Recent events in our country have brought to the forefront the plague that has haunted us for generations, the ugly stain of racism. As members of the Guild, we are compelled to speak out and act out against racism both as lawyers, and more importantly, as Catholics.
The primary duty of an attorney is to do justice. Justice requires that we treat all fairly regardless of skin color. As lawyers, we are asked to be the catalyst that brings an end to racism, to be part of the solution, and to take concrete steps toward that end. We are asked to apply the law fairly and without bias.
As Catholics, we are compelled to do so much more. We live the Golden Rule and the greatest of all commandments, to love one another as He loves us. Our faith requires that we go beyond the norm to love the imprisoned, the naked, the marginalized. As Cardinal O’Malley pointed out so well this past week, we need to focus on what brings us together, not what differentiates us, and, like the Good Samaritan, we must go the extra mile.
Jesus tells his disciples to learn to turn the other cheek, to give your cloak as well to the one who asks for your tunic, to go two miles for the person who bids you go one mile. The Good Samaritan was certainly a man who went the extra mile. He does not call 911 and drive away. He draws near; he gets mud and blood on his clothes. He puts the injured man on his mount and takes him to a safe place. Then he pays for the man’s care. The Samaritan commits to following up by coming back and taking care of any other expenses.
We have to become Samaritans. The Samaritan did not turn his back and walk away. He could see, not just the differences with the man by the side of the road, he could see his humanity, his connectedness. He wanted to be his neighbor. Racial tolerance is not enough. We need reconciliation, solidarity, and a commitment to anti-racism. We need to be a real community. We need to take care of and care for each other.
So how do we become Samaritans? Clearly, the beginning of any good plan starts with prayer, followed by intense introspection. As Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks about changing humanity, but no one thinks about changing themselves.” As Catholic lawyers, we are called first to change ourselves and then to use the many God-given talents with which we have been gifted to make real change in the world, particularly as it relates to racial injustice. As Mother Teresa said, let us do small things with great love. We are called to protect all lives, from conception to natural death, because all lives are precious.
Fifty-seven years ago, Martin Luther King dreamed of a world in which his children would grow up where they “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” As lawyers, and as Catholics, we need to work for, not just espouse, such lofty goals. We must pray to God for the strength, the courage, and the wisdom to make this dream a reality and to eradicate racism. We must use the gifts with which we have been endowed to reach this goal, to love and protect our neighbor, whether they be the imprisoned, the naked, the hungry, or the marginalized. As implored our state’s highest court, we need to do more to “create a just, fair, and peaceful society.”
Michael K. Gillis
President, Catholic Lawyers’ Guild