The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently approved a new pastoral letter - Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love – examining the “persistent” history of racism in this nation. The report is particularly timely in that the FBI recently reported that hate crimes increased by 17 percent in 2017 with the most common bias being “race/ethnicity/ancestry.” Fr. Simon Kim, Director of Intercultural Initiatives at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, served on the original drafting committee and offers the following summary:
As bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States, we want to address one particularly destructive and persistent form of evil. Despite many promising strides made in our country, racism still infects our nation (3).
The 2018 Pastoral Letter against Racism, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, by the USCCB addresses a growing concern in our country based on a continuous history of discrimination and violence along with extreme nationalist ideologies (4). With a posture of humility, the words of the prophet Micah are highlighted in the letter as a way of acknowledging that history of racism as a call to overcome the sins of omission when it comes to combating racism and in working for racial reconciliation:
You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God (Mi 6:8)
The bishops have accepted their role “to do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly” by creating an Ad Hoc committee on racism where they will continue to listen through national dialogues, advise with working models, and explore racial reconciliation initiatives (24). However, these efforts fall short if individuals, parishes, and communities (21) do not also respond to racial inequalities in a similar manner since racism is unequivocally a life issue (30) requiring the conversion of all (29).
We ask them to fight the evil of racism by educating themselves, reflecting on their personal thoughts and actions, listening to the experience of those who have been affected by racism, and by developing and supporting programs that help repair the damages caused by racial discrimination. We need to continue to educate ourselves and our people about the great cultural diversity within our Church (27).
Read the pastoral letter, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.