Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the Hebrew Scriptures the prophet Micah gives us a simple but very challenging formula for holiness. He writes,
“… This is what Yahweh asks of you: Only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
This is the spirit that I hope all of you will bring to the discussion of racism and racial justice in our church and in our society. We cannot be a church that is true to the demands of the Gospel if we do not act justly, if we do not act to root out racism in the structures of our society and our church. And we cannot achieve personal holiness if we do not love tenderly, if we do not love and respect all human beings, regardless of their race, language, or ethnic heritage.
Only if we do these things can we expect to walk humbly with our God. For our God is a God of love and justice, a God who made all of us in His image. Racism is a denial of that fact. It is an offense against God. I realize that the subject of race can be a very difficult one for all of us. Yet I am convinced that we must address it with honesty and courage. For it remains a significant and sinful reality in our midst.
I am issuing this pastoral letter as an invitation to discussion and dialogue. I hope all of you will accept this invitation by taking part in discussions in your parish and community. By engaging in such a dialogue, we can all enhance our understanding of the role that race plays in our lives and we can join together in working to combat racism in all its forms.
Thank you for your commitment to the values of human dignity and racial justice.
God bless you,
Most Reverend Harry J. Flynn
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
More than 20 years ago the Catholic bishops of the United States issued a major pastoral letter on racism, Brothers and Sisters to Us. In that letter we declared that 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.
Now, more than two decades later, I am saddened to observe that racism remains a very real and powerful force among us. Despite our efforts to combat it, racism continues to mar our humanity as a deep wound in our midst. It is a destructive force in our personal lives, in our Church, and in society.
Different Types of Racism
Racism takes many forms, but at its core it is a personal and social disorder rooted in the assumption that one race is superior to another. Racism occurs not only in the actions of the majority culture toward people of color, but also between and within ethnic communities. In one way or another, racism affects all of us. This letter will focus primarily on racism by people from the United States dominant culture against people of color.
Some have given racism the working definition of “prejudice with power.” In this sense, it involves not only prejudice, but also the use of social, economic, and political power to keep one race in a privileged position and to exclude others.
I believe that two broad types of racism need to be recognized and resisted: individual and institutional. Individual racism is evident when a person adopts attitudes or takes actions that are based on the assumption of racial superiority. Such attitudes and actions violate the rights and dignity of other people because of race.
A second type of racism is institutional or structural. This type of racism exists where patterns of racial superiority are embedded in the systems and institutions of society. Such racism is less blatant and more complex, but it exists nonetheless. It is present wherever systems and institutions are created and maintained in such a way that they provide privilege or prejudice for one race over others. This type of racism can be seen, to varying degrees, in many of our social, economic, and political structures, including the structures of our Church.
Reflections on My Own Experiences
I write this letter from my own perspective, that of a Caucasian, male, well educated, middle class Church official. My perceptions about racism are rooted in this reality of my own experience. As we reflect on the sin of racism, I believe that each of us should be conscious of our social location and the influence that it has on how we think about differences among people.
Racism is a form of xenophobia, a fear or dislike of those who are different from us. Each of us has some element of this fear within our hearts. In my own experience, I remember an incident on my sixth birthday. My mother said I could invite the members of my grade school class, and I replied that I would like to, but one of the girls in my class was African American, and I said that I didn’t think I wanted to invite her. Fine, said my mother, you don’t have to invite her, but if you don’t, then you won’t have a birthday party.
I still have a vivid memory of that birthday party and of my mother warmly greeting the young African American girl as she came up the sidewalk to attend the party. That single act made a very deep impression on me. In an instant, my mother dissolved some of the xenophobia that had been in my heart.
Years later, when I became bishop of Lafayette, Louisiana, I repeatedly heard stories of blatant racism — both within the society and within the Catholic Church. For example, during Mass in a predominantly white parish, a young African American Catholic extended his hand to give a greeting of peace and was told by the white gentleman next to him, “I don’t shake hands with your type.”
