How Long, Lord?

The following statement has been released by Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, superior general of the Josephites.

How Long, Lord?

The African American Catholic community joins others in collective grief over the most recent attacks on the lives of brothers and sisters in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. While deeply saddened, we must not allow our grief to lull us into inaction or hopeless resignation. We must not allow ourselves to become desensitized to these events. Rather, our grief must propel us to confront these heinous acts and any other acts that seek to demean, disrespect, or destroy God’s children.

While these are the most recent attacks, they are far from the only acts. They are linked to a broader effort to divide and disparage humanity. We offer brief, but not exhaustive, suggestions for moving forward, acknowledging that inaction leaves the door open for continued hatred and future acts of violence.

1. Acknowledge and confront racist hate speech, white supremacy, and white nationalism wherever it is observed. As God’s children, we must confront measures that seek to diminish the humanity of anyone. Incendiary language, especially when spoken by leaders, must be confronted and denounced. This is especially core to us as Catholics. Each of us is made in the image and likeness of God; therefore, hate speech and promotion of one race over another enact hatred upon our God. Hate speech not only encourages and inspires others to inflict violence as we have witnessed, but it also informs the way legislation is passed and important decisions are made. It impacts the way we treat one another.

2. Advocate for legislation that will significantly reduce not only the number of semi-automatic weapons on our streets but also the number of handguns. This could include background checks, waiting periods, bans, support of gun buy-back programs, and the like. Semi-automatic weapons and weapons in the hands of young people in urban areas have deadly consequences.

3. Advocate for more resources to be spent in areas of economic development, urban community revitalization, mental health treatment, domestic violence prevention, and education.

4. Increase efforts to promote and lobby for comprehensive immigration reform. Seek out and join coalitions and organizations working to pass this legislation. We must end separation of families and the inhumane treatment of children on the border. We acknowledge that people have a right to make asylum claims and remain in the United States while these claims are being processed.

5. Invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit. We encourage prayer for the victims of violence and their families, as well as those persons who inflict violence. Pray for a conversion of hearts and for the energy and faith to confront racism and violence whenever it emerges.

We are not satisfied in believing that these cruel acts are caused by a single issue. The connection and relationship between all these issues must be addressed in unison.

We share these reflections as pastors, religious, clergy, and laity in urban, suburban, and rural communities from parishes from all over the United States. We offer these reflections based on that which we have seen and heard, based on shared solutions, shared realities, and a shared love for all of God’s children.

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