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Opinion: The American Catholic hierarchy may not be ready for a post-Roe world

A Black Catholic in the nation's largest city—and its Blackest diocese by population—has doubts that episcopal messaging will evolve now that abortion is on the ropes.

(Anjali NairMSNBC; Getty Images)

Editor’s note: On June 28, 2022, Efran Menny opined in our pages on the need for economic policy renewal in America after the overturning of Roe v. Wade just days prior by the US Supreme Court. One response to the piece, from a lay Black Catholic and music minister in Brooklyn, is reprinted here with permission.

While Mr. Menny's words are surely heartfelt, and speak to the very heart of the full scope of pro-life Catholic Social Teaching (CST), I think it is extremely important for practicing Black Catholics who engage in a critical analysis of CST with regards to Roe to do two things:

1.) Be honest with ourselves.

2.) Stop fooling ourselves.

Outside of where everyone stands on the abortion debate, from the moment the original ruling came down in 1973, the American Catholic Church—whose episcopacy was, as it is today, mostly White—made it abundantly clear that it would do everything in its power to see this ruling overturned. That has been the goal of the USCCB, and that has been the expressed, singular agenda of the US Catholic community as a whole as it pertains to reproductive rights.

It is crucial, I think, for Black Catholics to be as objective as possible when seeing what a “post-Roe” future is going to look like for us, and for marginalized people across this country. Because if we think that this new ruling is somehow going to miraculously begin the process of “changing the hearts and minds” of those in support of reproductive rights, we've absolutely got another thing coming.

Ultimately, by making pro-life CST a single-issue lobbying opportunity, the American Catholic Church has long since clarified what it actually supports in terms of helping women faced with the life-changing event that is pregnancy. When I say that we need to be honest with ourselves about what the next several years/decades are going to look like, and how/if the Church is going to make good on its “newfound resolve” to assist mothers and mothers-to-be with supporting their families, we need to do an honest review about how well that's worked in the past. (Hint: overall, not great, not by a long shot.)

When I say we need to stop fooling ourselves, I am speaking to the reality—harsh though it may be—that the American Catholic Church simply does not have the resources to galvanize even a remotely effective, comprehensive effort to tackle the several concerns Mr. Menny has mentioned. But the worst part of this is, based on the past/present actions of both the US presbytery and its episcopacy, it is more likely that it does not care—not in the way we think it does, or that it should.

Put simply: when it comes to this Church's "pro-life" stance in America, it has made its demands, put in the time and effort to see those demands be met, and got what it wanted. And just like any other problematic organization that succeeds in vetting a single-issue agenda, it will return to business as usual.

Which, of course, will be, as it has been, with a glaring disregard for Catholics—and US citizens—who look like us.

Joseph Murray is an Afro-Latinx musician from New York City. He works as co-director of music for St. Martin de Porres Parish in Brooklyn and also serves as administrative assistant for the Brooklyn Vicariate Office of Black Catholic Concerns. He holds his degree in Vocal Performance from the Catholic University of America, and performs as a freelance singer/writer/pianist in the Tri-State area.

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