Fugitive Saints: Catholicism and the Politics of Slavery
Author: Katie Walker Grimes
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How should the Catholic church remember the sins of its saints? This question proves particularly urgent in the case of those saints who were canonized due to their relation to black slavery. Today, many of their racial virtues seem like racial vices. In this way, the church celebrates Peter Claver, a seventeenth-century Spanish missionary to Colombia, as 'the saint of the slave trade,' and extols Martín de Porres as the patron saint of mixed race people. But in truth, their sainthoods have upheld anti-blackness much more than they have undermined it.
Habituated by anti-blackness, the church has struggled to perceive racial holiness accurately. In the ongoing cause to canonize Pierre Toussaint, a Haitian-born former slave, the church continues to enact these bad racial habits. This book proposes black fugitivity, as both a historical practice and an interpretive principle, to be a strategy by which the church can build new hagiographical habits. Rather than searching inside itself for racial heroes, the church should learn to celebrate those black fugitives who sought refuge outside of it.
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