What Black Lives Matter can teach Catholics about racial justice

Felix Cepeda, a 38-year-old Catholic activist and community organizer, cannot remember how many protests he has participated in. But there is one, in particular, that stays with him. On the night of Oct. 18, 2016, Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old African-American woman with schizophrenia, was shot and killed by a sergeant in the New York Police Department. Ms. Danner lived in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, where Mr. Cepeda currently lives. Just a day later, Mr. Cepeda and dozens of others marched in a protest in the Bronx. The march was an expression of the anger, disgust and fear felt by people of color over police brutality, and it was part of a larger, nationwide group galvanized by the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement.

Mr. Cepeda tells me he felt called to march with Black Lives Matter because of his experience growing up black and Catholic.

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Mr. Cepeda’s parents arrived in New York in the 1970s from Jimayaco, a small town with strong Catholic roots in the city of La Vega, the third largest city in the Dominican Republic. Mr. Cepeda grew up in Harlem in the 1980s, a time when life in New York was difficult. The use of crack cocaine was on the rise, and it fueled the city’s already high rate of crime and violence. Our Lady of Annunciation, his family’s home parish, was one of the few spaces where he felt safe. “Our parish in Harlem was bilingual—we went to Spanish Mass every Sunday, and I was an altar boy,” he says.

Mr. Cepeda credits his Catholic faith with instilling in him a sense of activism. “I realized that the church I love,” he says, has “this history of resistance, where a few Catholics have pushed the church to fight against racism. They inspire me to fight for racial justice inside the church and in society.” He has been involved in protest movements in New York and the Dominican Republic for over 10 years. Last year he gained media attention after spending weeks in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral demanding that Catholic churches in New York City serve as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.

Mr. Cepeda is not alone in his desire to combine his faith with his work for racial equality. In recent years, many religious leaders, including Catholics, have contributed to the national conversations around race.

While racial justice has not been at the forefront of the public agenda of the Catholic Church, many Catholics, like Mr. Cepeda, have encouraged church leaders to meet with activists within the movement. “I think, like the civil rights movement and the black power movement, the Black Lives Matter movement is this generation’s response to racism,” Mr. Cepeda says, adding that there is much the Catholic Church can learn from the black citizens leading the movement.

A Movement is Born

In 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Florida, Alicia Garza, a civil rights activist from Oakland, Calif., wrote what she describes as a love letter to black people on Facebook: “Black people, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter.” The post was eventually shared by Patrisse Cullors, a California-based artist and activist, with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Along with Opal Tometi, a community organizer based in New York City, Ms. Garza and Ms. Cullors began to build the B.L.M. network on social media. The women wanted to draw attention to the ways that black and brown bodies are devalued and criminalized in the United States.

“I think, like the civil rights movement and the black power movement, the Black Lives Matter movement is this generation’s response to racism."

While the B.L.M. organization was born in 2013, Ms. Garza emphasizes that the organization is part of a movement that has been around for much longer. “The movements to eradicate racism and systemic oppression, of black people in particular, have been around since this country was founded,” she tells me. She points to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s as an example.

In recent years, the fight for racial justice has been galvanized by the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police officers and armed citizens, including but not limited to: 17-year-old Jordan Davis, killed by an armed white man in Florida in 2012; 18-year-old Renisha McBride, killed by an armed white man in Michigan in 2013; 43-year-old Eric Garner, killed by a New York City police officer on Staten Island; 23-year-old Sylville Smith, killed by a Milwaukee police officer in 2016; and, most recently, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., a 21-year-old black man shot in the back by a police officer in Hoover, Ala., last November.

A woman speaks during an Aug. 5 ecumenical prayer service at grotto at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Ferguson, Mo. The service commemorated the first anniversary of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. (CNS photo/Weston Kenney, St. Louis Review)
Michele Anderson speaks during an Aug. 5 ecumenical prayer service at a grotto at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Ferguson, Mo. The service commemorated the first anniversary of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. (CNS photo/Weston Kenney, St. Louis Review)

Black Lives Matter has channeled the organization’s passion into powerful posts on Facebook and Twitter, giving the country an unrelenting look into these deaths and those of other black Americans. In 2014, following the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Ms. Cullors and the activist and writer Darnell Moore organized the Black Life Matters Freedom Ride. In two weeks they gathered over 600 people to support the network’s first in-person protest.

Ferguson quickly became a defining moment in the organization’s history, and in the five years since, the movement has grown to become the first major racial justice movement in the United States since the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. Unlike its predecessor, which was led by the direct action of churches and Christian leaders like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Lives Matter movement is by and large secular. There are B.L.M. chapters in England, Canada, South Africa, France and Germany. Activists within the organization have met with politicians to discuss policies to combat police brutality and launched Campaign Zero—focused on ending police brutality—and the Police Union Contract Project—which investigates the contracts given to U.S. police officers and emphasizes police accountability. “We’ve had politicians who were corrupt be ousted because of this movement,” Ms. Garza says. “We have had a new international dialogue about the pervasiveness and endurance of racism because of this movement.”

The group has also given rise to movements like the #SayHerName campaign, which raises awareness of the often ignored violence faced by black women and girls in the United States.

