Some key points from USCCB General Assembly statement on racism

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Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a statement Sept. 9, 2014, on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act addressing the importance of working against racism. Some of the points he makes are:

• We honor the many civic, business, and religious leaders, students, laborers, educators and all others of good will who courageously stood up for racial justice against bigotry, violence, ignorance, and fear. We are especially grateful for the vital contributions of the faith community during this period.

• We also join our voice to those Catholic bishops who repeatedly spoke against racism, clearly signaling by their words and actions that racial discrimination has no place in the Church or in society.

• As the 1963 statement by the U.S. bishops, "On Racial Harmony," states, "discrimination based on the accidental fact of race or color ... cannot be reconciled with the truth that God has created all men with equal rights and equal dignity."

• A number of bishops — including Archbishop Joseph Ritter (St. Louis, 1946), Archbishop O'Boyle (Washington, D.C., 1940s and '50s), Archbishop Rummel (New Orleans, 1950s and '60s), and Cardinal Sheehan (Baltimore, 1963) — worked to desegregate Catholic schools, hospitals, and other institutions, clearly signaling by their words and actions that racial discrimination has no place in the Church or in society.

• The bishops even more directly named racism for what it is: "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" ("Brothers and Sisters to Us: U.S. Catholic Bishops' Pastoral Letter on Racism," 1979).

• The Church remains a prophetic voice and must continue to insist on the dignity of all persons and the very real opportunity available to each of us, to have a personal encounter with Christ and to be instruments of His healing, love, and truth.

• The Civil Rights Act itself did not eradicate the legacy of slavery, racial discrimination and injustice. In fact, there are reminders across our nation today that the embers of racial discrimination still smolder. This evil infects institutions, laws, and systems, and it harms our brothers and sisters. We must therefore continue to work against the destructive influence of racism on families, religious and civil communities, employment, the prison system, housing, hunger, educational achievement, and mental health.

• Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for strong, timely action to lift us "from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity." I hope we will all continue to strive for that "solid rock of human dignity" today and to honor with gratitude the sacrificial labors of Dr. King's writings and actions.

• We recall the words of Dr. King written from his jail cell, "Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty." 

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