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Problems Of Our People

Problems Of Our People
Pastoral Instruction of the Catholic Bishops of Southern Rhodesia
16 July 1963

Our Divine Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ so instituted His Church that to the bishops He confided the triple task of teaching, ruling and sanctifying with the word and sacrament the souls the souls entrusted to them. United together with the successor of St. Peter, the bishops inherit the authority of the Apostolic College and the assurances of divine assistance until the end of time (Matt. 28).
All this has been brought home to us in spectacular manner in these very days by the summoning of the Second Vatican Council, and is a source of profound consolation to the whole Church, bishops, priests, religious and laity, who recognise, as scarcely ever before, the strong bonds which bind them together in the one family of  God.
Here in Southern Rhodesia we have been particularly consoled by the many recent manifestations of regard for the work of the great Pope John XXIII of happy memory, as we have been also heartened by the prayerful good wishes of men of all creeds for his illustrious successor who now assumes the burdens of his high office. In all this we have observed a growing understanding of the work of the Church, and an acknowledgement of how solely men of good will, threatened by the materialism, sensuality and fratricidal hate of a new paganism, thirst after the saving teachings of Christianity and the virtues which are its flowering.
In this great continent of Africa where widespread and remarkable changes in the whole political, economic and social structure are now taking place, the need for inculcating with even greater zeal the principles of Christ’s teaching and for fostering with even greater care their complete development, it is more urgent than ever before; yet, there are not lacking signs that in Southern Rhodesia itself the work of the Church not only seems to be regarded as of less account than formerly, but is even in immediate danger of being seriously impeded.


We refer, of course, to the new social experiment which is at present being carried out and which has disturbed many of you by the possibility if its adverse effects for the Church, so that you have come in increasing numbers to ask of us direction in the crisis of conscience which has thus been thrust upon you. Let us say at once how greatly we have been cheered by this loyal concern which you manifest for the welfare of the Church, and how much we have been comforted by your acknowledgement of the benefits brought to you by your missionaries.
We would therefore be lacking in our duties were we – even at the very real risk of our motives being misunderstood – to deny you the benefit of the counsel which you seek. When the welfare of the Church is at stake, we cannot be silent.
Before, however, attempting to elucidate for you the matter at hand, we would like you to know that the Hierarchy has had four meetings in the past two months to discuss the problem. Furthermore, we sought information from the appropriate authorities regarding the manner in which it is proposed to implement the policy of Community Development. Nevertheless, although every consideration was afforded and every courtesy extended to us, the precise details asked for are still lacking and as yet we have no guarantee that the Church may not suffer through an imperfect manner of applying an otherwise sound policy. In the meantime, while we wait for the desired information an intense programme of preparation is being pushed through and the great masses of the people are being told that they are to take over Church schools, and presumably other institutions, and that in future, missionaries will confine their activities to “the vestry”.
Let us first of all make it absolutely clear that the policy of developing local communities to accept joint responsibility for matters of common interest id not to be regarded in itself as something essentially wrong. By no means. In fact it conforms to the Catholic social doctrine frequent enunciated in the great papal encyclicals which says that where lawful subsidiary communities are willing and capable of performing functions which tend to the common good, they should not be deprived of this activity by a more powerful authority. In this respect, therefore, the policy envisaged has much to command it. The system by which the policy is put into operation is, however, what causes such grave concern.  A good policy may be vitiated by a bad system. Consequently, that your individual rights, those of the Church, the State, the family, and the rights of other subsidiary communities be safeguarded from the effects of a bad system, you should seek in the matter, the following assurances:
  1. That in implementing Community Development, the State shall not itself interfere with, or encourage interference with, the legitimate activities of the Church.

  2. That the State shall not support, even indirectly, any plan which may involve an invitation or a suggestion to the people of this country to restrict the rights of the Church unduly, or to minimise in any way its influence.

