As a Loras College graduate of 1981, I was disappointed to learn about the decision to remove the statue of Bishop Loras “until we have convened as a community to discuss the impact of this knowledge about our founder” — as stated in Loras College President Jim Collins’s announcement letter. The community should have been convened to discuss the issue BEFORE a determination to remove the statue. Now the bar will be very high for any decision to restore the statue to its place.
As an academic historian, I also am not wholly comfortable with the notion that “Bishop Loras’s abhorrent conduct is antithetical to the mission, vision, values, and Catholic identity” of Loras College. This presumes that Bishop Loras himself would have recognized his conduct as “abhorrent” and “antithetical” to his Catholic identity. But Bishop Loras was a man of his times — as we all are — and he obviously did not see owning a slave as inconsistent with his Catholic values. Yes, he lived “in direct contradiction to the values we hold today” — but not to values that were widely held in his own day. I have a hard time believing that he would have owned a slave if he had been capable of viewing this through the prism of social and cultural norms 150 years into the future.