On Story Ground: The Catholic Interracial Council in the Archdiocese of San Francisco

O'Dell, Clay Mansfield, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Fogarty, Gerald, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Warren, Heather, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Thompson, Augustine
Balogh, Brian, Department of History, University of Virginia

The Catholic Interracial Council (CIC) was founded by a Jesuit priest, Fr. John La Farge, in New York in the 1930's. Fr. La Farge's purpose in founding the CIC was to promote better relations between black and white Catholics. The group gradually spread throughout the nation in the ensuing decades, and by 1960 a chapter had been established in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay Area was a rapidly growing region that had undergone tremendous social and economic change in the aftermath of World War II, including an exponential increase in the local black population. By the 1960's, Catholics who joined the CIC had begun to view the group's mission in light of the growing civil rights movement. Members of the group tended to split between those who advocated greater social action and those who saw the CIC as a discussion group and educational service. As the activists became more vocal, the CIC also clashed often with the archdiocese and the archbishop over such issues as fair housing and fair hiring practices. Many CIC members were also willing to challenge the Church's record on civil rights, and continued tension led to the archdiocese attempting to regain control over the civil rights issue. While the CIC branched out into other issues, particularly the farm workers struggle, it continued to decline in influence in the archdiocese as the decade progressed. iii This study explores the activities of the CIC in the Archdiocese of San Francisco in the historical context of the archdiocese's mission to black Catholics, the unique character of the Bay Area and the changing political and social nature of the United States in the 1960's. The study is sourced with original materials from local archives, interviews and surveys of surviving CIC members, and other secondary sources. The story of the CIC in the Bay Area highlights several historical themes, including: the experience of the Catholic Church in California; the tensions experienced by Catholic activists in the turbulent 1960's; the increasing breakdown in ecclesiastic authority during the same time; and the foundations of the revolutionary change in the political and social character of the San Francisco area.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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