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Racism Today: The Catholic Church's Perspective


Santa Teresa founded in 1738 ... Many letters from Bishops do not explain or argue for the elimination of racism; ... 'In God's Image: A Pastoral Letter on Racism' ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Racism Today: The Catholic Church's Perspective

Racism Today The Catholic Church's Perspective
The Catholic Church's Stance on Racism Today
History of Black Catholics in the United States
Steps to Eradicate Racism and move
toward Racial Solidarity
Further Resources
Where does Catholicism Stand On Race and Religion?
  • Is this question relevant at Marquette
    University? It seems somewhat self-explanatory.
    Love your neighbor regardless of race or
    ethnicity, end of story, correct? What if
    everything was not so cut and dry, that there is
    a deeper problem that needs to be addressed?
    Would you be open to discussing it?
  • We feel that there is more than what is on the
    surface. And to properly understand the answer
    to the question that is posed above, we need to
    understand the past better, in order to live
    properly in the present, and hopefully change the
    future. So with an open mind and heart, we ask
    that you review our information on the current
    situation in the United States and its Catholic

The Arrival of Africans in the Continental U.S.
  • First arrived in Florida in 1565
  • Spanish-speaking Catholics
  • Santa Teresa founded in 1738
  • Catholic community of all Blacks, the only white
    person being the chaplain
  • 1781 census of Los Angeles shows that of the 40
    people there, all were Catholic and over one half
    were of African descent
  • French settlers baptized their slaves in the
    Catholic Church
  • 1785- Africans constituted 1/5 of the catholic
    population in Maryland
  • Church in the South owes much of its material
    existence to the work of slaves owned by the
  • Slavery condemned in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI

Organized Catholicism Amongst Black Believers
  • Records of groups of Black Catholics who met for
    support, called confraternaties, indicate that
    about 1/3 of the members were Black, both freed
    and enslaved
  • 1843- Society of the Holy Family met weekly in
    Baltimore and had a familial atmosphere two
    Masses were celebrated upon the death of each
    member (stopped meeting in 1845)
  • 1829- Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
  • 1842- Sisters of the Holy Family founded

Slow Integration of African Americans into the
  • 1855 - William Augustine Williams attempts to
    enter priesthood, but is denied
  • 1854 - James Augustine Healy ordained the 1st
    Black priest in Boston
  • 1858 - Alexander Sherwood Healy ordained
  • 1874 - Patrick Francis Healy becomes head of
  • 1875 - James Augustine Healy becomes first Black
  • It is important to note that the Healys were very
    light-skinned and did not identify themselves
    with the Black Catholic community

Slow Integration of African Americans into the
  • Augustus Tolton was the first priest Black
    Catholics could identify with
  • Ordained in Rome in 1886
  • Became pastor of a black parish in Quincy,
    Illinois, but felt the need to move due to racist
  • Became head of black parish in Chicago, but the
    church was never built
  • Isolated from white priests
  • 1891- Charles Randolph Uncles was first Black
    priest ordained in the U.S.
  • 1910- only 5 black priests
  • 1933- only 11

Lay Participation in the Black Catholic Church
  • Daniel Rudd
  • Convoked five Black Catholic lay congresses in
    1889, 1890, 1892, 1893 and 1894
  • The next one wouldnt be until 1987
  • These congresses met without much support from
    the Church
  • They were important because they allowed for
    issues of Black Catholics to be voiced and

Current Statistics Regarding Black Catholics Today
  • In 1940 there were 300,000 Black Catholics in
  • Today, there are upwards of 2.5 million Black
    Catholics in America, making Catholicism the
    fifth largest Black religious denomination in the
  • Paula Hegwood discusses the surprise of other
    Black people upon finding out that she is

Why does the Aforementioned History Concern us at
  • In the spirit of diversity and community service
    at Marquette University, we posit the following
    questions compare our answers and thoughts with
    your own, constructive criticism is most welcome.
  • Do you believe it is necessary to address issues
    concerning race and religion at Marquette?
  • What, if any, problems do you notice within the
    Church or your current community?
  • Are you familiar with some current Catholic
    teachings on the issues of race?
  • If there are specific problems, are there
    remedies available?

