September 5th, 2010
02:59 PM ET

Opinion: Authentically black and truly Catholic

Editor's note: Dr. C. Vanessa White is assistant professor of spirituality and the director of the Augustus Tolton Pastoral Ministry Program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois. She is the co-editor of "Songs of Our Hearts and Meditations of Our Souls: Prayers for Black Catholics." Next week in the "Pulpit" series: Shaun King, a preacher known as the "Facebook" pastor, shares how social media is transforming his church. CNN's "Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special" premieres October 21.

By C. Vanessa White, Special to CNN

I come from a family with diverse religious traditions: Baptist, Methodist, Apostolic, Buddhist and nondenominational. My mother was a spiritual seeker, and when she became Catholic, I was baptized into the Catholic faith as a young child.

Growing up, I attended a parish with Irish, Polish and black Catholics, and observed that the spiritual gifts of black Catholics were often diminished. When it was suggested that we include a gospel song in the liturgy, we were told that was not Catholic. "Ave Maria" was sung, but not "Mary had a Baby," a Negro spiritual. I learned about St. Theresa the "Little Flower," but not St. Benedict the Black. A Kwanzaa table was a no-no.

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- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Black issues • Catholic Church • Opinion • Race

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Sumaya Marie

    God bless you Dr. White. I am sorry for the ignorance of the few that distracts the mind of the many.
    Thank you for a thoughtful and spiritually enriching appreciation for the Black Catholics in America and abroad.
    Peace, Love and Prayers, from a faithful caucasion american woman ~

    For those who can only see the darkness of evil done by pedophiles who have wormed into the sanctity of the Catholic Church and preyed on / exploited children, consider that those sick minded individuals deliberately chose an avenue of grace in which to slither into, undetected, so that they could take advantage of the unsuspectin innocence.

    The same way those same people infilter every other church, daycare, schools, sporting coaches, doctors, nurses, dentists, social workers, television, media ....and now the internet . Anywhere a pedophile can find a place to slither in, they find it, to get to the endzone, which for them is time alone with children, to build their trust and tear down their life presence.

    So please, before you attack the Catholic Church for the horror that has been done to children throughout the world, remember to first, consider your own words, thoughts and actions; refuse to contribute any more exploitation among people of any race, creed or color in the world. And hear the word of Jesus ..." he among you, who is without sin, let him cast the first stone ".
    Blessings and Peace to all who will receive God's grace ~

    September 6, 2010 at 10:24 am |
  2. Ruspanic

    Why do black people love to talk about being black?

    September 5, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
    • The Guy


      Ssshh! Don't let them hear you asking that question! It's a big secret that most of them are actually brown. Mum's the word.

      September 5, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
  3. Kate

    Try this a fourth time

    First off, I'd like to point out that I only call people with MD "Doctor" ... I'm going to a55ume your t|tle is "Doctor" cos you have a DD, but that's not a Doctor, just a Doctorate, so ...

    But anyways, my point.

    Doesn't the author consider it isolationist and self-segregating to start self-identifying as a black catholic? Doesn't that just keep a perpetual veil between blacks and other catholics? You don't hear people self-identify as white catholics (although you hear them a55ign titles by geographic origin, such as irish catholic).

    You can remember your history, especially one as reprehensible as the slavery era (and, should, on the grounds that it's only by remembering such dark times that we can avoid repeating them), and I can understand if you consider such history, and indeed all of the history of blacks in the United States a fundamental part of your self-ident|ty, but really – where is the incentive for people to be considered inclusively if the language used is exclusionary?

    I can also understand the catholic church's built in prejudices – it's ethnocentric depending on locale, and America is no different. But how can you change it from within when you insist on highlighting it in your self-references. You're a catholic, "black catholic" can only have one effect – to continue to make a distinction.

    Just wonderin'

    September 5, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  4. Reality

    When skin color is no longer a topic of discussion, then we can talk about loving your neighbor as yourself.

    Then there are the topics of the flaws and frauds of religions to include Catholicism.

    September 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  5. Eshinesu

    The narrowest paths are often along the steepest cliffs. Birds are free and sing whenever they like.

