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The Radio Priest
October 1972 | Volume 23, Issue 6
No, Rome. Pius xn was no friend of mine.
Were there any hard feelings between you and Mooney?
Of course not. He used to come out to the Shrine once and a while, for confirmations or something like that. When he came out he was always gracious, and I always received him graciously, and I always had a bottle of his favorite Bristol Cream, and we always had a drink together. In fact, during his last illness, in the last year and a half of his life, I was one of the few persons who used to go down and see him. He knew that I was, of all things, an obedient priest.
The final act, in a sense, occurred in March, 1942, when U.S. Attorney General Francis Riddle, presumably at the urging of President Roosevelt, asked the Post Office to “suspend or revoke” the second-class mailing privilege of Social Justice and ordered a federal grand jury investigation.
That was a horrible thing. They came up to the Shrine with Army trucks and took all my files away, a million names of the mailing list, all the papers and the letters, wagonload after wagonload, and I’ve never received them back. I guess they junked them in Washington someplace. And they took about twelve of my secretaries down to Washington. I challenged them publicly, “Bring me down and ask me the questions.” And they wouldn’t accept it. Why they had these lip readers in the dining rooms down there, and my secretaries would go to dinner, and they’d tell them the next day in court what they said at dinner. I was supposed to have been on the side of the Nazis, I was supposed to have gone to Germany, I was supposed to have seen Hitler. All nonsense.
Biddle wrote later that the administration was trying to avoid putting a priest on trial for sedition.
Biddle couldn’t have tried me for anything. If Biddle had ever tried me for sedition, he would have been tried for a lot of other things, because I had attorneys stronger and smarter than Biddle. He knew perfectly well that if he had ever tried me, a case would be brought against him personally that would have put him in limbo forever.
That’s no way to fight. Those young girls didn’t know anything about me. Bring me down there, and put the questions to me. I’ll answer any question truthfully. But Biddle was only doing as he was instructed to do, we don’t know by whom.
You don’t think Roosevelt knew about it?
He knew about it to begin with, yes.
My understanding is that Biddle finally sent an emissary, a man named Leo Crowley, to talk to Archbishop Mooney, who then called you m on May i, 1942, and threatened defrockment unless you agreed to be silent for the duration of the war.
No, no, no. There’s no truth in that. Mooney and I were good friends all the way through. And I never heard of Crowley in my life till the whole thing was over. He certainly never saw me. You know, you can’t condemn a man without giving him a hearing, which they never gave me. But they didn’t want to give me a hearing. They just wanted to smear me.
Did you meet the archbishop on May i?
No. There was no confrontation of any kind.
How did you feel when the public part of your career ended at that time?
I felt relieved.
In retrospect, Father, what do you consider your Jmest accomplishments?
First of all, I was the first man in the clergy to bring social justice to the minds of the public, even to indoctrinate them that such a thing existed. And in doing so, I was the first man of the cloth to let them know that the clergy has a duty, not a right, to do this.
Would you consider yourself to have been in the vanguard of today ‘s activist clergy, and what is your opinion of them?
Well, I’m a priest, and I certainly was an activist. Today’s activists? Some of them are wonderful; some of them I don’t agree with. I certainly can’t go along with the destruction of property. I don’t believe in going to these barbaric excesses. You see, you can’t have disorder to get your point across. There are two things you can’t throw aside when you’re in public life. You must be a gentleman. Once in a while you slip, as I’ve done myself. And always you must be a Christian, and remember that you’re not representing yourself, you’re representing your church.
Is there a specific accomplishment that you take special pride in?