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*On this date in 1947, St. Louis parochial schools were put on notice to include Black children or face religious discipline.
Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter publicly said he would excommunicate any St. Louis Catholic who continued to protest the integration of parochial schools. The start of this order was one of Ritter’s first acts in 1946, his first year in St. Louis. At that time he instructed all pastors in the archdiocese to end racial segregation in the parochial schools. The U. S. Supreme Court would not take the same action with the nation’s public schools until 1954.
As the school year opened in the fall of 1947, Catholics who opposed the archbishop’s edict appealed to the Church’s apostolic delegate in Washington. They were sharply rejected. Next, they considered taking legal action in the civil courts, but the archbishop learned of their plans.
On that date (which was a Sunday) in 1947, church pastors throughout the archdiocese read a letter from Ritter to their congregations informing the opponents of multi-racial schools that any civil lawsuits would result in automatic excommunication. The organized opposition quickly disbanded.
Ritter was widely praised, both for his decision and his resolve in enforcing it. He was recognized not only in St. Louis but also throughout the United States. Ritter saw the decision as a simple matter of justice.
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