A Fine Response from the National Black Sisters Conference

Back in June, Archbishop Jose Gomez evinced perfectly healthy Catholic instincts when he remarked, “There are no single issue saints.” It was a sentiment the “prolife” heresy could really stand to hear more of given its monomaniac and intensely Protestant either/or commitment to pitting the unborn against every other form of human life the MAGA antichrist cult wants to rob, harm, and destroy.

So I was deeply shocked when the same Archbishop Gomez gave a speech riddled with amazing Tucker Carlsonesque theology to the effect that concern for racial justice and struggles against oppression of the poor and weak were somehow “rival religions” to the Catholic faith. The idea that themes that obviously are rooted in the Church’s tradition of social justice are some sort of competition to the gospel is unbelievably perverse. “He who is not against us is for us” says our Lord. The archbishop’s talk was throwing away a golden opportunity to build bridges of trust with people who have a huge amount in common with the Catholic tradition.

This is, alas, in keeping with much of the catastrophic position the conservative Catholic “prolife” movement has adopted over the past thirty years.

The essential bargain the “prolife” movement made was “As long as we rub our Precious Feet Talisman and try to force a repeal of Roe, we don’t have to care about anything else the Christian tradition says about the poor and we can gladly vote for every act of theft, oppression, cruelty, and death for the oppressed that we want without any consequences at all. And anybody who disagrees is a baby-killing lib.”

Until the “prolife” movement ceases to be a mere front for using the unborn as human shields for the greed, sociopathy, cruelty, and nihilist will to power of MAGA and GOP cultism, the “prolife” movement will rightly be spat upon and distrusted by people who could have been their natural allies. People who, in a hundred ways, seek to defend and protect the poor and oppressed from the predations of phony “prolife” bullies bent on defending unjust war, torture, kidnapping of refugee children, denial of health care to the poor, denial of food for the poor and, yes, racism.

That is why things like the following letter are such a crucial counter-witness to this either/or thinking and demonstrate an authentic Catholic intention to bear witness to racial justice as part of, not a rival to, Catholic faith. More than this, it bears authentic witness to Catholic peacemaking by responding in love, not easily understandable frustration, from the heart of African-American Catholicism. So proud of these sisters!:

November 16, 2021

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez
Archdiocese of Los Angeles
President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Your Excellency,

We greet you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother.

Founded in 1968, the National Black Sisters’ Conference (NBSC) is an organization of Black Catholic Women Religious and Associates belonging to congregations and communities from across the United States, the Caribbean and Africa. We are committed to confronting the sin of racism, which continues to permeate our society and Church as we work tirelessly for the liberation of our people.

In 1989, Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA addressed the Conference of Catholic Bishops challenging her “brothers in Christ” to continue to evangelize the African-American community while promoting inclusivity and full participation of African Americans in the Church, and to work tirelessly to eradicate the sin of racism that continues to divide the Body of Christ.

Thirty-two years later, African Americans continue to confront racist systems of oppression as we fight for justice, to have our lives, our Black Lives Matter in the same way that white lives are valued in this country.

Last year, the world watched in shock and disbelief as George Floyd took his last breath under the knee of a police officer, who swore to “serve and protect”. It led to a raw awakening around this nation and world that America did not see or treat her African American citizens as human beings endowed with inalienable rights.

As president of the Bishops’ Conference, Black Catholics had hoped that you and your brother bishops would have acted in solidarity with those who have suffered at the hands of white supremacy since first being kidnapped from their homeland and enslaved with the blessing of the Catholic Church.

In 1968, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus declared that the Catholic Church is a “racist institution”, and while significant progress has been made, the Church continues to fail its African American members by its frequent silence and now its condemnation of Black Lives Matter.

If respect for life is the primary issue of our time, then we would certainly have hoped that you and the Bishops’ Conference would surely understand that it is paramount that we lift up and support Black life as a precious gift from God that should be protected not only in the womb but throughout life until death.

We would have expected that you and your brother bishops would have stood in solidarity with your African-American brothers and sisters; representing the compassionate face of Christ.

For the most part, you have remained mysteriously and regretfully silent; often failing to call out hate groups for their racist ideologies and violence.

