Declaration Against Racism by Harlem Parishes, Others Addresses ‘Evil’

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A declaration against racism, specifically as practiced by groups such as “White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan,” has been made by the four Catholic parishes of Harlem, joined by parishes in Chicago and Oakland, Calif., as well as other Catholic organizations.

The bilingual document, written in English and Spanish, was framed and written by four members of the social justice committee of St. Charles Borromeo and All Saints parish, under the leadership of its pastor, Father Gregory Chisholm, S.J., and the chairwoman of the committee, Minette Duran.

The declaration cites recent events such as the fatal 2015 shooting of nine people at a prayer meeting at one of the nation’s oldest black churches, Emanuel A.M.E., in Charleston, S.C., “by a white man, a welcomed stranger in their midst, who wanted to start a race war against blacks.” Also described at some length in the declaration were this summer’s protests in Charlottesville, Va.

The declaration is divided into three sections: What We Believe, What We Have Seen and What We Declare.

The What We Declare segment states that “there can be no acceptance of the moral positions regarding race, faith and culture espoused by White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan and similar groups which advocate for the superiority of white persons and the inferiority of persons of color or for the superiority of Christians and the inferiority of non-Christians.”

“We declare that these groups, by virtue of their moral positions, are anti-Catholic, anti-Christian and that they act against the ideals articulated in the foundational and governing documents of the United States,” the statement continued.

“There can be no acceptance of these racist, xenophobic, intolerant positions within the Catholic community in America.”

The hooded figures of the Ku Klux Klan have in some cases been replaced by “emboldened, unhooded, public and youthful faces of proponents of hate today,” the declaration says. It adds that many now “proudly” communicate “messages of hate” in social media postings.

“All of this begs the question of what we will do as Catholics in America; what are we willing to stand up for,” the declaration says.

The declaration was written in September and sent to the parishes in Harlem as well as other parishes. Father Chisholm said the Harlem parishes, which include St. Charles Borromeo and All Saints, as well as St. Mark the Evangelist, St. Aloysius and St. Joseph of the Holy Family, discussed the document last month before signing it.

The parishes of St. Benedict the Black in Chicago and St. Patrick, a predominantly Hispanic parish in Oakland, also signed the declaration. In recent weeks, five other parishes from across the country also have signed. A couple of Catholic religious communities have supported the declaration as did at least one other Catholic organization.

Father Chisholm also received responses from some of the other parishes to which he wrote. One pastor told him that he would be willing have his social justice ministry meet with the one at St. Charles Borromeo, while another said that he would like to exchange pulpits with Father Chisholm one Sunday.

Ms. Duran said she hopes to “have a collaborative dialogue and discussion with other parishes, and with people of different races and cultures.” By discussing racism’s “impact and effect,” she said, “we can see how to begin to heal these wounds.”

Father Chisholm, who is dean of Central Harlem, told CNY that he sent the declaration in his capacity as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo. He said he was “trying to build a ground-level of support for this.” He also said that he was driven “in my actions and moral beliefs through my faith.”

“We tried to say that we are communities of Catholics, and we don’t believe this has a place in any conversation on racial issues affecting the Catholic Church,” Father Chisholm said.

Summing up his hopes for what the declaration will bring about, Father Chisholm said, “I do hope that it inspires a sense that the positions articulated by these racist groups would not be tolerated in what I hope will become a more wide-ranging and longer conversation in our Catholic Church.”

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