The Saturday Evening Post
November 28, 1964
From "Not Peace But The Sword -- The New Anguish of American Catholicism"
By Edward R. F. Sheehan
Just as the middle class is consecrated to the entrenchment of the status quo, the average pastor is primarily concerned with the preservation of his parish plant. If Negro families infiltrate a prosperous parish, property values may fluctuate, affluent Catholics may move away, and the pastor's burden of sustaining his parochial school and other facilities may become unbearable. Naturally, despite his conscience, he is not eager to precipitate a crisis which would invite such hardship. He finds it more convenient to limit his moral indignation to planned parenthood, divorce, dirty movies, "going steady" or the threat of taxation of parochial schools.
"In a way," declares a California priest, "all this tends to verify the Marxist hypothesis that the economic substratum of society has a determining effect on the values of the superstructure, religion, culture, art and the rest."
Economic determinism, Marxist or otherwise, appears to be hard at work in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the see of the American Church's most controversial cardinal.
James Francis Cardinal Mclntyre is 78 years old, but age has not diminished his many admirable qualities. He is a financial wizard, and he has deployed his talents to great advantage in the swift expansion of his archdiocese. A favorite of Cardinal Spellman, whom he served as coadjutor, he was "translated" to Los Angeles in 1948; since then his flock has more than doubled to 1.5 million souls. To accommodate them he is presently constructing a new church every 66 days and a new school every 26 days -- a remarkable performance.
In many ways Cardinal Mclntyre is a kindly and fatherly man. An incident of some years ago, related to me by a distinguished Catholic scholar, illustrates this. The cardinal, so the story goes, happened to overhear one of the priests who shares his residence complaining about being awakened at all hours of the night to answer emergency calls on Skid Row. His Eminence quietly arranged to have all such calls transferred to his own bedroom, and for some time after that it was the cardinal himself who carried sacramental consolation to the derelicts of Los Angeles in the middle of the night.
Paradoxically his archdiocesan policies have failed to reflect his personal benevolence. It is not sufficient to say that he is a conservative -- the majority of American bishops are conservative. Cardinal Mclntyre is a reactionary.
He makes no effort to conceal it. I spent an hour and a half with him, and it was a memorable experience. The audience transpired in his ultra-modern chancery, replete with Xerox machines and wall-to-wall carpeting; curiously, recent issues of the liberal Catholic magazine Jubilee are to be found in the waiting room outside his office, but he keeps a copy of William F. Buckley's Up From Liberalism at his fingertips. The cardinal possesses a sort of irascible charm. A rather handsome man who appears considerably more youthful than 78, he has a way of puckering up his lower lip when he has finished making an important point, a mannerism almost endearing.
Cardinal Mclntyre has three principal preoccupations: the godlessness of the public-school system, the godlessness of the United States Supreme Court and the supremacy of the natural law. I slumped comfortably in my chair while he very graciously read to me the entire text of one of his favorite discourses, Ebbtide in Education. ". . . Is it not strange that in the public-school system which has developed in the United States, the children may not be taught that there is a God? Perhaps only in Russia today is the recognition of God denied. Are we not keeping strange company? . . ." And on the Supreme Court: "The Supreme Court, in avoiding and evading the natural law, has removed the very foundations of its own existence. It has stripped itself of its own authority." On the natural law, the cardinal has a favorite quotation which, together with Ebbtide in Education, he had Xeroxed for me: "True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is universal in application, unchanging and everlasting. ... It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it. . . ."
This classical and unexceptionable passage from Cicero provides an important key to Cardinal Mclntyre's character. He had first discovered the passage in the seminary nearly 50 years ago. It is genuinely moving to hear him talk of the sacrifices he had to make to acquire that seminary education. "I had to go to work at 13, because my mother was dead and my father was an invalid. My first job on Wall Street paid me three dollars a week.
I got my high-school education at night, and then I went to City College and Columbia at night, and it wasn't easy, because I was supporting my entire family at the same time. I was working my way up on Wall Street, and doing darn well at it. I had always wanted to be a priest, but my family obligations didn't release me until I was 29 years old. In 1915 I entered St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers. I was ordained a priest when I was 35. That's the best education a priest could ever get, the training I got at St. Joseph's!"
