Commonweal Magazine -- July 10, 1964
A Church of Silence
A. V. KREBS, JR.
Civil Rights Victory?
While laymen and clergy find all too believable the stories which circulate throughout the area regarding the suppression of religious liberty, their immediate concern today is the Los Angeles hierarchy's refusal to involve the Church on the local scene in the case of racial justice. Some concerned individuals readily point out that Pope John XXIII in Pacem In Terris implores Catholics to involve themselves in promoting the dignity and natural rights of men. He stressed: "...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..."
The struggle in Los Angeles to further man's natural rights has been, in the Catholic community, bizarre, fraught with failure, and recently beset with arguments among the laity over how demands for interracial justice can best be secured.
Shortly after World War II, a group of Los Angeles lawyers organized a Catholic Interracial Council, one of the first such councils in the United States. In 1948 they achieved a major civil rights victory. After unsuccessfully appealing to the Los Angeles Chancery Office for help, a priest who was serving in an almost exclusively Negro-Mexican parish requested the Catholic Interracial Council to see if legal action could be taken to overthrow California's 76-year-old anti-miscegenation marriage law. The priest noted that many interracial couples, being unable to have a legal marriage, nevertheless wished to receive the sacrament of matrimony. These people were refused on grounds of the law. Believing this showed the Church's indifference to racial discrimination, they fell away.
Acting on behalf of Andrea D. Perez and Sylvester S. Davis, the suit contended that they were members of the Catholic Church and the Church had no law forbidding marriage between the races. The county clerk in opposing this suit allowed his counsel to file an answer denying that this was the doctrine of the Church. Faced with disproving this allegation, assistance was sought unsuccessfully from the Los Angeles Chancery, but diocesan officials made explicitly clear that they did not want to get involved. An auxiliary bishop refused to publicly testify about the Church's beliefs saying that the case had no chance of success, that the Catholic Interracial Council was tilting at windmills, and that the affair would only give comfort to the Communists. The county clerk at the last minute decided to withdraw his denial, thus making it unnecessary to take further legal action to force episcopal testimony. On October 2, 1948, the California State Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision ruled the state anti-miscegenation law unconstitutional.
The Catholic Interracial Council also attacked the Jim Crow policy of the local Knights of Columbus, the archdiocesan girl's high school, Catholic hospitals, and residential restrictive pacts. In late 1948, however, the Council disbanded. One member explained the demise:
"It evaporated in about this fashion: the Chancery objected to the use of the word 'Catholic' as imputing some kind of official authority (which had never been claimed), objected to the word 'Interracial' as being a 'subversive' word but had no objection to the word 'Council,' explained the virtues of 'prudence,' said the chaplain had 'resigned,' that another chaplain would not be appointed, and while opposed to segregation, seemed to have in mind some 500-year plan for integration. Being unable to accept these views, about this time the Council and its few surviving members disappeared over the horizon."
In late 1949 and early 1950 a group of Loyola University graduates attempted to form another C.I.C. group, but after Chancery Office pressure an organizational Communion breakfast was cancelled. Since 1950 an uneasy quiet became the hallmark of activity for interracial justice within the Los Angeles Catholic community.
In 1963, with demands for civil rights being heard throughout the United States, there was again activity in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The laity in Los Angeles have become involved anew in the fight for racial justice. Sue Welch, a young schoolteacher, organized a group called Catholics United for Racial Equality (CURE). Initially a letter was sent to Cardinal McIntyre acquainting him with the group's aims. It told him that they were seeking, as lay Catholics, "the leadership of our clergy and hierarchy in the struggle for interracial justice in Los Angeles." It pointed out to the Cardinal that the demand for civil rights in Los Angeles, as elsewhere, was a moral issue in itself and therefore basically religious. They deplored the silence of the Church in Los Angeles and called for nine specific initiatives.
Among the initiatives proposed by the CURE group were: formation of an officially approved Catholic Interracial Council, an Episcopal Letter on specific moral aspects of racial discrimination, the encouragement of more frequent sermons on social justice, discussion of Catholic teaching on race in Archdiocesan schools, and coverage of race-related news in The Tidings. In addition, CURE asked that wherever possible "Negro teachers be recruited to fill openings in white secondary and parish schools to implement the knowledge of racial realities as part of a truly catholic education."
Catholics United for Racial Equality (CURE) in 1964
Third from left is Leon Aubry. At center is Susan Welch. At her right in
front row are Roger Kuhn, Jon Buchholdt and (partially hidden) Alan White.
CURE members asked for an audience with Cardinal McIntyre, but no audience was granted. CURE took direct action and staged a four-day "sit-in" at the Los Angeles Chancery Office. The "sit-in" began on a Monday. Chancery officials paid no attention to the group except when the Rev. Edward C. Maddox, Archdiocesan Director of Cemeteries, attempted to get the names and parishes of the CURE members and to determine whether they were baptized Catholics. On Tuesday, Cardinal McIntyre came into the Chancery lobby and, without comment, presented CURE's Sue Welch with a letter. His letter, published in the editorial columns of The Tidings, noted, "wherever the law and local custom permitted the Church has practiced integration in its Churches, in its schools and in its social service departments."
A striving for interracial justice, he said, should be "rendered quietly, consistently, and as a normal aspect of parish life among our people" and this would provide "the most hopeful and effective means of promoting racial justice and charity." Deploring "the creation of special commissions and committees and the development of specialized programs often formed in the heat of emotion and in the context of strong political overtones," he argued, these "can militate against the very ends they are designed to serve by arousing an acute sensitivity of racial differences rather than an absorption of them in the warmth of the brotherhood of Christ." Concluding his letter, Cardinal McIntyre noted that "No representative members" of the Negro Catholic community had indicated to him that they desired a change in his policies. He added, "In fact, some of them have expressed concern lest current agitation and demonstrations, even though well-intentioned, may impede rather than augment progress towards racial justice."
In a press conference the following Friday, Cardinal McIntyre emphasized that "The Negro is better treated in Los Angeles than anywhere in the United States." (A CURE spokesman later charged that there is not a single Negro living in "at least 20 suburbs surrounding Los Angeles.") Cardinal McIntyre (also according to the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner) further characterized what he chose to describe as CURE's demands for "black nuns in white schools and white nuns in black schools," as insulting to both Church authorities and the Negro community.
Later the Negro Catholic Action Committee sought to spell out a number of "grievances and requests" in a series of letters to the Cardinal. The Rev. John B. Thom, assistant secretary to the Cardinal, acknowledged "with respect" the group's expression of its views, but added that the committee's statements were contrary to fact or were misinterpretations of fact. Meanwhile, individual Negro Catholics called politely upon the Cardinal Archbishop to inform him that not all Negroes felt they were "better treated in Los Angeles than anywhere in the United States." In one conversation, Cardinal McIntyre mentioned to a Negro representative how he had carefully discussed a certain point on race relations with "your Cardinal" at the Ecumenical Council, viz., Loren Rugambwa of Tanganyika.
Catholic Human Relations Council
While the CURE "sit-in" lasted only four days, it created a great deal of controversy within the Catholic community. Some felt the CURE protest had been "imprudent," while others said they had focused a necessary spotlight on the need for racial justice within the Church in Los Angeles.
Many of those interested in promoting racial justice but opposed to the tactics CURE eventually used had meanwhile set up the Catholic Human Relations Council of Los Angeles. This group has no official status in the archdiocese. At one of its meetings, in September, 1963, California deputy attorney general Vincent Thorpe served as keynote speaker. A Chancery official tried unsuccessfully at the last minute to prevent the group from holding their first general meeting at St. Albert's Church in Compton, California, on January 12, 1964. Some 250 Los Angeles Catholics attended the meeting to hear the Rev. Donald Rooney, a Navy chaplain, speak on Pope John's Pacem In Terris and its relevance to the question of racial justice.
In February, the Catholic Human Relations Council made plans to hold their meeting with a Communion breakfast following Mass in the auditorium of the St. Jane de Chantal parish in North Hollywood. A Chancery official, however, phoned the pastor and said that the Mass and meeting would have to be cancelled, since no request had been made for permission to celebrate Mass in the auditorium. Council officers sought other quarters, and on February 9th, after celebrating Mass at St. Jane de Chantal, some 150 members drove down to a neighboring Jewish community center for their Communion breakfast.
In a February 29th editorial, Ave Maria sharply criticized Los Angeles archdiocesan officials for their action. "When priests in Baltimore permitted themselves to be arrested in protest against racial discrimination, the entire Church in America benefited from their action. In like manner, the unfortunate image arising from this series of incidents in Los Angeles does harm to the Church across the country." Immediately after the editorial, the Los Angeles Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools ordered Ave Maria removed from all school libraries.
