Archbishop Ritter Warns Catholics of Excommunication if they Try to Stop Desegregation Hot

Archbishop Ritter Warns Catholics of Excommunication if they Try to Stop Desegregation

Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter of St. Louis, Missouri, 1946

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Archbishop Joseph Elmer Ritter of St. Louis, Missouri, warns Roman Catholics that they will be automatically excommunicated if any move forward in taking civil action against his plans to admit black students to parochial schools.

A group of approximately 700 white Catholic parents had organized and authorized a leader to hire legal counsel to obtain an injunction from a court to stop the archbishop's desegregation plan.

Archbishop Ritter's letter says:

"It has come to our attention that a small group of individuals have signified their purpose of taking civil action to restrain us from carrying out a policy which we consider our right and duty as chief pastor of the faithful of this archdiocese, regardless of race or nationality.

We realize that many of these good people are being gravely misled. Consequently we take this occasion to remind them of their filial obligation as Catholics to cooperate with their bishop and clergy and their fellow Catholics in issues which are fundamental to our holy Catholic faith, namely, not only the equality of every soul before Almighty God, but also obedience to ecclesiastical authorities.

After mature deliberation, and fully confident of the loyalty of the faithful, we now deem it opportune to caution them.

By the general law of the church there is a serious penalty of excommunication which can be removed only by the Holy See. This penalty is incurred automatically should an individual or a group of individuals without permission in violation of Canon 2341 presume (that is after full knowledge) to interfere in the administrative office of their bishop by having recourse to any authority outside the church."

This letter is read during mass in all churches in the archdiocese, forcing the newly-created Catholic Parents Association of St. Louis and St. Louis County to change tactics. They will now file an appeal with the apostolic delegate in Washington, D.C.


Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter: A Trailblazer For Desegregation

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