Atlanta Archbishop calls for bishops’ racism statement

| Rhina Guidos | November 15, 2016 | 1 Comment
Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory, center, speaks during a news conference Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. At left is Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont and at right is Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. CNS/Bob Roller

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory, center, speaks during a news conference Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. At left is Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont and at right is Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. CNS/Bob Roller

Earlier this year, as communities faced tensions, protests and violence, following a spate of shooting and killings of black men by police, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked dioceses across the country to observe a day of prayer for peace.

He also wanted the bishops to look for ways they could help the suffering communities, as well as police affected by the incidents.

To that end, he appointed a special task force to explore ways of promoting peace and healing around the country and named by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta to head it.

On Nov. 14, Archbishop Gregory urged bishops gathered in Baltimore at the USCCB’s fall general assembly to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism, given “post-election uncertainty” and that some of the tensions have only gotten worse following the presidential election.

He urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, dialogues, as well as parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, and providing opportunities for encounter.

In a news conference that followed his afternoon presentation and ended the first day of the bishops’ assembly, Archbishop Gregory said communities that were disrupted by violence and riots after the police shootings, prompting a calling for healing from the church, are now seeing recent and highly public reactions to tensions brought about by the election results.

“It’s the hope of the task force, of people of good will, that the demonstrations, don’t turn violent,” he said.

American society has the ability to express opinion on social matters through various forms of expression, including protests, but “what we pray for is that those expressions of frustrations don’t provide another vehicle for violence.”

Tensions had been high enough in July, when Archbishop Kurtz had said the Catholic Church needed to “walk with and help these suffering communities” that had been affected by the shootings and the riots protesting them that followed.

“I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence,” Archbishop Kurtz said at the time. He said he wanted the work of the task force to help embrace the suffering of the communities, to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in local communities.

The recommendations, said Archbishop Gregory, were examined before the recent elections and all the tensions and protests that have followed. The recommendations were related to race and violence issues related to the summer shootings and riots.

But Archbishop Gregory expressed hope that the Church could help foster dialogue and bring healing by working with communities for a lasting peace.

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  • Charles C.

    I wonder what makes the good bishops think racism is a major problem in this country? I know that many people who are not White believe that racism is holding them back, that the system is against them, and their only friend is the government and community organizers. Is that largely the case? Based on what evidence?

    And if racism is less pervasive than Al Sharpton and BLM claim it is, what effect will it have to continually have prayer services, masses, letters, panels, etc. on the subject? What effect has it had? Blacks are worse off now in almost every category than they were in the 1950’s. Family structure, crime, teen unemployment, all are much worse now.

    “What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!

    —Frederick Douglass, 1865

    As an aside, some have suggested that the continual and expanding interference of Washington and its bureaucrats may have driven some to vote for Trump.