Call for Unity and Justice

.@NotreDame calls for an end to racism and violence and pays tribute to police officers amid protests spurred by #GeorgeFloyd's death #GoCatholicND Click To Tweet

A few days ago on June 1, several hundred members of the Notre Dame community gathered on campus in prayerful reflection on the death of George Floyd while in police custody and on similar past episodes. Father Pete McCormick, C.S.C., the Director of Campus Ministry, presided, and Father Jenkins was the principal speaker.

You can watch a video of the proceeding and read an account here. Participants opened and closed the meeting with prayers for peace and justice, and the event ended with a candle-bearing procession to the Grotto.

It was a solemn and somber affair.

We reproduce Father Jenkins’s talk below, noting his welcome tribute to police officers, his call for an end to violence, and his citing the testimony of a Notre Dame honoree who had organized non-violent protests in the 1960’s that “[W]e did not allow those who wanted to do violence to participate.”

For our part, we invite you to join us in praying for Mr. Floyd and his family, for all who have suffered from racism, for the police officers, shop owners, and bystanders who have been the victims of the violence that has attended the protests, and for the political, religious, and civic leaders charged with the responsibility of restoring peace and insuring justice in our nation.

A Prayer for Unity, Walk for Justice

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
June 1, 2020

We gather tonight to reflect on the death of George Floyd. If it were only Mr. Floyd’s death, it would be a great injustice and tragedy. But there are many other deaths to remember. Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Grey, Breonna Taylor, the nine people shot dead at a Charleston church in 2015, Ahmaud Arbery and the many, many nameless black men who were lynched over the centuries. We gather tonight to reflect not just on police violence against a single man in Minneapolis, but on a legacy of violence, often conducted with impunity, against black men and women in our nation. We confront the heavy burden of a legacy of racism.

That is why I find it so hard to know what to say to you tonight. If it were only a matter of a bad police officer, and bad police tactics in Minneapolis, we might know how to respond. These are present in Mr. Floyd’s case, but to focus only on those facts is to miss the point, to miss the reason for the outrage. The challenge is deeper, more enduring, more tragic and more daunting. It is difficult to find words adequate to respond to that challenge.

I will say this. To black colleagues, students and friends: I am so sorry for the pain you are suffering. Several of you told me you wept when you saw the terrible video from Minneapolis. No doubt there has been a mixture of sadness, rage and despair as these killings go on. We are all responsible for combating the legacy of racism, but its burden falls on you. You no doubt have felt the weight of that burden intensely in the past week. I am sorry.

I know you join me in acknowledging with gratitude the dedicated police officers who do dangerous jobs and put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Whatever our reaction to Mr. Floyd’s death, it must not be to smear the work and reputation of the thousands of good officers who serve us. Yet we must all insist that no one is allowed to commit injustice in the name of our safety.

We take hope from many of the protests of the past week. As Cornel West has said, the worst outcome of Mr. Floyd’s death would perhaps have been that no one protested, if there were no outcry. We need an outcry. We need to advocate for justice.

Our outcry, however, must not give way to violence. As welcome as protests have been, the violence, the burning, the shooting will not serve the cause of justice. It will only perpetuate the violence.

I had the chance to speak with Diane Nash, the holder of a Notre Dame honorary degree and the speaker for our Martin Luther King Day remembrance this past January. She organized nonviolent protests in the south in the 1960s that led to desegregation. Ms. Nash lamented that some recent protests led to sprees of violence. “When we protested,” she said, “we did not allow those who wanted to do violence to participate.” Ms. Nash and her colleagues led some of the most consequential protests in the history of the United States.

Perhaps, though, the message is not only that we should not allow violence into protests, but we should not allow violence and hatred into our hearts. We should be angry, but we should not let the hatred that leads to violence take hold in our hearts. It not only destroys us, but makes us less effective in serving our cause.

As I said earlier, I struggled with what to tell you tonight. I doubt my words have been adequate to the challenge before us, but perhaps prayer and God’s help can make up for the deficiencies. Let us ask for justice, for an end to the legacy of racism, for an end to violence in our streets and in our hearts and for the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it.