We are especially troubled by your comment: “…the Church has been ‘antiracist’ from the beginning”. With all due respect, Archbishop, do you not know the history of the Church’s involvement with the slave trade, with the segregation of churches; with black people often being relegated to the back of churches and forced to receive Holy Communion after white parishioners; and the rejection of black men and women who desired to enter seminaries and religious communities? Over four hundred years of slavery, trauma, pain, disenfranchisement, and brutal violence have been a part of the fabric of this nation and the American Catholic Church.

Black Lives Matter grew out of the frustration of seeing black lives struck down over and over again with no accountability. It is a racial justice movement…a gospel movement. Scripture tells us that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:19 to “love your neighbor as yourselves”.

When African-American lives are systematically devalued in this country and in the Catholic Church, we must speak out. BLM is not a pseudo-religion; nor is it a “dangerous substitute for true religion”. It is a movement very much in the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching. It does not nor has it ever “served as a replacement for “traditional Christian beliefs”.

We respectfully encourage you to rethink your ill-advised remarks and rescind them.

If we intend to proclaim the authentic gospel of Jesus, we must acknowledge our sinfulness as a Church as it pertains to the sin of racism and give more than lip service to combatting racism in our Church and nation.

It is time for a resolute effort on the part of all people of goodwill and most especially on the part of our Church leaders.

In her final words to the bishops, Sister Thea said that “the Church must walk together with her African-American brothers and sisters in a new way. Inspired by Jesus Christ, let us begin anew today”.

The leadership of the National Black Sisters’ Conference would welcome the opportunity to meet with you, Archbishop, to pray together and to have a much-needed and honest conversation about race relations in order that we might begin anew together…begin anew today.

United in the love of Christ,

Sister Josita Colbert, SNDdeN
President, The National Black Sisters’ Conference

415 Michigan Avenue Suite 102
Washington, DC 20017
(202) 529-9250


12 Responses

  1. The archbishop’s speech was very disappointing in the sense that in his bullet #2, he did not mention the KKK or MAGA, or white supremacy, other genuinely racist elements in America, which are also “religions.” The sisters’ response points out his blind spots, and I am glad they put forth this response.

    1. I’m completely baffled that KKK was not called out, as it’s universally* reviled, and was established not only as a white supremacist front, but also as anti-Catholic in its roots.
      It is a vile organization that has no redeeming qualities — as an organization** — and needs to be made illegal as soon as possible. There is literally nothing in the history of KKK*** that could be worth salvaging and reforging into a reformed KKK that would somehow redeem itself (any positive acts can be done outside KKK’s charter).
      Since KKK is anti-Catholic, there’s no reason for its supporters to even be offended (or more offended than they already are).

      *) I mean by an overwhelming majority and aside from some fringe groups, it is socially unacceptable to praise KKK.
      **/***) I’m calling them out as an organization. I’m not saying anything about its members as individuals or groups. And I’m not saying that there were no positive acts done by individuals or groups identifying themselves with it, or even acting as members of KKK. But as an organization with evil overt goals, there is no reason to support it.

  2. It is understandable that the black community would come to a point of saying “Enough!” after seeing so many instances of black men and women being brutalized by the police. Yet the fact remains that in creating a necessary organization to stand up against these injusticies, they have done two things that puzzle me:

    1. Have joined forces with idealogies which are in opposition to the basic tenents of freedom as found in this country. In reading information on BLM, both on their site (which quietly has removed such information) and from other sources, I found that they are in sympathy with Communist ideals, pro-abortion and pro-homosexual “freedoms,” and other ideas which I as a Christian simply cannot support. It is disingenuous of you, Mark, to now say that because I oppose homosexual BEHAVIOR, public promotion of homosexuality, promoting it to children in elementary schools, and abortion on demand, that I am somehow a “hater.”

    2. Have not addressed the issues within the black community which are creating thugs and miscreants who do not know how to live or behave properly in a soceity of free men. I speak of the glorification of fornication and violence which imbues the black recording media. Children learn what they are taught and as blank slates, are highly influenced by how we adults live our lives before them. When they see the glorification of sex, and the use of violence as an answer to all problems, how do you expect them not to be affected by this? Yet to bring this up brands me somehow as a “racist.” How is that?

