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Priestly potshots: Traditionalist priest in Georgia calls Black spirituality "emotionalism"

Traditionalist rhetoric from a Catholic priest in Georgia reveals anti-Black sentiments and half-told histories.

Our first entry in "Priestly Potshots", an ongoing series in which we will report on anti-Blackness among Catholic clergy.

In a recent blog post, Father Allan J. McDonald, of the Diocese of Savannah, criticized both the Black Church and the Catholic Church writ large, the latter for its commitment to the reforms of Vatican II—namely the New Mass.

The Italian-born McDonald, pastor of Saint Anne Church in Richmond Hill and a member of the Diocesan College of Consultors, posts regularly on his "Southern Orders" blog along these lines.

Published on Friday, the post—like the rest of the blog—does "not necessarily reflect the views of [McDonald's] bishop or the Diocese of Savannah or the Catholic Church".

It does, however, reflect the views of Traditionalist Catholics (a not insignificant group within the U.S. Church), views which include disdain for, among other things, the Gospel Mass tradition seen in most all Black Catholic parishes.

Through this tradition many Black Catholics share with the larger Black Church a distinct and reverent (though not necessarily quiet or reserved) spirituality and liturgy, though McDonald characterizes this patrimony as an "emotion-based... Black Protestant" affair.

The former Director of Liturgy for the Savannah diocese from 1985 to 1991, McDonald seemed unaware of the Black Catholic parishes and well-received Gospel Masses in his diocese—including one congregation each in the two cities of his former deanery, Macon and Augusta.

McDonald in his post harkened back to the days of "numerous African American parishes in our diocese, each of them having a parish school and [a] number of Black converts... primarily due to exposure to the Latin Mass and its sobriety".

Notably, Savannah's Catholic churches and schools weren't desegregated until September 1965. Vatican II concluded only 2 months later, having begun in 1962. English-language Masses in the United States came only after December 1963, initially on a limited basis.

While McDonald, like most Traditionalists, characterizes Vatican II as having caused a precipitous drop in conversions to Catholicism, Black Catholicism actually exploded in membership between 1940 and 1975—at least in part due to the Church's increasing integration of historic Black Christian traditions and worship, made possible by the council.

It is unclear whether McDonald, the Savannah diocese's Director of Vocations from 1986 to 1998, intended for the post to coincide with Black Catholic History Month.

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