In the reading for this evening the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, comes as a powerful wind that howls and jostles those in the room. We need that wind to jostle us out of our complacency. The Holy Spirit comes as fire, to burn in the hearts of those to whom it is given. Let us pray for the wind and the fire of the Holy Spirit, and ask God to guide us as we struggle to confront the terrible legacy of the racial violence seen in the ugly video from Minneapolis.

Let us pray for Mr. Floyd. Let us pray for his grieving family and friends. Let us pray for our black colleagues and friends. Let us pray for an awakening in the hearts of those of us who are white to demand an end to the legacy of racial violence. Let us pray for our nation.

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13 Responses to “Call for Unity and Justice

  1. steve martinek '71, '74 June 12, 2020 at 11:17 am

    I commend John Riley ’81 for a clear, apt, and cogent perspective I had not considered. Indulge some clumsy extrapolation–perhpas only to Notre Dame (but perhaps to our nation and our Church as well). Yes Black athletes may reasonably be seen as the functional equivalent of under-compensated slaves working the plantation–used, perhaps abused, for a time and then discarded when their time of indenture is over; but are not many of us just like them. What of cradle Catholics, children of immigrants who attend Our Lady’s University. Our families, the nuns who taught us in grade school, the faithful in our parishes, family members privileged to attend ND in earlier generations–they instilled in us a heritage, a tradition, a legacy and a burning desire to attend the pre-eminent Catholic University in the world. We studied and struggled to qualify for admission, then to pay for tuition, then to make and maintain grades (some as double-Domers)–only to have our beloved University devolve toward secularism, relativism, indiscriminate ecumenism, undue acceptance of evil and deviance. What of the bond of Trust and Truth going back to Father Sorin? My Grandmother, “Ma”, was so proud when Uncle Dick graduated as a Notre Dame lawyer. Uncle Dick was so proud of his Alma Mater and his Catholic Faith as a Knight of Columbus. Neither would be proud of Notre Dame in modernity. So, I humbly suggest, much the same as the Black athletes, were (and our families and our values and ourn FAithy) were little more than “cannon fodder” for Notre Dame as it continues its ill-considered faithless quest downward to parity with the Ivies. Steve Martinek ’71, ’74

  2. John T Riely, ND, 1981 June 11, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    Jenkin’s short talk on the library lawn in response to the tragedy in Minneapolis and the ensuing violent and lawless protests struck me as sincere and heartfelt. I have no doubt Jenkins seeks racial harmony. Regrettably, I further doubt Jenkins has the moral fiber or intellectual firepower to understand he oversees, as University President, an operation which dwarfs and would put to shame the most audacious slave holding plantation owners from the deep south and from a bygone era. Clearly visible from his lectern on the library quad was ND stadium where Jenkins operates and runs a football program generating well north of 9 figures annually in gross income. The team is comprised predominantly of African American men whose toils and ravages to their bodies and brains goes uncompensated by Jenkins and Swarbrick. Jenkins benefits from one of the most brilliant business models ever devised: generate scores of millions in revenue and do not pay the laborers. Jenkins sits in his lofty skybox in his Campus Crossroads complex as planation master watching the young black men on his modern day and televised plantation pulverize each other causing what is now as accepted science the permanent damage to their brains and neurological systems. Words will again fail Jenkins as he tries to rationalize this incongruity to the black men he purports to care about so deeply.
    Jenkins has further famously stated to the NY Times that if big time college sports adopts a professional or compensation model for football and basketball ND would chose to go a different direction and remain pure. Stated alternatively, ND will never share of its enormous wealth with the black men and women who perform on the field and on the court. Jenkin’s position sounded the glory of amateur athletics and a purity of love of sport and school. If and when the inevitable happens and college athletics goes to a compensation model, watch for Jenkins to waffle and walk back his once noble position. Integrity will give way to profitability. It is always that way with Jenkins. Once again, he will lead from behind. Watch your mail for athletic fundraisers from Jenkins as there soon will be a star high school quarterback and ND will have to outbid the Clemsons and Alabamas of the world to secure his services. Sadly, Jenkins is an empty collar.

