Racism and the Catholic Church

Racism and the Catholic Church

Fr. Bryan Massingale explores the Church's response to racism. Fr. Massingale holds the James and Nancy Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics at Fordham University, and is the author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2023 8:00 am

The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘antiracist.’ What’s the difference?
One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an antiracist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’

Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

The Klau Institute for Civil and Human Rights presents Building an Anti-Racist Vocabulary, a podcast from the lecture series and associated course presenting preeminent scholars, thought leaders, and public intellectuals to guide our community through topics necessary to an understanding of systemic racism and racial justice. The series is self-consciously an entry point, designed to provide intellectual and moral building blocks to begin the transformative work of anti-racism in our students, on our campus, and in our broader communities.

In the first installment released on ThinkND, Fr. Bryan Massingale explores the Church’s response to racism. Fr. Massingale holds the James and Nancy Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics at Fordham University, and is the author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church.

We will release new episodes on ThinkND monthly – register for the series so you don’t miss an episode!

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Meet the Host: Dory Mitros Durham '01, '06 JD

Dory Mitros Durham ’01, ’06 JD is associate director and associate teaching professor at the Klau Institute for Civil & Human Rights, and serves as the Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the Keough School of Global Affairs. In addition to serving as associate director, Durham teaches the Klau Institute’s popular “Building an Anti-Racist Vocabulary” course, and serves as moderator for the online lecture series. She is also a member of the Dean’s cabinet at the Keough School.

Prior to joining the Klau Institute, Durham served the federal judiciary as a career law clerk to Hon. Kenneth Ripple. She previously held a Skadden Fellowship at Indiana Legal Services, providing holistic legal services to immigrant victims of violence throughout the state and training local law enforcement agencies on issues concerning immigrant communities. Durham also taught the Judicial Externship course at Notre Dame Law School.

Durham is a 2006 summa cum laude graduate of Notre Dame Law School, where she held the Fr. Michael D. McCafferty, C.S.C., Fellowship in Law and was the executive production editor of the Notre Dame Law Review. Durham earned her B.A. in the Program of Liberal Studies, summa cum laude, from the University of Notre Dame in 2001, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Before attending law school, Durham worked for the Office of Government Liaison at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and for the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center.  In both positions, she focused on issues relating to particularly vulnerable immigrant populations, including unaccompanied children, asylum seekers, refugees, and victims of human trafficking and other forms of violence.

Meet the Speaker: Fr. Bryan Massingale

Bryan N. Massingale is the James and Nancy Buckman Professor of Theological and Social Ethics, as well as the Senior Ethics Fellow in Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education.  Prior to his appointment at Fordham, he was Professor of Theology at Marquette University.

Professor Massingale is a leader in the field of theological ethics.  He is a past Convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium and a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Christian Ethics and serves on the editorial board of Theological Studies, one of the premier Catholic journals of theology.  He also served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Moral Theology and the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics.  He is a current member and past coordinator of the North American Regional Committee of the “Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church” project.

Dr. Massingale is the recipient of four honorary doctorates, and has held the Bernard J. Hanley Chair at Santa Clara University.   He is also the recipient of Marquette University’s highest award for teaching excellence (2009).

In addition to his academic pursuits, Professor Massingale strives to be a scholar-activist through serving faith-based groups advancing justice in society.  He is a noted authority on issues of social and racial justice, having addressed numerous national Catholic conferences and lectured at colleges and universities across the nation.  He has served as a consultant to the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, providing theological assistance on issues such as criminal justice, capital punishment, environmental justice, and affirmative action. He has also been a consultant to the National Black Catholic Congress, Catholic Charities USA, the Catholic Health Association, Catholic Relief Services, the Leadership Conference of Religious Women, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, the National Catholic AIDS Network, and the antiracism teams of Call to Action and Pax Christi USA.  He is an active participant in a network of Catholic thought leaders striving for fuller inclusion of LGBT persons in society and the faith community.

His contributions to justice advocacy have been recognized on many occasions.  He received the Pope John XXIII Award from the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests in 2017, “for his tireless efforts to create a world where the dignity of each person is respected and protected.”  He received Catholic Charities USA’s “Centennial Gold Medal” in 2012 for leadership and service in the social mission of the Roman Catholic Church.  He received the YWCA’s “Eliminating Racism” award in 2014.  He is the recipient of Project Equality’s “Religious Momentum” Award for his efforts in promoting diversity in the Catholic Church. He has been honored by both Fairfield University and Cardinal Stritch University for his advocacy for social justice and his work for inclusion of the socially marginalized.  He was awarded the “Rev. Al McKnight Award” in 2011 by the National Joint Conference of Black Catholic Clergy, Sisters, Deacons and Seminarians for outstanding witness on behalf of justice for the marginalized. He was honored with the “Harry Fagin Award” in 2009 by the National Association of Diocesan Social Action Directors for his contributions to the study and knowledge of Catholic Social Teaching.  He has received numerous recognitions from the Catholic Press Association for award-winning commentaries on contemporary social issues from a faith perspective.

Recommended Reading

Fr. Massingale recommends reading the following if you would like to know more:

Bryan N. Massingale, “The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it“, National Catholic Reporter, June 1, 2020

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck

Desegregating Dixie: The Catholic Church in the South and Desegregation, 1945-1992, Mark Newman

For more resources from Building an Anti-Racist Vocabulary, please visit their Hesburgh Library Guide.

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