Catholics and Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is becoming a household phrase as we continue to hear about it in the news, especially following the killing of George Floyd back in May, and other subsequent events, such as the shooting by police of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Do black lives matter? YES!

Are we as Catholics opposed to the sin of racism? YES!

Should we Catholics work and pray against systemic racism and various forms of racial oppression and injustice that still exist as hangovers from centuries of systematically enslaving a minority group and then treating them as second-class citizens for another century? YES! (I say a little more about this back in my July 5 bulletin column, found here.)

We as Catholics affirm the dignity of every human person and work for peace and justice for all! If you want more on the particular topic of racism, the United States Bishop website has various resources. I also recommend listening to this interview with EWTN’s Gloria Purvis.

Thus, it seems logical that we as Catholics would unconditionally support the organization Black Lives Matter, right?

Whenever it comes to working for justice in society and the world and fighting against oppression in various forms on various fronts, we will often find other various groups working for the same cause.

And while it is a good and wonderful thing to collaborate with these other various groups on various social issues, we also must be prudent and discerning to recognize that, while we can work together and support each other in certain particular issues, the group may also support or advocate for other issues opposed to our beliefs.

It’s good for us as Catholics to work against racism and affirm the idea that Black lives do indeed matter. And thus we will find ourselves collaborating with members of the formal Black Lives Matter organization. (By the way, it’s worth noting that there is a distinction between the idea and movement of “Black lives matter” and the formal organization that is called “Black Lives Matter.”)

But as a formal organization, Black Lives Matter in their formal statement of what they believe, while there is much in there that is good about working for the end of racism and bringing healing and building loving communities, it also states and advocates for things that are contrary to our Catholic Faith. One example is that they make statements that are against the Christian view of marriage and family and that such institutions and Christian understandings should be dismantled. They specifically state: “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement…” (citation)

While certainly it takes a village to raise a child, while we should certainly do much to support single-parent families, they go too far to intentionally “disrupt” such institutions. The Church affirms family as the foundational unit of society, and to always work for the ideal of a stable two-parent (mother and father) household grounded in the Sacrament of marriage.

There is, of course, much more that could be said about all these things, including much more about ways our Catholic beliefs are in agreement with and disagreement with the Black Lives Matter statement of belief, but it goes far beyond what I have space to adequately address here. All that to say that we as Catholics are called to work against systemic racism, and in that work (as well as other works on social issues) we must always be discerning to what we are working with and supporting. This is NOT to say that Catholics cannot be involved with various aspects and works of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is a wide movement that does good work in certain areas of raising awareness of racial injustice. However, it is to say that when involved in such movements we must be aware and prudent of how we navigate that involvement so to be able to stand for what we believe and live with integrity as faithful disciples of Christ and members of his holy Catholic Church, and not contradict or compromise our belief and faith.

-Fr. Kevin