At present, the Catholic Human Relations Council in Los Angeles, governed by a 27-man board of directors, is conducting an interracial home visiting program and maintains a speaker's bureau. The council is presently engaged in a California state-wide campaign to defeat an initiative which would make unconstitutional any state effort to pass a fair-housing law. In an educational tract now being widely distributed throughout the Southern California area, the Council notes that the present California Fair Housing Law "clearly conforms to Catholic moral teachings and the initiative against it runs counter to these teachings.... There is a grave danger that irresponsible groups will attract the support of uninformed citizens by not presenting the issue before us clearly and fully. Man's social rights and responsibilities and the role of government as interpreted by the 'Mind of the Church' may not be ignored."
Meanwhile, CURE has maintained frequent pickets in front of the Chancery Office. Holy Thursday evening they carried lighted candles, petitioning the Cardinal to make a statement regarding the California discrimination initiative. On Pentecost Sunday some 30 CURE pickets demonstrated outside the entrance to Fremont Place, a private residential park where the Cardinal lives. Both times a spokesman told the press, "The Cardinal cannot make a statement on a political issue." (Paradoxically, in 1958 when an attempt was made to reimpose state taxation on private schools, a forceful, well-organized campaign by Cardinal McIntyre, through the "Cardinal's Coordinating Committee," defeated the proposition with a 175,000 vote plurality in Los Angeles County.)
It was in this context that Father William DuBay announced he had written Pope Paul VI a 700-word cable charging Cardinal McIntyre with "gross malfeasance in office" and asking for his removal as Archbishop. The following Saturday, Father Terrence W. Halloran, assistant pastor of St. Mary's Church, issued a statement that while he did not approve of Father DuBay's sending the letter to the Pope, he agreed in principle with the priest's criticism of the silence of the Cardinal on local Catholic racial policies. Meanwhile, 50-60 parishioners from Father DuBay's church began a daily picket of the L. A. chancery offices seeking reinstatement of the priest and acknowledgement of civil rights issues as moral.
Commonweal Magazine -- July 10, 1964
The DuBay Case
ONE THING you notice immediately about Catholic Los Angeles is the number of people with a glittering repertoire of atrocity stories about life under Cardinal McIntyre. The treatment of Father Hans Küng, the suppression of the Catholic Interracial Council and the first two silencings of Father DuBay are all hopelessly old hat, and are not considered acceptable openers in any conversation. Neither are the hoary tales, all fully documented, about the Cardinal's various wars against psychiatry, liturgical reforms, U.C.L.A., UNESCO and the ever-present threat of domestic Communism. Time marches on, and there are new and devious forms of modernism to be exposed, new windmills to be slain.
The Cardinal's ecumenical conversation consists of "no," and Protestant observers at the Vatican Council are prohibited from speaking anywhere in the diocese; except for Pius XI on atheistic Communism, the encyclicals are suppressed, and America and The Commonweal are barred from the churches; priests are not allowed to be A.A. chaplains; dialogue Masses are forbidden, Newman work discouraged, and internationalism is depicted as so subversive that a Los Angeles matron recently admitted she had told in confession that she liked the U.N.
On top of this the Archdiocese lives under a permanent cloud of suspicion and fear. One spokesman for a Catholic College said the institution feels "frankly intimidated." The colleges don't know where they stand or what small action will be interpreted as defiance. Priests are called in to the chancery and made to submit, and then are often put under silence not to reveal the submission. At the meetings of the few surviving lay groups, strangers who are neither new members nor reporters frequently appear and take copious notes, presumably for the chancery office.
The DuBay case is one measure of what all this does to a twentieth-century diocese whose union with Rome is of the letter but not the spirit: the tensions that build in any priest who takes both his faith and his Cardinal seriously, and the eruptions that become inevitable in a closed and repressive ecclesiastical system.
The DuBay incident has no beginning -- it is rooted in the nature of the regime -- but the events that set the stage can be sketched briefly. They involve an incident at the Archdiocesan seminary, the disappearance of a priest, a forthcoming state-wide vote on fair housing, and the diocese's general response to the civil rights revolution.
The seminary incident took place the first Sunday of May -- "Strawberry Sunday" as it is now known. John Howard Griffin, novelist and author of Black Like Me, was in town for a talk, and since he had a few hours to spare, a priest [Father Peter Beaman] drove him up to St. John's Seminary in Camarillo on short notice to chat with a few seminarians. Because Griffin has bad legs, he was deposited and later picked up at a rear door, near the classroom where he was to meet the seminarians. As it happened, a large number of students were cleaning and cutting a supply of strawberries that had been donated to the institution. They were just finishing up when Griffin arrived, and one shout into the kitchen brought the whole group to meet him. About sixty seminarians, out of about one hundred, were involved.
