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172                                     Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
               It is evident the Church simply cannot afford to miss the boat in the
            current social revolution and so lose the American Negro. The Church
            cannot  afford  to  repeat  the  maneuvers  made  during  the  eighteenth-
            century Industrial Revolution when her slowness lost her the European
            working class. The Church either opens to the Negro now or never.
               It’s all very well and good to have one of the neighborhood status
            symbols be the children’s attendance at the Sisters’ School. (A status sym-
            bol and more because the children receive, besides the regular curriculum,
            a highly valued “training in goodness” — as the character formation is
            popularly called.) And it’s also well and good that the Church draw in
            converts through its classes and its civic and social prominence in the
            community; that it help the mothers and fathers of families obtain all the
            rights owed to them and their children; that buses chartered for demon-
            strations leave from the Church door. It is well and good that this clamor
            after Rights is preached from the pulpit of the Catholic Church; but more
            than this, the Negro sitting in the pews hears that with every right comes
            a corresponding duty. Duty too he must discover. Duty too he must seek
            and fulfill to become an integral member of society.
               The honor given by Negroes this summer to John Kennedy can com-
            pare only with the love given last summer to another John, the Twenty-
            third, whose picture, cut from magazines and torn from newspapers, was
            conspicuous in apartment after apartment, Catholic and non-Catholic.
            The Pontiff’s name, in those first months after his death, was spoken with
            boundless admiration. And rightly so. For only the April before the sum-
            mer he died had he said in Pacem in Terris: “ . . . The conviction that all men
            are equal by reason of their natural dignity has been generally accepted.
            Hence racial discrimination can in no way be justified at least doctrinally
            or in theory. And this is of fundamental importance and significance for
            the formation of human society . . . For, if a man becomes conscious of his
            rights, he must become equally aware of his duties. Thus he who possesses
            certain rights has likewise the duty to claim those rights as marks of his dignity,
            while all others have the obligation to acknowledge those rights and respect
            them.” (Italics added)
               The American Negro has heard the late head of the Catholic Church,
            the Vicar of Christ, saying such things on radio and television, in newspa-
            pers and in some Catholic pulpits. The ground is plowed for the Church.
            The seed is there. It must be nurtured carefully in the next months and
            coming years. For the Catholic Church, as a body already present in
              society, can help through education and social action the implementation
            of the Civil Rights Bill and thus hasten the day when rats and hate and
            hunger no longer distract men from the care of their souls.

          ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
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