Official Catholic Church Teaching on the Inherent, Grave Moral Evil of Racism

Official Catholic Church Teaching on the Inherent, Grave Moral Evil of Racism July 11, 2020

St. Martin de Porres “is the patron saint of social justice, racial harmony, and mixed-race people.” (ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA) Image source: wikipedia

This is a list of resources for those seeking to understand more fully the Catholic Church’s actual Social Teachings regarding racism. I hope it is helpful. –VR



Catechism of the Catholic Church #1868–1869:

Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them: 

– by participating directly and voluntarily in them; 

– by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them; 

– by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so; 

– by protecting evil-doers. 

Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. “Structures of sin” are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a “social sin.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church #1935:

The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #2433:

Access to employment and to professions must be open to all without unjust discrimination: men and women, healthy and disabled, natives and immigrants. For its part society should, according to circumstances, help citizens find work and employment.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #1943-1948:

Society ensures social justice by providing the conditions that allow associations and individuals to obtain their due. 

Respect for the human person considers the other ‘another self.’ It presupposes respect for the fundamental rights that flow from the dignity intrinsic of the person. 

The equality of men concerns their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it. 

The differences among persons belong to God’s plan, who wills that we should need one another. These differences should encourage charity. 

The equal dignity of human persons requires the effort to reduce excessive social and economic inequalities. It gives urgency to the elimination of sinful inequalities. 

Solidarity is an eminently Christian virtue. It practices the sharing of spiritual goods even more than material ones.

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Pope Francis’s June 3, 2020, General Wednesday Audience:

I greet the English-speaking faithful joining us through the media. Dear brothers and sisters in the United States, I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr George Floyd. My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that ‘the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost’. Today I join the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and in the entire United States, in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and of all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism. Let us pray for the consolation of their grieving families and friends and let us implore the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, intercede for all those who work for peace and justice in your land and throughout the world.

Pope Francis’s address to a delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish organization for the defense of human rights, October 2013:

These meetings are a concrete sign of the respect and esteem which you have for the Bishops of Rome, for which I am grateful. They are likewise an expression of the appreciation of the Pope for the task to which you have dedicated yourselves: to combat every form of racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism, to keep alive the memory of the Shoah, and to promote mutual understanding through education and commitment to the good of society.

Today I wish to emphasize that the problem of intolerance must be confronted in all its forms: wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious convictions or ethnic identity, the wellbeing of society as a whole is endangered and each one of us must feel affected.

Pope Francis’s Address to the Delegates of the International Association of Penal Law, October 2014:

Scapegoats are not only sought to pay, with their freedom and with their life, for all social ills such as was typical in primitive societies, but over and beyond this, there is at times a tendency to deliberately fabricate enemies: stereotyped figures who represent all the characteristics that society perceives or interprets as threatening. . . . The mechanisms that form these images are the same that allowed the spread of racist ideas in their time.

Pope Francis addressing violence and tension between Christians and Muslims, January 2015:

The most effective antidote to every form of violence is education about discovering and accepting difference as richness and fertileness.

Pope Francis Addressing US Congress, September 2015:

Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples.




Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965:


But any kind of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language or religion, must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.


It is now possible to remove from most of the human race the curse of ignorance. A duty most appropriate in our times, especially for Christians, is to work untiringly to the end that fundamental economic and political decisions are taken, nationally and internationally, which will ensure the recognition and implementation everywhere of everyone’s right to human and civil culture in harmony with personal dignity, without distinction of race, sex, nation, religion, or social circumstances.

Caritas in veritate (“Charity in Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009:


If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just toward them.


[Love] is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace.



“Brothers and Sisters to Us,” U.S. Catholic Bishops, Pastoral Letter on Racism (1979):

Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of races. It is the sin that makes racial characteristics the determining factor for the exercise of human rights. It mocks the words of Jesus: ‘Treat others the way you would have them treat you.’ (Matthew 17:12) Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation. . . .

The structures of our society are subtly racist, for these structures reflect the values which society upholds. They are geared to the success of the majority and the failure of the minority. Members of both groups give unwitting approval by accepting things as they are. Perhaps no single individual is to blame. The sinfulness is often anonymous but nonetheless real. The sin is social in nature in that each of us, in varying degrees, is responsible. All of us in some measure are accomplices. As our recent pastoral letter on moral values states: ‘The absence of personal fault for an evil does not absolve one of all responsibility. We must seek to resist and undo injustices we have not ceased, least we become bystanders who tacitly endorse evil and so share in guilt in it.’ . . .

Each of us as Catholics must acknowledge a share in the mistakes and sins of the past. Many of us have been prisoners of fear and prejudice. We have preached the Gospel while closing our eyes to the racism it condemns. We have allowed conformity to social pressures to replace compliance with social justice. . . . 

Racism and economic oppression are distinct but interrelated forces which dehumanize our society. Movement toward authentic justice demands a simultaneous attack on both evils.

“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” U.S. Catholic Bishops, Pastoral Letter on Racism (2018):

Racism arises when—either consciously or unconsciously—a person holds that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior, and therefore judges persons of other races or ethnicities as inferior and unworthy of equal regard. When this conviction or attitude leads individuals or groups to exclude, ridicule, mistreat, or unjustly discriminate against persons on the basis of their race or ethnicity, it is sinful. Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love (Mt 22:39). . . . 

Racism comes in many forms. It can be seen in deliberate, sinful acts. In recent times, we have seen bold expressions of racism by groups as well as individuals. The reappearance of symbols of hatred, such as nooses and swastikas in public spaces, is a tragic indicator of rising racial and ethnic animus. All too often, Hispanics and African Americans, for example, face discrimination in hiring, housing, educational opportunities, and incarceration. Racial profiling frequently targets Hispanics for selective immigration enforcement practices, and African Americans, for suspected criminal activity. There is also the growing fear and harassment of persons from majority Muslim countries. Extreme nationalist ideologies are feeding the American public discourse with xenophobic rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants, and refugees. Finally, too often racism comes in the form of the sin of omission, when individuals, communities, and even churches remain silent and fail to act against racial injustice when it is encountered. 

Racism can often be found in our hearts—in many cases placed there unwillingly or unknowingly by our upbringing and culture. As such, it can lead to thoughts and actions that we do not even see as racist, but nonetheless flow from the same prejudicial root. 

Consciously or subconsciously, this attitude of superiority can be seen in how certain groups of people are vilified, called criminals, or are perceived as being unable to contribute to society, even unworthy of its benefits. Racism can also be institutional, when practices or traditions are upheld that treat certain groups of people unjustly. The cumulative effects of personal sins of racism have led to social structures of injustice and violence that makes us all accomplices in racism.



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About Veronica Roltgen
Fiercely protective warrior mother. Writer. Catholic. General badass. You can read more about the author here.

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