Race in the American Catholic Imagination | Bishop George Murry, S.J.

By | September 3, 2019

Good evening. Good afternoon, everybody. We gave a few
extra minutes grace just for people coming from
our offices at 5 o’clock, and so on. My name is Thomas Groome. I have the privilege
of currently serving as the director of our church
in the 21st Century Center, and our Episcopal
visitor program each year is hosted by Father Leahy’s
office, our president, and by the church in the
21st Century Center as well. And I’m going to introduce
our wonderful guest speaker. But first, it is 9/11 and
16 years ago today, we have the memory of the
almost 3,000 people whose lives were lost. Let’s take a moment of silence
to raise them up before God, and to raise up their families
that they left behind. Their wives, their husbands,
their partners, their friends, family, kids, grandkids,
all of the lives that were so tragically
touched by that awful occasion. Let us be quiet and
simply imagine ourselves as still, and yet,
in spite of it all, being looked upon
with great love by our God. Amen. Bishop George V. Murry of
the Society of Jesus and one of two Jesuit bishops,
active bishops, in the United States Catholic
Conference at this point in time, bishop of
Youngstown, Ohio. Bishop Murry was born in Camden,
New Jersey, one of two boys. In fact, he studied at first
for the Diocese of Camden, and completed his
bachelor’s degree at St. Mary Seminary
in Baltimore in 1972, but then discerned a vocation
to the more academic life and he was encouraged,
even by his bishop, to look into the Jesuits. His bishop, had been to Regis
College at a high school rather, New York. And so in 1979– or 1972, bishop Murry
entered the Society of Jesus. Then in 1979, he
completed his MDiv degree at the Jesuit School of
Theology at Berkeley California. In 1995, he obtained his
doctorate in philosophy at the George
Washington University and in American
cultural history. His dissertation topic
for his doctorate was Welcoming the Stranger, the
Catholic Church and Refugees, 1930 to 1980, which was surely
a timely prophetic topic to become all the more
urgent in our own time. As a Jesuit, bishop
Murry has had many years and varied experiences in
teaching administration in both Jesuit high
schools and colleges, until in 1995, he was
named an auxiliary bishop on the archdiocese of Chicago. Probably one of
the last nominees by the great late great,
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin before he went home to God. From 1995 to ’98, he was
an auxiliary in Chicago and then was named the bishop
of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. Was a bishop there
for almost 10 years. And then in 2007, he was named
bishop of Youngstown, Ohio. So he’s already got some
22 years of Episcopal ministry under his
belt. Obviously, he was a baby bishop
when he was first named. He has served on umpteen
academic Episcopal civic boards across the years, far
too many to mention here. He’s a trustee of no less than
eight academic institutions, including Loyola Chicago and
our sister college here in New England, Fairfield University. At the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops, he served as Secretary of
the USCCB from 2008 to 2013. He’s chaired and served on
many committees at the USCCB, particularly the ones
determining the conferences priorities and plans, and
it’s heightening its ministry to it’s African-American
Catholics. He has also chaired the board of
directors of NCEA, the National Catholic Education Association. Most recently, as
you know, he has been appointed by
the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops to chair its ad hoc committee on
racism, as surely, is significant a much needed
development in our time. And as he said himself when
he was appointed, quote, “For too long, the sin of
racism has lived and thrived in our communities and even
in some of our churches. For those who have been
watching the news, even with passing
interest, it should be plain to see why we
need a concerted effort at this moment”. So it’s a great honor for
us to welcome Bishop Murry. His topic this evening is– theme is, Race In the
American Catholic Imagination. Would you please
welcome, Bishop Murry? [APPLAUSE] Thank you, very much,
and good afternoon. I am very, very honored to be
here with you at Boston College and the honor has made
all the more sweet because there are a number of
friends here in the audience, so I know that they at least
will not be throwing things at me as we go through this. During the past
century, the number of Catholics around the globe
has increased dramatically from an estimated 291 million
in 1910 to over one billion in 2010, according to
the Pew Research Center. During that same period, the
world’s overall population has also risen. As a result, Catholics comprise
a remarkably stable share of all people on earth. In 1910, about half
of all Christians and 17% of the world’s total
