I am now in my 20th year teaching theology at Catholic schools in St. Louis. I have been asked what I need from Archbishop Robert Carlson and the church regarding racism. I need Archbishop Carlson and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to literally and loudly proclaim “Black Lives Matter.”
Say the words: “Black Lives Matter.”
My partner and I have been to numerous Black Lives Matter protests with our 4- and 7-year-old daughters. There has been no Catholic Leadership presence. None.
Other Christian faiths are well represented and even on the front lines. I need my church on the front lines. I need pastors in white parishes to literally say “Black Lives Matter” as loudly as they proclaim that unborn lives matter.
Archbishop Carlson mandated pastors in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to preach on racism during Lent. From what I heard from friends and family, many did not and many that did preach on racism did not do it justice. This needs to change.
I recently attended a listening session for the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. They were preparing to release a new document, which they released in November, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love - A Pastoral Letter Against Racism.”
“We read the headlines that report the killing of unarmed African Americans by law enforcement officials. In our prisons, the number of inmates of color, notably those who are brown and black, is grossly disproportionate. Despite the great blessings of liberty that this country offers, we must admit the plain truth that for many of our fellow citizens, who have done nothing wrong, interactions with the police are often fraught with fear and even danger,” the open letter states.
“At the same time, we reject harsh rhetoric that belittles and dehumanizes law enforcement personnel who labor to keep our communities safe. We also condemn violent attacks against police.”
In a section on “The African-American Experience,” the open letter states: “The generational effects of slavery, segregation, and the systemic use of violence – including the lynching of more than 4,000 black men, women, and children across 800 different counties throughout the United States between 1877 and 1950 – are realities that must be fully recognized and addressed in any process that hopes to combat racism.”
Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, chairman of the committee, said that we need forgiveness. A sinner must take decisive action before getting redemption for their sin. The Catholic Church is no exception.
My church has been silent to the sin of racism for far too long. This proclamation has to come in more than prayer, even more than a document. The church needs to take action.
Read “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love - A Pastoral Letter Against Racism” at https://tinyurl.com/bishops-racism.