Priest Urges Boycott of Post Advertisers
At Service, Stallings Calls Articles 'Sleazy'
By Laura Sessions Stepp and Bill Dedman
September 11, 1989
The Rev. George Augustus Stallings Jr. called yesterday for a boycott of businesses that advertise in The Washington Post and brought more than a thousand cheering worshipers to their feet as he denounced published allegations that he had a sexual relationship 12 years ago with a 16-year-old altar boy.
"We're going to get you, Washington Post, because of your sleazy journalism, because of your obsession to create a story where there is no story," the dissident Catholic priest told the packed auditorium at Suitland High School. "We're not just going to cancel our subscriptions . . . . We're going to hit you where it hurts. We're going to start with your advertisers, one by one by one . . . . You're messing with the wrong man."
Stallings, preaching to his new Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation, did not elaborate on his plans for the boycott, but predicted that it would unify Washington's black community.
In response to Stallings's statements, Washington Post Managing Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said yesterday, "We believe we have treated the Rev. Stallings fairly." Downie added that The Post and other news media "have repeatedly sought . . . to give him the opportunity to explain his actions fully."
Preaching yesterday in a three-hour service that resembled a political rally, Stallings said he would not respond to any allegation. "Whatever charges you put in your newspaper or on TV, read my lips: I will not dignify it with a response. As African Americans, we refuse to allow you to set our agenda."
At one point, Stallings added, "They're talking about what happened in the past, which didn't even go on in the first place."
He admonished the congregation not to talk to reporters or engage in "back-stabbing and talking about each other and allowing a white institution . . . to separate us."
Last Monday, The Post reported that the former altar boy swore in a signed statement that he and Stallings repeatedly had sexual relations in the rectory of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Southeast Washington in 1977.
The man, now 28, was not identified. Before publication, The Post offered to reveal the man's identity to Stallings, but Stallings declined and would not be interviewed. He has consistently refused to address the allegation directly.
The Post also reported that Washington Cardinal James A. Hickey confronted Stallings, before he left the Catholic Church earlier this year, with more-recent allegations of sexual misconduct and asked Stallings to seek help at a church facility that treats pedophilia and other disorders. Stallings has said that Hickey asked him to go to the center, but only to be treated for excessive ambition and "a strong ego."
Devoting his entire homily yesterday to the Post report, Stallings challenged the media to investigate the Roman Catholic Church, which suspended him when he started Imani Temple.
"I'll be glad to tell you about my sexuality," he said, "when you investigate the cases of priests, sisters, bishops, that have been convicted of pedophilia . . . . I'll tell you about my sexuality when you can tell me the number of cases when priests have impregnated women and had babies by them. I'll tell you about my sexuality when you can discover how many homosexuals are working right there in the pastoral center of the Archdiocese of Washington. If you want a story, I just gave you a story. Now go dig up the dirt."
The crowd roared to the cadence of drummers on the stage.
Stallings, 41, broke with the Roman Catholic Church in June, saying that it is a racist institution and that black Catholics needed to start their own movement. Negative publicity, Stallings said yesterday, has only helped strengthen that movement.
The auditorium overflowed at the 11 a.m. Mass. Stallings said that more people than ever also came to the 8 a.m. Mass, and he boasted about the size of the youth choir, started this week. He said a second African-American Catholic Congregation would open in the Washington area Sept. 30 and would celebrate Mass on Saturday evenings. It will be named Kujichangulia, which he said means "self-determination."
"If anybody thought some type of irresponsible journalism would stop us, read my lips: You were dead wrong," Stallings said. "You've done us a favor. You've brought us more people. Thank you. I hope someone else will try to give you a story. The more we're in the headlines, the stronger we shall become."
In his statement yesterday, Downie said:
"We do not discriminate in our coverage. The Washington Post, like much of the rest of the media, has in recent years increasingly scrutinized the behavior of many prominent people, regardless of race, in positions of power and influence in government, business and religion, nationally and throughout the Washington metropolitan area.
"Since the Rev. Stallings established the Imani Temple, we also have published numerous stories examining the status of black Catholics in the church, providing the opportunity for expression of all points of view."
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