In just a matter of days, more than 9,000 signatures have been added to a petition calling for Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles to apologize for his recent speech criticizing social justice movements as “pseudo religions”.
The initiative, organized by Faithful America and Faith in Public Life, was timed to coincide with the beginning of the Fall General Assembly of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), of which Gomez is president.
“Archbishop Gomez should listen to Pope Francis and hear from those of us whose social justice advocacy is inspired by our faith,” the petition description reads.
“Catholic bishops and other religious leaders ought to be in the streets with racial-justice movement organizers—not demeaning them.”
The petition organizers issued a press release today noting participation from a number of Black Catholic theologians and scholars, among them Fr Bryan Massingale of Fordham University and Dr. Kathleen Dorsey Bellow of the Xavier University of Louisiana.
“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,” said Ford.
“Black Lives Matter and other justice movements are secular expressions of Jesus’ presence among those who are reviled and rejected.”
Williams added that “the denial of the dignity and sanctity of Black life… [is] a foundational sin of the [US] Catholic Church” and that the Church overall “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 release also included comments from White Catholic leaders, including members of the organizations behind the petition, who highlighted Gomez’ willingness to dialogue with (and receive funding) Far Right activists while impugning progressives fighting for racial justice.
Ford echoed the sentiment and said it underscores “why Black theologians must continue to proclaim boldly: ‘God is Black!’… that God is incarnated among those who are poor and oppressed as Jesus was.”
“I urge Archbishop Gomez to meet with social movement leaders and theologians to find common ground in our shared commitment to human dignity.”
The organizers plan to deliver the petition to Gomez prior to the public session of the USCCB meeting and are asking interested parties to sign by the end of the day today, November 12th.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).