“A trend is accelerating rapidly at Catholic New York: that of blatant favoritism towards Latinos and blacks in the Archdiocese of New York.” That was the opening sentence of a letter published in our diocesan newspaper last December, under the bland heading “Publishing ‘Trend.’” The author’s evidence of favoritism was a handful of recent articles that covered the activities of nonwhite Catholics, as well as a national news item in which a bishop described Hispanic immigrants as “our brothers and sisters.” The letter concluded by asking, “Considering that the majority of issues of CNY over the past few years have published some element of this favoritism, why should any self-respecting white person belong to the Archdiocese of New York?”
Just to be clear: the letter’s author is objecting to any attention paid to nonwhite people as an affront to whites. The name for this point of view is white supremacy. It is a dangerous ideology in open violation of church teaching. It is also enjoying renewed prominence in this country, thanks to support from the Trump administration. And there it was being advocated bluntly in the letters column of “America’s Largest Catholic Newspaper.” There was a companion letter, too, which complained that “racism” is an overused term too often deployed “by liberal Democrats and their minority supporters” to silence conservatives. You have to wonder whether that writer realized the other letter proved him wrong.
Even the guy who wrote the white-supremacist letter knew it shouldn’t have seen the light. “I’m still shocked (pleasantly, I might add) that my letter on the blatant favoritism towards Latinos and blacks was printed,” he boasted in January on the white-nationalist website VDARE, providing a link to CNY as proof.
If he was shocked, imagine how Catholics of color felt when they saw it. How did it feel to open the paper that tells them what’s going on in the diocese and read such a calm and confident message of hate?
I wrote my own letter to object, and it was published in the next issue, along with two others like it—and another in the issue after that from an Ohio priest who offered a clear-eyed explanation of “racism as a structural, systemic reality.” But it took six weeks for the paper to offer its own response. Up to that point, the letter promoting racism, the one insisting racism is overblown, and the letters denouncing those two were all put forth on equal footing, all perspectives to consider. Is the Catholic Church only for white people? Our readers share their thoughts!