Dominican Friar Confused for KKK Member at Indiana University

Posted: Apr 06, 2016 7:27 AM

Ooh boy.

Students at Indiana University in Bloomington were frightened on Monday night amid reports that a member of the KKK, armed with a whip, was walking around campus.

Many took to social media to warn others about the presence of the KKK on campus, and one R.A. sent out a warning to his residents to not leave the dorm and to please be careful.

As it turns out, the "Klansman" was actually Fr. Jude McPeak, O.P., a Dominican Friar and an Associate Pastor/Campus Minister at IU's St. Paul Catholic Center. And definitely, definitely, not a member of the KKK.

Dominican brothers wear a habit consisting of a tunic, scapular, capuce, cappa, leather belt, and Rosary. Many Dominicans choose to carry a longer Rosary that hangs down the length of one's leg--and I guess could resemble a whip, if a person had never seen a whip or a rosary before.

After seeing a picture of the "Klansman" getting frozen yogurt with students, the R.A. issued an update to his initial warning, saying that there was nothing to worry about as this was in fact a Catholic priest and not a member of a violent hate group. The incident was deemed a "hilarious miscommunication."

From The Tab:

“Behold, your ‘klansmember….’

“This is what happens when there is miscommunication. So what happened tonight goes like this: a person saw white robes and what looked to them like a weapon, got scared (rightfully so), warned people, warned staff, which in turn caused me to warn my residents because I need to look out for my residents, which in turn made it spread.

“Then my residents, terrified, come running to me, saying yeah the report must be true, they saw him and couldn‘t believe there was a klansmember with a whip. And I see this picture. It’s a priest. With a rosary.

“Now, I get it why a person would be scared. There in fact HAVE been klansmembers on the campus spurting hate speech, but never have they been reported with a weapon. So yeah, if it was in fact a weapon and a threat, it’s a good thing to warn a friend. So when someone warns other people, we need to be cautious. However, what I’ve learned from this is to take anything with a grain of salt. In the future, I’m still sending my residents warnings of threats, crime, hate gatherings, and all that but I will wait for a confirmation. But now that there is no danger I can say: this is a hilarious miscommunication.”

The Dominican Order was founded in the 1200s and predates the KKK by more than six centuries. The Order is celebrating its 800th anniversary this year.

I graduated from Providence College, which is the only college in North America to be administered by the Dominican Friars. There are approximately 30 Dominicans who live on campus, and they're a constant presence at the College. As soon as I saw the headline of The Tab's piece, I guessed that the priest in question was going to be a Dominican. While I'm glad that nothing happened to the priest (other than being confronted while getting frozen yogurt and accused of being a racist, which probably wasn't fun), this could have been ugly. 

According to one of my former professors, who is now the Academic Dean at the Dominican House of Studies, it's not uncommon for a Dominican to be mistaken as a member of the KKK while wearing a habit, which I think is sad. Their habit doesn't resemble a KKK robe in any way other than the fact that they're both white, and one would think the lack of hood and presence of a Rosary would be pretty big clues that the person in question is probably not a member of a group known for both hoods and anti-Catholicism. It would have made more sense to ask the priest in question why he was wearing a habit instead of running with the assumption that he was a member of the Klan. This "fear culture" is getting a little out of hand.

On the plus side to all of this, it's probably safe to say that many IU students have been made aware of the Catholic Center and the order of priests who administer their parish.