population was Catholic. A century later, Catholics
still comprise about half of all Christians
worldwide and 16% of the total global population. The geographic distribution of
the world’s Catholics however, has vastly changed. In 1910, Europe was the home
to about 2/3 of all Catholics, and nearly 9 in 10 lived either
in Europe or in Latin America. By contrast, in 2010, less
than a quarter of all Catholics were in Europe and only 39%
resided in Latin America. Rapid growth has occurred in
sub-Saharan Africa, which today is home to about 171 million
Catholics, up from an estimated one million in 1910. There also has been an
increase in Catholics in the Asia-Pacific region where
131 million Catholics now live, up from 14 million
a century ago. In North America, the
Catholic population has increased from about 15
million in 1910 to 89 million as of 2010. It would appear that the
diversity that the church is experiencing today is a direct
reflection of St. Paul’s words to the Galatians. There is neither
Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free,
there is not male or female, for you are all one
in Christ Jesus. Today we see the emergence
of a Christian brotherhood and sisterhood from all
corners of the earth and yet, at the same time, we
see a crippled consciousness when it comes to race in
the Catholic imagination. Nearly 35 years ago, a
Catholic organization sponsored a conference
entitled, Voices of Justice, the Challenge of
Being Catholic and American in the 1980s. One of the keynote speakers
was the scholar, James Cone, and he issued a
theological challenge to the Catholic church. He stated this, “What is it
about the Catholic definition of justice that makes
many persons of that faith progressive in their attitudes
toward the poor in Central America, but reactionary
in their views towards the poor
black in America? It is the failure of
the Catholic church to deal effectively with
the problem of racism that causes me to
question the quality of its overall
commitment to justice. I do not wish to
minimize the importance of Catholic contributions
to poor people’s struggles for justice, but
I must point out the ambiguity of the
Catholic stand on justice when racism is not
addressed forthrightly.” Cone’s reservations
concerning the adequacy and the effectiveness of
Catholic reflection on racism as directed towards
African-Americans, also has been expressed
by official voices within the Catholic church. In 1989, the US
Bishops Committee on African-American
Catholics issued a statement commemorating the
10th anniversary of the bishops conference
only pastoral letter concerning racism,
Brothers and Sisters To Us. Sadly, this anniversary be
found little worth celebrating. It concluded the following. The promulgation of the
pastoral letter on racism was soon forgotten
by all but a few. A survey revealed a
pathetic, anemic response from archdioceses and
dioceses across the country. The pastoral letter on racism
had made little or no impact on the majority of Catholics
in the United States. In spite of all that has
been said and written about racism in
the last 20 years, very little, if anything
at all has been done. Such it was yesterday,
so it is today. Two years later, a
symposium celebrating the centenary anniversary of
modern Catholic social teaching was convened in New York. Joseph Francis, an
African-American bishop, declared that the
lack of attention given to brothers
and sisters to us made it quote, “At best, the
best kept secret in the church and in this
country.”, end quote. He concluded by voicing
sentiments similar to those expressed by Professor Cone. Social justice vis-a-vis
the eradication of racism in our
church is simply not a priority of social concern
commissions, social concern directors and agencies. While I applaud the concern
of such individuals and groups who work for the
betterment of people in Eastern Europe,
China, and Latin America, the same concern
is not expressed. It’s not made incarnate
for the victims of racism in our country. The question is, is the
quality of our mercy strained when black
people are concerned? More recently, a
2004 study that was done on Brothers and Sisters
To Us, the US bishops pastoral letter, discerned
its implications and it’s receptions. The commissions results
painted a disheartening picture of the church’s relationship
with the black community. For example, since
Brothers and Sisters For Us was first promulgated, only
18% of the American bishops have issued statements
condemning racism, and of those, very few
addressed the systemic racism found in America. Rather, they addressed
personal attitudes of direct racial malice. In addition, the
commission notes that many diocesan seminaries
and ministry formation programs are inadequate in
terms of their incorporation of the history,
culture, and traditions of the black community. Most disturbing is the
commission’s report that white Catholics
over the last 25 years have exhibited diminished