A Voice Crying Out

Many Catholics of color feel that issues of racial justice are not sufficiently emphasized by church leaders. The B.L.M. movement has given voice to the experiences of black individuals in the United States through its unyielding critique of white privilege and the complicity of white Americans in systems of oppression.

Ariana Allen is a journalism student in her senior year at Loyola University in Chicago. Born and raised Catholic in Washington, D.C., she moved to St. Louis when she was 10. “I was very involved in church—choir, altar serving, drama ministry,” she tells me. “The church was always a good experience for me.” She says she never thought about her identity as a black woman and her identity as a Catholic as intersecting until she started at Loyola in 2015.

The death of Michael Brown awakened her to police brutality. “I had friends who knew him,” she tells me. “I have always been aware that I am a black woman, but that was the first time I really realized that blackness could be criminalized, that blackness could be used as something that scares others.” Ms. Allen’s home parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe, was involved in the Ferguson protests; but, she adds, most of the religious presence she witnessed was from the Baptist community. She tells me that if there were more of a push among Catholics to advocate for black lives, more black Americans would feel that the church was listening to them.

Many Catholics of color feel that issues of racial justice are not sufficiently emphasized by church leaders.

Harriet Martin, a junior at Loyola University Chicago, was born and raised Catholic in Phoenix, Ariz. Her family moved to Virginia when she was 12 years old, where she lived for three years before moving to Alaska. Ms. Martin did not fully embrace her Catholic identity until her father, who was Baptist, joined the Catholic Church. Like Ms. Allen, she tells me that the church has not done enough when it comes to racial justice, adding that church leaders should embrace the Black Lives Matter movement. “The movement isn’t saying that all lives don’t matter—just that black people are being unjustly treated,” she says. “I think the movement and Catholicism go hand in hand.”

Race and Reparations

While many individual Catholics have long worked for racial justice, the institutional response from the church has often been less obvious. In recent years, the Catholic Church in the United States has begun to acknowledge publicly many of the ways it has been complicit in systems of racism and oppression. Among those responding is Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the United States. In 2016 it formed the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation. The goal of the working group is to present the university’s history and ties to slavery. In 1838 the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, which founded Georgetown, sold 272 men, women and children whom it had earlier purchased as slaves.

The working group has published a report with recommendations for ways that the university can begin to atone for its slaveholding past. These include renaming buildings, creating the Institute for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies and dedicating a memorial to the 272 enslaved persons sold by the Jesuits. John J. DeGioia, the president of Georgetown, also announced that the school will offer preferential admission to students who apply and are direct descendants of the individuals the Jesuits sold. Many have described Georgetown’s initiatives as the first examples of what slavery reparations in the United States might look like.

Onita Estes-Hicks was born in 1936 in New Orleans, where black Catholicism has a rich history. Her father was a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Peter Claver, and her mother loved the church. Growing up, there were always priests visiting her family home. From the Latin Masses to choir practices to the education she received from the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Ms. Estes-Hicks loved the church.

Onita Estes-Hicks, left, with sister Augusta Bayonne (Image provided by Ms. Estes-Hicks)
Onita Estes-Hicks, left, with sister Augusta Bayonne (Image provided by Ms. Estes-Hicks) 

Her faith was tested when in 2004 she discovered that her paternal great-great-grandparents, Nace and Biby Butler and their children were among the slaves sold by the Jesuits of Georgetown. “This breached our awareness of ourselves, who we were as Catholics,” Ms. Estes-Hicks tells me. For years, she worked with her family to recover the loss of identity the discovery spurred. They retold Catholic stories they had always heard growing up. Ms. Estes-Hicks says she found comfort in the memory of her father and the Catholic rituals he had practiced while alive.

It was not until 2016, however, when Georgetown publicly acknowledged the slave sale, that she began to feel whole again. “I came out with a deeper sense of what it meant to be a Catholic and also with a deeper sense of how Catholicism had failed us.”

Responding to the Call

Some institutional progress is being made in the Catholic Church. Last year the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops formed the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, which was established to develop pastoral and political strategies to tackle racism in the United States. Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La., chairman of the committee, said in an email that the U.S.C.C.B. decided to form the committee because of an “awareness of a resurgence of harmful and racially charged attitudes, hatred and bigotry that have gripped the country.”

In the past year, Bishop Fabre says, the committee has held interfaith gatherings and hosted speakers like Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala. Last november, the U.S. bishops promulgated the church’s first pastoral letter on racism since the statement “Brothers and Sisters to Us” was published in 1979.

The new pastoral letter, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” was drafted by the ad hoc committee along with the U.S.C.C.B.’s Committee on Cultural Diversity and touches on issues like the water crisis in Flint, Mich., police misconduct, racial biases in the criminal justice system and the relationship between racism and other forms of prejudice, including anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The letter also calls on Catholics to work for racial justice and proposes practical steps, including acknowledging the complicity of Catholics in the sin of racism, educating people about the nation’s legacies of slavery and discrimination and working for racial justice in parishes as well as in civic and social institutions. Bishop Fabre says he hopes the pastoral letter will challenge all Catholics.