  3. That, in implementing the policy of Community Development, the Christian character of schools shall not suffer.

    N.B. The Bishops believe that this Christian character of the schools can only be maintained if the schools remain under the tutelage of the Church, in such manner that the teachers be appointed and supervised by the appropriate religious denomination.

  4. That the furtherance of the policy of Community Development, the rights of parents be recognised and respected, and specifically, where the numbers justify it, that parents be permitted to have confessional schools acceptable to their conscience.

  5. That such denominational schools be not denied an equal share of public monies for their continued efficient functioning and development, i.e. that the individual be not penalised for his religious convictions.

  6. That under the policy of Community Development, the rights of lawful subsidiary communities, established by free association, be recognised and respected, and be not abolished, unnecessarily restricted, or violated with impunity by a kind of totalitarian power vested in the Local Government Authority. Specifically, that when subsidiary communities are willing and able to perform efficiently functions which promote the common good, such communities be not deprived of this activity by a more powerful authority.

  7. That Community Development be not permitted to promote of bring about Separate Development, and that within the nation there shall not be permitted to arise through government legislation or departmental regulation, permanent racial or tribal divisions.

  8. That the over-all authority of the State shall not be placed in jeopardy or endangered in its efficient functioning by undue autonomy assumed by or vested in Local Government Authorities.

  9. That the creation of Local Government Authorities shall not be permitted to infringe the natural right of the individual to freedom of movement and freedom of association.

  10. That in implementing the policy of Community Development, every care shall be taken to promote equality of opportunity for all, and an equitable distribution of public services of uniformly high standard.

  11. That there shall be no attempt made by or approved by the State, directly or indirectly, to take over church property or to promote the forcible alienation of such property by any authority whatsoever.

    We refer specifically to churches, schools, hospitals, clinics, homes for the aged and infirm, orphanages, institutes for disabled children, etc., which have been established by the Church for all sections of the community at the cost of many millions of pounds. We presume that Community Development is to be applied equally to all races.

    N.B. In this connection we would welcome a categorical denial that it is intended by the State to appropriate such property, permit its forced expropriation, or so act as to render its existence redundant. This assurance we consider most just because of the enormous contribution to education made by the Church in this country, and most urgent in view of a statement attributed to the Secretary for African Education and reported as follows in the Bulawayo Chronicle, 19 June, 1963: “The machinery for taking over church schools will be found in the local government council structure”.

