OUR FATHER WHO ART A CABBIE

CHICAGO TRIBUNE MAGAZINE / NOV. 4, 1973

The Yellow Cab driver slides open the "bullet-proof" plexiglass partition that is supposed to protect him from holdup men. He explains: "In the non-violent movement we teach that talking to people helps prevent violence; with the glass shut I can't talk." Naturally, he has been robbed. But so have hundreds of drivers who keep their partitions closed.

A husky man (6 foot 2 and 205 pounds), his long, graying hair is bound together over his shoulder blades with a thick rubber band. On his left wrist there is an identification band bearing the name of a Vietnamese POW Nguyen Van Loc, but the switch is that the prisoner is inside a South Viet Nam jail. A black button on thedriver's workshirt proclaims in Hindi, a dialect of India, "Satyagraha," meaning "truth force." A homemade sticker affixed to a bulging dispatch case lying on the front seat declares: "BOYCOTT A. & P. JUSTICE FOR FARMWORKERS."

His name, according to the dashboard placard, is William E. Hogan. Not much information there except the hint that his ancestors came from Ireland. There is more in police and newspaper files. The cab driver is Father Hogan, a Roman Catholic priest for 21 of his 46 years, arrested 10 times for his activities in behalf of black equality and against the Indochina war.

The Chancery Office of the Archdiocese regards Father Hogan as a disobedient cleric "who won't follow the rules, who wants things his own way." Since his ordination in 1952, Father Hogan has lived, by preference, in a succession of black parishes. His present home is the aging rectory of St. Brendan's, 67th Street and Racine Avenue, where he gets his meals courtesy of the pastor, an old friend, but is no longer permitted to celebrate mass or hear confessions. For three years he has received no salary. This past year his only money came from the tips he earned as a taxi driver; most of the rest of his taxi earnings he turned over to the "Movement." He spends most of his days downtown in the shabby offices of an organization that trains young people to take "nonviolent direct action against injustices in society."

The Association of Chicago Priests, a sort of trade union of 500 of the archdiocese's 1,200 clerics, last spring honored Father Hogan with its Pope John XXIII Award "for his dedication to civil rights and his active ministry for peace and his creative search for alternatives to violence."

Obviously other leading Catholics feel differently about Father Hogan, who says: "When you participate in demonstrations in Holy Name Cathedral, as I have, you don't make a lot of friends in the hierarchy or in the administration of the church."

Father Hogan grew up in Auburn Park at 83d and May Streets. His late father, a bank clerk, and his mother, a public school teacher, wanted him to become a priest. All four of their sons joined the priesthood. Richard is a diocesan priest in Addison, and Edward, a Carmelite, teaches English at Mount Carmel High School in Woodlawn. Edward's twin brother. Thomas, also ordained a Carmelite, recently quit his order after six years as a teacher. He married an airline stewardess, is working in California as a juvenile probation officer, and remains a practicing Catholic.

"Growing up on the South Side, I could see the terrible nature of black/white relations," says Father Hogan. "Here, one of my professors at the seminar was helping us learn about black culture and bringing us out of the ghetto to enjoy black people, but when I'd get home for a visit, I'd find a white organization working overtime to keep blacks from moving into the parish.

"Parish after parish on the South Side began turning black, and you'd hear priests complain, 'Oh my, our collection has fallen from $1,000 on a Sunday to $100.' Instead of their regarding the incoming blacks as an opportunity, to them they were a tragedy."

Ordained in 1952, Father Hogan asked to be sent to a black parish and was assigned to Holy Angels near Pershing Road and King Drive, once a thriving church that served the immigrant Irish. A giant public housing project stood nearby, and the terribly overcrowded schools were on double shifts. When I first got here," recalls Father Hogan, as many as 400 black parents at a time would line up on the boulevard outside to negotiate with us about getting their children into our Catholic school."

Did the encroaching black ghetto mean the end of yet another Catholic parish? "No, because we were doing something meaningful," says Father Hogan. "In my nine years at Holy Angels, we had 300 NEW Catholics joining every year, more than any other parish in the archdiocese, and we were financially self-supporting."

What was "meaningful" here, he says, was a school that enrolled 1,300 children, a day-care center that cared for 200 children, a recreational program that involved hundreds of teen-agers, and an adult program that actively sought out blacks.

They were strange times, says Father Hogan. "A lot of the priests had the attitude that it was OK to teach and preach in theblackeommunity, to do a good service, to provide a good school, to offer healthy outlets for teen-agers, BUT DON'T ROCK THE BOAT." Father Hogan couldn't go along with this. "I felt that I wasn't doing my job as a priest," he says. "Somehow I believed we had to change the white community's attitudes. We called it 'integration'."

