Pluralism, National Menace, 1951

This editorial (excerpted here) by the editors of The Christian Century expresses the fear that “pluralism” was a term used to disguise the division that Catholics would cause to U.S. society if they gained too much influence.


The threat of a plural society based on race or language having been overcome, it might have been expected that American worries on this score were at an end. Most Americans assume that to be the case. There is, however, another basis upon which plural societies have developed in other parts of the world:  religion. The United States escaped this danger in other days because the leaders of its three major faiths were for the most part devoted to the American ideal and tradition. Certainly there were some who were not enthusiastic supporters of that ideal and tradition, but they were a negligible minority. Now the situation is changed. Roman Catholics are no longer a small minority of the population and the number of their leaders who would like to alter certain of the basic concepts upon which American democracy is founded has grown from a small group to include most of the clergy and many laymen.

While this development has its indigenous aspects, it is largely a result of a change in emphasis and policy on the world level in that church. Priests educated in Rome have returned to tell their parishioners that the American ideal of the separation of church and state, particularly as it relates to public education, is a mistake; that it takes away rights which properly belong to the church and secularizes the whole educational process. As a result of this new emphasis and the propaganda among Roman Catholics which has accompanied it, the United States is faced with the menace of a plural society based on religious differences.

…The real hope that American society will remain united lies in straightforward, uncompromising resistance to any efforts by any group to subvert the traditional American way of life. In this resistance Americans of all faiths—and in this we include Roman Catholics who have not been aware of the ends to which the policy of the hierarchy is directed—need to join hands, and at once.

[The Christian Century, 13 June 1951: 701-703. © 1951 Christian Century Foundation. Used by permission of the Christian Century Foundation.]