Protests against police violence and culture-war battles over the toppling of monuments that honor white supremacists underscore the nation’s ongoing reckoning with racism. A sizable number of Catholic advocates, priests, and women religious are active in mobilization efforts to address systemic racism, and some visibly support Black Lives Matter. Even a few bishops have publicly backed the movement. But a growing number of conservative Catholics are speaking out against BLM, arguing that its positions on LGBTQ issues, gender, and abortion mean Catholics should not support the organization.
Few have gone to the extremes that Indiana priest Ted Rothrock did in calling BLM activists “maggots and parasites” on his parish website. “They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, masked thieves and bandits, seeking only to devour the life of the poor and profit from the fear of others,” he wrote in a now-deleted post. Rothrock himself has since been suspended from public ministry by his bishop. Even so, a predominately white hierarchy continues to show tone-deafness and unnecessary defensiveness in criticizing BLM, which is one of the most effective racial-justice movements in decades. One bishop even sought to silence a Church employee, Rob McCann, the CEO of Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington. After McCann released a video in which he addressed the Church’s complicity in racism over the centuries and praised BLM, Spokane Bishop Thomas Daly was swift to condemn him. “When Rob spoke of the church as racist, himself as racist and essentially all white people are racist—I thought it was a very simplistic way to look at the tragedy of racism,” Bishop Daly told The Spokesman-Review. “No, not everybody is racist by sheer skin color,” Daly said.
McCann later issued his own statement on the Catholic Charities website.
“Though I meant the video to begin a humble examination of my role and Catholic Charities’ role in systemic racism, it was perceived as an attack on the church,” McCann wrote. “And though I meant the video to begin healing rifts within our community, it resulted in some people becoming further entrenched in their positions.” McCann said that his organization, which among other initiatives manages a homeless shelter and low-income housing programs, has been the target of “violent and hateful language” in response to his video. “There also has now been violence committed against my wife and children at my home,” he wrote. “For all of my best intentions, these past weeks have been marked by hurt and sadness from all involved.”