City of MilwaukeevsMarquette University
  • Marquette has an official statement about their
    commitment to human dignity and diversity
  • www.marquette.edu/about/diversity.shtml
  • However, under the Student Demographics
    section, there is not a break-down for ethnicity
    or race. Only statistics that illuminate gender,
    geographic location, and ACT/SAT scores

City of Milwaukee v. UWM
  • The racial differences are not only prevalent at
    a private school such as Marquette but also at a
    public university such as UWM

When History Becomes Current
  • It is necessary to address issues of race and
    religion at Marquette because we see a problem
    with the current racial climate within the Church
    and our Community
  • Catholic teachings cannot be truly catholic
    unless they take into account Black theology and
  • Therefore, it becomes prudent to understand the
    realities of segregation and integration, and how
    they have affected current Church chemistry

Realities of Segregation and Integration
  • After 1950, the concept of Catholic melds with
    the idea of whiteness White is now associated
    with Catholic
  • Racial conflict between whites and blacks turns
    to a conflict between Catholics and blacks
  • The influx of black individuals to Catholic
    communities is seen as a threat
  • White bishops and priests became afraid of losing
    their congregation and support in the 1960s and
  • Integration comes slowly for Catholics,
    accompanied by the marginalization of black
    history and experience
  • With growing separation between the two sides,
    Catholic theologians had little opportunity for
    meaningful interaction with leaders in
    the black Catholic community
  • Listen below as Mamie Dupree-Hegwood talks about
    issues she has faced within the Catholic Church

What Followed?
  • Twofold outcome
  • A stratification of thoughts, ideals, and
    relationships has occurred within the U.S.
    Catholic community
  • Meaningful debates within U.S. Catholic theology
    must include the perspective and ideas of black
  • There now exists a subtle, non-violent form of
    racism within Catholic churches
  • This racism appears in the indifference of
    lay-persons and religious leaders to accurately
    address the following
  • The collection of theological views based upon
    the black struggle for justice
  • Racial boundaries that exist within the identity
    of the U.S. Catholic Church

Understanding the Sin of Racism
  • The Sin of Racism
  • Racism Sin that says some human beings are
    inherently superior and other essentially
    inferior because of races.
  • Racism occurs now as people are being denied
    opportunities for full participation in and
    advancement in our society, especially in
    education, the legal system, and the economy.
  • The structures of our society are subtly racist
    which are geared to the success of the majority
    and the failure of the minority.
  • People unwittingly give approval of the system by
    accepting things as they are, creating an
    anonymous, but real sin.
  • Racism is denying the truth of dignity of each
    human being as revealed by the mystery of the

The Message
  • Past mistakes must not hinder the Church's
    response to the challenges of the present.
  • The Catholic Church is universal and embraces all
  • Every diocese and parish in the land must be
    aware of the threats to humanity, and should
    proclaim to all that the sin of racism defiles
    the image of God.

The Message Cont.
  • Individuals should learn more about how social
    structures inhibit the economic, educational, and
    social advancement of the poor and minority group
  • A personal commitment to join with others in
    political efforts to bring about justice for the
    victims of such deprivation is necessary.

Reactions to the Letter
  • This letter was not widely adopted as a guide for
    practice as the Church hoped
  • Racism is still present as it was in 1979.
  • The Church's teaching on racism has not changed.
  • In light of this,
  • will you embrace racial minorities?
  • will you better live the gospel?

Where we stand now
  • Almost 30 years after Brother's and Sisters to
    Us was written
  • There exists an unspoken division between black
    and white Catholics
  • This disconnect is caused by and continued
    through institutional racism
  • Race and poverty have become interconnected, both
    threatening the common good
  • The Catholic Church is still addressing the same
  • Fr. Bryan Massingale, a Marquette University
    Professor, addresses the threats and challenges
    to the Church and Catholicism today
  • Paula Hegwood discusses why she likes that he
    does this

Threat to Catholicism
  • Recognizing the Connection
  • Race and Poverty
  • Institutional Racism vs. Individual Racism
  • Overt racism is beginning to fade into the
    background, heeding before a much larger problem
    a system of oppression that functions widely
    unseen and unnoticed by many
  • Institutional racism refers to a society that
    engages in a system of faults that suppresses
    minority groups through subtle but devastating
  • Housing discrimination, Predatory lending
  • Deficits in public schools, Disregarding
    Affirmative Action laws
  • Lack of inherited wealth
  • Result Rising poverty among minority groups
  • African Americans are 3x as likely to live in
    poverty than whites
  • Skewed distribution of wealth
  • Concentration of poverty into geographic locations

The Challenge to Catholicism
  • God, the human family, and social justice
  • We believe in one Creator God and the common
    origin of humankind. Because human beings have a
    common Creator, the human race has an essential
    unity that is prior to any distinctions of race,
    nationality, or ethnicity
  • Catholics must work to create the social
    conditions in which all human persons may
  • Racism fractures the unity of the human family,
    violates the human rights of individuals and
    groups, mocks the God-given equality of human
    beings, and is incompatible with faith in God.
  • We believe that the diversity of the human family
    is a divine blessing and mirrors the inner life
    of God.
  • The diversity of the human community reflects the
    differentiation present in the Trinity of God
  • We believe in the solidarity of the human family,
    which leads to the conviction that we are
    responsible for each others welfare.
  • Finally, we believe that the poor and the
    marginalized have a privileged claim upon the
    consciences of believers and the public concern
    of the state.

