Recent reports have indicated a rise in hate crimes across the country, while major incidents like the 2017 racial demonstrations and conflicts in Charlottesville, VA, have highlighted growing concerns about a resurgence in overtly racist attitudes in sections of American society.
In a searching reflection on the evil of racism in American, Lori wrote that institutional and personal complicity by the Church needs to be frankly understood, acknowledged, and atoned for.
“No doubt, in looking back at the history not only of our Church, but also of our nation, one may justly say that racism is the original sin of our country, our state, and our local dioceses, and its deep roots continue to plague us,” said Lori.
“As we are so painfully aware in the midst of the current crisis in the Church, without acknowledging the sins of the past, we cannot hope to understand and heal the wounds of the present.”
The archbishop’s reflection laid out an unsparing resume of his earliest predecessors, saying that “no credible treatment of the history of the establishment of the Catholic Church in the United States can be told without also acknowledging the reality of the early Church’s direct involvement in slavery.”
Noting his own previous pastoral statement on Dr. King’s teaching on non-violence, Lori acknowledged that the Church had fallen short of the demands of the Gospel in the era of so-called Jim Crow laws and beyond, allowing de facto segregation between and even within parishes and other institutions.
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While efforts by Church leaders to support and champion the civil rights movement offered examples of “efforts, sacrifices, and achievements” by Catholic leaders, priests, religious, and lay people, Lori warned there is still more to be done.
“Without a doubt, many members of the Catholic Church today have continued to devote themselves to addressing racial injustice in our Church and society,” the archbishop said.
“These efforts, encouraging as they may be, cannot by themselves end racial injustice, nor can they be causes of complacency,” he said, while asking “if we can still easily identify the ‘black’ and ‘white’ parishes of our archdiocese, have we truly accomplished the goal of racial equity we claim to embrace?”