Catholic Hierarchy Engaged in Ethnic Cleansing

CC Campbell-Rock
Date Published: 
March 15, 2006


Archbishop removes beloved Black parish priest from the oldest Black Catholic church in U.S.

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” – John 8:32

“Archbishop Hughes called me at 11:29 this morning to inform me that he had heard the recommendation of the Appeals Board that St. Augustine Church be closed as a parish as of March 15, 2006. He concurs with that recommendation,” Rev. Jerome LeDoux, DWM, this week told parishioners.

(Right Photo, Tomb of the Unknown Slave)

LeDoux’s announcement signaled the end of his 16-year tenure at the oldest African American Roman Catholic Church in the United States.

“St. Augustine is among the parishes the archdiocese plans to consolidate as it seeks to deal with $84 million in uninsured losses,” according to an Associated Press report.

“The archdiocese is careful to point out that St. Augustine’s will only close as a parish but will still be open for mass on Sundays and some other functions like funerals and weddings.

“Its building suffered only wind damage from Katrina and will remain open. ‘Show up on Sunday, and you won’t miss a beat,’ said the Rev. William Maestri, a spokesman for the archdiocese.”

Father LeDoux, 76, one of few Black Catholic priests in New Orleans and undoubtedly the most beloved, will be replaced by a white priest, Rev. Michael Jacques.

The fact that Jacques is being brought in is a clear indication that the Archdiocese wants to get rid of LeDoux, who is know for hard-hitting but God-inspired columns in the Louisiana Weekly newspaper and other publications.

Repeated calls to the Archdiocese of New Orleans and emails from the San Francisco Bay View requesting comments were not returned or answered.

The loss of LeDoux’s unique ministry also represents the loss of control, by African Americans, of a national treasure and historic landmark.

Dedicated in 1842, St. Augustine Catholic Church, located at 1410 Governor Nicholls St. in New Orleans’ famed Treme neighborhood, the oldest Black subdivision in America, was partially financed by free people of color and built by freedmen and slaves alike.

In losing LeDoux, the parish of St. Augustine Catholic Church is also losing a 164-year tradition of serving the African-American community, as well as LeDoux’s inimitable masses.

His weekly celebrations of faith spoke to the souls of all parishioners. So popular were his masses that his Sunday mass attracted visitors from all over the world. And because LeDoux speaks at least five languages, he greeted and often conversed with celebrants from France, Germany, Sweden, Russia, and Rome in their own languages.

From jazzy versions of the “Our Father” prayer to the incorporation of the Negro spirituals, “This Little Light of Mine,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “We Shall Overcome,” and even the soul-stirring Motown hit, “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” when you attended Rev. LeDoux’s masses, you left with the gospel within and a respect and love for all humanity.

“The timing is very bad. St. Augustine’s is almost ready to resume worship,” added LeDoux, who says he will return to the Divine Word Missionary Seminary in Bay Saint Louis until he gets another assignment.

The appointment of Rev. Jacques, who sometimes wears kente cloth during masses at nearby St. Peter Claver Church, also a Black parish, is symbolic of the ethnic cleansing campaign being carried out by the Roman Catholic Church leadership in New Orleans.

Rev. Jacques made headlines last June when he joined Rabbi Ed Cohn of Temple Sinai in protesting the New Orleans Police Department’s contract with security expert Capt. Dennis Muhammad, CEO of ENOTA (Educating Neighborhoods to Obey Those in Authority).

Capt. Muhammad had been contracted to provide racial sensitivity training seminars to police officers. However, the fact that Muhammad had been the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s security director for 25 years immediately disqualified him in the eyes of Jacques and Cohn.

Although he had conducted successful workshops in New York and other states and also received a grant from a Jewish foundation to work with the NYPD, Muhammad’s track record didn’t persuade the men of the cloth.

Jacques said the Nation of Islam has “spoken so negatively” about Jews and Christians that it raises the question of whether the program is “really going to be the way for us to work together as a community.” according to WorldNetDaily.

“Cohn compared the Nation of Islam to the Ku Klux Klan and asserted that, ‘The character of any individual that associates with Louis Farrakhan is tainted,’” according to another news report.

The two raised so much hell that Muhammad’s contract with the NOPD was cancelled.

Apparently, Muhammad was tried and convicted, in the court of popular opinion, of guilt by association. It was the same fate that would befall LeDoux less than a year later.

In January 2006, St. Augustine Catholic Church played host to a multi-denominational ecumenical service. The event was to have taken place at Rev. Dwight Webster’s Christian Unity Baptist Church, but utilities had not yet been restored to that church.

Father LeDoux was called upon in the 12th hour to open his sanctuary to the gathering. St. Augustine had sustained only minor wind damage, so he agreed.

