In Los Angeles, Archbishop Gomez challenges white nationalism

An altar is adorned with white balloons at a "Mass for the Peace" Aug. 10, 2019, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one week after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in nearby El Paso, Texas. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters) An altar is adorned with white balloons at a "Mass for the Peace" Aug. 10, 2019, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one week after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in nearby El Paso, Texas. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters) 

In the wake of the shootings in El Paso last month, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez issued a strongly-worded statement. “With El Paso a line has been crossed,” he wrote on Aug. 13. “We are left with hard questions about what our nation is becoming.”

The mission of the church is clear, he said, in the face of the rising white nationalism that may have inspired the violence in Texas. “We need to help our society to see our common humanity—that we are all children of God, meant to live together as brothers and sisters, no matter the color of our skin, the language we speak, or the place we were born.”

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Archbishop Gomez is the former archbishop of San Antonio and a Mexican immigrant whose mother’s family has lived in what is now the state of Texas since the 1800s. The violence in El Paso hit hard.

Growing up in Monterey, Mexico, not far from the border, “every day we received a newspaper from Texas,” he told me in a phone interview. “It was kind of normal to be in Mexico and understand that the people of Texas [and us] were family. The border was just a physical or political reality.

“Really what I’m trying to help people understand,” he said, “is that the people on both sides of the border are the same people.” White nationalists, he argued, ignore the diversity present at the origins of our nation. “It seems like [people are saying] Latinos do not belong in the United States, when we were here before everybody else except the Native Americans,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We were all there at the very beginning—Native Americans, Hispanics from Mexico, the people coming from Europe to the East Coast. There were Asians also here early; Filipinos were here in the 1500s!

The mission of the church is clear, he said, in the face of the rising white nationalism that may have inspired the violence in Texas. “We need to help our society to see our common humanity—that we are all children of God, meant to live together as brothers and sisters.”

“Our Founding Fathers wanted to form a nation where people coming from all over the world could be together, respecting each other and where they came from.” The polarization of the present moment, he said, undermines that ambition.

“We are becoming more separated from one another, and I think that is dangerous. We need to think about who we are,” Archbishop Gomez said.

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Parish life, he suggested, offers a means of overcoming that alienation. "In the archdiocese of Los Angeles,” he said, “people from different cultures go to the same churches. So they get to know each other. And that helps unify us; we see we are all alike. We go to church; we have a family; we work; we struggle to make progress economically.

“When we are together in church, in a community, we get to know each other. And that really helps us to overcome the temptation of separation,” the archbishop said. “I had Mass [on Sept. 5] at Our Lady of Peace. It was the 75th anniversary of the parish. Afterwards, we had lunch and little presentations from different cultural groups, and it was beautiful. Everybody was together.”

When I point out that many Catholics voted for President Trump and support his administration’s immigration policies, Archbishop Gomez admitted, “That’s the real challenge. And it’s a little frustrating for me.”

But he also finds that many Catholics are open to dialogue around immigration policy. “The bishops of the United States are trying to find the best way to help our country to address the immigration reality of the times we are living in,” the archbishop said. “We are asking for some kind of comprehensive immigration reform that includes a system to facilitate the movement of peoples and at the same time makes sure there is border security.

“You look at what has happened the last eight, 16, 20 years: We went through Republican administrations, Democratic administrations, and still there is no solution.

“Somehow politically we are not able to address the issue,” he said. “I think we are all frustrated about that.”

Still, the treatment of the undocumented and the place of immigrants in U.S. society are hotly contested questions today. Whether online or in seats of government, conversations on these topics can heat up into recrimination and outrage.

In his statement, Archbishop Gomez called out the myths of white nationalism. “The first non-native language spoken in this continent was Spanish, not English,” he wrote, adding that “the myth that America was founded by and for white people is just that—a myth.”

And yet he has no appetite for verbal combat. “Polarization,” he said, “is just a huge danger. It’s easy to fall into that. But that’s not what this country is all about.

“I don’t have problems with people expressing their opinion,” he said. “I try to understand where they’re coming from and I try to help them understand the teachings of the church.”

The way to defuse the anger in our society, he argued, “is to get to know each other. When you know the people that are coming to this country, it changes your opinion. Because these are good people. They work like crazy.

“Especially now, our problem is that we don’t talk to each other,” Archbishop Gomez said. “You talk to your little machine, but you don’t talk to the person on the other side. What we need to foster is more communication and personal knowledge of people that are different.”

