Journal of Catholic Social Thought

Volume 21, Issue 1, Winter 2024

Dennis J. Wieboldt IIIOrcid-ID
Pages 107-131

Civil Rights and Prophetic Indictment: A Discursive History of Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe’s On the Interracial Apostolate

In 1967, the superior general of the Society of Jesus, Pedro Arrupe, sent a memorandum on the American “racial crisis” to the Jesuit priests, brothers, and social institutions of the United States. Through appeals to the American legal and Catholic moral traditions, On the Interracial Apostolate articulated why Jesuits should strive to achieve racial equality, initiating a historic period of expansion in Jesuit civil rights programs. Given scholars’ limited engagement with On the Interracial Apostolate’s distinctive rhetorical features, this article explains why the document was framed within the discursive framework of prophetic indictment by uncovering the influence of William J. Kenealy, a Jesuit legal scholar, on the document’s drafting. In light of this drafting history, this article concludes by suggesting that the emergence of twentieth-century “Jesuit anti-racism” can, in part, be explained by how questions about racial equality came to be understood as discrete expressions of broader debates about the American legal tradition’s moral foundations.