Question for L.A.’s Bishop Barron

Why bring up bishops' letter on racism to the Covington boys?

From Bishop Barron’s Twitter page

The following comes from a Feb. 20 posting on the stmarycoldcase blog.

I ran into this piece in City Journal by Heather MacDonald, one of the more thoughtful writers in the past two decades:


The Jussie Smollett case, in which a young black, gay actor has apparently concocted a tale of being attacked by two white men wearing MAGA hats and shouting anti-gay slurs, is just the latest example of how desperately media elites want to confirm their favored narrative about America: that the country is endemically and lethally racist, sexist, and homophobic, and that the election of Donald Trump both proves and reinforces such bigotry.The truth: as instances of actual racism get harder and harder to find, the search to find such bigotry becomes increasingly frenzied and unmoored from reality.

This is simply a respectable restatement of the more irreverent YouTube opinions I cited yesterday: there are so few actual racists that Smollett and the complicit media had to outsource the role of white racists to Nigerian actors. MacDonald ties this, as many have, to the Covington hoax:

The Smollett case is a rerun of the Covington hoax, which mobilized an identical longing on the part of the media and political elites to confirm the narrative of American racism, now exacerbated in the era of Trump. Native American activist Nathan Phillips concocted an outright lie about his interaction with the Covington Catholic High School students, and he, too, became an instant, revered celebrity. Then as now, public figure after public figure announced that MAGA hats were the very symbol of white supremacy.

Separately, Nick Sandmann’s family has sued the Washington Post for $250 million. Again, let’s not forget that a number of Catholic bishops joined in the media pile on. Bishop of Lexington John Stowe hasn’t retracted these remarks:

I am ashamed that the actions of Kentucky Catholic high school students have become a contradiction of the very reverence for human life that the march is supposed to manifest.

Er, they stood calmly waiting for their buses home while not responding to provocative actions from two groups of agitators? But Stowe gets to the real meat of his argument farther down:

This past November, the U.S. Catholic bishops issued their first pastoral letter on racism since 1979.This letter speaks of the structural kind of racism that has worked itself into the fabric of our nation. It describes the unspeakable sins from the slave trade in which the Church was itself complicit as well as the sins of national policies that deprived Native Americans of their lands and livelihood. The pastoral letter describes racism as a “life” issue; that perspective needs to become part of our educational curriculum. Students must grapple with this history and ask themselves how they are going to live differently.

The problem I see here is that there’s a respectable body of opinion, which MacDonald represents, that says there’s an elite narrative that the US is “endemically and lethally racist, sexist, and homophobic, and that the election of Donald Trump both proves and reinforces such bigotry”. Thus the grave moral defect Bp Stowe sees with schoolboys wearing MAGA hats that they lightheartedly bought from Washington street vendors on a field trip.

It’s more and more apparent to me that Bp Barron, speaking on behalf of the USCCB in bringing up the same November 2018 letter, is aligning himself with Bp Stowe. But isn’t Bp Barron an auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, one of the most diverse anywhere? Wasn’t his boss, Abp Gómez, born in Mexico? Does Bp Barron even look around in the nave when he visits his parishes?

Kentucky, of course, stayed out of the Confederacy during the US Civil War, which was fought over the “unspeakable sins” that Stowe mentions. What, precisely, should the Covington Catholic boys have done differently, other than possibly not wear MAGA hats? How, more precisely, would Bp Stowe urge the boys to “live differently” other than this? Are they attending segregated schools? Do they ride on segregated buses? Have they in fact bullied or harassed anyone on a racial basis? Have they gone to a lynching? Or is it just that they have to deal with some vague endemic racism, and maybe more to the point, “homophobia”, which the gay movement that Stowe supprts seeks to link with racism?

Legally sanctioned racism, in the form of miscegnation laws, segregation in public facilities, and segregation in schools had disappeared by the 1960s, largely in fact during the Republican Eisenhower administration. “Racism” as now defined consists almost entirely of presumptive “dog whistles” and microaggressions. One anecdote that’s come from the Smollett case is that the Nigerians, hired to wear MAGA hats for the staged “attack” on Smollett, could not find such hats for sale in liberal Chicago and had to settle for ordinary red ones without lettering.

Indeed, legally sanctioned “homophobia” disappeared with the abolition of sodomy laws. So far, Church teaching still supports traditional marriage, so this, at least for a Catholic, is not “homophobia”. What do Bps Stowe and Barron now think “homophobia”, on a par with “racism”, consists of? What do the Covington boys need to do to change their lives over it?

There’s another agenda now at work, which includes linking “homophobia” to “racism”, effectively hitchhiking a movement of privileged individuals already in the elite onto the prestige of the black civil rights movement, an entirely different thing. When the USCCB, Bp Stowe, and now unfortunately Bp Barron, say “racism”, I think they really mean “homophobia” — racism is a dead letter and has been for generations. For that matter, the same applies to “homophobia”. What’s the real agenda here?

Bp Barron and the other bishops who endorse this view are doing it, I think, to preserve their careers and avoid controversy. Isn’t this another way to say worldliness?

