The decision of Archbishop Joseph F. Rummel to put an immediate end to segregation in the parochial schools of the Archdiocese of New Orleans is a particularly welcome and significant one. It is welcome because the existence of segregated parochial schools is a scandal to the Church and a disservice to the nation. It is significant because it indicates that the Church in New Orleans is quite willing to risk its temporal welfare for a basic principle of social justice.
This latter point is of special importance. The Church’s position on segregation and discrimination could hardly be more clear. As Archbishop Rummel has said, it is “morally wrong and sinful.” But what has been far less clear is the extent to which the Church in the South is willing to put into practice this basic Catholic teaching. It has often appeared as if the Church lacked the nerve or the conviction to withstand hostile pressure—as if it valued its financial security and social position more than anything else. It is quite possible that such an accusation has been an unjust one. Yet the Church always leaves itself open to this kind of charge when there is a seeming discrepancy between its principles and its practice. Continue reading