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How does an Indian magician perform the fabled rope trick? Simple. He creates an illusion. The conjurer swings a monkey’s skull on a string before his viewers. As they watch spellbound, he distracts and hypnotizes them. Meanwhile, his assistant, who has hidden himself, begins to reel in a fine, almost invisible thread on a fishing rod. The rope is attached to this thread. The magician’s musicians whip up the tense atmosphere to a frenzied pitch, with thunderous drumming and ecstatic piping, as the erect rope rises higher and higher towards heaven.

How do US Catholic bishops perform the great Houdini-like escape trick that will distract the faithful from the homosexual-predator-priests sex scandals that have convulsed the Catholic Church in American and around the world? Simple. They create an illusion. Forbidden by the Vatican to vote on proposals for dealing with the abuse crisis, the US Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) instead voted on a pastoral letter blaming America’s “original sin” of racism for the problems facing Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and, to a lesser extent, Muslims.

The Magicians in Mitres have tried to bewitch viewers with other optical illusions. They tried blaming the sex abuse scandal on pedophilia and clericalism. But apart from diverting our attention from the real issues facing the Church—the institutionalization of a gay predatory priesthood—the bishops want to garner sympathy and support for the migrant caravans (more votes for the Democrats and more bums on seats for the church!).

The letter titled Open wide our Hearts: The Enduring call to Love. A Pastoral letter against Racism passed by a vote of 243 to 3, with one abstention, during the bishops’ assembly earlier this week. “The re-appearance of symbols of hatred, such as nooses and swastikas in public spaces, is a tragic indicator of rising racial and ethnic animus,” chorused the bishops, singing from the hymn sheet provided by CNN, MSNBC, CBS and every major left-wing media network in the US.

In a kick-to-the-groin aimed at President Donald Trump, the epistle denounces “extreme nationalist ideologies” for “feeding the American public discourse with xenophobic rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants, and refugees”. It plagiarizes the glossary of identity politics to underline the alleged ubiquity of “institutional” racism and “years of systemic racism” in the allocation of resources to “segregated” communities.

The letter suffers from a diarrhea of words and constipation of academic rigor. It is presented like a Democratic Party anniversary cake with the theological and biblical icing sugar coating the more bitter layers of race hatred and resentment. I read through the 32-pages of episcopal race-baiting. If an undergrad student at university had penned this paper as an essay, I’d have graded him an F.

Can the bishops furnish evidence for the scurrilous claims in their epistle? Don’t they know the ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”? Don’t they realize how methodologically flawed the letter in its reading of history, sociology, economics, scripture, and theology? The letter is also revealing in what it chooses not to say, e.g. not once does it address the brazen racism against Whites that is now systemic and institutional in the media, academia, and the Left.

Further, the bishops themselves are so racially blinkered that nowhere do they draw on the scholarship of Black and Asian academics like Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell or Dinesh D’Souza who have published widely on the correlation (or lack thereof) between alleged racism and economic outcomes. Instead, the letter uses the tired trope of racism as America’s “original sin”—a myth bolstered by White leftwing evangelical Jim Wallis in his book America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America.[7]

If racism is America’s “original sin” and if Whites systemically discriminate against non-Whites, how do Wallis and the bishops explain the economic success of non-White Asian Americans—who earn more than other groups, including Whites and have a higher educational attainment than any other group, according to census data?[8]

The bishops’ most lame methodological glitches are cherry picking of statistics and the leap from attitudes to outcomes. The unquestioned assumption that racism is responsible for Black failure skews the entire epistle. “Racism does not explain why “Blacks as a group do worse than other groups in getting into selective college, performing well on tests, gaining access to rewarding jobs and professions, starting and successfully operating independent businesses, and maintaining productive and cohesive communities”, writes Dinesh D’Souza in The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society.

