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Bishop Brennan: ‘Changing Hearts and Minds Is Most Important’

Bishop Robert Brennan is seen on set with Anchor Christine Persichette during his May 17 interview with Currents News. (Photo: Dustin Etheridge)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — In response to the racially-motivated mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on May 14, Bishop Robert Brennan of Brooklyn says constant dialogue and listening are imperative to creating change. 

“It’s the actual dialogue itself that makes the difference. We need to constantly be listening to each other,” Bishop Brennan said. “We need to be able to understand how other people see events not just through our own eyes but how other people experience events like this.” 

Bishop Brennan made the comments in a May 17 Currents News interview, where he spoke on two topics that have gripped the nation in recent weeks: The mass shooting in Buffalo that left 10 people dead and three more injured, and the future of abortion law in the U.S. after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion shows the court may overturn Roe v. Wade.  

In Buffalo, 11 of the 13 victims were black, and it’s alleged that the attack was racially motivated. Bishop Brennan said the race factor is “deeply, deeply, troubling,” and that because all people are created in the image and likeness of God it was a “direct attack on God.” 

“In so many ways we’ve grown so much and we’ve gone beyond it and so many people of good will are making great strides to heal the wounds of racism yet every once in a while we do see something horrific like this that just tears open scars and that affects us at our deepest core,” he said. 

Bishop Brennan stated the need for profound prayer, but more so emphasized the need for Catholics to live out their faith in the form of bold witness, personal holiness and going out of their way to promote dignity and show respect to all people. 

“Those are the things that spread,” Bishop Brennan said. “They have a contagious effect.” 

‘Changing Hearts and Minds’ 

The same as many pro-life advocates, Bishop Brennan expressed reserved optism about the possibility that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 decision that legalized the right to abortion nationwide, noting that the leaked draft opinion was from February so the court’s final decision is unknown. 

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Bishop Brennan sees an opportunity for debate on abortion law at the state level that can’t exist with Roe intact. 

“What will happen as a result if the case goes that direction, is it gives a chance for an honest debate with some legitimate regulation,” he said. “Obviously, we’re looking for something deeper but that comes with that conversion of heart and mind.” 

Bishop Brennan noted that changing hearts and minds remains most important, saying without it legislative change “means nothing.” The path to changing hearts and minds on abortion, he added, is similar to that on the issue of racism: It is prayer, and “giving joyful witness and trusting in the help of God that’s going to be transformative.” 

“Human dignity is the thread that ties everything together,” Bishop Brennan said. “So the more we can witness to human dignity at every stage, and for every person, that’s going to have a transformative effect.” 

Bishop Brennan also pushed back against a notion that the Catholic Church is pro-birth, but  doesn’t care for mothers and families after a baby is born. He highlighted Catholic organizations in the diocese that carry this work, and acknowledged more can be done to promote them. 

“What I think we can work even harder on is providing that network,” Bishop Brennan said. “The more we build those bridges, the more we’re able to help people in need.” 

Those efforts are especially important in New York, where abortions are legal throughout pregnancy. In a recent statement, Bishop Brennan with the state’s other bishops appealed to state politicians to work with them to reduce the number of abortions, given that the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling won’t effect New York abortion law. 

In the Currents News interview, Bishop Brennan said he hopes state political leaders would be open to a dialogue about the state’s abortion laws. He also hopes the two sides can discuss ways the Church can provide more support to mothers and families in need. 

“We have a lot of work to do in terms of converting hearts and minds but I think every step is a step in the right direction,” Bishop Brennan said.