Matthew Cressler, the author of Authentically Black and Truly Catholic: The Rise of Black Catholicism in the Great Migrations, says that while the newest pastoral letter is an improvement over the 1979 statement, it is not enough.

“I think that it is imperative that white Catholics recognize their past and present and ongoing culpability and complicity and the maintenance of and sustaining of white supremacy in our country."

Mr. Cressler says that while the letter recognizes that racism is one of the United States’ historical sins, it fails to define explicitly the role of the Catholic Church and white Catholics in this sin. “I think that it is imperative that white Catholics recognize their past and present and ongoing culpability and complicity and the maintenance of and sustaining of white supremacy in our country,” he tells me. He adds that the omission of the Black Lives Matter movement within the pastoral letter is troubling, adding that the Catholic Church has a lot to learn from one of the most important racial justice movements since the 1960s.

When asked why many within the church are unwilling to engage with members of the movement, Bishop Fabre said, “I don’t know how many within the church have or have not engaged with the members of the Black Lives Matter movement, nor do I know what their motivations are if they have not.” He continued, “What I do know is that as bishops we are teachers and our primary focus is teaching and preaching the Gospel and ideally divulging the beauty of the Catholic faith, wherein the notion of justice and mercy are central concepts.”

Words Into Actions

Many black Catholics interviewed for this article appreciate the effort behind the new pastoral letter but have concerns about the execution of its recommendations.

Adrienne Alexander was born in Atlanta and raised Catholic. She credits the black parishes of her childhood with forming her Catholic identity. “For most of my life, my dad has worked for the church. Because of that, I was exposed to different parishes and expressions of Catholicism,” Ms. Alexander says. Her family never missed Mass, was involved in their parish community and prayed together daily.

Ms. Alexander, who works for a labor union in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and 2-year-old daughter, has been plugged into church news for most of her life. She has awaited the publication of the pastoral letter since the bishops conference announced the anti-racism committee last year, but she is disappointed with the results. “The letter had the feel of ‘Racism 101.’ You could sense the carefulness with which the words were crafted, the land mines which they seemed to be dodging,” she says. “I wish we still weren’t at entry-level discussions, but I guess that is to be expected when the conversation has not really been advanced at the national level in decades.”

Leslye Colvin echoes Ms. Alexander’s sentiments. Ms. Colvin was born in Ozark, Ala., in 1958. In the 1960s, three generations of her family converted to Catholicism and, despite living in a segregated town, were welcomed by clergy and parishioners.

“Anyone can be prejudiced, but in the society in which I live, in the United States of America, I, as an African-American woman, cannot be racist because I don’t have the power that accompanies being white."

While she welcomes the latest efforts by the U.S. church, she wishes the pastoral letter had discussed white privilege and how it has contributed to racism and oppression in this country. She adds that the bishops should have made a clear distinction between prejudice and racism rather than describing the latter as something all Catholics have been complicit in. Anyone can hold prejudiced views, she believes, but racism involves individuals and systems with power using their resources to discriminate and oppress people of color.

“Anyone can be prejudiced, but in the society in which I live, in the United States of America, I, as an African-American woman, cannot be racist because I don’t have the power that accompanies being white,” she tells me.“White privilege cannot be dismantled by people of color. I wish that there had been a call for allies who are white to step forward.”

Father Michael Trail is a diocesan priest in Chicago. Born and raised Catholic, he grew up in a multicultural parish in Detroit. While the seeds of his vocation were planted in Detroit, it was after moving to Chicago and making his faith his own that he felt called to the priesthood. He was ordained in 2015. He is now the associate pastor at Queen of All Saints Basilica in the Sauganash neighborhood, an affluent community in the city of Chicago. As Catholics, Father Trail says, we are called to be vocal on issues like racial justice. He tries to make a difference through his preaching. “For me, a person of color, I think I can speak about it with a different perspective because I’ve seen it first hand.” He adds that he wants to build a bridge between the world he grew up knowing and the world of his parishioners.

Father Trail tells me he was pleased when the bishops created the anti-racism committee last year and published the pastoral letter in November. “I’m happy to see that the bishops put out the document because it’s a concrete moment to show that the bishops see racism as a serious issue that needs to be addressed.”

He adds that the place where he has seen the largest efforts from the church on racial justice is at the local level. He credits the office of Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, for addressing and working to combat violence in the city. And while he welcomes the antiracism letter from the bishops, he, too, believes there must be more. Regarding the church’s response, he says, “On the national level, I think [it is] still very muted, and we’ve not grasped talking about racial justice as much as we should.”

•••

At the national level, programs like the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development can make a big difference by lifting up local activists and their work. In 2014, Meg Olson was based in St. Louis, where she worked in the advocacy department of Catholic Charities and directed the local chapter of the campaign. Upon hearing about the death of Michael Brown, she says she “felt incredibly called to go out in the streets.”

Ms. Olson helped medical teams that were assisting activists who had been exposed to tear gas or hit with rubber bullets. She worked with Metropolitan Congregations United, which is a part of the Gamaliel Network that trains community and faith leaders nationwide to advocate for social justice, to set up churches and places of worship as safe spaces for Ferguson activists. During the third week of her involvement in Ferguson, she received two key phone calls: one from Ralph McCloud, the national director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and another from the Rev. Jack Schuler, who at the time was the chaplain for Catholic Charities and a pastor in St. Louis. They both asked Ms. Olson the same question: What can we do to help you?

