August 25, 2017


Standing with victims of racial hatred and violence

“Catholic social teaching makes clear that we must not only condemn racism, hatred and violence, but also stand in solidarity with the victims.”
(Archbishop Charles C. Thompson)

There is something especially odious about “white supremacy.” Evil takes many forms, but few of these are as foul-smelling and repugnant as this blatant form of racism.

Fundamental to our Christian belief and practice is the conviction that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. No individual, ethnic group, race or nationality is inherently superior—or inferior—to any other. We are all equal in dignity and in our potential to thrive and grow as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters to each other.

The recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Va., were sparked by a racist gathering of groups who are seriously deluded about their imagined superiority and their need to assert dominance over minorities and other diverse communities in the United States today. Fortunately, the number of white supremacists who assembled in Charlottesville was relatively small, but the enormity of the hatred they espoused provoked counter-protestors and resulted in the violent death of a young woman, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and the injury of at least 20 others.

As The Criterion’s editor, Mike Krokos, wrote in this space last week: “Although much progress has been made in the United States to combat racism, we are reminded once again that some people will do whatever it takes—including harming their fellow citizens—to achieve their narrow-minded objectives.

“We believe the number of good, decent and loving Americans—who don’t look at the color of someone’s skin, their nationality or their faith tradition and immediately judge that person in a negative light—far outnumber those who allow the evil of prejudice to shape their lives.

“The millions who fit in that category must pray fervently for those who want to deny others of their God-given dignity and harbor thoughts of hurting others because they are different. We need to let them know we will not accept this intolerable behavior under any circumstances. And we must continue to teach our younger generations that they must be beacons of light when such darkness emerges.”

In one of his last acts before his death on Aug. 17, Richmond, Va., Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo was one of the first to call for peace following the violence in Charlottesville late on Aug. 11, which only became worse the following day. “In the last 24 hours, hatred and violence have been on display in the city of Charlottesville. I earnestly pray for peace.”

Racism, sexism, anti-semitism and all other forms of hatred and bigotry should be vigorously condemned by all American citizens regardless of their race, religion, economic or social status. But as Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson said, “Catholic social teaching makes clear that we must not only condemn racism, hatred and violence, but also stand in solidarity with the victims.”

Actions speak louder than words, so what we do to express our solidarity with victims is as important—or more important than what we say.

What can we do to end the kind of racism and violence that erupted in Virginia? How do we most effectively stand in solidarity with victims of this evil?

“Only the light of Christ can quench the torches of hatred and violence. Let us pray for peace,” said Bishop DiLorenzo in his statement. “I pray that those men and women on both sides can talk and seek solutions to their differences respectfully.”

Prayer, dialogue, and mutual respect are essential to the healing of wounds caused by bigotry and injustice. Unfortunately, as the Charlottesville tragedy showed all too clearly, the immediate response of political leaders (fueled by the news media) is not to unite opposing sides, but to further divide us by name-calling and casting blame on those who disagree with them.

The hatred and violence we witnessed in Charlottesville is an outgrowth of the bitterly divisive talk and behavior we witnessed in the 2016 presidential campaign and in the nonstop animosity on all sides since the inauguration last January. We will never achieve peace or justice until the political Hatfields and McCoys stop their senseless, destructive feuding and come together to work for the common good of all.

Standing with victims of racial hatred and violence means letting go of all our prejudices, forgiving our enemies and living together in peace.

May the light of Christ shine through the darkness of all sinful attitudes. May his peace take root in our hearts and ensure liberty and justice for all our sisters and brothers in the one family of God.

—Daniel Conway

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