Beacon Press: Undoing the Knots
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Undoing the Knots

Five Generations of American Catholic Anti-Blackness

Author: Maureen O'Connell

A personal and historical examination of white Catholic anti-Blackness in the US told through 5 generations of one family, and a call for meaningful racial healing and justice within Catholicism

Excavating her Catholic family’s entanglements with race and racism from the time they immigrated to America to the present, Maureen O’Connell traces, by implication, how the larger Catholic population became white and why, despite the tenets of their faith, so many white Catholics have lukewarm commitments to racial justice.

O’Connell was raised by devoutly Catholic parents with a clear moral and civic guiding principle: those to whom much is given, much is expected. She became a theologian steeped in social ethics, engaged in critical race theory, and trained in the fundamentals of anti-racism. And still she found herself failing to see how her well-meaning actions affected the Black members of her congregations. It seemed that whenever she tried to undo the knots of racism, she only ended up getting more tangled in them.

Undoing the Knots weaves together narrative history, theology, and critical race theory to begin undoing these knots: to move away from doing good and giving back and toward dismantling the white Catholic identity and the economic and social structures it has erected and maintained.
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“[The author’s] willingness to examine her actions while coming to the realization that, while her intentions have always been good, they do not address the problem, is incredibly refreshing . . . Though the material may be uncomfortable to digest, it is an absolutely necessary read to foster antiracism.”

Undoing the Knots is a bold, brave, courageous prayer and plea for us to create ‘a new earth.’ O’Connell’s incisive writing leads the reader into a soul excavation, one that peels back self-righteousness and makes you grapple with the destructive underlying scripts—from church doctrine to family conversations—that inform racism at its most personal level. This is a book that compels the reader to engage the conversation on race with head and heart, and to manifest that heart transformation through a commitment toward structural change within Catholic communities and the Church itself.”
—Rev. Natosha Reid Rice, founder of Fresh Rain for Life Ministries and Global Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer for Habitat for Humanity International

“Maureen O’Connell’s Undoing the Knots is essential reading for this country’s conversation about whiteness and systemic racism from the angle of O’Connell&rrsquo;s faith tradition, Catholicism. At once personal and historical, narrative and analytical, O’Connell’s writing is vulnerable, searching, and open. Her desire to draw what is often a shameful history into the light is ultimately a hopeful project, and O’Connell is a worthy conversation partner on our journey to a more just union.”
—Donna Freitas, author of Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention

“In unearthing the Church’s troublesome history around racism through the lens of her own family, Maureen O’Connell invites us to join her on an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual journey that will give us the tools we need to show up for racial justice in our communities, especially our faith communities. A superb book by a gifted writer, a talented theologian, and a thoughtful observer of our contemporary world.”
—James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

Mattering: St. Vincent de Paul

Witnessing: St. James

Aligning: Christ’s Church

Grafting: St. Agnes

Manufacturing: St. Charles Borromeo

Maneuvering: St. Stephen’s

Defending: The Church of the Gesu

Homesteading: St. Francis of Assisi

Doubting: Catholic Higher Education



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Undoing the Knots

ISBN: 978-080701665-7
Publication Date: 1/25/2022
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $28.95
Format: Cloth
Availability: In stock.
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