As I wept at the images on my TV this past weekend, they displayed the worst of what my beloved late mother used to refer to as “Man’s inhumanity to man.” She said this with such sad amazement. That is exactly how I feel now.
I also found it eerie and odd that as racial tensions exploded in our country, so did a rocket that propelled two astronauts into space, reminiscent of the late 1960’s when the same two events dominated the news cycle.
My emotions moved to anger and frustration as I realized how much space exploration has helped us to learn about our world, but in terms of racial and ethnic sensitivity, we have not only failed to learn, we have regressed. Differences between now and then include the fact that then, mostly all protesters were black and they actually hoped they could make a difference through protesting. Today protesters and those moved to violence by anger seem to feel hopelessness and despair because of the lack of justice and respect that they have endured for years. No wonder they are so angry.
That in no way justifies the senseless violence that is occurring by some radicals who take advantage of overwhelmed law enforcement. That angers me as well. It is its own form of injustice and ignorance.
Another difference is the addition today of many white and other non African-American protesters who are simply decrying the injustice they see for the first time. This solidarity is a small ray of hope.
Don’t misunderstand me; science and space exploration are significant, but I wonder what it says about our nation and our Church that we have failed collectively to advance our understanding and basic human respect for each other – collectively; that we have demonstrated continued ignorance on the issues that underlie brutality from authority; divisions politically, spiritually, religiously and economically; and violence that stems, particularly in the black community, from centuries of oppression, injustice, intolerance and disrespect.
My spiritual instinct now is to encourage ALL of us to go back and retrieve the most basic things that we share such as our common humanity, our desire for life and, in a special way, the opportunities that life gives emboldened by premises that our country and our faith are built upon, such as… the proposition that all are created equal.
A great U.S. President used these words in a famous speech in 1863. Why have we not built upon that proposition and given specifics to the reality of its ambition after all these years?
We have a nation built on “The American Dream.” I believe that we now must have a New American Dream that enacts systematic changes, addressing and alleviating behaviors that not only divide us, but have made us sick.
Our world is sick now with a virus. The United States of America is doubly sick with a pandemic virus and systemic injustice in many areas. We are in desperate need of healing and reconciliation. The sacrament of Reconciliation is based on a commitment to contrition, which means change. We must collectively retrieve the goodness with which God has created us and trust the premises of our faith and our democracy to make positive change.
Our Democracy promises liberty and freedom. It must do a better job in advancing both.
Our Catholic faith proclaims and celebrates a Triune God, whose feast we celebrate this weekend. Our conviction is that God is three persons, but still ONE God. From that belief we must respond to the call of living as ONE human family. The Trinity is a community of love and unity making that love manifest. We must do a MUCH better job of living this reality.
Authentic dialogue is one way to enable that reality. Altered attitudes and premises must infuse that dialogue.
Cardinal Cupich points out in his Chicago Catholic article last week that we as white people cannot assume to speak for non-whites. He claims that any decent conversation should begin with facts.
The healing that such conversations might promote must also include another aspect of our sacrament of Reconciliation, namely to CONFESS our sinfulness, which is often a first step in recovery, healing and reconciliation.
After consulting our staff here at Holy Family, we condemn the brutal treatment of George Floyd and others who suffered the ultimate loss through inhumane brutality stemming from years of systematic racism and hatred.
I cannot force the sacrament of Reconciliation on anyone. I can only offer it on behalf of the Church; but I urge you personally, and us collectively, as a church and nation, to sincerely confess any racist behavior or attitudes and commit to contrition – a change of heart that will be manifest in the lessons of respect for life, value of community and standing with the poor, three tenets of our Catholic Social Teaching.
We in the suburbs cannot distance ourselves from racism and injustice that we see from a distance, on screens of various sizes. We must bear the responsibility to behave differently and to teach upcoming generations the importance of living out those teachings that reach far beyond our communities. Our future behavior must bring those teachings into what any good teaching seeks – reality.
Fr. Terry Keehan
Pastor | Holy Family Catholic Community