Catholics condemn ‘racist’ comments attributed to president

| January 16, 2018 | 4 Comments

U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a meeting on immigration with a bipartisan group of House and Senate members at the White House Jan. 9. U.N. officials said Jan. 12 that Trump’s reported use Jan. 11 of an expletive to describe Haiti and other countries could “potentially damage and disrupt the lives of many people.” CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA

Some Catholics said it was more important to look at the sentiment, not the vulgarity of the words the president of the United States allegedly used to refer to immigrants from certain countries: Disparaging, hateful, racist.

Those are the words some Catholic organizations used to describe how they feel about profane comments attributed to U.S. President Donald Trump at a Jan. 11 meeting about immigration.

On Jan. 12, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, said the president used profanity to refer to people from certain countries, and other “things which were hate-filled, vile and racist” during a meeting about immigration, and at least one Republican senator, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, confronted him about it.

In a statement following the reports, the National Black Catholic Congress said it condemned the remarks.

“As people of faith, concerned with the dignity of all of God’s people, we deplore such racist and hateful speech,” the group said.

While speaking to the press, Durbin said the comments, made while trying to hash out a deal on immigration, came after he was listing the countries with the highest numbers of people who benefit from Temporary Protected Status and include Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations, countries that, one by one, have seen the protection evaporate since Trump took office. Trump questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “(expletive) countries.”

“Those countries the president disparaged are by no means Shangri-La’s (sic) but, that’s why people emigrate from them,” said Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski Jan. 12 via Twitter. “And as Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty suggests, they become the ‘best and the brightest’ of the immigrants to this country.”

The Archdiocese of Miami, which he leads, is the spiritual home to one of the largest populations of Haitian Catholics in the country.

Archbishop Wenski also said via Twitter that while the president had on Jan. 9 suggested he would sign whatever Congress brought him on immigration reform, his remarks instead “laid bare the true motivations of those that want to close our nation to immigrants.”

A Jan. 12 statement issued by James Rogers, chief communications officer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the reported “disparaging” remarks “have aroused great concern.”

“As our brothers and sisters from these countries are primarily people of color, these alleged remarks are especially disturbing,” the statement said.

In Maryland, Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., said “the hateful disrespect (the president) expressed only confirms the bigoted attitude that undergirds the administration’s inhumane policies — canceling Temporary Protected Status for Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan and Nicaragua, ending DACA, barring people from majority-Muslim countries.”

And it was “especially appalling” that the president “graphically enunciated the contempt he feels for people in struggling nations” during a week when the Catholic Church in the U.S. was marking National Migration Week, Atkinson said. The U.S. Catholic bishops instituted National Migration Week — observed this year Jan. 7-14 — to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, immigrants, refugees, and human trafficking victims.

“We call on the president to apologize to the people of all the nations he slandered and to the American people,” Atkinson said. “We ask members of Congress and other leaders to denounce these slurs. They do not reflect who we are as Americans.”

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in a statement said they found it appalling that Trump would use “vulgar and offensive” language to describe the countries, which include places where the women religious serve.

“We find the sentiment behind the comments even more troubling and agree with the spokesperson for the United Nations Human Rights Commission who in his condemnation noted that the language is consistent with the racist decision making and attitude that has been expressed by this administration over the past year,” the Mercy Sisters said referring to comments from Rupert Colville, U.N. human rights spokesman.

“These are shocking and shameful comments from the president of the United States. There is no other word one can use but ‘racist,'” Colville said to press in Geneva, adding that vulgarity wasn’t the main offense in what the president said.

“It’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and destroy lives of many people,” he said.

The Sisters of Mercy said they would continue to “welcome immigrants and refugees from these countries in our schools, churches, health care institutions and other ministries.”

“We take offense to this description of these lands and of their thoughtful, loving and passionate people,” their statement said. “No home of our brothers and sisters, not coincidentally here our brothers and sisters of color, should be dismissed in this manner by the leader of our country.”

In his statement, the USCCB’s Rogers said: “All human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and comments that denigrate nations and peoples violate that fundamental truth and cause real pain to our neighbors.

“It is regrettable that this comes on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and could distract from the urgent bipartisan effort to help Dreamers and those with Temporary Protected Status,” he said. “As a vigorous debate continues over the future of immigration, we must always be sure to avoid language that can dehumanize our brothers and sisters.”

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  • Charles C.

    What a fascinating story. From something so simple comes so many angles. Step back and take a look freed from the screaming, posturing, and loose thinking.

