Saturday, November 8, 2014

Encouragement from our President

Here's an email I got back from President Obama recently:

Dolores, the hardest thing in politics is changing the status quo. The easiest thing is to get cynical.

The Republicans had a good night on Tuesday, Dolores -- but believe me when I tell you that our results were better because you stepped up, talked to your family and friends, and cast your ballot.

I want you to remember that we're making progress. There are workers who have jobs today who didn't have them before. There are millions of families who have health insurance today who didn't have it before. There are kids going to college today who didn't have the opportunity to go to college before.

So don't get cynical, Dolores. Cynicism didn't put a man on the moon. Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or built a business, or fed a young mind. Cynicism is a choice. And hope will always be a better choice.

I have hope for the next few years, and I have hope for what we're going to accomplish together.

Thank you so much, Dolores.

Barack Obama

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Still No African-American Cardinal

Pope Francis' recent appointment of Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington, to succeed Chicago's Cardinal George as leader of the Chicago archdiocese, is comparable to his elevation to the level of cardinal of Bishop Chibly Langlois of the Les Cayes diocese in Haiti, making Laglois Haiti's first cardinal.  Sitting archbishops in Haiti as well as in Chicago were by-passed.  Bishop Cupich's title was changed from bishop to archbishop.  It is conceivable that his title will be changed to that of cardinal.

The appointment of Archbishop Cupich has received raving reviews by the news media.  The only dissent appears to have come from representatives of the Survivors Network of those abused by priests (SNAP).  Representatives of the organization question some decisions Cupich made during his tenure in Spokane, Washington.  Archbishop Cupich has been described as being a moderate, while Chicago's Cardinal George has been described as being a conservative.  Archbishop Cupich has also been described as being in the mold of Pope Francis, having a preference for living simply and opposed to the ostentatious life-styles of many Roman Catholic hierarchical personalities.  

The fact still remains that, to date, there is only one African American archbishop and no African American cardinals.  The questions remains, will this insult reach the ear of Pope Francis, and if he becomes aware of the slight, will he make amends?  

The Chicago Office of the Diocesan Postulator has announced its completion of the investigation into the life and virtues of Father Augustus Tolton (1854-1897).  The ceremony of the sealing and binding of the dossier that will be dispatched to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is scheduled for Monday, September 29, 2014.  In 2010, Cardinal George appointed Bishop Joseph N. Perry to spearhead the investigation of Father Tolton's virtues.


Fortunately, there was never an issue over an exhumation of Father Tolton's body.  Not so regarding the body of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.  The dioceses of Peoria, Illinois and New York appear to be at odds regarding the exhumation of Archbishop Sheen's body.  An article in the September-October publication of the National Catholic Reporter reported on a disagreement between Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.  Bishop Jenky wants Bishop Sheen's body exhumed and buried in Peoria.  (Bishop Sheen was a native of Peoria.)  Cardinal Dolan has been accused of thwarting Bishop Sheen's expected beatification by "reneging on an agreement to return Bishop Sheen's body to Peoria."  Since his death in 1979, Bishop Sheen's remains have been sealed in a white marble crypt at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.  I was privileged to have been in the congregation when Bishop Sheen visited my church, Corpus Christi.

I have noted that Cardinal Dolan was the archbishop of the Milwaukee diocese from 2002 to 2009.  During his tenure in Milwaukee, he was accused of moving $57 million off the diocesan books into a cemetery trust fund in order to protect the money from damage suits by victims of sexual abuse by priests. It has been noted that much of the abuse took place before his appointment as archbishop of the diocese.  Also, Cardinal Dolan was accused of authorizing payments as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive to get them to agree to being dismissed from the priesthood.  This was estimated to have avoiding a lengthy process leading to dismissal and getting the accusers off the diocesan payroll.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Racist Cartoon Inappropriate

The situation regarding the racist cartoon that was reprinted in Milwaukee's official Catholic newspaper, The Catholic Herald, has recharged my discontent with the Catholic hierarchy.  A Milwaukee friend e-mailed me a copy of the cartoon.  It depicts caricatures of two African American males standing side-by-side.  One has his arms up saying "You're not helping, you know," and wearing a tee shirt that reads, "HANDS UP, DON'T SHOOT."  The figure standing next to him has his arms up holding a 42-inch TV wearing a tee shirt that reads, HANDS UP, JUST LOOT."  There does not appear to have been any immediate response from Archbishop Listecki.  According to e-mails I received, black Catholic well-known personalities living in Milwaukee are incensed and have been vocal in making their feelings known.  This is just another proof of insensitivity Catholic decision makers have in regards to African Americans.

