A parish pastor in New York City has fired Catholic school principal Frank Borzellieri after controversy over his opinions on race and diversity and his ties to a publication accused of white supremacism.
“Many of the opinions expressed by Mr. Borzellieri in his writings were found to be incompatible with the philosophy and practices of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, and with Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese,” Archdiocese of New York communications director Joseph Zwilling said Aug. 2.
Parish pastor Father Eric Rapaglia of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Fordham made his decision to fire the principal of the Bronx school after consulting with the archdiocesan schools’ superintendent’s office. The decision also followed a “thorough internal review” of Borzellieri’s opinions and a discussion with him.
Fr. Rapaglia also issued a statement on the controversy, stating his fundamental belief that “racism is evil.”
“We as Catholics reject racism in all of its ugly forms.”
“As your pastor, I apologize for my mistake in judgment: in hindsight, I should not have hired Mr. Borzellieri,” he said.
Borzellieri, who has been principal of the school since 2009, became the center of controversy after the New York Daily News characterized him as a white supremacist in a July 31 report. It cited a 2004 book of Borzellieri which said “diversity is a weakness” and predicted rising black and Hispanic populations in the U.S. will lead to a “New Dark Age.”
The principal has a background in politics. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for New York state assembly in 1994 and for the New York City Council in 1997. He served as a school board member in Queens from 1993 to 2002.
The New York Daily News highlighted Borzellieri’s efforts on the school board to ban “anti-American literature from school libraries, including books on different races and cultures and a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. He also tried to ban school employees from making any references to homosexuality and he tried to remove an openly homosexual teacher and gay rights activist from a public school classroom
He also introduced a resolution calling for students to be taught that U.S. culture is superior.
The New York Daily News said the principal has written “frequently” for “American Renaissance,” which describes itself as a publication of “racial-realist thought.”
The publication protested Borzellieri’s firing and said he had written only five articles for them, the last in 2006. He also spoke at four of the publication’s conferences, the last time in 2002.
The archdiocese further explained the decision to fire the principal.
“The Catholic schools of the archdiocese pride themselves on serving a diverse student population, without regard to a student's religion, race, or background,” Zwilling said. “Our schools have a proven track record of success of welcoming all students who come to us, and providing them with a superior education that allows them to succeed in college and beyond. Unfortunately, Mr. Borzellieri's writings indicate that he did not truly support that mission.”
Fr. Rapaglia said when Borzellieri applied to be principal in 2009 a search committee which represented “the full diversity of the school population” recommended him as principal.
Neither the priest nor the committee members knew of his political writings, and Borzellieri had the support of many minorities including Roy Innis, the national chairman of the black civil rights organization Congress of Racial Equality.
“My decision on whether or not to keep Mr. Borzellieri employed at our school was not such an obvious one to make,” the pastor said. “He had worked in two other minority-dominated schools before coming to Mount Carmel, and there was never any complaints from parents or students about him sent to the Archdiocese.”
Fr. Rapaglia also clarified a quotation attributed to him which said he thinks many of Borzellieri’s views are “valuable and logical and reasonable.”
This comment referred not to all of the principal’s racial views, which he “strongly” condemned, but to other views. The priest, a self-described son of an immigrant, disagreed with Borzellieri’s views on immigration and his “pessimistic attitude” about some demographic groups’ rising population growth.
“Racism is a sin. I have dedicated my life to living among and serving one of the most racially mixed and culturally diverse parishes in the Archdiocese of New York,” the priest said.