In November 2018 the Catholic bishops of the United States released a Pastoral Letter Against Racism called, Open Wide Our Hearts. The letter is a powerful invitation for all the people of God to “face courageously the vice of racism, . . . reach out generously to the victims of this evil, to assist the conversion needed in those who still harbor racism, and to begin to change policies and structures that allow racism to persist.”
On this page find the full pastoral letter along with supporting documents on individual topics, as well as other resources shared by the bishops to aid in continuing this important dialogue and how we can respond. More information from the U.S. bishops can be found at www.usccb.org/committees/ad-hoc-committee-against-racism.
A six-week study series for Open Wide Our Hearts will be offered via Zoom beginning March 24. 2021. Find more information, and links to register using the buttons below.
Listen, Learn and Understand More About the Issues
Top 5 Lessons from Open Wide Our Hearts
The Call to Address Racism
By our baptism, we are members of Christ’s body and sharers in his mission. Imitating Christ we must care for every person honoring each as unique and sacred. We are called by our faith to address racism in all its forms. That begins with listening, learning and understanding the many ways in which racism exists in our society. We can work to end this great sin. It starts with being open to the fullness of God’s love for all people. Find below many supporting documents, articles and short videos including statements from Shelton Fabre, chairman of the USCCB Committee Against Racism.
Supporting Documents to Open Wide Our Hearts
What is Systemic Racism?
Today racism continues to exist in our communities and in our parishes. Racism can be individual when a persons fail to recognize certain groups as created in the image of God and equal indignity, or it can be systemic, where practices or policies treat certain groups unjustly. Click below to read more about systemic racism and how it impacts society.
Racial Economic Inequality
Race based economic inequality contributes to systemic racism in our society. In his Apostolic Exhortaiont Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis writes, “Inequality is the root of social ills,” and he has spoken our challenging leaders and all in America to work for the common good so that everyone created in God’s image can flourish.
Also see Racism and Migration.
Racism and Employment
Lack of access to equal employment for persons of color is another are of systemic racism. In an equal and just society, all persons should have the same access to opportunities for fair employee yet access to employment remains a challenge even today. A society in which all members have opportunity to flourish benefits us all.
Racism and the Criminal Justice System
Racism manifests itself in sinful individual actions which contribute to structures of sin that perpetuate division and inequality. One structure in need of reform is our criminal justice system. We must continue to work against racism in our criminal justice system and in the way that laws are enforced. Also see Letter to Members of Congress on Police Reform.
Racism and Voting
All persons have the legal right to have their voice heard to promote human dignity and the common good. As people of faith we must act to ensure the right to vote is protected for all citizens. Another example of systemic racism in our society is the lack of access to the vote for some communities of color. Read more in the document below.
Racism and Housing
Decent housing is a basic human need deserved by all. Yet affordable housing is currently in crisis in the U.S. and for minorities it has been a reality throughout the nation’s history. Significant numbers of African Americans are born into economic and social disparity which has its roots in racist policies and continue to affect their ability to flourish.
Also see Racism and Education
Video statements and discussions on racism.
Statement from Bishop Fabre and the USCCB
EWTN Interview with Bishop Shelton Fabre
Pope Francis condemns the sin of racism. June 3, 2020
Pope and Bishops Respond on George Floyd
What Can Catholics Do to Overcome Racism?
Catholic Response to Racism | Made for Glory
Fr. Mike Schmitz and Fr. Josh Jacobs Discuss How to Restore Unity in the Church
Allegories on Race and Racism | Dr. Camara Jones shares stories to illustrate effects of racism
Activities for Reflection and Ways to Respond
Examining Our Subconscious Perceptions
Racism can be found unknowingly and unwillingly in our hearts by our upbringing and our culture. Download this activity to examine possible implicit biases might be affecting our perceptions.
Scripture Reflection: “Unity in the Body of Christ.” Click image to view a Scripture reflection activity to aid you in prayerfully discerning how you may be call to respond.
Practical Steps to End Racism
Racism emerges in the actions and inactions of individuals; and it is embedded in our institutions and public policies. Our faith calls us both to personal conversion and to transformation of our society and the persistence of racism demands our attention now. This Guide was prepared to assist Catholics and people of good will in reflecting on the evil and harm of racism. While this is not a comprehensive list, it provides actionable steps that may assist Catholics to reflect and respond in faith.
Prophetic Witnesses Against Racism
At times in its history, the Catholic Church has failed to denounce the evils of racism. But we have also been blessed with the courageous witness who did respond prophetically by calling out sin and violent disregard for fellow human beings. Their lives remind everyone that we are all united in God’s love. Read about these four Catholics who worked to heal the evil of racism in their day. As you learn about their stories, reflect on how you can join this work of healing injustice in your community today.
Call to Change in Fratelli Tutti
Pope Francis’ exciting new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, is a profound message that calls each of us to a deeper understanding of social friendship, community, and our shared responsibility to promote the common good. This invitation is made especially clear by engagement with the civic life of our country. Fratelli Tutti challenges Catholics in the United States to get involved in our communities, to engage one another with political charity (no. 182), and to uphold human dignity at all times.
Articles and Prayer
U.S. Bishops on our call to fight racism in our society:
- Cardinal Cupich: It’s Time for a National Reconciliation
- Statement of U.S. Bishops President on George Floyd and the Protests in American Cities
- Archbishop Lori: How Church Teaching Can Help Explain Why “Black Lives Matter”
- Letter to Members of Congress on Police Reform
- Study Guide: Racial Divide in the United States – Pastoral Letter and Reflection
How Catholics can lead the fight against racism:
- What Black Lives Matter Can Teach Catholics about Racial Injustice
- To Fight Racism Catholics Must Hunger for Justice as We Do the Eucharist.
- How Can Catholics Help Lead the Fight Against Racism
- It’s Time to be Anti-Racist and Leave White Fragility Behind
- Learning and Listening: Identifying My Blind Spots and Committing to Growth
Better understand the issue of white privilege:
- Racial Injustice Has Benefitted Me – A Confession
- An Open Letter to My Fellow White Americans
- Deconstructing White Privelege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo
Having Conversations about Race and Racism: