American Prelates Seek Council Condemnation of Racism

111th General Congregation
October 28, 1964

In the name of all the American Bishops in Rome for the ecumenical council, Archbishop Patrick A. O’Boyle of Washington urged the council to add a “forthright and unequivocal condemnation of racism in all its forms” to the schema on the Church in the modern world.

Racism is to be found throughout the world in some form and to some degree, the prelate told the 111th general council meeting.

He characterized racism as “first and foremost a moral and religious problem, and one of staggering proportions.”

He said a clear-cut condemnation of all forms of racial injustice is the “very least” the council should undertake.

Archbishop O’Boyle proposed adding a “separate section in chapter four [of the schema] on the problem of racial discrimination and other forms of racial injustice.”

The same debate on chapter four of the schema, which deals with the principal task of the Christian today, heard another powerful denunciation of racial discrimination from Bishop Andrew G. Grutka of Gary, Ind. He branded it a “challenge to Divine Providence.”

Some form of hate or disrespect can be found in every act of racial segregation, Bishop Grutka said.

Every form of racial segregation and discrimination should be denounced with the strength of the trumpets of Jericho, he declared.

He singled out segregation in housing as a special evil. Decent housing is indispensable for good family life, he said, and the family is the foundation of society. “No one would look for beauty on a garbage dump, and no one can expect virtue in a slum,” he declared, repeating this sentence in English for emphasis and clarity.

The work of priests is stymied when people flee a neighborhood at the first sign that families of another race are seeking homes there, he said.

Joseph Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis spoke on gaps in the text and ways of filling them. Bishop John J. Wright of Pittsburgh presented the commission’s report on chapter four.

The council meeting opened with Mass concelebrated by Archbishop Pericle Felici, council secretary general, who was celebrating the anniversaries of his ordination and consecration, and 12 parish priests from 12 nations, including the U.S.

This concelebration was in honor of the sixth anniversary of the election of Pope John XXIII.

The Gospel was enthroned by Bishop Luigi Rosa of Bagnoregio, Italy.

The day’s moderator, Gregorio Cardinal Agagianian, announced that “certain points” of the schema would not be discussed orally on the council floor. He said this measure was aimed at forestalling misinterpretation and misunderstanding on the part of outsiders (“inter profanes”).

He did not specify what these “certain points” would be. However, it was generally understood he was referring to the schema’s section dealing with birth control, and possibly the section on nuclear warfare.

(At the U.S. bishops’ press panel, Msgr. George G. Higgins, director of the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, noted that Cardinal Agagianian made no reference to any specific problem but seemed to be referring not so much to general problems as to particular points within these problems. “It is not a case of the moderators’ imposing an unwelcome rule on bishops. Most national hierarchies I know of want to avoid descending into particulars,” Msgr. Higgins said.

(Father Frederick R. McManus, canon law professor at the Catholic University of America, said he got the impression that Cardinal Agagianian was not imposing a rule, but making a strong exhortation.

(Father Arthur McCormack, a British Mill Hill missioner and an expert in social and demographic problems, said Cardinal Agagianian’s intention was to exclude particulars, not subjects. “I do not think any subject will be excluded. In fact I know there will be interventions on all subjects contained in chapter four, and they will be forthright and open,” he said.

(Father McCormack’s idea of particulars was “this or that pill, for instance.”)

Cardinal Agagianian emphasized that the council Fathers had full freedom to express themselves in writing on these unspecified points. He even urged the council Fathers to make their thoughts known to the commission in charge of amending schema 13. He assured the Fathers that their written observations would be given full consideration in the final revision of the text.

Bishop Wright, in presenting the commission’s report on chapter four, noted that it takes up some key themes in the life of the world today. He called these ideas “the master-knots of human fate.”

Among them he listed the nature and dignity of the human person, the nature of holiness and difficulties of family life, economic and social problems, cultural values closely connected with human life, peace and world security.

It is not our task to find clever answers to all these problems, Bishop Wright said. This would take years. But we must exert every effort to apply the Church’s ancient wisdom to the new and previously unheard of conditions harassing the human conscience today, he said.

The Church does not pronounce the last word on these problems, he said, only the first word of a dialogue. It would be a mistake to ask too much of a schema which has no precedent in conciliar history, he declared.

He replied directly to a head-on attack made on the schema the previous week by Archbishop John C. Heenan of Westminster, England.

We cannot search all the signs of the times, Bishop Wright said. This would take many years. To do as Archbishop Heenan admonished us to do would require a team of sociologists. It could not be done by the council, he stated.

Bishop Wright assured the Fathers that a special commission had already been set up to receive observations from every source, particularly from the less fully developed countries of the world not in the mainstream of the Christian tradition.

