Posts tagged: 1960′s

Another Anniversary – This One Very Sad

By , September 26, 2013 6:19 am

The 1960’s were a very wild, fast changing, dangerous decade. Changes ripped through every segment of our society and our churches. Many of those changes were very good, some were horrific and all were challenging.

I am thinking especially today of an event that occurred in September of 1963, fifty years ago. Four young black girls went to the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama to work together on their bible assignment. The Sunday school lesson was to be “The Love That Forgives”. While these beautiful young girls were studying that theme, a bomb exploded killing them instantly. It was a horrible event and as columnist Leonard Pitts said, “What kind of people kill children in church?” It is true that God can draw good out of evil, and I guess that a natural optimist might say that the martyrdom of four innocent little girls made our country examine its conscience and begin to face more effectively the hideous reality of racial hatred and the resulting segregation.

A short time before this tragedy Dr. Martin Luther King had given his immortal speech in the nation’s capital proclaiming that he had a dream. How Dr. King must have felt when he heard the news of this despicable event. In the face of that, he still went forward with faith in God and trust that in the end America would confront its sinfulness. We have made progress since evil white hatred placed that bomb in the 16th Street Baptist Church but not nearly enough.

We must all continue to work together to bring America to the point where it lives its proclaimed principle that all are created equal. We have a way to go.

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50 Years Ago?

By , September 4, 2013 5:56 am

Oh, the 1960’s. What a decade. Have you noticed how many 50 year anniversaries have been floating by? Fifty years since the Second Vatican Council. Fifty years since the march on Washington. Fifty years since Martin Luther King had his dream. The ‘60’s saw Pope Paul VI’s beginning efforts to implement the Council. John Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. The urban centers of the nation were torn asunder by riots. The Vietnam War was in full bloom. Overall it was an extraordinary time.

I was a young priest in my mid-30’s serving as pastor of All Saints Church in Houston. It was a blue collar parish and this was before today’s all volunteer army. A number of our parishioners died in the war, usually black or Hispanic. Overall, it was a dreary decade. However, we as a people, as a nation and our Church got through it.

Today, it is a very different period and in some ways improved. The nation is suffering but calm. The Church has been conflicted but is now filled with optimism. The international scene is tense and dangerous. Just as the situation was in the mid-‘60’s, today times once again call for prayer, unity and a willingness to work together. That last quality is tragically absent in our nation’s capital.

Together let us thank God that we got through the ‘60’s and let’s also pray that the problems besetting us on all sides will be resolved on the basis of truth, justice and love.

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The Catholic Campaign for Human Development – Under Attack Again!

By , July 25, 2013 5:05 am

I don’t know as to whether or not it is the case that they never seem to stop or because their attacks go on for so long it looks like there is no interval. I am, of course, referring to the right-wing Catholics bitter opposition to one of the best things that the American bishops have ever done together and that is that they established and have operated for more than 40 years the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
The 1960’s were very difficult years for the United States. The Vietnamese War was raging, the central part of many American cities were facing riots and burnings. All of this was due to the fact that that the impoverished cities of the core cities, mostly black but also some Hispanics, had no way to get the attention of the American nation that they were suffering and suffering terribly. When flames ripped up the heart of Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Chicago and other cities began to become more clearly aware that the central cities were suffering and that something had to be done. Many Protestant churches and other concerned organizations came forward with programs and projects to help the poor of our urban centers. The Roman Catholic response was slow but finally it came.
As urban riots continued for several summers, the bishops at last chose to set up a permanent national effort to use the resources of the Church in cooperation with other groups struggling for a more just society to develop programs in the inner-cities that would assist the poor and the marginalized to lift themselves out of poverty.
But regretfully, the problems were so intractable that many of the other well-meaning entities soon dropped out of the picture and their programs were shut down. However, the American Bishops continued with determination to do the best they could to make a difference in the lives of the poverty stricken and discouraged citizens in those awful neighborhoods. It is 40 years later and the bishops are still there…still trying to make a difference!
During its lifetime, the Campaign (CCHD) has raised tens of millions of dollars and has done its very best, and effectively in my opinion, to place those dollars in the hands of people to develop self-help programs to help lift themselves out of poverty. Far right critics, who are not famous for doing effective work in the slums, examine every program funded, study the names and membership of all boards and related boards, and when they find a gnat on the scene they jump upon it with great enthusiasm and once again chant, “The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is an evil force that should not be continued.” But the bishops plow on!
God bless Pope Francis, now happily reigning. He speaks every day and one of his principal themes is his concern for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. The pope calls the Church to “work at the periphery and at the margins, especially for the poor.” He says that a church that does not do so is “sick.” Pope Francis has even said that it is better to go the margins and make mistakes than to become self absorbed. Well, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development certainly works on the margins and is willing to take risks as it encourages people’s upward struggles.
We have a pope, thanks be to God, who understands where the Church should be. May God continue to bless the bishops for their long-term commitment to the goals that Pope Francis has placed before us.

