Sometime last year I was surfing the internet and I came upon an article titled:
“A Thomistic Approach to the Moral Evils of Racism,” by Therese Scarpelli Cory, Associate Professor of Thomistic Studies at Notre Dame. The title interested me, and I scanned the article and put it away to read at a later time.
Then as January 28, 2023, came on the horizon I thought again about Therese’s article. What better way could we honor our holy brother Thomas than to seek his wisdom as we wrestle with the evil of racism? What would this look like? My hope is that this tribute to our Dominican brother, Thomas will encourage you to read the full article by Professor Cory. https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/a-thomistic-approach-to-the-moral-evils-of-racism/
Although Aquinas never spoke directly about racism—a concept that developed later in history—a closer look at his Theory of Justice and Evil offers an approach to help us discuss racism. So many such discussions go in circles of abstractions because of our inability to define what we want to say. It is ironic that we are seeking a new language by looking at a medieval scholar who described justice in terms of equality and giving each person his or her due rooted in the dignity that comes with being God’s creation.
Thomas affirms a framework for evaluating different expressions of racism that threaten the Common Good inasmuch as he respects the opinions of those he shares, as well as those whose opinions he rejects—for both have labored in the search for truth and both have helped in finding it. In this search for truth and love, Thomas offers a map to understanding the vocation of humans to love and why racism is wrong, and why we should care.
And care we, Sparkill Dominican Sisters and Associates do, care very much.
Professor Cory also points to Pope Benedict XVI at an Angelus address in 2008 where he said, “The Christian community must overcome every possible temptation to give into racism, and the Church must be home to all people.” Similarly, Pope Francis in his 2020 letter, Fratelli Tutti, emphasizes the “primacy given to relationship, to the encounter with the sacred mystery of the other, to universal communion with the entire human family, as a vocation of all” (#277).
And so, the moral evils of racism are not just failures to treat others with equal God-given dignity, but more fundamentally failures in the essential human vocation to love. In short, “Racism is a virus infecting our capacity to love.”
Happy Feast Day as we challenge the virus of racism with the wisdom and love of Thomas. And our brother Thomas found his inspiration in Jesus who said after washing the feet of his disciples, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. (John 13:34)
Can we do less?
– Sister Bridget Kiniry, OP
A resident of Dominican Convent, Sister Bridget is a preacher and
coordinator of the Days for Girls program there.