The Evil of Racism
Published: August 20, 2017
My dear Parishioners and Friends,
I’m writing this just after last weekend’s horrible racist demonstrations and terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is appalling that it happened. I wish I could have gathered my thoughts and prayers sufficiently to address this in last Sunday’s homily, but I couldn’t. Aided by the reflections of good friends, especially some by a deacon friend in New York, finally a few things are beginning to be insistently on my heart and in my mind:
First of all, what the world witnessed in Charlottesville was not only abhorrent and tragic, it was evil. In Catholic understanding, racism is considered an “intrinsic evil” – morally on a par with abortion, assisted suicide and torture. This means it can never be justified. It is always, under every circumstance, evil and sinful. It is not a political issue, or something that can be debated as if there was a choice: we can only stand against it.
As a church, we have been very effective at focusing on one of the great scourges of our time, abortion. We have marched, we have picketed, we have rallied and prayed and campaigned. We have made it a defining “life issue.” Yet this is another “life issue.” Racism is inherently anti-life. It scorns God by defiling His creation. It wounds the Body of Christ anew. Those who purposely hold and promote it shall not be saved. Thus we need to bring the same kind of energy and zeal that we use to battle abortion – in politics, in prayer, in personal reflection and personal witness – to battle racism.
This means striving, above all, to give dignity to everyone, at all times, in all circumstances. As Pope St. John Paul II put it: “To oppose racism we must recognize in every man and woman a brother or sister with whom we walk in solidarity and peace.”
This will be hard. Way back in 1979 – 38 years ago, the year I was ordained a priest – a prophetic letter of the US bishops, “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” noted that “Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil … To struggle against it demands an equally radical transformation in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society.” But it is an imperative for us all, something we cannot dismiss or minimize. Please make this a focus of your prayer and then of your resolve as we move forward.
There’s one decidedly less-important “news item” to mention, but it’s very incomplete. As I write the final costs of replacing the ceilings and some supporting beams in the two side chapels of the Cathedral are still not clear; inspections and evaluations are still continuing. Like you I hope that these necessary repairs are not too expensive, for we’d rather our resources go into the ministries of formation and evangelization that are more central to our mission!
Sincerely in the Lord,