rather than increased support of government policies aimed
at curbing racial inequality. These official
reflections detail the significant
lack of compliance of the American church with
its own recommendations contained in Brothers
and Sisters To Us. While racism is America’s
most persistent sin, it appears that the
American Catholic Church has continued to be virtually
silent about its significance in our seminaries, churches,
and every other segment of the larger Catholic society,
which leads to the question, why? What is the place of race in the
American Catholic imagination? Most expressions of racism today
can be traced back directly to our nation’s involvement with
the transatlantic slave trade during colonial times. Therefore, it would
be prudent for us to begin our investigation at
that point in American history, but in order to set the stage
for the American experience, we need to look back to the
time of the early church. The issue of slavery is
one that historically has been treated with concern
by the official Catholic church. After the recognition of
Christianity within the Roman Empire, there was
a growing segment that many kinds of
slavery were not compatible with Christian
conceptions of charity and justice. Some argued against
all forms of slavery, while others argued the
case for slavery subject to certain restrictions. Initially, Catholic
teaching made a distinction between just and unjust
forms of slavery, with unjust slavery
being that which enslaves those who have been baptized. Over time, slavery diminished in
Christian Europe often replaced by indentured servitude. With the advent of
European imperialism into the African
continent however, slavery once again
came to the fore. In response to the enslavement
of people of color, Pope Eugene IV, authored
a papal in 1435, addressed to Bishop Ferdinand
in the Portuguese colony of the Canary Islands,
condemning the enslavement of the indigenous peoples that
had converted to the faith. Eugene IV commanded quote, “All
and each of the faithful within the space of 15 days of the
publication of these letters in the place where they live
be restored to their earlier liberty with the threat of
excommunication from which you cannot be absolved”. A century later as Europe
expanded into the Americas, the church once again responded
to the evil of slavery. This time it was Pope Paul III. In his encyclical, he
presents a slightly different understanding of slavery. To begin with, Paul III
addresses his encyclical to all faithful Christians to
whom this writing may come, thereby not limiting its
significance to the clergy alone, but universalizing
it to all the faithful. Furthermore, Paul
III was not concerned about articulating
the meaning of just slavery in juxtaposition
to unjust slavery. Rather he asserted that whomever
is endowed with the capacity to receive the faith
of Christ, and receives his gospel, baptized or
not, should by no means be deprived of their
liberty or the possession of their property. This advancement in the
church’s position on slavery clearly indicated a lack
of fear in condemning the forced servitude of others. Such pronouncements
against the slave trade and the enslavement
of human persons helped to create
some apprehension among Catholic colonists
in North America, but as the colonies
began to expand, the institution of
slavery was so entrenched in the fabric of the colonies,
at least in the South, that the complete
abolition of slavery was not considered realistic. Moreover, anti-catholic
nativism encouraged Catholics to not oppose some
of the cultural ideas shared by their
Protestant neighbors. As a result, many
Catholic communities shared their Protestant
neighbors view of the world and developed an
understanding of slavery similar to the
Protestant colonists. Namely, that masters and
slaves though unequal on earth were equal in the eyes of
God and would enjoy freedom in the next life. In 1839, Pope Gregory XVI,
issued an apostolic letter that condemned the slave
trade in the strongest possible terms. By this time, the
slave trade and slavery itself had been completely
abolished in Britain, but both Spain and
Portugal continued to participate in slave trading. Pope Gregory had hoped that his
apostolic letter might persuade Spain and Portugal to
enforce laws against slave trafficking in their domains. It did not. But in the United States,
the pope’s pronouncement initiated a debate within
the Catholic community. The Catholic population
of the United States, which had been 35,000 in 1790,
increased to 195,000 by 1820, and then ballooned
to about 1.6 million by the time of Gregory’s
apostolic letter, making Catholicism the largest
faith tradition in the country. As the Catholic
ranks began to swell, arguments raged over exactly
what Gregory’s letter taught about slavery. While some put forward
Gregory’s letter to make the case that
the church opposed all and every form of
slavery, many Catholic leaders sought to interpret
the apostolic letter in the narrowest
