Catholic communities organize activities to battle racism

| August 26, 2016 | 5 Comments

The site

Balloons, signs and flowers lay at the site where Philando Castile, 32, who was black, died July 6 after being shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Around the country, Catholic organizations, parishes, clergy and laity are taking action and bolstering efforts to build peace and battle racism, following a summer of violence.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated Sept. 9, the feast of St. Peter Claver, a national Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities. In a July news release, the bishops conference said the day of prayer and task force, chaired by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, are a “response to the racially-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas.”

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Bernard Hebda will lead a public prayer service at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at St. Peter Claver, 375 Oxford St. N., St. Paul.

On Sept. 11, St. Bridget in Minneapolis is hosting an ecumenical prayer and worship service with Minneapolis’ New Creation Church. “Come Together: Seeking God’s Peace” will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at St. Bridget’s campus, 3811 Emerson Ave. N., Minneapolis. Father Paul Jarvis, associate pastor, said the services will be ongoing at different locations, and participants will commit to pray for a particular section of the neighborhood.

Also on Sept. 11, when the United States commemorates the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis will host an “Evening Prayer for Justice and Peace” at 3 p.m. to honor all those who died and pray for an end to deaths from violence.

After the violence of July, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, noted in a press release “the need to look at ways the Catholic Church can walk with and help these suffering communities.” In an Aug. 4 letter, Archbishop  Gregory said that for gestures of mourning to be meaningful, they must be followed with action.

Listening and support

In New Orleans, St. Peter Claver Church is involved in community mediation with law enforcement and is working on a variety of other issues related to racial justice, including seeking just wages for all. In Baltimore, Auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden leads regular prayer walks in neighborhoods plagued by violence. He also participates in a group of interfaith leaders in the city to work toward racial justice.

In Dallas, the city that witnessed the height of summer’s boiling point when a gunman opened fire on police — killing five and wounding seven officers and two civilians — during a protest, Holy Trinity Catholic Church is participating in gatherings with Dallas Area Interfaith, a group that brings various communities together to try to understand the problem of racism, as well as the recent shootings.

Holy Trinity parishioner William deHass, who has attended some of the gatherings, said that based on what has been discussed at the interfaith group, “some churches ignore or avoid speaking about racism.” But the aftermath of the violence has provided an opportunity for people of different races and faiths to listen and support one another, he said.

“It’s really the laypeople who believe that change and transformation can happen, and so there are a lot of positive things that are going on in neighborhoods and communities because people believe in the social Gospel teachings of the Church,” said Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, and a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. “People are grasping that and are almost compelled to be engaged and be involved.”

Sister Chappell said organizations such as Pax Christi and Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, have published guides showing where the two most prominent presidential candidates stand on a variety of issues, including issues of race.

“We’re not telling people how to vote,” she said, but the documents focus on issues that are impacting the poor and marginalized communities. “We have pointed out clearly based on the values of the Catholic social teachings, and what Pope Francis is saying, that we must be on the side of those who are vulnerable and poor, and we have laid out issues for people to look at where the candidates stand.”

Sister Chappell also will participate in talks as part of the USCCB’s task force to deal with issues of race. The task force will meet as part of “Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities.”

The USCCB offers resources to help parishes and communities seeking to organize events for Sept. 9 at its website.

The Catholic Spirit contributed to this story.

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Featured, U.S. & World News

  • Charles C.

    Nobody approves of “racism,” and “battling” it seems to be a good idea, but what do people mean when they say “Racism?” That’s where the problem lies with events like these, and national conversations on racism, marches, statements, demonstrations, and on and on. By claiming to be against “Racism,” people demand acceptance and legitimacy for anything they might do, including murder, rioting, and looting.

    First question. Can Blacks be racist? The obvious answer is “Sure. Why not?” However, many government officials, professors, members of the media, and demonstrators will tell you that Blacks can not be racist because they don’t have any power. (See, “non sequitur.” Latin for “It does not follow.”)

    (What happens when we introduce Latinos? Can Latinos be racist? What if a White doesn’t like Latinos but has no problem with Blacks, is he “Half-racist?”)

    If you believe that Blacks can’t be racist, then you and I can not have any conversation on the subject.

    Second question. How wide spread is racism? If you say that racism permeates American society and most, if not all, non-Blacks are racist whether they know it or not, then again we have nothing to talk about.

    Third question, what is racism? If it is simply holding a particular opinion, and nothing more, then it may be racism, but I have no interest in it. I know people who hold all sorts of bizarre opinions, that’s their business. Did you know that there are people who believe that Hillary Clinton is honest? There are people who believe the Pope isn’t Catholic, and that Obama is interested in the welfare of the nation. As I say, bizarre, but it’s nothing to me. Heck, I don’t like the Vikings. We’re allowed our own thoughts.

