US bishop decries racism as 'attack against the dignity and sanctity of human life'

US bishop decries racism as “attack against the dignity and sanctity of human life”

A US bishop has decried racism as an “attack against the dignity and sanctity of human life”.

– On the feast of St. Peter Claver today, a day of prayer and fasting against racism

Shelton J. Fabre, the Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux in Louisiana and chairman of the the US Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, was speaking to the Bishops’ Catholic News Service ahead of this September 9’s special day of fasting and prayer against racism.

Last August 27 – four days after the police shooting of unarmed Black man Jacob BlakeFabre reminded US Catholics that “the sins of violence, injustice, racism, and hatred must be purged from our communities with acts of mercy, with the protection and care for the dignity of every human person, with respect for the common good, and with an unwavering pursuit of equality and peace”.

Fabre invited people of all faith to observe a day of prayer and fasting against racism either last August 28 or today on the feast of St. Peter Claver, a 17th-century Spanish saint who ministered to Black slaves in the Caribbean.

“We must continue to engage the battle against the current evils of our society and in the words of Dr. King, refuse to believe ‘that the bank of justice is bankrupt'”, Fabre urged believers.

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– Church must “fight” for those “whose human life and dignity in this country are marginalized through racism”

The Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux followed up on his call to pray and fast against racism in comments September 9 to the CNS, in which he said that the shooting of Jacob Blake and of countless other Black people besides provide an impetus to “reiterate the value of those whose human life and dignity in this country are marginalized through racism and our need to fight for them including the unborn”.

Though August 28 and September 9 have been the days the US Bishops have marked for special prayers against racism, Fabre challenged Catholics to fast for racial justice beyond those dates “because I know this would strengthen us for the task that is ours to seek to end the attack against the dignity and sanctity of human life that is racism”.

“Fasting for an end to racism reminds us to focus and reflect upon the presence of racism in both individual hearts and actions as well as social structures… and how we must seek in constructive ways to dismantle racism”, the bishop stressed.

– Bishop of Pittsburgh encourages Catholics “to build bridges of understanding and true friendship across racial lines”

Another US bishop who is also getting behind the fight against racism is David A. Zubik, the Bishop of Pittsburgh, who in a September 3 statement encouraged Catholics “to build bridges of understanding and true friendship across racial lines”.

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“In solidarity with all people who suffer from discrimination and violence due to their race, I join my brother bishops nationwide in asking everyone to pray and work for racial justice and reconciliation”, Bishop Zubik said.

“May God use this opportunity to inspire change, first in our own hearts and then by showing us what we can do as individuals, parishes and communities”, he continued.

Along with that of St. Peter Claver, Zubik also encouraged believers to seek the intercession of a local saint who was also involved in the struggle against racism: St. Katharine Drexel.

Drexel used a multi-million dollar banking inheritance to start a religious order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, to minister to Black and Indigenous Americans.

“The example and prayers of St. Katharine should inspire us to work as deliberately she did for justice and to speak up and take action whenever we encounter racism”, Zubik recalled. “Let the memory of her presence on our streets move us to follow in her footsteps”.

As the Diocese of Pittsburgh noted, prayer resources are available to help people pray in their homes or in socially-distanced gatherings.

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These include a novena to end racism, the U.S. Bishops’ Prayer Service for Racial Healing and the readings and prayers for the Memorial of St. Peter Claver.

Resources are also available on the Pittsburgh diocesan website’s Catholic Voices on Racism page.

More stories on Novena on the US Church:

Black Catholic priest accuses US Bishops of complicity in white privilege

Director of intercultural ministries in Milwaukee archdiocese denounces “very grim situation” of high Black incarceration rate

On anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, US Bishops invite Catholics to prayer and fasting against racism

“When will it end?”, US National Council of Churches cries after more “horrific” shootings of Black men by police

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.