The Catholic priests in Maryland, who built the foundations of the early Catholic Church, believed that the Black people they owned had souls. They baptized them, married them and often required them to attend Mass, even as they enslaved and sold them, sometimes tearing families apart. These contradictions troubled some clergymen. They were lonely voices, but they made themselves heard. Some wrote to Rome with concerns and questions. Some challenged their superiors, vehemently opposing the mass sale of 1838. Others tried to work within the slave system, offering the people they held captive a measure of autonomy. Their leaders, who viewed the Black families they enslaved as assets to be held, bought and sold, prevailed. But the priests I’m describing recognized the humanity of the families they enslaved and the inhumanity of the slave system that helped to build the largest religious denomination in the United States.