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Race and Morality

Race and Morality
A Summary of the Catholic Church’s stand with regard to new legislation in Rhodesia
1970

 

Introduction

It is apparent that the Constitution Act No. 54 of 1969 and the Land Tenure Act No. 55 of 1969 re designed to separate by law the races of Rhodesia and to separate them on the basis of race alone. With this total design, the system of registration and permission to occupy land will be used to introduce this segregation in all walks of life, including the activities proper to the Churches, e.g. its social services even in worship.
The Churches, with one notable exception, are fundamentally opposed to the objectionable ideology which inspires this enforced segregation of peoples by race alone, and which is entrenched in the new legislation of 1969.
The Churches in Rhodesia ask of the Government no favour, no privilege, no concession; they simply ask the Government to affirm, and to guarantee in the law, the right of every person to freedoms that are recognised as inalienable in the civilised and free countries of the world: in particular, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and of worship, freedom of speech, of assembly, and of association, freedom from unjust discrimination on grounds or race, tribe, political opinion, colour or creed.
To this end, the Roman Catholic Church made its position clear, in a memorandum to the Constitution Commission in April, 1967.
  

What does the Church want?

It is one of the main concerns of the church  to uphold the fundamental human rights of all human beings against any unjust derogation from them, and in particular, against enforced segregation by race alone. To this end it wants the reinstatement of the ideals of the Declaration of Rights clearly incorporated in the Constitution, but not watered down by unjust qualification and diminutions to it. It wishes to work for the positive promotion of racial harmony, and merely negatively for the avoidance of racial friction. It desires that there be adequate political representation of all races in this country, and equal opportunity of advancement on merit rather by race. It insists that the present arbitrary powers granted to Ministers of Government should be withdrawn, and that the right of appeal to the judicial body should be provided.
In particular, the Church requires the repeal of all those elements in the Constitution Act No. 54 of 1969 and the Land Tenure Act No. 55 of 1969 which entrench unjust social discrimination and restrict legitimate religious freedom. Demands such as these derive from the dignity of the human person and are essential to the freedom of the Church for the fulfilment of its mission as a non-racial institution. It is the duty of Government to protect and promote religious freedom, knowing that this is essential to the well being of the State.

How are these basic human rights restricted by recent legislation?

Enforced legislation by race alone cannot be reconciled with the Christian view of our fellow men, for two fundamental reasons:
Enforced legislation solely on the basis of race, in itself and by its very nature, imposes a stigma of inferiority upon the segregated people. It is based on the judgement that an entire race, by the sole fact of race and regardless of individual qualities, is not fit to associate on equal terms with members of another race.
This is not all. It is a matter of historical fact that enforced segregation by race alone results in oppressive conditions and denies basic human rights wherever it is practised.
The Constitution does indeed contain a Declaration of Rights, but this Declaration is so weakened that it defeats its won purpose, and enables the Land Tenure Act to make racially discriminatory laws. No court is permitted to inquire into or pronounce upon the validity of any law on the ground that it is inconsistent with the Declaration of Rights.
Such discrimination, entrenched in law, denies fundamental human rights, such as freedom of conscience, of speech, of assembly and association, and of protection from discrimination; it relates all human activities to “occupation” of land on a racial basis; it reduces human rights to ministerial permits; it confines appeals to the minister of Government concerned, making his subjective opinion the objective norm of legality, and leaving the individual defenceless at the hands of ministerial caprice; it prohibits free association, even in some cases for communal worship of God, and by the devise of equating “attendance” with “occupation”, reserves the right to segregate even church congregations by race alone.
Apart from restriction of fundamental human rights, such legislation also restricts the freedom of the Church to deal with people irrespective of race. In practice this means that the Church is expected to violates its principles and comply with unjust legislation. It denies to the Church, both clergy and laity alike, the right to move freely among people of all races in all races in fulfilment of its God-given mission; it forbids them to receive into Church-owned private hospitals patients of any race, or to admit to Church-owned private schools pupils of any race; even the internal organisation of a community of priests, nuns, or brothers is affected, for members of the same religious brotherhood or sisterhood, though of different races, are now forbidden to reside in the same house.
Restrictions on the ownership of land and property by discriminatory legislation also prevent the church from making use of its institutions in a non-racial manner. Be it noted that the Church is not primarily interested in its ownership of land and buildings for the sake of ownership; that is not the problem. The problem arises from the fact that the Government has chosen to enforce segregation by means of the Land Tenure Act. This Act relates all human activities and all occasions and places of association between people of different races, to the question of “ownership” and “occupation” of land, most of which land has been classified as either African or European.

What ought to be done to remove these restrictions?