What Messages are being sent Today?
  • Fr. Bryan Massingale has written on the subjects
    at hand numerous times, stating
  • Every pressing social concern education, care
    for the environment, access to health care,
    capital punishment, immigration, HIV/AIDS, right
    to life, concern for women-- is arguably
    entangled with or aggravated by racial bias
    against people of color.
  • Only 21 episcopal letters and statements on
    racism were published between 1990 and 2000 Fr.
    Massingale reviewed each, finding common
    rhetorical strategies, but also a general lack of
    addressing the issue poignantly

Did people get the Message? Maybe Not
  • Many letters from Bishops do not explain or argue
    for the elimination of racism they often
    presuppose reader will agree that racism is a
  • Commonly, the argument that racism is a sin is
    grounded in the doctrine of creation and the
  • Doctrine of creation the one Creator God who
    made all human persons in the divine image and
    likeness. Being made in the divine image confers
    upon all human creatures an intrinsic dignity and
    sacred value that must be respected, promoted,
    and defended.
  • Doctrine of Incarnation In Christ, all men and
    women are made brothers and sisters to Christ and
    to all through a common act of divine redemption.
    Thus, treatment of neighbors is the measure of
    our commitment to God.
  • Often, systemic racism is not addressed.

Previous Strategies for Eradicating Racism
  • Bishops often recommend a form of
    self-examination of beliefs and behaviors, which
    addresses only the personal sin of racism.
  • Individuals are advised to avoid using racial
    slurs, or telling racial jokes, and they should
    challenge such racist behaviors they observe
    among others.
  • Individuals should develop cross-cultural
    friendships and support curricula that foster
    cultural respect and toleration.
  • Parishes are advised to offer hospitality to all
    people regardless of race, and prayers for racial
    justice should be a regular part of service.
  • These suggestions fail to address structural

Positive Aspects for the Future
  • Definitions that address systemic racism.
  • For example, the Pastoral Council of Jackson,
    Mississippi wrote
  • Racism is both individual and institutional....
    Institutionally, racism is the assumption of
    power to enforce personal prejudice through
    discriminatory practices and actions in various
    institutions of society, including the
    church....Prejudice, coupled with the abuse of
    power, creates a racist system.

Progressive, Meaningful Statements
  • Bishop Thomas Daily highlights structural sin
    We live in structures and we are often blind to
    the injury they cause.
  • Social injustices influence us in preconscious
    ways that dispose us to commit acts of injustice.
  • Being aware of damage fostered by social
    institutions may help facilitate a social
    environment conducive to eradicating sinful
    structures of racism.

How to Address Racism Today
  • Massingale proposes several rhetorical shifts to
    make the discussion of race (and call to action)
    more meaningful and motivating. For example
  • Shift from stress on racism to White privilege
  • Shift from personal sin to structures of sin
  • Love and goodwill alone won't stop racism racial
    remediation that does not depend on goodwill
    alone needs to be emphasized to combat systemic

It Is Your Turn
  • We have attempted to present information
    regarding the past and current state of race
    relations within the U.S. and Catholic Church
    the pervasiveness of unseen institutional and
    subtle racism
  • Also, we have laid out several proposals and
    necessary actions that can be taken by those
    willing to help
  • We hope that during your tenure at Marquette, you
    will consider what we have said, be mindful of
    your community and its surroundings, and ask
    yourself, I am I willing to help?

Research and Readings to Consider
  • Archbishop Hughes
  • Made in the Image and Likeness of God
  • Archbishop Flynn
  • In Gods Image A Pastoral Letter on Racism
  • Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I, Archbishop of
  • Dwell in My Love A Pastoral Letter on Racism

  • Davis, Cyprian. God of Our Weary Years Black
    Catholics in American Catholic History. Taking
    Down Our Harps Black Catholics in the United
    States. Ed. Diana L. Hayes and Cyprian Davis.
    Maryknoll Orbis Books, 1998 17-46.
  • Massingale, Bryan N. James Cone and Recent
    Catholic Episcopal Teaching on Racism.
    Theological Studies. Dec 2000 700-729.
  • Massinglae, Bryan N. Poverty and Racism.
    Catholic Charities USA 2007.
  • Nilson, Jon. Confessions of a White Catholic
    Racist Theologian. Interrupting White
    Privilege. Ed. Laurie M. Cassidy and Alex
    Mikulich. Maryknoll Orbis Books, 2007 15-34.

Audio Supplements
  • Paula Hegwood discussing being a Black Catholic
    and the reaction of others when they find out her
    religious beliefs
  • Paula Hegwood discussing the importance of
    discussing race issues in connection with
    religion and why Fr. Bryan Massingale is good at
  • Mamie Dupree-Hegwood tells her stories of subtle
    racism and the divide racial divide within
    Catholic Churches

  • Andrew Shen
  • Catherine Rusnak
  • Clare Lewandowski
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