Tuesday, June 22, 2004

NAACP & DC Catholicism in happier times

From McGreevy's book, p.211:
...when some southern bishops balked at the idea of issuing a statement decrying racial segregation and discrimination, Pius XII, just before his death, ordered that the statement be issued "at once."
Catholic leaders now marched in step with the liberal vanguard. "In marked contrast with Protestants," the NAACP leader Walter White explained, Catholics in the District of Columbia had achieved a remarkable "degree of integration." "[O]f course I don't prefer an authoritarian church to a democratic one," Reinhold Niebuhr told one friend in 1957, but he admitted to alternating "between a violent anti-Catholicism and a measure of respect for what they [Catholics] are doing." The Catholic authoritarianism that he found so unattractive, Niebuhr conceded, allowed Catholic bishops to discipline priests and congregations unwilling to integrate Catholic institutions. In most Protestant denominations, by contrast, no one could protect a "poor parson against the manias of his congregation. In this sad world we must pick up virtue wherever we can find it and also recognize weaknesses in our own position."
What a mixed record. The Church a century earlier was on the whole vehemently opposed to any "hasty" abolition of slavery, but for non-racial reasons, even defending the fairness of enslaving white peoples. Then there's Catholic racism throughout Reconstruction and Jim Crow. Then there's Catholic academic books, papers, and ecclesiastical statements condemning racism beginning in the 1930s, with threats of excommunication from bishops against segregationist Catholics. At times progressive, at others reactionary, the Church is tougher to pidgeon-hole than Kweisi Mfume would like. That said, Catholic University still has crappy reasons to deny the NAACP a campus chapter.