Oakland Catholic Diocese launches racial justice task force after shocking accusation against bishop

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 is dedicated to Building a Better Bay Area, and an important part of that is addressing racism. The Catholic Diocese of Oakland has launched a racial justice task force, three months after a pastor made a shocking accusation about Bishop Michael Barber.

The bishop declined to be interviewed about his new task force, or the troubling accusation from one of his own pastors. It appears he is focused on moving forward.

Bishop Barber announced a new racial justice task force, and marked it with a mass outside the cathedral.

Bishop Barber said, "Father Peter Claver baptized over 300,000 African slaves."

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He dedicated the service to a Jesuit missionary who worked in a slave port city in Colombia, and made a new commitment for the diocese.

"That we listen and respond to the pain of those who have experienced racism in our county and our church," Barber told the congregation.

Over the coming weeks, the task force mission will be to recommend tangible steps to combat racism in the diocese.

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Dan Noyes: "As a practical matter what's possible, what could the task force actually do to improve things?"

Fr. Leo Edgerly, Corpus Christi Church Pastor: "Well, education."

The pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Piedmont is leading the effort.

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"I identify it sometimes as benign neglect and cultural insensitivity," Pastor Edgerly told the I-Team. "And that's what I think we're really looking at, how we can be more mindful and be more culturally sensitive to all of our Catholics."

The announcement of the racism task force comes three months after the pastor of a predominantly Black Catholic Church in Oakland made a stunning accusation during a Facebook live video.

Fr. Aidan McAleenan, St. Columba Church Pastor said, "The bishop of Oakland is a racist."

Pastor McAleenan has been active in Black Lives Matter protests, and he told the I-Team he went live on Facebook, after a meeting with Bishop Barber.

"He said to me, 'Black people should be happy with the way the church and this country has treated them,'" McAleenan said. "And at that moment, I got up and I said, 'I cannot believe what you said. This meeting is over' and I walked out."

Through a spokesperson, Bishop Barber denied making those comments. But Pastor McAleenan's public stand is drawing praise from George Holland, president of the Oakland NAACP: "I was really impressed. I've never met him, but I will meet him now."

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Holland tells the I-Team, he appreciates Pastor McAleenan's efforts, and that he is cautiously optimistic about the bishop's plans to address racism.

"We're always skeptical," Holland said. "We in the African American community, because we've had so many disappointments. And it's kind of unfortunate that we just don't have much faith and confidence and belief in other organizations and churches helping us to the extent that they should."

Father Aidan is also assigned to the new task force. He tells us he is glad to be part of it, but is trying to stay under the radar for now.

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