The news is out: [NEW YORK (AP) — The history of Black Catholics in the U.S. is a dramatic mix of struggles and breakthroughs, but it has been largely ignored in the curriculum of Catholic schools. That may soon change.
Amid the national tumult over racial injustice, there are high-level calls for the schools to teach more about the church’s past links to slavery and segregation, and how Black Catholics persevered nonetheless.
In the archdioceses of Chicago and New Orleans, top leaders are encouraging their schools to place a new emphasis on teaching about racial justice, as well as the history of Black Catholics. The National Catholic Educational Association is forming an advisory committee to study how similar initiatives could be launched in the thousands of Catholic schools nationwide.
“The teaching of anti-racism is pretty strong in Catholic schools,” said Kathy Mears, the NCEA’s interim president. “But teaching the contributions of Black Catholics to our history is not where it should have been. Whatever we can do to correct this error, we’re all in.”
Scholars who’ve studied Black Catholics’ history have been harsh in their assessments — for example, detailing how numerous Catholic institutions and civic leaders were major slaveholders. Among them were Georgetown University, which last year pledged financial support to descendants of people it enslaved; several orders of nuns; and Charles Carroll of Maryland, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Even after the Civil War, many Catholic institutions practiced segregation, says Villanova University history professor Shannen Dee Williams. She has campaigned for this sobering history to be taught in every Catholic school and seminary.
“Black Catholic history reminds us that the Church was never an innocent bystander in the histories of colonialism, slavery or segregation,” Williams wrote in an email. “Black Catholic history encourages us to acknowledge, confront and atone for this painful history.”]
Guided by the 1st Amendment, and with all due respect, I must proclaim, in the nicest way possible, that any black person who walks into a church, any church, is a stupid idiot.