Here are some quotes from What We Have Seen and Heard: APastoral Letter on Evangelization from the Black Bishops of the United States, issued in 1984.
"If we have reached adulthood in the fullness of the
age of Christ, it is most of all thanks to our fathers and mothers and all our ancestors
who kept alive an unflagging commitment to Christ and to his church throughout
bitter days of slavery and the troubled times of racial segregation. Their
faith was passed on to us despite the peculiar structures of racism and bondage
that marred the Catholic Church in America in an earlier time."
"African-American spirituality is based on the sacred
Scriptures. In the dark days of slavery, reading was forbidden, but for our ancestors,
the Bible was never a closed book."
"Black people know what freedom is because we remember
the dehumanizing force of slavery, racist prejudice and oppression. No one can
understand so well the meaning of the proclamation that Christ has set us free
than those who have experienced the denial of freedom. For us, therefore,
freedom is a cherished gift. For its preservation, no sacrifice is too
"We oppose all oppression and all injustice, for unless
all are free, none are free. Moreover, oppression by some means freedom's destruction
for both the oppressor and the oppressed, and liberation liberates the oppressor
and the oppressed."
"When in recent years we rejected 'token integration'
for 'self-determination,' it was not to choose confrontation in place of cooperation,
but to insist on collaboration with mutual respect for the dignity and unique
gifts of all."
"Without justice, any meaningful reconciliation is
impossible. Justice safeguards the rights and delineates the responsibility of
all. A people must safeguard their own cultural identity and their own cultural
values. Likewise they must respect the cultural values of others. For this
reason sincere reconciliation builds on mutual recognition and mutual respect.
On this foundation can be erected an authentic Christian love."
"Too often barred from access to decent employment, too
often stripped of his dignity and manhood and too often forced into a stereotype
that was a caricature of his manhood, the black male finds himself depreciated
and relegated to the margins of family life and influence. Not the least of the
evil fruits of racial segregation has been the artificially fashioned rivalry
between black women and men."
"The civil rights movement of the 1960s that we as a
people initiated and in which we suffered raised the consciousness of many people
to the reality of social inequities and social injustice. In many ways our
struggle served as a pattern and a model for others who were made aware of
their own plight. Within the last decade we all have become more conscious of
the social inequities that women as a group have suffered and continue to
suffer in our society. In a very special way these inequities weigh most
heavily on black women and women of other racial minorities."
"If society truly valued our children and our mothers
-- mothers who have already made a choice for life - they would have day care
centers, jobs, good schools and all else that a just society should offer to
its people. Sadly we observe that if abortion were abolished tomorrow, the same
disastrous ills would plague our black mothers and children."
"If the story of America is told with honesty and
clarity, we must all recognize the role that blacks have played in the growth
of this country. At every turning point of American history, we come face to
face with the black man and black woman. What is true of our national history
is even truer of American Catholic history."
"On the other hand, we are in a position to counter the
assumption which many have advanced that to become a Catholic is to abandon
one's racial heritage and one's people! The Catholic Church is not a 'white
church' nor a 'Euro-American church.' It is essentially universal and hence
Catholic. The black presence within the American Catholic Church is a precious
witness to the universal character of Catholicism."
"We urge that on all levels the Catholic Church in the
United States examine its conscience regarding attitudes and behavior toward blacks,
Hispanics, native Americans and Asians. We urge consideration of the evil of
racism as it exists in the local church and reflection upon the means of combating
it. We urge scrupulous attention at every level to ensure that minority
representation goes beyond mere tokenism and involves authentic sharing in the
responsibility and decision-making."
"Blacks and other minorities still remain absent from
many aspects of Catholic life and are only meagerly represented on the decision-making
level. Inner-city schools continue to disappear, and black vocational
recruitment lacks sufficient support. In spite of the fact that Catholic
schools are a principal instrument of evangelization, active evangelization is
not always a high priority. This racism, at once subtle and masked, still
festers within our church as within our society."
"Our demand for recognition, our demand for leadership
roles in the task of evangelization, is not a call for separatism but a pledge of
our commitment to the church and to share in her witnessing to the love of
Christ. For the Christ we proclaim is he who prayed on the night before he died
'that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; I pray that they
may be (one) in us, that the world may believe that you sent me' (Jn.
"We cannot overemphasize the tremendous importance of
parochial schools for the black community. We even dare to suggest that the
efforts made to support them and to ensure their continuation are a touchstone
of the local church's sincerity in the evangelization of the black community. We
are aware of the economic reality, but we are equally aware of the Gospel
injunction to teach all peoples (cf. Mt. 28:19). Cost effectiveness can never
be the sole criterion for decisions regarding the continuation of a Catholic
school in the black community."
These quotes were originally compiled by
Catholic News Service, "Quotes from black bishops' pastoral 'What We Have Seen
and Heard'," August 25, 2017. Used with permission.