U.S. President, Donald Trump, visits the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Planned Presidential Visit
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Statement from Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory regarding the planned visit today from the president at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine:
I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree. Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.
On Sunday, May 31, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory released this statement on the Memorial Day death of George Floyd:
In astonishment, we are seeing the reactions of people across the United States as they express feelings of frustration, hurt, and anger in their cry for justice for George Floyd, whom we painfully watched being suffocated in front of our eyes on video in Minneapolis, Minnesota this past week.
Many of us remember similar incidents in our history that accompanied the Civil Rights Movement, where we repeatedly saw Black Americans viciously brutalized by police on television and in newspaper photos. Those historic moments helped to rouse our national conscience to the African American experience in the United States and now, in 2020, we tragically still see repeated incidents of police brutality against African Americans. We find ourselves in this national moment again with the awakening of our conscience by heartbreaking photos and video that clearly confirm that racism still endures in our country. On television and in social media, we are observing an overflow of pain felt acutely in the African American community and shared by too many other communities.
Moments like this cause people of good will, who believe in the value, respect and dignity of every human life, to wonder if and how we can move on from here. The horror of George Floyd’s death, like all acts of racism, hurts all of us in the Body of Christ since we are each made in the image and likeness of God, and deserve the dignity that comes with that existence.
This incident reveals the virus of racism among us once again even as we continue to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Statement on the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia
We owe immense appreciation to our first responders who are currently working tirelessly to care for us and keep us safe. We remain grateful to them for their commitment to serve our community by protecting and saving lives.
However, as a society, must find ways to understand and to respond to the pain of our brothers and sisters. We see racism destroying the lives of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian people because of their religious and ethnic heritages. Racism triggers the divisive and xenophobic attitudes of nationalism. It also targets people because of their cultural traditions or physical appearances and it threatens immigrant people who seek nothing more than the opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their children.
We must non-violently and constructively work together to heal and build the “Beloved Community” that was spoken about by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On this Pentecost weekend, I join my brother bishops throughout our nation, and especially Archbishop Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis, in calling on the Holy Spirit in the most urgent way. We must examine our own attitudes and actions in order to seek conversion from sin and turn our hearts towards Christ in order to end personal and structural racism. Now, and every day, we must pray to find the strength to do what is right and just as we encounter our neighbors from a culture, country, religion, race, or experience different than our own and see in them God’s creative design.
This moment calls us to be the Church of hope that Jesus Christ created us to be in a world full of pain and despair.
We pray for a new Pentecost: a renewal of love, justice and truth in our hearts. We are called to do justice and love goodness in order to walk humbly with God.
Since we are confident that the Father always hears our prayer for reconciliation, together, we join in peaceful, non-violent protest, action, and prayer for the balm to cure all forms of racism starting today.
Please join me in asking Our Father for the balm of love, justice, peace, compassion and mercy to end racism and hatred now. Come, Holy Spirit, Come.
The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 655,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 93 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.
(Saint John Paul II National Shrine is a Knights of Columbus-owned entity)
It was appalling to see the church of St John used as a political backdrop for the President to hold up Scripture like detergent in a TV ad. Even more scandalous that the visit to the JPII shrine was not immediately withdrawn as a mark of protest. The few lines that follow were written earlier this week.
An evening visit to a local church
Crow brought his dark vultures
on to DC streets to clear a path to church.
Raw incense filled the air with rancid pain
as each hand-held thurible threw tear gas
canisters into the evening sky.
“We cannot breathe!”
His beak uttered a threatening squawk
as he put a vicious verbal knee
into the anxious face of protest both
black and white, rejecting any understanding
of what first brought them there
“I cannot breathe!”
Sing a song this Pentecost,
breathe on us, breath of life
give voice to fear and outrage
come out from shadow
and protest what is wrong.
Any sign of a statement from Cardinal Dolan?
Not that I’ve seen.
However the recent reported telephone conversation between Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the President drew this response in a letter signed by more than a thousand New York Catholics.
“Your recent phone call with President Trump and appearance on Fox News sends a message that Catholic leaders have aligned themselves with a president who tears apart immigrant families, denies climate change, stokes racial division and supports economic policies that hurt the poor,” they wrote in the letter which was published on Friday with the names of the signatories.
“Please speak truth to power and refrain from giving even the appearance that bishops have their hands on the scales in this election,”
The Church in America has to be very careful in its dealings with a President who will not question his right to seek any publicity, from whatever source, in his quest for re-election in the Fall.
Until June 1, no Catholic bishop had publicly participated in the gesture of ‘taking a knee’ but that day, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, became the first. Maybe the Cardinal will follow his example
Chris, you shouldn’t be putting such subversive ideas into the poor cardinal’s head. The man has more than enough on his plate.
