In his pastoral letter on racism, Bishop Seitz touches on the notion of soul sickness. He cites a theologian in paragraph 15, and some background on Fr Massingale is here. “Soul sickness” is used in other contexts and in other eruptions in human darkness. But I would agree with the bishop. It is a mysterious, pervasive evil, and even in its advocates, it will give only the emptiest of satisfactions. It is a deep selfishness, an infantile “me, me, me.” Only with guns, social media, and strained vocal cords. How do we struggle against it? We must be honest:
14. If we are honest, racism is really about advancing, shoring up, and failing to oppose a system of white privilege and advantage based on skin color. When this system begins to shape our public choices, structure our common life together and becomes a tool of class, this is rightly called institutionalized racism. Action to build this system of hate and inaction to oppose its dismantling are what we rightly call white supremacy. This is the evil one and the ‘father of lies’ (John 8, 44) incarnate in our everyday choices and lifestyles, and our laws and institutions.
This describes why there is no such things as “reverse racism,” or any kind of institutionalized things against white men. Certainly people of color can be prejudiced against whites, and women against men. But it does not rise to the level of racism. White men retain many options, courses, and advantages. When one has only nine options because the tenth is closed off, one is still advantaged. When the only one has been taken from a person, then we can say there is a significant racism. (Or sexism, or whatever institutionalized oppression.)
15. The theologian Father Bryan Massingale has aptly named all of this soul sickness. Truly we suffer from a life-threatening case of hardening of the heart.
How do “we” know? We examine our soul. We discern. Part of discernment might include talking with friends and loved ones. But we must also enter into dialogue with people who are not our natural allies. When we can do that, we’ve taken the first step.