It should be said here that there are two ways of taking initiatives in the Archdiocese. One way is to ask the Cardinal for permission, in which case the answer is usually no. The other is to take the small possible steps independently, in which case if the chancery finds out, the steps are likely to be construed as a personal conspiracy against the Cardinal. The latter is what happened here. The Cardinal reasoned that sixty seminarians could not have been gathered without long-term planning behind his back, and that Griffin's entrance and departure through a rear door was conclusive evidence of conspiracy. Every seminarian was thereupon interrogated individually by the rector, with the direct result that one was expelled, one quit, one was held back from ordination to the subdiaconate and fifteen were placed on probation. The Queeg-ian aspects of "Strawberry Sunday" have not been lost on the multitude.
The priest who disappeared [Father Laurence Whitehead], a friend of Father Dubay's, was a dedicated, sensitive priest who had worked with the migrant workers for some time. All that is known is that he disappeared directly after being called in on the carpet by Cardinal McIntyre, and is now living outside the diocese, not as a priest. Just before the Vatican Council opened, the priest had written to the Cardinal his suggestions and ideas for the Council -- as all Catholics had been urged to do by Pope John. The Cardinal wrote back what friends of the priest describe as a cruel letter telling him to mind his own business.
The proposal to be voted upon this fall is known as "The Initiative" -- a reactionary attempt, inspired by the real estate lobby and backed by the Birchers, to upset the State's Fair Housing Laws and bar any future legislation along the same lines. The Initiative has been attacked, on moral grounds, by five Northern California Catholic bishops, including Archbishop McGucken of San Francisco, but Cardinal McIntyre has taken no position, insisting that the issue is "political" not "moral." The Initiative is given a good chance to pass, and not unexpectedly, its major support is rooted in the Los Angeles area.
The Archdiocese's general stance on race is, first, that there is no racial problem in Los Angeles, and second, that the demise of discrimination in general would be pleasant, but anything designed to bring it about is either dangerous or "political," not "moral," and hence no business of the Church. Demonstrations and marches are both dangerous and political, and are therefore not countenanced. Priests and nuns may not take part, and laity are encouraged not to. Laws are not the answer, either, since they are clearly political, and besides, you cant legislate morality.
As for preaching on race, every priest in the Archdiocese realizes that this directly jeopardizes his career. Some do it, and if the parish is a Negro one, or a rare enlightened white one (where such sermons are, of course, unnecessary) the priest may never be called in to answer for his lapse. The general pattern, however, is for a priest to be reprimanded and, perhaps, transferred for a sermon on race. Of those who are interested in the topic at all, most have learned not to do it. Father DuBay is one of the slow learners, and has now been yanked out of three parishes in four years over the racial question, once for preaching a sermon in a Birchy parish, once for inserting in the parish bulletin four paragraphs calling for integration of the community, and now, finally, for attacking Cardinal McIntyre head on.
He has also been threatened with suspension and called on the carpet several other times. Carpet-calling is a widely-practiced sport in Los Angeles. The current champion [Father John Coffield] -- and titular head of what the younger priests call the CCC -- Cardinal's Carpet Club -- has been carpet-called more than 25 times for preaching on race, and other infractions. Most recently, Father DuBay was carpet-called for presuming to use an experimental Mass and prayer booklet put out by Paulist Press. The Cardinal was particularly upset by the booklet's simplified version of the Our Father for children ("Our Father in Heaven, make Your name holy, etc.") and asked Father DuBay rhetorically, by what right he dared improve on the words set down for us by Christ.
Father DuBay is twenty-nine years old, appears slight, shy and intense, and by Los Angeles standards, he bears all the earmarks of a dangerous man. He reads Hans Küng and other contemporary theologians, is interested in the liturgy, follows the encyclicals, and is passionately concerned with the racial issue. For more than a year, he has told friends how the indignity inflicted on Negroes and Mexican-Americans bears in on him in an intensely personal way. As far back as February, 1963, he had been talking about the necessity of taking some public stand in defiance of the Cardinal, simply to clear his own conscience as a priest. The tension had given rise to a deep interest in the structures of the Church, particularly the lack of channels for public opinion, protests, hearings and redress of legitimate grievances. After lectures by people like Küng and Daniel Callahan, he was on his feet, speaking with emotion on the issue. He has had an article on the need for democratic structures in the Church accepted by a priestly journal.
