Bishop McKnight calls for personal conversion toward ending racism


CLICK HERE to read the full text of Bishop McKnight's April 20, 2021, statement. 

CLICK HERE to read the U.S. Catholic bishops' May 2020 statement. 

CLICK HERE to read the U.S. Catholic bishops' pastoral letter, "Open Wide Our Hearts." 

Racism continues to contaminate society and the Church.

Three guilty verdicts against a former Minneapolis police officer in last May’s death of George Floyd do not change that.

“In our own communities, including in the Diocese of Jefferson City, individuals are being humiliated and denigrated because of their race,” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight stated April 20. “Their human dignity is being crushed and defiled because they are seen as ‘other’ or ‘less than.’”

The bishop was responding to the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, whose violent actions while arresting Mr. Floyd on May 20 were determined to have caused his death.

Videos of the incident set off waves of protests and demonstrations throughout the nation over race-based police brutality.

“Violence motivated by racism must stop,” said Bishop McKnight.

He said racism is always and everywhere wrong — an intrinsic evil — and that “it may exist even where we who are white do not see it.”

“It is too easy and dishonest to be indifferent to racism, to tell ourselves we have nothing to do with the pain and suffering, the terror, which some people who are not white internalize each day,” he said.

He insisted that all human beings are sisters and brothers to one another, regardless of race, language of creed.

He reiterated the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ declaration that “racism is a life issue.”

The bishops, speaking in May 2020 in the immediate wake of Mr. Floyd’s death, called racism “a real and present danger that must be met head-on.”

They said Catholics must stand for “the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference.”

“We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life,” the bishops stated. “We serve a God of love, mercy and justice.”

Bishop McKnight said taking a stand for “right and just actions” requires more than simply declaring, “I am not a racist.”

“It requires each of us to look at how we are impacted by the culture in which we live,” he said.

He pointed out that activities that white people take for granted — such as attending public events, shopping, or walking by an impromptu social gathering — can be moments of humiliation and danger for people who are not white.

“We cannot be indifferent to this deprivation of basic human dignity, which eventually endangers human lives,” he said.

He expressed thanks to all people who are seen as minorities in this country “who suffer great persecution and hardship and yet endeavor to persevere and remain faithful to God’s desire that all people should live in peace and harmony.”

He said racism will not stop until every person makes a deep commitment to conversion. 

“I pray for an awakening of consciences in every American, but especially in our faithful,” he stated.

Bishop McKnight promised to pray for the repose of the soul of George Floyd, for Derek Chauvin, for their family and friends, “and for all who have lost their lives due to racial violence.”

“I also ask all people to join with me in praying for a conversion of hearts and minds, beginning with ourselves,” he said. “This is the only way to end violence and bring about real peace in our communities.”