Seven Catholic bishops, including my own archbishop, have issued a joint statement on the murder of George Floyd.
It is a beautiful statement, the kind of thing that has always made me proud to be Catholic. Under ordinary circumstances I would be comforted by it. Under those ordinary circumstances, I would be right now writing a piece thanking these bishops.
In it they say
While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.
As I said, under ordinary circumstances I would be proud of that statement. But these are not ordinary circumstances. A statement, no matter how well-turned its phrasing, is not enough.
If this statement is just a sop with plans to go back to business as usual, it’s not only meaningless, it can lead people to cynicism and despair. In times like these, the Church has to stand against evil with a clear and unmistakable voice. If it does anything less, it becomes an enabler and fellow traveler of that evil. That is precisely what happened in Nazi Germany, Rwanda and America during the long dark night of extermination of native Americans and Jim Crow laws and public lynchings.
I only hope that this statement means that those bishops and priests who have done so will reconsider their tacit and not so tacit political support for the policies of this dangerously incompetent and thoroughly dishonest president. He has supported white supremacists and Neo Nazis, has encouraged armed protests by right-wing thugs who shut down a legislative session in Michigan and has consistently degraded and marginalized whole groups of people including black people, Hispanics and women.This president has engaged in hate rhetoric consistently throughout his presidency. He has authored policies that deprive whole groups of people of their basic human rights, including his treatment of illegal immigrants on our borders and the reversal of restrictions designed to prevent sexual assault on college campuses.
I have been scandalized and heart broken on the deepest spiritual level by the support for this man by many of our prominent Catholic priests and bishops. I have been almost equally scandalized by the relative lack of meaningful moral leadership against these racist and misogynist attacks on the basic dignity of human beings in our country.
I’m glad this group of bishops issued this strong statement. I agree with what they say. I realize that they cannot control their brother bishops, or for that matter, their politicized priests. But I want them to understand that these are not ordinary times.
The situation in which this country finds itself requires more of our religious leaders than issuing a beautiful statement and going back to business as usual. We need religious leaders who will take a stand for the Gospels that is devoid of any attempt to placate partisan interests on either side of the political divide.
I know full well the pushback such an action would get from those who are deep in the political heresy of conflating Christ with their partisan viewpoints. But the fact that there are so many Catholics who are lost in the idolatry of political party and players speaks clearly to the necessity of naming this evil, calling it what it is and preaching against it.
That fact that many of our priests and bishops have fallen into the same evil only makes it more imperative that those who see clearly and have not bent their knee to Caesar speak up. This is the job of bishops. It is the specific work that they have inherited because they stand in the line of succession from the Apostles.
I don’t need my bishop to explain political issues to me. I need moral and religious leadership that I can respect and follow because it is an honest expression of fidelity to Christ.
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus.”
That is my God. I need religious leaders who will, without compromise and especially when it is unpopular, lead me to Him.