Catholic News ServiceAugust 01, 2019
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory greets a Little Sister of the Poor at the Jeanne Jugan Residence the order operates for the elderly poor in Washington April 5, 2019. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory greets a Little Sister of the Poor at the Jeanne Jugan Residence the order operates for the elderly poor in Washington April 5, 2019. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said recent public comments by President Donald Trump and others about Baltimore and the responses those remarks have generated "have deepened divisions and diminished our national life."

"We must all take responsibility to reject language that ridicules, condemns, or vilifies another person because of their race, religion, gender, age, culture or ethnic background," the archbishop said. "Such discourse has no place on the lips of those who confess Christ or who claim to be civilized members of society. justice for all."

The archbishop made the remarks in a Q-and-A with the Catholic Standard, Washington's archdiocesan newspaper. The full text of the questions and his responses, published Aug. 1, follow:

Q: What is your reaction to the controversy over President Trump's tweets on some members of Congress, deploring Baltimore and related matters?
A: In my brief time in Washington, I have been doing a lot of listening and learning. I have promised to try to preach the Gospel, tell the truth and attempt to heal wounds in the body of Christ and our broader community. I have stressed that I am a pastor and fellow disciple of Jesus, not a political leader.

There are, however, sometimes, when a pastor and a disciple of Jesus is called to speak out to defend the dignity of all God's children.

I fear that recent public comments by our president and others and the responses they have generated, have deepened divisions and diminished our national life. In particular, I join my brother Archbishop William Lori in sadness and deep regret for the ways our Maryland neighbors in Baltimore have been denigrated in recent public attacks.

Our faith teaches us that respect for people of every race, religion, gender, ethnicity and background are requirements of fundamental human dignity and basic decency. This include newcomers to our country, people who have differing political views and people who may be different from us. Comments which dismiss, demean or demonize any of God's children are destructive of the common good and a denial of our national pledge of "liberty and justice for all."


What can we do about this kind of rhetoric or divisions?
I have recently met with leaders of the Knights of Columbus and many lay ecclesial movements in the Archdiocese. We discussed what we can do together to advance our Gospel mission. I encouraged them and their members to seek to promote respect for all, the common good and humble dialogue in a time of growing and destructive divisions. This request builds on the good work and outstanding service of the Knights and these exemplary lay movements in our family of faith and our Washington community. I asked their help in lifting up and defending the dignity of every person, promoting respect, civility and principled discussion of what unites us and where we may differ. We all need to reject racism, disrespect or brutality in speech and action.

I believe the recent pastoral letter of the U.S. bishops on racism, "Open Wide Our Hearts" which points out that racism occurs when we ignore "the fundamental truth that, because all humans share a common origin, they are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God, when this truth is ignored, the consequence is prejudice and fear of the other, and -- all too often -- hatred."

I want to share this appeal with all of the faithful of this local church and with our neighbors in this community we share. We must all take responsibility to reject language that ridicules, condemns, or vilifies another person because of their race, religion, gender, age, culture or ethnic background. Such discourse has no place on the lips of those who confess Christ or who claim to be civilized members of society. Speech that vilifies or denigrates another is a violation of the humanity of the speaker and those to whom it is directed – and deprives each of us of our God-given dignity. We must reclaim, reshape and refocus the national conversation on how we protect and promote the lives and dignity of all, especially, the least of these" (Matthew 25.)


What is your hope for what can come out of all this?
As an American, a Christian, a Catholic pastor, I pray that our president, other national leaders and all Americans will do all we can to respect the dignity of all God's children and nothing to further divide our nation. The growing plague of offense and disrespect in speech and actions must end.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
JR Cosgrove
1 year 7 months ago

If one would document offensive speech by professionals I believe the archbishop would be surprised where it comes from. Trump may be offensive but now we are discussing cities like Baltimore. Where has the Catholic Church in the United States been on the problems of large cities governed by Democrats in the last 50 years? Maybe the archbishop should look at the causes of the poverty in these large cities and ask Trump to comment.
Also does the archbishop know that the United States is the least racist country in the developed world? So what caused Baltimore?

JR Cosgrove
1 year 7 months ago

Quote - would it be truer to say that 55 years after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racism is being pushed into the realm of abstraction, reduced mainly to use as a weapon of political rhetoric?

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
1 year 7 months ago

Very interesting thought, Mr. Cosgrove. There may be alot more to this point than we know.

Robin Smith
1 year 7 months ago

How are those rural, red states doin'? The ones like Kansas that the supermajority gop had to reverse it's own tax cuts because schools were down to 3 1/2 days? Arkansas that has one hospital for every 2 1/2 counties? Oh, all the farmers that are getting subsidies to eat their own food? Miss & Louis. the 2 worst states for everything.
Come on back & tell us all how many low income people have been kicked off medicaid because tax cuts.
J, talk to us....

JR Cosgrove
1 year 7 months ago

talk to us

What causes poverty or prosperity? The rural South has been one of the poorest parts of the country so Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana still feel the effects of policies instituted long ago when they were strictly agrarian economies. Similarly most of the other southern states. Agrarian economies can only reach a certain level of economic well being especially since it depends on crop prices and productivity has decreased the need for farm laborers. These states will grow slowly as a non agrarian economy is replaced by something else and investment increases. The comparison of this with inner cities are apples and oranges.

