The Radio Priest

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Did you consult with the other officials of the National Union for Social Justice before you nominated “Liberty Bill” Lemke?

No, no one was consulted. I think it was a meeting with Lemke one day, either in New York or here, and I said, “You’d make a pretty good President yourself. You’ve got the right ideas about finance and the right ideas about farming.” We had, who was this boy, [Secretary of Agriculture Henry] Wallace, I think, pontificating about agriculture and those things at that time, see. I guess he was a theorist. So I said to Lemke, “At least, you’d make a pretty good farmer-President.” But the campaign was a horrible mistake.

For the Union Party effort you joined forces with the California old-age-pension advocate, Dr. Francis Townsend, and Gerald L. K. Smith, who had succeeded the late Huey Long as leader of the Share-Our-Wealth movement.

I was supposed to be an associate of Townsend and Smith. I met Townsend once in my life for about five minutes in Cleveland and Smith for about three minutes before the same rally. I didn’t know anything about him. Same with Townsend. That was the thing then, for these persons to attach themselves to you, and then do something to defame you.

The Cleveland rally you mentioned, that was the Townsendite convention in mid-July at which you dramatically took off your coat and clerical collar and brought the ten thousand people in the audience to their feet by denouncing “Franklin Double-crossing Roosevelt” as a “liar” and “a great betrayer. ” Tour gesture with the collar, was that/or oratorical effect?

It was about 105 degrees in the shade.

Did you regret having called the President a liar?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and I said so publicly.

Your bishop, Michael Gallagher, was en route at that time to visit Pius xi. The New York Times quoted him, on July 27, to the effect that his trip to Rome had nothing to do with your political activities. What was the purpose of his trip?

To discuss me—favorably. He and Bishop Schrembs went together. But he couldn’t afford to tell state secrets to the reporters like that.

But when Bishop Gallagher returned to this country he told the press that he considered Roosevelt the best candidate.

So did I.

You did? Can I ask you a personal question? Whom did you vote for in 1936?

I couldn’t tell you now. I really can’t remember.

On October 8, 1936, Eugenia Cardinal Pacelli, the Papal Secretary of State and subsequently Pius xn, came to the United States. The purpose of his extended tour was never announced, but his arrival started the press speculating that he was investigating you.

Cardinal Pacelli was no friend of mine, no friend of Michael Gallagher’s. When he came over to discuss me with Mr. Roosevelt he came out to have a meeting of the bishops in Cleveland. So, all the bishops had to appear at this meeting, and Pacelli, well, he wouldn’t talk to either Michael Gallagher or Joe Schrembs. He scorned them. So the bishop came back and he said, “Boy, have I got news for you. You’re finished.” And when Pius xi died in 1939, I was.

Were you worried when you learned that the Papal Secretary of State was, as you put it, “no friend” of yours?

No, I was weary. You can get weary doing this sort of thing. You get tired. You wish you lived in Portugal for about six months. To get away from it.

The 1936 Presidential campaign had more than its share of vituperation. According to my notes, even your friend Joe Kennedy turned against you and called you a disgrace to the cloth.

Joe said that? Oh, no, no, no. Whoever quoted him as saying that just isn’t telling the truth. No, that’s not true. Of course the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] and that group down there, who I think came next door to hating me, they’d say anything to harm me.

I’m sorry, I was wrong. That quote was attributed to John B. Kelly, the Democratic chairman of Philadelphia.

I knew it wasn’t Joe Kennedy. He wouldn’t have said such a thing. Not that we always agreed on everything. Sometimes he’d tell me I was a jackass, but he’d never call me a disgrace.