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is a good intercessor,” he said. “She came to unite everybody.

“Maybe she can help us.”

Correction, Sept. 13: The quote beginning, “It seems like [people are saying] Latinos do not belong in the United States..” was edited to clarify the text in brackets. 

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JR Cosgrove
2 months 3 weeks ago

White nationalism is a joke. It’s part of a desperate plan by Democrats. The El Paso shooter is a demented soul but he actually praised people of color in his manifesto by saying they helped build the country.

Race is a bogus fear being brought up for political purposes that have nothing to do with race. The United States currently is the least racist it has ever been and one of the least racist countries in the world. The real problem is claims of racism not actual racism.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 3 weeks ago

Here is a photo that sums up this bogus claim. http://bit.ly/2zn1dcX

FRAN ABBOTT
2 months 3 weeks ago

Why don’t you tell that to Heather Heyer’s mother.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 3 weeks ago

You have just inadvertently made my point by bringing up a rare occurrence. There will always be instances of depravity and this is one of them. But a national assembly of white nationalists could not generate enough people to fill one half of a junior high school gym. This indicates it is as best a fringe element in our society. If it was common you would surely have statistics not just a rare example. Thank you.

FRAN ABBOTT
2 months 3 weeks ago

Just so you know — I will NEVER make your point. I will stop here because I am teetering on the verge of being uncharitable. God help you!

JR Cosgrove
2 months 3 weeks ago

God help you

I didn’t say anything that is untrue but yet you condescendingly imply you are a better person. African Americans have a much tougher life. You might want to ask why. It is form of racism practiced by white liberals and the Democratic Party. But not the usual form of racism by discrimination.

FRAN ABBOTT
2 months 2 weeks ago

That wasn’t a condescending comment — that was a prayer.

Jim Lein
2 months 3 weeks ago

We are no longer lynching African Americans, but our police are killing unarmed blacks, including those who are walking or running away. Our police are not treating white suspects this way. And blacks are imprisoned at a much higher rate than whites are for similar crimes. This is not the least racist we have ever been and we are not among the least racist countries in the world--although racism does seem on the increase in many countries these days, reminiscent of Germany and Italy in the 1930s.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 3 weeks ago

Not true. Where do you get your ideas? Read Heather MacDonald. There are studies that show police actually shoot blacks less than whites . It’s well documented. The problem is that blacks commit violent crimes at much higher rates than other groups so police are confronted at a much higher rate with blacks. You might want to ask why their crime rates changed?
There are also efforts at the present to deal with incarceration of non violent crimes.

Jim Lein
2 months 2 weeks ago

You'd think it would be in the news if police shot whites on camera, especially if they were unarmed and walking away, their backs to the police. So far blacks have not shot multitudes at once, as some of us whitey's have.
Yes, there are efforts to treat all lawbreakers equally, including legal representation which for the past 25 years or so has treated black offenders very poorly including advising them to confess to something they didn't do. Like the five young blacks who didn't rape that female jogger. Hence the huge increase in black inmates. Particularly in NYC when Nelson Rockefeller was governor.
Good news if the times are changing on the arrest and trial front. We have way too many people in jails, many of which are for-profits that want as many prisoners as possible. Legal procedures have too long been feeding into the private prison setup. Profits before people. Let us hope this easing up on incarceration trend carries over into other aspects of our lives, with us increasingly putting people before profits. Maybe we can agree on that. If we can, that would be something.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

You make a lot of claims. Why don't you document all these things you claim? I can document what I claim. Also Rockefeller had been dead for 40 years.

Ellen B
2 months 2 weeks ago

Not a "joke". A legitimate danger to this country. Might take a closer look at all those white males murdering as many people as possible.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

White Males murdering as many people as possible

Why don't you document your claims. Then if you cannot, apologize. Essentially you are calling people racists.

Dionys Murphy
2 months 2 weeks ago

Sadly, "white nationalism" is no joke. The FBI has been clear that the greatest terrorist threat on US soil comes from white nationalist organizations, and leads domestic terrorism acts. Moreover it is gaining power and influence in Washington thanks to the current administration.

"Race is a bogus fear" - For certain. Sadly it's groups like the NRA and people such as Trump that use that fear to manipulate people and the legal system. That the US is the "least racist it has ever been" (which is likely not true with a resurgence in racist attacks and violence thanks to Trump making people feel comfortable voicing and acting on their racism again), it still remains deeply racist.