Another experience that disturbed me occurred when I first visited the prison in Angola, Louisiana. I entered the “death house,” the unit that houses death row inmates, and I saw only African Americans. This stark experience convinced me that racism is not only a matter of individual bigotry; it is also an institutional and structural reality in society.
Now, as the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis I continue to have a deep concern about the reality of racism. As I observe our state, and especially the metropolitan region, I see a community that is changing rapidly. In 1990 only about 6 percent of Minnesotans identified themselves as nonwhites. A decade later, that figure had almost doubled.  Consider the fact that during the 1990s the Hispanic population of Minnesota grew by 166 percent. The Archdiocese now has 18 parishes with significant Latino populations and bilingual staff, and has identified several more growing Latino populations in need of ministry in Spanish — up from just nine Hispanic parishes four years ago.
In the future, Minnesota’s population is expected to continue becoming even more diverse in terms of race and ethnicity. It is within this increasingly diverse community that we must all confront the persistent reality of racism.
An additional factor that must be recognized is that the tragedy of September 11, 2001, has created a growing awareness of issues related to discrimination against ethnic populations from the Middle East. Addressing this type of discrimination will be an essential part of our efforts to fight racism in the future.
It has been my observation that racism in Minnesota is no less real and no less serious than that which I experienced in Louisiana. However, racism here is sometimes more subtle, less blatant. It might take the form of ignoring or turning a cold shoulder to people of color, rather than saying overtly, “I don’t shake hands with people of your type.” Racism here is often more indirect and less open.
I sometimes hear remarks from community or parish leaders who say, “We’re not racist. We don’t have a problem here.” As sincere as these remarks might be, I believe they are based on lack of awareness, on ignorance. For racism is a fact of life in our region, as evidenced by the daily experiences of the Latino, African American, Native American, Asian, and African people who are a part of our community. This racism hurts all of us — not only people of color, but also hurts people in the dominant culture.
On a personal level, I can share a story that deeply disturbed me. An African American woman whom I know as a faithful Catholic and a dedicated leader in our diocese was attending Mass at the Cathedral. As she stood to get in line to receive Holy Communion, she was approached by a young usher who said, “I’m sorry, ma’am, this is only for Catholics.”
While my own experience of racial diversity prior to coming to Minnesota was primarily among African American Catholics, I am very aware that issues of race in this Archdiocese affect many different racial and ethnic populations. On numerous occasions I have heard troubling stories about Asian, Native American and Latino people who have been treated with disrespect or bias because of the color of their skin. Whether it is being stopped unnecessarily by the police, being ridiculed because of cultural customs, or being the victim of overt discrimination, people of color in our community have daily experiences which demonstrate that racism remains a powerful force in our society.
Despite Progress, Racism Persists
During the past 40 years our nation has made significant progress in the struggle for racial justice. There is a greater appreciation for the value of racial and ethnic diversity and a greater willingness to condemn blatant and overt forms of racist behavior. Important legislation has been passed that officially protects civil rights and promotes greater racial equality. For many people of color this has meant an opportunity to make important advances in terms of economic and social wellbeing.
Yet, as is evident in the examples I cited above, racism is alive and well today. It remains in our midst as one of America’s and Minnesota’s most serious unresolved evils. It divides us in fundamental ways, and it threatens the lives and dignity of millions of human beings.
The faces of racism are many and varied, but the evidence is all around us. For example:
At the same time, the facts and figures of contemporary life demonstrate the disturbing economic and social gap that exists between white people and people of color. For example:
When we see these extreme disparities in social and economic outcomes for people of color as compared to whites, we need not agree on the precise cause of these inequities. The very existence of these disparities based on race is an offense against the basic norms of social justice. For these extreme inequalities are clear signs that the principles of human dignity and human equality are not being fully realized. They are a clear call for us to respond and to undo these injustices, even if we have not personally and directly caused them.
Experiences and facts such as these convince me that racism is a continuing problem for all of us. It is a social evil in which we all share and from which we all suffer. If we are to grow spiritually as individuals and socially as a community, then we all need to do more to come to grips with the sin of racism in our own hearts and within the institutions that make up our church and our society.