JR Cosgrove
1 year 7 months ago

The poverty of inner cities is not racism or discrimination. It is because family structure has broken down. What caused this breakdown of family structure? Interesting is that this phenomena is related mostly to males as females are not as affected as much by it if they do not get pregnant. Black females from the same demographic backgrounds as white females do as well economically.

JR Cosgrove
1 year 7 months ago

The Kansas tax cuts were an attempt to increase incentives to invest but did not work out so were reversed. Other states are experimenting with tax cuts and will have to see what happens. I fail to see the big deal here. State taxes are often a small part of costs and the incentives may be different from state to state. But there is a migration out of states with high taxes. Personally, I just left New York for New Hampshire and our after tax income increased by several thousand $.

JR Cosgrove
1 year 7 months ago

But this article is about offensive speech and I brought up poverty because I thought the archbishop should be focused there because that is what the content of Trump's tweets were about. Without Trump's often crude way of pointing out the obvious, few would be discussing this major problem.

John Mack
1 year 7 months ago

You raise an interesting point. Calvinists and neo=-Calvinists, in whose religious system no one can do anything about getting to heaven or hell, places an even greater emphasis on human agency. They conclude that Christians are obliged to forge achievements, on their own or in communities or organizations, to do good works and to make tis world better. What's their motivation? The glory of God. Even if one is pre-destined to hell he or she is still obliged to be agents of human achievement anf good works that make things better for their fellow humans. To thenm the role of the church is not to offer comfort or empathy even to those who are unjustly victimized but to urge them to agency, to action that will improve their lot and make at least their immediate environment better. Where people have switched from Catholic to Calvinist (as in Latin America) the material conditions end up greatly improved, there is less or no drinking, and neighbor helps neighbor to the glory of God, not for salvation. Of course many Caytholics are sort of Calvinists and operate on the same principle of human agency to the glory of God. That is, problem solving yo move this earth closer to "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.". And there are many instances where programs such as land trusts and social enterprises like Homeboy Industries or the Family Independence Initiative or the Mondragon Cooperatives have roused both grassroots people and political decision makers to start and support these enterprising initiatives. They are not just about individual changes but structural changes that require a role for government.

JR Cosgrove
1 year 7 months ago

The change to freedom that brought prosperity had nothing to do with Calvinism but with freedom of religion in general. Though the religious wars in England and Holland included different Protestant denominations fighting each other including some Calvinist, they all rejected Catholics. Penn was a Quaker but accepted all religions even some Catholics and the Germans that came were Lutherans. The changes did not happen in areas where one Protestant religion was dominant as they also precluded freedom.

J. Calpezzo
1 year 7 months ago

Why not just call out Trump as the racist he is, and the Kushners as the slumlords they are?

Rhett Segall
1 year 7 months ago

Two quotes from Sirach are most relevant: 23: 13 “Let not your mouth become used to coarse talk, for in it lies sinful matter.” And 23: 15 ”A man who has the habit of abusive language will never mature in character as long as he lives.” (New American Bible)
The violation of these standards has created a coarsening atmosphere destructive of the commonweal. Imagine parents who demand high standards but do so in a verbally abusive way. A boy in my wife’s second grade referred to another student as a "f----ng idiot"! He was taken aside and asked why he would say such a thing to another boy. “What’s wrong with it? He asked.” My father calls me that every day.”!

Andrew Strada
1 year 7 months ago

It would be sad if President Trump's inflammatory rhetoric obscured the fact that Baltimore does have serious problems. Even if everyone spoke nicely all the time, Baltimore would still have a high murder rate, public health issues, unemployment and poverty. Condemning crude language, while a righteous act, is easy, quick, doesn't cost much and does little to actually solve the underlying problems.

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
1 year 7 months ago

Right-on Mr. Strada.

Michael Cardinale
1 year 7 months ago

But it's a start. If everyone in Baltimore "spoke nicely", maybe some of these other problems will be reduced.

John Mack
1 year 7 months ago

Doubtful. Progress against these problems requires much more than being nice.

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
1 year 7 months ago

Shouldn't the archbishop be more concerned about cleaning-up the behavior in several areas of the bishops in this country? Please get your priorities straight, Archbishop.

Larry Mulligan
1 year 7 months ago

Would the hierarchy speak with greater moral credibility on this issue if it did not treat our LGBTQ sisters and brothers as “other” by calling them inherently disordered?

John Mack
1 year 7 months ago

Best wishes to him on all this. But he will not convert hearts. Many Catholics will continue to vilify on a partisan basis, without any real concern for dignity and problem solving. Their identity is tied up in anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, pro-Republican and only then Catholic or Christian identity as defined by Archbishop Gregory.

david_roccosalva@yahoo.com
1 year 7 months ago

"offensive speech" you mean the hateful rhetoric of Indiana Archbishop Charles Thompson regarding same-sex marriage? The church portrays itself as one thing, but they are no better than the extremist Christian right.

John Mack
1 year 7 months ago

Too sadly true.

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