John Walton
2 months 3 weeks ago

May I be the first to inform Archbishop Gomez that the first non-indigenuous language spoken in North America was probably Aleut or some predecessor, the second some Scandinavian language.

Christopher Lochner
2 months 3 weeks ago

Ok. So what, exactly, is the actual recommendation for a solution as offered by the good archbishop? What immigration policy should best be in place?
(Hint: having another conference is NOT an answer.)

Ellen B
2 months 2 weeks ago

Why are you looking to an archbishop for a POLITICAL answer?

Christopher Lochner
2 months 2 weeks ago

Because anyone can point out a problem. Most people do this and all of the time. If one doesn't like something then offer a solution! Jesus noted the hungry masses and fed them. If finding a solution is political then whining about it is political, too

Andrew Strada
2 months 3 weeks ago

From Archbishop Gomez: “Our Founding Fathers wanted to form a nation where people coming from all over the world could be together, respecting each other and where they came from.”

Founding Father John Adams was rather effective in disguising the respect he had for Catholics, Jesuits in particular. From an article by Fr. Martin in 2008 quoting John Adams: "I do not like the reappearance of the Jesuits.... Shall we not have regular swarms of them here, in as many disguises as only a king of the gipsies can assume, dressed as printers, publishers, writers and schoolmasters? If ever there was a body of men who merited damnation on earth and in Hell, it is this society of Loyola’s. Nevertheless, we are compelled by our system of religious toleration to offer them an asylum."

A number of founding fathers owned slaves. That was not very respectful. Probably not a good idea to rewrite history to fit your present day kumbaya narrative, at least not if you want to be taken seriously.

Ellen B
2 months 2 weeks ago

President Adams was hardly the only one with a low opinion of Jesuits. In 1773, they had been kicked out of most of the countries in Europe & Pope Clement XIV wrote that they would be "... forever extinguished & suppressed". They were not reestablished until the 1800's. The US was one of the few countries where they were still allowed.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

A number of founding fathers owned slaves.

Yes, true, but you may want to read the speech by Abraham Lincoln that made him president, The Cooper Union address in February 1861. It shows the attitudes of the founding fathers towards slavery.

J. Calpezzo
2 months 3 weeks ago

Jose says nothing here. His Opus Dei brothers are Trump’s biggest enablers. Hence, he actually supports white supremacy and is complicit in the El Paso, Sandy Hook, Charlottesville, Charleston, Odessa, Gilroy, massacres. Hanging out at the parish does nothing .

Christopher Scott
2 months 3 weeks ago

The Archbishop didn’t read the shooters manifesto...and he’s makings the assumption that you didn’t either.

The shooter was a leftist green new deal environmentalist who bought into the religion of overpopulation. He had some twisted belief that he was saving the world. Environmentalism is a substitute pseudo religion for the unchurched secularists where they get to use religious terminology to feel good. The problem is there is only one Person who ever lived who you should follow if you want to save the world, too bad the Bishops don’t believe that anymore.

arthur mccaffrey
2 months 3 weeks ago

with a name like Gomez he must be looking for votes. With this country full of white nationalists, why are so many poc's trying to come here? we must be doing something right to make America such a desirable place. Or maybe those original Latinos and native tribes just don't have a head for business-- or politics, for that matter, since their countries are so dysfunctional. Poor old whitey just never gets the credit for creating such a good country to live in. If you invited people to your house for a party and all they did was criticise you, would you invite them back?

Alan Johnstone
2 months 3 weeks ago

A bishop in the Roman rite can still be expected to have a passing acquaintance with Jesus.
He distinguished between the people chosen by God, His people, and others.
The way these useless words are bandied about, he was racist and nationalist.

Christopher Scott
2 months 3 weeks ago

"One training slide was titled “White Supremacy Culture.” It included “Perfectionism,” “Individualism,” “Objectivity,” and “Worship of the Written Word” among the white-supremacist values that need to be disrupted.

New York City Public Schools Have Embraced the New Left - The Atlantic

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/10/when-the-culture-war-comes-for-the-kids/596668/

Vincent Gaglione
2 months 3 weeks ago

I recommend to the Archbishop a change in his rhetoric, a change noted by Condoleeza Rice on Face the Nation on Sunday. We must not confuse and conflate "nationalism" with good-old-fashioned USA "nativism." What Gomez refers to and many writers here seemingly reflect is nativism, one of the hallmarks of USA history since even before its founding.

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