Remarks About Race to Saints Faith, Hope and Charity Church

Winnetka, Il | November 18, 1957

It is heartening indeed that our Catholic Church has led the way in promoting interracial justice. No church or any other kind of religious or non-religious organization in the United States can surpass the long, unequivocal, forceful position of our Catholic Church on the race problem.

Grace Damman was President of Manhattanville, the famous college of the Sacred Heart in New York. She was a vibrant, alert, and enterprising woman whose distinguished leadership was more responsible, than any other single factor, for the outstanding educational position now enjoyed by Manhattanville College. She brought distinguished professors to its faculty -- men like Professor Carleton Hayes of Columbia, and Danny Walsh, the famous Canadian philosopher and friend of Thomas Merton. She added courses; started Pope Pius X School of Music.

But one of Mother Damman’s greatest glories will always be her leadership in 1933, when a group of 12 students at Manhattanville called upon her and asked her what they could do about the problem of race relations in New York City.

Mother Damman got these 12 students to debate and discuss among themselves what they as individuals or as a group should do. They met with outside experts. Making no noise beyond the college walls, but causing a very lively debate within, the project was thrashed out from every point of view. Finally, in May, 1933, the following resolutions were adopted. They have been known ever since as the “Manhattanville Resolutions.” Part of these resolutions read as follows:

"WHEREAS I am enjoying the privilege of a Catholic higher education, I recognize that I have certain duties and obligations toward my fellow man, among which I must consider my conduct and attitude toward the American Negro.

I, therefore, resolve to adhere to and carry out the following resolutions:-

"1. To maintain that the Negro as a human being and as a citizen is entitled to the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness and to the essential opportunities of life and the full measure of social justice.

"2. To be courteous and kind to every colored person, remembering the heavy yoke of injustice and discrimination he is bearing. To remember that no race or group in America has endured the many handicaps that are his today.

"3. To say a kind word for him on every proper occasion.

"4. Not to speak slightingly or use nicknames which tend to humiliate, offend, or discourage him.

"5. To remember that the Catholic Church and the Catholic program of social justice have been called 'the greatest hope of the colored race.

“6. To recognize that the Negro shares my membership in the Mystical Body of Christ and the privileges that flow therefrom and to conduct myself in accordance therewith.

"7. To give liberally on the Sundays of the year when the collections are mooted to the heroic missionaries laboring among the Negro group.

"8. To become increasingly interested in the welfare of the Negro; to engage actively in some form of Catholic Action looking to the betterment of his condition, spiritually and materially."

The action of the Manhattanville students met with an immediate and enthusiastic response. AMERICA, the National Catholic Weekly Review, commented June 10, 1933, as follows:

"If the spirit in which these noble resolutions were conceived becomes prevalent among the younger generations of Catholics in this Country, the most difficult of America's human problems will be solved. Best of all, it will be solved on the only lasting basis, that of true social justice"...

I begin my talk today with this story about the leadership of Mother Damman to emphasize how close to each of us the problem of interracial justice really is. Grace Damman was a woman very much like everyone in this audience today. She had a similar background, similar education, similar parents. Her tastes and desires were very much like yours. Yet long ago - 25 years ago, she realized that the race problem was not a question for discussion and solution only in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia -- or even on the south side of Chicago. She realized it is a problem of vital importance to every Christian, and particularly to every Catholic, in every country, on every continent in the world today.

It is a difficult question, however, to discuss. No subject is more controversial. No topic arouses hotter passions. No problem divides our country more sharply or attacks the spiritual unity of our people more dangerously.

My first thought, therefore, is this:-

I am not here to arouse passion, excite enmities, or plea for doctrinaire solutions. I am here to plea for charity, and patience, for hope, and good will.

Secondly, I think the air would be cleared, so to speak, if we all admitted to ourselves that we are prejudiced, at least a little bit. Most honest persons, and all Theologians, I believe, agree that every human being is susceptible to prejudice. Except for the great saints, who have rooted out all sin from their lives, prejudice is a part of all of us, an aspect of original sin. In fact, prejudice within limitations is normal. It is dangerous, like liquor or any other vice, only when it comes to dominate a person, causing aggression and irrational discrimination against others.