She said that local Catholic leaders like Father Schuler urged Catholics to get involved in the protest movement in Ferguson. “There are many Catholic parishes that are affiliates of Metropolitan Congregations United, but M.C.U., which is funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, was really on the ground organizing as a local faith-based organization,” she says. “It was really through them...that many of the Catholics that I was working with were entering into the work.”

•••

The three million African-American Catholics in the United States make up just over 4 percent of the U.S. Catholic population. While the number of black U.S. Catholics might be small, their faith is rich, and their stories and perspectives are an intrinsic part of the church. Many said that although at times they feel ignored by the church, they cannot imagine leaving. “I think it’s the long suffering of black Catholics, who had to go into a religion that, to all intents and purposes, was a white religion,” Ms. Estes-Hicks tells me. “But look what we did to it. We transformed it—we made that religion our own.”

While the number of black U.S. Catholics might be small, their faith is rich, and their stories and perspectives are an intrinsic part of the church.

All the black Catholics I spoke with hope that the church will continue to change and grow in its advocacy against racism. Many suggested practical steps: transparency and concrete follow-up when releasing documents about the church’s complicity in racism; Catholic leaders and clergy explicitly, consistently and continually calling out systems of oppression within the United States and white people’s role in perpetuating racism. Many said the links should be more visible between the work bishops are doing and what the faithful are seeing. And, finally, almost everyone I spoke with agreed that the Catholic Church will not succeed in its work toward racial reconciliation unless the hierarchy enters into dialogue with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Father Trail believes this dialogue would be advantageous not just for the church but for the movement as well. “The church is in all aspects of society,” he says, “I think that the Black Lives Matter movement can learn from the church in the way in which she dialogues with so many different paths of society. I think there is mutual enrichment all the way around.”

Ms. Garza, one of the founders of the movement, would welcome such dialogue. “The purpose of faith, I think, is to be connected to something bigger than yourself and to be able to carry out the agenda of that faith,” she says. Ms. Estes-Hicks echoes this sentiment. While she is grateful for the groundbreaking strides made at Georgetown, she says that the church overall must always challenge itself to do more. She believes a good next step would be entering into dialogue with activists within the movement.

“I don’t see how the church can remain outside something as significant as Black Lives Matter,” Ms. Estes-Hicks says. “It’s a Christlike movement.”

Correction (2/4/19): In one instance, the nature of Michael Brown's death was inaccurately described. It was a shooting death.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Todd Witherell
2 weeks 2 days ago

I find this essay both informative and inspiring - let’s see where the movement leads from here. Excelsior!

Francis Gentry
2 weeks 1 day ago

Thank you, Todd. I agree wholeheartedly.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 2 days ago

What Black Lives Matter can teach Catholics about racial justice

It’s based on lies. What can we learn from lies?

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 2 days ago

Orlando Patterson, a black sociologist at Harvard, said about 20 years ago concerning the United States

America, while still flawed in its race relations ... is now the least racist white- majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all those of Africa

Francis Gentry
2 weeks 1 day ago

Mr./Ms/Fr. J. Cosgrove: You never fail to disappoint. Apparently you do not keep up with what is happening the the USA--public KKK, White Power, and Nazi marches ring a bell? Shooting an unarmed black man--what was it?--16 times? My goodness, he wasn't even wearing a hoodie (which, apparently, you might find reason enough). Are you a Roman Catholic? Truly?

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 1 day ago

I keep up. By only pointing to infrequent events you and the author are actually making my point that racism is not a major problem. Most blacks face a much harder time in life but it is not due to police brutality or racism. I suggest interested readers and the author read Heather MacDonald. Blacks are less likely to be shot by police than whites when confronted in a criminal act.

Terry Kane
2 weeks 1 day ago

Mr./Mrs./Ms./Fr./Dr. Francis Gentry:
Where are all these public KKK, White Power, and Nazi marches you mention? If they were common, we would be seeing them all over the country - but they are not. Charlottesville was a long time ago and there has not been a rash of marches since. Do you know anyone in the KKK? Do you know of anyone in the KKK? You may know the names David Duke and Richard Spencer, but that's about it, right? There are more racist NOI members than in the KKK (even if you include Ralph Northam!).
An unarmed black man is more likely to be struck by lightning than to be shot by a policeman in America.
The media has made you and the author believe that being black in this country is dangerous. The Zimmerman and Gentle Giant Michael Brown references in the article were lies perpetrated by the media to make them appear to be racially motivated when they were not. Both stories were absolute lies and caused huge societal problems, but the media just went on as if there were no harm no foul.
BTW that hoodie myth you reference was caused by the media editing out of the 911 call where the operator asked George Zimmerman what the perp was wearing; it was not GZ's utterance, he was responding to a question. The media has twisted your conception of the events that night.

rose-ellen caminer
6 days 22 hours ago

Trayvon Martin was being pursued in a stand your ground state. He was unarmed and stood his ground when Zimmerman confronted him. He was the one shot and killed by his armed pursuer, Zimmerman. The marks on Zimmerman showed only that Trayvon stood his ground when pursued by the armed Zimmerman. It does not warrant labeling him a perp. Your characterization of Trayvon and of the incident is a racist one. This all too pervasive racism is why it needs to be said; Black Lives Matter.

