Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Catholic Church and Interracial Marriage

What was the first court ruling that said laws banning interracial marriage (miscegenation) were unconstitutional?  If you said Loving v. Virginia, you're wrong.  It was Perez v. Sharp in 1948.  This case was not just a case of personal freedom, but religious freedom.  The case was heard by the Supreme Court of California, which held that the anti-miscegenation laws of the state violated the Federal Constitution.  

Andrea Perez, a Mexican-American legally classified as "white", wished to marry Sylvester Davis, a "negro," in the Catholic Church.  The Church held no objection to their marriage, as they were well within their canonical rights to marry one another. Justice Edmonds, in his concurring opinion, held that their religious rights were violated since the Church was willing to marry them.  In effect, the state was preventing them from receiving the sacrament they had every right to receive.

His comments (citations deleted):
I agree with the conclusion that marriage is "something more than a civil contract subject to regulation by the state; it is a fundamental right of free men." Moreover, it is grounded in the fundamental principles of Christianity.
 And later:
Reasonable classification, therefore, is not the test to be applied to a statute which interferes with one of the fundamental liberties which are protected by the First Amendment. The question is whether there is any "clear and present danger" justifying such legislation, and the burden of upholding the enactment is upon him who asserts that the acts which are denounced do not infringe the freedom of the individual. In the present case, the respondent does not claim that there is any clear and present danger justifying the restrictions imposed by sections 60 and 69 of the Civil Code. In 18 states, including New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, where about 10 per cent of the Negroes of the United States reside, there are no such limitations. The population of California, to a large extent, is made up of people who have come to it from other sections of the country, and if there are undesirable consequences of interracial marriages, the challenged legislation is an ineffective means of meeting the problem
The basis for opposing interracial marriage was eugenics, not protection of natural marriage.  Theories of eugenics were condemned by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (written in German rather than Latin, directly in condemnation of what was happening in Germany under Hitler).

He says (emphasis added):

8. Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community - however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things - whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.
And continuing...

17. The peak of the revelation as reached in the Gospel of Christ is final and permanent. It knows no retouches by human hand; it admits no substitutes or arbitrary alternatives such as certain leaders pretend to draw from the so-called myth of race and blood. Since Christ, the Lord's Anointed, finished the task of Redemption, and by breaking up the reign of sin deserved for us the grace of being the children God, since that day no other name under heaven has been given to men, whereby we must be saved (Acts iv. 12). No man, were every science, power and worldly strength incarnated in him, can lay any other foundation but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus (1 Cor. iii 11). Should any man dare, in sacrilegious disregard of the essential differences between God and His creature, between the God-man and the children of man, to place a mortal, were he the greatest of all times, by the side of, or over, or against, Christ, he would deserve to be called prophet of nothingness, to whom the terrifying words of Scripture would be applicable: "He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh at them" (Psalms ii. 3).
18. Faith in Christ cannot maintain itself pure and unalloyed without the support of faith in the Church, "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. iii. 15); for Christ Himself, God eternally blessed, raised this pillar of the Faith. His command to hear the Church (Matt. xviii. 15), to welcome in the words and commands of the Church His own words and His own commands (Luke x. 16), is addressed to all men, of all times and of all countries. The Church founded by the Redeemer is one, the same for all races and all nations. Beneath her dome, as beneath the vault of heaven, there is but one country for all nations and tongues; there is room for the development of every quality, advantage, task and vocation which God the Creator and Savior has allotted to individuals as well as to ethnical communities. The Church's maternal heart is big enough to see in the God-appointed development of individual characteristics and gifts, more than a mere danger of divergency. She rejoices at the spiritual superiorities among individuals and nations. In their successes she sees with maternal joy and pride fruits of education and progress, which she can only bless and encourage, whenever she can conscientiously do so. But she also knows that to this freedom limits have been set by the majesty of the divine command, which founded that Church one and indivisible. Whoever tampers with that unity and that indivisibility wrenches from the Spouse of Christ one of the diadems with which God Himself crowned her; he subjects a divine structure, which stands on eternal foundations, to criticism and transformation by architects whom the Father of Heaven never authorized to interfere.
Pius XI says that all races are equal before God.  Christ, a Jew, came to save all, Jew and Gentile.  We must never raise our racial, cultural, or political identity above God, lest we commit a form of idolatry.  It was in this spirit that Miss Perez and Mr. Davis proceeded, knowing that laws banning their marriage are never just.  Later in 1967, eleven bishops in states that still had these laws joined together in an amicus curiae brief in the case that ultimately eliminated anti-miscegenation laws, Loving v. Virginia.

So if you're married to a person not of your race, thank the Catholic Church!

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