Catholic bishops call for the root causes of racism to be addressed

Religion News Service | 6/19/2015, 12:51 p.m.
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops kicked off a gathering in St. Louis of approximately 250 of ...

Lilly Fowler

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops kicked off a gathering in St. Louis of approximately 250 of the nation’s bishops by referring to Ferguson, Mo., where an unarmed black teenager was killed last August by a white police officer.

“We mourn those tragic events in which African-Americans and others have lost their lives in altercations with law enforcement,” said a statement prepared by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., which was read by Bishop Ronny Jenkins, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last week.

“Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our church.”

The statement said that efforts “must address root causes of these conflicts — violent, sorrowful history of racial injustice, accompanied by a lack of educational, employment and housing opportunities.”

And it quoted Pope Paul VI: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

Archbishop Kurtz then laid out ways Roman Catholics could help end racism. Among them: Prayer, using scripture and Catholic social teaching to gain a deeper understanding of the dignity of all persons, interacting with those from various racial backgrounds, and getting to know law enforcement officials.

Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops were in St. Louis for their annual spring assembly to discuss topics important to Catholics.

Francesco C. Cesareo president of Assumption College and chair of the National Review Board, a committee established in 2002 to help prevent the sexual abuse of minors, warned against complacency. Dr. Cesareo noted that although the church had made much progress, six allegations of sexual abuse in 2014 had been substantiated.

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, spoke about immigration reform and called for the end of family detention centers.

“This jailing of asylum seekers is a violation of international law,” Bishop Seitz said.

Meanwhile, Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle said the church was advocating that the U.S. resettle 65,000 of the most vulnerable Syrians, including persecuted Christians.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco spoke about the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. He said his request that Catholic school officials sign a statement affirming their belief that homosexual relations are “gravely evil” prompted protests in California.

Archbishop Cordileone said he feared that “those who continue to advocate for the true definition of marriage will be increasingly marginalized.”

Bishops at the conference also announced a new, free Catholic mobile app that will offer news about Pope Francis, Mass schedules and parish locations, among other features. The app is expected to launch in July.