    What happened? There was a small, private meeting with both parties represented. They were there to discuss immigration policy and try to find a way forward. That in itself is good news. Only one person in the meeting, Senator Durbin (D-IL), claims that he heard the President referring to “S******E” countries. At least three people in the meeting say they don’t remember hearing that. (Senators Cotton and Perdue, and the Secretary of Homeland Security Nielsen)

    Senator Durbin has previously claimed things were said at private meetings which were denied by all parties involved. You might remember that Durbin claimed “In a ‘negotiation’ meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: ‘I cannot even stand to look at you.’” This was denied by the Obama White House as well as the Republican House leadership present. Obama’s press secretary announced “I looked into this and spoke with somebody who was in that meeting and it did not happen.” Perhaps Trump didn’t say what Durbin is claiming, Durbin may have made another “mistake.”

    “I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in the Oval Office, any president has ever spoken words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” Durbin told reporters. While I’m willing to call Durbin’s claim about what Trump’s words were a “mistake,” all evidence points to the conclusion that this is a flat lie. Of course, Durbin can believe words even worse have been spoken in the Oval Office, he knows they have.

    “But LBJ said far worse things than that. He is infamous to hating blacks. Johnson, for instance used the N-word all the time. He even called the 1965 Civil Rights Act the ‘N***** bill.’ He also called the Vietnamese those ‘hordes of barbaric yellow dwarves.’ ” But if you’re really curious, you can look up other Presidents as well. An author who has worked with six presidents claims they all have used “S***,” and even Reagan would on very rare occasions say “F***”

    Now that Senator Durbin has displayed a willingness to talk about the contents of a private meeting with the intent of harming the President, what is the incentive to work with him or his party again? There has to be a certain level of trust and discretion while agreements are being discussed and negotiated, that’s why the discussions aren’t held on C-SPAN. If there is no agreement on DACA, or the Republicans compromise less than was expected, Senator Durbin has to shoulder a fair amount of the blame.

    But two other questions remain to which “Catholic Leaders” and bishops have already determined the answers. If it was said, was it racist, and was it false?

    It wouldn’t be racist by any normal definition. Saying that a country is fouled up beyond all recognition, is not a reflection on the race of it’s people. A starving population, lacking essential medical and other life supporting supplies, with a corrupt government which enforces its orders by violence, could very well be classified in private conversation as a “S******E.” You might be thinking about some African country, I was thinking about Venezuela. It’s not the race of the people, it’s the government and external conditions that make a place what it is.

    If someone were to refer to countries in that way, would they be factually wrong?

    The UN issues an annual Human Development Index. It looked at health, education, and standard of living for 188 countries in the 2016 report. (North Korea didn’t supply data.) The bottom 5% of the countries are in Africa. The bottom 10% of the countries are all in Africa. Of the 41 countries listed as having “Low Human Development,” 35 are in Africa. The rest include Middle-East “problems” Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Also included in the bottom 22% are Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Haiti.

    Oh, and for the literal use of the term which the President is claimed to have said, the World Health Organization reports that the majority of Sub-Saharan Africans have access to only unimproved sanitation facilities or open defecation.

    “UNIMPROVED – Use of pit latrines without a slab or platform, hanging latrines or bucket latrines
    OPEN DEFECATION – Disposal of human faeces in fields, forests, bushes, open bodies of water, beaches or other open spaces, or with solid waste.”

    These are countries with life-threatening problems. Ill health, extreme poverty, lack of education, violence, corruption of the government; these are all problems to be addressed. it is not a question of race, it is a question of governance.

    To me, it seems the outrage is false and manufactured, then picked up and amplified by those with hatred and anger against the President.

  • Charles C.

    From Jesse Jackson at Rainbow/PUSH coalition dinners:

    The Rev. Jesse Jackson once praised Donald Trump for being a “friend” who embraced “the under-served communities.”

    “I do want to express thanks to you Donald trump for being with us tonight. We need your building skills, your gusto .?.?. for the people on Wall Street to represent diversity,” Jackson, a civil-rights leader, said at a Rainbow Push Coalition event in 1999.

    And at a 1998 event in front of the same organization, Jackson said, “I now want to bring forth a friend — well, he is deceptive in that his social style is of such, one can miss his seriousness and commitment to success, which is beyond argument.

    “When we opened this Wall Street project .?.?. He gave us space at 40 Wall Street, which was to make a statement about our having a presence there. And beyond that, in terms of reaching out and being inclusive, he’s done that too.”

    Trump responded, in part, in his speech after the introduction:

    “A large percentage of the people, and especially in construction, that are building these great jobs are black and minorities, and I’m very proud of it. We have close to 25 percent, and I think the number is going up. They do a great job. There are no better builders than we have in New York, and a big percentage of that is black and minority folks, so I just want to thank everyone in the room for being here…”

    Trump, a solid racist? Let us not be silly.

  • tschraad

    If these countries were in the least bit normal or even attractive to others, they would be on the list of countries to visit, vacation or retire. As it is, no one is flocking to live there, no one is promoting resorts, beaches, etc. and no one is selling their homes to move.

    Why? because they are hell holes of corruption and lack most human facilities just like what it will be like in the United States (look at California) when.our Bishops join with the culture of death Democrats and have open borders.