Bishop McElroy: The Death of One Man Conveys the Evil of 400 Years of Racial Oppression

via Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego:

A deep and crippling sadness envelops this nation that we love so deeply. The peril and the burden of a pandemic have worn us down. We have become isolated, cut off from so many of the joys that give meaning to our lives, and in many cases cut off from the blessing of family itself. While at most moments such a trauma for our society would have created an energized sense of unity and solidarity, in this moment it has created division and alienation. Our economy has suffered a cardiac arrest, and the fear of economic free-fall duels with the peril of pandemic to blur the pathway forward. We are worn down.

And alongside this exhaustion of our entire people, the seismic fault line that is the greatest shame of our nation’s past and present – our legacy of racial prejudice, violence and silence – has erupted once again and now tears apart the fabric of our society. The death of one man – in the killing of George Floyd – conveys the evil of 400 years of racial oppression. The words of one man – “I can’t breathe” – capture the pervasive and insidious power of racial prejudice that is layered within the structures of American public life and its legal, political and economic systems.

Where lies grace in a moment such as this?

It lies in understanding that a genuine healing for our nation can only be found in a radical effort to accompany the African-American community in their weariness and rage and hope and despair that have been formed and deformed upon the anvil of racism. Ours must not be an episodic response that seeks to calm the waters of racial turmoil and then return to normalcy. The only authentic moral response to this moment in our nation’s history is a sustained conversion of heart and soul to genuinely comprehend the overwhelming evil of racism in our society, and to refuse to rest until we have rooted it out.


Pope Francis on Anti-Racism Protests in the US: We Cannot Tolerate or Turn a Blind Eye to Racism

via Vatican News:

In his greetings to the English-speaking faithful at the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis addressed the people of the United States, as protests continue throughout the nation.

“I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd,” he said. “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”…

“At the same time, we have to recognize that ‘the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost’.”…

Pope Francis added that today he joins the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and throughout the entire US, “in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and of all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism.”


The Church in America Must No Longer Be the Handmaiden of White Supremacy

The AND Campaign has released a statement on racialized violence in America:

We mourn the loss of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives due to racialized violence. The grief of their loved ones is our grief and we share in their agony. The riots in Minneapolis are not to be glorified or romanticized, but we must realize that they are a product of a riotous and unjust system. The disorder began when a man’s rights were violated and his life was taken. American racism was rioting against the people long before they took to the streets. We must condemn and address the cause before we can appropriately address the broken reaction.

The Bible very clearly demands justice in the sight of oppression and murder. In response to vain worship, the Lord told ancient Israel, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:23-24, NKJV).  Any theology or ideology that minimizes or denies the importance of justice in a social context is not biblical and must be called out accordingly. We cannot place our cultural preferences, partisan interests and flawed race narratives ahead of the Christian justice imperative.

A spirit of racial hatred and violence has engulfed the United States of America for too long; in fact, it’s our nation’s original sin. This reality presents Christians with the difficult task of rising to a biblical standard of love and truth while enduring extreme evil….

The Church cannot quietly reside in a society where Black people are murdered because of their skin. It cannot lie dormant in a culture where one’s race too often determines the duration and quality of their life. The Church in America has too often been the handmaiden of white supremacy. Now, the Church must offer a sober, determined and steadfast witness against white supremacy as contrary to no less than the very word and judgment of God. This is where we stand: not on the shaky ground of man-made ideology or carried by the shifting winds of societal judgment, but with the Lord our rock, in whom we take refuge, our shield and the horn of our salvation, our stronghold (Psalm 18:2).

You can read the full statement, including practical steps here.


US Bishops Respond to Killing of George Floyd and the Persistence of Racial Injustice in American Society

via USCCB:

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, chairman of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Bishop David G. O’Connell, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, chairman of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs have issued the following statement:

We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.

Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.

While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.

Cardinal Blase Cupich:

The death of George Floyd was not the sole driver of the civil unrest our nation is witnessing today. It just ignited the frustration of a people being told repeatedly in our society: “You don’t matter”; “You have no place at the table of life”  — and this painful frustration has been building since the first slave ships docked on this continent.

This is where our conversation about healing should begin, not with simple condemnations, but with facing facts. We need to ask ourselves and our elected officials: Why are black and brown people incarcerated at higher rates than whites for the same offenses? Why are people of color suffering disproportionately from the effects of the novel coronavirus? Why is our educational system failing to prepare children of color for a life in which they can flourish? Why are we still asking these questions and not moving heaven and earth to answer them, not with words, but with the systemic change it will take to finally right these wrongs?