The third point I'd like to make can be expressed best by quoting from Cardinal Stritch. His Eminence said this:-

"...The word Catholic in the Church means not only its universality. By nationality, the early Church was Jewish, and by Providence, Roman,-- but the Universality of the Church means...the Church was sent as Christ was sent. His divine truth is all embracing and every man should have the opportunity to live in his Church and to become a part of his body. In His Church there is no distinction between Greek or Hebrew...each group has its own cultural contributions to make to the whole...each group is of the whole, and charity must bind them where justice has failed."

Let us then, if you will, agree on these three points:

1. We are all prejudiced, and we have a moral responsibility to rid ourselves of this weakness arising from original sin.

2. We are not here today to obtain some 50 cent, patent-medicine-type, easy solution to interracial problems. There is no such solution. We are here to obtain greater understanding of an intricate sociological problem.

AND 3. Paraphrasing the words of the Cardinal, let us agree, as Catholics, that just, as Christ was sent, just as His Church is sent, we are sent into the world.

To remake that world in a Christ-like pattern.

If we can agree on these fundamentals, it will be profitable to sketch the kind of world into which we are sent, especially the situation of the various races and peoples within our modern society.

It has become almost a platitude to remark that the world is caught up in one of the most fearsome crises in history. Totalitarian Communism is pitted against Christian Democracy in a struggle not only for geographical territory, but, more important, for the minds and souls of free men. Communism stands for everything we abhor. Not only is it Godless, ruthless and materialistic– but it also rejects freedom of speech, of press, of religion, and freedom of opportunity.

We, as Christians, (and Jews) say that we believe in the rights of every man, regardless of color, or creed, to better himself, and to have equal opportunities. We believe that one's right to improve himself on the economic scale should be based on one's ability and character, not on accidental factors such as the color of one's skin. We even teach our children the "Golden Rule"--

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Still, the cold unpleasant fact remains that the Communists increase their ranks, and their territorial gains every day. Why is this: We blame inept foreign policies. We cite Potsdam, and Yalta. We continue to search for political alternatives to "the cold war." But is it not possible that the Communist's gains are due to the failures of our Christian Democratic World? Not so much in politics, perhaps, as in other areas of life.

"Communism is an effect, not a cause." Great as the achievements of the Western World have been they are matched by our failures. The most important failures have been spiritual - not scientific - ones. We have created empty spaces, in millions of souls, as well as stomachs. Into these spiritual voids, communism rushes, and it will never be withstood until we fill those voids.

Created by the absence of love and charity and justice, those empty spaces in the souls of men can be filled only by a Christian charity perceptive enough to admit their existence and heroic enough to supply an abundance of love to fill those unhappy depths.

Let us recall a few facts:-

FIRST, two-thirds of the world's population belong to non-white races. We white people are a small minority, and we American, white people can even be called a "tiny" minority. Out of 28 billions we number only 150,000,000 – less than 5% of the human beings now living. That's a thought-provoking statistic to keep in mind. It means we had better concern ourselves with the hopes and needs, and aspirations of the "rest of the world today." It also indicates that the time may come when organizations now advocating interracial justice for Negroes, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans – our minorities today – may be teaching that the same principles should be applied to protect the rights of white people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, or even in our own, deep South.

Secondly, the overwhelming number of people uncommitted either to democracy or communism are colored people. In other words, colored people constitute the balance of power in the current struggle for survival. From simple arithmetic, we can deduce the necessity, then, of winning to our Christian, Democratic side the majority of these people. And from simple psychology, it is clear, we cannot gain friends and influence people by thinking and acting as if they were inferior to us.

It was for this reason that Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, warned: our people intensify their determination to respect human beings rights and fundamental freedom. Our discriminations at home and abroad are not only a moral blot on our so-called Christian civilization, but they are a major international hazard...throughout the world, there are myriad souls that stiffer in humiliation and bitterness because of the white man’s assumption of racial superiority."

In like manner, Vice-President Richard Nixon, after completing a 45,000 mile world tour, repeated Dulles' warning in these words: “Every act of racial discrimination or prejudice in the United States is blown up by the Communists abroad, and it hurts America as much as an espionage agent who turns over a weapon to a foreign enemy."