St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, like all seminaries at that time, was still staggering from the impact of Pius X's condemnation of Modernism. But the cardinal is not merely nostalgic, he is also suspicious, and his philosophy of history is essentially conspiratorial. Communism is the most serious internal threat to America. Liturgical reform is undesirable. Ecumenism is dangerous. The Supreme Court is subversive. The United Nations is evil. The John Birch Society? "I don't know everyone who's running the organization now, but I do know the founders of the John Birch Society in this state, and they're the finest people in California."
A number of people had warned me to refrain under any circumstances from mentioning the race question to the cardinal -- the mere mention of it might make him angry. (On a number of occasions Negro and white Catholics have picketed his chancery and staged sit-ins outside his office, assailing his "inertia in civil rights.") But he raised the subject himself. "How can anyone say that racial discrimination is practiced in this archdiocese?" he asked, crashing his ringed hand down hard on his desk. "The racial problem does not exist in Los Angeles. All our institutions are integrated. All our seminarians are taught Spanish, so that when they become priests, they can serve our Mexicans. We have 700,000 Mexicans. We have built scores of churches and parochial schools for them -- and for Negroes, too, and these schools have given them cultural accomplishment and civic advancement. These people need education, and we are giving it to them. What is wrong, what is immoral, that they should live among their own kind? Kind lives with kind -- Irish with Irish, Poles with Poles, Mexicans with Mexicans, Negroes with Negroes. That's not segregation -- that's opportunity!"
The profound disagreement between Cardinal Mclntyre and many of his younger priests over the definition of racial "opportunity" has made Los Angeles the most disturbed diocese in the United States. Shortly after my arrival there, I was contacted by a number of thesepriests. They did not dare to meet me in the lobby of my hotel, for they were afraid of reprisals if observed in the presence of a writer, so we conferred clandestinely in my rooms. These were devout and obedient men, but frustration had driven them to the brink of defiance. The tales they had to tell were melancholy.
It is well known now that the cardinal has reprimanded several of his priests for preaching from the pulpit about racial injustice -- this was, he said, a political problem, not a moral one. It is not surprising that the priests should wish to speak, since in fact Los Angeles is one of the most segregated cities in America; 90 percent of its Negroes live in "substantially segregated areas," according to the Community Relations Educational Foundation. It is quite true that Negroes can enter Catholic hospitals in Los Angeles, something they frequently cannot do in the South. But as Negro leaders point out, the parishes and parochial-school districts usually coincide with the demarcations between black and white neighborhoods: In practice, they are not integrated at all.
The majority of pastors in Los Angeles seem perfectly content with this arrangement and in no particular hurry to change it. A small but courageous group of priests, most of them lowly curates, have dared to be different, and they have paid dearly for that. Whenever Cardinal McIntyre, through one of his informants, has learned that a priest has preached on a forbidden subject -- it might have been liturgical reform, ecumenism or psychiatry as easily as race -- the offender has been summoned to the chancery for a confrontation with His Eminence. The cardinal's chancellor, Msgr. Benjamin Hawkes, is usually present during such proceedings. The delinquent priest is lectured sternly. The cardinal, though often kindly in his reproaches, sometimes loses his temper, pounds his desk, and delivers impassioned speeches. Monsignor Hawkes, an intense, sharp-chinned man whom I met in the cardinal's office, is particularly severe, and more than once Cardinal Mclntyre has had to restrain him.
"Monsignor Hawkes," one of the young priests told me, "asked me what sort of books I had been reading. When I told him, 'The works of Father Hans Küng and Father Yves Congar and Cardinal Suenens,' the monsignor said I had no right to be reading such radical theologians. At this point the cardinal interrupted him and said, 'Now wait a minute, Monsignor, I never said that my priests couldn't read if they wanted to.'"
"There are various opinions," another priest interjected, "as to whether the cardinal has more influence on Monsignor Hawkes or vice versa. If I had to choose between the two, I'd take the cardinal, because in spite of his ideas, he is really a lovable man in many ways."
The humiliation of the delinquent priest is not always restricted to a mere lecture. On at least one occasion the rite of submission was expanded to include a renewal of the promise of obedience to the cardinal. A number of priests have been placed under the seal of silence to prevent them from disclosing that they have been reprimanded for taking part in interfaith activities and the like. Such precautions have not kept these proceedings from becoming legendary in Los Angeles. In fact, the censured priests have unofficially formed what they whimsically call the "C.C.C." -- the Cardinal's Carpet Club.
