In 2018, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published the pastoral document Open Wide Our Hearts, which was meant to address racism in the Catholic Church. The document was not well received. It never named white nationalism as a social crisis in America. The phrase “white privilege” does not appear in the document. The phrase “black lives matter” does not appear in the document despite the fact that this has been a major social movement since the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. “The document was written by white people for the comfort of white people.” It never condemns police abuse of power or police misconduct. Bryan Massingdale maintains that white comfort sets the limit of our conversations about race. “The Catholic Church in America has never summoned the courage or the will to confront the persistence of racism.”
In his book, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church he says: “There’s one sentence that goes something like this; what makes the Church white and racist is the pervasive belief that European aesthetics, European music, European theology, and European persons, and only these, are standard, normative, universal and truly Catholic.” He gives the example of an incident during Pope Benedict’s pastoral visit in 2008. The theme of the liturgy was “celebration of the cultural diversity that is present in the United States.” There was vigorous Gospel and Spanish singing, after which the commentator on EWTN opined: “We’ve just been subjected to an over preening display of multicultural chatter, and now the Holy Father will begin the sacred part of the Mass.” “Sacred had nothing to do with multicultural.” Being “sacred” means speaking in a white idiom, praying in a white idiom, using European hymns. It is this normative whiteness that is ubiquitous on the Catholic Church – which is its greatest hindrance to dealing effectively with issues of race. According to Massingdale, this normative whiteness is a form of idolatry – that God can only manifest God’s self through European cultural products. It’s the worship of a false God. And you, Christian, where are you and I in all of this? St. Thomas Aquinas speaks about anger. He says that we can incur the sin of anger in three ways. The third way is deficiency when we’re not angry when we ought to be. He says there is beautiful anger. It is passion that moves the will to justice.