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AUSCP finds comments scandalous, racism systemic

U.S. Priests call for acknowledgement of ‘virus of racism’

July 2, 2020

We who are entrusted with leadership by the members of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests are embarrassed, appalled and disgusted that one of our brother priests (not a member of the AUSCP) has published such words as those recently reported in the IndyStar. 

The Indianapolis newspaper cited quoted from the pastor’s recent weekly message. In it, Father Theodore Rothrock described proponents of Black Lives Matter as “maggots and parasites” and said that “The only lives that matter are their own and the only power they seek is their own.”

Without knowing or judging what is in the pastor’s heart, publishing such words is a sinful act of racism according to the U.S. bishops’ pastoral, Open Wide our Hearts.

In that pastoral, the bishops said, “Every racist act—every such comment, every joke, every disparaging look as a reaction to the color of skin, ethnicity, or place of origin—is a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister, created in the image of God. In these and in many other such acts, the sin of racism persists in our lives, in our country, and in our world.”

We, as AUSCP members in dioceses and religious communities throughout the United States, acknowledge with Pope Francis that none of us is without sin. As we understand the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 18: 15-18), it is too late to point out this error in private. It must be taken to the whole church.

We pray, with the members of the presbyterate in the Diocese of Lafayette, that they along with priests throughout the United States would acknowledge this singular manifestation of how deep in all of us may be this virus of racism. We pray that the presbyterate of the Diocese of Lafayette exercise its obligation of fraternal correction, with charity and justice.

According to a statement from the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana July 1, Bishop Timothy Doherty “expresses his pastoral concern for the affected communities” and he suspended Father Rothrock from public ministry. Further, it states the suspension offers the bishop “an opportunity for pastoral discernment for the good of the diocese and for the good of Father Rothrock.” We acknowledge the timely first steps taken in the diocese, but must point out that published words have spread far beyond the borders of the diocese to the nation and the world. We hope the bishop and his priests will go beyond the scandalizing words of one priest on one weekend, and attack the systemic racism that allowed one priest to think such words were acceptable. All of us in the Church need to do the same.

(Signed) Rev. Greg Barras
Chair of the Leadership Team
Association of U.S. Catholic Priests

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