A Time to Speak — Ceaseless efforts to combat racism

M. Annette Mandley-Turner

Over the past three months, due to technology, our awareness as a society has come face to face with the sin of racism.

Due to the enslavement of their ancestors, many people from the African Diaspora (African American, African, and Caribbean) have lived the experience for more than 500 years.

Our Catholic Church has written several statements and pastoral letters calling for the end of racism, dating back as early as 1940 to the present. The Catholic Church believes that racism is a sin, and that it divides the human family.

According to our Catholic social teachings, one of the principles that we embrace and live out is the sanctity of life and the human dignity of all people. We believe wholeheartedly that these principles assist in defining who we are as Catholics and whose we are as the people of God.

As the Archdiocese of Louisville, we have worked ceaselessly for the last 30 years to provide opportunities for our faith community to combat racism through programs such as Moving Toward Oneness, Days of Reflection, the Culture Awareness Retreat for seventh and eighth graders and Building Bridges.

We have participated in the Black Catholic Congress, hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Justice Round Table Discussions, developed a Multicultural Resource Directory and we publish a quarterly Cultural Update Magazine. Recently, we have hosted conversations on racism via video conference.

There have also been articles in The Record written by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and others, a Mass offering for peace, agency trainings on bias and racism, in-service opportunities for schools and parishes, and trainings based on Open Wide Our Hearts, the most recent pastoral letter on racism. We’ve also offered trainings on Building Intercultural Competence Best Practices for Clergy Working in Diverse Communities and a plethora of other events and programs focusing on embracing diversity.

All these efforts play a role in addressing racism.

The question asked by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in one of his writings prior to his assassination in 1968, was this: “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”

Today, we find ourselves revisiting the same dilemma. Our society is fully aware that we cannot return to the behaviors of yesterday.

Perhaps we need to take to heart the words Pope Francis spoke in June to our nation. He said, “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form, and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

We have heard church leaders compare racism to a virus in people’s hearts that must be controlled and not allowed to spread. We have programs that can and must address racism, or our hearts will reflect hatred.

The challenge of embracing the fullness of the essence of life and human dignity for all people keeps reoccurring.

Will the present circumstances compel society and the church to choose another trajectory that will lead us to be more engaged in modeling what it means to truly love one another?

M. Annette Mandley-Turner is the executive director of the Office of Multicultural Ministry for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

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