To the editor:
I read with interest the question addressed to Father Ken Doyle in the Sept. 10 edition of The Catholic Messenger regarding the black clergy and religious conferences. A reader was annoyed that such conferences should exist, asking what reaction would be to all white conferences.
The trouble is that the questioner was comparing apples to oranges. Consider this: only 5 percent of African-Americans are Catholic, compared to 78 percent membership in Protestant denominations. African-Americans account for only 4 percent of the Catholic population, making them a very small minority indeed. A minority of that small magnitude organizing its own conference is a whole different kettle of fish from a large majority organizing with the obvious purpose of excluding the minority. In this case, the white majority holds the power of numbers, and certainly isn’t threatened by a minority as small as 4 percent. Conversely, the minority holds virtually no power, and considering the history of prejudice against African-Americans in this country, including by some Catholics, it should come as no surprise that they would want to organize so that their ideas and concerns can be heard.
Obviously, the Catholic Church has had little success in the evangelization of African-Americans. Why is this? I submit that the conferences of African-American clergy and religious could be of great help in answering this question. The bishops need this kind of input, and they need it from African-Americans, much more so than from white people who have not experienced the unique struggles of the African-American community.
Are we serious about Christ’s mandate to teach and baptize all nations? If so, African-American Catholic conferences are a great resource in trying to reach this goal. We should welcome them and carefully listen to what they have to say. This can make us a much better church.
Rock Island, Illinois