Catholic World Report

‘Cleanse our land’: U.S. bishops call for prayer, action to end racism after Chauvin verdict


Bishops across the United States on Tuesday and Wednesday responded to the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in the trial for the murder of George Floyd.

Two chairs of committees at the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) issued a joint statement on Tuesday evening, after a jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

“The death of George Floyd highlighted and amplified the deep need to see the sacredness in all people, but especially those who have been historically oppressed,” read a statement by Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the USCCB’s anti-racism committee, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the USCCB’s domestic justice and human development committee.

“Whatever the stage of human life, it not only matters, it is sacred,” the bishops said.

The trial of Derek Chauvin began on March 8. He was arrested on May 29, 2020, and charged with third-degree murder for the killing of George Floyd, a 46 year-old Black man.

Chauvin and three other police officers held Floyd in custody on the evening of May 25, in Minneapolis, after Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a nearby store. Video taken by bystanders showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd lay handcuffed on the ground. Floyd was audibly gasping and moaning, and complaining that he could not breathe; toward the end of the video, he appeared unconscious.

After an ambulance arrived and transported Floyd to the hospital, he was declared dead. The killing sparked mass protests and riots around the United States against racism and police brutality.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, joined by bishops of the five other Minnesota dioceses, called for civility and prayer on Tuesday afternoon before the verdict was announced.

In the wake of Tuesday’s verdict, the first African-American cardinal called for Catholics to fight racism without violence.

“As the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us and the life example of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. showed us, it is the virtue of charity, non-violence, prayer, and working together that moves us toward reconciliation and true healing from trauma we have experienced,” stated Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

“May we choose to respond with civility and respect for the dignity of all of our brothers and sisters, as we continue the work of rooting out all injustices and systemic racism in our society,” Cardinal Gregory stated.

U.S. bishops called for prayer and action to end racism. “Let us pray that through the revelation of so much pain and sadness, that God strengthens us to cleanse our land of the evil of racism which also manifests in ways that are hardly ever spoken, ways that never reach the headlines,” Bishop Fabre and Archbishop Coakley stated.

“Let us not lose the opportunity to pray that the Holy Spirit falls like a flood on our land again, as at Pentecost, providing us with spiritual, emotional, and physical healing, as well as new ways to teach, preach, and model the Gospel message in how we treat each other,” the bishops said.

The archbishop of Baltimore, where racial tensions and riots flared in 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, said that the verdict should prompt Catholics to fight racism.

“As citizens, we must insist on the elimination of all forms of racism in our societal structures. Let us take personal responsibility in overcoming racism, prejudice, and other injustices,” said Archbishop William Lori.

Other bishops said that police officers must be held accountable for their actions.

“When officers fail to live up to their responsibilities, they should be held accountable, as it respects the victims of their actions as well as the reputation of their fellow officers,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia stated.

Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., of Lexington, Kentucky, called the verdict “a long overdue result that finally brings justice for a Black victim of a brutal killing by police.”

“There are many other families who are longing for this kind of justice and recognition of the worth of the lives of their loved ones; we must work to make this verdict the norm rather than the exception,” he said.

The archbishop of Philadelphia recounted the “overwhelming” grief that followed Floyd’s death, and decried “the mortal sin of racism.”

“I pray that the Holy Spirit stirs up a desire in our hearts to look for solutions to the problems we encounter,” Archbishop Nelson Perez stated on Tuesday.

The USCCB vice president, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, said that “social injustices still exist in our country and that together we must peacefully rebuild what hatred and frustration has torn down.”

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  1. The article quotes a broad cross section of American bishops. Their statements reveal, and not for the first time, what a shameless pack of liars and Marxist demagogues they are. Far from unifying and calming the nation, they enflame and divide. They brazenly misrepresent what happened in Minneapolis and the general state of the country. They speak in a strident, uncompromising tone when they mouth their leftist propaganda that they never would think of using to address Biden or Pelosi. These men are unworthy of the offices they abuse and whatever support they still get from the faithful.

  2. Unfortunately, I think the bishops’ statements may be a little over-hasty. There may be an appeal and there are still three more officers to be tried.

  3. The statements by these bishops are rife with baseless assumptions and mischaracterizations. It’s disturbing to realize that people in such important leadership posts are such sloppy thinkers.

    And the data do not support their assumptions. The truth is, so-called “hate crimes” are exceedingly rare in America. Ours is one of the most harmonious ethnically diverse societies in the world.

    In fact, the vast majority of hate crimes made public are hoaxes — e.g., Jussie Smollett; the NASCAR garage noose; the University of Missouri rest room incident; the church burning in Greenville, Miss., etc., etc., etc.

    The fact is, the inequities blacks suffered in the past became illegal in the sixties, thanks to Dr. King’s impassioned commitment to non-violence, combined with the innate decency of the vast majority of Americans. The civil rights legislation of that time eliminated “systemic racism” when it literally changed the system.

    Are there still people prejudiced against blacks? Sure, a few. Just like there are people prejudiced against Christians or bald people or rural folk or lawyers or — ironically — racists.

    But obsessing about the individuals with such biases — individuals who, thanks to our civil rights laws are now powerless — only gives them an importance they do not deserve.

    There are idiots. There will always be idiots. Period.

    But of course the myth of “systemic racism” isn’t really about racism at all. It’s about pitting us against one another and using the resulting conflict to take power.

    And, thanks to the innate decency of most Americans, the myth seems, unfortunately, to have taken hold.

  4. No doubts about political interference from Waters and Biden? No worries about threats of mob violence if the jury didn’t return the “right” verdict?

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