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Open Wide Our Hearts

In November 2018 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a much anticipated pastoral letter on racism, Open Wide Our Hearts, at the bishops’ General Meeting. The letter built on the work of the bishops’ Peace in Our Communities Task Force, which was established in 2016 in response to a series of incidence of police violence against African Americans, and the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, which was formed in 2017 to coordinate a more comprehensive response to racism by the Church in the United States. Open Wide Our Hearts is the bishops’ first major statement on racism since 1979’s Brothers and Sisters To Us. In this symposium, a number of scholars offer an appreciative but critical appraisal of the pastoral letter.

Symposium Essays

Blackface and White Comfort: Reading The Bishops’ Letter from Charlottesville

The US Catholic bishops’ pastoral letter Open Wide Our Hearts seeks to assuage white guilt rather than inspire a courageous stand against white supremacy.

The Conversion of Hearts and the Sin of Racism

In Open Wide Our Hearts, the US Catholic bishops successfully describe how racism has historically been at the heart of American life, but the pastoral letter emphasizes personal conversion at the expense of structural transformation.

Open Wide Our Hearts—The Ups and the Downs

The United States Catholic bishops’ recent pastoral letter on racism shows how racism has been woven into the history of the US, and is honest about the Church’s past complicity in that racism. It says less about how Catholics today can combat systemic racism, but offers hope for fruitful dialogues throughout the country.

Where Have All the Asians Gone?

Although recognizing the discrimination faced by Chinese and Japanese Americans in the past, Open Wide Our Hearts could say more on the experience of Asian Americans as “model minorities” within the system of white racism.

Dismantling White Privilege: A Reflection on Open Wide Our Hearts

Since the arrival of the first African slaves at Jamestown in 1619, Eurocentric racist ideals and practices have been embedded in the culture of the United States. The Church must learn from the history of racism in the United States if it is to dismantle systemic racism.