These questions should be particularly troubling to people of faith….

Other societies have experienced unfathomable offenses against humanity and found ways to engage the history, to admit the crimes, to hold accountable those who committed them and to move toward something resembling reconciliation: the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime, the Rwandan genocide, the crimes of South African apartheid. We Americans can do this too. We are well past overdue for such a national reconciliation and the need to account for the history of violence against people of color in this country.

Tragedy does not eradicate hope. If there is anything we Christians take from our faith, it is that even the darkest deeds can be redeemed by love. And love is what is called for now. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Not the love of transactional friendships and cheap associations made by the click of a mouse button or an easy retweet. Signpost solidarity will not do. Only the hard work of familial love will set us on the path toward justice.

Archbishop José. Gomez:

We should all understand that the protests we are seeing in our cities reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin. It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life.

It is true what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, that riots are the language of the unheard. We should be doing a lot of listening right now. This time, we should not fail to hear what people are saying through their pain. We need to finally root out the racial injustice that still infects too many areas of American society.

But the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost. Let us keep our eyes on the prize of true and lasting change.

Legitimate protests should not be exploited by persons who have different values and agendas. Burning and looting communities, ruining the livelihoods of our neighbors, does not advance the cause of racial equality and human dignity.

We should not let it be said that George Floyd died for no reason. We should honor the sacrifice of his life by removing racism and hate from our hearts and renewing our commitment to fulfill our nation’s sacred promise — to be a beloved community of life, liberty, and equality for all.


Why Sean Doolittle Skipped the Nationals’ White House Celebration

via the Washington Post:

“There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we’ve done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the ‘shithole countries,’ ” Doolittle said, referring to Trump’s comments about Haiti, El Salvador and African nations in a January 2018 meeting….

“I feel very strongly about his issues on race relations,” Doolittle said, and he listed the Fair Housing Act, the Central Park Five and Trump’s comments following a white supremacist rally in 2017….

“I have a brother-in-law who has autism, and [Trump] is a guy that mocked a disabled reporter. How would I explain that to him that I hung out with somebody who mocked the way that he talked or the way that he moves his hands? I can’t get past that stuff.”…

“People say you should go because it’s about respecting the office of the president,” Doolittle said. “And I think over the course of his time in office he’s done a lot of things that maybe don’t respect the office.”…

“The rhetoric, time and time again, has enabled those kind of behaviors,” Doolittle continued, referring to racism and white supremacy. “That never really went away, but it feels like now people with those beliefs, they maybe feel a little bit more empowered. They feel like they have a path, maybe. I don’t want to hang out with somebody who talks like that.”


Highlights from Bishop Mark Seitz’s Prophetic Pastoral Letter on Racism, El Paso, and the Border

Bishop Seitz writes:

  • On August 3rd, 2019, El Paso was the scene of a massacre or matanza that left 22 dead, injured dozens and traumatized a binational community. Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy.
  • Challenging racism and white supremacy, whether in our hearts or in society, is a Christian imperative and the cost of not facing these issues head on, weighs much more heavily on those who live the reality of discrimination.
  • The Catholic Church in the United States supports the ban on assault weapons that lawmakers senselessly let expire in 2004 and our Church continues to advocate for reasonable regulations on firearms that Congress still won’t pass.2 The constant pressures on families and the embarrassing lack of access to mental healthcare in this country surely also play a role.
  • But the mystery of evil motivating attacks like the El Paso matanza goes deeper than these. It is something more complex than laws and policies alone can fix. What else explains the perversity of attacks on African Americans, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and other communities?
  • This mystery of evil also includes the base belief that some of us are more important, deserving and worthy than others. It includes the ugly conviction that this country and its history and opportunities and resources as well as our economic and political life belong more properly to ‘white’ people than to people of color. This is a perverse way of thinking that divides people based on heritage and tone of skin into ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’, paving the way to dehumanization. In other words, racism.
  • If we are honest, racism is really about advancing, shoring up, and failing to oppose a system of white privilege and advantage based on skin color. When this system begins to shape our public choices, structure our common life together and becomes a tool of class, this is rightly called institutionalized racism. Action to build this system of hate and inaction to oppose its dismantling are what we rightly call white supremacy. This is the evil one and the ‘father of lies’ (John 8, 44) incarnate in our everyday choices and lifestyles, and our laws and institutions.
  • Our highest elected officials have used the word ‘invasion’ and ‘killer’ over 500 times to refer to migrants4, treated migrant children as pawns on a crass political chessboard, insinuated that judges and legislators of color are un-American, and have made wall-building a core political project.
  • Yet the attitudes of the Spanish colonizers included the erroneous notion of racial purity based on light skin, a belief which in some places continues today, even in internalized fashion.
  • After its entry into the United States, Texas saw dramatic mass migration into the state from White settlers from other parts of the country…. In their wake came ‘Juan Crow’ laws of segregation, the prohibition of then-common interracial marriage, new racial hierarchies, the dispossession of tribal communities, efforts to disenfranchise Mexican residents and a true campaign of terror. This campaign included the lynching and murder of likely thousands of Latinos, terror undertaken just as much by vigilantes as by official state actors like the Texas Rangers, and often in concert.
  • The wall is a powerful symbol in the story of race. It has helped to merge nationalistic vanities with racial projects.
  • Some cannot understand the visceral reaction of many in the borderlands to the wall. It is not just a tool of national security. More than that, the wall is a symbol of exclusion, especially when allied to an overt politics of xenophobia…. It perpetuates the racist myth that the area south of the border is dangerous and foreign and that we are merely passive observers in the growth of narco-violence and the trafficking of human beings and drugs…. There will be a day when after this wall has come crumbling down we will look back and remember the wall as a monument to hate.
  • Why is there greater poverty, less access to education and health care and lower wages in our border community?
  • Our identity is formed in the grace-filled relationships we freely pursue with God, others and Creation. In the words of Pope Francis, ‘human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself’. On our border we have seen that racism radically undermines those relationships.
  • Guadalupe invites us to leave behind fear and join her in the work of advancing justice in America with joy. We are called to die to an attitude of fear and rise with a will to encounter others in vulnerability, to appreciate the gifts of every culture and people, with a willingness to be changed for the better by right relationships with God, others and the earth.
  • But as builders of the Temple of Justice here in the Americas, it is not enough to not be racist. Our reaction cannot be non-engagement. We must also make a commitment to be anti-racists in active solidarity with the suffering and excluded.
  • We must work to ensure all our children have access to quality educational opportunities, eliminate inequality in the colonias, pass immigration reform, eradicate discrimination, guarantee universal access to health care, ensure the protection of all human life, end the scourge of gun violence, improve wages on both sides of the border, offer just and sustainable development opportunities, defend the environment and honor the dignity of every person. This is how we write a new chapter in our history of solidarity and friendship that future generations can remember with pride.
  • In the absence of immigration reform, I also renew my appeal to the President of the United States, to the Members of Congress and to the jurists of our highest Courts. I beg you to listen to the voice of conscience and halt the deportation of all those who are not a danger to our communities, to stop the separation of families, and to end once and for all the turning back of refugees and death at the border.

Cardinal Cupich on the Toxic Environment Giving Rise to Xenophobia, Racism, and Populist Nationalism

Cardinal Blase Cupich writes:

We as a people are divided. Our world is plagued by global terrorism and the re-emergence of nationalism, threatened by climate change, the exploitation of limited resources, the exclusion of many people who are left homeless, or forced to migrate owing to wars and privation. As a result, we have become fearful of one another in a time marked by great divisions over race, ethnicity, religion and place of origin….

This toxic environment of “anger mixed with disgust” is infecting our political environment, especially when voices within the halls of governance give rise to xenophobia, nationalism, populism and racial intolerance. This polarization is also spilling over into the life of the church — to the point that it seems to be open season on papal teachings, especially those calling for needed reforms in the church, promoting a consistent application of the church’s social teachings regarding human dignity, care of the environment and a preferential option for the poor. Sadly, ad hominem attacks through social media, including against Pope Francis, seem to be commonplace….

The problem is that contempt is like a drug. It is addictive, and there are pushers who exploit people’s fears….

It is time for all of us to begin a conversation about the need to replace a culture of contempt with a culture of solidarity….

But it will also require all Catholics to reflect on and take seriously the first mark of the church, namely that we are one. The Holy Father has the unique charism of guaranteeing that unity. We should always be willing to distance ourselves from anyone who would injure that ministry of unity, the unity the Lord himself prayed for the night before he died for us: “Father, I pray … that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”