The Radio Priest

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Without going all through the sixteen points would you briefly define the term ” social justice”?

Well, there are two definitions of man. Man is a rational animal. That definition came all the way from Aristotle and Socrates and those people, who were animal ninetenths of the time and rational one-tenth. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Man is rational social animal, because, first of all, man is only a half a human being; the other half is a woman. No one is a complete totality. Secondly, no man is an island, as John Donne pointed out; no one is a Robinson Crusoe. Whatever each man’s specialty is, he needs someone else to cut his hair, to grow his wheat, to sail his ships. To all, different gifts, see. We need one another. So social justice is a little bit different from personal justice. Social justice is the justice that one human being or one group of human beings should have toward another group of human beings, who make contributions to the well-being of total society, without which society itself would crumble.

The controversy begins when one tries to translate these general ideals into specific programs?

Yes, and how many dollars each gets.

In 1935 you became more and more critical of the Roosevelt administration.

I was very disappointed with the lack of genuine monetary reform, and I said so. And some of the relief programs just weren’t working well, and I said so. And I told Mr. Roosevelt, too. As fine as Mr. Roosevelt was, he was a very poor businessman, one of the worst that ever sat in the White House. His own father, when writing his will, didn’t leave him a nickel; he left the management of the estate in charge of somebody else, you know that, don’t you? Well, I didn’t blame Mr. Roosevelt for a lot of these policies. It was the fault of some of the men around him, but I couldn’t go around being critical of his underlings. The President is the head of the organization and must take the responsibility.

Do you still feel that way?

I was pretty young. It was a young man’s mistake, personalizing those attacks. I wouldn’t stand for anyone attacking any President today. Since this upheaval against authority in the world today, I’m so fearful of these attacks on the President, I don’t want to see his authority eroded.

Because of your huge following and your criticism of the New Deal, there was much speculation in 1935 about you and Senator Huey Long combining to form a third party. Was such a plan in the works?

All that speculation was absolutely false. I never discussed a third party with Long, or much of anything else, for that matter. I didn’t know the senator that well. I met him several times in social situations, you know, with a bunch of senators or something. The only time I ever saw him alone was when he was sick in his Washington hotel, and Mrs. Garner, the wife of the Vice President, asked me to pay him a visit. We drove over in her car, and she waited outside while I went in.

May I ask what was discussed at that meeting?

Why, his health, of course. I was only in there about ten minutes. It was just a social call, and I wouldn’t have gone at all if Mrs. Garner hadn’t asked me to.

Was there one thing in particular, one issue or one incident, that caused you to break with the Roosevelt administration?

There was, but I can’t talk about the specific details because there are some people living that can’t stand this thing. But the fact was that some evidence had come to the attention of my bishop which indicated that certain officials in the Roosevelt administration were helping the Communist cause overseas. Well, Bishop Gallagher called me to his home one day, it was the summer of 1935, and he said, “Now, Charles, you’re through supporting the New Deal and Mr. Roosevelt,” and he showed me this evidence.

Did you take this evidence to the President?

I’m getting to that. You see, prior to this time, I had gotten quite close to Mr. Roosevelt through Joe Kennedy. We used to go down to his family home in Poughkeepsie- we always referred to it as Poughkeepsie, Hyde Park was a sort of dirty word—about every two weeks and visit Mr. Roosevelt. Well, after Michael Gallagher showed me this material I stopped going, and Mr. Roosevelt noticed that I seemed to be avoiding him, so one night, at the beginning of September, 1935, I got a call from Joe Kennedy to the effect that the “Boss” wanted to see me. I knew what it was all about, so I checked with my bishop, and he said it was all right to go.