Church Teaching on Racism
Racism is a serious moral evil. It is a sin. This has been the clear message from the moral teaching of the Church. Both the Scriptures and contemporary Church teaching help us to understand why racism is such a serious violation of God’s will.
In our national pastoral letter on racism we bishops noted how racism is a rejection of the most basic values of the Scriptures:
God’s word proclaimed the oneness of the human family – from the first words of Genesis, to the “Come, Lord
Jesus” of the Book of Revelation. God’s word in Genesis announces that all men and women are created in God's image; not just some races and racial types, but all bear the imprint of the Creator and are enlivened by the breath of His one Spirit …
[Racism] mocks the words of Jesus: “Treat others the way you would have them treat you.” Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation. 
Those words remind us how seriously racism violates God’s will for us. It contradicts the meaning of the Incarnation and threatens our salvation. With the Incarnation, Jesus entered human history to transcend and transform the divisions of human sinfulness. He calls us to a communion with one another, a unity that reflects the unity of God’s own being in the Holy Trinity. In his life Jesus modeled this unity and deep reverence for the dignity of each person he met. Whether it was the Samaritan woman, the tax collector, the leper, or the prostitute, Jesus treated all people with the reverence that is their due as children of God.
If we are to follow the example of Jesus, then we must be keenly aware that every person is formed in the image and likeness of God. Every person must be treated with a deep reverence and respect. For we are all sons and daughters of the one God, in whose sacredness we share. God intends that we all live in harmony, that we practice a love that unites us and reflects our fundamental equality as human beings.
Racism is a serious offense against God precisely because it violates the innate dignity of the human person. At its core racism is a failure to love our neighbor. Since we cannot claim to love God unless we love our neighbor, we can only be one with God if we reject racism and work aggressively to remove it from our personal lives, our church, and our society.
Pope John Paul II, in an important teaching document entitled “Ecclesia in America,” reminds us,
Every offense against the dignity of the person is an offense against God himself, in whose image human beings are made. This dignity is common to all, without exception, since all have been created in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:26).
Jesus’ answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” (Lk 10:29) demands of each individual an attitude of respect for the dignity of others and of real concern for them, even if they are strangers ... (cf. Lk 10:30-37). 
As the very name “Catholic” implies, one of the primary characteristics of our Church is its universality. We are a church that is extremely diverse, representing races and ethnic groups from every part of the globe. We Catholics in North America sometimes forget that, on a worldwide scale, the majority of Catholics are people of color. These words of Pope John Paul II remind us of the universal nature of the Church:
The Catholic Church, which embraces men and women “of every nation, race, people and tongue” (Rev 7:9) is called to be, “in a world marked by ideological, ethnic, economic and cultural divisions,” the “living sign of the unity of the human family.” 
Responding in Our Personal Lives
Responding to the sin of racism must begin with each of us examining our own selves on this subject. We need to be open to a change of heart. We should ask God’s Spirit to remove from us all traces of racial prejudice. We should avoid racial stereotypes, slurs and jokes. We should correct any expressions or racist attitudes among family members, friends, and co-workers. We should seek opportunities to know and learn from people of other races.
Resisting racism also means examining our basic instincts and assumptions about race. How do these assumptions shape our daily lives? What are our fears about people of other races? In what ways do we act differently when we drive through certain neighborhoods? How do we carry ourselves in situations where we interact with people of other races? Are we able to see Jesus in people whose skin color is different from ours or whose language is different from ours?
I concur with my predecessor, Archbishop Roach, who said, “An appreciation of racial diversity begins with an understanding of how our own lives are affected by skin color and race. Each of us should examine how our thinking and our actions are influenced by the color of our skin. How has my skin color enhanced my life or hindered me, helped or prevented me from understanding people of other races? How can I enhance my own life by learning more about other races?” (Reviving the Common Good, 1991)
For our own spiritual development, it is important that each of us come to understand that loving only people who are just like ourselves, loving only those who share our own ethnic or cultural background does not adequately fulfill the challenge of the Gospel. All of us are called to develop a sense of solidarity with our neighbors who are racially and culturally distinct from us. In doing so, we begin to live out the unity in diversity that is reflected in the life of the Holy Trinity.
