The Radio Priest

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I saw Mr. Roosevelt after he won the nomination, and he told me that he was very grateful for what I had done. “Padre,” he said—he always called me Padre—"you can have any damned thing you want after this election.” I said that there’s not much I want, I can’t take much; but, I said, I want to tell you a little bit of history that you might not know. I said that South America was supposed to be a Catholic continent. Whether or not they were good or bad Catholics, they did go under the flag of Catholicity. And I told Mr. Roosevelt that it was a curious phenomenon that all the European nations were represented by Catholic ambassadors but not the United States. You know, I told him, that they call us “ yanquis ” down there, even in Mexico; and the word didn’t translate as “Yankee.” It had come to mean, in political slang, high Freemasons. So I said to him, listen, get smart, because the day will come when we’re going to need hemispheric solidarity—I was for that even then—so why don’t you send a Catholic ambassador down there. And he said, “Hell, I never thought ofthat. It’s a good idea.” And he asked me to get him a list of qualified Catholics. I got a list together, and in December, after he had been elected, I went over to New York to see him. “Padre,” he said, “terrible disappointment. I can’t go through with that.” I asked him why, and he told me that he had promised to make Cordell Hull the new Secretary of State, and Hull had already told certain people that they were going to be ambassadors down there. But, said Mr. Roosevelt, you can have anything else you want. So I said, what about the Philippines, and I suggested Frank Murphy, who had served my first Mass back in 1916 and had a lot on the ball. “You got it,” he said, “he’s it.”

Who introduced you to Roosevelt?

That’s a hard thing to say. I can’t remember the time, from the time he was governor of New York, that I didn’t know him. Later on my good friend Joe Kennedy, the father of the President, had me get very close to Mr. Roosevelt. That was before the President made Joe the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The recurring theme of your broadcasts during this period was monetary reform. You charged that the Depression was a result of trying to maintain an impractical gold standard and insisted that the United States had a choice, as you put it, between revaluation and Christianity or repudiation and Bolshevism. How does your position appear in retrospect?

I wanted silver remonetized, of course, because I knew that there wasn’t enough gold to go around. You see, there just isn’t enough precious metal in the world to make it the basis of real wealth. If you study the history of money, as I have, and it goes back four thousand years before Christ, when all they had was gold and silver, you come to realize how international finance has been monopolized over the centuries by a small group of men who have had the power to manipulate the internal affairs of nations.

You spent a lot of radio time lecturing your audience on currency, didn ‘t you?

When I went to a junior school in Canada, about the equivalent of the eighth grade here, we were taught money. In fact, it was taught along with geography. I remember how the teacher used to give each of us the name of a ship, and we had to take that ship from the port of Montreal all the way to Hong Kong, and we had to learn why the price of the Canadian dollar was different in all the various ports of the world- and why that price fluctuated from day to day. Well, economic geography just isn’t taught in this country, and Americans just don’t know a thing about money, and it’s a hopeless situation trying to teach them anything, because we have the best dollar, so they still think—although it’s off twenty-one cents today in Zurich.

You still keep in touch, don’t you?

I’m sort of a bug on that situation, and I like to keep right abreast ofthat. One of the first things I get, at 4:30 A.M. every day, is the market price of the dollar in Switzerland.

When Al Smith announced that he was “for gold dollars as against baloney dollars,” you accused him, on your broadcast of November 26, 1933, of being a paid stooge of the banking interests. What prompted you to attack the most prominent Catholic politician in the nation?

Mr. Roosevelt.

Would you say that historians have generally underestimated the strength, the closeness of your relationship with F. D. R.?