Loras College President Jim Collins (’84) released a statement to the campus community on Tuesday to share news of recently uncovered evidence regarding the College founder Bishop Mathias Loras’ involvement with slavery. This new information challenges the existing depictions of Bishop Loras and the College is taking steps to confront it.
As President Collins writes:
Doing a new, detailed analysis of historic documents and Bishop Loras’ unpublished personal financial ledgers, the researcher showed for the first time the extent of those transactions, leading to a new understanding of Bishop Loras’ participation in the system of slavery. While some previous biographers had established the basic facts of the Bishop’s slave ownership using his personal letters, the evidence recently uncovered by the researcher challenges past depictions of him.
Upon receiving this information, the administration sought the expertise of its history faculty, one of whom conducted additional in-depth research and confirmed that these facts are indisputable. Further, there is no evidence that Bishop Loras ever expressed remorse for his actions.
Slavery is an evil in any age, and its legacy of dehumanizing injustice persists. Bishop Loras’ abhorrent conduct is antithetical to the mission, vision, values, and Catholic identity of this institution. Consistent with these values, Loras College denounces racial injustice and hate in all its forms.
As a first step in honoring Marie Louise’s legacy, the Board will create a scholarship fund in her name, effective with the 2021-22 academic year. It will also create a scholarship fund in honor of the College’s first Black graduate and fifth Black priest to be ordained in the United States, Fr. Norman Dukette (’22) (effective with the 2021-22 academic year).
The statue of Bishop Loras will be removed from its current location and placed in storage until we have convened as a community to discuss the impact of this knowledge about our founder, and specifically, whether and in what context the statue could or should be displayed in the future.
With regard to our college’s name, and as expressed by the Regents, the educational experience beloved by our alumni, students, and faculty is not defined by the man. The ideals to which we aspire are and have always been far greater. The College will retain its name while we focus our energy and resources on accelerating and expanding efforts to advance human dignity, diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, and especially among our leadership, administration, and faculty. We know there is much work to do.
You can view President Collins’ full statement at this dedicated website, which will also serve as a resource to find new initiatives Loras College is pursuing in response to this evidence.