Archbishop Kurtz on Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’
April 16, 2013
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, the vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined other Christian leaders in Birmingham on April 14 and 15 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s famed “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
“Making use of the edges of newspapers and stubs of pencils available to him in the jail, Reverend King set out what has become a classic letter, quoting from Socrates to St. Paul and St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “This letter, which is rich in foundations of Scripture and human philosophy, direct, and prophetic, gave a rationale for strong action as well as marching orders for the steps we must follow to lift us, as the letter states, ‘from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.’”
“Rightly, he uncovered the words of St. Thomas Aquinas that the unjust law is ‘the human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law’ and so is, as Dr. King says, ‘out of harmony with the moral law,’” Archbishop Kurtz continued. Recalling previous bishops’ statements on racism, he added that “we must ask forgiveness for past wrongs, be grateful for words that have already borne fruit, and be resolved for more action.”
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