.- One hundred and seventy-nine years ago, two Jesuit priests sold 272 persons at a slave auction. Their families were torn apart: many of them were shipped over a thousand miles to Louisiana, and many more were barred from practicing their Catholic faith by new slave masters.
Meanwhile, the Jesuit priests used the money they received from the sale to pay off debts for Georgetown University – the oldest Catholic university in the United States.
On April 18, Georgetown University and the Maryland Jesuits apologized for their roles in the slave sale and started their ongoing efforts to make amends for their actions.
At the time, the Vatican did approve the sale, but placed many conditions upon it, mandating that families not be separated, that the money not be used to pay off the school’s debt, and that the new owners respect the religious practice of the slaves – many of whom were baptized as Catholics.
Fr. Mulledy and Fr. McSherry met none of these conditions: families were separated, money was used to pay off the school’s debts, and investigators from the Holy See found that many of the slaves were barred from attending Catholic churches and receiving the sacraments once they arrived in Louisiana.
Fr. Mulledy was later called to Rome to defend his actions surrounding the slave sale to the superior of the Jesuit order and asked to resign from his post at the time as head of the order in the United States. Later he was allowed to return to the United States, was given a second term as president of Georgetown University, and founded the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.