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All of us are in need of personal, ongoing conversion. Our churches and our civic and social institutions are in need of ongoing reform. If racism is confronted by addressing its causes and the injustice it produces, then healing can occur. In that transformed reality, the headlines we see all too often today will become lessons from the past.
--Open Wide Our Hearts, 2018
Racism is a sin; a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of races. It is ... a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation.
--Brothers and Sisters to Us, 1979


Struggle Against Racism: Some Contributions of the Church, The Decade of Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, 2011

Intervention at the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human RightsDiarmuid Martin, Vatican Representative to the UN, 2003

Contribution to World Conference Against Racism, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2001

The Church and Racism: Towards a More Fraternal Society, updated version, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, 2001

Note. See also this collection of Bishops' Statements and Letters on Racism

National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, Statement on Racism

Subcommittee on African American Affairs, Reflections on the Movement for Black Lives (BLM)

Poverty and Racism, Catholic Charities USA, rev. ed. 2020

Combatting Racism: Education Resources, materials distributed by USCCB Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism

Open Wide Our Hearts--The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2018

Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself, US Catholic Bishops Speak Against Racism, abridged version, 2014

Statement on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurz, 2014

Response on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail, presented by Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, April 2013

Dwell in My Love: A Pastoral Letter on Racism, 10th anniversary edition, Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archdiocese of Chicago, 2011

In God's Image: Pastoral Letter on Racism, Archbishop (Emeritus) Harry Flynn, Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis, 2003

Solidarity: Arduous Journey to the "Promised Land," Pastoral Letter on Racism, Bishop Seán P. O’Malley, January 15, 2000

A Time for Remembering, Reconciling, and Recommitting Ourselves as a People, Statement of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on Native Americans, 1991

What We Have Seen and Heard, A Pastoral on Evangelization From the Black Bishops of the United States, 1984

Brothers and Sisters to Us, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1979

A Call to Overcome Racism, Pastoral Letter of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, 2016

Eliminate Racial and Religious Discrimination: See Every Person as My Sister or Brother, Catholic Conference of Canadian Bishops, 2004

A Generous Heart in the Love of Christ: Challenging Racism in Australia Today, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 2003


Newman, Mark. Desegregating Dixie: The Catholic Church in the South and Desegregation, 1945-1992. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2018.

Hill Fletcher, Jennine. The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism, and Religious Diversity in America. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017.

Grimes, Katie Walker. Fugitive Saints: Catholicism and the Politics of Slavery.  Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017.

Lloyd, Vincent, and Andrew Prevot, eds. Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017.

Day, Tammerie. Constructing Solidarity for a Liberative Ethic: Anti-Racism, Action, and Justice. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Massingale, Bryan N. Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010.

Nothwehr, Dawn M. That They May Be One: Catholic Social Teaching On Racism, Tribalism, and Xenophobia. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008.

Davis, Cyprian, and Jamie T. Phelps. "Stamped With the Image of God": African Americans As God's Image in Black. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003.

Duffey, Michael K. Sowing Justice, Reaping Peace: Case Studies of Racial, Religious, and Ethnic Healing Around the World. Franklin, WI: Sheed & Ward, 2001.


Cremer, Douglas J. "Toward an Anti-Racist Theology: American Racism and Catholic Social Thought" (2020). LMU/LLS Theses and Dissertations. 924. 

Brown, Annie Woodley. "Racism and the Christian Church in America: Caught Between the Knowledge of Good and Evil." Social Work in Public Health 34, no. 1 (2019): 134-44.

Burlingham, Kate. "Praying for Justice: The World Council of Churches and the Program to Combat Racism." Journal of Cold War Studies 21, no. 1 (2019): 66-96.

Grimes, Kathleen. "How the Uncanny Kinship Between Prison and Slavery Requires Catholic Social Teaching to Reconsider Its Stance on Crime and Punishment." Journal of Catholic Social Thought 16, no. 1 (2019): 39-63.

Mikulich, Alex. "Catholic Social Teaching and Race: Embracing Racial Intimacy." Journal of Catholic Social Thought 16, no. 1 (2019): 65-81.

Douglas Massey. "Segregation in 21st Century America." Journal of Catholic Social Thought 15, no. 2 (2018): 235-60.

Blount, Brian K. "Exploring Race/Racism Past and Present: A Forum at Union Presbyterian Seminary." Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 71, no. 4 (2017): 371-97.

Dávila, María Teresa. "Discussing Racial Justice in Light of 2016: Black Lives Matter, a Trump Presidency, and the Continued Struggle for Justice." Journal of Religious Ethics 45, no. 4 (2017): 761-92.

