Racism in the Catholic Church?

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Catholic Bishop Terry Steib of Memphis has drawn a lot of attention recently for saying that racism persists in the church, and offering the controversy over President Obama’s appearance at University of Notre Dame as an example. In Philly earlier this month to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the U.S. black bishops’ pastoral letter, “What […]

  • Marcello

    Is there anything that can’t be attributed to racism these days? Anything at all?

  • jms

    The reason the Catholic Church can’t celebrate Obama’s election or his “honorary degree” from Notre Dame has NOTHING to do w/racism. The doctrine of the Catholic church clearly states that to vote for or support someone who promotes a pro-abortion agenda goes against GOD and HIS church. Unfortunately, people don’t want to hear the TRUTH, they just want to chalk it up to another “it’s all about Obama’s RACE”….I’m sick of it!

  • Richard M. A. Smith

    Since when did one single issue(abortion) define a religion. The U.S. Catholic hierarchy is being hypocritical in using this issue to refuse to extend recognition to the achievement of President Barack Obama. There is more to it than meets the eye and Black people, including Black Catholics, will not be fooled by the likes of the Bishop in Indiana who began the blackballing process against President Obama. Former President Bush, while governor of Texas signed many death warrants and sent some innocent men to die as a result. He entered into a thoughtless, unnecessary and ill-considered war which saw the killing of thousands of innocent Iraquis and, of course many young American women and men. Not once, did I hear the Catholic church uniformedly condemn these killings. President Obama, in carrying out the law of the land, has been personally insulted and vilified for no other reason than it would appear that he is Black. It is sheer hypocrisy and Bishop Steib and Archbishop Quinn are correct in exposing it. To paraphrase Holy Scripture, rejoice when I am happy and weep when I am sad! American Catholic leadership is out of step with its own members who overwhelmingly voted for Obama.

  • Marcello

    Richard M. A. Smith:

    I supported Obama during the 2008 election. I donated to his campaign. Now I’m being called a racist. Needless to say, I’m furious.

    I won’t be supporting Obama in 2012. Hopefully we will have a more mature candidate to vote for. Hopefully we will have a candidate who doesn’t allow the word “racist” to be tossed around like cheap confetti.

  • Mechelle Heath

    Dear Richard A. Smith,

    The Catholic Church is NOT defined by one single issue. However, when something the church understands is clearly evil is accepted by the masses as normal behavior the church is OBLIGATED to speak strongly against it. The number of children killed by their parents on a DAILY basis vastly outnumbers the number of people killed YEARLY by the other means you mentioned, and therefore heightens the urgency of the message.

    I find it odd you said that you’ve never heard the Church speak against the death penalty or the war in Iraq. It has definitely been reported on in the Catholic news media.

    As far as the original article is concerned, I am sick and tired of everyone that oposes Obama being called a racist. As a black person it really makes me angry. If America is mature enough to elect a president regardless of his race doesn’t it deserve the opportunity to criticize him once he’s in office? Let’s just leave race out of it and focus on the issues.

  • Carrie P.

    St. Francis of Assisi in Cordova, TN on Germantown Pkwy. is one of the most intentionally segregated Catholic churches in the Memphis area. Most of the congregation openly display their desire to keep Black Catholics out of the church. There are a few Filipinos and an even smaller amount of Latinos that attend services there, but they openly denounce Blacks that attend this church. Even the social groups created by the church are not welcoming to Black people. I would name names but you members know exactly who you are. Many in the congregation openly tell me that they withdrew their own children from Chimneyrock and are in debt with creditors to put their children in the church’s school to get away from Black people. I am frankly embarassed by this since I have Black in-laws, friends, and business associates.

    I tell my Catholic family members who come in town to visit to attend Sacred Heart or any others in Midtown who tend to be more welcoming to non-White parishoners.

  • Becky S

    It is with profound sadness that I read the account posted by Carrie P. Dearest friend we are given loving ways to address issues within the body of Christ.
    1. Before attempting to remove the speck from our brothers eye we must first remove the beam from our own
    2. Matthew’s gospel then tells us to go to the offending brother and speak to him privately
    3. In the event that is ineffective we are to take one or two others that have may be witnesses or have knowledge of the greivance
    3. If that is ineffective then speak to the leadership of the church. note the actual wording in Matthew 18 is “tell the church”

    I am a parishoner at St. Francis and have not encountered this raciam as described. However, if racists attend, praise God that they will be where they can hear the liturgy of the word, be faced by the crucifix of our LORD and be confronted by the Eucharist.

    Dearest CARRIE P. please pray for the church, our leaders, our parishoners and Memphis.

