Catholics and Race in the United States


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Racism is a grave sin. It is an affront to human dignity and respect for life, an impediment to the peace and reconciliation to which Jesus calls us. It is the original sin of the United States. It is a sin that manifests itself in many different ways in many different places throughout the world. In addition to overt acts of violence, it is inextricably linked to economic and educational inequality, legal inequities, political marginalization, and a host of other social sins. The killing of George Floyd and many others reminds us that, in the words of the National Black Sisters’ Conference, if the United States “is to reclaim its moral stature, we must confess and atone for our original sin or America will self-destruct as a nation."

The Catholic Peacebuilding Network seeks better to understand and promote the mostly untold and unheralded work of Catholic artisans of peace around the world. These peacebuilders understand the many dimensions of living our faith commitment to protect life and to promote justice, peace, and reconciliation. The first step is understanding, an understanding that comes from humble listening, especially to those from marginalized communities.

Racism and racial injustice need not define America the way it has for 400 years. Animated by an abiding hope in God’s mercy and grace, even the original sin of racism can be overcome by the faith-inspired work of artisans of peace. 

Reflections from Black American Catholics

Bishop Shelton Fabre speaks on Racism & the Disregard for Human Life

Bishop Fabre, head of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, addresses the death of George Floyd, racism, and the disregard for human life. Below is a brief pastoral message; the link includes a full homily on the topic.

Fr. Bryan Massingale Discusses How the Church Can Respond to Racism

White Catholics need to sit with the discomfort of systemic racism // America Magazine

Fr. Bryan Massingale describes racism as "a spiritual wound" and calls on white Catholics to take on discomfort and use it toward lasting change.

Commonweal Podcast: A Response to Racism with Fr. Bryan Massingale

On this episode we speak with Fr. Bryan Massingale, author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church and professor of theology at Fordham University in New York. Racism persists in America and the church, Massingale contends, because racist policies and structures benefit white people—and white people assent to it through a kind of perverse “liturgy.”

The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it // National Catholic Reporter

Following recent events, Fr. Massingale enumerates many of the assumptions that characterize white privilege and provides action steps for the faithful.

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He's a priest, former police officer's son and black: God created Josh Johnson for a time like "this"

Fr. Josh Johnson of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shares a homily and his thoughts on being a son of a police officer and also a biracial priest.  

"I can't breathe because God can't breathe" // National Catholic Reporter 


Sr. Anne Arabome weaves together the trials our world faces, particularly that of racism, through the lens of breath. 




Racism, the Church, and the suffering of people of African descent // La Croix International

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A reflection from Stan Chu Ilo, a Nigerian priest working and studying in the US. Subscription required to read entire article.

Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics // Political Theology Network

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The contributors to the edited volume Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics have crafted brief reflections on the 2020 uprisings.

Religion and Racial Justice: The George Floyd Protests


Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs has collected a range of reflections and responses from Christians regarding the role of religion in racial justice.



Church leaders urged to take stronger stance against institutionalized racism

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This article covers a June 22 webinar that "brought together two leading Black American Catholic jurists to consider 'race, justice and Catholicism.'"

Black Catholics: Words not enough as Church decries racism // AP News


Black Catholics speak to AP about the concrete actions they would like to see done by the Church.

Academic and Historical Resources

What a forgotten black nun can teach us about racism and COVID-19 // America Magazine

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Shannen Dee Williams relates the story of Sister Mary Anthony Duchemin, a Haitian member of the Oblate Sisters of Providence and later founder of Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who served Baltimore's poorest during the 1832 cholera outbreak. Williams highlights the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on black and brown communities, and calls on the Church to address white supremacy as a danger to the whole Church.  

#BlackCatholics Syllabus, curated by Dr. Tia Noelle Pratt

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This syllabus is a collection of resources related to Black Catholics in the United States.  It is intended for academics, journalists, educators, diocesan institutions, parishes, congregations of women and men religious, and the general public.  This syllabus prioritizes the work of Blacks in order to center the voice of Black Catholics in creation of their own narrative. 

"Saved by Grace: Striving for a more racially just and equal church" and "Jesuits and Slaveholding" // America Magazine

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Cora Marie Billings, a Black Catholic nun of the Sisters of Mercy, recounts her life and the opportunities she had to build racial equity within the Catholic Church. Thomas Murphy's explanation of the Jesuit history with slaveholding follows her article.

"Racism in Our Streets and Structures: A Test of Faith, A Crisis for Our Nation" // Georgetown Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life 

For Catholics and all believers, racism is more than a moral and national failure; it is a sin and a test of faith... At this Public Dialogue four African-Americans—an archbishop, an academic leader, a pro-life advocate, and an anti-poverty leader—helped us understand and act in response to this crisis.

