Last month, Bishop Boyea was invited to address the Lansing City Council on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. He used the occasion to explain the Catholic Church’s teaching on racism. In case you missed it, I would like to share some of the highlights of what he said here.
Bishop Boyea explained that the intrinsic dignity and worth of each human person is rooted in our common origin in God Almighty. Our dignity is not something we confer on ourselves or on one another. Rather, we are endowed with that dignity from our wise and loving Creator. Because idolizing myself is such an easy thing to do, to make myself the measure of how I view others, racism usually involves suppressing the truth of the nature of the other person. So, racism becomes a form of idolatry by placing myself in the place of God. It is a serious sin in violation of the First Commandment. To fight racism, he said, we must intentionally focus on God, who is the origin and destiny of us all. This is the foundation for the common dignity of all human beings.
We may wonder why God allowed all these differences among each other in the first place. Bishop Boyea said, there is no other reason than they can be the opportunity for the exchange of gifts, something that is made possible when we are kind, generous, and open to one another. He cautions, however, that too often we think that dialogue should always lead to agreement. It doesn’t. In fact, part of the exchange of gifts is to hear differences, value them, and recognize that should my views remain, they are never quite the same. Too many of us give up on dialogue simply because we don’t agree with one another. But, as Christians, we are called to listen and know the stories of our brothers and sisters. So, we must create opportunities to hear, with open hearts, the tragic stories that are deeply imprinted on the lives of our brothers and sisters, if we are to be moved with empathy to promote justice.
Bishop Boyea concluded by saying we are all made in the image of God. For Christians, this is fundamentally an action of seeking first the Kingdom of God such that all these things will follow (Matthew 6:33). He said, there is no magic way of achieving all these things. However, with good hearts, and with an abundance of God’s grace, we can move toward the full recognition of the human dignity of all our brothers and sisters. In the words of Bishop Boyea: may God bless us, our community, our state, and our country to reach such a noble goal.