De Magisterio et gentibus

Catholic Priest Defends St Louis Statue

For ordinary Christians, particularly Catholics, the mixed messages sent by clergy in regard to issues of race have been confusing to say the least.

bishop suspends priest

Bishop J Strickland

What does the Church really teach about race? The brilliant Classical Theist has thankfully done the heavy lifting to shed Magisterial light on the subject.
If the George Floyd riots have taught us anything as Catholics, it’s that the Catholic discourse on race is severely lacking. It seems as though over the course of just a few weeks, with little to no resistance from the conservative Catholic media, the underlying premises of Black Lives Matter have become the default position on race for mainstream Catholicism. 
NB: Anytime you see a member of the hierarchy invoke "the sin of racism," it's a good bet his statement is more influenced by the World than by Church doctrine. You won't find racism per se listed as a sin in any Catholic moral theology manual.
Part of why this is the case, I suspect, is because unlike issues such as homosexuality and abortion there does not seem to be a clear and definitive Magisterial formula to adjudicate issues pertaining to racial conflict. To average faithful Catholics, this makes them especially susceptible to cultural and social institutions who are bent on pressuring them into anti-racist activism.  
For Catholics who have a left-leaning ideological ax to grind, this magisterial ambiguity is weaponized to presume a natural alliance between, say, Catholic Social Teaching and the ideological wish-list of Black Lives Matter. 
Looking at you, James Martin, SJ.
[A] Catholic who rightly feels uneasy with the shameless baptism of critical race theory we are seeing in Catholic media would likely find it difficult to effectively challenge their assumptions by appealing to the Magisterium themselves. For that reason, it is necessary to set the record straight on what precisely the Magisterium has to say about the value of race in a just human society.
In order to make sense of what the Magisterium has to say about the value of race, however, we should first establish a sensible conception of the ontological status of race as such. That racial differences are not reducible to social constructions should be uncontroversial for any devotee of scholastic philosophy, really. The soul, as per the Council of Vienne, is not a Cartesian ghost-in-a-machine but is the form, or immanent active principle, of the body. Because of this, hereditary characteristics that are passed on generationally diversify according to the disposition of matter receptive to the soul.
In short, Scholastic theology teaches that race is real, it's more than skin-deep, and the variety of races extant in the world is a natural good willed by God.
Not only can acknowledging the diversity and dignity of races be defended on the grounds of scholastic philosophy, it is also backed by the Magisterium itself. In the very encyclical where Pope Pius XI condemns the race idolatry of the Third Reich, he explicitly acknowledges in no uncertain terms the inherent value of race to the common good,
“Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community – however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things – whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the word planned and created by God” (Pope Pius XI, Mit brennender Sorge).
Note Pius IX's use of the quintessentially Catholic both, and principle here. Honoring one's race is a good ordained by God. Worshiping any race, or depriving anyone of due charity based on race, is sinful. It's not an either/or proposition.
Thus here we have encoded within the cells of the Magisterium itself a recognition that race not only has extramental existence, albeit as an emergent property, but that it is a fundamental value to the human community. And if it is to be counted among the fundamental values of the human community then this necessarily implies the right to preserve and defend it as such. As South African theologian Fr. P Bonaventura Hinwood in his treatise Race: the Reflections of a Theologian has put it, explicating the wisdom of Pius XI,   
“Since being and goodness are convertible, race, like any other human factor not inherently vitiated by error or evil, being a positive good, has the right to existence and identity. But race is not an end in itself, because it exists for the enriching of mankind, to which it is subordinate, and so necessarily relative. It is not, therefore, the immediate cause of the rights which accrue to it, but the occasion of them, for the sake of mankind as a whole. The fullness of which will be enhanced by these particular racial potentialities being brought to maturity. Since mankind has a right not to be mutilated by the violent destruction of any race, it is licit for a person even to lay down his life for the conservation of his race.”
Now if one’s immediate response is to write this off as the irrelevant ramblings of an obscure theologian, he is simply echoing the sentiments of what Popes Pius XII and John XXIII have said on the matter. In Pius XII’s encyclical Summi pontificatus, which was quoted by John XXIII’s Mater et magistra, he says, immediately following his explicit praise of national pride in one’s heritage, 
“The Church readily approves of, and follows with her maternal blessing, all regulations and practical efforts that, in the spirit of wisdom and moderation, lead to the evolution and increase of the potentialities and powers which spring from the hidden sources of life of each race. She does, however, lay down one provision, namely, that these regulations and efforts must not clash with the duties incumbent on all men in virtue of the common origin and destiny of all mankind” (Pope Pius XII, Summi pontificatus).
The whole article is a definite must-read.

Armed with Magisterial teaching, laymen will find combating the resurgent heresy of race idolatry much easier. The next time your pastor brings up the "original sin of systemic racism," refer him to the ecumenical Council of Vienne, Piux IX, Pius, XII, and St. John XXIII.

A great way of addressing and viewing our current culture war, as well as advice for how to fight it.


  1. Brian

    Thanks for the analysis. I read the article but I need to work through the propositions. It would be a propos to find and read the debate between Selupveda and de las Casas over the indigenous humanity


  2. About how I've been treating it. Racism is rude as an opinion, but does not become sinful until one a) one deliberately behaves uncharitably based on that opinion, b) one treats race in an idolatrous fashion, or c) one treats race as a source of overweening pride. In other words, the bases have already been covered and "racism" is just another group of socially variable opinions. What matters, in the end, is how you behave towards your fellow men and especially your fellow Christians.