Combating racism also means that we need to develop a healthy appreciation of racial diversity. We need to learn more about the rich contributions that can be made, and are being made to our society by diverse cultures. We need to see more clearly the wide diversity of cultural and social gifts that are part of all of our communities – Spanish speaking communities, European communities, Native American Tribal communities, African/African American communities, Asian communities, Pacific Island communities, and among all peoples of color. These cultures make valuable contributions to the tapestry of our human family. Through their life experiences, music, art, and unique cultural values, each of these communities enriches our society and makes it more fully human.
Developing this appreciation for diversity requires that we find regular opportunities to speak and work with people of races other than our own. We need to listen to each other's stories, to work together, to identify common goals and to stand on common ground. By doing so, we can begin to realize the kind of unity that reflects the presence of God in our midst.
Responding in the Church
It has been said that ten o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours in American society. Certainly, we in the Church must recognize that we have not done as well as we should in eradicating racism from our midst. I fear that we have sometimes preached the Gospel while closing our eyes to the racism that it condemns.
I believe that our Church must strive to be a sacrament, a sign of love and racial justice. We must be a leaven in the wider society by demonstrating our appreciation of diversity, the welcoming nature of our community, and the firm commitment that we have to fight racism in all its forms. Our church must become an institution that is seen by people of color as a place where their concerns are heard and as a partner in their struggles to achieve racial justice.
We cannot be this sacrament, this leaven, if we ourselves are captured by the sin of racism in the Church. Therefore, we need to do more – both within parishes and within archdiocesan structures to combat racism and to develop an authentic solidarity with those who are of races and cultures other than our own.
An important first step is to recognize and welcome the contributions of all races and cultures. All of us have much to gain from the rich cultural, social, and economic contributions that are being made by people of diverse cultures and ethnic traditions in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
In the same way that the Irish, Polish, German, and Scandinavian immigrants contributed to the strength and growth of our nation during the early part of the last century, so too do today’s immigrants and different ethnic and racial groups make an invaluable contribution to our society and our culture. They bring gifts that make our society more diverse and more fully human. All of us, whatever our race or skin color, should make a special effort to recognize and applaud these diverse gifts and to integrate them into our church and into the mainstream of American society.
At the parish level, we need to make a conscious and explicit commitment to welcome those of other races and ethnic backgrounds. Too often our parishes reflect a pattern that is culturally and racially homogenous, often reflecting the homogenous neighborhoods in which they are located. Unfortunately, this can lead toward Catholic parishes being racially and culturally exclusive. To combat this tendency, we need to transform our parish communities so that they appreciate racial diversity, they reach out to people of other races, and they are themselves racially and culturally diverse. These goals will not happen easily or automatically. They require concerted action and a willingness to undertake strategic planning toward these ends.
In a special way the celebration of the Eucharist should be a sign of unity and an inspiration for the kind of welcoming communities that our parishes seek to become. For the Eucharist reflects the solidarity and human dignity to which Jesus Christ calls us. When we gather around the altar, we do so as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the one God. We are radically equal as we gather to receive the Body of Christ. And, as we receive Christ’s Body, we become the Body of Christ, a body of disciples united in our commitment to love and justice. Moreover, when we leave the altar to go out into the world and to carry on our daily lives, we commit ourselves to transforming the world so that it becomes the Body of Christ, so that it reflects the love and justice that we celebrate around the altar.
In a profound sense, then, the Eucharist is always a sign and celebration that stands against racism and prejudice. It changes us and asks us to change the world so that racial tolerance and racial justice will grow.