Yes, Pól, I thought immediately about Dolan too.
And when I referred to ‘the Cardinal’ I too was referencing Timothy Dolan without I might add a great deal of sympathy for the mess he has got himself into.
“The cross stands at the center of the Christian faith of African-Americans because Jesus’ suffering was similar to their American experience. Just as Jesus Christ was crucified, so were blacks lynched. In the American experience, the cross is the lynching tree.”
So said the African American theologian, James H Cone, in an interview in ‘America‘ in 2006.
This perception – that the cross is essentially an expression of divine solidarity with all victims of injustice – was obviously missing from the working theology of a Catholic church that in the USA in the 1800s was divided on slavery on North-South lines and always silent on the obvious resonance of the lynching of African Americans with the Calvary event – especially in the post civil war era 1865-1950 when approximately 5,000 such lynchings occurred.
Just as it was missing from the consciences of bishops who endangered Catholic children to preserve the social prestige of ordination and of clergy in Ireland.
No theological reflection has yet been effective in overcoming a theology that still presents God as obsessed with sexual respectability rather than justice – and that bald theology was obviously at work also in supporting the righteousness of the white southern US ‘lynchers’ – those always ready to ‘defend the honour’ of white womenfolk allegedly always endangered by African American men.
We are still lacking an Irish Catholic investigation of the working theology that lay at the root of the failure of Catholic residential institutions in the 1900s to protect the poorest children – and to protect single women who became pregnant – even though Pope Benedict XVI called upon Irish bishops ‘to establish the truth of what happened’ in the aftermath of the Ryan Report of 2009.
Quite obviously it is again fear of what such an investigation would reveal that prevents it happening – what might be called ‘terminal social vertigo’.
We need a theology that recognises the latter as the central human problem, the root cause of the tendency of those in power to sacrifice others to remain there – a theology that recognises Jesus’s victory over that problem. His descent to the base and endurance of total social ostracism was his central moral achievement.
The elevation of Jesus’s celibacy instead as the emblem and proof of his ‘sinlessness’ – combined with the Catholic hierarchical option for a social ascendancy of their own – fully explain why the first American Catholic bishop was a slave owner, why US Catholicism could not see the cross as the lynching tree – and why the church is still racked by the abuse issue.
Nothing is harder for the socially elevated to see than what lies in plain sight – what James Cone could see. And failure to see it will always have further victims.
[For a brief account of the US bishops and the slavery issue, see:
Sean @ 7, I still get goosebumps at times when reading your analysis of things. Here’s one and a version of this I shared on the ACI site:
How do we roughly send 80,000 knees to the backs of necks of citizens in China during a three-month shutdown? Well, during the three-month shutdown of production, China reportedly lost 4600 citizens to Covid-19. They were 80,000 in the positive on people who would have normally succumbed to pollution-related causes. During the entire course of this pandemic, we’ve lost what we normally would lose during 20 days of hunger-related deaths. I know you folks aren’t at all for whataboutism but analysis of current social unrest is needed.
ALL LIFE MATTERS. Or does it? Have we become so self-centred to be able to project scapegoats wherever we’d like. How we collectively assemble is a psychopathic serial killer…think about it. My goal. To not ever allow people to transition with this ideal implanted in their heads. How is it resolved? Not politically or with religion. Jesus stopped the assault on the soldier. He felt sorry for him because the literal sword would pale in comparison to the proverbial one he was delivering (via music?).
The whales filling up with plastics in the ocean; the oppressive regimes which overwhelmingly target BIPOC and enforce desperate economic circumstances, the birds, the bees, flowers and trees. It’s all under threat. It inspires music…
“I thought one day you’d try to amaze me
I fought so hard to justify
Where you’d come from…
But now where you are going…
It’s best not to lie
(the afterlife IS real but the circumstances the planet is in makes for a bumpy transition)
What’s with this thought to erase us?
Can’t find the time to simplify.
Where that would come from
Now where you are going…
Is really kind of wild
It’s the new stuff – get with the time, tough. Open up your eyes
It’s the new stuff – WE don’t mind it so rough as long as WE don’t die
You ecocidal maniacs, please allow our waters back – Woohoo! Uh, oh!?!
You ecocidal maniacs, please allow the cycle of life and LOVE.
You ecocidal maniacs, there’s no more reason to trust – fits like a glove
I knew these steps would try to discourage me
A red line walked decades at a time
Now that we’ve got here to not know where we’re going
Is simply uninspired
Now that this moment can’t elude us
Look at them straight in the eyes
Tell them it’s over and we’re not going to take it
Simply standing by
It’s the new stuff – get with the times, tough! Open up your eyes
It’s the new stuff – WE don’t mind it so rough (for others) as long as WE don’t die.