Racism and Catholicism

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky: A helping hand to the poor affirms life; failing to objectively challenge the human spirit effectively denies human dignity.

There’s an old joke about President Calvin Coolidge, known to be a man of few words. He attends services one Sunday, while Mrs. Coolidge remains at the White House. On his return, the first lady asks him about the preacher’s sermon topic. “Sin.” What did he say about it? “He was against it.”

Like “Silent Cal,” most of us also stand firm against it.

Full-on fighting occurred in front of the Charlottesville Police Station. All the officers stood by and watched, never arresting or stopping the violence throughout the entire day. Photo by Michael Nigro/Newscom.

After Charlottesville, the U. S. bishops established a new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. In a podcast, the chairman of the committee, Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown said racism was America’s “original sin.” But racism is rarely well defined and cannot be reduced to mere dislike or even hate.

Dislike is an emotion. Aquinas distinguishes between hate as an emotion, and hate as a sinful choice (hate cultivated and acted upon). Hence, I use “dislike” with respect to the emotion and “hate” in the sinful sense.

There are many reasons to dislike people – without sinning.  You may dislike the Beatles or rap, or unfamiliar foods. Lots of us are humiliated and appalled by the “culture” (really lack of culture) members of our own race have adopted.

But our emotions should be controlled by reason. When we allow our dislikes to devolve into a hatred, and desire for harm to others and unjust discrimination, we sin against God and man.  Add a desire to harm another person on racial grounds, and we commit the sin of racism.

But we can also be unwitting and patronizing racists under the guise of sentimental affection.

Click here to read the rest of Father Pokorsky’s column . . .

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.

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