To Reconcile All Things: Racism in America

by Diocese of Des Moines | July 7, 2020

Justin White

As long as there has been America, there has been racism in America.  While it is not a sin unique to us, it has in a particular way taken institutional form in our nation from very beginning, and the effects of these centuries of injustice are present, not past. 

Like everything demonic, it is clever, carrying out its attacks in ways that are sometimes subtle, filled with half-truths, and other times explicit, easily recognized.  And like everything demonic, it is conquered only and finally by our Lord Jesus Christ, with the cooperation of those who give their lives over to him, such as we’ve heard tonight in the lives of some of his great saints.

Denouncing the sin of racism should be easy, but yet I’ll say it all the same: I personally, and the Catholic Church that I am proud to be a member and servant of, denounce the sin of racism in all its forms. 

For me personally to denounce it, however, I must first recognize this sin in my life.  For us as a Church to denounce it, we must examine our consciences and our practices, and recognize this demonic hold on our Lord’s Church wherever it exists.  The gates of hell will not prevail against our Lord’s Church, but they will try.

Shortly after the culmination of what American history dubs the Civil Rights movement, St. Paul VI wrote that the Church exists to evangelize. Evangelization is sharing with others the Good News of Jesus Christ: that he died for us, that he rose from the dead for us, and that he loves us.  His sacrifice and victory compels us to action: to enter through the narrow gate, to give of ourselves to the least of our brothers and sisters, to keep his commandments, to take up our cross, to be one in him. 

If I may adapt the words of St. Paul VI, then, the Church, and therefore every one of us, exists to take up our cross in sacrifice for the least of our brothers and sisters, and by doing so, to witness to the glory of Jesus Christ. And there is no witness without sacrifice.

As long as there has been the Catholic Church in America, there has been racism in the Catholic Church in America.  We are not immune to the ways of the world that are sinful, so we must strive in the name of Jesus against them.  At this moment, it is imperative that we recognize and live out our essential role: to witness to the glory of God by striving against the sins which so dramatically oppress the most vulnerable among us: racism, indifference, pride, willful ignorance, exploitation, the list goes on. 

To my fellow leaders in the Church: we have to do better.  All the catechetical formation in the world means nothing for our parishioners and communities as a whole if we aren’t also guiding them in movements of prayer and action towards restoring justice for the downtrodden.  All the homilies will be for naught if our communities aren’t stirred from their slumber by us perpetually playing the gadfly.

To my brothers and sisters of color in the Diocese of Des Moines: I care about you.  Please forgive me for the ways in which I have ignored or been complicit in your pain.  I love you. 


Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines, created in 1911, serves people over a 12,446 square mile area in the southwestern quadrant of Iowa, including 23 counties.