Bishop Wright concluded with a declaration that any attack on the social order is ultimately an attack on man and his dignity. Taking a line from the poet, Oliver Goldsmith, he said the council must concentrate on keeping the earth from becoming a place “where wealth accumulates and men decay.”

The Fathers received copies of the changes made by the Theological Commission in chapter one of the schema on the nature of the Church. A vote on the amended chapter as a whole, which deals with the mystery of the Church, was to be taken Oct. 29. It was announced it would be only a yes or no vote, since the purpose was to determine whether the council agreed with the way the commission handled the suggested corrections.

Only two Fathers, Bishop Marcello Gonzales Martin of Astorga, Spain, and Coptic-rite Bishop Isaac Ghattas of Thebes, Egypt, spoke on the fourth chapter of schema 13 in general.

Bishop Gonzales complained that the text fails to tell Catholics how they are to be prepared for the grave tasks awaiting them. In past centuries, the Church universities were training grounds and in more modern times papal encyclicals have served this purpose, he said. He also noted that before the Church can hope to be heard by those outside it, it must renew itself within.

Bishop Ghattas said the chapter lacks a clear idea of the political value of the nation or fatherland. Catholics, he stated, are looking for concrete directives regarding their nations. While nationalism is an evil, the love of a country is a virtue, he said. The Christian who criticizes his country when it needs criticism is a dutiful son of his country, he declared.

Cardinal Ritter’s criticism centered on the way the dignity of the human person is approached in the schema. He suggested that the section should first say something on how human dignity is to be understood and fostered; that it should be reorganized to state the problem at the outset, then enunciate pertinent principles and finally draw conclusions; and that it should aim at a recognition of the dignity of the human person.

He said each individual must recognize his own dignity before he can recognize the dignity of others.

The cardinal said man must overcome his natural passivity to exercise his responsibilities in private and public life.

Canadian and African bishops pleaded for full recognition of the dignity of women.

Bishop Gerard Coderre of Saint-Jean de Quebec urged that the schema throw a brighter light on the personality and role of women in the world, which have been obscured by the prevailing mistaken idea of the basic inferiority of women. Today’s growing recognition of the dignity of women is among the signs of the times to be scrutinized by the schema, he said.

He proposed that the schema state that women are necessary for the completion of the divine plan for man’s perfection, for the perfection of the family and for that of society. It should also ask men to strive to give women their proper place in the world.

Archbishop Joseph Malula of Leopoldville, the Congo, said that in Africa the work of freeing slaves must be completed now by freeing women. Women must be brought to a full acknowledgment of their own responsibility, he said. Woman is not just a servant, a handmaid, a mother or an instrument of pleasure, but man’s helpmate and companion, he stated.

Archbishop Malula also touched on discrimination, but in a different context from Archbishop O’Boyle and Bishop Grutka. He said that in Africa tribalism is racism on a minor scale. It affects Christians, causing hatred and fear, and should be declared a serious sin against charity, he said.

Archbishop Dominic Athaide of Agra, India, also spoke of slavery, asserting that it exists even today. Men are being bought and sold and deprived of rights, he said. Often, through a policy of apartheid, they are victimized by discrimination on the basis of color. The council must take a strong stand on this because all men are awaiting liberation from this new slavery, he declared.

He praised the late Mahatma Gandhi’s lifetime of work for 60 million outcasts in his own country. He also praised the late President John F. Kennedy. He recalled that Pope Paul VI, in a recent private audience with the American Negro leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, encouraged him in his peaceful crusade for racial equality, explicitly praising his policy of peaceful resistance.

Another Indian, Auxiliary Bishop Duraisamy Lourduswamy of Bangalore, spoke in the name of all 60 Indian bishops at the council. He urged that in giving help to individuals or nations, the person or nation giving aid avoid having or showing feelings of superiority. The distribution of aid should not be over-organized, since that prevents heart-to-heart contact, he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Georges Bejot of Rheims, France, urged the council to make three statements in order to emphasize the dignity of the human person:

The first would explain in the light of the faith just what human dignity consists of.

The second would point out how Christ promoted human dignity.

The third would indicate how the Church sees the signs of the time in men’s aspirations.

Bishop Stjepan Bauerlein of Djakovo i Srijem, Yugoslavia, asked the text to specify the errors it alludes to. He said the text fails to give a complete view of Christian marriage and the dangers it is exposed to. The text gives insufficient emphasis to the role of civil and religious liberty for the education and development of the family, he said.

Bishop Pablo Barrachina Estevan of Orihuela-Alicante, Spain, said human dignity cannot be recognized without a correct evaluation of the human person. Despite the importance of psychological data in evaluating a personality, care must be taken not to think of man simply as a heap of psychological data, he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Eduard Schick of Fulda, Germany, praised the schema for hurling no accusations and passing no judgments, but examining the world situation to see what help the Church can offer. Men listen to the Church more readily today than in past decades, especially when the Church echoes Christ’s charity, he said. He urged that the schema be given a deeper theological basis through more liberal use of Holy Scripture. He also urged that the schema be altered lest it give the impression of presenting Christianity as simply one ideology among many.

