The previous year, a famous order of Catholic priests made a solemn commitment to raise the sum of one hundred million dollars in order to make amends for their role in the American slave trade. At the time, church officials and historians predicted that it would be the Roman Catholic Church’s most extensive attempt to date to make apologies for its role in the buying, selling, and slavery of African-Americans in the United States.
The Jesuit priest who is directing the efforts to raise money said that he had anticipated that his order would have received various gifts totaling multiple millions of dollars by this point, in addition to the original investment of fifteen million dollars that was made by the order. Instead, the trust that the Jesuits established in collaboration with a group of descendants whose ancestors were enslaved by the Catholic priests has only received a total of around 180 thousand dollars in the form of several little gifts.
The leader of the group of descendants that has partnered with the Jesuits sent a letter to Rome earlier this month, urging the Jesuit order’s worldwide leader to ensure that the American priests make good on their promise. This letter was written because the leader was alarmed by the slow pace of fund-raising.
According to the priests, the American Jesuits, who for more than a century depended on slave labour and the sale of slaves, had discussed plans the previous year to sell all of their surviving old plantation estates in Maryland, which were located in the state of Maryland. They explored the possibility of moving the money to the trust together with a share of the proceeds from an earlier plantation sale that had fetched $57 million. The funds from the trust will be transferred to a foundation, which will be used to support initiatives aimed at racial reconciliation, as well as fund programmes that help descendants (such as scholarships and funds for emergency needs), among other things.
However, according to Jesuit authorities and relatives, the sale of the remaining property has not yet taken place, and the money from the sale of land in the past have not yet been handed to the trust.
Mr. Stewart informed his readers in the letter that “hard-liners” inside the order held the stance that they “never enslaved anybody and so do not ‘owe’ anyone anything since they have never owned anyone as a slave.”
During the course of an interview, Mr. Stewart expressed his opinion that he thought the Jesuit leadership to be still dedicated to the collaboration. He went on to describe continuing meetings and talks.
In the letter that he sent to Father Sosa, he demanded that the American Jesuits meet the deadline for the sale of property and the transfer of revenues by the end of this year, and that they meet the deadline for the commitment of one hundred million dollars by the beginning of the next year. In addition to this, he requested that the order direct the transfer of a total of one billion dollars into the trust by the year 2029.
In the past, the descendants have requested that the Jesuits raise $1 billion for their organization’s foundation. The Jesuits have indicated that they are on board with it as a long-term objective; nevertheless, they have not committed to a timetable.
Through a spokeswoman, Father Sosa chose not to comment on the letter that was sent to him.
In a statement that was made public on Monday, the nation’s senior Jesuit leaders, including the Reverend Brian G. Paulson, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.
The Jesuits who are in negotiations with the descendants’ group over the former plantation lands stated that they had hired two outside firms to facilitate the sale of the remaining land, and that they were “in discussions” about the $57 million land sale and how a portion of the proceeds might benefit the descendants’ trust. These statements were made while the Jesuits were in negotiations with the descendants’ group over the former plantation lands.
As part of the Jesuits’ ongoing attempts to make apologies for their past of benefiting from slavery, the organisation made public in March 2021 a commitment to donate one hundred million dollars.
During the time that they made the news, they said that they had already put $15 million into the trust for the descendants. In addition to this, they had contracted the services of a fund-raising company with the intention of collecting the remaining $100 million over a period of three to five years.
In an interview, the Reverend Timothy P. Kesicki, who served as the former president of the Jesuit conference and assisted in the mediation of the initial agreement between the Jesuits and the group of descendants, stated that he understood their frustrations. Kesicki played a role in helping to broker the agreement between the Jesuits and the descendants.
Others who are familiar with the Jesuits’ efforts and Father Kesicki, who now serves as chair of the trust, have pointed out a number of challenges. These challenges include the organisational structure of the order, which requires multiple signoffs from multiple people on significant decisions, and the complexity involved in the land deals.
In addition to that, Father Kesicki said that it takes some time to construct a significant fundraising effort.