Stirred by a Martin Luther King speech, in 1961 Father Hogan helped organize a series of wade-ins" at Rainbow Beach where traditionally black bathers were not permitted to swim. In 1963 he joined the giant Washington march for "jobs and freedom" and heard King make his famous "I have a dream" speech. In 1965 he took to the streets again and again with comedian Dick Gregory's marchers, sat down in the middle of Balbo Drive when police blocked their way to City Hall, and ended up in a jail cell with Gregory, James Farmer (head of CORE), and three other Catholic priests, including the present black pastor of Holy Angels, the Rev. George Clements.

Those were the days when it infuriated good Catholic laymen on the Southwest Side to see priests and nuns marching. Father Hogan was assigned to St. Raphael's on 60th Street, just a block east of the invisible line on Ashland Avenue that blacks were not supposed to cross. With 200 mostly black marchers, he and the Rev. Jesse Jackson paraded to 55th Street and Kedzie Avenue, where they held a prayer meeting in front of a real estate office. Rocks were thrown at them.

"I recognized two of the rock-throwers as two white brothers who went to my school with blacks, two brothers who played on the basketball team," recalls Father Hogan. "They didn't mind going to school with blacks or playing basketball with blacks, but when it eame to blacks walking into their community, the racism came out. What a contradiction!"

The ghetto mood was somber. Violence threatened as l02 followers of George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party, marched deep into a South Side black neighborood. One hundred fifty tough blacks, Deacons for Defense, confronted the marchers. The tension evaporated as Father Hogan, leading 25 youths wearing armbands inscribed "Love", stood between the two groups, singing freedom songs. ''I wanted to show that not all white people are like Rockwell," he says.

Father Hogan made several voter-registration forays into the South with civil rights workers. But ultimately the integration movement waned. Blacks decided they wanted to go it alone. Father Hogan found himself in a mildly dissentietious Catholic group called the Christian Family Movement . " Priests were assigned to chapters as advisers," Father Hogan says. "But we weren't supposed to be activists." He decided he wanted to become one. "The distinction between being a priest or layman didn't seem relevant."

By 1969 a New Left network of nonviolent Training and Action Centers had sprung up around the country. Their membership was small, but they were a thorn in the Establishment's side, raiding draft boards, dumping tons of gravel on a Pentagon road, and placing rowboats in the path of a munitions ship bound for Viet Nam.

Shortly before St. Patrick's Day, 1970, when the Chicago River was to be dyed green as usual in tribute to the Irish, Father Hogan and his nonviolent squad poured 30 pounds of red food dye. a symbol of bloody war, into the river from a canoe near Michigan Avenue. "The police arrested five of us as well as our canoe, taking it along in the patrol wagon," Father Hogan laughs. "The red dye got all over the paddy wagon floor, and this made the police so mad they made us mop it up." That same month Father Hogan was arrested in a North Side selective service center, accused of praying so loud that the clerks couldn't concentrate.

In Washington in 1971, the priest was arrested twice within three days, once for blocking an entrance at the Justice Department, another time With 12,613 others for trying to shut down the government. After this last arrest, he was held for five days in a Virginia prison farm where he helped organize a hunger strike. The prisoners, as a nonviolent demonstration, piled a mountain of uneaten bologna sandwiches and Pepsis in front of their dormitory

Father Hogan's activitieswere not gaining him any popularity at the Chancery Office. He had helped lead a pray-in campaign to make four black priests pastors, the first in the archdiocese. Though successful, the campaign was abrasive. So was a walkout he led out of midnight mass at Holy Name Cathedral to protest spending millions for the "guerrilla theater" with falling bodies he produced outside St. Peter's Church in the Loop.

A nonviolent "debate'' on whether the draft should continue, held in a Catholic church in Downers Grove, was equally abrasive. Father Hogan was supposed to debate two ROTC colonels. Instead he began reading the Sermon on the Mount while his nonviolent minions leaped to their feet and began "shooting" one another with cocked fingers, "Bang. bang! We're the good guys, No, bang, bang. We're the good guys."

"You blew it, Bill," the angry pastor of the church exploded. "Here was an opportunity for rational discourse, and you blew it."

"Look," retorted Father Hogan. "This war isnot really a debatable question. I decided it would be more effective if we communicated nonverbally. After all, we succeeded in getting everyone in the audience to arguing over what we did. That!s what will finally end this war, everyone arguing. "

When an ancient church to which he was sent was consigned to the wreckers, Father Hogan went without a new assignment for many months. "That was my first real suspension," he says, "even if they didn't call it one." Then, when his new pastor objected to Father Hogan using his church as a nonviolent training center, the radical priest decided it would be better to move out of the rectory.

