Catholic Leaders, Groups Urge all Americans to Confront ‘Sin of Racism’

Activists hold signs during a protest outside Trump Tower in New York City Aug. 15. (CNS photo/Amr Alfiky, Reuters)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON – The Franciscan Action Network (FAN) called on all Americans, “especially ourselves and those who have benefited from white privilege,” to look within themselves “and confront America’s original sin – the sin of racism.”

“White Americans must no longer stand silent as we continue to benefit from the attitudes and structures that put us ahead of African-Americans and other minority groups,” the organization said in an Aug. 14 statement issued in reaction to a chaotic and hate-filled weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 11 and 12.

The network joined with Catholic bishops, other church leaders and various groups throughout the nation in calling for peace after three people died and several others were injured following clashes between pacifists, protesters and white supremacists in Charlottesville.

Franciscan Action Network officials said they were “deeply saddened” by the loss of life and injuries Aug. 12 and were praying for those “whose lives have been tragically altered by this violence” and praying for “greater justice and peace.”

The group’s statement also asked for forgiveness from “our African-American and Native [American] brothers and sisters” for all the injustices done to them in the nation’s history and also for times when the Franciscan Action Network itself has “fallen short” in standing up for justice for them.

“FAN has not done enough to address” the ongoing issue of police brutality against African-Americans “and other issues of systemic racism. From this point forward, we vow to do better,” the statement said.

The National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus in an Aug. 14 statement strongly condemned “the hateful and racist actions and rhetoric that has taken place in our country this past weekend.

We not only agree with those who have been saying that the positions proposed by the white nationalist groups are opposed to American values, we also say that they are opposed to Christian values.”
The organization prayed for those who lost their lives and those injured in Charlottesville and for their families and friends.

Heather D. Heyer, 32, was killed Aug. 12 when a car plowed into a counterprotest of the white supremacists. Two Virginia State Police troopers also died when a helicopter they were in crashed while trying to help with the violent events on the ground. Nineteen others were injured in the clash.

“And we pray that the Holy Spirit may act once again to bring together the diversity of people that make up our country so that we can live up to our national motto: ‘E pluribus unum,’ ” said the statement, signed by Father Kenneth Taylor, president of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.

Catholic bishops across the country were quick to issue a condemnation of the racism and hatred on display in Charlottesville. Among them were Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Virginia, whose diocese includes Charlottesville; Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia; Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Martin D. Holley of Memphis, Tennessee; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore; Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey; Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska; Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans; and Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta.

“The angry and violent mob which gathered in Virginia this past weekend by word and deed contradicted our national creed and code of civil conduct,” said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, adding that neo-Nazism, racism and threats against all people of color and efforts to “banish immigrants” from this country “dishonor the basic convictions” of the country’s political and constitutional traditions. “They must be opposed in word and deed,” he said.