Lori laments racism in American society and Church

Lori laments racism in American society and Church

Archbishop William Lori. Credit: Patrick Novecosky/Legatus
Archbishop William Lori. Credit: Patrick Novecosky/Legatus

.- Archbishop William Lori has issued a major pastoral reflection on the subject of racism in American society and the Church in the U.S.

 

Entitled “The Journey to Racial Justice - Repentance, Healing and Action,” Lori’s reflection was released to coincide with the commemoration of Martin Luther King Day. In the Jan. 21 document, the Archbishop of Baltimore wrote of his concern at renewed racial tensions in the country.

 

“Even as we Americans celebrate Dr. King’s inspiring example, we feel the shame of witnessing public demonstrations of racial and ethnic violence and hatred such as we have not seen in decades,” Lori wrote.

 

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.

 

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?”

 

In November, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the pastoral letter “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” also on the subject of racism in America.

Lori made frequent reference to this document, which warned against a “neglect of history” among many in the Church with regard to racism and a lack of awareness of “the connection between institutional racism and the continued erosion of the sanctity of life.”

 

The U.S. bishops wrote that neither the Church or society could “look upon the progress against racism in recent decades and conclude that our current situation meets the standard of justice.”

 

“God demands more of us,” the bishops said.

 

In response to this demand, and to other recent scandals, Lori wrote that he felt a renewed call to be present to the witness of human suffering.

 

“I have come to realize in a new and clearer way an important truth: wherever the people of God are suffering is where I belong, at their side, listening, sharing compassion, and discerning how the Holy Spirit is calling me to take action.”

 

To this end, Lori used his pastoral reflection to commit to renewed action in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, pledging more training within the archdiocese to address the problem of racism, and to conduct a review of the diversity of Church institutions, including archdiocesan leadership, seminaries, clergy, parishes, schools and social service programs.

 

“In a spirit of repentance and prayer, we seek healing as we turn to the redeeming and reconciling love of Jesus with the hope of building a Church that is journeying toward a better future as we work side by side with those who are victims of racism today.”

Tags: USCCB, Archbishop William Lori