  12. That before further steps be taken to implement the policy of Community Development, the people to be affected be informed of the statutory powers authorising (a) the change, (b) the degree of co-operation (financial and otherwise) required of them, and (d) the measure of liberty they may retain or the sanctions likely to be imposed on those who, in the exercise of their civic freedom, choose to remain outside the schemes devised.
As you will appreciate, we are most concerned about the ethical problems likely to arise in implementing Community Development, for whereas it seems clear that it is the government’s intention to achieve a praiseworthy end by developing civic responsibility among all sections of the community, it seems equally clear that the methods to be used for this purpose are not at all justifiable, in that they may involve a violation of the rights of others, notably those of the Church, but also those of the individual, the family and lesser communities.
We have already expressed our dismay that such an important matter as education should, from the beginning, be included in this revolutionary experiment; and we have suggested that it would be more fitting to permit Local Government Authorities first to exercise their newly-given powers in affairs of a more material order. In reply we have told that this action was regarded as necessary in order to ensure the wholehearted interest and co-operation of the people in the overall programme. Nevertheless, it still appears to us that there is a grave element of risk involved which does not justify the decision taken. Furthermore we feel that it debases education thus to use it as a mere enticement to the people to achieve the end desired.
We must state clearly that we believe that the Church has, independent of any other authority, a divine commission to teach, and that we, as its appointed representatives, cannot in conscience renounce or permit the abrogation of our claims in this matter. Hitherto we have been able to achieve and maintain a satisfactory modus vivendi with the State, whose authority in regard to education we both recognise and continue to respect; but it now seems that the traditional happy relationship between Church and State is being threatened by a policy which, while appearing to give more autonomy to the people at large, at the same time encourages them to throw off the tutelage of the Church and accept either an emaciated form of religious instruction in their schools, or no religious instruction at all. The consequences of lessening in this country at this time, the careful influence of the Church, or of impending its task of developing moral consciousness in its citizens are much too serious for the State to neglect. Nor is it valid to argue that the Church should confine its activities to “the vestry”. The Church is a perfect society with a divine mandate to teach, and has therefore not only a right to pursue this end, but has by consequence a right to the means to that end; this includes schools and institutions of higher learning which it regards as indispensable to its purpose. Only in totalitarian states is this right ever questioned.
Furthermore, it is not at all clear that in the sphere of education, the measures proposed for Community Development can be justified, unless there is a reasonable certainty that there would result a wider and better degree of education for the people concerned. To us it appears that the present system of education will be imperilled rather than improved, and that the common weal may suffer by the lessening of the beneficent influence of the Christian Church.
Even more is involved if one remembers the expressed intent of government to concentrate in the future on secondary education in this country. If the Church is to be permitted to conduct secondary schools in the years to come, we greatly fear that there will be little hope of its being able to match the contribution it has already made in the field of African primary education. Our benefactors overseas, whose generous donations have provided a necessary subsidy for educational and other work in this country, may quite properly the wisdom of contributing to charities whose influence may be destroyed at the whim of the State, and whose properties are in peril of being alienated by government regulations.
In this regard we would like to state that the continued existence of church schools is in no way inconsistent with the policy of Community Development reasonably applied. Our church schools have been established at the request of the people themselves who have not only shared the responsibility for them through School Committees, but in many cases have contributed to the Church financial assistance for the erection of the buildings. We fail to see how the elimination of this happy relationship between Church and people can confer any benefit on the country, particularly when Church authorities have already begun to train and direct local committees of the laity to accept and exercise, under Church guidance, more and more responsibility in matters of common interest.
Far from being an obstacle to the common weal, the presence of church schools cannot but have beneficial influence on such other schools as the people may desire, since competitive standards will thereby be maintained and a monolithic uniformity of mediocrity avoided.


Surely, in promoting the policy of Community Development the correct order of procedure is not to force a system on people by authority from above, but rather to state clearly that where people wish to do so, they may group together for corporate action and assume responsibility for such schemes as they are willing and competent to bring to maturity? In this way, true liberty and independence of action is assured, i.e. when the impetus comes freely from the people themselves and is not imposed on them from above.
Finally, we would like you to understand that we do not regard the position as hopeless or the problem as insoluble. Rather, we believe that with good will and a reciprocal recognition by Church and State of their respective responsibilities a way may be found to permit of their continued joint co-operation for the benefit of the whole nation.
However, although this is our hope, we felt that in a matter of such gravity we could not be expected to remain silent any longer or delay further in giving you the directives which you have so earnestly requested of us. After all, the new policy of Community Development, while clear enough in its broad outlines, is still completely vague as regards the detailed manner of its application; and what experience we have had ourselves and have had reported to us by others who have heard the matter expounded by officials in the outlying districts, gave rise to serious reason for believing that the traditional rights of the Church were to be placed in jeopardy and the well-being of the country at large thereby threatened. Hence our decision to speak to you in this manner and without further dangerous delay.
While invoking God’s blessing on you all, we confidently request your prayers for a happy solution of present problems, and for the all-important work of the Second Session of the Ecumenical Council which we are soon to attend.
  • Francis Markall, S.J., Archbishop of Salisbury
  • Aloysius Haene S.M.B., Bishop of Gwelo
  • Adolph G. Schmitt, C.M.M., Bishop of Bulawayo
  • Donal R. Lamont O. Carm., Bishop of Umtali
  • Ignatius Prieto, S.M.I., Bishop of Wankie