Along with several other priests, most of them not long out of the seminary, he had become convinced that every possible approach to Cardinal McIntyre on the racial issue had been exhausted -- repeated appeals for audiences, phone calls, proddings from outside bishops, even picketing of the chancery office by laymen -- and that nothing else was left but open protest, even if it meant suspension or excommunication.
Terry Halloran, Al White and Bill DuBay in 2007
With this attitude in mind, he and Father Terrence Halloran attended a meeting called Sunday, June 7, by Edward Keating, publisher of a Catholic-edited magazine called Ramparts. The meeting concerned the publicizing of a Ramparts exposé on the Church and race, written anonymously by a Northern California priest and featuring special criticism for Cardinal McIntyre. Most of those present were members of Catholics United for Racial Equality (CURE), a militant lay group that conducted picketing and a pray-in at the chancery last summer. Fathers DuBay and Halloran had worked closely with CURE for some time.
Keating wanted a press conference the following Wednesday, preferably with some local people on the panel. Father DuBay quickly volunteered, but Father Halloran refused, on the grounds that the Ramparts article was too strongly worded and in some ways inaccurate. Keating wanted two priests or none, so Father DuBay spent much of Monday and Tuesday on the phone trying to get an accompanying priest. Everyone he contacted refused. The general reaction was that the last stand against the Cardinal should be an independent event, not something attached to the coattails of a non-Los Angeles publisher and an anonymous non-Los Angeles priest.
One of the priests who thought the terrain for the battle was all wrong asked that time be allowed to assemble a group of at least twenty priests, since the Cardinal was unlikely to suspend that many all at once. But Father DuBay had made his commitment on Sunday and was fighting to reject any plan that would give himself an out. He began placing calls around the country to see what episcopal support he might expect if he took on the Cardinal alone.
Keating went ahead with his own plans, and the Wednesday press conference took place with two prominent Los Angeles Negroes on the panel. Due largely to one aggressive newsman who persistently demanded the documentation that Keating lacked, the conference fizzled badly. Newsmen were openly skeptical. Sensing a rout, one of Father DuBay's friends in CURE phoned him immediately and urged him strongly to save the situation by holding his own press conference the next day.
Father DuBay agreed, with the results that are now so widely known. In the cable to the Pope he asked the Cardinal's removal from office for "gross malfeasance" and "abuses of authority" in failing to exert moral leadership against discrimination, and for conducting "a vicious program of intimidation and repression" against priests, seminarians and laymen who do show such leadership. The catalogue of horrors that the priest opened to the press contained only one surprise: the public call for the Cardinal's dismissal, and this was soon to cut away the wide support he might quickly have rallied among both priests and laity. Only one priest, Father Halloran, joined the protest, and he was careful to dissociate himself from the idea of firing the Cardinal.
One side story may be interpolated here. The Catholic Human Relations Council, a lay group that is independent of the Cardinal but careful of his sensibilities, authorized its president, Emil J. Seliga, to write the Cardinal offering to do anything possible to help heal the dispute. All Seliga earned for his pains was an obnoxious letter from the Cardinal's secretary, one Father Eugene Gilb, dismissing him as "verbose." Chancery prose is an art form in Los Angeles, creatively pursued by men trained to appreciate and sustain the gap between Cardinal and laity.
Detaching the Ally
After relieving Father DuBay of his duties as parish administrator -- the mildest first step possible under the circumstances -- the chancery ignored him for three days, and went to work to detach his half-committed ally. Father Halloran was called in and asked by the Cardinal to renew his vow of obedience, which he was willing to do as long as no retraction was involved. The Cardinal delivered the usual two-minute talk to the effect that there is no racial problem in the diocese, ordered Father Halloran not to preach on race, and told him to stand by for the ceremony of renewing the obedience vow. With that, the Cardinal went on retreat -- a strategic one as it turned out -- and did not reappear until the case was settled.
By Monday the chancery had also called in Father Luke Lynch, an elderly semi-retired priest in Father DuBay's parish. Father Lynch, an independent soul who had been trying unsuccessfully for months to see the Cardinal on other matters, was miffed at the chancery's suggestion that he take over the parish and try to soothe the parishioners, who by now were up in arms, picketing and circulating petitions in behalf of Father DuBay. He reported the conversation back to the young priest, including a choice bit of chancery dialogue that perhaps Father DuBay should be put away for awhile in a hospital or sanitarium. Father DuBay had already retained a lawyer, partly to see that this did not happen.