    September 5, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  6. Kate

    OK, I give up trying to post any meaningful responses to topics on these forums until CNN gets around to using their moderation properly. Three attempts, and still won't get past their 1987-era filtering protocol.

    @CNN, you have my email address, if you's like a real systems administrator to come in and help you make these blogs more user friendly, give me a call. I'll even do it gratis.

    September 5, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • peace2all


      Wow.... I know you are serious when I don't see the usual... Just offerin' or Just sayin'

      I feel your pain on the 'moderation' situation.....


      September 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • Kate


      I read CNN's announcement on these blogs as to the intentions in creating them. I can understand why they want to try and automate the process as much as possible – can you imagine having to hand filter all the comments in a thread that jumps by 200 posts (approved ones we can see) in an hour?

      But I've been doing this stuff since 1995, and I'd expect an organization like CNN to at least have some expertise on staff who can fine tune the blogs into a system that is an a55et for the organization.

      Right now they're herding arthritic blind cats. And it irritates me to see a professional organization so totally bork trying to adopt 2.0 technologies – and a patchwork at that. It's amateurish, and that always sets my teeth on edge 😛

      Just b|tchin'

      September 5, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • peace2all


      Yes... I 'still' have a posting from yesterday on the 'christians spoil s* e * x' thread....

      But, there you go.... I had to get some kind of... Just ****** somethin' out of ya'

      BTW, there have been a few, or one...not sure.... other Kate's posting. And i was going to respond, but I realized that number one... it 'really' did not sound like something you would post. (other than the believin' that JC is your saviour and died for your sins part)....Just kiddin' 🙂 And... Did not have the usual 'signature ending'..... Just sayin' otherwise, I almost was wanting to know who had hij acked your name.... and brain...

      Anyways, hope that you are well.....


      September 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • peace2all


      Sorry... forgot to add....my posting is awaiting moderation on the 'how christians spoil...well, fun' thread..


      September 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
    • Kate


      Yeah, I noticed that too, that's why I registered and post with the name and link now. But there's bound to be tons of "Kate"'s out there, I'm not like Facebook and think I can copyright it 🙂

      If in doubt, drop me a comment on my site and I'll answer saying if it was me or not – you remember, it's the site you can reach if you click on my posting name above that has a new article up today.

      Just promotin'

      September 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
    • peace2all


      O.K.... I went to your sight, made my comment. Am in agreement.

      It's o.k... with the promotin' thing.... Like it....


      September 5, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  7. Fast Eddie

    nondenominational – there's a mouthful.

    Ms. White, how do you reconcile all the murder, ra-pe, torture, kidnappings, lies, ext0rtion, blackmail, and other crimes of this Catholic Church with your common sense? Doesn't the hypocrisy make you little uncomfortable?

    September 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
    • Fast Eddie - a correction

      Dr. White...sorry I missed the proper handle to your name.

      call me whatever you like if it makes you post a comment... 🙂

      September 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
    • Kate

      They never do – even the "Stephen Prothero" name I've seen in a comment somewhere recently isn't guaranteed to be him since it wasn't wordpress-authenticated, and you'd think as one of the people on the authors list for these blogs he'd have used his authenticated account

      Same with this author – it was posted under "The Editors", so she doesn't even necessarily have an authenticated account. I'll bet ybs will be posting as if it was her in time though if this makes Trending status 😛

      Just bein' cynical

      September 5, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
    • Fast Eddie


      When I read about Diogenes and the Cynic movement I had to laugh a lot. It was a good read.

      September 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
    • Fast Eddie


      When I read about Diogenes and the Cynic movement I had to laugh a lot. Check it out for a laugh or two. 😛

      September 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • The Big Picture

      Rom 2:11~"For there is no impartiality with God"

      September 7, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  8. Fast Eddie

    nondenominational – there's a mouthful.

    Ms. White, how do you reconcile all the murder, rape, torture, kidnappings, lies, extortion, blackmail, and other crimes of this Catholic Church with your common sense? Doesn't it make you even a little uncomfortable? Will you listen to your conscience?

    September 5, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.