2 June 2020

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

As a nation, gripped by the impact of a global pandemic and all the fear that goes along with an invisible killer, we have all been in crisis for the last few months.  With the realization that any stranger that we meet could be the source of our death we have kept to our homes, leaving only furtively to buy groceries and hurry home.  As the crisis seems to be diminishing so does our fear and anxiety.  It will be safe to walk the streets again, safe to resume our normal lives.  How lucky we are if that is our thought.

Many people of color around our country will not be returning to that sense of safety.  They are not returning to a country where it will be safe to walk the streets, safe to resume normal lives because underneath the fear of a pandemic is the fear of having the police called on them for going for a walk in their neighborhood, or bird watching in Central Park.  It is the fear of simple traffic stop.  It is the fear of being chased by armed men while out for a jog.  It is the fear of death at the hands of the police.  And it is a type of fear I will never know.

The killing of George Floyd was a sin.  It is obvious, it is in your face and impossible to ignore.  The more subtle sin though, and the more pervasive, is the sin of racism in our country.  Think of it as our country’s original sin.  A country built on the backs of African people enslaved at our founding, racism is built into our country.  It must be confronted by every generation.  Perhaps you have been part of confronting it in the past, and if so, thank you for your work.  The work must continue.  In the last month our country has been reminded again how dangerous it can be to be black in America.  We have become aware of the pain, the fear, and the outrage that our brothers and sisters of color feel daily in our country, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

If we are to be free, all our people free, we who have the most power must be brave.  Brave enough to stand with our brothers and sisters.  Brave enough to confront each other.  Brave enough to look into our own hearts.  Brave enough to take action to fight against racism.

This Friday the Georgetown University Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life is sponsoring a free online event “Racism in Our Streets and Structures” from noon to 1:00PM.  Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington DC, Dr. Marcia Chatelain distinguished associate professor of history and African-American studies at Georgetown University, Ralph McCloud the director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and Gloria Purvis the host of the EWTN radio show Morning Glory will help us understand and act in response to the crisis of racism in our country.  Understanding is the first step towards action for any issue, and I hope that you will take the time if you are able to listen to these four African American leaders and then determine ways that you can continue to act to fight against racism.  Registration information for the event can be found here: https://catholicsocialthought.georgetown.edu/events/racism-in-our-streets-and-structures

As word spreads of local efforts to raise awareness of and protest the the killing of George Floyd, please pray that these events remain peaceful and that there is no violence or destruction of property.  If you feel called to participate in any of these events, know that I will be holding you in prayer that you stay safe and that your witness can begin to bring about the changes we seek.

I leave you with two quotes from recent statements put forward by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The killing of George Floyd was senseless and brutal, a sin that cries out to heaven for justice. How is it possible that in America, a black man’s life can be taken from him while calls for help are not answered, and his killing is recorded as it happens? […] 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.”

 

-Archbishop Jose Gomez, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“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.”

-Joint Statement of 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

Please pray for peace and act for justice.  For George Floyd.  For Ahmaud Arbery.  For so many who have died and for so many who live everyday under the threat of racism.

 

Blessings,

Brian

 

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