More than a year after some African-Americans scrutinized the blackness of the nation's first black president, America's Catholics are now wrestling with the same questions to determine who was the nation's first black priest.
The debate emerges as the Archdiocese of Chicago seeks sainthood for the Rev. Augustus Tolton, long hailed in Chicago as the first African-American clergyman to serve in the U.S. Catholic Church.
A rival for the title is Bishop James Augustine Healy, who was ordained in 1854, the year Tolton was born. But Healy, the son of an Irish-American landowner and a mixed-race slave, was light-skinned enough to pass as a white man. And in many cases, he did.
Chicago's Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, the prelate leading the charge for Tolton's sainthood, argues that Tolton's story reflects the authentic African-American experience of overcoming racial discrimination to pursue a calling.
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