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Desegregating DixieThe Catholic Church in the South and Desegregation, 1945-1992$
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Mark Newman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781496818867

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2019

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496818867.001.0001

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An Overview: Catholics in the South and Desegregation, 1945–1970

An Overview: Catholics in the South and Desegregation, 1945–1970

(p.19) Chapter One An Overview: Catholics in the South and Desegregation, 1945–1970
Desegregating Dixie

Mark Newman

University Press of Mississippi

Although segregation laws did not apply to private institutions in most southern states, most prelates were unwilling to defy segregationist white majority opinion, both Protestant and Catholic, and risk opposition that might undermine their primary duty of preserving and spreading the faith. While some ordinaries and many priests supported or accepted segregation, other Catholic prelates, and some clergy and white laity, were troubled by southern segregation and by a growing appreciation that Jim Crow conflicted with Vatican condemnations of racism and support for the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. Whatever their personal feelings, most prelates ordered desegregation in the postwar decades only in anticipation of, or to correlate with, secular desegregation in their dioceses. By 1970, few southern white Catholics identified themselves as segregationists, and southern Catholic institutions had abandoned overt exclusionary or segregationist practices. Yet, in many cases desegregation of Catholic institutions did not exceed tokenism.

Keywords:   Desegregation, Prelates, Laity, Vatican, Mystical Body of Christ

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