THE IMPORTANCE OF OWNING OUR HISTORY
I’m Catholic. I’m not black. Which gives me no authority to speak of the black Catholic experience in the church. But history does have authority to testify to this experience, which makes it vital to attend to it.
Fr. Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. wrote The History of Black Catholics in the United States to assist people of good will in doing just that—to understand that there have always been black Catholics in the U.S. and in Christianity since its inception. Indeed, says Davis, black Catholics “add another essential perspective to the meaning of the word Catholic.”
Davis, a Benedictine monk, black historian, and founding member of the National Black Clergy Caucus, provides a riveting witness to what U.S. church leaders—religious and clergy and lay—did and did not do in previous centuries in their roles as teachers, preachers, and justice advocates. As Davis notes, “Time has taught us that no one can remain silent in periods of great social turmoil and still retain any moral authority.”
This generation is learning this difficult truth again; we refuse the lesson at the peril of losing any moral authority our institutional church has to influence minds and hearts. Those who identify as church leaders—pastors, deacons, catechists, parish council members, or community organizers—must become familiar with the often painful, sometimes heroic elements of our church’s racial past. We harbor sinners and saints in our story, all of whom should be better appreciated as we move forward to create a racially just future and a healthier church body. Pretending the past has no bearing on the present has, regrettably, led us to the era of distress we currently inhabit. Jesus insists only the truth sets us free.
reprinted with permission from TrueQuest Communications