On the Importance of Distinguishing Between the Political Organization “Black Lives Matter” and the Moral Imperative to Fight Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination
For what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about social justice and human solidarity, see here.
The June 19, 2020 issue of The Catholic Spirit included two articles about the Church’s response to racism. In one of them several statements by Bishop Brennan were cited, emphasizing that Christ is the source of unity for all humans regardless of their skin color and noting Pope Francis’ observation that “racism is a pro-life issue.” This was an encouraging article.
But another article, entitled “Kingwood Parish Holds Black Lives Matter Gathering,” runs the risk of causing confusion for parishioners in our Diocese. It is crucially important to distinguish clearly between the simple remark that “black lives matter” – which most people probably take to mean that “racism is wrong” – and the organization Black Lives Matter (BLM), which operates the website blacklivesmatter.com. The latter openly advocates for various positions that are directly opposed to Church teaching, including abortion rights, undermining the family, and gender ideology. Whatever one thinks about the appropriateness or utility of the statement that “black lives matter,” there seems to be little doubt that the BLM organization seeks to benefit from the confusion created by blurring the distinction between the statement/slogan and the goals of the BLM organization. It is precisely this distinction that this second article fails to make. By depicting a ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ poster and referring to the event as a “Black Lives Matter gathering,” we are concerned that the article might lead members of our Diocese to believe that the DWC supports the goals of the BLM organization.
Does the DWC support the BLM organization and its goals? We do not believe that it does, but we think that readers of the Spirit could well be confused about the position of the Church with respect to BLM. Again, it is easy to see how an organization that openly opposes Catholic teachings would seek to win support from Catholics by perpetuating an amorphous association between a relatively benign slogan and its own goals and political agenda. Since “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33), we would urge Bishop Brennan to explain to members of the Diocese where the Church stands with respect to the BLM organization and its goals.
We think that it would be very helpful for Bishop Brennan to clarify for members of the DWC that there is a difference between (a) the basic position of anti-racism connoted by the slogan and (b) the organization itself, whose goals actively oppose Church teachings, and that the Diocese does not support the goals and political agenda of BLM. Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing recently issued such a statement, writing on June 23, 2020 that “the diocese cannot give its corporate endorsement to the organization Black Lives Matter.” He explained that “as set out in its ‘What We Believe’ statement … many of its policy declarations are inimical to a Catholic understanding of human dignity, personal happiness and the common good, most notably the organization’s stance on matters relating to marriage, the family and human sexuality including its promotion of a transgender ideology.”
We strongly encourage Bishop Brennan to issue a similar statement in order to clear up whatever confusion might reign in the minds of members of our Diocese as a result of having read the aforesaid article in The Catholic Spirit.
A Request for Bishop Brennan to Issue a Warning about the Association of US Catholic Priests (AUSCP)
A very serious action was recently taken by Bishop Daniel Thomas of Toledo. In late May of 2020 Bishop Thomas re-affirmed the excommunication of Beverly Bingle that had been issued in 2013 by his predecessor, Bishop Blair. After having been excommunicated seven years ago for her attempt to receive ordination to the priesthood, Ms. Bingle has continued to serve as an official representative of the Association of US Catholic Priests (AUSCP), which is headquartered in the Toledo area. Because of this, Bishop Thomas has issued a warning that “any affiliation with” AUSCP “may be a source of grave concern due to the confusion and scandal they have caused.”
The AUSCP seeks to undermine Catholic teaching not only by advocating for women’s ordination and married priests but also by supporting the incorporation of ‘gender ideology’ into Catholic teaching and practice. It is allied with organizations that seek to normalize sexual activity between members of the same sex and advocate for ‘marriage equality’. A priest in our Diocese was elected to the leadership team of the AUSCP in 2019.
The St John Henry Newman Chapter is concerned that “the confusion and scandal” caused by AUSCP through its stated goals and its public representation by an acknowledged excommunicant will have a negative impact on the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. We can only assume that a priest who helps to lead this group will attempt to advance its goals within the DWC. While we have no reason to doubt this priest’s good intentions, what are needed to help our Diocese recover from recently inflicted wounds are not divisive and heretical teachings but a revived commitment to the enduring truths of the Faith. Further, during these challenging times of pandemic, economic loss, racial tension, and political division, it is more important than ever for our Church to be united in charity and apostolic teaching, not led into further confusion and scandal.
Believing that faithfulness – both in what we profess and in how we act – is the key to our renewal as a Church, we prayerfully request that Bishop Brennan join with Bishop Thomas by warning both priests and laity in our Diocese about the confusion and scandal caused by associating with the AUSCP or participating in its events.
President of Catholics United for the Faith visits Morgantown
On December 14, 2019 Philip Gray, the president and director of Catholics United for the Faith, visited a meeting of the St John Henry Newman Chapter in Morgantown. His talk, “Lay Responses to the Crisis in the Catholic Church,” is available as an audio file here.
Diocesan Newspaper Publicizes Priestly Association Dedicated to Undermining Church Teachings
The July 26, 2019 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, included an article celebrating the fact that one of our diocesan priests was appointed to a leadership position in an organization called the Association of US Catholic Priests (AUSCP). This is an organization whose main goals include the undermining of Catholic teaching. It advocates for women’s ordination, married priests, and the incorporation of ‘gender ideology’ into Catholic teaching and practice. The AUSCP allies itself with organizations such as New Ways Ministry and Dignity USA, which seek to normalize sexual activity between members of the same sex and advocate for ‘marriage equality’.
We are heartbroken that some priests in our diocese are more committed to overturning Catholic teaching than to explaining it and promoting it. It is difficult for us to understand why such persons would have chosen to commit themselves to the priesthood if they find the teachings of our Church to be so repugnant – or why they would not resign their positions if their commitments have changed since their ordination. Faithful Catholics in West Virginia deserve to know what the Church teaches and why. They expect their priests to teach the truths of Christ’s Church, as embodied in Scripture and Tradition, not to attack these truths. Those priests who advocate for changing Catholic teaching might pretend to be “prophetic” voices leading the Church into a “new way.” But we know that authentic, Biblical prophetic voices are counter-cultural, and do not reinforce the views of the wealthy and powerful (as does the AUSCP).
We were quite surprised and disheartened that The Catholic Spirit saw fit to celebrate the appointment of one our Diocesan priests to a leadership position in an organization that is so harmful to our Church. We can only assume that the editor was unfamiliar with the AUSCP and its purposes. Otherwise, why would a Diocesan newspaper choose to promote priestly involvement in an organization dedicated to destabilizing the priesthood? We would expect that the goals of The Catholic Spirit would be to inform, educate, and reinforce those truths embodied in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, not to applaud those who question such truths. We hope that the decision to publish this article was based simply on a lack of familiarity with the AUSCP and its positions, rather than on active complicity with those who wish to distort Catholic teachings. The last thing that our Diocese needs is to promote priests and organizations whose work demeans and discourages those Catholics who are trying to live faithfully, in accordance with Catholic teaching, in a cultural context that is sharply hostile to the faith.