Saying there is an “urgent need” to address “the sin of racism” in the country and find solutions to it, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has established a new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and named one of the country’s African-American Catholic bishops to chair it.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, initiated the committee Aug. 23 “to focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our Church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions.”
He appointed Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education, to chair the new ad hoc committee.
“Recent events have exposed the extent to which the sin of racism continues to afflict our nation,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement. “The establishment of this new ad hoc committee will be wholly dedicated to engaging the Church and our society to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters.”
By creating a committee to deal with racism, the country’s Catholic bishops are standing up for the American value of equality and for a Gospel that refutes the hatred and violence the country witnessed Aug. 11 and 12 during white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., said the bishop who will lead the effort.
“When I watched it, I was just appalled. I couldn’t believe that that was going on in the United States and that there was so much disregard for people,” said Bishop Murry, a Jesuit, during an Aug. 23 interview with Catholic News Service.
“I was happy that the bishops responded so quickly, and that many people across our country responded so quickly to say: ‘This is not who we are. This is not America.’”
When something such as Charlottesville occurs, a response is needed, said Bishop Murry, shortly after a news conference announcing the group, which is moving quickly to put together a national summit of religious leaders and others to participate in the effort.
“Unfortunately, it’s not only Charlottesville,” Bishop Murry said. “There have been other instances of discrimination and lack of caring, of outright hate for people who are African-American or other people of color, immigrants, newcomers. What the bishops are saying is we need to look at this in a concerted, organized way because this is having a negative effect on the life of our country.”
The new ad hoc committee will “welcome and support” implementation of the U.S. bishops’ new pastoral letter on racism, expected to be released in 2018. In 1979, the bishops issued a pastoral in racism titled “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” in which they addressed many themes. The overall message then as today was “racism is a sin.”
Creation of a new formal body that is part of the USCCB—formed on the USCCB Executive Committee’s “unanimous recommendation”—speaks to how serious the U.S. Catholic Church leaders take the problem of racism in America today.
By forming the committee, the bishops have placed racism as a priority they must address and quickly. The last two ad hoc committees dealt with religious liberty and marriage, established in 2011 and 2008, respectively.
The formation of the ad hoc committee also follows the conclusion of the work of the Peace in Our Communities Task Force. The task force was formed in July 2016 by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., who was then USCCB president. He initiated it in response to racially related shootings in Baton Rouge, La., as well as in Minneapolis and Dallas.
He named Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta to head the task force. Archbishop Gregory was the first black Catholic bishop to be president of the USCCB (2001-2004).—CNS