Two black Catholic priests— one ordained six years, the other 42— shared their thoughts with CNA this week on the sin of racism, and the importance of praying, fasting, and advocating for healing.
Father Josh Johnson, pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in the diocese of Baton Rouge, told CNA he has been encouraging prayer for healing from racism for years.
George Floyd’s death on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police spurred protests across the world. Father Johnson said a friend sent him the video of the arrest either the day it happened or the day after.
“I shouldn’t have done it, I shouldn’t have done it, but I watched the video,” he said.
Johnson says he didn’t just see a fellow black man as he watched Floyd’s death play out on video— he saw a Christian man, a fellow member of the body of Jesus Christ.
“To watch a human being die, to watch a member of the body of Christ die on camera…He’s saying, ‘I can’t breathe,’ his calling out for his mom…to watch another human being die on camera was traumatizing,” Father Johnson told CNA.
“As a Christian, as a Catholic priest, I can’t watch that happen and not be affected and not grieve, not be sad, not experience anger that I pray was just, and then also just not be reminded of my own experiences, too,” he said.
Johnson’s father was a cop— in fact, he was captain of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Johnson says he has had the opportunity to collaborate with local law enforcement throughout his priesthood.
“However, that does not change the fact that when I’m not wearing my clerics, people in society don’t see me as Father Josh, they see me as another black man,” he said.
Johnson said he, like many people of color, has experienced harassment from law enforcement in the past.
“[George Floyd] could have been me. I can’t not think that way, because I’ve had negative experiences” he said.
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