The Church has already made it clear that it intends to carry on its work in the areas of either race and with such occupation by either race as the work requires. Even though of its own very nature, the Church is non-racial, it must now apply to the appropriate Minister of Government for permission to occupy any of its land in a multiracial way. It can no longer use “freely” its own land or property. Legally, the appropriate Minister has the absolute power to permit or refuse such occupation as may be ‘in his opinion desirable”, without any appeal beyond his decision. If the Head of any Church concerned felt driven by his conscience to refuse to abide by the Minister’s arbitrary decision, the Minister of Government would be on unassailable ground by replying, “You applied for the permit, which necessarily implies your acceptance of my right to refuse it.”  The Church cannot in such circumstances apply for permits and then take part in the creation of a situation in which its conscience may compel it to refuse to obey an authority it could not recognise.
It believes that this work is laid upon it by God, and therefore it calls upon the Government to make it possible to continue it. It is simply asking that it be not made unlawful for it to go about its rightful occasions.  It is a serious matter. It realises that in rejecting unjust laws, it renders itself liable to suffering the legal consequences of such refusal.
The freedom of the Church is the fundamental principle in concerns the relations between the Church and governments and the whole civil order. In human society and in the face government, the Church claims freedom for itself in its character as a spiritual authority, established by Christ the Lord. Upon this authority there rests, by divine mandate, the duty of going out into the whole world and preaching the Gospel to very creature. The Church also claims freedom for itself in its character as a society of men who have the right to live in society in accordance with the precepts of Christian Faith.
Consequently, in order that relationships of peace and harmony may be established and maintained within the whole of mankind, it is necessary that religious freedom be everywhere provided with an effective constitutional guarantee, and that respect be shown for the high duty and right of man freely to lead his religious life in society.
It has been argued that certain provisions of the land Tenure Act are necessary lest the security of the State be endangered by subversive political organisations masquerading under the guise of religious bodies or “churches”. Society has a right to defend itself against such possible abuses committed on pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of Government to provide this protection. However, the free exercise of religion may not be inhibited unless absolute proof is given that it entails some violation of the rights of others, or of the public peace, or of public morality. These three are necessary for the preservation of public order.
Were all the objectionable clauses to be amended, it would require the re-writing of at least part of the Constitution upon which the whole Land Tenure Act depends. This is not surprising since neither in the Constitution nor in the Land Tenure Act is there to be found the spirit of justice and fraternal charity, which is at the heart of our Divine Lord’s teaching.
Injury is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society when the just requirements of public order do not so require. The Church therefore requires that the Declaration of Rights be amended; that the rights be not eroded by unjustifiable exceptions; but that it be steadfastly defended by constitutional and legal safeguards, and by creating a body of persons of proved integrity responsible to the judiciary as well as to the Legislature. Such amendments would in turn remove the ground from those provisions of the land Tenure Act which deny fundamental human rights and entrench racial discrimination by law. Such solid defence of the Declaration of Rights would ensure that emergency measures did not become enshrined in permanent legislation.

What is the Christian to do?

Since the State has made laws which are based on discrimination by race alone, therefore the Church is being asked to comply with unjust laws. The Church cannot deny Christian principles and cannot compromise conscience. This produces a crisis of conscience for all the members of the Church, both clergy and laity. They have to choose between:
 
(a)
complying with unjust laws, thereby appearing to suggest that discrimination by race alone is NOT unjust, or
 
(b)
rejecting the unjust laws in practice, thereby rendering themselves liable to the legal consequences of this refusal, or
 
(c)
rejecting the unjust laws internally and in conscience, by carrying on externally and normally as far as possible in practice, in the hope of better times, because, in the face of force majeure, this would, by precedent, be tolerable.
A further dilemma remains; if the Church protests too strongly, it may be completely excluded from a particular area of its work. Should it continue to protest against such legislation? Or, should it moderate its demands, even at the risk of appearing to suggest that discrimination by race alone is not unjust, for the sake of a minimal freedom for religious activity?
No one would say that the Government of this country is deliberately trying to persecute the Church. There is no actual persecution of Faith, but there is a very real persecution of Charity wherever legislation prevents the Church from carrying out her mission of service to all people as members of one family, as brothers in Christ.
To attempt to racialise the Church through discriminatory laws, not only strikes at the heart and centre of the Christian Faith, the Incarnation, but also denies the sacramental unity of the Church. It must be remembered too, that each individual, regardless of race or religion, has the same human dignity and the same inalienable rights which flow from it.
If the present legislation remains in force, it will effectively result in the closure of all Church institutions that do not agree to operate on an exclusively racial basis. The circumstance that has to be verified is that legislation results in this undesirable situation. In no circumstance will any Catholic Institution close of its own initiative; but ONLY IF IS FORCED TO DO SO by the reply of its authorities to such circumstance, and NOT by reason of any occasion contrived by them or OF THEIR OWN SEEKING. They could do no other. The Church does not want this discontinuation of its charitable services; nor presumably do the people of Rhodesia. It is up to Government “to make possible the continuation of their work which they believe is laid upon them by God.”