    • Regardless of whether her students participate in athletics, or not, whenever and wherever Our Lady’s University serves her students out of respect for The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, and thus, out of respect for The Divinity Of The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, everyone benefits from a place of privilege, for The Truth Of Love does not divide, God’s Love will only multiply, as in The Loaves and Fishes.

  3. I am nearly 78 and have experienced a lot of racism during my lifetime. There is no doubt things are getting better and like everything else there is only one perfect being and that is God. We will all be continuously working on getting better and must help one another be the best sons and daughters of God that we can be. It is a process. One thing that has helped me and it was done by an African American priest and it was that HE refused to be a racist, refused to be influenced by it in any way and by witnessing this to me in the middle of a culture where racism had diminished a great deal but still existed, he helped me and many others move further along the path away from racism. He and his witnessing were a gift to us from God and he was authentic and this authenticity was manifest by his behavior in every aspect of his life. I will never forget him and his behavior and it has helped me live in a similar manner, so the moral of my little story is if we really want to rid the world of something like racism, we need to stop living it, reacting to it, letting it dominate us and refuse to convey it to others in ANY WAY by the way we live. I do not mean to deny it as there are appropriate times to embrace this issue, object to it, condemn it, discuss it but we can do more to eliminate it by not letting it enter it to our lives, especially in regard to using it as a tool to serve ourselves or any one’s political agenda. I thank God for putting this priest in my life and having seen it in him, I am seeing it more in others and we are helping one another live in a non-racial manner as best we can and remain committed to doing it better with the help of God. The USING of racism, of the issue and problem of racism, by politicians is abusive and never in accord with the will of God but unfortunately it is USED by many self serving politicians as it is a or can be a powerful card to play and we see many of these self serving politicians play this card a lot as they put the self first. We need to beware that we are moving continuously in one direction or the other, into Christ centeredness or self centeredness as life is a dynamic process. God help us.

  4. steve martinek '71, '74 June 5, 2020 at 5:15 pm

    I am resisting the inclination to offer comments that occur to me out of respect for the pathos and tragedy under discussion. For now I respect and defer to the cogent comments of Dr. Charles Smith MD, out of respect for his age and apparent wisdom. I feel impelled to dispute Mr. Shapiro’s assertions regarding Attorney General Barr and President Trump. Finally, in protests of good faith, there is no room for violence, or looting, or divisive signs like “Black Lives Matter” or implicitly threatening signs like “No Justice–No Peace.” Peace, and peaceable assembly to protest, should not be deemed contingent upon the protesters’ definition of “justice.” Steve Martinek ’71, ’74

  5. Until the black family is restored, the African-American community will fail to realize the opportunities that are available to it today. You can’t have 72% of black children born out of wedlock without incurring the poverty that the black community experiences.
    The black community refuses to acknowledge this preferring to blame systemic racism for it’s own shortcomings. Until we can have an honest, objective discussion about this topic, a large segment of the black community will continue to flounder.

  6. Sanctity of life and dignity of the human person from conception to natural death. That is the Catholic Church teaching.
    Jesus has the answer. If everyone followed Jesus’ teaching regarding the sanctity of human life and dignity of the human person, wouldn’t​ our world be far less violent & far more humane?

  7. Charles Smith MD June 5, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Very touching event and speech by Fr. Jenkins. Remain sad and confused on this issue of racism. There is no way, as a white man, can I grasp what it is like to be black. I have to accept their words when a black reveals their encounters with bigotry and prejudice. And yet in my world of 82 years where I served in Vietnam and as a physician worked with and treated many minorities of color have not seen incidents of racism. I have only noted kindness, acceptance, friendship between whites and blacks. I have observed affirmative action and efforts of schools and business to accept and hire people of color. Have seen whites praise and thrill in the success of black athletes and entertainers and elect a black as president for two terms. Have witnessed massive efforts of whites to lift blacks up in all our occupations. Have also seen efforts in our culture to quilt our young men for being white and placing white boys at the bottom of respect in our classrooms. The white male is by nature a racist and sexist and the source of all evil.
    I search my heart and life experience and reject my skin color demands I should kneel and ask forgiveness for my bigotry then approach my white friends and demand they do the same.
    Racism was a grim reality in our country and a terrible stain but over my lifetime has rapidly dissipated and I do not see a trace of it in our younger generation.
    The followers of the new Woke Religion want to inflate the act of a sociopathic cop to deny our progress and divide us.
    We need to be empathetic to the subjective pain our black brothers and sisters experience while at same time reject notion of the reality of collective guilt. Our Original Sin is the same as People of Color: Pride and rejection of the authority of and our dependence on God. Sadly what we are in fact witnessing is a culture struggling to define itself after rejecting God and His Divine and Natural Law. Without a common world view, a common moral law, a sense of a common good democracy can not survive.