We need better bishops.


  1. Not a single St. John Fisher among them

  2. The assertion that legally sanctioned racism had disappeared during the Eisenhower administration is flat-out untrue. The writer of this article needs to learn about the civil rights movement during the 1960’s.

    • I said it was “largely” during the Eisenhower admin. Segregation on trains and buses was banned by the ICC in 1956. Brown v Board of Education was 1954. The Little Rock school desegregation was 1957. The Rosa Parks Birmingham protest was 1955. Martin Luther King made his reputation during these years, and he was able to use his prestige to pressure Kennedy to make progress on civil rights, on which he dragged his feet during his lifetime. The 1964 voting rights act was passed only with Republican votes.

      • Side note: But Freedom of Association (along with property rights) down the drain is not progress. Nor is the wresting of state power by the federal agent through bad law.

  3. This is a good example of a well-written script that glosses over real facts with imagined ones. Racism is, in fact, rampant across the nation. It still exists in housing, in income disparities, in incarceration rates, police pull-overs for minor offenses, police shootings of non-whites at a higher rate than white people. If you want a real problem, think about every event going viral and becoming “truth” before there is an investigation for truth. The Bishops piled on the vitriol before a full investigation was complete, now they need to walk it back. To say that homophobia went out years ago is to deny much of the writing on this site.

    • Racism is not rampant. It has to be fabricated by the leftist demagogues because there’s so little of it. Much of what you ascribe to racism is actually a matter of character deficiency. Minorities commit crimes and make poor life choices at disproportionately higher rates, so it would make sense that they would suffer the negative consequences of those poor choices at higher rates. Of course, people with your mindset will cry that my comment is racist. It’s just the truth. Is the truth racist? To the left, it is.

  4. Your Fellow Catholic says

    The assertion that legally sanctioned homophobia went out with sodomy laws is also flat-out untrue. It is still legal in most states to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. It is legal in many states to deny housing to someone based on their sexual orientation. It is legal to deny credit in some states on the basis of sexual orientation. It is legal to deny health power of attorneys to some people based on sexual orientation.

    Just because this Smollett guy is a jerk doesn’t mean that there isn’t racism or homophobia in society. It just means that this particular jerk tried to use their presence to justify guilt tripping his employers for a raise.

  5. CHB: Do you discuss the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s? Are you implying that the ’60s were a radical contradiction to the ’50s on race relations? By my historical perception and experience, the ’60s were an outflow from the ’50s. The ’50s witnessed major steps forward in the eradication of legally sanctioned racism. The ’60s followed with more popular anti-racist measures throughout the culture. I recall very, very clearly how the civil rights movement changed in the ’70s into a drive for Affirmative Action. The latter phase had nothing to do with “judging a man by his character and not by the color of his skin.” Those Affirmative Action measures were too radical and reflected a kind of reverse racism that offended…

  6. Mr. Bruce: you continue to assert outright falsehoods. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed in the Senate and House of Representatives with affirmative votes from both Democrats and Republicans. It was signed by President Johnson who was a Democrat. You would do well to do a bit more research prior to making such outlandish claims.

  7. As a caucasian, maybe I’m simplistic and/or naive. Yes, laws were passed in the 50s and 60s. Some of the effects of this included private schools to avoid racial school integration and ‘white flight’ to avoid residential integration. The SCOUTS recently voided parts of the Voting Rights Act. Perhaps we’ve come a good way. I believe we still have a long way to go.

  8. My typo. Obviously should have been SCOTUS
    My bad.

  9. Heather MacDonald’s original article, The Frenzied Search for Racism, should be read by anyone interested in this thread. It speaks directly to Bishop Stowe’s poorly directed and poorly chosen remarks about the Covington students, and leads inescapably, to this reader at least, that yes, we need better bishops.

  10. Bishop Barron started out promising when he was just Father Barron. I liked his Catholicism DVD series. Now that he’s something of a media darling and a bishop he’s stale. He’s held up as “the next Fulton Sheen.” He ain’t no Fulton Sheen. Not even close. I can’t see that he’s been that effective in apologetics, and he’s sorely lacking in courage when speaking about controversial doctrines. All he cares about is building his Word on Fire empire. If you like milquetoast clergy he’s your man. He’s not mine.

  11. IMHO Bishop Barron is the right man for our time as Bishop Sheen was for his. Bishop Barron is doing the best one can do under these dreadful conditions – scandals, etc. Let us pray for the success of Bishop Barron’s efforts.

    • CHB, I am ambivalent about Bishop Barron, but given the times we live in, maybe his low-key approach is the best we can hope for. Notice the Protestants don’t have any Billy Grahams– and we don’t have any Fulton Sheens. We have entered into an age of relativism that reacts harshly to strong dogmatic types as represented by these two. The trend now seems to be toward changing Christian understanding of sexuality and with this a strong aversion towards those Scriptures and Tradition not in keeping with the new learning. Hard to be dogmatic about salvation if one is detached from these moorings . Hard to be dogmatic about anything for fear of prosecution for hate speech. Not a climate conducive to producing a Sheen.

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