In light of the heightened discord and animosity that has invaded American society in the past decade, for the first time in over 40 years, the full body of U.S. bishops has issued a rare pastoral letter dealing with the subject of racism and is encouraging the faithful to prayerfully read this document.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved distribution of the new pastoral letter entitled, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism” which was written by the full body of bishops.
“The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse, and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones, that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years,” the USCCB said in a statement.
“Pastoral letters from the full body of bishops are rare, few and far between. But at key moments in history the bishops have come together for important pronouncements, paying attention to a particular issue and with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time. This is such a time.”
The last time such an effort was made was in 1979 when the full body of bishops approved “Brothers and Sisters to Us: A Pastoral Letter on Racism in Our Day.” The newly approved “Open Wide Our Hearts” continues the message that “Brothers and Sisters to Us” sought to convey.
Specifically, the new pastoral letter asks us to recall that we are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God. Because we all bear the image of God, racism is above all a moral and theological problem that manifests institutionally and systematically. Only a deep individual conversion of heart, which then multiplies, will compel change and reform in our institutions and society. It is imperative to confront racism’s root causes and the injustice it produces.
As the document states: “Justice was a gift of grace given to all of humanity. After sin entered the world, however, this sense of justice was overtaken by selfish desires, and we became inclined to sin. St. Augustine described well our lives after Eden, saying that in the fallen world our relationships with one another have been guided by a ‘lust to dominate.’ Whether recognized or not, the history of the injustices done to so many, because of their race, flows from this ‘lust to dominate’ the other. Even when we are freed from Original Sin by Baptism, we continue to struggle with overcoming temptation and sin in our lives.”
It goes on to say that “Although our nation has moved forward in a number of ways against racial discrimination, we have lost ground in others. . . . Too many good and faithful Catholics remain unaware of the connection between institutional racism and the continued erosion of the sanctity of life.”
The document covers the Native American, African American, and Hispanic American experience and the discrimination these groups still encounter in housing, employment, healthcare, and education.
“Love compels each of us to resist racism courageously. It requires us to reach out generously to the victims of this evil, to assist the conversion needed in those who still harbor racism, and to begin to change policies and structures that allow racism to persist,” the document says.
“The love of God binds us together. This same love should overflow into our relationships with all people. The conversions needed to overcome racism require a deep encounter with the living God in the person of Christ who can heal all division.”
Click here to read this important document.
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