May 31, 2005

Part 4: Racism and the Catholic Church

[Contributor's note: This concludes the series on Racism in the Catholic Church.]

Towards Racial Justice in the New Millennium

The Vatican as a member of the United Nations, participated in the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa from August 31-September 7, 2001. The Vatican submitted a document entitled The Church and Racism: Towards a More Fraternal Society.

This document was reprint of a document promulgated by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1988 with the same title. However, this reprint had an "introductory update" written by Fracois-Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan. This update highlights points made earlier by Lumen Gentium and other documents, i.e., the paradoxical situation of increased globalization with its concomitant xenophobia and racial and ethnic discrimination, the idea that while formal pardon is a necessary balm for reconciliation, it is only through Christ’s grace and love that we can find true reconciliation and the Church has a necessary role to play in this regard.

The document states categorically that racism is an evil and its eradication is an imperative rooted in the human conscience.

The effort to overcome racism does in fact seem to have become an imperative which is broadly anchored in human consciences. The 1965 U.N. Convention expressed this conviction forcefully: "Any doctrine of superiority based on the difference between races is scientifically false, morally condemnable and socially unjust and dangerous." The Church affirms it with no less vigour: all racist theories are contrary to Christian faith and love. And yet, in sharp contrast to this growing awareness of human dignity, racism still exists and continually reappears in different forms. Everyone, therefore, must make efforts to heal it with great firmness and patience.

We have seen how in the past 40 years the Catholic Church has approach issues of social justice and racism. Beginning with the documents of The Second Vatican Council and perusing church documents, both from the U.S. Bishops and from the Vatican, that the Catholic Church boldly proclaims that racism is an evil that permeates society which must be resisted and overcome. As an evil and injustice, the Catholic Church sees it as an essential part of its mission to eradicate racism and pursue social justice. The Church acknowledges that the pursuit of social justice and racial reconciliation cannot be ancillary to the life of Christians, rather, all such pursuits must pervade the entirety of the Christian life: its ritual life, theology, and devotions.

Part 1: Lumen Gentium and the Essential Social Justice Mission of the Church

Part 2: Brothers and Sisters to Us, The U.S. Catholic Bishops Speak Against Racism

Part 3: The Black Catholic Bishops Speak Out

[The UN World Conference on Racism was not as successful as was hoped, primarily because the George W. Bush Administration decided not to participate to show support for Israel, which felt it was being unfairly targetted by the majority of participants. Besides the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, some major European countries refused to fully participate because of the issue of reparations for injustices such as slavery.]