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Catholic leaders across nation denounce racism, nationalism

12 Gregory THUMB“We now live in a ‘post-polite’ world where rude and offensive language – that too frequently has led to brutal behavior – has been given free rein.” – Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory

August 31, 2017
Catholic News Service

LOS ANGELES – The United States is seeing “a new kind of racism and nationalism” that is “rooted in fear,” and Catholics must work to overcome such new forms of racism and “every ideology that denies the equality and dignity of the human person,” the archbishop of Los Angeles said.

“There is fear about what is happening in our society. There is fear about what is happening in our economy. Our country has become so angry and bitter, so divided – in so many different areas,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez.

He made the remarks in homilies delivered at two Los Angeles parishes the weekend of Aug. 19-20.

“This has been a hard week in our country,” he said, referring to the aftermath of the hate-filled and violent events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, the previous weekend. He urged prayers for the people of that city and called on Catholics to be “a true sign and instrument of healing and unity.”

In San Antonio, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller echoed those words in his homily at an Aug. 20 Mass for immigrants, saying: “Today, racism is a serious problem in our country. Moreover, millions of people live among us in the shadows of our society.”

“Racism is a sin. Anti-Semitism is a sin. Violation of a person’s human and civil rights is a sin. We need to ask God’s forgiveness and mend our ways!” he said.

In San Diego, Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego joined with several other faith leaders from the area to speak out against bigotry. He joined dozens of religious leaders brought together by the San Diego Organizing Project for a news conference Aug. 18 in the courtyard of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral.

As the event’s final speaker, Bishop McElroy said, “I am proud to stand here today in solidarity with the religious leadership of San Diego to state categorically that the actions, the words and the beliefs of neo-Nazis, the Klan, white militias and all hate groups are blasphemies against the God who is the Creator of the whole human family and looks upon every man, and woman, and child as equal in dignity and in worth.”

The bishop lamented that “one of the most troubling elements” about the incident in Charlottesville was that so many of the participants were young people. He noted that this “puts to the lie” the belief that younger generations will not inherit the racism of the past, and he encouraged his fellow religious leaders to ask parents to discuss this issue with their children.

Bishop McElroy said he had already requested that the diocesan Office for Schools and the diocesan Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry work together on designing an educational module “specifically about the Charlottesville moment” for children through young adults.

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory called for “the restoration of civil discourse.”

“Hate speech has recently been unleashed in ways that startle many of us and frankly should startle all of us,” he said in an interview with Catholic News Service. “We now live in a ‘post-polite’ world where rude and offensive language – that too frequently has led to brutal behavior – has been given free rein.

“Such harsh and insulting language has too often given rise to acts of violence that destroy any sense of civility and public decorum,” Archbishop Gregory said. “We should call such speech what it is: pornographic violence. It is a crime to produce, view or distribute some types of pornography. Could violent hate speech not be considered as another form of pornography?

“The peace that the time-honored virtues of civility and respect at least attempted to establish has too often been shattered in ways that would astound our parents and society from the not too distant past,” Archbishop Gregory said. “The rejection of ‘political correctness’ has camouflaged hate speech and entitled itself as truthfulness. There are social and public institutions and individuals who must take a stand against this deterioration of the common good and social decency. And we, sisters and brothers, belong to one of the most important such institutions in the church that we serve.”

In Brooklyn, N.Y., Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio announced a new commission to study the effects of racism in the Catholic Church and on the Brooklyn diocese.

“In the coming months, we will design our commission to deal with the social and religious problems that racism – in all of its forms – presents to us,” he said Aug. 24.

He said that the commission would be named for Msgr. Bernard Quinn, a white Brooklyn pastor who established parishes and services for African-American Catholics in the first half of the 20th century. His cause for sainthood is currently before the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

“Racism remains the pre-eminent sin of not only our nation, but also of our church,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “We should not tolerate monuments to people who were racists or tried to destroy our democracy. We in the United States have our own particular original sin. It is called racism.”

He explained that racism has its origin in a “sense of inferiority. This flies in the face of our God-given knowledge that we are all created as children of God, and, as we profess in our country, we are all created equal. We have yet to put into practice what God teaches us and what our nation professes.”

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