Not long ago, 68-year-old Tom Morris, a Catholic lector at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in South Orange, New Jersey, wore a shirt reading “Black Lives Matter.” For that, he received a reprimand from the church’s leader, Rev. Brian X. Needles.
The letter was shared on a Facebook group, according to the Christian Post:
According to a copy of the letter shared online by the SOMA Black Parents Workshop, Needles explained to Morris that “several people” complained about his attire at mass. The religious leader asked Morris to refrain from wearing the shirt when lectoring and said that he prefers males wear a collared shirt when they lector.
“A t-shirt, incredibly enough, can be a real source of division and distraction,” the letter declared.
“We live in such a contentious society already and I don’t want a t-shirt worn at Mass to become a source of distraction or bad feelings in our parish,” Needles added. “When the word of God is proclaimed, nothing, including a slogan on a shirt, should distract listeners from the fruitful hearing of the scriptures.”
The [Archdiocese of Newark] explained in a statement shared with The Christian Post that Needles was merely seeking to enforce the archdiocesan dress code for lectors.
“Celebrants who serve in the role of Lector — who have volunteered to serve on the altar and read from the scriptures — are required to follow the archdiocesan dress code, which is communicated during their training,” the statement reads.
You know what’s a bigger source of division and distraction than a t-shirt? Racism.
Needles stressed that he doesn’t disagree that black lives, indeed, matter. But the organization, he said, “has an agenda that is very controversial.” Of course, just about everyone sporting that phrase is referring to the idea itself, not one particular group. These aren’t due-paying members or anything.
Morris, to his credit, responded by saying he refuses to “back down” and stop wearing the shirt:
Morris said he is indeed inspired by the late Congressman John Lewis to “get in good trouble.”
“The little thing I can do is wear this t-shirt. My five kids encourage me to do this,” said Morris, who added that he was concerned that some church leaders and members were “not into the social justice aspect of the teachings of Jesus.”
Even though it will keep him from lectoring, Morris says he will not stop wearing his t-shirts. “I won’t stop. I’m committed. I will not back down.”
Who knows how many other church members wish they were brave enough to wear the same shirt.
(Image via Shutterstock)