Keown, Gerald L. "A Word About … Racism and the Church." Review & Expositor 108, no. 4 (2011): 501-3.

Maclean, Iain S. "Dangerous Memories, Daring Documents, and the Demands of Discipleship: The Christian Church, Racism, and Racial Justice." Missiology: An International Review 32, no. 1 (2004): 15-35.

Mason, David R. "A Christian Alternative to Racism and Antisemitism.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 37, no. 2 (2000): 151.

Massingale, Bryan N. "James Cone and Recent Catholic Episcopal Teaching on Racism." Theological Studies 61, no. 4 (2000): 700-730.

Perkinson, Jim. "The Color of the Enemy in the New Millennium." CrossCurrents 50, no. 3 (2000): 349-68.

Pope Decries Shame of Racism, Like "Virus" Lurking in Wait, AP News, March 21, 2021

William E. Lori, Archbishop Lori: How Church Teaching Can Help Explain Why ‘Black Lives Matter,’ America, July 27, 2020

James Chesbro, We Need to Teach More Black Literature in Catholic SchoolsAmerica, July 21, 2020

Racism in the United States, National Catholic Reporter, July 17, 2020

Pope Francis on the Death of George Floyd: We Cannot Tolerate Racism and Claim to Defend Life, America, June 22, 2020

John Miller, Six Lessons for Police Reform From the Catholic ChurchAmerica, June 22, 2020

Shannen Dee Williams, If Racial Justice and Peace Will Ever Be Attained, It Must Begin in the Church, The Dialog, June 10, 2020

Shannen Dee Williams, What a Forgotten Black Nun Can Teach Us About Racism and COVID-19, America, June 8, 2020 

A Response to Racism [podcast], Commonweal, June 5, 2020

Cardinal Turkson Calls for Justice and Forgiveness Amid US Anti-Racism Protests, Vatican News, June 3, 2020

Pope Francis: No Tolerance for Racism, but Without Violence, Vatican News, June 3, 2020

Bryan Massingale, How the Church Can Combat Racism and White Privilege [video interview], America Media, June 2, 2020

Bryan Massingale, The Assumptions of White Privilege and What We Can Do About ItNational Catholic Reporter, June 1, 2020 

Tia Noelle Pratt, Black Catholics, Racism, and the Sex Abuse Crisis: A Personal Reflection, The Revealer, March 2, 2020

Carol Zimmerman, Pastoral Against Racism Is Starting Conversations, Healing, Bishops Told, Catholic News Service, November 2019

Jorge I. Dominguez-Lopez, The Three-Headed Beast of Racism, The Tablet, February 13, 2019

US Bishops Adopt New Anti-Racism Letter, First in Almost 40 Years, America, November 14, 2018

Brianna Heldt, Racism Is Subtle, Insidious and Too Easy to IgnoreNational Catholic Register, August 28, 2017

Steven D. Greydanus, Racism and the GospelNational Catholic Register, August 20, 2017

Bryan Massingale, The Church’s Appalling Silence on Racism, US Catholic, January 23, 2017

Compiled by Dr. Katie Grimes, Theology

The Movement for Black Lives has awakened the conscience of our nation, seeking to end the scourge of anti-black racism.  Heeding their call, in October, a group of Villanova students organized a poignant demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter.  In response to these events, the Institute for Catholic Social Thought’s Faith & Culture Forum has created a “Resource Guide for Teaching About Anti-Black Racism.”   

Mass Incarceration: These resources detail the ways in which the criminal justice system acts as a mechanism of anti-Black racism.

Film: The Central Park Five

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

A System of Racial and Social Control,” Michelle Alexander 

Racial Profiling on the Main Line” 

Black Lives Matter: These resources describe the effects of anti-Black violence on the interpersonal and structural levels.

Film: 13th 

Church Teaching: Cardinal George’s 2000 pastoral letter is widely recognized as one of the best magisterial documents about racism.  It provides a concise and representative overview of church teaching about the subject.

Dwell in My Love: A Pastoral Letter on Racism,” Cardinal George of Chicago

Racial Segregation: These resources both prove the existence of residential racial segregation and show how racial segregation is the product not of free choice but of anti-Black racism.

Census Maps:

The Case for Reparations,” Ta-Nehesi Coates

White Privilege: This is the classic text for discussing white privilege.  It helps students understand, concretely, how white privilege intersects with their lives.

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peggy McIntosh



1928: Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.

1929: Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:

What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.

1930: Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.

1931: Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as 'another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity." No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a brother.

1935: The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it:

Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design.