THE CATHOLIC CHURCH'S #1 NEMESIS: NICE RACISM


Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time


"This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts." (Mk. 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

Dr. Robin Diangelo titled her latest book (2021)"Nice Racism." In CNN Health, Dr. Diangelo stated that Nice Racism is a "form of racism that well-meaning progressive White people, who believe in racial justice and do not deny that systemic racism exists, inadvertently enact." In other words, some White people fail to recognize their racist behavior while articulating and actualizing racist actions. Like Amy Cooper, who last year (May 2020) in New York falsified her dilemma, by saying that she felt threatened by a Black man. However, the video revealed a different story. Ms. Cooper used her White privilege card to control a situation that she inaugurated. Ms. Cooper failed to recognize her actions and statements as a racial injustice. She told CNN News (May 2020) the following, "I'm not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way."

Another example of Nice Racism is seen in the U.S. Catholic Bishop's pastoral letter, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love." Although there are some excellent teachable comments within this document, such as, "Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice," or "Racism occurs because a person ignores the fundamental truth that, because all humans share a common origin, they are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God." Unfortunately, some other comments reveal Nice Racism.

  • The re-appearance of symbols of hatred, such as nooses and swastikas in public spaces, is a tragic indicator of rising racial and ethnic animus (Hatred).

  • A number of missionaries heroically defended Native Americans as they sought to bring the Good News of Christ to many who had yet to hear it.

  • Through this long persecution, Fr. Tolton exhibited the love of Christ, forgiving what was done to him and continuing to serve others. Things got so bad, however, that Fr. Tolton accepted an invitation from Archbishop Feehan to move north to Chicago.

These three comments reveal the continuing thread of Nice Racism, weaving stories and masking the long history of racism in the Catholic Church. Those hatred symbols the U.S. Bishops mentioned earlier never disappeared. Burning crosses have not stopped appearing on Black families' lawns. The Jewish community constantly sees swastikas in public spaces, marking their dark past. Regarding the Native Americans, was Christianity by force rather than by choice? History shows they were doing fine before the settlers came and unsettled the Original Fathers of this Country. And for Fr. Tolten, the U.S. Bishops omitted the fact Fr. Tolten asked for a transfer because of the harsh treatment of the German priest who was, "jealous and contemptuous. He abuses me in many ways." (From Salve to Priest, p 188)

Consequently, we must attend to Jesus' instructions by contemplating on what comes out of our hearts. These things, "evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within," our hearts. These things mentioned continue to perpetuate the idealogy of Nice Racism and systemic racism in the Catholic Church. We honor God with our lips, but our hearts are far from God, avoiding dismantling the racism in our Church. I will say that the U.S. Bishops are right that racism robs humanity of justice. The Spirit is calling for doers in our Church from all levels of authority to make us one Holy Catholic and apostolic Church. We must acknowledge one baptism to forgive the many sins of racism and look for ways to heal the broken hearts in and out of the Church.


For this reason, meditate on these words from the Book of James in our second reading today:


Humbly welcome [God's] word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of [God's] word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by [NICE RACISM]. (Ja. 1:21-22, 27).


Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS



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