In the light of these warnings, I believe that any American who holds to the theory of white supremacy and actively promotes the political, economic, and social restrictions necessary to create segregation must be classed with those who are willing to undermine their country's strength in the face of the enemy.

Segregation implies that the people of a minority group can be told where they can or cannot live, eat, work, go to school, and even pray. (11 o'clock Mass on Sunday is the most segregated hour in America.) 

It is common knowledge that segregated persons must pay higher prices for the basic essentials of life, such as living quarters and food. They are admitted duly to menial jobs, and receive less pay. The economic cost of segregation is high. There is frequent duplication of school and hospital facilities. Disease and crime rates are the highest in segregated, over-crowded slum areas. Police and fire protection costs rise. The entire citizenry suffers.

Sheer cost of our slum areas:-

While slum residents pay only 6% of the city's taxes, these slum areas of a city account for:-

45% - police cost

35% - fire cost

55% - delinquency

A totally segregated society, of course, is inconceivable. It would suppose that we could have 2 governments, 2 educational systems, 2 hospital systems, and perhaps even 2 Popes. To avoid such absurdities, legislation has been adopted, such as the fair employment practices act in some states, and 1954, there was the Supreme Court decision. Irrespective of the merits or demerits of these legal attempts to reduce discrimination, the only permanent and just, and fundamental remedy is the practice of interracial justice and charity.

It is heartening indeed that our Catholic Church has led the way in promoting interracial justice. No church or any other kind of religious or non-religious organization in the United States can surpass the long, unequivocal, forceful position of our Catholic Church on the race problem.


"How can we claim to love the Divine Redeemer, if we hate those whom He has redeemed with His Precious Blood, so that He might make them members of His Mystical Body? For that reason the beloved disciple St. Paul warns us: 'If any man say: "I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not? And this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God, loves also his brother."


"If any man say: ‘I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not? And this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God love also his brother."


"What colossal arrogance is involved and what infantile process of thought in the supposition that there are greater or lesser races among the children of Adam?

"The race of which it is our duty to be conscious is the entire human race, the vast society of creatures composed of body and soul, and made in the image and likeness of God.

"Once we have this blessed consciousness we will abandon the foolishness, the maliciousness of thinking in terms of the other small groupings made in the image and likeness of our own particular selves."


"Of all the areas of American life that cry with the loud voice of the crucified Christ for the exercise of charity, none cries so loudly as the field of race relations...

"I have said it before, I say it again: Those who do not see Christ in the face of their colored neighbor have not seen Him, and may never see Him."


"If we consider that all men are of the same human race and of the same nature and that they are all destined for the same ultimate end, and that they have all been redeemed by Jesus Christ -- and if one considers the duties and rights which flow from this oneness of origin and destiny -- than there can be no doubt that all men are equal."


"We abhor the continuing situation in our Country where, by discrimination and segregation, our fellow members of the Mystical Body, because of their color or ethnic origin, are denied their God-given rights. We have seen the appalling results of these injustices...

"We, therefore, urge Catholic women by deed as well as thought and talk, to exert their powers to combat these injustices, to initiate positive action to counteract them and to see that in the family and in the schools, our children are taught proper attitudes of justice and charity towards their fellow-men."


"What do I claim for the black man? That which I claim for the white man, neither more nor less. I would blot out the color line. White men have their estrangements. They separate on lines of wealth, of intelligence, of culture, of ancestry...But let there be no barrier against mere color. Color is the merest accident in man, the result of climatic changes."

"The Negro problem is upon us, and there is no other solution to it, peaceful and permanent, than to grant to our Colored citizens practical and effective equality with white citizens. It is not possible to keep up a wall of separation between whites and blacks, and the attempt to do this is a declaration of continuous war. Simple common sense dictates the solution.

The Negroes are among us to then number of eight millions; they will here remain; we must accept the situation and abide by the consequences, whatever pride or taste may dictate.”

A group promoting such positive action in the field of interracial justice is the Catholic Interracial Council in Chicago. The Council was founded in 1946 as a tax-exempt, non-profit, educational agency, by a small group of Catholic laymen. Since that time, the success of the Council has been phenomenal. Working through 5 principal committees -- finances, schools, membership, special events, and community affairs -- the extent of the Council's influence can be illustrated by a brief description of the work carried on by just one of these five committees.

