No Guilty Bystander

Orbis Books, Maryknoll

The extraordinary life and times of Catholic bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit

MARYKNOLL, N.Y. — Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. Racism, discrimination, civil rights. Labor and economic injustice. LGBTQ rights. Nuclear weapons and the arms race. El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti. Clergy sexual abuse. In his forty years as bishop of Detroit, Thomas Gumbleton engaged with crucial issues facing not only Catholics but all of American society in some of its most tumultuous decades.

A native of Detroit and child of the Depression, Gumbleton attributes his worldview to two events: the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and a visit to Cairo with two fellow priests. Searching for the place tradition holds that the Holy Family lived, he recalls “we began to come into a large area teeming with homeless people . . . living in the streets all the time, without access to water, food, or any clean clothing. . . Sooner or later, I knew I would have to act upon what I had experienced there.”

Named a bishop for Detroit in 1968 by Pope Paul VI, Gumbleton became known as a “peace bishop,” speaking out against the war in Vietnam and co-founding Pax Christi USA in 1972. The story of his work in drafting the US Bishops’ 1983 pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response” offers an unusually detailed look at how it developed in the context of both US society, Catholic teaching, and the Vatican of Pope John Paul II.

Gumbleton also initiated the Bishops’ 1997 pastoral letter, “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers.” He made humanitarian visits to Iraq; assessing the impact of the sanctions and the subsequent war. Often criticized for the stands he has taken, Gumbleton has remained even in retirement a man of faith in action. In his honor, royalties from the sale of No Guilty Bystander will benefit the Kay Lasante Health Clinic in Haiti which Gumbleton helped establish.

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No Guilty Bystander: The Extraordinary Life of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Frank Fromherz and Suzanne Sattler, IHM

PUB DATE June 29th, 2023

ISBN 978-1-62698-523-0 softcover 336pp., b/w photos. $30.00

Founded in 1970, Orbis Books publishes works that enlighten the mind, nourish the spirit and challenge the conscience. Orbis seeks to explore the global dimensions of Christian faith and mission, to invite dialogue with diverse cultures and religious traditions, and to serve the cause of reconciliation and peace. Learn more at or on Facebook at

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Bernadette Price
Orbis Books, Maryknoll
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.

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