Phillip Stone
2 weeks 1 day ago

to Francis Gentry In the good ol' US of A the black on black killing and wounding far outnumbers the anybody else on black violence.
Are you American and do not know this?

Robin Vestal
2 weeks 1 day ago

Thank you!!! I wish I could see my church at the forefront of the justice that Jesus brought to the world. BLM and this country sure has a lot to repent of. I am truly grateful to all the Catholics working hard to bring justice to immigrants and people in homelessness and those who joined and supported the BLM movement. But it's so basic that the color of someone's skin shouldn't either entitle one to a better life or entrench one in suffering and systemic abuses. Keep speaking out. This is so important!

Francis Gentry
2 weeks 1 day ago

Thank you, Robin! I couldn't agree more!!

Christopher Lochner
2 weeks 1 day ago

BLM only concerns itself when a young man who is black is shot by a police officer who is white, rarely at other times. Why, you'd be forgiven for a belief of this happening everywhere and everyday.... I'm from Baltimore. We've had horrifying riots, children playing
on porches and in barbershops shot and killed by stray bullets during gang activity, a father who was resisting local drug dealers by fencing in his yard and was then killed. The murder rate was over 300 in a city of 620,000 for the year 2018; who knows how many others have been incapacitated for life. And where is BLM? Nowhere! BLM is more of an "activist for profit" grouping than not. Where the media is, there they also will be. (For instance, a local activist has become quite the celebrity and is doing very well in his finances. He is an aggrieved young man who was paid $160k per year while working in HR for the bankrupt Baltimore City school system. One wonders whose life really matters here.) BLM represents a huge amount of talk but little in the way of meaningful action other than a deep desire for name recognition. In no manner to they represent the justice of Jesus as much as they are taking the opportunity to profit on difficult situations. BLM has no central organization. It is a loose grouping of people who have a very personal and varying but still self-serving concept of justice. The Black Panthers ran soup kitchens. Do BLM help in the same manner? Nope. We have very real problems in this world; BLM is a distraction and certainly not a cure.

Phillip Stone
2 weeks 1 day ago

This a a political statement which has nothing to teach disciples of Jesus.

John Sharpe
2 weeks 1 day ago

Jessie Smollett is a scam. What say you?

Lisa M
2 weeks 1 day ago

The dismissal of Black Lives Matter and the denial of racism from my fellow pro life Catholic advocates is deeply disheartening. A quick scan of the comments section on Fox News may enlighten you. Catholicism requires us to recognize the struggles of all people. Injustice is injustice.

Mike Macrie
1 week 1 day ago

Lisa here’s my opinion, Catholic Bishops themselves have put a weight on the sins we commit. They have weighed Abortion to be a greater sin than Racism to such a degree that many people including Catholics judge Racism to be a venial sin. I ask this question who has committed the greater sin; the Mother who has aborted her baby or the Person who is a Racist and works against people of color and refugees who seek asylum. When Jesus was asked “ What is the Greatest Commandment “ ? He answered “ To Love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, mind and soul “, and without hesitation he said “ and the Second is like the First, to Love thy Neighbor as Thyself “. My opinion is both sins without forgiveness, will prevent you from entering the kingdom of heaven. The Bishops by voicing their opinions in government politics have created the Single Issue Voter on Abortion while turning their heads on God’s Second Greatest Commandment. Only now with the help of Pope Francis and Immigrants have the Bishops begun to speak out on Loving thy Neighbor as thyself. There would never been a need for Catholic Bishops to bring in Politics into the Church now if they had stayed out of it to begin with. If they have taught each Sunday the importance of all 10 Commandments, they would have done a greater good. But as I said, this is only my opinion.

Dr.Cajetan Coelho
2 weeks 1 day ago

Life is a precious gift. All lives matter.

Lisa M
2 weeks 1 day ago

All lives matter Dr. Coelho, but for some, some lives are just a bit more important, and that's the problem. To say all lives matter, in the context of Black Lives Matter, is an affront to those who suffer needlessly simply because of the colour of their skin. Those lives matter too! Having empathy is part of our faith. Denying injustice exists to comfort ourselves is anything but Christian.

Vincent Gaglione
2 weeks 1 day ago

Like Mr. Cepeda, I grew up and went to Annunciation parish and school in west Harlem 60 years ago. It was a diverse community and parish back then. I am glad that it served his Faith and character so well as I feel it did for me.

At the last Judgment I fear that we will learn that white Christianity missed Christ’s point about the familyhood of human beings through being children of God. Through God’s mercy we may not be “punished” but the truth will cause us an interior shame that we will endure through eternity.

I always hark back to the reactions of the black Baptists who were victimized in the Charleston church shooting. The immediate response of forgiveness was a lesson to us all about Christianity, but lost on most, especially white Christians, who have never had to endure the pain of unfairness and injustice as a matter of course in this USA.