Whether the Cardinal thought he had a potential schism on his hand is open to conjecture, but we do know, in the words an auxiliary bishop was to use at Father DuBay's capitulation ceremony, that the chancery considered it "one of the greatest crises in the history of the Archdiocese." The chancery moved swiftly to contain any restiveness.
At least one priest was called in, interrogated and warned. Another was called by the chancery on the pretext of asking something about his church's stations of the cross, and asked if, by the way, he had any silly ideas about getting mixed up with Father DuBay. The chancery also tried to call in the leading member of the Cardinal's Carpet Club, on the grounds that if anything was afoot, he would be involved, but he was out of town and presumably innocent. (As this article was going to press, it was learned from a source near the Chancery that this priest [Father John Coffield] has since been banished from the Archdiocese for ninety days and ordered not to mention or discuss his departure with anyone.)
Called into the chancery on Tuesday, Father DuBay was received by the chancellor, Monsignor Hawkes, and given the choice of either renewing his ordination vow of obedience or leaving the diocese. The latter option was left ambiguous -- it was not clear whether Father DuBay could make such a departure wearing a Roman collar. On the advice of his lawyer, Father DuBay asked for two days to think it over, and the time was granted as long as nothing was said to the press. Father DuBay left amid a swarm of reporters saying only "no comment" and "I am very happy."
The attorney flew out of town the next day to consult the best canon lawyer he could find. He reported back that under canon law Father DuBay had no case at all, but that a civil court injunction might be obtained if the Cardinal made an attempt to suspend him from his priestly duties. In this event, the lawyer said, Father DuBay would be automatically excommunicated, and since it would be a type of excommunication which only the Pope could lift, the Pope would then be in contempt of an American civil court. The lawyer said that U.S. courts are reluctant to interfere with an rganization's internal affairs, whether church or union, unless, as is so clearly the case in the Catholic Church, there is no real machinery for hearing grievances and checking unjust commands.
Having said this much, however, the lawyer advised against a collision course. He pointed out that the Cardinal was not demanding a retraction, and he reasoned that Father DuBay had already made his point in public, and could honorably withdraw to protect his priesthood. This apparently fit Father DuBay's thinking, although according to his close friends he had been prepared to risk excommunication and defrocking if the Cardinal had driven him to the wall and asked a retraction. The vow of obedience presented no problem to Father DuBay, since he had insisted all along that his protest involved no disobedience at all, and that he was always willing to obey the Cardinal's "just commands."
On Thursday Father DuBay submitted. He and Father Halloran were driven to the seminary and in the presence of 200 priests, most of whom were there on retreat, they knelt to the Cardinal, renewed their vows of obedience and kissed his ring. Whatever his inflexibility on issues, Cardinal McIntyre has a reputation for being fatherly to priests in trouble, and in this case he was reported "visibly moved" by the ceremony.
Each of the 200 priests filed up to kiss the Cardinal's ring and then preceded him out into the dining room. where they gave him a rousing round of applause. The revolt was over, or so it seemed.
Father DuBay is now a priest in perfectly good standing in the Archdiocese, at least officially. The only price he has paid thus far is that he is not free to preach the Church's clear teaching on race -- but then very few of the priests in the Archdiocese are. Breaking its long silence, the chancery announced late Thursday that Father DuBay would be going on retreat and vacation and then -- in late July -- he would be reassigned, perhaps even to his old parish. But few are predicting a long career for him within the Archdiocese, and he may wind up in the African missions. He has requested this before.
The Good Tidings
The next day mopping up operations began in the Archdiocesan newspaper, the Tidings. A long page-one editorial that did not mention the young priest by name compared Cardinal McIntyre before Father DuBay with Christ before Pilate. (Pilate is a much-discussed figure in the Tidings. He made his last appearance March 27 as a symbol of the modem world.) The editorial spoke of an "ill-contrived and frenetic attempt...to cloud and besmirch" the Archdiocesan "record of accomplishment." The editorial also insisted that the principles of racial equality were known throughout the Archdiocese, since the Tidings itself had mentioned them "four times in the past ten months" and because of the Cardinal's "participating in the formation of three classic annual statements of the U.S. Bishops" on race.
