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March 26th, 2012by Deacon Royce Winters

I woke up this Saturday morning conflicted about justice in our world, in these United States and in the Catholic Church.  There were two major factors for my confliction: 1] The shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida; 2] and the keynote address by Rev. Monsignor C. Eugene Morris at the Athenaeum of Ohio. These events addressed either the issue of injustice in our society or the injustice in our Church.  They invite us to delve into the disparity of justice and its lasting effect upon the people of color even to this day.

The title of the 1979 U.S. Bishops Pastoral on Racism is entitled, “Brothers and Sisters to Us.”  I’ve wondered aloud many times, who is identified as “Us”?   The title of the pastoral does infer that people of color are equal partners.  It was for this very reason I was interested to hear how Monsignor Morris would “break open” his topic, “What We Have Seen and Heard: Reflections on the History and Future of African American Vocations.”  He gave an excellent address which included a statement [paraphrase] “that pope/s encouraged U.S. Bishops to evangelize to the 4 million freed slaves in America.  Yet, the U.S. Bishops refuse to respond to the request to evangelize the more than 4 million freed slaves in favor of outreach to the new immigrants from Europe.” Monsignor Morris insinuated that the failure of the U.S. Bishops to evangelize these 4 million freed slaves had a direct impact upon the number of African Americans Catholics in the Catholic Church, and the deficit of African American vocations [clergy and religious].  His insights reminded me of a conversation I had with Rev. Clarence Joseph Rivers who stated, “We will never make up for the loss of African American vocations due to the past and current racist attitudes in this Catholic Church.”

This weekend, I walked into the neighborhood barbershop and as I waited for service, I joined in the conversation by barbers and customers about the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The pain and anger in these conversations was rooted in the reality of institutional systems that have failed to address the plight of African Americans and the elusive search for “justice for all.”  In these conversations was a pervasive cultural reality/belief that the life of a Black male in America is less valuable than that of a White male.  Historically, this has been a part of Black life from the writing of the Declaration of Independence and our present time.

It is an intrinsic part of Black life for parents to worry about whether the “unjust systems” in America will cast their child, or their grandchildren into the “pit” of being less than human.  As much as we can, my wife and I encourage our children to live without fear.  But at the same time, we have to tell them that justice in America at times chooses not to be colorblind.  Our hope for our children and their children is for them to see with their own eyes an America where all are seen and treated with care and love of one who has been created in the image of a Most Holy God.

It is my hope the wisdom captured in the founding of this great country: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.,” will be realized in our time. Yet, if not with our own eyes, may we always remember that as we approach the Feast of Easter, the victory has been won!  Yes, we believe that evil, hatred, racism and death has been defeated through the Paschal Mystery – the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus the Christ.



photo credit: Flickr/werthmedia


Deacon Royce Winters

Deacon Royce Winters is the director of African American Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He has been married for 36 years and his wife, children and grandchildren all attend Church of the Resurrection in Bond Hill.