Insights: Bishops on Racial Injustice; Legislative Action Needed

Outspoken Catholic Response to Death of George Floyd

Bishops throughout the country and the state have responded to the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who was suffocated while being restrained by police in Minneapolis last week despite calling out for help.

“I am praying for George Floyd and his loved ones, and on behalf of my brother bishops, I share the outrage of the black community and those who stand with them in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and across the country,” said USCCB President and Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez.

Floyd’s death sparked protests and demonstrations across the country, with many becoming destructive and some violent. Many cities were under curfew orders to and the National Guard was deployed in many cities.

“The cruelty and violence he suffered does not reflect on the majority of good men and women in law enforcement, who carry out their duties with honor. We know that. And we trust that civil authorities will investigate his killing carefully and make sure those responsible are held accountable,” Archbishop Gomez said.

Archbishop Gomez also called to an end to the violence that is rocking American cities:

“It is true what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, that riots are the language of the unheard. We should be doing a lot of listening right now. This time, we should not fail to hear what people are saying through their pain. We need to finally root out the racial injustice that still infects too many areas of American society.

“But the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost. Let us keep our eyes on the prize of true and lasting change.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco summarized the sentiments of many people around the United States:

“George Floyd is the latest, and most brazen, example of a pattern of injustices and discrimination against people of color in our country. The violence in response to this act of violence reveals the extent to which the outrage over this has become unbearable. And yet, it does not change the perennial truth that violence begets violence.
The many peaceful protests that have been held properly honor George Floyd’s life and denounce the racism that has become systematic in our society. But we must understand the need for “systemic” change in a broad sense, for structural change alone will only go so far. We need cultural change, a transformation of the cultural mentality – ultimately, a spiritual metanoia. And that change of mind, heart and soul cannot even begin without the admission of sin, personal as well as societal.”

Bishops throughout California also spoke out on developments:

“The only authentic moral response to this moment in our nation's history is a sustained conversion of heart and soul to genuinely comprehend the overwhelming evil of racism in our society, and to refuse to rest until we have rooted it out,” said California Catholic Conference President and Diocese of San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy.

San Bernardino Bishop Gerald Barnes spoke out forcefully on the need to address the continued injustice of racism:  "The wound that many are carrying with regard to race and its relationship to our criminal justice system has been tragically reopened. We cannot dismiss the outcry of the people for justice for all before the law."

Other California leaders also reacted:

Catholic Charities East Bay Executive Director Margaret Peterson also issued a statement, calling on others to speak up for the injustices and to wholeheartedly listen without any preexisting judgements.

“My call to action: I ask you to join me in speaking up to injustice, even when it shows up in the words or jokes of a friend.  Pursue justice with rigor, especially after the headlines move on to the next story.  Hold conversations about what is happening and what we are called to do about it,  whether at church, in our schools, our homes, and our families.  Listen, without defense, to the honest experiences of our Black and Brown sisters and brothers,” Peterson said.

In a press conference Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom called the racial injustice “a pandemic on top of a pandemic” that must be addressed.

“So often we try to meet the moment with rhetoric. We feign resolve. … I could put together a group of advisers, put together a task force, I could promise and promote a few pieces of legislation. But program-passing is not problem-solving. You’ve got to change hearts, minds. You’ve got to change culture, not just laws,” Newsom said.

For a full list of statements by California Bishops, click here.


Parishes Gradually Reopening

Most dioceses in the state have now released plans to re-open parishes with new health and safety protocols in place, and some have parishes that are already open.  Churches are taking appropriate social distancing measures, limiting seating to 25 percent of capacity or 100, asking for worshippers to wear masks and disinfecting between services.

Dioceses have been working in conjunction with local public health officials to determine the timing and new measures necessary to help keep parishioners safe amidst the threat of COVID-19.  Local measures may differ depending on infection rates, parish capabilities and other factors.

Click here to find your diocese and the latest news on openings and precautions. 


Important Legislative Alerts – Act Now!

Please contact your representative and the governor on these issues if you have not already:

·      In the Governor’s May Revision of his budget, he proposes eliminating funding for Community Based Adult Services (CBAS). While the state is faced with fiscal uncertainty because of the pandemic, this move would cost far more than it saves, as seniors would be forced into expensive care facilities. Please ask your Senator and Assembly Member to reject the Governor’s proposal to eliminate this funding and allow these adults to stay at home with the people who love them.

·      The CalEITC (California Earned Income Tax Credit) tackles California’s poverty crisis by providing much-needed assistance to working families and individuals struggling to make ends meet. While California has made improvements to the credit since it was established in 2015, one population continues to be excluded: those who file their taxes with a federally assigned Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). Please join in asking our legislative leadership and Governor to expand the EITC benefits for the undocumented with ITINS in the budget negotiations that are going on right now.  Urge our elected officials to allow those with a federally assigned ITIN or a Social Security Number to claim EITC.


Resources for Racial Justice

From USCCB: Violent actions against African Americans have become all too common. When we witness those actions, such as the one that took the life of George Floyd, we know it is our responsibility to respond. Our faith calls us to speak out against racism and work to transform structures that continue to disregard the equal dignity of all people. Find resources below to help pray, learn, and act together to transform our hearts, our policies, and our country. 

Watch Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, share the statement of the committee chairmen.

Utilize this Prayer for Racial Healing for Our Land or one of the many others available on our website

Read and study the Bishops’ recent pastoral letter against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts (y en Español), and utilize our study guide to deepen your prayer and learning.

Share and discuss resources with your community including backgrounders, like this one on systemic racismeducational materials for classrooms, and scripture reflections.


"We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.” @Pontifex


June 5, 2020
Vol. 13, No. 20

En Español

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