Of the four Tidings editorials, one turned out to be a defense of Cardinal McIntyre after the lay picketing in his chancery. The other three consisted of brotherhood pieties that Governor Wallace would be unlikely to find offensive. As for the Cardinal, the last of the three Bishops' statements which he "participated in" was that of August, 1963, and his participation reportedly consisted of being the only bishop to refuse to support it. The statement was a very moderate one, condemning secularism as much as racism, and not even endorsing civil rights demonstrations or the March on Washington.
With the Archdiocese's priests silenced, its Cardinal silent, and its only two Catholic racial-justice organizations operating without chancery approval, the "record of accomplishment" comes down to the fact that Archdiocesan institutions are integrated. Negro Catholics are profoundly unimpressed. "All that means is that I can have an operation at a Catholic hospital," one Negro leader told me. "The schools and churches carefully follow the demarcations between white and black areas. In effect, they aren't integrated at all, and a lot of pastors are working to keep things that way." In the issue of the Tidings that tried to justify the Cardinal, much was made in a news story about the new Verbum Dei High School: "As are all Catholic institutions here, its student body is integrated, approximately 54% Negro and 46% white." The story neglected to mention that all but one or two percent of the whites are Mexican-Americans. The new school is solidifying de facto segregation by cooping up in one place the two minorities that so many Catholic Birchers find offensive.
One of the little noticed parts of Father DuBay's presentation to the press has stirred the Negro community profoundly. That was his quotation of Cardinal Mclntyre's remark, made in private conversation that "after all, white parents have a right to defend their daughters." The statement was accepted by the Negro community as the clearest indication to date of how the Cardinal really feels. Whatever his private beliefs on race, Cardinal McIntyre has rarely inserted foot in mouth publicly. The last time he did so was nearly a year ago when he observed that Los Angeles Catholic Negroes were satisfied with archdiocesan policies. Catholic Negroes, who hadn't been aware of this satisfaction, bombarded the chancery with requests for an opportunity to set the Cardinal straight, but he successfully evaded the requests until he left for the Vatican Council two months later.
Far from being satisfied, Catholic Negroes in Los Angeles have to struggle to see in the Archdiocesan position something other than outright hypocrisy. One focus of attention is the Cardinal's familiar and crisp distinction between "moral issues" and "political issues." The flip side of this long-playing record is that any time you can get a politician on either side of any issue, the Church must remain silent. But in Los Angeles this is true only if the issue involves race. The chancery did not hesitate to order sermons against the possible loss of tax-exemptions for the Church in California. Nor did the Tidings show any embarrassment in endorsing two conservative school board candidates, or suggesting, as it did twice, that Catholics join the John Birch Society. And when Senate candidate George Murphy was a sudden and mysterious choice for commencement speaker at Marymount College three days before the Republican primary, the Cardinal showed no signs of agonizing when he introduced Murphy as an old and dear friend.
In short, the Cardinal's high-minded abstractions and careful distinctions mask a positive decision to do nothing on race. In a city where about 90 percent of the Negroes live in "substantially segregated areas" -- as the Community Relations Educational Foundation reports -- the Catholic Church is deeply committed to the status quo and quite willing to move against any priest who isn't.
One thing about the DuBay episode is that it failed to polarize opposition to the Cardinal on the race issue, although that opposition is now considerable. The young priests closest to Father DuBay, and most concerned with racial injustice, say frankly that they wished the whole affair could have been avoided. By acting with such haste, they say, Father DuBay prevented support from materializing, and when he combined the inevitable protest with a call for the Cardinal's dismissal he assured that the movement would be stillborn. "Maybe I'm looking at this through clerical eyes," one of these priests told me, "but loyalty to a bishop is at the heart of what it means to be a priest. I would have been willing to say or do almost anything else, but asking that my bishop be dismissed is just too much."
Many others wonder about the CURE people around Father DuBay. One of these men, the one whose telephone call to Father DuBay triggered the whole incident, told me he was trying to turn the episode into as big a hullabaloo as possible. At one point during the two-day waiting period he told the press that Father DuBay was about to break a command of silence, though this was not so and the priest had not authorized the statement. Also without authorization, he phoned the Western Christian Leadership Conference, Martin Luther King's organization, and asked if they would have a job for a defrocked priest. Another close friend of Father DuBay who put out all the press releases, made a television spectacular out of Father DuBay's Sunday Mass and was seen moving through the crowd outside the church urging people to "Go up and shake his hand. Go shake his hand." The pictures of this scene in the Los Angeles papers, featuring a smiling Father DuBay with arms spread high over a cheering throng, had an unsettling effect on many who feared a legitimate protest was turning into a personal war and popularity contest between the Cardinal and the young priest. In the Los Angeles Times, the flamboyant picture of Father DuBay before the multitude was printed next to a picture of the Cardinal quietly going about his business, handing out diplomas at a nursing school.
