The Deacon's Bench

It could happen.

I didn’t get a chance to post this last week, but it’s noteworthy for so many reasons.

Thursday night, Bishop DiMarzio formally opened the cause for the canonization of the late, great Msgr. Bernard J. Quinn — the first time that’s happened in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Quinn was a pioneer in civil rights, and he opened the first parish for black Catholics in Brooklyn. (One of his early parishioners was young Lena Horne, who sang in the choir). As the New York Times noted Friday:

Monsignor Quinn, who died in 1940 at age 52, championed racial equality at a time when discrimination against blacks was ubiquitous in America, even inside the Catholic Church. In the Depression-era heyday of the anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist radio broadcasts of the Rev. Charles E. Coughlin, Monsignor Quinn encountered sharp resistance from some fellow priests when he proposed ministering to Brooklyn’s growing population of blacks, many of them fleeing the Jim Crow South or migrating from the poor Caribbean countries.

When Msgr. John L. Belford, an outspokenly antiblack priest in New York, wrote in 1929 in his church newsletter that “negroes should be excluded from this Roman Catholic church if they become numerous,” Monsignor Quinn took pains during the public controversy that followed to state his strong disagreement.

“It seems to me that no church can exclude anyone and still keep its Christian ideals,” he said, according to his obituary in The New York Times. “The Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and this, plus the fact that church property is tax exempt, ought to mean that anyone can go anyplace to worship.”

You can also see rare film footage of him, and hear some testimony about his life and impact, in this story from “Currents.”

Servant of God, Bernard Quinn, pray for us!

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