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The Archives Speaker Series, presented by Archives and Special Collections, continues its tradition of hosting a lecture during October in commemoration of American Archives Month and Banned Book Week. This year’s theme, Let Freedom Read, addresses choice, tolerance and education as librarians and archivists confront a growing worldwide effort to challenge, censor or ban books and historic collections from their institutions.

Professor emeritus, Larry Eugene Jones, PhD, department of History, will deliver his lecture John LaFarge, S.J., and the Secret Encyclical on Racism and Antisemitism, 1938-39, on Tuesday, October 3, 2023, at 2:30 p.m. in the Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library.

LaFarge, comfortably raised in Rhode Island among an artistic family, entered the Jesuit seminary in Innsbruck, Austria in 1901. He studied theology after a successful completion of classical studies in Greek and Latin at Harvard. Upon ordination, he returned to the U.S., and in 1907 earned his first teaching post in philosophy at Canisius.

Jesuits transferred him to Loyola University Maryland, where he earned a master’s degree in philosophy at Woodstock College. There, his life transformed when his health redirected him from academics to pastoral work. Over fifteen years, Father LaFarge worked and ministered in the St. Mary’s County, Maryland, where desperately impoverished populations of black and immigrant communities endured extreme socioeconomic discrimination. LaFarge found the appalling conditions and treatment of the people “sinful” and regularly spoke out about these inhumanities. He wrote articles and encouraged social activism throughout his life, especially in his 30-year career as the editor of AMERICA magazine, a Jesuit publication.

After his enlightenment in Maryland, LaFarge transferred to the Vatican where he regularly interfaced with the curia. His gifted scholarship led to a challenging assignment that placed him directly with Pope Pius XI. That assignment–developing and writing an encyclical on social justice– would haunt him. This document, and the controversy over its mysterious disappearance, is the focus of Dr. Jones’ lecture.

Submitted by: Kathleen Delaney, archivist and special collections librarian