Most of the clergy appear to have debarked from Father Dubay's train at one stop or another. "The vast majority of the pastors, most of them Irish, opposed the whole thing," said one priest. "They think DuBay is a young whippersnapper who deserves everything he's going to get. Most of the others disapproved of publicizing the call for the Cardinal's dismissal. Make your case to Rome, O.K., but don't spill it all out in the open." Others felt that it had to be spilled out publicly, but that Father DuBay was not careful enough in doing it. "Terrorized?, No, we're not terrorized," said a priest. "There is an aura of fear, yes. There's no doubt about that. But you can pick your spots. A lot depends on what you do and where you do it. I preached against the Initiative twice, but in my parish this doesn't take any courage. In Birch territory it's a different story. If you talk even vaguely about race, the Birchers burn up the Cardinal's wire and you're down the chancery Monday morning to answer for it."
Another school of thought, which appears very small, is satisfied that Father DuBay has made an important contribution. "His head will roll, sure," said a layman. "And I seriously doubt if it will have any effect on the Cardinal's thinking. He hasn't got that kind of mind. But now the pressures on him across the country will grow, and we may see the other bishops twisting his arm into joining the rest of the Church on this issue."
At a dinner conversation, a priest said he thought the Church should be slow to condemn specific acts of disobedience out of hand, since some of the most promising movements in the Church, including the founding of the Paulist Fathers by Isaac Hecker, were founded on such acts.
A prominent layman said he thought Father DuBay had had a great opportunity, but there was no assurance the outcome would be happy. "He's absolutely right in his point that the Church structures need reforming, with an eye for grievance machinery, but by introducing the issue here, he has served to draw attention away from the sin of segregation and the number one racial issue in this state -- the need to defeat the Initiative."
A Textbook Case
Whatever the fate of the Initiative, the major impact of the episode is likely to be on Church structures, and many in Los Angeles are hoping that the dispute over Father DuBay will induce some liberal bishop to press for more just grievance machinery at the Vatican Council. Despite the fact that under canon law a priest has recourse to the Pope, in practice the time-honored procedure has usually been to refer complaints back to the bishop against whom they are being made. It is still the only legal system in the world where the accused can become the judge. The result is that a Church which stresses so much the inalienable rights of persons in society, recognizes no inalienable rights within its own body.
"We have a system where the grossest injustice can be done, and there is no right of petition," said a Los Angeles lawyer. "It is the general spirit of the law that first, you should have a substantive standard to apply, and second, somewhere you know you can go to apply it. The Church has neither. The most ordinary union member is better off as far as getting a grievance aired than a pastor or a curate who may have served the Church faithfully for forty years. All the road we have traveled this century, including the DuBay case, points the way toward a bill of rights within the Church."
The Los Angeles Archdiocese is almost a textbook case in the weakness of the system. In Los Angeles there are no safety valves -- no traditions or independent Catholic institutions, even conservative ones, strong enough to neutralize arbitrary use of power. There are no forums, no sympathetic ear at the chancery, no letters to the editor allowed in the Tidings.
Tight control is exercised over action and sermons, and where possible, over ideas and reading material. If a pastor speaks up, he may find himself saddled with an especially incompetent curate, or an assistant with an incapacitating personal problem. If an assistant steps out of line, he may be transferred to a remote area and never get his own parish. Outside the right wing, alienation and fear are the normal attitudes, transmitted downward from the chancery and touching the daily lives of the laity. The system encourages careful careerists and lays a crushing burden on priests who see the gap between conscience and what the Cardinal allows, and can do nothing about it.
The disproportionate shadow cast over Catholic life by the chancery shows up in the arrogance of its functionaries. Fear is the ordinary note struck in communications. Priests commit as much as possible to writing against the day of a threat from the chancery. Some won't speak by phone for fear their lines are being tapped. Others are driven to compiling dossiers on the sickness of the Archdiocese with the wan hope of some day making a presentation to Rome.
In this context, eruptions like Father DuBay's -- battles fought on short notice with no hope of winning -- become more inevitable, and possibly will become more frequent. "This is just the beginning," said one priest. "As long as the usual means of redress are choked off, there are going to be more explosions. It will happen again and again."
JOHN LEO is an associate editor of The Commonweal.