  8. I wonder if Mr Mackin thinks AG Barr is not a liar and Trump is not a racist as well as a consistent liar.

  9. Willliam Dotterweich June 5, 2020 at 9:55 am

    All cops are not bad cops. Almost all cops are good, dedicated professionals who put their lives on the line daily to maintain societal order and to protect us from the sort of anarchy that has been manifested in too many of the recent demonstrations. The signs we too often have seen in the recent demonstrations which call for the elimination of police forces altogether are misplaced and rather frightening. Human nature being what it is, it’s hard to imagine any sort of an ordered society without the presence of police.
    That said, there needs to be an answer to the horrible injustices perpetrated by some individual cops, and that answer involves training policemen to be responsible for the action of their fellow cops, and implementing reporting systems to facilitate the discharge of that responsibility.

    It is human nature to tolerate the shortcomings of fellow “herd” members. We see this in many professions. In my long life, I have seen priests in my beloved Catholic Church look the other way when they see abusive situations involving other priests, including sexual abuse of minors. I have seen the unwritten pact among medical doctors which stifles criticism of fellow doctors whom they know to be incompetent. Much of this stems from a misplaced feeling that we must protect the reputation of our “herd”. We need to “go along” to “get along”.

    In Minneapolis, we witnessed three police officers benignly standing by while a fellow “herd member” violently killed a civilian, thereby abetting the crime. They must also be held accountable for this crime.

    As stated above, the answer to the current dilemma is to insist that each individual police officer be responsible for reporting any actions of their fellow officers which they judge to be offensive, and to set up a system which not only allows these incidents to be reported confidentially, but also includes the mechanism to address the issue. The killer in Minneapolis reportedly had been the subject of eighteen complaints. Perhaps his heinous final act should have been foreseeable. Perhaps the silence of his fellow officers made his action inevitable.

  10. Dennis Mackin June 5, 2020 at 9:16 am

    I cringe when I see representatives of the church in lockstep with the godless mainstream media exercising their continuous reporting of ready, fire, aim. E.g Bshop Gregory of D.C. ; Fr. Jenkins CS.C. Unfortunately, the only prejudice I’ve seen in recent coverage has been against the white police officer who was assumed to be a bigot.

    Clearly, photography was set up to show only the officer was upon the alleged victim and not show the other officers were also applying pressure to the victim. The truth has dripped out quite slowly after the exposure of the photography. That is, George Floyd was an asymptomatic carrier of the covid – 19 virus. In addition, Floyd suffered from heart disease and high blood pressure. These are material facts, read directly from the announcer of the television (libel if false). There’s also some evidence (although conjecture on my part) that he was under the influence of amphetamine and other hallucinogenic drugs at the time of his arrest.

    It is strictly conjecture on my part, having seen snippets of the videotape showing his arrest that Floyd refused to enter voluntarily into the police cruiser,or, as standard for any required personal interaction these days Floyd had affirmatively admitted recent association with anyone who had tested positive for Covid-19. Otherwise there is no excuse for having them prostrate on the ground. The officer I would believe in this case should have the benefit of the doubt thinking that the victim was a carrier for a deadly disease. Therefore, one would not use his hands, or any other body parts exposed to arrest the individual. Indeed, the police officer is shown to be wearing gloves. It’s simply an indication that the officer was avoiding contracting the virus. If the officer is at fault, it’s for not wearing a mask which was harmless to Floyd

    It seems that no one has mentioned the fact that the whole incident started over Lloyd’s use of counterfeit money, a $20 bill. Since counterfeiters do not set up a system for single bill, it could be assumed that Floyd was passing or had made numerous $20 bills. Such losses to various vendors could result in hunger for their children, or putting them out of business and losses of jobs for the employees of such vendors. However this seems to be unimportant to most of the so-called demonstrators. Since the crime of counterfeiting itself is generally handled through the Secret Service of the United States government, I assume any charges by the Minneapolis police were for theft..