possible fashion in order to minimize
its significance. Many bishops in the
South were slave owners. For some of the
southern bishops, slavery was not
simply an institution that had to be endured, but it
was in fact, in their minds, a blessing for black people. For example, four months after
the beginning of the Civil War, bishop Augustus Martin wrote
a pastoral letter to his flock in northern Louisiana. In the letter he approached
the question of slavery and said, quote, “The
manifest will of God is that in exchange for
a freedom of which they are incapable and for a
labor of the whole life. We should give these unfortunate
ones their legitimate portion of the truth and
the goods of grace, which consoles them in their
present miseries”., end quote. Considered from this point
of view, according to Martin, slavery was really not an
evil, but rather a betterment, both material and moral
for a degraded class. The bishop argued that slavery
was an eminently Christian work because it led to the redemption
of millions of human lives. Thus, Martin
attempted to introduce a theological
justification for slavery. It was something
noble because it was God’s plan for the
conversion of black men and women who were
dependent on the white race. Here it is important
to point out that this negative
attitude toward blacks in the Catholic community
was not unique to the south. Even in the North,
the sentiments of the Catholic laity, most of
whom were recent immigrants, was decidedly anti-black. In the years leading up to
and during the Civil War, and even after the destruction
of institutional slavery following the Civil War,
there were few white Catholics who really believed that
blacks were equal to whites. Just as their Protestant
contemporaries, white Catholics
bore an assumption of black inferiority. To say it differently,
the subordination of blacks in America was
simply an accepted part of the social and cultural
landscape for Catholics and non-catholics alike. Despite these negative
notions, there was always a
remnant of Catholics that were diligently to advance
race relations in the United States. One individual who is
responsible for such efforts among black Catholics was a man
by the name of, Daniel Rudd. By the end of the
19th century, Rudd had made himself
known to both clergy and laity as the leading
Catholic representative of the black race. In his newspaper, the
American Catholic Tribune, Rudd wrote, “There
is an awakening among some people to the fact
that the Catholic church is not only a warm and true
friend to black people, but is absolutely
impartial in recognizing them as equal to all”. Later, Rudd put the same
message more succinctly when he wrote, quote,
“The Catholic church alone can break the color line. Our people should help
her to do it.”, end quote. With this sentiment, Rudd
developed a national congress of American black Catholics. Rudd believed that
black Catholics did not realize that they had as many
co-religionists as they did. Being separated from each
other due to vast differences, Rudd thought it would be
beneficial to the church and to faithful black Catholics
to come together and simply speak to each other and
look upon each other. The first black athlete Congress
took place in January of 1889. The delegates numbered
over 200 black Catholics and they made appeals to
labor unions, factory owners, and trade unions to admit
black men into their ranks. They spoke of
children and the need for orphanages, hospitals,
and Catholic schools. Subsequent black congresses
stressed the church’s need to preserve the deposit of
faith regarding the equality of all people before God. The meetings consistently
reminded the Church of the mission to announce
love in the place of hate, to raise up the
downtrodden, and to proclaim the essential values
of all men and women. These Congress meetings
of black Catholics, demonstrated beyond a doubt,
that a black Catholic community not only existed in
the United States, but it was active,
that it was devoted to the traditions of
the Catholic Church, and it was proud of its faith. It also demonstrated that
given the opportunity, real leadership existed
within the Catholic community of black people. These meanings of black
athlete congresses, likewise brought to
the fore the need for African-American priests
who could command respect on a national scale. Along with the
black lei congress, in 1909 another
important movement among blacks in Mobile, Alabama
inspired through the initiative of Josephite priests
in the south, developed in the form of
the Knights of Peter Klaver. The Knights of Peter Klaver were
created along the same lines as the Knights of Columbus. The Klaver’s were founded
to be a national association for black Catholic men
to foster fellowship and bring about a spiritual
awareness and interest in the church’s traditions. In 1922, a ladies
auxiliary was instituted within the organization. This organization,
the Knights and Ladies of Peter Klaver, which
