Last week in this space I mentioned the Black Catholic theologian M. Shawn Copeland and her insightful writing on the historical reality of Black Catholics in America. She reminds us that it was not uncommon for clergy, vowed religious and laity alike to practice slaveholding and that there were few Catholics who supported the abolition of slavery. Most simply abstained from any opinion or action on the matter. “Following the Union victory in the Civil War,” Copeland writes, “the Vatican urged the U.S. Bishops to develop a national plan for the evangelization of the newly-freed people. No such program emerged, but the bishops did agree that those who had Blacks in their diocese would decide for themselves the best course of action. The failure of any coordinated action remains one of the great tragedies of American church history. Whether many Blacks perished spiritually is one question that cannot be answered; that many Black Catholics would be turned away from the means of salvation is a fact.”
This week, I invite you to be curious about the history of racism in our Church. How might we all be a part of the struggle for equity and justice in our own time and place?