Chicago's archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic New World, is replete with human interest stories.  It follows traditional Catholic doctrine in its editorials and has been my source in keeping up-to-date on ordinations of priests and deacons.

The Catholic hierarchy, like the mainstream decision makers, is delusional in its attempts to portray situations as if we live in a society with little racial overtones.  Of course, the growing victimization of African American and Latino males belies such thinking.

Another sample of the insensitivity of Catholic decision makers regarding African Americans is the passing-over of African American clerics regarding the appointment of cardinals.  I understand that the vetting process is underway regarding the successor to Chicago's Francis Cardinal George.

I have noted that a Haitian Bishop, Chibly Langlois, was elevated to the level of cardinal, being the first Haitian to achieve that level.  According Internet writings, two Haitian archbishops (Loius Ke`breau and Guire Poulard) were by-passed.  It was reported that at the time of Cardinal Langlois' appointment, Archbishop Poulard was his superior in the ecclesiastical province at Port-au-Prince.

There may be valid reasons for a bishop being elevated to the cardinal level, above that of an archbishop, but Cardinal Langlois' appointment appears to be a precursor of a possible trend to make cardinal appointments below the archbishop level.  Only time will tell whether this will figure into the continued ignoring of African Americans whose credentials and demonstrated commitment to the Roman Catholic Church doctrines make them worthy cardinal candidates.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Paul V. Kane's Recent Commentary / Cardinal George

In a recent widely-publicized commentary, Paul V. Kane describes Pope Francis as  "a rare man and gifted leader who lives the message of Jesus...and as one who seeks to convert the church..."  He goes on to suggest three needed reforms with which I agree:

        1) Dropping from 75 to 70 the mandatory retirements age for bishops and cardinals.
        2) Ending the celibacy requirement.
        3) Establishing a parish leadership council composed of lay women and men and eliminating the parish leadership model that "is built around an all-powerful pastor."

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in St. Peter's

His stated reason for dropping the mandatory age retirement is that, in the past, "church officials have found it more important to promote men into leadership positions whose orthodoxy and embrace of traditionalism were never questioned."  Many, he states, "were possessed by a severe theology that saw the church under siege in a hostile world."  Consequently, the age and inflexible leadership models came at an "enormous expense...It denied the advancement of sounder, more dynamic leaders willing to move in new directions..."  This, according to Kane, resulted in a massive exodus of good people from the church and "accompanied a wave of horrific child sex abuse scandals."  Kane applauded Pope Francis for publicly asking forgiveness for the scandal.

Kane pointed out that during the Church's first thousand years of priests, there was no rule baring their service due to marriage.  According to Kane, "the rule of celibacy arose mainly for human, not divine reasons" because "the motivation for keeping priests unmarried came as some bequeathed church land to their sons."  This prompted church decision makers to institute measures to protect church property.

Kane proposed that a papal commission be established, made up of lay Catholics and clergy to end the celibacy requirement.  He named two individuals he thought would make "ideal co-chairs of such a commission -- Archbishop Sean  O'Malley of Boston and Mary McAleese, wife, mother, canon lawyer and former president if Ireland."

Moving on . . .

It appears that Cardinal George's health has caused church leaders to seriously begin vetting candidates to replace him.  Gossipy news media personalities continue to publicize names they  project to be on the "short list."  Archbishop Wilton Gregory's name continues to be named by these media personalities.  THE CONTINUED SURFACING OF PEDOPHILE COMPLAINTS AND THE RESULTING PAY-OUTS FROM DIOCESAN COFFERS prompt me to question whether I should wish such a appointment on a cleric I admire and respect.  Nevertheless, without a doubt, Archbishop Gregory status is deserving of being elevated to the level of cardinal.

Recently, more lawsuits have been filed against the diocese in relation to former priest and convicted sex offender, Daniel McCormack.  His offenses took place under Cardinal George's watch.  As of March 2014 it has been reported that up to $2.1 million was paid an abuse victim.

Cardinal George has indicated his wish to have input in the vetting process.  Due to his weakened condition, his recent meeting with SNAP (Survivors Network of those abused by Priests) leaders was taped in the event his health does not permit him to testify in court.  Another such taping is scheduled for the future.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Replacing Chicago's Cardinal George

Recently, the names of two archbishops who were speculated to be on the short list of candidates to replace Chicago's Francis Cardinal George, are currently dealing with leadership issues in their respective diocese.

Cardinal Francis George presided over the blessing of the palms before mass at Holy Name Cathedral Sunday morning.