The Schools Committee, for example, in 4 years has enlisted the support and cooperation of 79 Catholic High Schools (in our Archdiocese.) These schools are subdivided geographically into 7 sections, which carry out projects designed for specific neighborhoods. All together, over 100 specific programs devoted to the task of developing better human relations and interracial justice and charity were held last year, by the high school division alone.

The high school division sponsors its own student publication. It has a wire service direct to the editors of the Catholic high school newspapers. 

Last year 150 high school students completed a 6-week special course in developing leadership skills.

Weekend conferences and communion breakfasts are held throughout the year. 

250 students and faculty members attended the Annual Summation Day this year, at which time the members evaluated the work of the various sections.

850 students and 150 faculty members were present at the Fourth Interracial Study Day at which the principal speaker was his Eminence, Thomas Cardinal Tien, S.V.D., Archbishop of Peking, China.

On the grade school level, 10,000 students in 490 Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese participated in the Annual Essay and Poster Contest. Cash prizes were awarded to the winners, and the posters were displayed in the Art Gallery of the Chicago Tribune Tower. The exhibit was officially opened by the "Mariners," the singing group of the Arthur Godfrey Show. Special spot announcements and a periodic account of the exhibit were made over station WGN, and in the pages of the Chicago Tribune.

At the college level, the Schools Committee has organized a program embracing 24 Catholic Colleges in 5 Mid-western States. The newest unit was established at the University of Notre Dame this fall. There the Club's purpose is promoting better social relations between students of all nationalities and races. Over the Christmas Holidays, for example, every foreign student on the Notre Dame Campus was besieged with invitations to spend the holidays at some other student's home. Not only does the Club want to improve Negro White relations, but it has also taken on the job of orienting foreign-born students to American ways.

Another sub-committee of the Schools Committee is called Pilot Workshops in Human Relations. Eight such workshops were held during 1955. Each consists of consecutive Saturday morning programs attended by faculty members of high schools. This sub-committee also sponsored automobile tours during the year. One tour consisted of an all-day inspection of housing conditions in the city. A second tour consisted of a visit to Lindblom High School, to see at first hand how human relations problems are handled in a large public high school.

Still another sub-committee deals with scholarship aid. To date, the Council has 6 students attending Catholic High Schools on 4-year scholarships. Because of the tremendous financial success of the recent Harry Belafonte Concert, many more students will be able to attend Catholic High Schools on such scholarships next year.

The Council tries not only to foster better Negro-White relations, but also to create better relations with and between the Jewish, Puerto Rican, and, yes, even Swedish and Irish groups, and Italian and Polish groups, in our community.

A monthly newsletter is published with a circulation of 4,000. The Council distributed over 100000 pieces of literature in 1955: it investigated 98 complaints of discrimination referred by public and private agencies: it filled 157 speaking engagements: and devoted more than 1,000 man hours to the Trumbull park situation.

Unfortunately, a dry recitation of the activities of an organization like the Catholic Interracial Council fails to convey the spirit of the enterprise. Perhaps his Eminence Cardinal Stritch mentions the most important point of all when he says, and I quote: "What a blessing it is for a Bishop to have a group like this to help him in his work. I look upon you as one of the groups of lay apostles whom God in His goodness has gathered about me. I thank you for what you are doing to help me. I have always had a realization that I need you."

In carrying forward Cardinal Stritch’s mandate to end, quote "This ugly thing - unfair discrimination, which has come into our society (and which) is not Christian, and cannot be Catholic," unquote, the Interracial Council believes that education, and, the practice of Catholic religious principles are the most effective means of creating a new climate, and of moulding new men. This the Council attempts to do in whatever ways it can. But great as the work of the Council has been, the surface has only been scratched. Ignorance of elementary Christian principles and revealed truth on the one hand, and ignorance of sociological, historical, and psychological facts on the other hand, are still prevalent. The Interracial Council is doing what it can to meet these problems, but alone it is weak.

It needs the help of intelligent, informed Catholics -- women like you who can do much to renew the face of the earth right here in our Chicagoland community.

