How Catholics can work to 'expel this demon' of racism

Screen Shot 2020 07 01 at 50927 PM EWTN Radio host Gloria Purvis. | EWTN

Catholics can use the weapons of faith to expel racism from society, black Catholic leaders said on Wednesday at an online forum on the future of the United States.

Gloria Purvis, host of EWTN's radio show "Morning Glory," who has served on the National Black Catholic Congress, said on Wednesday that Catholics need to work together to "expel this demon" of racism through prayer and fasting.

Purvis noted how Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco performed an exorcism on June 27 at a local park where a statue of St. Junipero Serra was torn down by a crowd.

Catholics, Purvis said, could travel to other sites where an evil has occurred and pray for an exorcism there, such as the spot where George Floyd was knelt on by a police officer in Minneapolis or to Tulsa, Oklahoma where African-Americans were massacred in 1921.  

"We can take our faith and bring it into the public square," she said.

Purvis spoke on Wednesday at an online symposium "What's Next for America," co-hosted by the National Review Institute and the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, which has hosted a series of discussions on "faith, hope, and love" online.

Joining Purvis on the panel was Louis Brown, executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation, and moderator Kathryn Jean Lopez, senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.

Lopez began the discussion by invoking Pope Francis' 2015 address to U.S. Congress where he said that the response to injustice "must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice."

She asked what could be done by Catholics to respond to current-day challenges of the new coronavirus pandemic and widespread anti-racist protests and riots.

Brown said that people must first "recover our identity" as "all sons and daughters of God" who "have equal human value."

"It boils my blood" to see an African-American man "clearly murdered, and people want to talk about his rap sheet," Brown said of efforts to diminish the dignity of a fellow person. "Murder is always murder."

Purvis said that, when the pandemic hit and Americans had to quarantine, she saw the shutdown as an opportunity to make sacrifices for others.

Now, she said, Catholics must make sacrifices to atone for the sin of racism. St. Theresa of Avila would tell sisters who witnessed a fellow nun doing something wrong to practice the opposite virtue, Purvis said.

"Why are we not doing reparation to God for the sins that we have done to each other?" she asked. "Until we have a conversion of heart, there is not going to be peace among us." Catholics can examine their consciences to see where they might have committed sins of racism, take them to the confessional, and ask God to heal them, Purvis said.

Brown gave the example of the pro-life movement, where members pray and fast for an end to abortion even though they might never have had an abortion or participated in one. Catholics can do the same with racism, he said.

Catholics can also make an effort to understand the experiences of others they may not be familiar with. For instance, Brown said, African-American communities have especially suffered from COVID-19. "Part of it is that we don't have access to medical care that we should have," he said.

Some other concrete actions Catholics can take to "unleash" the "force of love," he said, is to set up communal forums at their parish for better understanding between communities and healing. If someone has an issue with their local police department, he said, "be engaged."

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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in South Africa in 1994 was not perfect, Brown said, but people confessed of injustices they committed, and healing occurred. "We need that now in America," he said. "We have never dealt with our woundedness here in the United States of America. We change a law and we try to move on. That's clearly not working."

The social bonds of faith, family, and love, he said, "have been seriously, seriously threatened and diminished," and if Catholics don't take action now to help the country heal, "we may not have the country that we love."

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