A rare study of social action on the local level from the Depression to the present
Social Justice and Church Authority
The Public Life of Archbishop Robert E. Lucey
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Saul E. Bronder
In Los Angeles, Amarillo, and especially San Antonio, where he was installed as Archbishop, Robert Lucey was an advocate of social justice for blacks, Mexican-Americans, and the poor, a passionate critic of racism and segregation, and a powerful supporter of the right of labor to organize. He became a national figure during the New Deal when he regularly lambasted the Republicans and "economic immorality" on his radio show, Saint Anthony's Hour. Lucey was dear to FDR for his counterattacks on Father Coughlin, the notorious Roosevelt-baiter.
All his life Lucey believed in ecclesiastical authority. He submitted to it; he wielded it without qualms. In a final irony to his career, Archbishop Lucey defended the Vietnam war and his friend LBJ, exercising all his authority against the dissenting priests he himself had trained to pursue social justice.
Although Lucey's dictatorial style as an administrator sometimes caused bitterness and revolt, it sometimes worked wonders. In San Antonio in one year the Catholic charities under his direction dispensed twenty times the $8,000 in aid that the poor received from the municipal government.
This is a rare study of social action on the local level from the Depression to the present. Based on many primary sources, it also reveals much about the inner workings of the Catholic Church, which assumes responsibility not only for the salvation of its people but for their health, education, and welfare as well.
Saul E. Bronder teaches history at the University of Maryland.