The event’s keynote speaker was the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Minister Farrakhan spoke at the service about how God punished Louisiana and that if the politicians continued to mistreat the least among them, Katrina would be only the first of many disaster to visit the city.

Moreover, during his annual Savior’s Day address, Farrakhan last week “condemned the role of the Roman Church as the mother of White supremacy and the global practice of slave-making, and its silence in the face of the 300 years that Black people were enslaved in this country,” according to The Final Call newspaper.

The Nation of Islam’s leader’s presence at St. Augustine coupled with his recent statement probably had a little to do with LeDoux getting his walking papers less than two months later.

However, the wholesale gentrification and ethnic cleansing that is going on in New Orleans today – from voter disenfranchisement to FEMA’s lack of response to developers and their redevelopment plans – is catching, and the Roman Catholic Church is doing its part to repel Black leadership such as LeDoux’s.

This is the same church that had Black people sitting on the back pews until the federal courts declared integration the law and the same church that collected money from the back pews while relegating Blacks to second-class status.

And Archbishop Alfred Hughes has a “tainted” past himself. He was the second in command to Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law, who was at the center of a major grand jury investigation of the pedophile priest scandal that rocked the nation.

“Law has insisted he left the disciplining of individual priests to his top subordinates – including Hughes, who served as Law’s chief operation officer and vicar of administration from November 1990 to January 1993,” according to the Providence Phoenix newspaper. Hughes also had to testify before the grand jury.

“In 1992, Hughes received a call from the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office regarding a Hingham pastor named Father John Hanlon, who had been indicted on child-rape charges. Hughes knew Hanlon had other victims. But he withheld the names of those who had complained to the Boston archdiocese,” the Providence Phoenix reported.

“Only a few other church officials have had access to the secret archives of the archdiocese of Boston during Law’s tenure. Among them was Law’s former second-in-command, Alfred C. Hughes, who is now archbishop of New Orleans.”

Hughes also last year boycotted a ceremony honoring the Landrieu family because both Mitch Landrieu, the state lieutenant governor who is now running for mayor, and his sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, support a woman’s right to choose.

However, Hughes, who has only been in New Orleans for the past five years, apparently couldn’t care less about the historical legacy of St. Augustine.

St. Augustine Church, named for Saint Augustine of Hippo, an African bishop who lived from 354 to 430, has been the church home to many of the city’s prominent free people of color, slaves and African Americans.

The property on which St. Augustine stands was part of the plantation estate which had been a tilery and brickyard headquarters built in 1720 by the Company of the Indies as an economic stimulus for the province.

In 1731, the plantation was sold to the Moreau family, eventually coming into the possession of Julie Moreau, a manumitted slave, in 1775. Claude Treme, a Frenchman, married Julie Moreau, thus taking title to the property.

They sold off lots to free people of color and others pouring in from the Old Quarter jammed with Haitian immigrants fleeing the bloody 1791 revolution in Haiti.

Later, Henriette Delille, a free woman of color, and Juliette Gaudin, a Cuban, began aiding slaves, orphan girls, the uneducated, the sick and the elderly among people of color around 1823. Today, Delille, who has been beatified, is being considered for sainthood.

The two women knelt publicly at the altar of St. Augustine Church on Nov. 21, 1842, and pledged to live in the community and serve its people. They founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family. The school they founded, the all-girls St. Mary’s Academy, recently merged with the all-boys St. Augustine High School and all-girls Xavier Preparatory High School.

Additionally, historical figures such as Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in Plessy vs. Ferguson, which resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” decision of May 18, 1896, and Alexander P. Tureaud Sr., a giant among civil rights attorneys, were members of St. Augustine Church.

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If you disagree with the termination of Rev. Jerome LeDoux, here’s what you can do: Write to Archbishop Hughes in care of Rev. Maestri at communications [at] archdiocese-no [dot] org"> communications [at] archdiocese-no [dot] org or call Bishop Morin at (504) 861-6262 or write to him at bishopmorin [at] archdiocese-no [dot] org"> bishopmorin [at] archdiocese-no [dot] org.

You can also write to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI at office [at] net [dot] va, or at the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, ornet [at] ossrom [dot] va, or call the Vatican switchboard, +39.06.6982, the Basilica of Saint Peter Sacristy, +39.06.69883712, or the Parish Office, +39.06.69885435 or +39.06.69883653; fax +39.06.69885793.

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CC Campbell-Rock, a native New Orleanian, veteran journalist and Katrina evacuee, is now the editor of the Bay View. Email her at campbellrock [at] sfbayview [dot] com"> campbellrock [at] sfbayview [dot] com.