Portuguese American Journal

Book | The Life of Cardinal Humberto Medeiros of Boston | by Richard Gribble – Editor’s Note

Cardinal Humberto Medeiros served the Church as priest and bishop in Texas and Massachusetts. An immigrant from the Azores he utilized his superior intelligence, administrative ability, and language skills to move up rapidly in Church ranks. His work with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, both nationally and internationally, especially with migrant workers, was notable. Medeiros faced a perfect storm of social, political and religious issues in Boston. The author argues that despite the challenges he faced in Boston, Medeiros was true to the Church and his personal moral code, seeking always to serve others rather than be served by them in imitation of Christ.


Richard Gribble has produced a meticulous portrait of Humberto Medeiros, one of the most notable, yet most frequently overlooked U.S. Catholic leaders of the post-1945 era. Gribble carefully weighs the sources and helpfully explores the various contexts in which Medeiros’ life and ministry unfolded. We meet in these pages a priest and bishop whose immigrant experience paved the way for pioneering ministry to migrants and advocacy for racial justice. We meet a church official whose controversial outspokenness on sexual morality and consequential actions when facing clerical sexual abuse help explain some of the most significant developments in recent U.S. Catholic history. We meet a person of deep faith grappling with challenges of living in an ever more complex nation and world, a man prone to introspection and self-effacement, yet repeatedly enveloped in the public spotlight.

James P. McCartin, Fordham University

This book is the most comprehensive study, based on extensive archival sources, of Cardinal Medeiros and his times. Richard Gribble’s excellent biography of Medeiros—an immigrant from the Azores, a pre-Vatican II priest, theologian, peritus at Vatican II, and a post-Vatican II bishop—provides a balanced interpretation of his turbulent times and a judicious assessment of the successes and failures of post-Vatican II episcopal administration in the United States.

Patrick Carey, Marquette University

The first full-length study of one of the most significant yet misunderstood figures in modern American Catholicism. Part of the new generation of bishops who came of age during Vatican II, in Brownsville Medeiros was one of the first American prelates to preside over a majority-Latinx diocese. A person of action, he went where he believed his vocation led him, from brokering fair settlements between farm workers and growers to coping with the daunting problems of the Archdiocese of Boston during the busing crisis. Gribble also deals courageously with Medeiros’s disappointing attempts to deal with clergy sexual abuse.

Marian J. Barber, Catholic Archives of Texas

With his characteristic thorough research and clear prose, Fr. Richard Gribble has produced an important biography of a consequential Boston archbishop. He is sympathetic to the challenges faced by this humble son of Azorean immigrants in heavily Irish Boston. At the same time he is ruggedly honest about the shortcomings and failures of his tenure. Why Medeiros was appointed to this consequential archdiocese is still a mystery. This fine book is neither a hagiography nor a diatribe, but a balanced portrayal of an American prelate of note.

Steven M. Avella, Marquette University

Richard Gribble, C.S.C., an accomplished and studious biographer of Catholic prelates, has produced a superb account of the life of Humberto Cardinal Medeiros. In the final chapter of his life, he was Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, but his moral values emerged as an immigrant and working among the poor in Brownsville, Texas. Despite the looming consolidations of parishes, mounting financial challenges, and the emerging sexual abuse crisis, Medeiros remained focused on the mission of the church—serving the poor. Gribble’s careful scrutiny of the sources reveals a complicated life of Medeiros. In addition, Medeiros’ life points to the need for additional research on Portuguese Catholics in New England. A clear and crisp read.

James Carroll, Iona College

Well known for his work in religious biography, Fr. Richard Gribble has contributed substantially to our knowledge of a significant but often misunderstood leader within the American Church in post-conciliar times. From childhood in the Azores to Bishop of Brownsville, Humberto Medeiros was only partially prepared for his tenure as Cardinal Archbishop of Boston. Sympathetic but critical, mostly expository but interpretive in key areas, comprehensive but with clear case studies, built on substantial archival research and balanced in its assessment, this biography provides an excellent entry into local and national issues touching the Catholic Church in the United States from 1965 to 1983: implementation of Vatican II in liturgy, ecumenism, and justice; the challenges related to priestly life and ministry; a more inclusive role for women and the laity in general; commitment to the poor; and the difficult decisions, sometimes slowly and poorly handled, surrounding clerical misconduct. Highly recommended for those seeking to understand the difficulties and complexities of leadership in tumultuous times.

Joseph P. Chinnici, University of San Diego


About the Author

Father Richard Gribble, CSC, is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Theology at Stonehill College.


Book Details

Title: The Life of Cardinal Humberto Medeiros of Boston: Whatever God Wants

Author: Richard Gribble

Publisher‏: Lexington Books

Publication Date: October 15, 2021

Language‏: English

Hardcover‏: ‎364pp

Available @ Amazon.com


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