Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with William Primosch
PRIMOSCH: When I was there, which was only about two and a half years, the sense I had was that this was an organization that was very dedicated to helping the poor. I didn't sense any political ax to grind, but they did identify particularly in Latin America with the Indian population, which was usually very poor and politically isolated and probably discriminated against. But there wasn't a political zeal. I think the politics arose out of the sense of mission to the poor in these countries.
Q: The political thing developed in the face of the reality of being, say, in Guatemala.
PRIMOSCH: Yes. I think particularly in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, and probably to a lesser extent today, these societies were very authoritarian and divided by class. It was probably pretty easy to be drawn into political activism in that environment if you were trying to do something to help the poor.
Q: Were you getting what amounted to a continuing basic education or was it moving more towards the religious side?
PRIMOSCH: They had a heavy theological curriculum, but there were a lot of extremely bright people there and even though the school was small, only 400-500 students, it was intellectually in many ways superior to what I saw at Notre Dame. It was more intellectually stimulating.
Q: What happened as you went through there? Why the shift?
PRIMOSCH: I guess I just concluded that this wasn't for me. That's when I decided to transfer to Notre Dame, which wasn't all that far away. When I transferred, I went into their international affairs department following up on that same interest in work overseas and foreign cultures.
Q: You were in the church when Pope John XXIII came on the scene. Were you feeling the tremors of the change?
PRIMOSCH: My recollection was that there was a lot of change in the church as it tried to drag itself from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Up until about the late 1960s if you look at church practices and the church liturgy and religious orientation, a lot of it is directly out of the Middle Ages. You could have gone in the 1950s to a Mass in Cleveland, it wouldn't have been that much different from going to Mass in 1400 in France. The Mass was in Latin. A lot of the prayer services came out of the Middle Ages. I think there was a recognition in the Catholic Church that it really needed to become more relevant to modern times.