Tim Donovan
2 weeks 1 day ago

I believe that most police officers are decent public servants who do their best to protect all community members. However, those who due to their bigotry kill black people must be brought to justice. While I worked for most of my life in the field caring for disabled children and adults (six years as a Special Education teacher) the great majority of my co-workers were African-American, and I generally got along fine with most of my co-workers regardless of their race. I believe that since the 1960's, with the achievements of the civil rights movement, that substantial improvement has been made regarding the rights of black people. Of course, more can and should be done to advance legal rights for blacks and other racial minorities. For the past three years, I've lived in a nursing home/rehabilitation center. The great majority of the staff are black, and a number are immigrants from African nations. Also, many of my fellow residents are black. I try my best to assist my fellow residents regardless of their race with their personal needs, and also regardless of their race or country of origin assist the staff (primarily by lightening their work load by assisting other residents). I do understand that racism is prejudice plus power. I regret to say that as a white man I may well have been racist in my behavior towards a black man. When I was a Special Education teacher, one of my teacher assistants was a black man. Despite my kindly telling him a number of times that it wasn't acceptable for him to be late for work, he continued to be late, sometimes for as much as twenty minutes. I also told him in a friendly manner that he had to try harder to reduce his absences. In our class we instructed children with brain damage, as well as several with behavior disorders and/or physical disabilities. In fairness, I at times took off some days when I wasn't actually sick (although I did have to manage with insulin-dependent diabetes--I'm not asking for sympathy, most of my students had far more severe disabling conditions). I simply took off at times for an emotional "break." However, my assistant on more than a few occasions fell asleep either in class or outside on the playground when with our disabled students. His reason? He stayed up late frequently watching television. I could to an extent understand wanting to stay up late watching an enjoyable television program. However, this in my view clearly didn't justify falling asleep when working with disabled children who needed considerable attention. I finally after a number of warnings saw to it that my black teacher assistant was fired. I certainly understood what it was,like to be a teacher assistant or aide who didn't have much power or who didn't earn much money. In 1982, I was hired by the agency as an aide working in a social/recreational program with disabled adults. I earned $3.50 an hour, which was 15 cents more than the (then) minimum wage because I had completed one semester of college. Although at that time I didn't feel that as a low-paid 19 year old that I had much power, perhaps I did. After all, I was,one of three aides who took care of the most intimate needs of mostly severely disabled adults. Perhaps as a Special Education teacher who was white, I was racist towards my black teacher assistant who was under my authority. If so, I regret my actions.

E.Patrick Mosman
2 weeks 1 day ago

The examples cited are totally one-sided, guilty until proven innocent, and do not represent the facts in any of the cases. The actual results in two of the cases:
-A judge on Thursday found a Sergeant Hugh Barry not guilty in shooting death of Deborah Danner, a mentally ill woman in the Bronx.
-In 2013, George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Florida,
In an other example:
Michael Brown was a huge, 18 year old adult, not a teenager, and a thug after being caught on a camera robbing a store and assaulting the owner. The evidence showed that he assaulted the police officer, was wounded while attempting to gain possession of the officer's gun, refused to obey the officers commands to stop, charged the officer and was fatally shot by the officer in the line of duty. The media picked up "Hands up don't shoot"which was proved to be totally made-up by person of color.
The article included one death which has been used extensively in New York:
Eric Garner was a very large small time crook with over 40 arrests. He knew the drill, hands behind your back, handcuffed, taken to the police station and released with a desk ticket, maybe 3 hours at the most. The video clearly shows that Mr.Garner resisted the police's efforts to handcuff him and physical force was used to subdue him which led to his unfortunate death.
Both of these men would be alive today, possibly in jail, had they simply obeyed the policeman's orders.
Unfortunately, media sources are painting these petty crooks as victims and the police as.
blood thirsty racists. This so-called journalism is biased, rabble rousing and incites violence.Why not place the blame for their deaths where it belongs on their own behavior.
One significant piece of information missing from all major media reports and official reports is that the sergeant in charge of the police contingent attempting to arrest Mr. Garner was a black, female police officer. One has to wonder why this was not and is not reported loud and clear. Of course it would change the the whole racial argument against the police.
If the supporters of "Black Lives Matter" were really concerned about "black lives" they would be flooding Chicago, Newark and other major cities where blacks shooting blacks are occurring almost daily.

rose-ellen caminer
6 days 21 hours ago

Eric Garner was a marginalized human being. Instead of deescalating the situation when he was not cooperating [ people on the fringes on mental illness can be erratic like that] the police escalated and even when Garner was showing and expressing distress, they kept escalating the situation till they strangled him.Your glibness about it is from a place of ignorance and privilege.Minority officers can be part of the institutional racism which permeates an institution. A black female officer can therefore be equally or even more more hostile and aggressive towards a Black person then a white officer, to prove her metal , her bona fides in the institution. Trayvon Martin lived in a stand your ground state, and was unarmed. The armed Zimmerman pursued him and Martin legally stood his ground. The marks on Zimmerman are the result of him standing his ground when being pursued by an armed Zimmerman. He got acquitted because dead men tell no tales, in a stand your ground state. Black on black crimes in drug infested gang infested neighborhood is not the same issue as Institutional racism that leads to police killing unarmed black people. BlACK LIVES MATTER is the correct response to that systemic problem.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 1 day ago

We have a host of one side of the political spectrum accusing others as less Catholic or less Christian than they are. But they offer zero solutions to the problems Blacks face in the United States. It is like the Pharisees pointing to the tax collectors while saying I am glad I am not like they are.

