Racism in the United States

Can be Thwarted by Catholic Social Teaching

The Church Condemns Racism

Cannot be Overcome with Violence

“The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination.”
Pope St. Paul VI, 5
“The Church’s doctrine affirms…all racist theories are contrary to Christian faith and love…Racism and racist acts must be condemned.”
The Church and Racism, 33

The Church Condemns Racism

Agreeing that: “Any doctrine of superiority based on the difference between races is scientifically false, morally condemnable and socially unjust and dangerous”.
UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • “It is therefore inconceivable for those who accept the Gospel message…to deny fundamental human equality in the name of the alleged superiority of a race or ethnic group”. (Pope St. Paul VI)
  • Whoever exalts racedistorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God”. (Pope Pius XI, 8)
  • “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form”. (Pope Francis)

There is a Need to be Clear!

What is Racism?

“Racism as such is applied to contempt for a race characterized by its ethnic origin, color or language“. (The Church and Racism, 33)

Racism is a sin that constitutes a serious offence against God.” (Pope St. John Paul II)

“Racism is…a cause of division and hatred within countries whenever individuals and families see…themselves unjustly subjected to a regime of discrimination because of their race or their color.” (Pope St. Paul VI, 63) 

The Christian should never make racist claims or indulge in racist or discriminatory behavior”. (Contribution to World Conference Against Racism, 6)

What About Critical Race Theory, BLM, “Equity…?

“Today racism has not disappeared. There are even troubling new manifestations of it”. (The Church and Racism, 8)

The Church is “concerned with preventing victims from having recourse to violent struggle and thus falling into a racism similar to that which they are rejecting.” (The Church and Racism, 27)

If, in fact, race defines a human group…racist behavior, can be applied…to all persons”. (The Church and Racism, 8)

No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination“. (Pope St. Paul VI, 5)

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“Acts of discriminationmust be denounced and brought to light without hesitation and strongly rejected“. (The Church and Racism, 26)

“The victims of racism, wherever they may be, must be defended.” (The Church and Racism, 26)

“None but superficial minds could…attempt to lock within the…narrow limits of a single race“. (Pope Pius XI, 10)

What Does the Church Propose?

The Church proposes “the unity of the human family, embracing people who enjoy equal natural dignity”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1911)

The Church wants first and foremost to change racist attitudes, including those within her own communities. (The Church and Racism, 33)

Why?

“The Church founded by the Redeemer is one, the same for all races”. (Pope Pius XI, 18)

“As God’s sun shines on every human face so His law knows neither privilege nor exception.” (Pope Pius XI, 10)

This is why “All forms of discrimination must be firmly opposed.” (The Church and Racism, 33)

What About in Practice?

It’s Practical

“[I]t is important to educate to a positive appreciation of the complementary diversity of peoples.” (The Church and Racism, 33)

Because,“[W]ithout education in moral values…every construction of peace remains fragile; it is even doomed to failure”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 7)

Therefore, “She patiently prepares a change in mentality without which structural changes would be in vain.” (The Church and Racism, 27)

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“She offers a place for reconciliation”. (The Church and Racism, 33)

It’s Spiritual

“She preaches love“. (The Church and Racism, 27)

“She appeals…to the moral and religious sense of people.” (The Church and Racism, 33)

“She invites all to act in such a way that hatred be banished.” (The Church and Racism, 27)

“She asks God to change hearts.” (The Church and Racism, 33) 

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Despite the sinful limitations of her members, yesterday and today, she is aware of having been constituted a witness to Christ’s charity on earth, a sign and instrument of the unity of humankind.” (The Church and Racism, 33)

The Solution is Catholic Social Teaching

First: We need to recognize everyone’s human dignity!

Solidarity

In fact, solidarity is “the only path forward, out of the complete moral bankruptcy of racial prejudice”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 4)

“We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God.” (Pope St. Paul VI, 5)

Therefore, “The message [the Church] proposes to everyone, and which she tries to live is: ‘Every person is my brother or sister.'” (The Church and Racism, 33)

“Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: ‘He who does not love does not know God‘ (1 John 4:8).” (Pope St. Paul VI, 5)

Human Dignity

No one is born racist or without the ability to reject racism. And…

NO ONE CAN TAKE AWAY OUR DIGNITY!