  • Randy

    Steib is misguided and his opinions are inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church. A letter I wrote to him regarding his new age view of abortion:

    Dear Bishop Steib,

    I read your commentary, “A Hospital for Sinners…”, in The West Tennessee Catholic and was disappointed to learn of your position. I was left quite confused and decided to conduct research into this issue myself and the following represents my findings.

    I certainly agree with the spirit of trying to reach out to sinners, including those who support abortion. However, I believe that providing the sacrament of the Eucharist to those who not simply support abortion, but are actively engaged in influencing others to support the practice, is inconsistent with the teachings and Catechism of the Catholic Church. Political personalities aside, your position is contradictory and I believe it does not meet the test of 2000 years of Church teachings.

    The Church provides specific guidelines regarding our preparation to receive the Lord’s body and blood in Communion. This includes that the communicant be in a state of grace, have made a good confession since commission of mortal sin, believe in transubstantiation, observe the Eucharist fast and to not be under ecclesiastical censure. These are absolute requirements. To receive the Eucharist without sanctifying grace profanes the Eucharist in a grievous manner,

    Your argument centers on the preeminence of man’s conscience and you state that “conscience is the final arbiter of right and wrong”. This contradicts my Catholic education, which left no question in my mind that the law of God was the ‘final arbiter’. I was never taught that the conscience of a single man trumps the will and law of God and that such a humanistic template for personal behavior is dangerous and only serves to provide the illusion of freedom. This was one of the lessons provided by the parable of the prodigal son—the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house and resultant misery.

    You ask the question, “Can any minister judge what is in some else’s conscience?” Conscience is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain. However, individual actions and accountability for those actions are what really matters in this argument. The Catechism provides the following guidance regarding Reconciliation: “Through such an administration man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church on order to make a new future possible.” The politician who advocates abortion is not repentant and, thus, does not assume the required responsibility for his actions in his conscience. Given this, he is not in communion with God and sins when he participates in the sacrament of Communion. It is as the apostle John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Thus, not only is the politician who advocates abortion not in communion with God, he is incapable of achieving this based upon his continued and willful actions.

    The Catechism is very specific on the matter of preparation for communion: “To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: ‘Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon himself’ (1 Cor. 11:27-28). Anyone conscious of grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.”

    According to the Catechism, the sinner must be: “contrite of heart, confess with the lips and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction.” Additionally, and a very key point in contrast to your argument, “Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is ‘sorrow of the soul’ and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution to not sin again.”

  • Randy

    Part II of the letter to Steib:

    This is the nature of the inconsistency of your commentary. Let’s assume an individual is an active political advocate of abortion. Even if they confess their sin but they know in their heart (with their political conscience as their guide and ‘final arbiter’) that they will continue to repeat this grave sin, it is impossible for them to be in a state of grace. The Catechism refers to this as “imperfect contrition”. Regarding this, the Catechism provides the following guidance, “By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.”

    The logical extension of this, in contrast to your assertions, is that a politician who supports abortion, even if he confesses his mortal sin but is resolved to continue to support the practice, has engaged in ‘imperfect contrition’ and should not participate in Communion. The Catechism states that “Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion”. The Didache witnesses to this practice in the early Church. “But first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one” (Didache 14). The 1983 Code of Canon Law made it clear that these requirements still exist today. “A person who is conscious of a grave sin is not to…receive the body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession…in this case the person must be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition…”.

    Bishop Steib, I respect your position and you personally. However, I find the position you took in the commentary disheartening and one that will serve to create confusion and emotional conflict. You mention politics several times. In my mind this issue is not about politics, it’s about right/wrong and Church law. In these days of rapid social change I believe all Catholics need to ensure our clearly articulated and time-tested beliefs are not compromised in the interest of political expedience.


    Randy Hammond

  • Frank Fos

    Dear Randy,

    I read your letter with deep interest. I not only totally agree with it content, but I also think it is a very courageous move to defend the basic and fundamental principles of our faith which tend to be diluted in today’s culture. One cannot profess to believe in the Church and its teaching while promoting or defending abortion.

    Would you also please say something about racism in our Church? Do you think it is real or not? Do you think it is a venial or mortal sin? Do you think someone who harbor racism in his/her heart should receive the Eucharist? Could you please share your input on that with me?

    While reading the story of Augustine Tolton, the first black priest in the US, I read that when trying to become a priest “Tolton was rejected by every American seminary to which he applied” he had to go to Rome to complete his studies and become priest. Do you think such a practice is consistent with the teachings and Catechism of the Catholic Church?

    You response to the questions above will be very appreciated.

    Sincerely yours.