Meanwhile these accusers offer nothing constructive other and just point fingers at others.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 1 day ago

There is an underlying cause which is the primary reason for dysfunction in the black community and it is never addressed by any author on this site. That is the problem of fatherless boys in the black community. It is over 70% and reaches 90% in some urban areas. The cause of this high percentage can be directly traced to Democratic Party policies. So if you support the Democrats are you a racist? The Democrats have controlled nearly all inner cities for over 60 years. Time to have done something but it only gets worse. But they care!

Lisa M
2 weeks 1 day ago

J Cosgrove- Fatherless boys is indeed a symptom of the bigger problem, as it is in the rest of society. No doubt that the democrats have been given a free pass, and hopefully the black communities within these inter cities will begin to put the democrats on notice, fix it or else you lose our vote. That said, the attitudes towards blacks by many who support the Republican Party must understandably be of concern to them. That doesn't mean that racism belongs to one party, as neither appears to genuinely seek change.

As far as change, an overhaul of public school funding within each state is necessary. This was a big problem in Quebec until the Quiet Revolution era of 1960s. Before then, school tax was based on property values and the funding was sent to one of two public school systems, Catholic or Protestant. The city of Montreal property owners were largely, English Protestants, so the vast majority of funding went to the Protestant school system. The majority French Canadian Catholic, and minority English Canadian Catholic received far less funding for their schools, despite, together, being a much larger percentage of the population.

In more recent years (25 + years) , the Protestant school boards and Catholic school boards have been dismantled, and replaced with English and French boards. While school tax is still based on property value, it is pooled together, and funding is sent to the schools based on the number of students. Therefore, schools in the poorer neighbourhoods get the same funding as those in wealthy neighbourhoods. School funding needs to go in this direction so students have equal access to quality education. To not do so is discriminatory, and self serving to those of us enjoying the benefits of quality schooling at the expense of others.

The continued view that some of these police shootings mentioned were acceptable is shocking. Simply shocking. An objective view of Trayvon Martin murder should concern all of us. The audio tape doesn't lie; the DA's unprecedented handling of the Michael Brown murder should be of concern to all of us. The ability of some to demonize the victims is astonishing, regardless of their imperfections, and sadly indicates that we have a long way to go before we simply decide to stand up for what is right, BEFORE, we jump onboard to our political persuasions, and ignore the truth in front of our eyes.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 1 day ago

Read or watch Heather MacDonald before making comments about others. One could very strongly make the argument that all these policies by liberal groups are killing blacks in large numbers. It is not racism by republicans or conservatives that are the cause of large numbers of blacks being victimized and killed. I’m not aware of lack of money is the issue in education. I’m sure it is in some places. I would look at attitudes.

Lisa M
2 weeks 1 day ago

I'm not sure what you mean about "commenting on others", I am commenting on principles. Regardless, I am familiar with Heather MacDonald, and agree with some of her points on the problems with welfare, fatherless homes, etc. I have not read anything from her that offers solutions, but I would be glad to hear some. I didn't say it is racism by republicans that has victimized blacks. On the contrary, it in indifference by people, regardless of political persuasion that is at the root of the problem.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 1 day ago

A start would be saying racism is not the problem. Then point to the problems of fatherless homes and the culture it created. Another good start is Democrats accepting responsibility for the dysfunctional conditions they caused.

Then solutions could appear. They will never appear until the truth is recognized. Calling people racists or saying racism is the issue is counterproductive as it solves nothing and prevents positive steps.

Michael Cardinale
2 weeks 1 day ago

Michael Brown assaulted a shopkeeper, which was why the police officer was there. According to the police report, forensics and eye witnesses (excepting MBs companion), MB then proceeded to assault the police officer and was shot and killed. To call the police officer a murderer is slander and should be redacted.

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 1 day ago

By bringing up Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin the author and commenters are admitting it is a vacuous movement. Trayvon Martin was 7 years ago and Michael Brown was 4 1/2 years ago. Since Trayvon Martin over 50 thousand blacks have been murdered mostly by other blacks. It has nothing to do with racism. So why bring up these two?

Lisa M
2 weeks ago

It is not how many have been murdered by police officers, it is people's decision to side with the police no matter what that is the problem. The presumption of guilt, even when audio/video shows otherwise, based solely on the colour of one's skin, is racism, any which way you look at it.

Christopher Minch
2 weeks 1 day ago

1. Here are the facts given in plain English and graph from a few years ago that support systemic racism in the United States. This is from a liberal website and I suppose you might find other statistics that may modify these facts but that is up to you whether you want to do that or not. (BTW I did look at the Heather McDonald video, she seems to have a valid point, I didn’t research her facts. Criticisms of her writings seem to state that she has a definite point of view but has little to no ideas about how to resolve the issue.)
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/02/civil-rights-act-anniversary-…
2. The next websites are from the US Council of Catholic Bishops that will give the Catholic-Christian perspective over the years from the earliest to the most recent on African-American and other forms of racism too. There are many pages here but one should know what the Church is teaching on this subject.

