Mission Helpers, Fr. Slattery, "Aftermath of the Dorsey Sermon," July 1904


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Mission Helpers, Fr. Slattery, "Aftermath of the Dorsey Sermon," July 1904


On June 22, 1902, Fr. Slattery gave a controversial sermon, with Cardinal Gibbons present, at the occasion of Father John Dorsey's first celebration of the Mass. Fr. Dorsey was one of the first two African American priests ordained in the United States. This document Fr. Slattery wrote two years later, in 1904, in response to his critics in the wake of that sermon. Two years later, in 1906, Fr. Slattery would leave the priesthood and the Catholic Church altogether, taking to writing anti-Catholic polemics. He died in 1926.

For further reading on John Slattery see:

Steven Ochs, "The Ordeal of the Black Priest," U.S. Catholic Historian 5 (1986): 45-66.

William Portier, "John R. Slattery's Vision for the Evangelization of American Blacks," U.S. Catholic Historian 5 (1986): 19-44.

William Portier, "Père Just's Hero-Martyr Secularized: John R. Slattery's Passage from Self-Sacrifice to 'Honest Manhood,'" U.S. Catholic Historian 17 (1999): 31-47.

Partial Transcription (Note: the brackets [ ] signify a note made by the person who transcribed the letter to this website in 2018 for ACUA; the brackets ( ) signify a note made by the individual who transcribed the document by hand in 1904, an individual who was not in full agreement with Fr. Slattery's arguments) :

"Our Leakage:
The Dorsey sermon has had to hear the odium of exaggeration. Someone, for instance, gave many figures in order to show the leakage in the American Church. None are in the sermon but its preacher was made to farther [sic] all these statistics. About a month later Father O'Hare of Greenpoint, [LR?] in a letter published in the New York "Freeman's Journal" roundly and passionately bewailed our loses coupling them with what he terms cynically 'Americanism'.

The New York "Evening Post" of November 22nd, 1902, gave a sketch of a public meeting in New York over which presided the Rev. Father McMahon. This pastor lamented that in New York the works of charity were left to the Charity Organization Society, the Christian Endeavorers, Howard Mission, etc, etc. One of the women speakers stated that of ten thousand Italian children baptized in New York within the last few years, only two thousand remained faithful to the Church. (Wonder how she knew; or how old they got in the "last few years") "Where are the other eight thousand?" While this meeting was intended to arouse the laity, yet many will see in the addresses very serious reflections on the four hundred priests and three or four thousand sisters of the Empire City. Miss Elder of New Orleans, a niece, it is reported, of Archbishop Elder, has for years been writing in various Catholic papers about our leakage. Nowhere have we read, however, that any of these was called an "apostate" or a "heretic."

Now my sole aim in calling attention, in a general way at that, to our leakage was to show that the one steady objection against the negro missionizing; their uselessness, waste of time and means, loss of brains and life, ought to cease.

How often we hear, nothing can be done with the negroes. The truth is: The leakage is among the whites, for the negroes for the most part were never Catholics. The only body of men, who deliberately set out to convert our non-Catholic country men, are the men on the negro missions (wonder how the Paulists would like that!) For years when this objection has been thrown at me, my answer has been in accord with the privilege of my Irish blood, to ask this question: "What are you doing for the Whites"? "What success have you among the Whites?" .....


The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart


The Mission Helpers' Collection




July 1904


The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, “Mission Helpers, Fr. Slattery, "Aftermath of the Dorsey Sermon," July 1904,” American Catholic History Classroom, accessed July 14, 2024, https://cuomeka.wrlc.org/items/show/1290.

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