This week in self-congratulatory garbage: A delegation of NBA players traveled to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis. The topic? “Social justice,” a phrase so vastly overused and misapplied that it has come to mean nothing. To further illustrate just how defanged the term has become, these conscious hoopsters have opted to discuss it within the gilded halls of an institution which, for over 1,000 years, has served as the vanguard of moral rot and thuggery in the Western world.
To be clear, I’m not saying Catholicism is bad. I’m saying the Roman Catholic Church is the most fundamentally evil organization ever to exist. While we’re here, though, let’s revisit the Holy See’s relationship with “social justice”:
In 2002, a now-famous Boston Globe investigation forced the church into a public reckoning with its penchant for child molestation. No lasting change would come of it. Bernard Law, the disgraced cardinal who had overseen the Boston diocese, died in 2017, in Rome, a guest of the Vatican. He was given the full funeral rites of a high-ranking church official. Pope Francis delivered the final blessings at his service. Nearly two decades after the Globe investigation and its fallout, in a 12-month span between 2018 and 2019, the number of sexual abuse allegations against Catholic clergy surged to over 4,400 in the United States alone.
Pope Pius XII, at the reins of the Vatican during World War 2, was fully aware of the genocide of European Jews and, despite commanding the world’s wealthiest faith, did painstakingly little to help. “Hitler’s Pope,” they called him. You’d think offering aid to those suffering through mass extermination would be pretty Christian, right? Haha, no. Pius refused to even denounce the Holocaust, rebutting information about the genocide by pointing to a memo from a Mussolini deputy who argued that Jews “easily exaggerate” and should not be trusted.
Nor is it a coincidence that Black participation in American Catholicism was rare until well after the repeal of Jim Crow legislation and the death of Martin Luther King Jr., when mainstream white opinion in the country began to shift, and the church had to move with the tides. In a 1968 meeting of Detroit’s Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, just two weeks after King’s assassination, Herman Porter told his fellow priests:
“The Catholic Church in the United States, primarily a white racist institution, has addressed itself primarily to white society and is definitely a part of that society.”
It was only through the efforts of Porter and like-minded clergy that Black Catholics were able to wrest control of their neighborhood churches from the aloof management of white cardinals and bishops, effectively forcing the Vatican power structure to recognize their legitimacy. Rome did not volunteer those concessions. Far from it.
It’s difficult to glean what, exactly, these players hoped to achieve with their trip, save for some Instagram photos. But if these guys wouldn’t go to a Trump White House, a commendable gesture, they ought to apply that rubric evenly when it comes to accepting an audience with the pope — even a supposedly progressive one. He didn’t seem so progressive when he was doling out blessings at Law’s funeral.