    In addition, children from broken homes (aka “one parent families”) are much more likely to grow up with serious emotional problems which lead to anti-social behaviors. The stable family with a loving father and mother is much more likely to produce people who eschew criminal and immoral behavior than the the so-called “one parent family.” This is a sociological fact found out from years of study and not my “bigoted” idea.

    Finally, are you really insisting that everyone of us who has stood for the unborn, marched in the Pro-Life March in January, spoken against killing babies, and demonstrated in front of killing centers is a bigot, lout, jerk, and racist???? REALLY??? Your post has the same flavor as the insane rantings of KKK members who tar the entire black (AND CATHOLIC) population with a single smear of hatred.

    I understand what you are trying to do, but in doing so, you have become unhinged. You paint everyone who doesn’t march lockstep with your world view with the same brush, regardless of the complexities of our society and the struggles many of us have to not only make sense of it, but to live a good Christian life of proper love and values while not being monks. I agree that far too many Evangelical and conservative Christians have no idea that life is not about making war on brown people with funny languages whose raw materials the military/industrial complex is lusting after, or ignoring the grinding of the poor so we can have a nice, new Lexus. Middle class life is comfortable and we easily forget that Jesus called us to be uncomfortable in our love for Him and our fellow man. But stop making such broad distinctions. We are all individuals and wish to be treated as such.

    Most of the time, I find your posts rather venomous, boring, and annoying in the way you treat your fellow Christians, as if you alone hold the high moral ground and anyone who dares to agree with any point at all of Conservatism is a boorish lout.

    1. @ relictant hater, er heretic

      Because you oppose my right to live my life fully, authentically, and completely as I am made, with full participation in society as I am made, with absolutely no benefit to yourself whatsoever…

      yes, indeed, you are a hater.

      When you put “freedoms” in quotes, when you lie wbout “promoting” homosexuality be uwse kids are learning NOT to hate…

      Yes, indeed, you are a hater.

      How about this? Instead of hiding behind your so-called faith, why don’t you just be honest and proclaim yourself a bigot. Or you could do what Jesus said, and fix your own sins before you presume to fix the sins of other people.

      1. That was absolutely hilarious and absolutely frightening at the same time.

        For the record, alex jones lost primary custody of his kids four years ago. Something about being crazier and more vicious than a rabid republican.

    2. @ reluctant

      I’m a communist, of course, so I won’t say much about this. Just one point: try to avoid bumping into groups of black people while muttering ”y’all are gay”. It’s … better that way.

  3. I do not understand the motivations of every person who first got involved in the pro-life movement in the past. It is clear to one who digs into the movement’s origin that it was a reaction to school desegregation, deployed as a strategy by racists.

    The pro-life movement has always been racist. But as with times past, most of the racism was camouflaged.

    It was a better application of “1968 you can’t say nigger—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff”. It was better because of its moral elevation given to the lie .. as the lofty spiritual sacred aim to support life, instead of ordinary concerns like schooling and busing.

    Did everyone who got on that train know?. Maybe the racism was well camouflaged back in the 60s/70s. Maybe it was more the enemy-of-my-enemy ( contra the sexual liberation) strategy. Like joining the fascists against the communists because atheism. And maybe it was racism. And who knows, maybe it was even states rights.

    None of that matters now. Today the pro-life movement is an explicit, outspoken political movement, serving as a branch of a racist political party, and wholly in pursuit of a mundane racist agenda. The “pro-life” goals of that movement is now so superficial, that some of the leaders don’t even engage in that pretense. Many firebrand pro-life Catholic bishops/cardinals are openly fanning the fires of racism

    Any Christian who joins this movement puts his soul in danger. Will-full negligence, and blindness to the truth still makes one fully complicit in the evil.

  4. @ burgo

    At this point, you don’t even need the racism to see who they are. The antiabortion agenda is just one more item in the culture war agenda. Far too many right to life Christians have jumped on the covid fantasia train, and I’ve stated openly that they will do nothing to save anyone’s lives from a highly preventable disease.

    Quelle surprise.

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