Wednesday, June 26, 2002

I am in a particularly belligerent mood today...

On Monday, Steve Mattson over at In Formation asks the question whether the Catholic Church in America is black enough? I had to put my two-cents in on his comments section and now I feel I might be owing him a bit of an apology.

'Black Enough' is a phrase that makes me see red. I know too many people who have been hurt by it and I have loved too many people who have been wounded by it.

I think the question in the context of the Catholic Church is simply out of place. The assumption behind this question is that the American Catholic Church is as concrete a reality as the local diocese or the universal Church. It shouldn't be. I would imagine that, in the universal Church, the majority of the Faithful are 'non-white'. I mean, if U.S. Catholics are only 6% of the Catholic people, I cant imagine that adding Europe, Australia and Canada is going to bring this number up to 50%.

In local dioceses, whether in America or elsewhere, the diocese probably represents whatever nationalities are present. It is true that the leadership of a diocese might currently reflect a prior population. Again, I use the example of NYC where the bishops of both dioceses are Irish American. Some say that this is because the Catholic money in the dioceses is still primarily in Irish hands. Or it may be that when you consider the entire mix of ethnic groups, the Irish still predominate. (Hispanic and Latino are relatively new concepts. Historically CA and SA immigrants identified with a country rather than a continent. I believe that to a large extent they still do but...who knows?). A third possibility is that the other ethnic groups are merely underrepresented in the current North American priesthood simply because the immigrants didn't bring their priests with them and their sons have not yet joined the ranks of US priests in sufficient number or been in the US ranks long enough to have become US bishops.

I do know the local parishes traditionally reflect the culture of their parish members. As I mentioned in a prior post, my own parish building currently 'houses' about 7 ethnic parishes (based on the languages in which Mass is said). I can tell you for sure that the Fillipino community in my parish building is very 'Fillipino' in their approach to the faith. I imagine that the same thing would be true in 'black' parishes.

I don't know whether Catholicism is the third largest religion among North American blacks or whether it is the third largest Christian religion among North American blacks. I do know that it is significantly established in various 'black' communities and it is growing. Here in NYC, our 'black' parishes are more likely to be Haitian, Dominican, Jamaican, North American Black etc... parishes. I think that this is appropriate and Catholic.

As a beautiful, 'not black enough' woman I know says "why does it always have to be a race thing?" It is her contention that 'yes, sometimes race matters, and other times it doesn't. Just like, sometimes being beautiful matters and sometimes it doesn't." Since both descriptions fit her, I imagine that she has some insight on the matter.

Additionally, although perhaps not traditionally, I think that the one place race shouldn't matter is inside the family. The whole structure of Catholicism is based on the family. So it shouldn't matter there either.

Finally, I think that a more pertinent question would be whether we, as Catholics, can trust our shared Catholic culture enough, to begin honest conversation about the impact that race has on our lives and our relationships. It would be nice, if we could, ever careful of each other in dignity and in love, address an issue so damaging to our nation and our American lives.

But all of this is merely personal opinion.


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