By Bishop Thomas Zinkula
Recent correspondence I received on the issue of racism, and confusion about Black Lives Matter, prompted me to address the issue in this brief reflection.
The protests around the country clearly are an expression of the anger, repulsion and distress felt by people of color over police brutality, particularly as a result of the death of George Floyd. For many Black Americans, these travesties of justice have triggered centuries of trauma. They do not have the privilege of simply walking away when the media moves on to something else. They do not simply “get over it.”
The use of the term Black Lives Matter is not in and of itself an endorsement of Black Lives Matter Global Foundation, which has many stances that are at odds with the Church. The Church collaborates with many groups and entities on certain issues, while not agreeing with each other on other issues. For example, the Church works with both Republican and Democratic representatives and legislators on issues on which we concur.
Many priests wonder how to address pastorally Black lives matter without offending a portion of their congregation. The Diocese of Austin, Texas, has developed a resource for its clergy to address the difficult subjects of racism and prejudices in homilies. Among the materials I found particularly insightful was a reflection by Father F. Dekarlos Blackmon, OblSB, who serves as the diocese’s Director of Life, Charity and Justice. Here is an excerpt from his reflection:
“While many may attempt to counter ‘Black Lives Matter’ with ‘All Lives Matter,’ it would be perceived that they fail to recognize that doing so detracts from the unique experiences and challenges with which Black Americans have had to contend throughout their lives in the United States. So, I would suggest that we consider the very concept of the phrase itself. The authentic concept of Black lives matter is rooted in the sanctity of human life. For this reason, the concept of Black lives matter should not be confused with Black Lives Matter Global Foundation (BLMGF), an organization of the same name. Although BLMGF claims to exist for the advancement of black people, its radical agenda goes far beyond the concept of Black lives matter, covering many issues that are antithetical to Catholic teaching.”
“As the Christian faithful, we must draw a distinction between the life-affirming concept of Black lives matter and BLMGF. We can reject many of the ideals of BLMGF while still stating that Black lives matter. In view of our Catholic faith, let us be mindful that Black lives matter must be a rallying cry devoted to the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. Let’s continue to help the faithful to achieve greatness for all people, while at the same time being faithful to the teachings of Christ in matters of marriage, sexuality, and family.”
This is excellent advice for all of us to contemplate in this time of two pandemics: the coronavirus and racism. The latter is a disease we can eradicate through prayer, dialogue and a commitment to change our systems that foster racism.
Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!