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Rachel Carson – May God Bless Her

By , November 13, 2012 4:11 am

It seems to me that a lot of exciting and important things were going on in the early 1960’s. One thing that has affected me and most American Catholics was that the Second Vatican Council was beginning to crank up. Another thing that has affected each and every one of us, whether we know it or not, was the publication of a single volume in September of 1962 by a courageous woman who was a John Hopkins educated zoologist. The woman was Rachel Carson and the book was the extraordinarily important, Silent Spring.

While no one else was paying much attention, Carson became interested in the harmful affects of pesticides, especially DDT. Developed during the war, DDT was promoted as a great scientific advance and was widely and successfully used as an insect killer in the United States. Carson cited the work of Nobel Prize scientist, Otto Warburg, and explained in a clear manner that people could easily understand why repeated small exposures to pesticides and nuclear radiation changed the ability of the cell to carry out normal activities resulting in malignancy which is the reason that there is no safe dose of a carcinogen. Many scientific experts shared her concern.

When the book was published the chemical industry went berserk. Carson’s short publication was a threat to their bottom line and the industry angrily reacted to her scientifically sound arguments that DDT was harmful. They attacked her methods, her motivation and her conclusions, and they threatened to sue both the publisher of the book and the New Yorker magazine. Carson heroically stuck to her facts and was soon joined by outstanding scientists all over the world. Scientists and activists founded the Environmental Defense Fund, the largest and most effective private environmental advocacy group in that area that would soon be followed by the establishment of Earth Day all over the country. Then the response at the federal level was the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Carson’s vision and her followers achieved very real victories in those days, but the battle continues even to this day. The Tea Party has many interesting items on its agenda but one at the top would be the suppression of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Meningitis anyone?

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The Hope-filled ‘60’s – Looking Back

By , March 27, 2012 1:32 pm

The 1960’s were an extraordinary time in the United States. They were filled with hope and chaos. Nationally, the Vietnam War raged on and on. Thousands of young Americans were dying and tens of thousands of Vietnamese were suffering the same fate. The draft was on and many young people were making every effort to avoid it because they instinctively knew that the war was so senseless, so wasteful and so unnecessary.

On the Church side of the ledger, things looked differently. Konrad Adenauer was leading a prosperous, peace loving Germany and the agony of the Second World War was beginning to fade, at least slightly. In the Church there was optimism everywhere. John XXIII, that rotund, little parish priest from the Italian alps, sat on the throne of Peter. He was loving and lovable. He looked at the problems in the Church and for the first time in more than 100 years called for a world-wide council of bishops. Change was in the air. Hope was in the air. Optimism was abundant. So there you had that decade. You had war and chaos and conflict, and you had faith, hope and optimism.

As a young priest, I had already been in several very diverse parishes and in the late ‘60’s was serving the national office in Washington, D.C. I had the thrill of witnessing close at hand the remarkable legislative accomplishments of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. In the South, the Freedom Riders were beaten and sometimes killed but the War on Poverty with all of its ramifications and the Civil Rights Act, the Voters Rights Act and Open Housing Act were all passed in that same decade. I remember the whole decade very well and I hope that I never forget it. No one should.

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