With most priests, the intimidation succeeds. There is no effective machinery under canon law which permits a priest redress from the excessive severity of a bishop. Some Los Angeles priests will not say anything compromising on the telephone for fear their lines are tapped; others say they have been shadowed by private detectives, or informed upon by admirers of the cardinal -- and in Southern California he has many. A sycophantic, ecclesiastical careerism has thus become the priest's path of advancement; the robust and affirmative Catholic life of Chicago is at most a misty aspiration in Cardinal Mclntyre's Los Angeles. The statistics bear this out. With little more than negativism to feed upon, only about a third of Los Angeles Catholics even bother to attend Sunday mass -- far below the national average.
This unhappy chronicle could be prolonged almost indefinitely. At St. John's Seminary at Camarillo not only are the liberal Catholic weeklies America and Commonweal banned, but Time magazine as well. This does not prevent the student body from seeking out these subversive publications; the highlights of America and Commonweal are secretly mimeographed and distributed for a fee of 75 cents per semester. Clandestine Bible vigils are conducted, and liberal lecturers have been invited to visit the seminary when the faculty was absent on Sunday parish assignments. When Cardinal Mclntyre discovered that John Howard Griffin, the author of Black Like Me, had addressed the students, he upbraided the rector, who in turn interrogated each offender. One was expelled, two others quit, another was denied his subdiaconate, and 15 were placed on probation.
Shortly after this the Rev. William Du Bay released his celebrated bombshell publicly accusing the cardinal of "gross malfeasance in office" for his failure to condemn racism as a moral evil, and for conducting a "vicious program of intimidation and oppression" against his clergy. A second priest, the Rev. Terrence Halloran, also publicly criticized the cardinal's stand on race but did not approve of Father Du Bay's appeal to the pope to remove the cardinal from office. The blackest sort of punishments were predicted for these courageous young curates, but the great international publicity given to the incident seems to have protected them from the full measure of Cardinal Mclntyre's -- and Monsignor Hawkes's -- wrath. While neither of the curates retracted his criticism of the cardinal on the race question, both of them decided to renew their promise of obedience to him as their bishop. Father Halloran was transferred from a Mexican parish to a less sensitive post in Long Beach. Father Du Bay was removed from his Negro parish in Compton and reassigned to an all-white parish in Anaheim, where he has full access to the swimming pool on the rectory roof but is forbidden to mix with the local population; he may not even visit the adjacent parochial school.
Father Du Bay's daring outburst has already produced unexpected results. The global publicity and pressure from other American bishops have begun visibly to beat down the cardinal's intransigence. He is said to be painfully aware that the Du Bay scandal has made him look ridiculous in Europe -- and particularly in Rome. In late June, Archbishop Patrick O'Boyle of Washington, whose own record on race is quite good, visited the cardinal and persuaded him to issue a mild endorsement of the Civil Rights Bill. In July, Cardinal Spellman arrived in Los Angeles ostensibly to take a vacation, but also to talk his erstwhile protégé into adopting more reasonable policies.
About a month later Cardinal Mclntyre reversed himself and -- on direct orders from Rome, it is believed -- agreed to sign a public statement issued by the bishops of California condemning racial discrimination. At the cardinal's insistence, the statement avoided direct condemnation of Proposition 14, the constitutional amendment aimed at nullifying the anti-segregation clauses of California's fair-housing law. But, although the effect of the bishop's statement was to align the Church against Proposition 14, Cardinal Mclntyre's long silence on the moral issue involved was unquestionably a contributing factor in the triumph of this discriminatory amendment at the polls this November.
Still, there is progress on other fronts. Until now Cardinal Mclntyre has forbidden even the discussion of liturgical renewal in his archdiocese, and has simply ignored the innovations urged by the Holy See itself. But the Vatican Council's new Constitution on the Liturgy -- and the decisions of the American bishops in concert -- overrule him juridically. He had no choice but to authorize the sacraments and the mass to be recited in English, throughout his realm, beginning this fall. So far he has limited the use of English to one Sunday mass per parish -- the children's mass.
Despite his recent concessions, conditions under Cardinal Mclntyre remain by and large as they have always been. Priests and even archbishops of whom he disapproves are still banned from speaking in Los Angeles; fear continues to pervade his clergy. The Tidings, his official newspaper, continues to publish undisguised John Birch Society propaganda. Monsignor Hawkes rules on as the iron chancellor of His Eminence.