Selected Quotes from What We Have Seen and Heard
Here are some quotes from What We Have Seen and Heard: A Pastoral 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 great."
"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. 17:21)."
"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.