Although the Voice of the people should be considered God’s Voice, my experiences in the Catholic church demonstrate that people of colour are quite often subjected to selective hearing and are frequently silenced and demonised, particularly when it comes to issues of racism within the church or systemic and continuing racism they faces outside the church.
My attempts to engage concerned Bishops and others within the Catholic hierarchy within the Catholic Church in England and Wales on the topic of racism have thus far led to non-listening and a lack of interest in engaging in dialogue with me. It is either because they have not wanted to engage in dialogue with me since my Voice is unimportant to them or because the hierarchy is so disconnected from grassroots that it wishes to remain disconnected.
Regrettably, the Catholic hierarchy within the Catholic Church in England and Wales does not regard me as a dialogue partner on the subject of racism, nor does it believe God is at work in my life. They have produced sufficient documents on the subject of racism, but what they need to do is listen to individuals like me about the problems of racism and rethink and act to confront racism both within and beyond the church.
I have tried my best to engage in dialogue with Rt. Rev. Paul McAleenan , the Lead Bishop for Racial Justice for the Catholic Church in England and Wales but have never been able to pass his secretary. This example demonstrates how the hierarchy continues to avoid connecting with and dialoguing with the marginalised.
I want to address the Rt. Rev. Paul McAleenan and his colleagues, bishops and priests with an important question. What would Catholic ethics look like if it took the lived experience of persons of colour seriously as a partner in dialogue?
I want to convey to them that individuals like me and I will not disappear just because the leadership chooses to disregard or dismiss our voices and experiences, neglects, evades, or mutes our voices.
I speak on behalf of people who have encountered racism both within and beyond the church. I provide you with a means of hearing the cries of the voiceless, hated, and despised.
I’d want to remind Catholic Bishops of the clear principle that vox victimarum vox Dei. Throughout this holy week, I want to remind Bishops that the cries of victims of racism need to be heard, that their voices are the Voice of God, and that their voices must be a key source of Catholic theological and ethical reflection.
Thus, the Bishop, I would want to ask, how would Catholic social and theological thought look if it took the voices of victims of racism seriously? I’m particularly wondering about how different Catholic traditions will handle the problem of racism in ways that are compatible with diverse moral theological traditions while correctly capturing the experiences of people of colour and staying truly Catholic.
In Britain, people of colour are frequently considered second-class citizens, which amounts to modern-day slavery. Now, the system does not place shackles on the legs or hands of their slaves; rather, it removes physical chains from their ankles and hands and places them on their minds, creating barriers to freedom and justice that are more critical for perpetuating social injustice.
People of colour become inactive and complicit in their own slavery as a result of such self-hatred and mental detachment. Unfortunately, some of them want to be white; they may appear different on the outside, but they have learned the art of being white on the inside.
In their desire for liberation, people of colour face an urgent need for “inner emancipation.” They should begin by asserting their right to exist and establishing an internal feeling of worth, value, and dignity. Indeed, social methods and political practises are constrained, if not fruitless, in the absence of this inner transformation and self-affirmation.
I do have a critical question: Has the church failed us? Or, to be more precise, has the church failed in its efforts to eradicate racism?
Catholic social teaching says that solidarity is more than a transitory feeling of empathy for another’s tragedy. Rather than that, John Paul II taught that solidarity is a commitment, a “firm and persevering determination” to act for the common good, particularly the poor.
Solidarity is based on the profound sense that the hated other’s issues are inextricably linked to our own, anchored in an acknowledgement of the other’s shared personhood. Nonetheless, it is precisely this acknowledgement that is jeopardised by institutional racism.
God hears the cries of victims and then acts—at times obscurely and inconspicuously, at other times decisively and dramatically—to bring justice for the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, and the poor: that is, for those whose voices are easily overlooked in church and society.
I want to emphasise respectfully that the catholic bishops have failed victims of racism, and I believe they bear prophetic responsibilities and obligations to assist—and even challenge—the religious community in perceiving and comprehending how God is moving right now, in our midst, and listening to those who have no voice.
I would conclude with a simple but persistent appeal for the Rt. Rev. Paul McAleenan and his colleagues, bishops, and priests to hear my cries and those of many other victims of racism.