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Father Muench Says...

The sin that divides the human family

Aug. 30, 2017

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I am certain that you heard and followed the news reports a few weeks ago concerning demonstrations that became rather violent.  These groups were labeled white supremacists – even hate groups.  They seemed to be declaring that they were better than others.  They were claiming there was something unacceptable about other races and cultures which caused the hate.  I might add that some even voiced hatred towards us, Catholics.
I decided, like many other priests, to say something about all of this in my Sunday homily.

It would be easy for us up here in Northern New York to believe that we are not involved in this concern.  It’s a problem for other people in others places. However, you and I have been barraged with all of their propaganda; it has challenged us and we must make some decisions. How do we react?

I wanted to remind my congregation that we must be concerned. We as Catholics oppose all that these groups stand for.

Bishop LaValley sent out information concerning this, especially regarding the sin of racism.  He reminded us that 40 years ago, the bishops of our country published a pastoral letter against racism. 

They wrote: “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.” 

Yet, the scourge of racism – of hate against those of a different culture – continues to divide and challenge Americans.  I was personally shocked to learn how many of these groups still exist.  As a Catholic their message of hate breaks my heart – I weep.

I decided to tell the folks my story.  I admitted that I had to make many changes in my own thinking during my lifetime.  As a young priest – years ago - I was teaching science in one of our Catholic high schools.  One summer, I spent a several weeks in a program at the University of Detroit. 

When I arrived there, I noticed a bulletin from a local pastor who was looking for a priest to help in his parish on weekends. This sounded good to me.  The parish was a predominantly African-American parish in downtown Detroit.

For this young priest from Northern New York, this was a very different experience.  I must be honest with you: I remember being uncomfortable and these were church-going Catholic people.

As I look back, I now admit I am embarrassed to admit that I felt the way I did.  Since then I have learned a great deal more – about myself and my world.

Since then, I have been involved in many programs with people and priests of others races and cultures.  They have been truly a gift to my development as a priest.  I have formed wonderful friendships, friendships that have been important to me. 

I tell you that I now become extremely annoyed and angry when I continue to hear of some of the things that these folks – folks of various races and cultures – have had to put up with and continue to put up with from these hate groups.

So, I take advantage of every opportunity to make certain that everyone knows that our Catholic Church, in the Spirit of our Savior, Jesus, considers racism wrong, unacceptable, a sin.  We, Catholics cannot be silent.

I finished my homily by telling the people that I would hope that, if a family different from us were to come into our Sunday Mass, we would welcome them with open arms.  However, if even one would become annoyed or uncomfortable that such a family joined us, I would weep.

From Pope Francis: “The Lord wants us to belong to a Church that knows how to open her arms and welcome everyone, that is not a house for the few, but house for everyone, where are can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by his love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost.”

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