It is not in accord with the teachings of Christ," Archbishop Allen Vigneron added to that statement.

"As our nation continues its important conversation on racism, it is my hope that the faithful will turn from this and all other acts or attitudes which deny the inherent dignity shared by all people."

In remarks to CNA, an archdiocesan spokesperson issued a warning about the group.

The archdiocese "unequivocally condemns the offensive language used in reference to Archbishop Gregory and advises the faithful that Church Militant is not affiliated with, endorsed, or recommended by the Archdiocese of Detroit," archdiocesan communications director Holly Fournier told CNA June 12.

Fournier declined to comment on whether Vigneron has any further recourse to ecclesiastical penalties against Church Militant in light of the June 11 video, and whether he was considering taking any further action beyond the archdiocesan statement.

Archbishop Gregory has faced questions in recent days about his denunciation of President Donald Trump's June 2 visit to the John Paul II Shrine, which Gregory described as "baffling and reprehensible" given the current climate of political protest.

CNA reported June 8 that Gregory had, the week prior to the visit, declined an invitation to the president's event at the shrine.

Voris characterized Gregory as a "liar" for speaking out on the day of Trump's visit rather than on the day he declined the invitation.

He also claimed that "various priests who have been in his presence for more than three seconds" call Gregory "African Queen."

Church Militant did not respond to CNA's request for comment.

Christine Niles, senior producer at Church Militant, in a June 12 tweet repeated Voris' claim that the nickname is used by clergy and seminarians- none of whom Church Militant has named- behind Gregory's back.

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"'African' is his race. 'Queen' is a common term used by homosexuals to refer to other homosexuals. Thus, 'African Queen.' It's the name bandied about by clergy and seminarians about Abp. Gregory for years," Niles wrote.

In another tweet, she claimed "famed sex abuse expert and former priest Richard Sipe said [Gregory] is indeed homosexual."

Church Militant had on June 5 published a report claiming that Sipe had deemed Gregory an "active homosexual." This appears to be a reference to a 2006 document from Sipe in which he presented "A Preliminary Review of Sexual Orientation of Some American Bishops," and in which he noted that the list implied "no accusation of sexual activity on the part of anyone named."

Separately, Niles on June 12 defended the moniker "African Queen" as a "movie reference" to the 1951 film "The African Queen."

She dismissed myriad calls online from fellow Catholics to remove the video, many of whom urged Voris and the rest of the Church Militant staff to "go to confession."

"We're Catholics in good standing," Niles tweeted June 12.

In the same tweet, Niles said the archdiocese "has a habit of lying, and accused it of falsifying an allegation of rape against a priest, adding that "we don't really care what their opinion is about us. It's irrelevant," Niles said.

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The priest in question is Father Eduard Perrone, who the archdiocese temporarily removed from ministry in July 2019 and brought under a canonical investigation for an allegation of groping a former altar boy. The priest denies the allegations.

Church Militant has frequently accused the archdiocese of fabricating a rape charge against Perrone. The Archdiocese of Detroit has not responded directly to those allegations. Several staff members of Church Militant, including Voris, have said or posted online that they attend the parish Perrone led.

The conflict is not the first clash the group has had with American bishops.

In 2011, the Archdiocese of Detroit said that Church Militant, which was founded as "RealCatholicTV," should not use the word "Catholic" from its name. The group made a name change, while maintaining that the archdiocese did not have authority to require it, because the site was owned and headquartered elsewhere.

In 2015, then-Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said Church Militant "sow division wherever they tread," while the Philadelphia archdiocese said the "sole desire" of Church Militant "is to create division, confusion, and conflict within the Church. Actions of that nature run contrary to Christian tradition. Their reports are not to be taken seriously."

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