Black Catholics in the Diocese of Brooklyn have feelings of "alienation, frustration and hope-lessness" attributable to "racism in the church," acording to a report presented to Bishop Francis J. Mugavero by the diocesan Council of Black Catholics.
The CBC report focused on lack of black clergy, the absence of blacks in diocesan offices, and the "insensitive and autocratic" closing and merging of parishes and parochial schools in poorer districts.
The CBC made its 13-page report public after a meeting with Mugavero. CBC vice president Laura Blackburne said after the meeting that the bishop "hasn't said no" to any of the 20 recommendations "but has not gone beyond saying yes to two."
Blackburne, a law student at St. John's University, said that Mugavero agreed to issue a pastoral letter on racism.
According to CBC president Paul Martin, there are several hundred CBC members among the approximately 60,000 black Catholics in the diocese, which has a total Catholic population of 1.5 million.
The report, which was based on a survey of CBC members, said the "most obvious" issue requiring action related to black vocations. "Regarding the paucity of black clergy," the report said, "it is not that they are not fit to be priests but that something is discouraging young men from the priesthood." The report called for "race-sensitive, aggressive recruitment programs" for candidates for religious life.
"The bishop has continually demonstated his concern for the needs of racial and ethnic groups that make up the diocese. He has shown his support through diocesan social and educational services. Mugavero is known as being sensitive to the needs of the people," the report said.
The Rev. John Casey, one of the authors of the report, indicated that the Catholic Church's concern is not getting through to the black community. "This report reflects what the people feel. The recommendations are on target," the priest said.