continues to exist today, became a very important
element in the religious life of black Catholics. Many members began to work
on issues of civil rights and collaborated with
organizations such as the NAACP and the National Urban League. The efforts of black Catholics
were caught by the Vatican in their view of looking
over the United States. Two of the Vatican
Cardinals communicated with archbishop Giovanni
Banzano, the apostolic delegate to the United
States, encouraging him to launch a
series of initiatives to provide for the spiritual
welfare of black Catholics and to further evangelize
black Americans as a whole. Banzano enlisted the support of
Father John Burke of New York. Father Burke organized
the Catholic Board for Negro Missions. Burke’s primary effort was
directed toward the creation of a black athlete clergy. He believed that once the
number of black current clergy had grown to sufficient
numbers, a black bishop should be consecrated. Burke’s work is exceptional
because of its fairness. Unlike many Catholics of
the early 20th century, although he was
white, Burke never spoke about blacks in a
condescending and demeaning manner. He made no assumption
of black inferiority and no complacent observations
about black people’s morality. He represented a small minority
within the Catholic community that pushed for an end to
racist rhetoric in America, especially within the
Catholic community. From the end of the
19th century to 1965, racial segregation was
an official legal policy within the American South,
better known as Jim Crow laws. Nonetheless, there
were some actions taken by local
bishops and priests against the practice
of racial segregation. For example, as early as
1951, Archbishop Joseph Rummel of New Orleans asked his
people to end segregation in all of the churches
of the archdiocese. Rummel in a pastoral letter
told New Orleans Catholic to keep all vestiges
of racial separation outside of the church. He worked towards the
gradual integration of all Catholic schools,
churches, and hospitals. Two years later,
Rummel officially declared the end of
racial segregation in all New Orleans
Catholic institutions in a pastoral letter entitled,
Blessed Are the Peacemakers. However, these clerical
pronouncements on segregation were regretfully rare,
and certainly not shared universally
among the clergy. During the Civil Rights
Movement for example, a response from
the Catholic church in Alabama to demonstrations
in Birmingham, highlights how vast the spectrum
was on the issue of segregation within the American
Catholic community. In a famous letter addressed
to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, eight white
Birmingham, Alabama clergyman denounced King’s civil
rights organization as outsiders seeking to destroy
the racial harmony of the city. Though acknowledging
the grievances of blacks and acknowledging that everyone
deserved basic respect, the authors asked blacks to
accept the racial situation for the time being. One of the authors and
signers of that letter was the auxiliary bishop
of Mobile, Bishop Joseph A. Durick. By signing the open
letter to Dr. King, Durick demonstrated the position
of the Alabama Catholic Church leadership during the movement. The state Archbishop,
Thomas J. Toole, denied priests the right to
participate in demonstrations or to speak out against
racial segregation. He was however
challenged by a number of priests who
invited demonstrators to stay in their churches
and in their church halls and marched in
the demonstration, as did many religious
women in full habit. So it’s a mixed bag that we see. As a result, most
Catholic parishes remain segregated
along racial lines during the first half
of the 20th century. Some dioceses created
parishes for blacks, while others allowed
blacks to attend, but insisted that they sit
in the rear of the church or in the choir loft, and
that they receive communion only after white
parishioners had received. Some parishes even placed
screens between the two races in church. Still, there was always
a group of Catholics who refused to
accept segregation. The Southeastern Region
Interracial Commission, founded in 1948 by students
of Loyola University and Xavier University,
both Jesuit schools, held interracial masses
on college campuses. The Commission on Human
Rights organized in 1949, held integrated masses and sent
petitions to church officials demanding immigration
in southern parishes. Nevertheless, the
Catholic church’s role during segregation and
the civil rights movement was as I mentioned, ambiguous. When considering the history
of race in the Catholic church, one cannot help but wonder why
in the United States there was so little social consciousness
among Catholics regarding racism. As the global church has
championed human dignity and equality, and as
Pope Paul XI asserted, that the church must work to
address social inequalities by building a human community
where men and women can live truly human lives free
