Philadelphia Archbishop Condemns ‘Mortal Sin of Racism’ After Buffalo Shooting

The Knights of Peter Claver, the largest historically African American Catholic lay organization in the U.S., said racism is neither pro-life nor Christian and ‘is not of God. Racism and hatred are tools used by the Devil.’

Mourners light candles at a makeshift memorial outside of a Tops grocery store on May 16 in Buffalo, New York. A gunman opened fire at the store May 14, killing 10 people and wounding another three. Police have said the attack was motivated by racial hatred.
Mourners light candles at a makeshift memorial outside of a Tops grocery store on May 16 in Buffalo, New York. A gunman opened fire at the store May 14, killing 10 people and wounding another three. Police have said the attack was motivated by racial hatred. (photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia said on Tuesday that the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York is a reminder of the continuing “mortal sin of racism.”

A gunman killed 10 Black people on May 14 at a supermarket. Another three persons were injured in the shooting.

The archbishop called the incident “another painful reminder that the mortal sin of racism has not been eradicated in this country. We must continue our work to stamp it out. All lives are gifts from God, designed to share their unique gifts with those around them. Tragically, these gifts were violently ripped away from families, friends and a community that is now struggling with deep grief.”

“I pray that God will comfort those whose hearts have been broken and that He will embolden and strengthen all of us to build and defend a culture of love and respect for all of our brothers and sisters,” he said.

He juxtaposed the shooting with a Concert for Unity sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s racial healing commission: “It featured a unified choir of over 100 gifted individuals from diverse racial and ethnic communities praising God with one voice along with shared reflections and bold statements condemning the sin of racism.”

The Knights of Peter Claver, the largest historically African American Catholic lay organization in the U.S., has also responded to the shooting.

“We pray for all victims and survivors impacted by the sin of racism. We must even pray that those entrapped by this sinful nature be released from its oppressing hand,” the fraternity said in a May 16 statement. 

“While the vast majority easily see and understand how horrific this act of evilness is, too few acknowledge and accept the everyday contributing factors that keep leading to these tragic outcomes.”

The Knights of Peter Claver said racism is neither pro-life nor Christian and “is not of God. Racism and hatred are tools used by the Devil in an attempt to separate the People of God from His Love. God did not create us to be superior or inferior; nor master or slave to one another. He created us in his image and likeness to love and be loved by one another.”

“We condemn the evil and racist attacks that occurred in last week’s shooting of innocent Black Americans simply buying groceries. We pray for unity, love, peace and understanding.  We condemn the thoughts and ideologies that encourage horrific and sinful actions against God’s children. We pray that God’s unconditional, unquestionable and unending love fill our hearts — replacing any and all dehumanizing thoughts and actions that disrespects the sanctity of life and the love we should have for one another. We condemn all harmful and hateful racist thoughts and actions.”

Authorities called the shooting a racially motivated hate crime and said that the gunman specifically targeted the store because it is located in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Eleven of those shot were Black, while the other two victims were white.

The gunman in Buffalo surrendered to police at the scene. The suspect, 18-year-old Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York, more than 200 miles from Buffalo, was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder.

The gunman is believed to have posted a manifesto online in which he expressed racist, anti-immigrant views and claimed that white Americans were at risk of being replaced by people of color.

Michelangelo, “Creation of Adam” (detail), Sistine Chapel Ceiling, 1508-1512

From One Man God Made All Nations

“The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: ‘Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.’” (CCC 1935)