By Hugh Kay
RACE riots in Alabama have touched off criticism that racial segregation in the Deep South extends even to some Catholic churches and schools.
The Southern Rhodesia Bishops' Whitsun Pastoral (see below) lashed out at colour bar practices in their country. Forthright condemnations of apartheid come constantly from the South African Hierachy. What is the view of the Church in the southern half of the United States?
put the question to Fr.
Alan Keenan. 0.F.M., of the Edinburgh Friary, who has recently returned from his second lecture tour of the United States.
He pointed out that there is this difference between the United States and South Africa: "in the former, racial segregation operates on the basis of 'separate but equal', whereas apartheid operates the principle of 'separate and unequal'". "Admittedly. the U.S. equality principle does not always work out in practice, but in the Southern States of the U.S.A., a Catholic grammar school will be paralleled by one for non-whites.
The American Bishops have constantly championed the rights of the American Negro, and have contributed greatly to his improved status—Archbishop Rummel's excommunication of Catholics who ill-treated Negroes three years ago in New Orleans is not forgotten.
The Archbishop has, moreover, abolished segregation in his diocese.
Fr. Alari explained that the actual process of bringing *whites and blacks together in all the Catholic schools of the Deep South has bad to move gradually. In the current climate of feeling. precipitate action can easily touch off rioting. But, says Fr. Allan, the time may have come when the Church's moral leadership must be proclaimed dramatically even at the risk of crucifixion.
Fr. Alan assessed the events of the past fortnight in the following way: " Europeens must remember," he said, " that the United States is only a century old as a nation, and is still moving towards its maturity. Alzbama and Mississippi, moreover. are economically and educationally among the most backward States. This is Klan country, and Governor Patterson of Montgomery is reported to have had Ku Klux Klan support in his election campaign.
"These are not typical States, and in the Deep South there is a fierce inferiority sense in relation to the other States of the Union. In regaru to integration of the races, their attitude is summed up in one word: ' Never '.
"This is the centenary year of the Civil War, tought over the issue as to whether the States should unite. That issue still lingers. The Federal Government's desegregation orders reopen old sores.
"The younger Southern Negro is today very different from the Negro of Uncle Tom's Cabin. He is well educated. and, under the leadership of men like the Rev. Martin Luther King and the wellorganised Association for the Advancement of Coloured Peoples, he has made a break-through.
"An example is the securing of equal dining f tcilities for whites and blacks in the restaurants — a principle which had the support of white university students.
"The Freedom Riders, who include many whites, strike at segregatior in public transport, and take their stand on the 14th Amendment. which guarantees that no State shall abridge their rights as citizens. This is the heart of the matter-100 years after the outbreak of the Civil War.
"The time may have come to put the Catholic house wholly and finally in order in the Deep South by drastic action, so as to sound afresh—and in tune with the forthright declarations of the South African and Rhodesian hierarchies—the Church's teaching on the equal rights of all men in the sight of God who made them.
" If the Bishops judge that the time is now ripe. they will have the weight of Northern public opinion behind them."