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Catholic Advocates Urge L.A. Archbishop to Apologize for Denigrating Social Justice Movements


November 15, 2021


Austin Schuler, aschuler@faithinpubliclife.org, 540-280-3393

John Gehring, jgehring@faithinpubliclife.org, 410-302-3792

Catholic Advocates Urge L.A. Archbishop to Apologize for Denigrating Social Justice Movements

Catholic leaders ask U.S. bishops conference president to support Black activists  

Washington, D.C. –  As Catholic bishops prepare for a national meeting in Baltimore this week, a petition signed by prominent Catholic theologians and over 12,000 grassroots Catholics and ecumenical religious advocates is calling on U.S. bishops’ conference president Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles to apologize for remarks he made criticizing social justice movements. 

In a recent speech to the Congress of Catholics and Public Life in Madrid, Archbishop Gomez blasted “new social justice movements,” describing them as “pseudo-religions” that are “dangerous.” The archbishop also derided what he called “wokeness” and “identity politics.” 

The petition, organized by Faith in Public Life and Faithful America, notes that social justice movements that grew in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd have helped awaken our national conscience to the epidemic of police brutality and systemic racism. 

“Catholic bishops and other religious leaders should be out in the streets with these movement organizers, not demeaning them with language that only emboldens opponents of racial equity,” the petition reads. “Your speech was particularly painful and offensive to Black Catholic advocates in the United States who have organized for racial justice in the face of indifference and even hostility from many white Christians. Please apologize for your statements and stand in solidarity with social movements, as Pope Francis has done.”

Prominent petition signers include Fr. Bryan Massingale, a Fordham University theologian and author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church; Miguel Diaz, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and theologian at Loyola University Chicago; Kathleen Dorsey Bellow, Director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana, Patricia McGuire, President of Trinity Washington University; and Fr. Clete Kiley, chaplain for the Chicago Federation of Labor and board member of the Catholic Labor Network.

“Catholic social justice ministry is not a ‘pseudo-religion’ but a constitutive element of living the Gospel,” said Fr. Clete Kiley, Chaplain for the Chicago Federation of Labor and board member of the Catholic Labor Network. “The Catholic Labor Movement is a social justice movement rooted in 125 years of papal teaching. The comments from Archbishop Gomez are bizarre, unscholarly, and lack coherence theologically. Coming from an archbishop, these remarks are really troublesome and embarrassing. Coming from the president of our Catholic bishops’ conference, they are a scandal. I know Archbishop Gomez to be a good and holy man. His comments have caused hurt and confusion. I hope he can apologize for these remarks and help us all move on to more constructive dialogues.”

“Archbishop Gomez spends a lot of time in dialogue and partnership with donors and conservative Catholic movements in the church that often demean social justice activism,” said John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life. “The archbishop has an opportunity to start listening to and learning from a new generation of grassroots advocates who put their faith into action. In particular, I hope he hears the pain his words have caused Black Catholics and reflects on tangible ways to show greater solidarity with those struggling to end racism and exclusion in every form.”

“Archbishop Gomez’s speech once again makes it clear why Black theologians must continue to proclaim boldly: ‘God is Black!’ To say that God is Black is to say that God is incarnated among those who are poor and oppressed as Jesus was,” said Craig Ford, a professor of theology at St. Norbert College. “A God of liberation is always present in movements for justice because the freedom promised in eternal life begins with activism and struggles to end oppressive systems today. Black Lives Matter and other justice movements are secular expressions of Jesus’ presence among those who are reviled and rejected. I urge Archbishop Gomez to meet with social movement leaders and theologians to find common ground in our shared commitment to human dignity.”

“The denial of the dignity and sanctity of Black life is a part of the DNA of this country,” said Shannen Dee Williams, a professor of history at the University of Dayton. “It is also a foundational sin of the American Catholic Church. Black Catholic history reveals that the church has never been an innocent bystander in the history of white supremacy. If there will ever be a chance for true peace and reconciliation, the Catholic Church must finally declare with all of its might and resources that Black lives do matter. The goal for Black people has never been charity; it is full justice, human rights, freedom and the complete dismantling of white supremacy, beginning with the church.”

“As a faithful Catholic, I pray that Archbishop Gomez will see how his harmful remarks undermine the wisdom that the Black Catholic community and racial-justice organizers have to offer us all, along with their potential to renew our country and the world,” said Kyle de Beausset, Catholic organizer and Faithful America board member. “Faithful America’s members support the many Black Catholic leaders who have expressed dismay and we call on Archbishop Gomez to heed Pope Francis’ request for more pastoral leadership.”


Faith in Public Life is a national movement of clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice, equality and the common good. Together, with a network of over 50,000 leaders, they are leading the fight to advance just policies at the state and federal level that affirms our values and the human dignity of all.

Faithful America is the largest online community of grassroots Christians putting faith into action for social justice. We use rapid-response digital campaigns to challenge white supremacy and Christian nationalism, reclaim Christianity from the misinformation and discrimination of the religious right, and renew the church’s prophetic role in building a more free and just society. Members are both clergy and lay; represent every major Christian denomination in the U.S.; and live in all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. A one-quarter plurality of our members identify as Roman Catholic, and Faithful America supports their efforts to hold the U.S. Catholic hierarchy accountable to the inspiring words of Pope Francis.

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