Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 17, 2020 / 16:00 pm
After a summer of mass protests and civil unrest, bishops from around the U.S. shared stories of confronting racism in their home dioceses at their annual fall meeting on Tuesday. The bishops spoke out to condemn racist rhetoric and said 2020 had shown how it leads to violence.
Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the U.S. bishops’ ad hoc committee against racism, led the discussion, telling the bishops that none of them could have foreseen the tumultuous events of 2020 with the “numerous killings of African-Americans” sparking “worldwide peaceful demonstrations and protests” along with “violence in some places.” The bishop also highlighted the need for the continued work of the ad hoc committee, whose mandate was renewed by the bishops during the meeting.
After Fabre opened the conference to the virtual floor, other bishops rose to recount experiences from across the country, and to underline the link between discrimination and violence in their local communities.
Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, whose hometown has become the center for months of disturbances and protests, said that his city has become “quite a spectacle,” with nationally-reported riots and violence throughout the summer.
But, Sample insisted, the violence was a “hijacking, I think, of the righteous and lawful” peaceful protests for racial equality. “That’s not who we are,” he said, “we’re not a violent city.”
Sample and other bishops repeatedly warned that rhetoric demonizing immigrants or races can become deadly.
The archbishop said that the Asian-American population in his diocese has suffered from scapegoating over the new coronavirus pandemic. Blaming China for spreading the virus “flowed onto a lot of our Asian population here,” he said.
From Texas, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso said that the deadly mass shooting at a Wal Mart in his diocese last year, committed by a white nationalist, “really brought home the fact that white supremacy is not a harmless fringe ideology, but that it is a death-dealing ideology.”