    It disgusts me when I see ignorance at work. It seems that demonstrators are still putting their hands in the air, yelling “hands up don’t shoot” as if they’re ignorant. I feel sorry for them if they know the truth. Michael Brown never had his hands up and never said “don’t shoot” as the only witness who testified to this recanted and was a criminal himself.. Fortunately, the brave police chief of Ferguson Missouri in direct countermand of the Atty. Gen. Eric Holder’s instructions, released a video showing that Michael Brown was a robber who physically assaulted the owner of a concession stand (also minority), prior to being stopped by a policeman in response to the lookout for such robber. Michael Brown assaulted the police officer attempted to take his gun, but became bloodied in the transaction and initially began to run away but that turned to charge the officer. The officer killed him. Michael Brown was a 6’4” 290 pound man. He was not a little boy. Neither was Travon Martin in Florida who was again the beneficiary of misinformation as he was himself was 6’ 2’ 180 pounds, 7 inches taller than the man he assaulted. In addition, Travon had had almost 4 minutes to “get away.” Instead, as he told his girlfriend, he returned because he was going to beat-up the person who was identifying him as a trespasser-burglar.

    I guess I’m just tired of the ignorance and laziness of people. Find the facts before they accuse. Indeed, statisics are clear, more policemen are killed each year than un-armed black individuals. Again, the only racism I see is those who presume that the policeman doing his job is somehow doing his job because of racist tendencies. Such assumptions are inconsistent with “do unto others”.


    Dennis S. Mackin

  11. Kevin R Callahan June 5, 2020 at 8:32 am

    An aphorism such as “Trust your fellow Americans” is easy to say, but if not backed up with personal action, it dose not mean much. I am a white American, and I do not trust Law Enforcement in all situations. Here in Chicago, I was at a Memorial Day protest that was quite peaceful, and watched as the police, on the instructions of Mayor Lightfoot, force the dismantling of a sound system, and later shut the demonstration down. Every one left without incident. Several days later, this same police force, again on the instruction of Mayor LIghtfoot, allowed violent rioters to rampage unimpeded. Where Law enforcement is corrupted by politicians, there is no trust.

    Racism does exist in our country, and those of us who are not subject to it need to listen carefully to those who are. I do not condone violence by anyone, be they Antifa or Black Lives Matter. At the same time, I stand with the people on the South Side of Chicago by marching for peace on Fridays in the summer time. I have many friends in that area, who are now without a drugstore since the Walgreens at Racine and 79th Street was looted and burned. I guarantee you that the people that live in that neighborhood do not approve of such vandalism.

    What is the answer? Several things: we can start by voting out corrupt politicians that are manipulating the situation for political gain. Second, get involved on a personal level. If you are within the Chicago area, I invite you to come to the Friday Peace Marches at St. Sabina, if they are happening this year, that is not clear yet. It would not be hard to find out. If you are not in the Chicago area, then find out what is happening in your area that promotes peace and non-violence, and then get involved, make friends and SHOW people that you care! That is, get off your duff and do something positive! Then people might believe when you say trust.

  12. There is a tragedy piled upon tragedy here. The brutal murder of this man opened the eyes and hearts of virtually every American to the lingering fear “Otherness”which Black Americans experience. This event afforded the Nation an opportunity to reach a level of unity of epic proportions. The violence, killing and looting which followed, whether fueled by design or not is destroying that hope for Unity.

    I would ask Black Americans to do something which may be difficult at this time. TRUST your fellow Americans. Including Law enforcement. Justice, Peace, opportunity, prosperity and happiness for YOU and for all is truly what the American soul is all about. This CAN be achieved.

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