Coughlin Impugns his Bishop's Intelligence--Bishop Replies

"Coughlin Impugns his Bishop's Intelligence--Bishop Replies," Central North-West Topics (October 9, 1936).  John A. Ryan Papers, Scrapbook #10, p. 43.

Father Coughlin's speech before a meeting of Union Party supporters in Cleveland culminated with his explosive statement that President Roosevelt was a "liar" and "betrayer." Outrage erupted in the national press over the speech, with many fully expecting that Coughlin would finally be rebuked and reined in by the hierarchy. Catholic clergy across the country were called on to respond to Coughlin's accusations. Bishop of Detroit Michael J. Gallagher, Coughlin's superior, found himself under increasing fire for refusing to censure Coughlin.  Gallagher tried to remain diplomatic in supporting his priest's right to free expression, while increasingly distancing himself from Coughlin's political ideas.  

 

Questions:

As you read the document, reflect on the following questions:

  • How does the telegram from Gallagher depict his attitude toward Coughlin's involement in politics?
  • At the end of the article, the paper reprinted its letter to the bishop asking him to clarify his agreement or disagreement with Coughlin's economic proposals.  Why do you think the editor of the paper was so eager to receive an official statement from the bishop?  What does this tell us about public perception of the nature of the Catholic hierarchy?

 

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