This prime principle of Catholic Social Teaching “is the most profound reason for the inviolability of human dignity against every attempt to evaluate the person according to utilitarian and power-based criteria.” (Pope Benedict XVI) 

This “Truth calls for the elimination of every trace of racial discrimination“. (Pope St. John XXIII, 86)

Respect for every person and every race is respect for basic rights, dignity and fundamental equality”. (The Church and Racism, 33)

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“[T]he Catholic Church considers it its duty to preach the equal dignity of all human beings, created by God in His image”. (Contribution to World Conference Against Racism, 6)

Flowing from [human dignity] are the two other key principles: solidarity and subsidiarity. These principles, put into practice, result in the common good.” (Contribution to World Conference Against Racism, 15)

Subsidiarity

“Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 57)

No actual or established power has the right to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty.” (Pope Francis, 3.2)

“Experience has shown that where personal initiative is lacking, political tyranny ensues.” (Pope St. John XXIII, 57)

“The value of human dignity…takes precedence over all political decision-making”. (Pope Benedict XVI)

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The principle of subsidiarity lies at the heart of a stable social order by fostering the personal responsibility that naturally accompanies individual liberty – ensuring that personal interest is not placed in opposition to societal interests – and by seeking to bring individual desires and the demands of the common good into fruitful harmony.

In Summary

“The members of mankind share the same basic rights and duties, as well as the same supernatural destiny…all should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life and benefit from a fair sharing of the nation’s riches.”
Pope St. Paul VI, 16
“Those who have a sure hope, guaranteed by the Spirit… say: Outward appearances will no longer be our standard in judging other men.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria

Catholic Social Teaching and Other Issues

Racism in the United States

The belief humanity can be divided into separate and exclusive biological entities with some races innately superior to others. This leads to personal and societal prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against other people because they are of a different race or ethnicity. What does Catholic social teaching have to say about such an insidious “ism”?

Democratic Socialism

Candidates for President of the United States and many in congress espouse this as an alternative model for our country. What, exactly, is it? What does the Catholic Church have to say about it?

Climate Change

One political party committed the US to the Paris Agreement and proposes a “Green New Deal”. Another party withdrew from the Paris Agreement and inimically opposes the other’s proposal. What does Catholic social teaching have to say?

COVID-19

The Crisis and the Cure: How does Catholic social teaching evaluate governments’ response?

The Four Dangers to Society

The Church identifies the major ‘risks and problems’ eating away at our cultural, economic and political systems. What are they?

Consumerism

Having and wanting a lot of ‘stuff’ is at the heart of several of society’s ills. Which ones? Why does this limit our freedom?

Environmental Degradation

Yes! The environment is in danger. But, it is actually worse (and, more complicated) than you think.

Physical Environment

This is about more than ‘just’ protecting the environment. There are profound spiritual dimensions involved.

Human Environment

“[W]e must also mention the more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 38)

Integral Ecology

The solution to all our environmental problems!

National Health Care

[COMING SOON]

US health care is, in many ways, the envy of the world. Would a national health care program improve it? See how Catholic social teaching can inform the discussion!

Immigration

[COMING SOON]

A right? How much? Who? What are immigrants’ duties? This is complicated! Catholic social teaching can help sort through the issues.

Radical Secularism

[COMING SOON]

“The greatest challenge of our time”! (Pope Benedict XVI, 3) Why? Radical secularism holds that there is no such thing as an objective truth. But, “Without truth, without trust and love for what is true...social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 5) Sound familiar?

The Family

[COMING SOON]

“The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 86)​

Marriage

[COMING SOON]

"[T]ranscends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple”. It is born “from the depth of the obligation assumed by the spouses". (Pope Francis, 66)

Abortion

[COMING SOON]

One of the most divisive issues during the past 50 years! Why is the Church so one-sided (and must always be so)?

Alienation

[COMING SOON]

Society and individuals are alienated! We are “marked by a ‘globalization of indifference’ that makes us…closed in on ourselves.” (Pope Francis, 1)  The consequences are devastating!

Why These Issues Matter

Catholic social teaching informs our consciences and requires action from us, the lay faithful. “Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation.
For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment.

Three Key Principles

Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles – Human DignitySolidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles: “The State must contribute to the achievement of these goals both directly and indirectly. Indirectly and according to the principle of subsidiarityby creating favorable conditions for the free exercise of economic activity, which will lead to abundant opportunities for employment and sources of wealth. Directly and according to the principle of solidarityby defending the weakest” (Pope St. John Paul II, 15)

Human Dignity

This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image. This is “the basis not only of the unity of the human family but also of our inviolable human dignity” (Pope Benedict XVI) and it is in this beginning that human rights are grounded.

Solidarity

Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good” (Pope St. John Paul II, 38). Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment. “We cannot believe in God the Father without seeing a brother or sister in every person, and we cannot follow Jesus without giving our lives for those for whom he died on the cross.” (Pope Francis)

Subsidiarity

Subsidiarity identifies how decisions in society need to be taken at the lowest competent level. “It is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI, 79)

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