Gulf Pine Catholic

A Joint Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Mississippi Against the Evils of Racism July 4, 2020 We join our voices to vehemently denounce racism, a plague among us. It is an evil and a force of destruction that eats away at the soul of our nation. Ultimately, it is a moral problem that requires a moral remedy -- a trans- formation of the human heart -- and compels us to act. The evil of racism festers in part because in our nation there has been very limited formal acknowledgement of the harm done to so many, no moment of atonement, no national process of reconciliation and all too often a neglect of our history. “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism” was officially endorsed in November 2018 at the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Annual Conference in Baltimore. Following upon this unanimous endorsement, the Cause for Canonization of Sister Thea Bowman, the grand- daughter of slaves, the only African American member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, a woman who transcended racism to leave a lasting mark on Catholic life in the late 20th century, was introduced and unanimously approved by the bishops. A prophetic document and a prophetic life combined to show our nation a better way, the path to greater justice and peace, whose beginning and end is the dignity of the human person. As the Church seeks to be a leaven in society for solidarity, liberty and justice for all, we must recognize our participation in the chains of racism. “Therefore, we the Catholic bishops of the United States acknowledge the many times when the Church has failed to live as Christ taught, to love our brothers and sisters. Acts of racism have been committed by leaders and members of the Catholic Church, by bishops, clergy, religious and laity, and her institutions. We express deep sorrow and regret for them.” ( Open Wide Our Hearts ) Significant numbers of African Americans are born into economic and social disparity. We must recognize that generations of African Americans were disadvan- taged by slavery, wage theft, “Jim Crow” laws, and the systematic denial of access to numerous wealth-building opportunities reserved for others. Racism can be institu- tional, when practices or traditions are upheld that treat certain groups of people unjustly. The cumulative effects of personal sins of racism have led to social structures of injustice and violence. ( Open Wide Our Hearts ) The heartless killing of George Floyd sparked a national outcry against the tyranny of racism. The actions and inactions of the officers involved are symp- tomatic of a pattern that has reached critical mass and has exploded across our nation and beyond. That brutal assault violates the fundamental truth lamented in “Open Wide our Hearts” that all people are created in the image and likeness of God. When this truth is ignored, the consequence is prejudice and fear of the other, and all too often, hatred. In the Gospel of John 3:16 we hear the foundation of the Christian faith that “God so loved the world he sent his only Son.” Astonishingly, in the first letter of John 3:15 we hear “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” Despite the great blessings of liberty that this country offers, especially our freedoms afforded in the First Amendment, which includes both the freedom of reli- gion and to peaceful protest, we must admit the plain truth that for many of our fellow citizens, interactions with the police are often fraught with fear and even dan- ger. At the same time, we reject harsh rhetoric that belittles and dehumanizes our law enforcement person- nel as a whole, most of whom labor to keep our com- munities safe, and we condemn attacks against police and the rioting and violence taking place across our country. Sister Thea addressed the toxic reality of racism on many occasions and spoke on behalf of her people. “When I was growing up, many of the old women who had undergone the ignominy of slavery were around, and they told us about slavery because we had to know about freedom. They told us about misery. The black woman has a task when the world says to her children, when the world says to her husband, when the world says to her mamma and to her, ‘there is something wrong with you. Your skin is too black. Your nose is too flat. Your hair is too nappy and too short. And you’re slow. And you’re ignorant. And you can’t learn like white folks. And you’re immoral.’ That’s what the racist society told us and told our children about themselves. The result was one of the great problems of the black community, the problem of low self-esteem, and it kills us.” ( Mercy College of Detroit 1989 ). A poster at one of the peaceful protests in our nation illuminates this lament. “We said black lives matter. Never said: only black lives matter. We know: all lives matter. We just need your help … black lives are in danger.” SEE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF MS, PAGE 2 P ine C atholic Gulf JULY 10, 2020 > VOLUME 37, NO. 23 > WWW.BILOXIDIOCESE.ORG THE NEWSPAPER OF THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF BILOXI