Our archdiocese is blessed to have a rapidly growing number of parish communities that celebrate their own culture and bring the gifts of their ethnic heritage to the sacramental worship of the Eucharist. Such culturally specific forms of liturgy and devotional practice are a positive and important expression of faith and a source of strength for these parishes. This point is made clear in the official teaching documents of the Church.  For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church includes the following instruction:
The celebration of the liturgy … should correspond to the genius and culture of the different peoples. In order that the mystery of Christ be ‘made known to all the nations … to bring about the obedience of faith,’ it must be proclaimed, celebrated, and lived in all cultures in such a way that they themselves are not abolished by it, but redeemed and fulfilled (#1204).
It is not enough, however, to have a growing number of culturally specific worshiping communities. Our goal must be to create intercultural communities where people of different cultures become part of one community in which all are transformed in Christ. In these communities, different cultural groups can maintain their unique cultural practices, but they participate in one diverse community in which all are enriched and all welcome one another.
This vision of intercultural parishes has not yet become a reality in all of our parishes. We need to continue working to ensure that culturally specific worshiping communities are not treated as second-class citizens. Especially in places where communities of color and predominantly white parishes share the same buildings and facilities, white parishioners need to make a special effort to reach out to people of color and to welcome them as brothers and sisters in the one body of Christ. All of us need to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the voices and contributions of every community within our Church are fully integrated into the activities and structures of parish and archdiocesan life.
In the coming months, it is my hope that every parish will take specific steps to establish a process whereby parish members can meet and discuss issues of race and cultural diversity. Through such a process they can share their own experiences, learn from others, and develop specific strategies to help their parish become more sensitive to issues of race and culture and more active in combating institutionalized racism. To assist in this process, the archdiocese has prepared a discussion guide to accompany this pastoral letter.
I encourage all of the priests of the archdiocese to preach frequently and pointedly about this issue. I also hope that they will assist their parishes in becoming culturally inclusive and enthusiastic in their appreciation of racial diversity.
I encourage the clergy to take leadership in assisting their parishes in developing partnerships with other parishes that are racially and culturally different from their own. A significant number of parishes have already initiated such relationships, and I applaud these efforts. As these existing initiatives have demonstrated, such partnerships are most effective if the sharing involved is more than one-directional and involves more than financial assistance. If these efforts are to be successful in promoting greater interracial understanding, then they need to get beyond the provision of money and volunteer assistance. A primary goal should be to assist parishioners in developing substantive and lasting relationships with people of other races and cultures. Only in this way will people begin to hear the stories of people from other races and begin to understand their reality and their perspective on the world.
At the archdiocesan level, I am committed to ensuring that people of color have a “place at the table” in the decision-making and leadership structures of the archdiocese. We will take affirmative steps to make sure that the values and vision of people of color help shape our direction as a church.
We will renew and expand our efforts to recruit staff and lay leaders from communities of color. In particular, it is my sincere hope that more men of color will come forward and accept God’s invitation to serve the Church as priests and deacons. Our church needs the contributions of these future leaders if we are to become a faith community that ministers effectively to the needs of our rapidly changing membership.
At the seminary I am committed to increasing the diversity within the student population and to creating an atmosphere that is attractive and welcoming to seminarians from diverse racial backgrounds. The seminary will continue to expand its initiatives to prepare future priests who are sensitive to the sin of racism, who appreciate racial and ethnic diversity, and who are well equipped to minister with intercultural communities. Language is only one element necessary for effective ministry to our non-English-speaking brothers and sisters. Ministry must also take into account cultural differences that are integral to our diverse community of believers.
I call upon all of the educational institutions of the archdiocese to be especially alert to the issues of racism and prejudice and to consciously strive to prepare students who are committed to racial tolerance and racial justice. Where appropriate, materials can be integrated in the curriculum so that students are equipped to understand and combat racism in both its individual and institutional forms.
Our archdiocesan offices also play an important role. I ask them to be proactive in sensitizing Catholics to the reality of racism in all of its forms and to assisting parishes in their efforts to become communities where racial solidarity and racial justice are evident and effective. To be true to our mission as a church of Jesus Christ and a universal church, we must integrate an appreciation for and a commitment to racial diversity into all of our ministries and services.