Employees in some of Seattle's Catholic dioceses are experiencing credit card fraud.  Their social security numbers have been usurped and they have been billed for purchases they never ordered.  Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, Georgia has been criticized for building and moving into a $2.2 million dollar residence.  The situations in both dioceses have placed the archbishops in compromising positions.  Speculators have now added to the list the name of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky.

Francis Cardinal George's cancer has recurred and he is undergoing aggressive chemotherapy.  It is questionable about how much longer he can effectively fulfill his diocesan duties.  He had hoped to travel to Rome for the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.  However, due to his health, he has followed his doctor's recommendation not to travel to Rome. 

He is quoted in Saturday's (4/12/14) issue of the Chicago Sun-Times as stating that the official process to replace him has not yet been launched, but that he has urged Catholic officials to start it.  He is further quoted as remarking, "the fact that my health is's just not fair to the archdiocese to have someone who may not be able to do the job as well as I believe it should be done...I'm not going to be dying I don't think in the next few months..."  He said, "Hopefully, the chemo will not only slow the cancer down, it will shrink whatever tumors are there and contain it."  He said that once his successor is chosen, he hopes to meet with him "to be able to be of service if he wants it...Inevitably after 17 years...I know a lot of people, and if he wants to ask questions, I will be available for service." 

Although Archbishop Sartain is in no way involved in the credit card scam in his diocese. It is having a devastating financial impact on employees in his diocese.  However, it is occurring on his "watch."  I understand that his is "pulling out all stops" to correct the situation.

On March 31, 2014, conservative Fox News Associated Press posted an article about Atlanta's Archbishop Gregory's purchase of a $2.2 million mansion.  There was speculation in the article that the purchase of the property was part of a real estate deal made possible by money by Joseph Mitchell 's estate.  Joseph Mitchell is said to be the nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of "Gone With the Wind," a Civil War epic that made his family wealthy.  When Mitchell died in 2011, according to the article, he left to the archdiocese as estate valued at more than $15 million on condition that it be used for "general religious and charitable purposes." 

Millions spent on Catholic clergy anger parishioners photo 

It was reported that Archbishop Gregory's intent in purchasing the $2.2 million property was to design a home with large meeting spaces and rooms for receptions and gatherings.  It was reported that cathedral officials were planning to expand the Archbishop's old home where its priests could live while freeing up space on the cathedral's cramped campus.  The Fox article listed tax record as one of its sources.

Archbishop Gregory responded immediately to the criticism, taking full responsibility for the purchase of the property.  According to an April 5, 2014 press release, Archbishop Gregory convened a meeting at the Chancery with three archdiocesan consultative groups to seek their counsel.  Following the meeting, Archbishop Gregory was quoted as saying, "After consultation with members who were available to attend, from the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, Archdiocesan Finance Council and the Council of Priests, and hundreds of well-meaning parishioners of differing points of view -- some who sent written observations -- as well as my own personal reflections and prayers, I have decided to sell the Habersham property and invest the proceeds from the sale into the needs of the Catholic community."

Archbishop Gregory's reported plan is to vacate the residence in May and to move to another archdiocesan property, not his previous residence.   

Archbishop Gregory's forthrightness, his humility and his impeccable record of leadership, definitely  make him worthy of being elevated to the level of Cardinal.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Replacing Chicago's Cardinal George

Now that Chicago's Cardinal George's cancer has recurred, it is just a matter of time when his replacement will be announced.  Grapevine predictors have stated that a short list of candidates are being vetted.  Of course, church officials have been mum regarding speculations. 


Two speculated to be on the short list are Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Settle and Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta.  One "plus" regarding Archbishop Sartain is that he was formerly bishop of Joliet.  

There can be no legitimate comparison between Archbishop Sartain and Archbishop Gregory.  Archbishop Gregory's roots as those of Cardinal George are in Chicago, both being born in Chicago.  Archbishop Gregory was not only born in Chicago, was educated in Chicago and received his priestly preparation in Chicago.  

He attended Chicago's St. Carthage Elementary School, Quigley Preparatory Seminary and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary.  He later earned his doctorate of Sacred Liturgy at the Ponifical Liturgical Institute in Rome.  He served at vice-chair and later chair of the National Conference of Bishops and is noted to being a very effective leader as Archbishop of Atlanta.

During the vetting process, I understand that candidates are given the option of making a decision not to be considered for the position.  I question who would turn down such an offer.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Where are the African-American cardinals?

