Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre spoke to a group, the night of Oct. 23, on the document “Open Wide Our Hearts: A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” telling his listeners that only a conversion of heart can eradicate racism.
The presentation at the Cathedral of the Assumption wrapped up a series of four events hosted by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Family and Life Ministries in observance of October’s Respect Life Month.
Archbishop Fabre told the group that included religious and members of the clergy that while civil rights laws have led to “great strides” in the struggle against racism, they cannot change hearts.
“Racism’s nucleus, its energy and the greatest damage done, remains at the level of the heart,” he said.
Drawing on Scripture, the archbishop referred to a story in the Gospel of Mark. In the story, there’s a question about Jesus’ disciples eating without washing their hands. Jesus then explains to his disciples that external things, such as food, do not defile but that evil comes from a person’s heart.
“Jesus would allow us to add racism to the list of evils that flow from the human heart,” said Archbishop Fabre.
He went on to say that “laws will never bring us to where we need to be. Laws will only bring us to tolerance. Christ calls us to more.”
He noted that the U.S. bishops, too, call individuals to more.
Their pastoral letter, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” has its foundation in the words of the prophet Micah.
Micah tells the people that what God requires of them is “ ‘to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God,’ ” said the archbishop. “It’s the triple call given to us by Open Wide Our Hearts.”
He explained how each connects to racism.
Do justice: Justice precedes the law and society. Justice flows from the dignity inherent in each person because they were made in the image of God, said Archbishop Fabre.
Love goodness: Loving goodness means sharing with others the love one has received from God. It also means loving the “goodness found in those different from us,” the archbishop said.
Walk humbly with your God: This begins in the home, the “domestic church,” he said. It refers to engaging the world and encountering others “outside of our worldview,” said Archbishop Fabre.
Parents, he added, should provide opportunities that expose children to diversity and “make it clear that God dwells equally in the human dignity of each person,” he said.