The Priest and the Cardinal by William DuBay

The Priest and the Cardinal

Race and Rebellion in 1960s Los Angeles
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A Catholic priest’s remembrance of his struggle to draw the church into the fight over American civil rights.

In 1960, DuBay (Unlocking Language, 2007, etc.) was ordained and assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes church in Northridge, California, and his peers roundly congratulated him on what they saw as a lucky draw. However, he soon found himself embroiled in conflict. At that time in history, the civil rights movement was well underway in California and across the country, but the church leadership was slow to lend its full support, seemingly more interested in investing its energy in more conservative causes, such as anti-communism. DuBay, however, was an outspoken activist from the start of his career and often found himself at loggerheads with Cardinal James Francis McIntyre, the archbishop of Los Angeles, who took exception to the young priest’s boldness in addressing contentious political issues. As a result, the author was transferred after only two and a half years to St. Bede’s parish in La Canada, Pasadena, and then again to a parish in Compton a mere seven months later. But the author only became more deeply involved in civil rights issues, which he increasingly saw as an extension of his religious vocation. Exasperated by the cardinal’s stubborn refusal to take racial discrimination seriously—and his intimidation of those priests who did—the author finally called a press conference calling on the pope to remove McIntyre from office. This catapulted the author into the spotlight; he eventually wrote a book, 1967’s The Human Church, outlining his own remedies for church reform. Overall, DuBay’s story is a riveting one. In it, he intelligently describes the church’s difficulties in the wake of Vatican II reforms. However, he powerfully argues that it is precisely the core spirit of those reforms—rooted in the individual consciences of believers—that provides the grounding for the defense of civil rights. At one point, he highlights the problem of discriminatory housing, which he saw as a springboard to other forms of prejudice: “If you keep blacks from living in your neighborhood,” he notes, “you keep them from attending your schools, shopping in your markets, and worshiping in your churches.” His thoughtful recollection transcends autobiography and captures a slice of American—and Catholic—history.

An informative study of the Catholic Church’s problems reconciling itself with modernity.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5192-5871-7
Page count: 332pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2016


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