Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Looking Back: Sept. 26, 1963

Published September 26, 2013

The Sept. 19, 1963 edition of The Georgia Bulletin reflected the shock and grief of Catholic Church leaders nationally and at the Vatican over the bombing, out of racial hatred, of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., and the killing of four young girls attending Sunday services at the church. “A sense of dismay overwhelms us at the news—the incredible news—of a true slaughter of innocents in an American church by the racist insanity of some fanatical adherents of segregation,” the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, stated. “The manner, the place and the victims of the crime—a crime whose cynical brutality cannot be diminished by any ideological pretext—cry out in condemnation of blind impassioned hatred.” Archbishop Thomas J. Toolen, bishop of Mobile-Birmingham, said, “Truly we must all get down on our knees and in deep humility and contrition ask God for forgiveness for those who did this shameful act and also plead with God that we may have greater love for our fellow man. It is difficult to understand how a civilized human being could have in his heart so much hatred for a fellow human being as to desire or want to destroy life because a man’s color is different from his own,” the archbishop said. He made a donation to help the families of the four young victims and encouraged all Catholics to contribute to this cause. “Love thy neighbor as thyself seems to be a forgotten law in the State of Alabama,” he wrote in a pastoral letter read in all Catholic churches of the diocese on Sept. 22. “We are much ashamed before the world because of the lawlessness of our state and its people,” he continued. “If there are any of our Catholic people with hatred in their hearts for their Negro brethren—and I pray God that there are not—but if there are, I plead that they will pluck hatred out of their hearts and remember that all men are created equal, all are redeemed by the Precious Blood of Christ,” Archbishop Toolen said. In a lengthy editorial, Georgia Bulletin editor Gerard Sherry reflected on the promise, the hope, and the potential of children, and challenged those barring children of color from all hope of opportunity through crushing segregation.

Also in the Sept. 19 edition, Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan wrote a brief public letter as he prepared to return to Rome for the second session of the Second Vatican Council. The bishops were going to gather in this session under the guidance of Pope Paul VI for the first time since the death of Pope John XXIII. “We learned to love Pope John as a spiritual Father, and as a courageous leader. We know of the new Pope through his brilliant career, and his recent words and actions as Pope,” Archbishop Hallinan wrote. “Now he is our head, and we return to work with him in the great renewal. Although the liturgical principles are established, the great issues lie ahead—religious liberty, relation of Pope and bishops, the question of unity, and the role of the laymen. Through my column in The Georgia Bulletin, I will interpret the Council’s movements in the weeks ahead. Although the seal of secrecy covers all concilia, schemata, and addresses, it will be possible to give our people a fairly good indication of the progress,” Archbishop Hallinan said.

In a Sept. 22 letter, Pope Paul VI directed that Catholic laymen be admitted to the second session of the Second Vatican Council and that non-Christians as well as other non-Catholic representatives be welcomed as observers. Representatives of non-Christian religions had not been admitted to the first session.

In the Sept. 26 edition of The Georgia Bulletin, Pope Paul VI announced that he would simplify and decentralize the Roman curia, the Church’s central administrative body. Pope Paul said the curia has “grown ponderous with its own venerable age.” The pope announced his plan to the cardinals, priests and laymen of the curia at a special audience. Among the reforms he announced were that members of the curia would be recruited more broadly across the world. At that time the membership was predominantly Italian. Members were also to receive what the pope called an “ecumenical” education in preparation for curia work. Local bishops might also be brought into curia work and some functions performed by the curia were to be handed over to local bishops and handled on a local basis.

In a Sept. 26 book section of The Georgia Bulletin, Father John F. McDonough of the Atlanta Archdiocese reviewed a book written by Hughes Spalding about the history of the Spalding family in Maryland, Kentucky and Georgia from 1685-1963. The author, Father McDonough noted, was a highly accomplished public figure in Georgia who turned in his senior years to writing this family history, which was also a history of the Catholic Church in the states where the Spaldings lived because of their active and deep connection with the Church. Two Spaldings, Father McDonough said, were bishops: Martin John Spalding and John Lancaster Spalding. “‘The Spalding Family’ has humor and salt, as well as the simplicity of a good story well told,” Father McDonough said.