    After all, God established the races: who are we to try and abolish them?

    1. Bibliophile

      That's an interesting point. Is abolishing race the same pride that lead to the tower of Babel?
      In any case, racism is still a prideful vice that ultimately leads to sin.


    2. Well said. Discharity and idolatry are the sins. Racism can be the motive and/or occasion of those sins.

  3. I think it's James Martin, LGBTSJ.

  4. 90% of black Americans will dismiss these teachings because these teachings are Catholic, and the pastors who dismiss these teachings will continue to dismiss them on the grounds that every Pope and council that came before Vatican II was of "old-world" Catholicism.

    Take this from someone who endured a converged campus parish when social justice was at its peak. We need to be less autistic; we need to pray, and we need to dare these heretics to show their true colors--and since we'll be dealing with clerics who recite the Nicene Creed at every Mass, we'll need better bait than the witch test.

    1. Uncleaver hsns

      We need then to invoke the Jesus question: who am I?
      The answer will expose real belief.


  5. It’s a good place to start and I’m glad Classical Theist wrote about it. I’d be curious to see if any learned men of the Church have written about the decrees of Nehemiah and some of the criticisms given by Daniel about adultering a race. God made all the races, he set their boundaries, and issues tend to happen when they violate them. Good fences make good neighbors, and no one rightly thinks building a fence = anti-charity.

    Charity should be extended to all, even our enemies...but what is missing is the right order to that charity. Charity is not to be equal in all things to all. Charity is also not to be a Derrida-esque exercise in ego and virtue signaling. But how many nowadays place the need of a stranger/foreigner over that of their fellow native, or their own kin? They think they are committing a virtue while sining against piety. They think they are loving the stranger by hating their children. Completely warped.

    1. Aquinas wrote about that. Those God has placed closest to us, e.g. our family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen, in that order, have precedence in the order of charity.

    2. Where does the Church, in both her local and her universal forms, fall in that priority list? I ask because I could understand including the local Church in any of the first three categories, and including the global Church as a nation unto herself.

    3. A major stumbling block that trips up a lot of folks on our side is the tendency to conflate nationalism and religion. The Church is not a nation unto herself. She is a divine reality that transcends nationality.

      Christ commands us to make disciples of all nations. Note that His command is predicated on the current and continued existence of separate nations with their own distinct identities.

    4. Here it will probably help to distinguish between perfect and imperfect societies. Please note that I'm using the theological sense of these terms, i.e. not pertaining to the quality of a society but to its properly ordained end.

      In this sense, the nation is an imperfect society, because it is properly ordered toward helping its citizens achieve temporal ends.

      The Church is a perfect society, since her mission is to help her members attain their proper supernatural end, viz. Heaven.

    5. When St Peter wrote, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light," what sense of the word 'nation' was he using? The sense in which we sometimes use it, as a synonym for the state governing a nation, seems wrong here. Nation as in a nationality, or a people with a common identity, seems closer to the mark.

    6. Nation has always been defined as a people related by descent, history, culture and language. In other words, it’s a synonym for ethnic group or tribe.

      America is not a nation properly speaking. None of the former colonies of Europe are. They are countries with multiple nations contained within them joined by force, custom and comfort.

      Brian’s definitions above still stand. The Church does not see herself as a secular nation. Even when the Papal States existed, there was a differentiation between them and the Church. In the OT, God is definitely referring to the Israelites as a separate tribe, a nation, set aside for himself. How that translates to the Church of today is God extended the definition to now be a nation of believers.

      The Masons took it a step to far, and falsely said you could make a nation out of ideas. A nation of reason divorced from the one true Faith.

      I’d argue that God allowing a nation by ancestry and a nation by faith are the only stable systems because he ordained them. Indeed, nations form via these two mechanisms alone. Faith unifies a people, who over time, form a homogenous tribe. Then the faithless break away and the process continues, refining like gold or if all sides become faithless, death and extinction. The Masonic nation of ideas was always damned to fail.

  6. Forgive my lack of understanding. But I often see the Common good emphasized by early church fathers rather than the term Greater Good. I'm not arrogant enough to deny I don't quite geasp the difference.

    1. Hadrian
      Let me try and yield to being corrected by wiser commentators.
      Common good refers to those activitiesxthst allow humans to flourish by being righlybordsr according to the ends.
      So a worker creating high quality products a boss who pays his workers on time etc are a activities rightly ordered allowing for domestic tranquility. This tranquility gives people peace of mind and praise God.

      Greater good is a utilitarian concept where a mathematical sum of all individual interest bring about peace but with no interest how does this policy etc makes us better? How do this policy etc contribute to ordered tranquility?
      What matters is a consensus which is constantly changing because people and interests change


    2. Common refers to the horizontal dimension and greater to the vertical.

    3. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the edification.

  7. Thank you for the references and the encyclicals to reinforce this. I have a civnat friend who wants to go down the idolatrous way about a seminar on the history of blacks in America, without realizing the SJW trap he's wandered deep into.

    What's becoming painfully obvious by inspection, for imperfect society:

    The nations cannot be mixed, and must separate.
    Races as a superset of nations cannot be mixed, and must separate.

    The question is not why, but how.