Bishop Pierre de la Chanonie of Clermont, France, urged the council to take up the special problem of bringing the Gospel to children who are handicapped physically or psychologically, morally or socially. He said that in France such handicapped youths make up almost one-fourth of the nation’s adolescents and that in other countries their proportion is still greater.

Noting that the Church declares itself the mother of the poor, he asserted these children are the poorest of all. Despite their afflictions, they too have a right to fulfill their own human vocation in both the natural and supernatural order, he said.

Bishop Stefan Lazlo of Eisenstadt, Austria, urged the text provide a more detailed treatment of the notion of real liberty. Only thus can it forestall a false use of liberty, he said. Many things done in the name of liberty really conflict with genuine liberty. Such deeds diminish the dignity of the human person, he stated.

Patrick Riley
NCWC News Rome Correspondent

* * * *

In the light of what has been said in the ecumenical council, is the Congregation of the Holy Office obsolete in the modern Church?

This question, raised by a reporter at the U.S. bishops’ press panel, drew a unanimous “no” from panel members, though several said the congregation needs considerable updating.

“As long as the Church continues to be a teacher, the need for such an office will exist,” said Father John J. King, O.M.I., of Lowell, Mass., superior of the General House of Studies in Rome for Oblate priests.

How the Holy Office should operate is another question, Father King added. He stated: “Men should always be free to investigate and learn to apply the Faith. It is in keeping with the nature of such a body that this freedom be recognized as a positive necessity in order to promote understanding, but there is no contradiction between this office and the need for freedom.”

Father Charles Davis, English moral theologian and temporary panel member, agreed that the Holy Office is not on its way out. “Nothing that has been said in the council removes the place of the pope as supreme authority in the Church, and in this capacity he will need such an office,” he said.

Father Davis foresaw, however, that relations between this congregation and any future senate of bishops which may result from the council’s teaching on collegiality would have to be investigated. He said:

“Bishops should exercise collegiality at the local level in doctrine before a matter reaches the central and more authoritative decision-making body. Collegiality supposes this doctrinal activity on local levels, making more mature the decisions later at the central level.”

Msgr. George W. Shea, rector of Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington, N.J., pointed out that bishops sometimes fail to make such decisions. He referred to a recent communication from the Holy Office to bishops which expressed concern that bishops had not been more active at the local level. For instance, they were said to be giving approval for publication of books which contained doctrinal errors.

“The Holy Office is not unaware of the principle of subsidiarity,” he said. Often less severe warnings are issued through local or national channels before outright condemnations are publicized, he said.

“You do not hear about many cases where the Holy Office was right in its condemnation and the Faith was safeguarded as a result. If such a body did not exist, we would have to invent one,” he stated.

Father Roberto Tucci, S.J., editor of the Rome Jesuit review, Civilta Cattolica, and temporary panel member, agreed with Father Davis on the need for the local exercise of collegiality “provided the local bishop or national conference are not more severe than the Holy Office.”

Father Francis J. Connell, C.SS.R., former dean of the School of Sacred Theology at the Catholic University of America, said: “There is as much need for the Holy Office as there is for the Supreme Court in the United States.”

“There will always be a necessity for a doctrinal authority,” said Father Francis J. McCool, S.J., of the faculty of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, “but it must be in tune with the ideas of the world it is trying to reach, such as what the world thinks of liberty, and so forth. The Holy Office was founded in the Middle Ages when these ideas were not so clear.”

The Holy Office is not only concerned with doctrine, noted Msgr. Mark J. Hurley, chancellor of the Stockton, Calif., diocese. It also handles matters concerning marriage, the index of forbidden books, Eucharistic worship and fasting, some of which might possibly be given to other congregations, he said.

Reviewing the history of the congregation from its beginnings during the Renaissance, Msgr. Shea noted that the invention of moveable type and the consequent beginnings of literacy among peoples brought the need for the Holy Office. He said the congregation is not so much concerned with scholars as with popularizers of new theories in theology and Scripture, who present theories as fact.

Responding to this, Father Davis said: “The whole set-up of guarding the Faith by protecting people from ideas belongs to an earlier age. Whether we like it or not, modern society is such that people will be exposed to ideas. To guard against this will not work. There were advantages to a paternalistic state at one time — but there are also advantages to democracy. The Holy Office is obsolete regarding methods, which in this age must be designed to strengthen the Faith of those exposed to the new ideas.”

Father John P. Donnelly
NCWC News Rome Correspondent

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