Dean's Lecture on Race, Law, and Society: The Catholic Church and the Racial Divide in the United States


Location: 1130 Eck Hall of Law

Notre Dame Law School
The Dean’s Lecture on Race, Law, and Society

His Excellency,
The Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton, Ph.D., S.T.D.
Bishop of Belleville

The Bishop’s address will examine key elements contributing to the racial divide in the United States and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement from the perspective of the Catholic Church. He will explore the reasons why only a small number of African-Americans are Catholics (2.9 million out of nearly 70 million American Catholics), the “all lives matter” vs. “Black lives matter” debate, and the negative impact of the erroneous expressions “minorities” and “minority groups.” He will conclude by exploring the question of what can the Catholic Church do to help bridge the racial divide.

The Dean’s Lecture on Race, Law, and Society is presented by Notre Dame Law School and co-sponsored by the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.



The Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton is the Bishop of Belleville, Illinois. He is a leading voice in the Catholic Church addressing the racial divide in the United States. The Bishop earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies and his S.T.D. in Systematic Theology, summa cum laude, from the Pontifical Faculty of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. He has served as the William A. Coolidge Professor of Ecumenical Relations at Harvard Divinity School and as a member of the Theology Faculty of Notre Dame University, the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and at the Catholic University of America. He has also served as Special Assistant for Theological Affairs to the late James Cardinal Hickey, when he was Bishop of Cleveland, and later when he was Archbishop of Washington DC. He served as the Cardinal’s personal theologian, research assistant, and theological resource person for the Diocesan Curia. 

The Bishop later served as the Director of Calvert House, the Catholic Student Center at the University of Chicago, and as Official Theological Consultant to William H. Sadlier Inc., a leading New York-based publisher in the field of Catholic Religious Education. He is the author of several books and his writings on a wide range of theological and pastoral topics have appeared in the Harvard Theological Review, Theological Studies, Louvain Studies, The Irish Theological Quarterly, America, Commonweal, The National Catholic Register, The National Catholic Reporter, and many other journals.

Bishop Braxton was a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago when he was ordained the Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis on May 17, 1995. He became 2nd Bishop of Lake Charles, Louisiana in 2001, and he was installed as 8th Bishop of Belleville, Illinois in 2005.  In 2015, he issued his Pastoral Letter, “The Racial Divide in the United States: A Reflection for the World Day of Peace 2015.” In 2016, he published the companion Pastoral Letter, “The Catholic Church and the Black Lives Matter Movement: The Racial Divide Revisited.” This was followed in July 2016 by his Pastoral Statements, “Moral Leadership in Action:  All Lives Really Do Matter” and, “There Are No Minority Voters.” In January 2017, he published “We, Too, Sing America: The Catholic Church and the Museum of African American History and Culture.” At the invitation of Peter Cardinal Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, the Bishop presided over a session of the Vatican’s international conference marking the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) in April 2017.

In September 2017, he delivered the 10th Annual Dorothy Day Lecture at Purdue University. Later that month, the Bishop addressed the faculty, staff, and students of the National Catholic School of Social Service at The Catholic University of America on “Horizons of Possibilities: The Racial Divide in the United States: Old Wounds Reopened.” On February1, 2018, he delivered the address “Racial Justice and Peace in Our Day” at Northwestern University’s Sheil Catholic Center. On February 21, 2018, he delivered the 12th Annual Thomas Merton Lecture at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky on Thomas Merton’s “Letter to a White Liberal” and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Originally published at