By Devin Watkins
Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles gave a keynote address on Thursday to a group of Catholic advocates taking part in a webinar.
The event was organized by “Catholics at the Capitol”, an initiative of Minnesota’s Bishops. It was held online due to a spate of violent protests near Minneapolis, the state capital, in the wake of the police shooting of a young black man in the area.
Grave sin of racism
Archbishop Gomez, who is also the President of the US Bishops’ Conference, opened his remarks lamenting the killing of Daunte Wright, which sparked the violence.
Mr. Wright was shot during a traffic stop on Sunday after trying to flee from officers. Police say the officer had meant to use her taser to restrain him, but accidentally pulled out and fired her handgun. Mr. Wright’s family say he was racially profiled.
In his speech, Archbishop Gomez said the entire nation is praying for the Church in Minnesota and that the Church is committed to providing leadership in the struggle against racism.
“Racism, as we all know, is a grave sin, a spiritual disease and a social injustice,” he said. “We need to stand together as one Church to eradicate this evil from our own hearts, from the hearts of our neighbors, and from the structures of our society.”
Polarization in politics
The US Archbishop went on to reflect at length on the Church’s teaching on social justice, drawing on Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Fratelli tutti.
The Pope, he noted, warns about various forces in society which are seeking to turn values like “freedom, justice, and unity” into “tools for domination, as meaningless tags that can be used to justify any action.”
Archbishop Gomez said Pope Francis also decries the polarization and extremism in politics, as well as radical individualism which is leading to “declining birth rates, the shameful treatment of the elderly, and the destruction of the unborn.”
Transcendent vision of humanity
The Archbishop said that one of the reasons that America’s political discourse has become so polarized is because some people have turned politics into a “new religion,” replacing God with “strictly secular visions of social justice.”
Catholics, said Archbishop Gomez, are called to remind all Americans of the dignity of every person and that everyone has “a meaning and a purpose that transcends this world.”
“As Catholics, we also believe that the most basic purpose of government and policy is to protect the sanctity and dignity of the person, from the moment they are conceived until the moment they draw their dying breath,” he said. “Our task in this moment is to bring this beautiful vision to our public discourse, to awaken this awareness of God’s love in the hearts of our brothers and sisters.”
Witness to Gospel values
As America faces this delicate moment, Catholics must act as peacemakers and reconcilers under the banner of our common humanity.
Despite disagreements, which are a normal part of democracy, said Archbishop Gomez, Americans should never give in to hatred, “to treating others as enemies or with contempt”.
“Let us never forget that the Gospel message is delivered, not only by our words, but by the witness of our lives,” he said. “By our example, we need to help our society understand that we are all brothers and sisters. And we need to do this — like everything in our lives — with humility and a joyful heart.”