As the spiritual shepherds of the Church in this country, the nation’s Catholic bishops have not hesitated to take a leadership role in addressing what they’ve long identified as “the sin of racism” in America.
After shocking displays of white supremacy and neo-Nazism that unfolded in various locations in recent weeks—most vividly at the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va.—the bishops are speaking out, collectively and individually, to condemn racism and support the shared Catholic and American value of equality for all.
We commend the bishops for their strong and unambiguous response to this troubling chapter in our history, and we wholeheartedly support their commitment to engage the Church and society in efforts to find lasting solutions.
As a group, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops took a major step in the effort to address the problem by establishing the new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and naming one of the country’s African-American bishops to chair it.
The committee, it should be noted, was formed even as the USCCB continues to work on a new pastoral letter on racism expected to be released next year.
Announcing the new committee Aug. 23, the USCCB president, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, said its mission will be the engagement of the Church and society “to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters.”
Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, was appointed chairman of the committee.
As individuals, bishops around the country have been making statements of their own, including New York’s Cardinal Dolan, whose Catholic New York column this week focuses on the selfless example of St. Peter Claver, the 17th-century Colombian Jesuit who offered spiritual and material support to the boatloads of black slaves arriving from Africa. He labored “non-stop to soothe and comfort these Black slaves, the only solace these oppressed people experienced.”
Today’s incidences of “hate, bigotry, exclusion, and racism” are happening, the cardinal wrote, because too many of us have forgotten what St. Peter Claver inherently understood: “God’s insistence…on the innate dignity of every human life.”
In the Brooklyn Diocese, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio announced the formation of a special diocesan commission on social justice to deal with the social and religious problems that racism presents; in San Diego, Bishop Robert W. McElroy joined other faith leaders to denounce racist beliefs and actions as “blasphemies” against God; and in Pittsburgh, Bishop David A. Zubik, recovering from back surgery, released a statement via a diocesan spokesman, that said, “Racism wounds all of us.”
Yes, it certainly does.
And there’s no recovering from that wound until we acknowledge that it’s there, recognize its many forms and pledge to fight it—on our own, in our communities and in our churches.
Our Catholic bishops, as teachers of our faith and leaders of our Church, have made it a priority to address this lamentable situation. We urge all Catholics to join them, in action and in prayer.