    Perhaps racism has to rise to the level of words, spoken or written, before it is a matter of legitimate concern. If so, we have two controls we can use and which seem to me to be sufficient. First, we have long established law. The First Amendment free speech protections are limited by the doctrines of “Fighting Words” and “Incitement.” (Those aren’t as broad as you might think. Certainly they’re not as broad as most universities think.) Second, for less offensive speech, we have manners, etiquette, and other widely accepted societal pressures. Do we need more? If you think so, I’d like to see a better case than “It will hurt their feelings or offend someone.”

    Finally, racism can be expressed in actions. If the action is illegal, then arrest the person involved. Easy-peasy. What do we do if someone does something we don’t like, but it’s not illegal? Look at your own life. When you’re cut off in traffic, when you serve a party of 12 and they don’t leave a tip, when someone spreads an anonymous lie about you, when any of dozens of things are done to you which you don’t like, what do you do? I suppose you can go around confronting people, but isn’t the common response to just mutter under your breath (hopefully say a prayer), and get on with your life? Does it matter to you what their motivation was? No, you just consider the act, the damage it caused, and what was the appropriate response.

    Shooting five officers and wounding nine others in Dallas is not an appropriate response. To anything.

    One of the least useful results of the “Battle Against Racism” is the attitude “I can do anything I want and rich White people have to give me money because I’m a victim of racism.” (And yes, those sentiments were recorded by a reporter talking to a young Black man at the Milwaukee riots.)

    So an event, which is as vaguely described as the ones in the above article hold no interest for me. It gets tiring to be lectured to over and over, without any real discussion, ending with the demand for money to expiate the sin of racism.

    If you want to help minority communities, make it more profitable (financially and socially) for Black fathers to stay with their families. Repair large city school systems so that they demand competence and civilized behavior from the students. Make it more profitable (again, socially and financially) to accept a job, even a low paying one, than to be on government assistance. In short, try the old approach of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior, whether the behavior comes from Blacks or Whites.

    Were we more racist in the 1940s? That was a time when Black illegitimacy was around 15%. Now, in our more aware and sensitive society, it’s around 70%. After World War II to the mid 1950s Black youth unemployment was the same or only slightly greater than for White youth. Now it’s twice as high. Educational achievement has likewise fallen.

    The single best solution? Educate Black children. That is something which the school districts of Minneapolis and St. Paul are managing, at great expense, not to do. Yet Catholic schools around the country seem to be able to do it. Try building and fundraising for Catholic schools instead of having blabber sessions which are half pity party and half extortionate demands.

    • gotbanned

      I nominate you as superintendent of Saint Paul and Minneapolis public schools. I can now sleep at night knowing that when they follow your seven step plan all social problems in both cities will be fixed.

      • Charles C.

        Dear Gotbanned,

        Nice to hear from you, although I didn’t offer a seven step plan for the Superintendents of Schools to follow.

        I’d be happy to discuss it the entire subject with you though. Where do you think I went wrong? Would you be willing to spend the time to point out the flaws in my thinking? If I’m going the wrong way I’d be very grateful to learn where my thinking went wrong so I can correct it.

        “Dialogue,” “Listening,” and “Tolerance” are all big concepts now. I’d be happy to listen to your ideas, respect them, and discuss them.

  • Nancy

    This article states, “In a July news release, the bishops conference said the day of prayer and task force, chaired by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, are a ‘response to the racially-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas.’”

    The Conference of Bishops has deemed the Philando Casille shooting as “racially” based before the complete investigation has been concluded. The Conference of Bishops have acted unjustly.

    • Charles C.

      Dear Nancy,

      You’re quite correct about the injustice, but there’s another problem from the practical side.

      It’s a diversion and a misuse of resources.

      By misidentifying the problem as racism, Blacks are encouraged to see the problem as something outside of themselves, their communities, and the policies of their elected leaders. Instead, they’re encouraged to think that America is against them, creating a division in the country leading to hatred or apathy, and violence.

      And Social Justice Warrior Whites, under this system, are encouraged to believe that they have nothing to do with the problem, it’s the fault of those who disagree with them. SJWs can then accuse their opponents of racism, bigotry, and all sorts of evil for refusing to agree with every SJW position. That, of course, creates another divide.

      These prayer services against racism keep people from looking at the real roots of urban Black problems, and thereby beginning to solve them.