As a Catholic Pastor, I have thought it would be good to make my own statement about the protests and calls for justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
I have started this post with the question, “would I assert that black lives matter?”
Firstly, I do not really support the organization that is frequently highlighted in these current events, namely, the one named Black Lives Matter. Those three words are not trademarked, and therefore are not necessarily exclusive to one organization. But there is one non-profit organization which has really reached international proportions, so we might as well call it THE Black Lives Matter organization. I support some of the things in their mission statement. I reject others.
I speak here not about organizations, but about assertions. About how we speak to each other, and what we mean. I speak about a popular catch-phrase, a frequently equivocal and often omni-vocal sentence, by which people usually intend to assert much more than can be summarized in a sentence, let alone a paragraph.
I do not support all of the claims that are attached when the assertion “black lives matter” is put forward to defend the human dignity and value of each black man or woman. I wish to defend the human dignity and value of each black man or woman. I am willing to assert “black lives matter!” to do so; but, in a Christian way.
Now I do not really object to using this statement as a catch-phrase for certain movements around the general themes of justice and human dignity. These movements can even be guided by the natural moral law, without the need for a Christian creed. But I am a Christian, and I hold faith in the full Gospel as my highest priority here. So I wish to make a brief statement as a Catholic pastor which affirms the values that I propose, when I use the phrase “black lives matter.”
Racism is a real problem. Rather, it is an ongoing evil reality, which, whatever our immediate prospects be for eradicating it, must be opposed by all efforts that are truly right and just.
A person’s a person, no matter what color. Different skin color, different lands or cultures, different neighborhoods or backgrounds… none of these make a person less entitled to their due dignity and just rights as a human being made in the image and likeness of God.
But the image and likeness of God cannot be fully understood, or appreciated, until we know of the sacrifice made by God’s only Son. So here’s what I mean when I make my assertion that “black lives matter.”
Black lives matter, because Christ shed his blood for every black man and woman, as much as for any other man or woman!
Black lives matter, and if the sins of men have wronged black peoples in various times and places past, our judgment on the matter should be the same, now, as will be the judgement of Christ in his Second Coming!
Black lives matter, and to overlook sins against black people, because they are “others,” whom I could deem “not important” in my ego-driven priorities centered on those I happen to “like” and those who are “like me”… this is also a sin!
So now, what can we do? Well, get holy; or die trying. Start locally, and practice all the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Pray, and be the best Catholic you can be.
Make prudent assertions. Affirm that black lives matter.
Also be pro-life. Affirm unborn lives matter.
Also learn a little Catholic moral theology. Reject utilitarianism and affirm the lives of the invalid, and of the dying, matter.
Also pray for persecuted religious peoples. The lives of Muslims and Christians and Jews who are persecuted for their faith, or any other peoples who are persecuted for their religion, matter.
And where you have means, extend them in proportion to the various extents you discern is best. But remember, it is “the Father who sees in secret who will reward you.” I may donate money to some local pro-life pregnancy center, to some neighboring school needing resources for minority students, to some national or international organization which advocates for reform along sound principles of justice… but my reward will be great in heaven, not in earthy bragging rights to use as leverage to claim that my social priorities are so much better than your social priorities.
In the end, if it is up to me to explain, in a mere sentence or two, what I mean when I assert that black lives matter, I will say this.
If your eyes are open, in your lifetime you will certainly encounter Christ suffering in the lives of black people. And, for love of our Father in heaven, our Redeemer in the Church, and our Advocate for the souls of men, the lives of those black people demand our prayers, our love, and our service.