from discrimination on account of race,
religion, or nationality. Why does it appear that
the church in America has been incapable of
taking decisive action and been incapable of
enunciating clear cut principles regarding
racism that have led to a change of attitude? Along with their Protestant
brothers and sisters, American Catholics have shown
a lack of moral consciousness on the issue of race. Clearly at times, our faith has
influenced our racial attitudes for the better, but recent
negative events in our country, which have targeted
African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Jews,
and immigrants, primarily on the basis of race,
forced us to think that the discussion
impels us to realize that the discussion of equality
must run much deeper if we are to be true to the
principles of our country, the principles on which
our country was founded, and the principles on
which our faith is based. In his letter to the
Ephesians, St. Paul tells us that
Jesus is our peace. It is by means of his
shed blood and broken body that the dividing walls of
enmity have been demolished. Today, the Catholic
church in America must recognize that Christ
wishes to break down the walls created by
the evils of racism, whether this evil is displayed
publicly for all to see or buried deep in the
recesses of our hearts. If not, we are
destined for history to continue to repeat itself,
and once again, the church will be perceived as a silent
observer in the face of racism. On August 23rd of this year,
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops, established an ad hoc
committee against racism. The committee will focus on
addressing the sin of racism in our society, and
even in our church, and the urgent need to
come together as a nation to find solutions. I have been given the
privilege to serve as the chairman
of this committee, and while I realize that
the task looks overwhelming, I am committed to the goal
of helping the church become a consistent and productive
voice in eradicating this plague. Nearly 40 years ago,
brothers and sisters to us asserted that racism
is a sin, a sin that divides the human
family and violates the fundamental human dignity
of those called to be children of the same father. The bishops and Leigh members
of the committee against racism have been given the
opportunity to listen to the needs of individuals who
have suffered under this sin. We have been given
the opportunity to bring members of the
black Catholic community, Hispanic community,
and all people of color to the table to work
with us to find solutions to this endemic of hate that
has plagued our nation for far too long. Through listening, prayer,
and meaningful collaboration, I am hopeful that we can find
those lasting solutions that we need so much, and find
common ground where racism will no longer find a place in
our hearts or in our society. One initial effort will
be an ecumenical gathering of religious leaders to frankly
talk about this problem. Another initiative will be to
organize listening sessions around the country
to better understand the many faces of racism
and how best to respond. But the key undoubtedly,
is to change hearts, which will lead
to a change of attitude and behavior. And to that end, we will begin
with the theological concept of our shared
commitment to community. The emphasis on
community has been a primary religious and social
value of black Americans that emerged early on
from the influence of the first African
slaves brought to America. One African philosopher
wrote, traditional religions are not primarily
for the individual, but for the community
of which he is a part. To be human is to belong
to the whole community. A person cannot detach himself
from the religion of his group, for if he does so, he severs
his roots, his foundations, his context for
security, his kingship, and the entire group of those
who make him aware of his existence. To be without religion amounts
to self excommunication, and African peoples do not know
how to exist without religion. The African inclination
towards community was not destroyed
by the slave trade. African slaves desired
the intimacy of family. To satisfy that
desire, African slaves forged extended
families, as well as a new culture from the
diverse African cultures that refused during slavery. Some 20 years after the
close of Vatican II, the International Roman
Catholic Synod of Bishops stated that quote, “The
ecclesiology of communion is the central and fundamental
idea of the council’s documents. It is the foundation for order
in the church and especially for the correct relationship
between unity and plurality in the church.”, end quote. Papal and Episcopal documents
following Vatican II made more explicit the
mission of the church as being a community,
and it did so by conducting research
and background into social injustices
from the vantage point of an ecclesiology
of communion. Pope Paul XI noted that