The National Catholic Reporter recently assigned Hiedi Schlumpf to interviewed me and subsequently published the following article first in their Jan 31-Feb 13 weekend print edition and now on their web site:

Note: There were a few points I wanted to address:

1. I spoke of St. Xavier's having three African Americans in the Nursing Program, but I did not tell her that I was one of the three.
2. I told the interviewer that I was one of seven African Americans in the Liberal Arts Program and that the other six dropped out for various reasons and that I was the lone one to graduate.
3. I mentioned that I was a long-time member of Corpus Christi Church, but that it was at Holy Cross Church where my siblings and I were made to sit at the back of the church.

On the whole, the article was well-written and I am pleased with the overall effect which is to serve the purpose of focusing attention on the lack of African American cardinals.

Thank you, Hiedi Schlumpf & the National Catholic Reporter.

Here is the text of the article:

Where are the African-American cardinals?


When Pope Francis named 19 new cardinals Jan. 12, many Catholics cheered what seemed to be an emphasis on diversity, with half of the red hats going to bishops from non-European countries, including parts of the developing world.
But Dolores Foster Williams of Chicago was not exactly pleased.
"I didn't note any African-Americans on the list," said the 84-year-old Williams, who has made eradicating racism in the church her life's work.
A retired teacher and the author of Institutional Racism in the Catholic Church, Williams sees the lack of an African-American cardinal as the "undeniable tip of the church racism iceberg."
"The cardinals are the ones who elect the pope, so we have no representation there. Why aren't we at the table?" The answer, she says, is blatant racism and nepotism.
Preview theReligious Lifesection from our Feb. 14-27 edition.
"Caucasian priests who became cardinals were trained either in Diocesan seminaries or Order seminaries, and their upward progressions appear to have been fostered by influential individuals within those domains," Williams wrote on her blog in September.
And the elevation of African cardinals, while important, doesn't count, she says: "Africans and African-Americans are culturally different."
Williams spoke with NCR in December and again this week after the announcement of the new cardinals. With an apron around her waist and a gold cross around her neck, she welcomed me into her South Side of Chicago home, tastefully decorated with African art, and shared her own experiences of racism in the church.
"I'm not looking to make a name for myself," she said. "I'm not interested in being a spokesman for anything, but I feel it should be known. Something should be done."
In her book, Williams details the church's history of institutional racism, from the segregation of the past to the even more insidious, de facto segregated church attendance of today. That, combined with an unjust decline in support for struggling African-American congregations and schools, has led to the closing of black parishes all over the country, she says.
Williams' own parish, Corpus Christi in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, is struggling for its survival. She grew up in the parish but remembers African-Americans having to sit in the back of another church. After her parents divorced, she and her siblings spent some time at a Catholic home for children where, as the first African-Americans there, they once again were segregated at a separate dining table.
She had a more positive experience at St. Benedict the Moor, an all-black boarding school in Milwaukee, although she said that institution, too, had a history of racism. Still, Williams recalls the white nuns who taught there as "never doubting our ability to learn."
When she entered the liberal arts program at St. Xavier College in Chicago, Williams was one of three African-American students. The two others left, leaving Williams to graduate in 1951 as the first African-American in the program. She went on to earn a master's degree in education from Loyola University.
She and her husband moved into the Chatham neighborhood in the 1950s, when it was still predominantly white, and joined the solidly Irish St. Dorothy Parish. Outspoken about what she saw as issues in the school, Williams says she didn't fit in.
"I know there was a difference in the way they reacted to African-Americans versus Caucasians," she says. "I saw it as racial."
After a 36-year career in education with Chicago Public Schools, Williams completed the archdiocesan lay ministry program and has been involved in the National Black Catholic Congress. She also has written a history of St. Benedict the Moor School.
She tirelessly and energetically continues to speak out about her dream of an African-American cardinal, engaging anyone who will listen.
A recent letter to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago resulted in a response accompanied by a copy of his letter to parishes about racism. "Just a letter in a bulletin doesn't do it, as far as I'm concerned," Williams said.
Yet she is hopeful that Pope Francis, who has already shaken up the church with his open style and emphasis on justice, will turn his attention to what Williams calls "a sin in one sense more grievous than the priest abuse scandal, because more individuals have been affected."
With Cardinal George set to retire, Williams is campaigning for Bishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, an African-American Chicago native who served as president of the bishops' conference. "Of all the bishops I know, he would be the best one," she says. "He would be perfect."
[Heidi Schlumpf teaches communication at Aurora University outside Chicago.]
This story appeared in the Jan 31-Feb 13, 2014 print issue under the headline: Where are the African-American cardinals?