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Conscience Magazine

Church and Country at a Crossroads: Black Catholics and the Path Forward

By Michelle Batchelor May 6, 2021

FAITH IS CENTRAL TO ME and guides how I live my life. The foundation of that faith was laid by my parents and Catholicism. Born and raised Catholic, I feel very fortunate for the sense of belonging and purpose that helped shape the person I am today—a person I would like to think is good, kind, caring and who is pro-choice.

“The Changing Faces of the Catholic Electorate” (Dec. 18, 2020) failed to give any significant mention to Black Catholics. We have always been, and continue to be, a strong and committed part of the Catholic faith. It is worth considering that the percent of Black Catholics (4%) remains small, due in part to historic racism and marginalization within the church.

As a resurgence in racial reckoning occurs in the U.S., it is time for the Catholic Church to own its role in perpetuating racism and white supremacy. Pope Francis delivered a strong statement in response to the murder of George Floyd and resulting protests, stating that, “Catholics cannot tolerate racism and also claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.” A statement without action does no one any good. There needs to be an explicit call to action by the pope and others to address racism at all levels of the church. Archdioceses and congregations need to mobilize with the same enthusiasm and numbers whenever an innocent Black or brown person is murdered—showing up with the same force with which they congregate for the misguided “March for Life” protests (by the way, 56% of Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the Pew Research Center found).

The United States is at a crossroads. The path we choose determines if we are going to right historical wrongs and live up to ideals of “all men are created equal.” The Catholic church is at a similar crossroads. It owes it to its congregants, especially those of color, to move towards a more equitable, culturally representative church that values all living beings and reflects that choice in its doctrines and leadership.

Michelle Batchelor

Interim Vice president of Government Affairs at In Our Own Voice; National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda.