Text of Archbishop O’Boyle on the Church in the Modern World

This is the text of the remarks of Archbishop Patrick A. O’Boyle of Washington, D.C., at the ecumenical council’s discussion (Oct. 28) of the schema on the Church in the modern world.

I speak in the name of all the bishops of the United States gathered in Rome for the present session of the council.

Schema 13 in general I accept. Indeed the general spirit or tone of the schema pleases me very much. Its spirit or tone is very positive and constructive. It reflects the same sympathetic interest in and concern for true human values which characterized the two great social encyclicals of Pope John XXIII, of happy memory — Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris. Like the more recent encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, it also emphasizes the need for a continuing dialogue between the Church and the world and indicates a number of ways in which this dialogue, so rich with promise for the future, can be carried on more effectively not only by the hierarchy but, even more importantly, by the faithful ad quos uti Caput “De Laicis” in Schemate “De Ecclesia” bene notat, “peculiari modo spectat res temporales omnes, quibus arcte conjunguntur, ita illuminare et ordinare, ut secundum Christum jugiter fiant et crescant et sint in laudem Creatoris et Redemptoris” [. . . even more importantly, by the faithful, referred to especially by the chapter on the laity in the schema on the nature of the Church when it says that the layman, looking in a special way at all temporal things with which he is involved, should so clarify and order them that all things may have their beginning, their growth and existence according to Christ in the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer.]

In a word, Schema 13, if adopted with whatever changes the Fathers may desire to make in the present text, will do much to advance the aggiornamento which good Pope John so auspiciously and so providentially inaugurated in convening this historic council.

In this intervention I do not intend to suggest any specific changes in the text of the schema or any deletions. Rather, I wish to propose the addition of a separate section in Chapter IV on the problem of racial discrimination and other forms of racial injustice. Racism, which, in various forms and in varying degrees, is to be found in almost every region of the world, is not merely a social or cultural or political problem. It is, first and foremost, a moral and religious problem and one of staggering proportions.

The present text of Schema 13 refers to the problem two or three times, but only incidentally and in passing. What I am proposing is that it be treated formally and explicitly as a separate problem, not merely from the sociological point of view, but from the point of view of morality and religion. Our treatment of this problem in Schema 13 need not be very long, nor should it attempt to offer detailed solutions to specific social problems in particular countries or regions of the world. At the very least, however, it should include a forthright and unequivocal condemnation of racism in all its forms and should outline, if only in general terms, the theological basis for this condemnation. It should also emphasize the obligation which rests upon all the members of the Church to do everything within their power to eliminate the cancerous evil of racial injustice and to advance, through all available means, the cause of interracial brotherhood under the fatherhood of God. I might add, in this connection, that our own experience in the United States suggests that this is one area of social action which calls for the closest possible cooperation between Catholics, Protestants, and Jews and all other men of good will.

In our judgment, racism is one of the most serious moral and religious problems of our times. If we fail to give it separate and adequate treatment, I fear that the world will conclude that we are very poorly informed about the signs of the time, or, worse than that, that we are insensitive to the tragic plight of the millions of innocent men and women all over the world who are the victims of racial pride and racial injustice.

In closing, permit me to quote, in my own native language, a brief excerpt from an address delivered in that language by Pope Pius XII, of happy memory, to a group of Negro publishers from the United States: All men are brothered in Jesus Christ; for He, though God, became also man, became a member of the human family, a brother of all. This fact, the expression of infinite universal love, is the true bond of fraternal charity which unites men and nations. May it be welded even more firmly through the efforts of all men of good will.

Unless I am mistaken, the whole world is looking to us to reaffirm this simple, but very profound truth in a solemn conciliar statement and to do so unequivocally and with all the clarity, precision, and forcefulness at our command.

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