October 2017 Four County Catholic
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The devastating storms that struck Texas, Louisiana, the Caribbean, Florida, Puerto Rico, and most recently the wildfires in California have impacted all our lives. We mourn the loss of precious life. We feel the pain of displaced families. We are still hurting as a Nation in the aftermath of the widespread catastrophe, even as we also struggle in the aftershock of the incomprehensible tragedy in Las Vegas. We pray and gather hope for healing and the strength to persevere and recover. We feel the bond of being one family with all affected.
At a time in our society when despicable outbreaks of inhumanity and prejudice have been a grave national concern, the outpouring of neighbor loving neighbor in the face of disaster calls to us in a loud voice. Could there be a more deeply hopeful sign than when lives are in danger, respect for life and the love we have for each other overcomes racial bias and the politics of division? Rescuers of all races and ethnicities risked their lives in the disasters we have endured to save strangers not of the same background and heritage.
Disasters never come at a good time. Their lessons, however, can awaken us to the existence of hope and to the irrepressible power of love - “to love our neighbor as we love our self.” Luke 10:27.
The selfless acts of courage and compassion in a time of crisis help us to realize that the conversation and path forward should be as often about the hope for interracial harmony through love as it is about hate and distrust. We know as faithful followers of Christ that racism is a grievous sin that divides the human family. It is completely incompatible with God’s design for us to live in equality of opportunity and dignity as brothers and sisters. Before Charlottesville, you will recall, there parishioners of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were murdered in a heinous racial attack. Then United States Conference of Catholic Bishops President, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, described the sin of racism in the following condemning terms that apply today as then: “Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that denies the creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it, demands an equally radical transformation.”
The civil and legislative progress to alleviate racial inequality has, among its landmark moments, the Declaration of Independence itself which acknowledges that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...” The Constitution set long-term goals that, though still a struggle, are progressing. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forever marks one of the most significant steps forward. Recognizing the enormity of the work yet to be done, we should also recognize the enormous potential of this wonderfully diverse nation to realize its full greatness. The key to full realization of the ideals expressed in the Constitution is not, however, solely a matter of civil law and legislation. It is in the personal transformation of the heart.
Fellow bishop, Most Reverend Curtis J. Guillory, Bishop of Beaumont, Texas, has spoken often on this subject: “The law does not change hearts. The Church today is being called upon to change hearts with the Word of God, the social teachings of the Church and programs geared toward understanding and respect for the privilege of difference.” The “privilege of difference” is a powerfully hopeful descriptor for how the strength of diversity will lead us to live in harmony with God’s design.
From a political and legislative vantage-point the USCCB is on constant alert and quick to call Congress’ attention to the social justice principles of the faith community and the collective good. We as faithful citizens have the opportunity in our free society to be heard as well. We are all responsible for our society and must find personal ways to contribute, sometimes on a one-to-one basis, to a more fair and just society. We can do this by doing our part to welcome the stranger to our parish or neighborhood, by teaching love and fairness for all to our children, by having a genuine social conscious as business and community leaders. Conversion of the heart changes people; and we can then change society. Being indifferent is not being part of the solution. Confident in the Lord, let us actively be engaged in the struggle and together celebrate diversity as a privilege -- the “privilege of difference.”
On behalf of the diocesan family and our active ministries who every day help those most in need among us, I extend our support to Bishop George V. Murry, newly appointed Chair of the USCCB ad hoc Committee Against Racism. Bishop Murry is asking us all to come together in the love of Christ. In the Bishop’s words, “Through Jesus’ example of love and mercy, we are called to be a better people.... I am hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society. “We thank God who made us all in his likeness. We are one family under God.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Michael R. Cote