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Fr. Augustus ToltonKSDK News/YouTube screenshot

QUINCY, Illinois (LifeSiteNews) – Rome is investigating possible miracles to advance the cause for canonization of Venerable Augustus Tolton, the first African American to rise from slave to Catholic priest in the United States.  

According to Catholic News Service, “The local ABC-TV affiliate in Quincy, where Father Augustus Tolton grew up and is buried, reported April 14 that Vatican representatives were in the United States to investigate possible miracles related to the priest’s sainthood cause.” However, the local news agency “provided no details as to what the alleged miracles under investigation might entail.”  

Father Tolton’s cause for sainthood is being promoted by Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Chicago, who is known for celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass but has also publicly sided with leftist bishops on Eucharistic worthiness. Bishop Perry calls Tolton an inspiration for our times and a model of holiness. 

“We still need models and examples of holy Christian lives these days,” Perry said last December. “They are needed inspirations for these times. I think we’d be in the throes of despair if we didn’t have these people to look back on.” 

Augustus Tolton was born a slave on a small farm in Northwest Missouri. He was baptized Catholic while a slave and later escaped with his mother to freedom in Quincy, lllinois. His father also escaped from slavery and joined the Union Army, before dying in a prison camp in Arkansas.

Preserving the faith of his baptism, Tolton decided to become a priest. At the time, however, no seminary in the States would take him, so he was sent to Rome for studies. Ordained to the priesthood in 1886 in the Pope’s Cathedral Basilica of St. John Lateran, the new Father Tolton celebrated his first Mass on Easter Day in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Originally intending to go as a missionary to Africa, where St. Charles Lawanga had just been martyred, Fr. Tolton was instead sent back to his hometown of Quincy in the U.S. There he served as a parish priest, making himself available to all, both blacks and whites, drawing the ire of other clergy for whom such things were socially tabooed.  

In the last years of his life, Tolton was invited to the Archdiocese of Chicago to serve the black community in the southern part of the city. There he built St. Monica’s Church, to become the first black national Catholic church, which was completed in 1893. Fr. Tolton died a few years later in 1897 at the age of 43. 

To help promote the cause of Fr. Tolton, Norbertine Father Gerard Jordan, assistant to Bishop Perry for Tolton’s canonization, has spearheaded the foundation of the Tolton Spirituality Center in Chicago. 

“Father Tolton’s life was a life of beautiful grace through long suffering,” Fr. Jordan said of the saintly priest. “For Christians, without the cross, there is no resurrection. Throughout his entire life, Father Tolton identified the graces and he never abandoned the opportunity to receive those graces. We’re going to take the life of Father Tolton and put it into practical application.” 

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By all accounts, Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres' diocese of Arecibo in Puerto Rico is flourishing because of his adherence to the perennial teachings of the Church.

But, without any formal proceedings, Bishop Fernández Torres has been summarily 'relieved' of his episcopal duties allegedly because he championed conscience rights in the face of a Church vaccine mandate in Puerto Rico.

Please SIGN this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres now.

To be clear, COVID-19 is a serious disease, oftentimes with debilitating consequences, or worse, for those who contract it.

However, all coronavirus vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have been tested on or produced with cell lines of aborted babies. And, the vaccines have been linked to serious side effects, while none has yet completed long-term testing.

Given the complexity of this issue, the Church has determined that getting vaccinated is a matter of personal discernment which each individual must make after informing his or her conscience.

As such, the Church teaches that there is no moral obligation to be vaccinated. Indeed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Church's teaching authority where faith and moral are concerned, issued a statement to that effect in December, 2020.

Specifically, the CDF's, “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines,” of December 17, 2020, n. 5 states: “At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

Therefore, it would appear that for simply restating the current teaching of the CDF and for opposing his brother bishops in Puerto Rico on this seminal matter of conscientious objection, Rome is now attempting to "cancel" Bishop Fernández Torres.

This is wrong, unfair and discriminatory!

And, Bishop Fernández Torres is hardly the first bishop to defend Church teaching on conscientious objection on the issue of mandatory vaccination. Both the Colorado and South Dakota bishops' conferences released similar statements, and like Bishop Fernández Torres, they also offered to validate religious exemptions for member of their flock who asked to be exempted from vaccination.

Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres.

For his part, Bishop Fernández Torres, 57, a staunch defender of life and family, protested his removal as "totally unjust" in a statement released Wednesday (3/9/2022).

The bishop, who led his diocese for nearly 12 years, noted that Pope Francis’ apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico verbally requested that he resign, but said that he refused to do so, as he "did not want to become an accomplice of a totally unjust action."

"No process has been made against me," Bishop Fernández Torres wrote, "nor have I been formally accused of anything, and simply one day the apostolic delegate verbally communicated to me that Rome was asking me to resign."

“A successor of the apostles is now being replaced without even undertaking what would be a due canonical process to remove a parish priest,” the bishop added.

“I was informed that I had committed no crime but that I supposedly ‘had not been obedient to the pope nor had I been in sufficient communion with my brother bishops of Puerto Rico,’” he said. “It was suggested to me that if I resigned from the diocese I would remain at the service of the Church in case at some time I was needed in some other position; an offer that in fact proves my innocence.”

Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres. Thank you!


'Pope Francis abruptly removes faithful bishop who opposed COVID vaccine mandates' -

'Puerto Rico bishop supports conscience objections to COVID vaccines, allows priests to sign exemptions' -

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Bishop Perry explained that the spirituality center is intended to spread the knowledge of Tolton’s life and virtues. “The whole idea is to capture the idea of our first African-American priest and the virtues that steered his life. Father Tolton had such a tender disposition about himself, it was attractive for everyone. Much of his life and spirit is still pretty tangible for many black Catholics not only here but across the United States. Father Tolton loved the Church that rescued him in his youth, that despite some pretty long odds ended up launching him into the pages of Church history.” 

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, when asked about black spirituality and his own celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, Perry said that the Latin Mass communicates “a sense of the transcendent” for black Catholics. 

“It’s a sense of the transcendent, trying to grasp God, who we know is somewhere there, and we’re down here, and we know that he’s able to transform, immanently as well as transcendentally, our lived experience. And people look for that in different ways.”  

Speaking to appreciation of the traditional liturgy in the black Catholic community, which would include the Catholics of Fr. Tolton’s day, Perry said, “There’s a variety of religious experience among African-Americans, but one of those is the ‘High Church’ experience. There are many African-Americans who were brought up, as I was brought up, with the traditional rites, the traditional ceremonies, and there still is a kind of pining for what that is.” 

On June 11, 2019, Pope Francis advanced Fr. Tolton’s cause for sainthood together with seven others. If one of the miracles under investigation is approved by Rome, Fr. Tolton would be advanced to the “honors of the altar” and declared “blessed.” 


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