Prom our Pretoria Correspondents
THIS is crisis week for the Catholic Church in South Africa. Archbishop Whelan's defence of apartheid has plunged the Catholic community into disorder. As the CATHOLIC HERALD goes to press, the nation awaits a statement from the Catholic Bishops' Conference, meeting in Pretoria.
In Rome, Mgr. Whelan's remarks are contrasted with the Vatican paper's condemnation, in 1960, of the whole South African system L'Osservatore Romano described it as " the worst • manifestation of racism in living memory."
The general view is that the Archbishop's statement is acceptable as a piece of abstract theory, but not when uttered in the context of South Africa where it tends to take on a specific meaning. He is, moreover, director of the local hierarchy's department for press, radio and cinema.
HE Archbishop of Bloemfontein has succeeded in splashing the ChUrch across the headlines of every national paper in South Africa. Leader writers and cartoonists are running riot. Catholic affairs have not attracted such attention since the Church's fight in 1955 for the African's right to education.
The Nationalist press is jubilant: the opposition papers critical. Guarded support for Mgr. Whelan comes from Cape Town's Anglican Archbishop, Dr. Taylor. Catholics are divided. Some are hysterical with satisfaction. others with anger. Many are just bewildered.
They are not the only ones. According to the Cape ArRus, Archbishop Whelan's views must be seen as a condemnation of apartheid. The paper adds that what he is really advocating is "a less head-on and more from within approach".
But what of the Africans? As one Pretoria priest put it in a newspaper interview: "Archbishop Whelan's statement has extensively damaged African opinion of the Church. Africans will be extremely confused. Restoration of the Church's image in the African mind will be difficult."
Inside the bishops' meeting the air must be electric. Archbishop McCann of Cape Town and Archbishop Hurley of Durban have virtually issued, a public repudiation of the Bloemfontein prelate.
They have insisted that he must he taken as stating his personal views. and that the statement was not issued by the bishops' conference, of which Mgr. McCann is the chairman.
There may be differences between bishops of Afrikaaner and British stock, and some will have an eye to ecumenical relations with the Dutch Reformed Church which supports apartheid. Some observers think Mgr. Whelan will secure only minority support. however.
Before the Pretoria meeting. Archbishop McCann had a long discussion in Cape Town with the apostolic delegate.
What are the points at issue?
Archbishop Whelan argues that the Church's teaching is not opposed to the idea of a State composed of a number of racial groups. maintained in their separate identities by the State of which they form a part.
It is immoral to level such ethnic groups into an amorphous cosmopolitan mass. and the Church obliges public authorities to assist cultural and racial groups in a pluralistic State in their distinctive development.
He associates himself with the Catholic Bishops' Conference in its condemnations over the past 10 years of the Bantu urban employment system, job reservation. restrictions preventing the Bantu worker from improving his social position, choosing his own employer. and offering his services to the highest bidder; and laws that force him to live apart from his family.
But Mgr. Whelan also points to the 1952 statement of the Catholic Bishops' Conference when they said that the great majority of the non-European communities had not yet reached a state of development justifying full integration.
Finally, though admitting that 80 per cent of the South African community is excluded from voting by apartheid, the Archbishop argues that democracy is not. in the Church's eyes. the only form of government compatible with Christianity.
Some Roman theologians have already spoken their minds. While acknowledging that Mgr. Whelan is strictly accurate in treating mere physical separation as morally indifferent, they think he was wrong to say it.
The reason is that, in the actual circumstances of South Africa, the morally indifferent becomes immoral because of the government's motives and methods, and the effects of its policy which deprives the Bantu peoples of their rights.