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/up…

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/cultural-diversity/african-ameri…

3. As a retired Social Worker here are a few thoughts and principles that can guide someone in terms of thinking about how these issues can be resolved.
• Social Work Dictionary: “Social justice is an ideal condition in which all members of society have the same basic rights, protection, opportunities, obligations, and social benefits.”
• Social justice principles that may guide you are:
o Access (greater equality of access to goods and services)
o Equity (overcoming unfairness caused by unequal access to economic resources and power)
o Rights (equal effective legal, industrial and political rights)
o Participation (expanded opportunities for real participation in the decisions which govern their lives).

4. The following and last website will be the most difficult, emotionally and conceptually, for those who do not believe that white privilege is a valid concept or a concept that might be worth thinking about. This gets down to the nitty-gritty of what happens on the street for those of a different race. The comment section that follows runs the range of those who believe there is white privilege to those who still do not believe it. That is why I include the other information above in points 1-3 so that you can have a broader appreciation of the issues involved. Another point I’d like to make for those who think this is too much. If you have never thought in this way before it does take time, a lot of time, years perhaps to come to an appreciation of what is being said about these issues. It requires a person to really “walk a mile or more” in another person’s shoes. Slavery ended with the Civil War, but the Jim Crow era didn’t end until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which only took care of the legal/political issues involved to a certain extent. The hearts and minds of many in the United States are still divided about this. Bigotry exists now and is apart of the fabric of many aspects of life in the Unites States and needs to be found out, acknowledged and rooted out.
https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2018/what-is-white-privilege-re…

Michael Burke
1 week 5 days ago

the breakdownnof justice into
partial goals, ceeds the idea from fuition
this disporia allows the unjust to
fill in the break points.
Aquinas states Justice is one
not several things.
all the movements in history have
brought destruction
except those who follow Christ
Lincoln had bad attitude abiut blacks, but his actions were just.
THAT is what counts.
these movements sap the community- which is why Flannery
O'Connor was ambivilent innher days
she saw that only Grace moves us
in the right direction.
the article is rehash of what is already known, " many r called, few are chosen"
'busing moved whites to private school
'then moved white to suburbs
'then white returning to cities n gentrification throws out the poor
'labor laws can not be enforced
( age, race disrinination r rampent)

" the womens movement turned into
pro abortion demands

Justice dissolved by selfish

Michael Burke
1 week 5 days ago

the breakdownnof justice into
partial goals, ceeds the idea from fuition
this disporia allows the unjust to
fill in the break points.
Aquinas states Justice is one
not several things.
all the movements in history have
brought destruction
except those who follow Christ
Lincoln had bad attitude abiut blacks, but his actions were just.
THAT is what counts.
these movements sap the community- which is why Flannery
O'Connor was ambivilent innher days
she saw that only Grace moves us
in the right direction.
the article is rehash of what is already known, " many r called, few are chosen"
'busing moved whites to private school
'then moved white to suburbs
'then white returning to cities n gentrification throws out the poor
'labor laws can not be enforced
( age, race disrinination r rampent)

" the womens movement turned into
pro abortion demands

Justice dissolved by selfish

Michael Burke
1 week 5 days ago

the breakdownnof justice into
partial goals, ceeds the idea from fuition
this disporia allows the unjust to
fill in the break points.
Aquinas states Justice is one
not several things.
all the movements in history have
brought destruction
except those who follow Christ
Lincoln had bad attitude abiut blacks, but his actions were just.
THAT is what counts.
these movements sap the community- which is why Flannery
O'Connor was ambivilent innher days
she saw that only Grace moves us
in the right direction.
the article is rehash of what is already known, " many r called, few are chosen"
'busing moved whites to private school
'then moved white to suburbs
'then white returning to cities n gentrification throws out the poor
'labor laws can not be enforced
( age, race disrinination r rampent)

" the womens movement turned into
pro abortion demands

Justice dissolved by selfish

Lourdes Bernard
1 week 5 days ago

Amen.

Lourdes Bernard
1 week 5 days ago

This discussion is long overdue. To understand the reticence parishioners and church leaders have in taking on this conversation requires that we step back and understand the role of the church, not just in slavery but since the Crusades....yeah, I went there. By fighting the "black Moors" and expelling Jews, Spain managed for the first time to equate Christianity with "whiteness". THe Catholic CHurch in particular became entrenched in its xenophobia and racism through its Papal Bull of 1493 (appropriately named) where the Pope asserted the RCC's rights to colonize, enslave and convert ( too often through force) the indigenous people. For about 100 years after black slaves were transported, Christianity was denied to them by Protestants because the Church of England had decreed that Christians cannot be slaves. At some point Protestants decided that slaves would be more amenable if they were Christians and their Church changed the laws saying yes Christians can be slaves after all. I think of the The American Catholic Church as the German, Irish and Italian church, because these are the communities that populate most parishes. Latinos have typically worshipped apart as have African Americans.....sadly the church is at Racism 101 ...all other communities of faith are doing the hard and yes uncomfortable work because they recognize that we will all be better for it when we dismantle white supremacy.

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