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Brothers and Sisters to Us – USCCB:1979
Copied below is the text of Bishop Deshotel’s letter condemning the evil of racism.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Among the opening words of the Bible, in the book of Genesis, we read the following: “God created man in His image, in the divine image He created him; male and female He created them”. (Gen. 1:27) From the very beginning of time, we learn of the dignity and sacredness of the human person as intended by God. In the account of everything created by God, only the human person is created in the image and likeness of God. From this fundamental truth, we learn that each and every human person is a direct and unique creation of God, called into being and given an everlasting destiny of sharing in God’s life.
In light of so many troubling events occurring in our day and time, I find it important to reiterate this fundamental truth. When the sacred connection between God and the human person is clouded or eliminated, the sin of racism raises its ugly head. History teaches us what happens when evil is not exposed and left unchecked. We must remember that evil grows when good people remain silent. Ethnic cleansing of whole populations, enslavement of peoples simply because of the color of their skin, human trafficking, and the holocaust of Jews are just a few examples. These evils begin with an acceptance of racism.
Racism believes that someone is less of a person, has less dignity, or is less deserving of respect because of the color of their skin, their nationality, religion or gender. Racism looks upon another as less deserving of respect because of their race or class. Racism can be manifested in violence towards others, discrimination, harsh and demeaning language, subtle words and actions used for the purpose of denigrating a person’s worth, and societal structures that deny basic human rights. It is a sin and a direct affront to God who creates each and every human person out of love.
In our time, the rise of hate groups like Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and White Supremacist Groups all have the sin of racism at their core. All people of good will should expose such evil for what it is and work to create a culture that respects each human person as created in the image of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but may have everlasting life. (John 3:16).
Our Diocese of Lafayette is a rich and colorful mosaic of many cultures and people. The original Acadians were exiled from their homes because their religion and nationality. We are blessed with a large African American Catholic culture. They endured deportation from their homes, slavery, segregation, exploitation, inhuman mistreatment, and extreme racism. Yet, through all their suffering, their faith endured and inspires us to this day. Now, Vietnamese, Hispanics, Filipinos and many other cultures show us the beauty and variety of God’s creation.
Let us create that culture of respect and reverence for each human person from conception in the womb to natural death. Children should hear in school and at home that racism is sinful and against God’s will. They should be told that hateful speech, derogatory language, racial jokes, and discrimination against others because of the color of their skin will not be tolerated. St. John reminds us in his letter that love of God necessarily means love of our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God. “Whoever says he loves God but hates his neighbor, lies.” (1 John 4:20) May God lead all of us to a love for all our brothers and sisters in His family.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend J. Douglas Deshotel, D.D.
Bishop of Lafayette
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