Responding in Public Life
Our commitment to combat racism and promote racial diversity must also extend to the public arena. Both individually and collectively we need to resist the racism that we find embedded in the social, economic, political, and cultural institutions of our society, and we need to work for the transformation of these institutions.
There is a tendency on the part of some people to say, “I am not prejudiced. I am not a racist. I did not cause or contribute to the racial injustices of the past. Therefore, I am not responsible for racism today. There is nothing I can do.” This view is unfortunate and morally inadequate, because it fails to take into consideration the social nature of the sin of racism. It fails to see that racism is not merely a personal sin, but also a structural sin. It is a social reality for which all members of society are responsible. As the U.S. bishops have written,
The absence of personal fault for an evil does not absolve one of all responsibility. We must seek to resist and undo injustices we have not caused, lest we become bystanders who tacitly endorse evil and so share in guilt for it. 
The extreme disparities between the social and economic realities for whites and people of color pose a moral obligation for all of us. These disparities inhibit the common good. They prevent all of us from realizing the kind of human community that is necessary for our full human development and happiness. Therefore, joining together and working to undo these inequalities is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.
Individuals can take their commitment to fight racism into the public arena by joining community groups that nurture relationships of trust among people from different races and ethnic groups. They can work to elect public officials who work for racial justice and who strive to undo the racial disparities and the patterns of privilege that characterize too many of our social and economic structures. Individuals can also add their voice to organizations that are defending the rights of immigrant workers. They can advocate with the news media so that they resist racial stereotypes, especially in terms of how violent crime is reported; and they can ask the media to publicize good stories and the actions of good people from every racial group.
Institutionally the Church also has an important public role in working against the evil of racism. I am committed to using my teaching authority to speak out publicly against racism and to promote a deeper recognition of the immense contributions that communities of color are making to our society and our church.
Our Office for Social Justice and the Minnesota Catholic Conference are other important mechanisms that the archdiocese must use to work against institutional racism, to analyze the root causes of racism and to promote public policies that achieve greater racial equality and justice. Through their own direct advocacy and by assisting individual parishes and their members to take a more active role in public advocacy, these offices can assist the church in becoming an effective agent on behalf of racial justice.
Fighting racism in society requires that we go beyond addressing policies and practices that deal explicitly with matters of race and ethnicity. It also requires that we in the white community work in solidarity with people of color to secure for all people the basic economic and social rights that flow from human dignity. We need to stand side by side with people of color in working for better access to health care for the poor, better affordable housing policies, more just wages and working conditions, and more political power for those who are now disenfranchised.
It is my invitation and fervent wish that every Catholic in the archdiocese will join me in making this local church the “salt and light” for the world through its efforts to fight racism and promote racial diversity and harmony. Let us make this church a place of welcoming and learning, a place of encounter and dialogue among peoples of all races and cultures. Let us make this church a clear sign to the world by speaking out against racism and by working to transform the institutions and structures in which racism is so deeply embedded.
By doing so, we will make God’s love more present. We will make God’s unity more visible. We will make God’s justice more real.
Most Reverend Harry J. Flynn
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
 Population Notes, Minnesota State Demographic Center, May, 2001.
 Early Childhood Poverty: A Statistical Profile, National Center for Children in Poverty, March, 2002.
 Metro Minority Health Assessment Project Report, Minnesota Dept. of Health, 2001.
 Edward N. Wolff, “Recent Trends in Wealth Ownership, 1983- 1998,” April 2000.
 Marc Mauer, The Crisis of the Young African American Male, and the Criminal Justice System, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, April 15, 1999.
 United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, Brothers and Sisters to Us, Washington, D.C., 1979.
 Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, #57.
 Ibid., #32.
 Cf. Ecclesia in America (#70), Lumen Gentium (#31, 50), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
 United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, Brothers and Sisters to Us, Washington, D.C., 1979.
Additional copies of this pastoral letter and accompanying Discussion Guide can be obtained by contacting the Archdiocese.
State Capitol to the Cathedral of St. Paul