I have noticed and written of the multiple times the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), both as individual US bishops and as a collective organization, has exhibited cluelessness in its handling of racism:
– Cardinal Timothy Dolan seems to support Blue Lives more than Black Lives and even defends keeping Confederate statues
– Bishop Thomas Daly made a public statement that the Black Lives Matter organization conflicts with the Catholic Church teaching
– The USCCB’s inability to denounce swastikas, Confederate flags and nooses in its most recent statement on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts”
and now a new revelation from John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, a policy advisor to the USCCB.
In the USCCB’s official voting guide ahead of the 2008 election, the document included language naming racism as an intrinsic evil. However, an unnamed bishop suggested striking this language, since “We’ll never have a president who says racist things.”
Carr disclosed to NCR that this suggestion had been made by the bishop “in good faith,” given the plausible but short-sighted belief that the US has made progress in the area of racism. However, this logic is deeply flawed.
In the USCCB’s official voting document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the USCCB defined an intrinsically evil action as deeply flawed and always opposed to the authentic good of persons since it is always incompatible with the love of God and neighbor (22). The document named abortion and euthanasia as examples of intrinsic evils.
The nature of an intrinsic evil does not change if a society decreases in committing that evil. The evil remains an evil.
Racism is an intrinsic evil since, like abortion and euthanasia, it is a sin predicated on an action that is deeply flawed, always opposed to the authentic good of persons and always incompatible with the love of God and neighbor.
One cannot love one’s neighbor while viewing the other’s race as inferior. One cannot believe that God is Love (cf. 1 John 4:16), the God who made all persons in God’s image and likeness, while professing that God created some people as less deserving of dignity and therefore are less loveable.
Therefore racism, as an intrinsic evil, cannot be considered as any less of an evil even if a society decreases in committing that evil, whether the trajectory of decrease is perceived or actual.
Perceiving that racism is no longer a problem is a belief propagated by many white Americans. While the unnamed bishop appeared to be making a recommendation on striking the reference to racism “in good faith,” I would argue the fact that a bishop stated this and that the USCCB agreed to it reveals that there are many in the US Catholic hierarchy who are blinded by their white privilege and are ineffective as ministers of the Gospel because of it.
Inability to name and denounce racism, especially its manifestation as white nationalism, white supremacy and white privilege, has been a recurring theme in this diseased body within the Church.
The US bishops’ cluelessness is inexcusable, and complicity with these named areas of racism appears to be an entry card rather than a barrier to be a bishop in the US Catholic Church.
The Church not only needs to no longer harbor racists but especially needs to remove them from among her bishops and priests.
While Jesus does call flawed persons to serve Him, the call incorporates conversion, not a persistence in evil.
The US bishops have been enabling racism through their complicity and by responding to racism in a way that resembles white fragility.
The USCCB can no longer hide behind its own cluelessness. It is high time for Church reform by enacting antiracist policies within the USCCB framework and promulgated by the USCCB to its dioceses so that the bishops themselves can experience conversion from their implicit biases and more effectively shepherd their multicultural flock.