Joseph Ritter, the Catholic archbishop of St. Louis, did not fear being stern and heavy-handed with his flock. When he desegregated the diocesan schools in 1947, hundreds of white parents organized to oppose him. There was talk of going to court to enforce Missouri’s race laws. Unfazed, Ritter instructed that every Mass in the area would include a reading of his letter noting that anyone who joined a lawsuit would be excommunicated.
Desegregation divided Catholics in New Orleans as well, with lay activists demanding that integrated Catholic schools face sanctions from the Louisiana legislature or have their water turned off. Archbishop …
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