18 janeiro 2014

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.

"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 ...

Heidi Schlumpf    |  Jan. 18, 2014 

[Heidi Schlumpf teaches communication at Aurora University outside Chicago.]

in NCR


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