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Br. Steve Herro's Blog


Br. Steve HerroBr. Steve Herro, O. Praem., professed solemn vows to the Community of St. Norbert Abbey in 1991. For several years, he headed the justice and peace ministry of St. Norbert Abbey and presently serves as Manager of Mission and Ministry, Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria, VA. His current ministry connects him to national Catholic issues and Church ministers throughout the country.

DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro's own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of neither of the organizations, St. Norbert Abbey nor Catholic Charities USA, nor of any of the organizations' members.

December 1, 2014
Entry #34: "Ferguson tragedy exposes broader need for nonviolent responses in moral decision making"

by Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

The country is on edge over the grand jury’s decision in Missouri not to indict white Ferguson police office Darren Wilson over his killing of African-American teenager Michael Brown. Like many Americans, I have been very conflicted over the case, but more about this later.

Some may wonder, "Where is the voice of the national Catholic leaders over this matter?" Having observed similar points of local tension before, I have noticed that it is easy for activists to expect national Church leaders to "helicopter in" with statements and solutions, but are we aware of efforts being done on the ground by local Church leaders, or in the case of the Ferguson crisis, leaders of the African-American Catholic Church? A friend from Catholic Charities Archdiocese of St. Louis, with the support of Catholic Campaign for Human Development, formed a conversation circle with persons in the Ferguson area shortly after the shooting. In a non-threatening way, the circle helps people process their thoughts and feelings of being a in a tension-filled community with marginalized members. Furthermore, on the day of the grand jury’s decision, the local ordinary, Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, affirmed his commitment from August 20, 2014:

1. My pledge of support, and that of the Archdiocese, to assist the churches in Ferguson and the surrounding area to deal with issues of poverty and racism they have in their hearts.


2. The establishment of the commission on human rights in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.


3. That the St. Charles Lwanga Center study and offer concrete solutions to decrease violence in our communities.


4. An ongoing commitment to provide scholarships, so that young people can get a quality education in our Catholic schools.

5. That each priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to offer a Mass for Peace and Justice.
Bishop John R. Ricard, President of the National Black Catholic Congress, called for parishes and dioceses to convene groups to discuss racism. According to Carol Zimmerman’s November 25, 2014  Catholic News Service article, "Catholics should 'rekindle' commitment to end racism, bishop says":

When asked what can be done to work toward this "positive change," particularly by the Catholic community, the bishop said Catholics should return to the passion many of them showed during the civil rights movement.


"We need to rekindle that commitment and not be so silent and only react when there is a great tragedy that forces us to," he said Nov. 25 from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Washington where he is rector for the Josephites, the order founded to serve newly freed slaves in the United States and now ministers in African-American communities.

Like many, I struggle over the case. Michael Brown’s theft and decision to fight a police officer, Darren Wilson’s decision to defend himself with a with numerous gunshots, the police department’s decision to allow a dying man to lay unattended for four and one-half hours, and the response by townspeople to loot and destroy businesses of innocent shopkeepers and clog streets, which might have been conduits to medical centers for dying patients, represent a breakdown in moral decision making on multiple fronts.

This Advent season, when Christians pause to commemorate the Incarnation, God becoming man, is as good of time as any for individuals and nations to commit ourselves to one of Jesus’ own mandates to his followers (Matthew 5:43-48):

You have heard the commandment, "You shall love your countryman but hate your enemy." My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. This will prove that you are sons of your heavenly Father, for his sun rises on the bad and the good, he rains on the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what merit is there in that? ... In a word, you must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.



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