Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Louisiana State Mandated Segregated Catholic Schools and the Obama Birth Control Mandate

I saw this interesting reference from a LSU Journal on the renowned racist ( and dictator) Leander Perez

Three Louisiana State University scholars described the impressive third-party vote in Louisiana in 1960 as the outgrowth of "anticlericalism, which expresses itself whenever the [church] hierarchy attempts to go against popular political tendencies. It has led to severe conflicts between clergy and laity over issues of desegregation. Perez has certainly capitalized on these sentiments, and his recent excommunication [from the Catholic Church] has not slowed his activities appreciably. The fact, however, that the church condemns segregation was undoubtedly a decisive factor in Kennedy's [otherwise] success in south Louisiana."[3]

I have thought of Perez and desegregation of the Louisiana Catholic school System in light of this birth control mandate on Catholic institutions the Obama administration is pressing.

It's helpful to look at this Loyola University New Orleans paper The Role of Archbishop Joseph F. Rummel in the Desegregation of Catholic Schools in New Orleans . It's an interesting and short piece on a moment of United States Catholic History so read it all.

I was struck by a few things.

...In 1955 Rummel appointed a committee "to study the problem of integration of schools and its application to the schools of the Archdiocese" (McCulla 66-67). The letter recommended the earliest possible integration of the Catholic schools, beginning with the first grade. However, opposition among Catholic parishioners and lay leaders grew (McCulla 66-67). "Catholics had not advanced in their thinking about integration. Many parish school boards and parent groups voted by clear majorities to go on record against integration on any level in their local parochial schools" (McCulla 68). With some reservations, therefore, Rummel delayed immediately implementing the committee recommendation, but in February 1956, he published another pastoral letter unequivocally denouncing racial segregation as morally bankrupt. "Racial segregation as such is morally wrong and sinful because it is a denial of the unity and solidarity of the human race as conceived by God in the creation of Adam and Eve" (Rummel "Morality" 1).

The reaction from prominent segregationist Catholics was predictable. With outrage at the archbishop's forthrightness with his plans, some in the Louisiana Legislature introduced more bills seeking to maintain segregation in the parochial school system.

A writer in Catholic World stated that "It is to be hoped that these Catholics of Louisiana will wake up to the gravity of what they are planning to do. They are cooperating with a plan... whereby the State can interfere in the Church's mission of education" (Sheerin 4). In response to accusations of abuse of power "State Representative E.W. Gravolet, Jr., one of the Roman Catholic backers of the proposed segregation bill, promptly announced that 'we intend to go ahead with it, certainly'" ("Archbishop's Way" 80). Rummel in turn threatened to take drastic action: excommunication. ....

Now I find that plea from the Catholic World writer key then , and perhaps key now to our current debate over the mandate. He tried to alert and plea to these Louisiana racist Catholics do you not see the big picture here. Do you see what is perhaps even the GREATER LONG TERM EVIL?

That is the State of Louisiana is about through regulation interfere with the Governance of the Church . You might like the result of what Louisiana would propose ( MANDATED BY LAW ALL WHITE CATHOLIC SCHOOLS) ,but you will have Caesar subvert Christ in who governs the Church and her affairs.

Now notice what this law did not say. It did not say Churches had to be segregated or that Mass could not be integrated. It dealt with what some call today in the birth control mandate controversy the "business" of the Church. In this case education. As Catholics of course we don't see it as "business" ,but related to the Gospel message.

It might have been a tempting argument for Louisiana Catholics that felt their Priest ,and Bishops were so out of touch with reality of their flock as that article above shows in detail. ( sound familiar to an argument we hear today? ) .

In fact I dare to say to many who thought that segregation was the moral way God made the Universe it was tempting. But they did not bite in large on it.

The article goes into detail about the drama , but at the end recounts this:

...When Archbishop Rummel died on November 8, 1964, the Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of New Orleans were, for all practical purposes, completely integrated" (McCulla 75). Registration did not drop and no violence was reported during the integration years. "'There's been a lot of grumbling down here,' said one New Orleans observer last week, 'but the majority of Catholics will go along; no one is kicking over the traces. Catholics still regard the archbishop as top man'" ("Satan" 67).

That is right the Archbishop was boss .

Catholics have a special relationship to the Bishop. We are tied to our Bishop whom is tied to the Universal Catholic Church. As St. Ignatius of Antioch who believed was ordained by Peter himself said :

“See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. […] Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. […] Whatsoever [the bishop] shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.” (St. Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans; Ch 8)

“Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father.” (St. Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans; Ch 9).

In other words we are not congregationalist.

I bring that quote up that Catholics on all sides of the divide over the birth control issue should be wary of forces ,be they Government or others , that seek to interfere with this Divine mandated relationship.

We might have disagreements in the Church ,but it's our own business. Somehow Louisiana Catholics it appears in the heated emotional times of desegregation got that. Will we today?

Second there is the issue of religious liberty ,and the precedent that could be set on the issue we face today as to this mandate . Again going against their own invested personal interest some very inflamed racist Louisiana Catholics got that back in the day. The question is will we?


Anonymous said...

Exactly how is Obama going to force anybody to practice birth control if they choose to have babies? I know that many years ago the right wingnuts engaged in forced sterilization against the disabled, mentally ill, and others that they considered to be defective people who should not reproduce, but I think that by the 1960's the last state had ended it.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for giving wrong information. The last known forced sterilization was carried out by the Board of Social Protection in Oregon in 1981, according to Wikipedia. I had no idea it was that recent, and I thought North Carolina was the last hold-out. It behooves us to stay diligent to protect the right of reproductive freedom in the United States. If Obama is indeed trying to mandate that anyone practice birth control, then something should be done about it ASAP.

James H said...

Obama is not forcing anyone of course to do Birth Control.

However he is forcing peope to pay for it which for some brings up the copperation with a evil concern wich invokes the relgious liberty issue

Kurt said...

Good article. As you document, sometimes it is the political Right and sometimes the political Left that makes trouble for the Church.

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