WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston Mark E. Brennan released a statement online Tuesday addressing many topics concerning the church and the community including the Bishop Bransfield scandal, the coronavirus pandemic, and racism.
Brennan said there has been no action on the plan for amends for former Bishop Bransfield, and that neither he nor the Pope’s ambassador to the United States has heard anything about this in five months.
Regarding coronavirus, Brennan thanked those who helped clean and sanitize churches and in cooperating in taking protective measures. He also encouraged younger people to volunteer and help as needed, taking the burden off older churchgoers.
However, there have been a few cases where people who attended Mass tested positive. The respective health departments and parishioners were informed and persons in close contact with the parishioner were quarantined. Contact tracing has not indicated that anyone was infected at Mass.
The diocese gave parishes permission to hold small meetings and gatherings, such as council meetings, but canceled larger events such as parish dinners, funeral lunches and bingo.
Brennan also made several remarks on racism and noted that there is a smaller Black population in West Virginia than there is in surrounding states. He noted that protests after George Floyd’s death were peaceful in West Virginia.
He made a distinction between the “cry” of “Black Lives Matter” and the organization of the same name, which he says has some positions on issues that contradict Catholic belief and teaching.
Brennan said, “As followers of Jesus Christ, we must examine ourselves honestly about how we regard people of different races and ethnic groups. Change begins in the mind and heart. Otherwise, any changes in behavior will only be superficial and likely will evaporate like morning mist.”
He said “harping” on “white guilt” will not produce self-examination and change in white people but will more likely produce resentment.
“Judging people by any derogatory stereotypes is wrong,” said Brennan.
He pointed to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which was not judgemental and included poor Southern whites as well as Blacks in his Poor People’s Campaign, said Brennan.
Brennan said white people must acknowledge their benefits but not be held to a different standard because of them.
“Most white people have benefited from just being white, and it is fair to ask them to recognize this. What is unfair is to attribute personal moral guilt to them for a situation which they inherited,”
Brennan concluded his message by stating no one has the answer to how long the pandemic will last, but that people should keep their faith.
“As we look into the future, we do not know how long we will have to contend with the coronavirus pandemic nor by what means or how long it will take to bleach out the stains of racism from our national character.”
Bishop Brennan will mark his first anniversary as Bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Aug. 22.
Bishop Brennan’s full statement can be found below:
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