"I thought that the peace movement was a proper activity for a priest," says Father Hogan.

The Catholic community had been the most obedient to a government fighting an illegal, immoral war. I was convinced that the church could be part of the peace movement, that people could be trained in their own parish churches to resist the military-industrial complex."

For a while Father Hogan lived with his mother in her South Shore apartment. Then he found shelter at St. Brendan's. He received no pay, but once in a while he helped out by saying mass, for only a lone priest is stationed there. He also celebrated a sort of peace mass in various churches, showing slides of napalmed flesh and bodies maimed by pellet bombs.

Last January, when he was invited to say mass at St. Xavier College on the Southwest Side, the invitation was suddenly withdrawn. "Cardinal Cody had telephoned the college to report that I wasn't in good standing," Father Hogan says. "I haven't said a mass since.

"I went down to see the chancellor, who is an assistant to the Cardinal, and he told me I could get a new assignment if I would drop out of the Movement. Or, he said, I could try,to find another bishop somewhere who wanted me."

Msgr.Francis A. Brackin, vicar general and delegate of the Archbishop for administrative affairs, says that Father Hogan could easily clear up his status; "The problem is," he says, "that he wants to do his own thing, he wants things his own way.

"There are basic working rules in any organization. The day Father Hogan was ordained he promised reverence and obedience to his bishop. We're trying to work out a niche for him, but this requires something from Father Hogan. We never hear from him, you know."

Father Hogan does not intend to quit the priesthood. 'Three hundred priests have left the diocese in the past four years," he says. "I don't intend to follow them. Those priests should have stayed and reformed the church. I've gotten a lot of good vibrations in my 21 years as a priest. I participated in a lot of Movement activities from the church base. I alsobelieve that the church has tried to reform itself thru Vatican Council II. The nature of religion can be very conservative. and I'm turned off by that side of it. But there's a radical side to religion that I'm very attracted to--the call to mercy, justice, truth, and love.

"Why can't I remain a priest and do what I'm doing? I am doing priestly things, things with educational and teaching value. I'm training people to move together against injustice in society and to do this with alternatives to violence."

With no church assignments Father Hogan immersed himself fulltime in his nonviolent group and a companion organization called Clergy and Laity Concerned, an ecumenical antiwar group. Weekends, he conducted semiars to train young activists in nonviolent protests. Last year this resulted in 30 members of Clergy and Laity Concerned, along with Father Logan, using their cars to blockade the Eisenhower Expressway near the Post Office. This year, members of Clergy and Laity, with Father Logan, sat down on the railroad tracks and blocked an ammunition train at the Joliet Army Ammuntion Plant.

When his two organizations ran out of money last December, Father Hogan got the job driving a Yellow cab so he could help replenish their treasuries. "I spend my days doing Movement work," he says, "and then take the cab out for 12 hours starting at 3 p.m . It is f ascinating. I meet all sorts people: conventioneers, businessmen, young folks. We talk about all the issues that absorb me."

Some conventioneers ask to be taken to a place where they can meet girls. Father Hogan grins and drives them to the Quiet Knight, a North Side folk song establishment that he is particularly fond of but that is not particularly famous as a dating bar.

"One time," he recalls, "I picked up a young couple and the girl asked me, "Driver, do you mind people making love in your cab?' 'Only in the back seat'," I answered. They laughed, and that was the end of it "

The law forbids it, but most cab drivers try to avoid holdups by using some selectivity in picking up passengers. Black persons often have difficully in hailing a taxi. "My rule is that I'll pick up anybody downtown and take them anywhere," says Father Hogan. "But when I deliver them to a bad neighborhood, I won't pick up anybody there."

His rule backfired one night when he picked up a young black in the Loop and had a friendly talk with him all the way to 3500 W. Monroe St. "We talked about the West Side problems, which I knew very well, and I even told him I was a priest." Father Hogan says ruefully. But when they got to their destination, two other young men were waiting at the alley. One of them pressed a hard object into the priest's side and relieved him of $35. Another time two young blacks asked the cleric to come up into the upper reaches of their housing project to collect his $5 fare. "No, thanks, fellows," Father Hogan told them as he stepped on the gas. "Consider this a contribution from me to you."

Listening to Father Hogan's adventures, the conclusion seems obvious: driving a taxi is for him a learning experience as profound as anything he learned in the seminary.