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Catholic Church, Racism, Bernard Lonergan, Conversion, United States


Racism is Christian America’s original sin. Our country’s foundation was built with the hands of more than ten million kidnapped and enslaved persons. The Catholic Church was complicit as enslavers and beneficiaries of enslaved labor as well as the marginalizing of Black Catholics. Given the limited attention that has been given to these origin stories in our country and our church, it is unsurprising that systems of racism perpetuate today. Catholic theologian and ethicist Bryan Massingale provides a definition of racism as an ethos that lives on in U.S. society. Since the murder of George Floyd, a heightened awareness of anti-Black racism has resurfaced in the United States. It is obvious that change is necessary. As Catholics we are called to actively live out the gospel of Jesus Christ, to repent and change the way we live, think, and love. Our tradition provides tools for approaching this change. The work of Jesuit philosopher and theologian, Bernard Lonergan and his student Robert Doran, identified concepts of religious, moral, intellectual, and psychic conversion which provide a framework for profound personal and institutional change that the Catholic Church and Catholic individuals can use in the work of antiracism. Lonergan’s theoretical framework in conversation with activist-scholarship of Black Catholic theologians like Massingale and M. Shawn Copeland provide a contextual starting point for individual Catholics and the Catholic Church to better understand the Black Catholic experience and thereby discern what is necessary for change, ultimately leading to solidarity, active compassion, and an antiracist Catholic Church.