As many of you know, I am an active member of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP). Recently, I have been working with others on the development of a statement to recognize with horror the racism and systemic injustice in our land. A couple of weeks ago Deacon Eric addressed the issue from the pulpit and I touched on it last week. My column today is based on the AUSCP statement released last week to the media and the membership, and recent homilies.
The George Floyd murder and other recent violent deaths of Black persons, male and female, are only the latest examples of brutality against people of color. We have allowed such instances to continue in this country due to white supremacy and other structures of oppression going back now over 400 years.
Against these evils, the AUSCP and many others wish to add their voice to the Black Lives Matter movement. We need to own our past complicity and to take positive actions to help bring about healing and justice for people of color. Among others, we should applaud Bishop Mark Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso for kneeling with a BLM sign in the context of a demonstration. Pope Francis took notice and recognized Bishop Seitz’ action by a personal phone call.
As an example, the AUSCP owns and laments their own racial prejudice and white privilege, our complicity in the situation, and the pain afflicted on others, consciously or unconsciously. They invite us to join their member priests and Friends to ask the Holy Spirit to help us recognize our personal and our Church’s prejudices and biases as part of our ongoing transformation. All of us are called to follow Jesus as shepherds caring for people, especially the hurt and marginalized. Prayer will help us ponder, “Who matters to God?” We all do, of course, but God has special concern for those our systems have made to matter less.
All of us should support activity that restores, maintains, and sustains the dignity, respect, and equality of all Black people together with all persons in our society and world, whatever their color. Our Black brothers and sisters are reminding us these days of the living Gospel. They challenge us to live it more fully going forward. With Christ, we need to join organizations similar to the AUSCP in listening to Black people’s cries and suffering in our United States. I call upon all of you to ask all church leaders to listen to those cries so we can together raise and harmonize our voices.
It is no longer sufficient for us “to just” read statements and position papers. Our society, our national culture, and our faith communities need an essential change of heart: conversion of spirit. Yes, we are called to shift to a thoroughly different mindset followed by action.
I ask you to join the AUSCP and over 150 other groups, including many Catholic organizations, in support of the Poor Peoples Campaign for National Moral Revival.
All of us need to commit ourselves to sitting down and having open-ended conversations with our African American brothers and sisters; they have a story to tell.
We need engagement, we to admit to the racism virus in our own personal and Church history. We acknowledge the ways we have been passive and accept the call to transform our spirit.
Let us continue to pray for and take action to bring about peace in our world!
In peace and courage,