After a statement on Saturday denouncing the “abhorrent acts of hatred” in Charlottesville, Viriginia, but not identifying responsible forces by name, America’s Catholic leadership on Sunday spoke out again, this time specifically condemning “the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism.”
In this case, the statement was issued jointly by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, who chairs the conference’s committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism,” the two prelates said. “We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love’s victory over every form of evil is assured.”
DiNardo and Dewane then addressed American Catholics who would be attending Mass on Sunday.
“At Mass, let us offer a special prayer of gratitude for the brave souls who sought to protect us from the violent ideology displayed yesterday,” the said. “Let us especially remember those who lost their lives. Let us join their witness and stand against every form of oppression.
“As we learn more about the horrible events of yesterday, our prayer turns today, on the Lord’s Day, to the people of Charlottesville who offered a counter example to the hate marching in the streets,” the prelates added.
“Let us unite ourselves in the spirit of hope offered by the clergy, people of faith, and all people of good will who peacefully defended their city and country.”
The tragedy in in Charlottesville unfolded Saturday, when an alt-right rally called “Unite the Right” protested the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. It sparked violence, including what many are calling a terrorist incident when an alt-right protester drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors killing one woman and injuring at least 19 others.
The bishop’s specificity stands in contrast to the way a statement by U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday has been received.
Sunday news coverage was saturated with talk about the apparent ambiguity of Trump’s remark, in which he said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
Many were critical that Trump did not use terms such as “alt-right”, “white supremacists”, or “neo-Nazis”. Some alt-right tweeters on Sunday morning seemed overjoyed that Trump had not called them out explicitly, claiming it as a win.
Sunday brought from the White House a revised condemnation of violence, stating “of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis and all extremist groups.” It came after a series of tweets by Republican leaders, such as Senators Oren Hatch and Marco Rubio, urging Trump to call those groups out.
Responses of Catholic leaders across the country, both in press releases and on Twitter, have empathized with the victims of the violence, but also clearly denounced the motives and worldviews behind it.
The New York State Catholic Conference tweeted out, “We strongly condemn racism in all forms, in particular the evil of white supremacy on display in #charlottesville. Pray 4 for the dead & injured.”
Halfway across the country, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, tweeted, “Pray for an end to the evil of racism. And pray, especially today for its victims. Pray for justice and mercy in our nation.”