Tolerance is one of founding principles of the United States. It is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, which declared: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Sadly, we have not always lived up to such lofty rhetoric, as evidenced most notably in the practice of slavery, the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War and racism and bigotry that historically have scarred our society. But we have the capacity to learn from past errors, and we continue to do so. The American dream lives on, in spite of the many challenges we still face. But it is threatened.
Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, are indicative of the limits of tolerance. The hate-driven speech and actions of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK are rooted in a racism that can find no home in this country or our world. To invoke the name of God as justification for racist bigotry is an affront to all believers.
Santa Clara County, in which we are privileged to live, to raise families, and to contribute to the common good, is enriched by the religious, cultural and ethnic diversity of its residents and workers. This diversity is not only our strength; it is also our beauty. As Catholics, we are involved in a dialogue that builds bridges within our own parishes and diocese and with the larger community. We cherish the descendants of those who were here before the Europeans, as well as all whose relatives – or even themselves – have come to this Valley in successive waves of immigration. In the same way, we must foster and defend the rights and the dignity of all who are vulnerable because of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, language or any other defining characteristic.
I ask our Catholic community – and all people of good will – to join with me in prayer and work that is rooted in justice and peace.