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The letter points to the “killing of unarmed African Americans by law enforcement officials”. This, of course, is the Big Lie peddled by Black Lives Matter since 2014. Its twin Big Lie, which the bishops gleefully buy into, is the mass incarceration of certain racial groups in the American penal system. “In reality, however, police killings of Blacks are an extremely rare feature of Black life and a minute fraction of Black homicide deaths. Blacks are killed by police at a lower rate than their threat to officers would predict,” writes Heather MacDonald in The War on Cops (highly recommended by Thomas Sowell).

Mercifully, the USCCB epistle cautions against “harsh rhetoric that belittles and dehumanizes law enforcement personnel who labor to keep our communities safe”—perhaps its only redeeming feature.

Unsurprisingly, the letter blames racism for the poverty experienced by Blacks, Native Americans and Hispanics. This is why they are unable to find “affordable housing, meaningful work, adequate education, and social mobility”. But even if the bishops were to dismantle racism overnight, they would find that the worst problems facing Blacks would remain.

There are glaring truths that the leftwing bishops simply will not consider. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 93 percent of Black homicide victims are killed by other Blacks. Blacks committed 52 percent of homicides between 1980 and 2008, despite composing just 13 percent of the population. Almost 6,000 Blacks were killed by other Blacks in 2015.

By contrast, only 258 Blacks were killed by police gunfire that year. Black crime rates were lower in the 1940s and 1950s when Black poverty was higher and racial discrimination was rampant and legal. In 2013, Blacks made up 42 percent of all cop-killers whose race was known, even though Blacks are only about 13 percent of the nation’s population.

The bishops also refuse to address the biggest problem facing Blacks, i.e. the complete breakdown of the family. In 1965, 76.4 percent of Black children were born to married women. In 2009, 73% of Black children were born to unmarried mothers. In many urban areas, the Black illegitimacy rate is well over 80 percent.

The bishops dig back into history (they also paint a picture of Native Americans as ‘noble savages’) and point the finger at slavery but can’t they draw on the theology of the prophet Ezekiel, who emphatically declares that the “son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father”? In Sowell’s own words;

“the Black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow where most Black children grew up in homes with two parents.” In fact, “when Blacks were just one generation out of slavery, the census data of that era showed that slightly higher percentage of Black adults had married than had White adults”.

In contrast to the bishops’ letter asking for more money to be poured into welfare programmes, several studies point to welfare programmes as a major contributor to poverty and family breakdown among Blacks, notes Walter Williams in Race and Economics: How much can be blamed on discrimination? Discrimination does exist, but most problems facing Blacks are “self-inflicted” or “a result of policies, regulations, and restrictions emanating from federal, state, and local governments”.

D’Souza concurs. White racism isn’t the main problem facing Blacks. Rather, it is;

“destructive and pathological cultural patterns of behavior: excessive reliance on government, conspiratorial paranoia about racism, a resistance to academic achievement as ‘acting White’, a celebration of the criminal and outlaw as authentically Black, and the normalization of illegitimacy and dependency”.

Most tellingly, the bishops are blind to the “new racism” against Whites. “Can Blacks be racist? Yes…. In fact African American racism is a coherent ideology of Black supremacy, promoted in Afrocentric courses and institutionally embodied in the Nation of Islam,” observes D’Souza. Stark illustrations of the new racism are White students and faculty being asked to leave Evergreen State College campus on the Day of Absence every year and[13]the speech by Massachusetts College professor Noel Ignatiev lambasting White males as the cancer of the world.

There are two possible solutions that might help the bishops the next time they exhort us to open wide our hearts. First, listen to the advice given by the African American Frederick Douglass. This is what the escaped slave and abolitionist said in his Boston speech in 1865, titled “What the Black Man wants”:

“Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! … if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!”

Second, listen to the advice given by St Paul in his letter to the Galatians (the bishops have conveniently forgotten to mention this verse, despite five other references to St Paul).

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

So for Christ’s sake, quit playing illusory magic tricks with identity politics. Sowell himself pleads: “We need to stop this nonsense, before there is a race war that no one can win.”

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Jules Gomes

by Jules Gomes

The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.

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