the social question tied all human beings together. In one Pope Paul’s
apostolic letters, he emphasized the need
for greater justice and the necessity of
greater attention to focused on the need to
recognize the place and dignity of
marginalized groups, such as the handicapped,
the maladjusted, the old, and different groups
on the fringe of society, which would include most black
Americans, Hispanic Americans, and other people of color. In fact, Pope Paul
XI particularly noted the suffering of
victims discriminated against because of their race
origin, color, culture, sex, or religion. Pope Francis tells
us every day in word, and shows us
everyday by example, that we must go to the periphery
because we are all one. We are part of the
community of God. In imitation of Jesus
Christ, the church’s actions and teachings must unite
us in an indivisible way by means of fostering
a beloved community. In imitation of
Christ, we the church must be willing to give
over our lives totally to the liberation
of men and women by defending the dignity
and fundamental rights of every human person, and this
includes a visible denouncement of racism. This commitment to
community and re-commitment to ecclesiastical Cole
community is an integral part of reconciliation. The social appropriation
of communion ecclesiology will require
radical conversion by which the church
acknowledges the sinful nature of the
system of oppression within its ecclesiastical
institutions in society. The church must then
seek the forgiveness of those she has victimized
by her past injustices. Finally both parties
must work together toward human solidarity
rooted in their shared emphasis on communion. Within the church,
this reconciliation must be manifested in the
development of more inclusive patterns of relationship between
people of color and the church. These patterns must allow
the full participation of black, and Hispanic,
and other people of color, who are faithful members of
the Church in decision making, as well as ministerial
and social actions which the church undertakes. The Catholic social
justice tradition, as illustrated in
the life of Christ and evident in his
gospel, impels the church to break her silence about the
marginalization, devaluation, and systematic oppression
of people of color. The church must begin to engage
new theological voices that have emerged among the Leigh
faithful who have researched and experience being
a black or Hispanic, American and Catholic. In such spirit, black and
Hispanic theological voices must continue to
mature and deepen their understanding of
Catholic theologians whose culture and class
differ from their own. Such a theological dialogue
will reveal areas of continuity and discontinuity. While new questions
may be raised, new understandings of community
will undoubtedly emerge. If race in the
Catholic imagination is to exemplify
the love of Christ, it must move forward
with the realization that no one can
enter full communion if one’s relationship
to another is marked by indifference or oppression. As we enter fully into
the third millennium, the church has an
opportunity to acknowledge its past contributions
to the evils of racism, to ask forgiveness
of one another, and to commit ourselves
to living in communion with the people
of God that Jesus envisioned at the end
of his earthly sojourn. One can become with
others only if one can speak the truth
of one’s sinful paths, asking and granting forgiveness
and reaching out to one another in a spirit of reconciliation,
love, and solidarity. Community is the
pattern of communion manifested in the Holy Trinity. This oneness can
serve as a model of ecclesial and
human communion. Only when American Catholics
speak and live in truth, can the church become
what it is intended to be, where there is a
pattern of relationships and a sacramental
unity in diversity. To that truth, to
get to that truth, we must break the
silent complicity with the social evil of racism
that has marred the pass and continues to mar the
present reality in America. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

4 thoughts on “Race in the American Catholic Imagination | Bishop George Murry, S.J.

  1. 4 Vatican 2 Rite Post author

    It would be good to have a written transcript of this history of racism within the Catholic Church. Thank you Bishop Murry!

  2. colin latimer Post author

    An interesting informative presentation –  Ulsterman reformed faith Thank you

  3. Steffano Montano Post author

    A good text to accompany this speech:

  4. alskalsk11 Post author

    All non-sense. Youngstown Catholic Church Bishop George Murry is an arrogant race-baiter. Why is he claiming (along with most modern roman catholic church priests and nuns) the existence of never ending American white racism and white bigotry, when the very people who persistently get accused of such accusations are indeed the conservative Christian community?


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