May I suggest that specifically, we can:

1) Become acquainted with priests and sisters who work for Negroes – assist them and publicize their work.

2) Assist worthy, talented, young Negro people -- contribute to scholarships, assist them in their religious vocations.

3) Encourage work of Interracial College and Alumni groups. (C.I.C.)

4) Form a contact with the Catholic Interracial Council (Chicago or Evanston)

5) Pray for the Pope's intentions, "That all men may be one." Pray for vocations among Negro, Puerto Rican, and Mexican segments of our population.

6) Support seminaries that train Negro priests, and parishes in southern states, even parishes on the south and west sides of our city.

BUT - Most effective means: Education, and Practice of Religious Principles. Learn facts - sociological, economic, psychological.

One of the greatest women ever to live in the United States understood the race problem and went to work to solve it many years ago. Her name was Catherine Drexel. She was from Philadelphia, one of the famous Drexels from that city.

They say in Boston that the Cabots speak only to the Lodges, and the Lodges speak only to God -- an even greater compliment was paid by Christopher Morley when he described Philadelphia as a "surprisingly large town at the confluence of the Biddle and Drexel families."

Yes, Catherine Drexel was one of the famous Drexels, the heiress of one of the most fabulous fortunes in the history of America. She was a popular debutante of her day, but like many who have everything in this world, she realized she had nothing of permanent value. She gave up her position of social and economic power and pleasure to establish one of the most famous religious organizations ever created by an American woman: The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indian and Colored People.

In 1936 Cardinal Dougherty estimated that Mother Catherine had by that time given away $12,000,000 of her inheritance not only to the work of her own Congregation, but as aid to many struggling Missions, including five in foreign countries. She had established three houses of social service and one mission center, many rural schools, eight of them supervised by her Sisters, sixty-one other schools -- twelve high schools, 48 elementary schools--and Xavier University, the first and still the only Catholic University in the country for Negro citizens. To accomplish her part in this work for the neglected minorities of the United States, she gave up everything in the world--and in her case it was surely a great deal. She saw beyond the body which must be clothed and fed, to the mind which must be trained -- and beyond to the soul, which must be saved. And she accepted the responsibility. 

When she died in 1954 a Solemn, Pontifical Funeral Mass was celebrated in Philadelphia by the former President of Notre Dame University, now the Archbishop of Philadelphia, The Most Rev. John F. O'Hara. This event was probably the greatest tribute ever paid to any American women by the Catholic Church of the United States.

When the Mass was over and the Archbishop had given the last Blessing, the cortege left the Cathedral, the coffin carried by six men--two white men, two Negroes and two Indians. As the coffin was taken through the wide central doors it passed the statue of Our Lady of the Benediction, holding in her extended arms the Child. The statue had been given to the Cathedral many years before, by Francis Drexel, and for the last time his daughter passed before this image of the Mother and the Son she had served and loved. 

In a tribute Father John LaFarge, himself the scion of another famous American family, said: "The public will rightly recall her outward deeds but those who knew her closely are witnesses of her spirit of complete and heroic detachment, not only from her earthly possessions, in the spirit of total religious poverty, but from the very shadow of self-aggrandizement. ...She was a great American, in the very real and abundant sense of the word; a mighty Apostle of God's Holy Church; a soul who walked long and fearlessly with the great army of God's Saints."

Katherine Drexel is an example of what it takes to solve the race question, the example of another woman who knew the score about race relations, - a woman exactly like many of you in our audience today. She was not anxious to arouse passion, excite enmities, or to plea for doctrinaire solutions. If she were here, she would plea for charity, for patience, for hope, for good will and for action.

Let us hope that many Catholics, perhaps some at this meeting, will respond to the needs and opportunities today as those two wonderful women--Grace Damman and Katherine Drexel -- responded in years gone by. 

Let us remember that 15,000,000 American Negroes will react to our Catholic Church in direct proportion to the sincerity of the welcome and encouragement we give them.

Let us remember once again the thought of his Eminence, our own distinguished Cardinal, the thought which should ignite our smoldering desire to help our Church and our Country in this hour of decision -- the thought that:-

"Christ was sent, and He sent His Church. And His Church in turn sends us."