Catholic Missouri leaders use Lenten season to condemn racism

Rev. Shawn McKnight discussed his reaction on preaching about racism during season of Lent (KRCG 13)

If you're Catholic, there's a good chance the message you'll hear at Mass sometime this Lenten Season will condemn racism.

On the first Sunday of Lent, Archbishop Carlson of the Diocese of St. Louis directed all parishes "to preach on the theme of racism." As a result, close to 500,000 churchgoers in the area all heard homilies denouncing racism.

Jefferson City's new bishop explained the archbishop's reasoning.

"I could see why he (Archbishop Carlson) would want to use the season of Lent to draw particular focus on the sin of racism and how it's present in our culture and our institutions," said Bishop Shawn McKnight.

In an exclusive interview with KRCG 13, McKnight said it's common to have pastoral themes tied to issues the community is facing.

"As the season of Lent is a time where we reflect upon on our need for repentance and in light of what's happening in our culture and in our society today I think that's a very wise and prudent thing to do."

McKnight said even good people have to reflect upon the need for evaluation and self-reflection on how they may consider themselves not to be racists. He added, "But are they aware of how there might be elements of racism within our institutions within even our culture that we don't even recognize or see?"

The topic of racism is one McKnight plans to incorporate in his address at special presentation for the clergy on March 22.

McKnight said the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has initiated an effort to write a national pastoral letter on racism itself. He explained it may take a while because it will involve Bishops from around the country.

"Once the document is finished, I fully intend to look at ways of implementing what it will call for in terms of the Catholic Church in the United States," McKnight said. "It's incredibly promising. It's our duty to respond to the needs of the time."

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