This event featured Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC, Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Ralph McCloud, and Gloria Purvis, and was moderated by John Carr. A summary of the event is available here at America Magazine.

Black Catholic spirituality a force in fight against racism, say pastors



Fr. Stephen Thorne and Msgr. Federico Britto, two Black pastors in the diocese of Philadelphia, discuss how their communities draw strength to respond to racism.

A Lesson from George Floyd: "A man was lynched today" // Jesuit Social Research Institute


Dr. Nik Mitchell reflects on the modern reality of lynching as evidenced by the murder of George Floyd.

Racism faced by black nuns in America called ‘dangerous memory’ // Crux


This article traces the history of black nuns in the United States and the successes and challenges they have faced.

There Are No Black American Saints. These Catholics Are Working To Change That.


Xavier University of Louisiana, the only Catholic Historically Black College/University (HBCU) in the US, has been working to advance the sainthood causes for five black US Catholics.

Spiritual Reflections

"The Unspoken Privilege of Being White:" Meditation by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

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A meditation on racism from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, from the Center for Action and Contemplation.

Morning Glory 5/29/20 - Why Do We Need the Holy Spirit? // EWTN

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Morning Glory hosts Gloria Purvis, Deacon Harold Burke-Sievers, and Msgr. Charles Pope discuss what the pro-life movement and racial justice have in common, and why we need the Holy Spirit.



Steps for Practical Action

Resources for Countering White Supremacy and Racism // Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church


CTEWC members, many of whom are Black, contribute their work to this resource collection for Catholics to address white supremacy and racism.

Practical Steps for Eradicating Racism: An Invitation // USCCB

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Based on the USCCB's 2018 pastoral letter "Open Wide our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, a Pastoral Letter Against Racism," the Bishops developed this guide to assist Catholics and people of good will to reflect on and act against the evil of racism from faith.

Episcopal/Catholic Leader Statements

USCCB Letter to Senate on Police Reform

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The bishops of the Ad Hoc Committee on Racism, the Committee on Migration, and the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development sent this letter to all members of the U.S. Congress to offer reflections and principles for police accountability and reform.

Removal of St. Junipero Serra Statues in the State – Statement of California Catholic Conference of Bishops

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The California bishops respond to the removal of statues of St. Junipero Serra.

 Catholic News Service "Origins" Vol. 50 No. 7: Catholic Leaders' Reactions to Killing of George Floyd by Police

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This edition of Origins cites the statements of 23 Catholic leaders in response to the murder of George Floyd. 

Origins June 11, 2020 Vol. 50 No. 7

USCCB and (Arch)Diocesan Statements on the Death of George Floyd and National Protests

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The USCCB has collected statements from its own committees and dioceses around the US on the current moment in the fight for racial justice.


Cardinal Séan O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, statement on "the disease of racism"

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In light of the ongoing and unfolding tensions in our country surrounding the death of Mr. Floyd, I have prepared a reflection on the evils of racism that calls on people to work and pray for justice, peace and reconciliation. I have asked that it be shared in our parishes this weekend and I would also like to share it with you here.




"Jesus in our Midst: Discovering Local Hope Amidst National Distress" // Bishop Kevin Vann, Diocese of Orange County, CA

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Bishop Kevin Vann meditates on the national and the local crisis, and points of hope along the way. 


INTERVIEW: Leading Sant’Egidio’s Prayer for Peaceful Coexistence in US, Cardinal Farrell Prays for Unity & Against Division

In this interview with ZENIT, the American Cardinal reflects on his prayer for his country, how he has been following the news, and what religions, pastors, and individuals can do, to construct unity.

Homily by San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy during a Mass with the Catholic African American Community 

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San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy delivered this Homily during a special Mass with the Catholic African American Community at the Church of The Immaculata on June 6, 2020.

After 'taking a knee,' border bishop gets a call from the pope

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For Catholic News Service, Rhina Guidos reports on Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, his decision to participate in a protest against police brutality, and a call he received from the Holy Father shortly afterwards.

Statements from US Catholic Organizations

American Catholic Historical Association Statement on Racism and Complicity



The ACHA has issued a statement condemning racism and supporting non-violent protest in the face of the brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many other African Americans. As a scholarly association it calls on its members to provide the resources that we need to learn, educate, and reflect on historic Catholic complicity in service of the present and the future. 

Catholic Relief Services CEO and President: "George Floyd's Blood Cries Out to God"

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CRS CEO and President, Sean Callahan, issued this statement following the killing of George Floyd.

Catholic Charities USA Condemns the Killing of George Floyd


Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) President and CEO, Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, issued this statement condemning the killing of George Floyd and the continuous acts of violence and indifference to human life.