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A New Perspective on Father Charles E. Coughlin

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2009

Mary Christine Athans
Affiliation:
Assistant professor of church history in the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the College of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Extract

The number of those who remember hearing the voice of Father Charles E. Coughlin on the radio on Sunday afternoons in the 1930s and 1940s is dwindling. Those who do recall generally respond with adulation or disdain. Coughlin, like his contemporary Franklin D. Roosevelt, was either loved and admired or held in a kind of contempt. In the past, writers reflected on Coughlin chiefly from a political or socio-cultural point of view. My goal in researching “the radio priest,” however, has been to explore the theological roots of the anti-Semitism (more properly anti-Judaism), which became a dominant note in his speeches and writings, particularly in the year 1938 and thereafter.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Society of Church History 1987

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References

1. Tull, Charles J., Father Coughlin and the New Deal. (Syracuse, 1965).Google Scholar

2. Brinkley, Alan, Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression (New York, 1983).Google Scholar

3. Marcus, Sheldon, Father Charles E. Coughtin: The Tumultuous Life of the Priest of the Little Flower (Boston, 1973).Google Scholar

4. Some of the works by Fahey, Denis, CSSp are The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World (Dublin, 1935; rev. ed., 1938);Google ScholarThe Mystical Body of Christ and the Reorganization of Society (Cork, 1945);Google ScholarMoney Manipulation and the Social Order (Dublin, 1944);Google ScholarThe Rulers of Russia (Dublin, 3rd ed., 1939);Google ScholarThe Kingship of Christ and the Conversion of the Jewish Nation (Dublin, 1953).Google Scholar

5. The Fahey Papers are in the Archives of the Irish Province of the Holy Ghost Congregation, Dublin, Ireland. Approximately 2,700 pages of documents are relevant to this study, including Fahey's “Apologia Pro Vita Mea,” correspondence, notebooks, class notes, papers, clippings, early drafts of books and articles.

6. Letters and papers which were in Coughlin's possession have been destroyed, according to the Reverend Leonard P.Blair, Archivist of the Archdiocese of Detroit (telephone interview, 16 March 1982), and the Reverend Gerald L. Brown, SS (telephone interview, 10 March 1982), who had interviewed Coughlin when writing his master's thesis in 1969.

7. Telephone interview with Elizabeth Yakel, Archivist, Archdiocese of Detroit, 29 September 1986.

8. Fahey's “Apologia Pro Vita Mea” is an unpublished mimeographed document which was circulated among his students and friends. Although it is not dated, there is a letter from Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin (who had been a student of Fahey's), written 2 December 1948, thanking Fahey for sending him a copy.

9. A small volume of Fahey's which became a kind of pocket manual for members of the Marza Duce, and was widely circulated in Ireland, was entitled The Kingship of Christ and Organized Naturalism (Cork, 1943).Google Scholar

10. Coughlin, Charles E., “A Series of Lectures on Social Justice” (Royal Oak, Mich., 1937), pp. 1718.Google Scholar

11. Social Justice, 21 06 1937, P. 2.Google Scholar

12. Marcus, , Father Charles E. Coughlin, p. 254,Google Scholar in an interview with Coughlin, 11 April 1970.

13. Social Justice, 20 06 1938, p. 1.Google Scholar

14. Ibid., 8 August 1938, p. 5.

15. Ibid., 19 Sepetmber 1938, p. 7.

16. Marcus, , Father Charles E. Coughlin, pp. 144145.Google Scholar

17. Social Justice, 8 08 1938, P. 5.Google Scholar

18. See especially Fahey, , The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World, chap.6.Google Scholar

19. Among the rebuttals and reflections on Coughlin's speech were two articles in the 30 December 1938 issue of Commonweal: “Anti-Semitism in the Air,” by John A.Ryan (pp. 260–262), and “The Jew and the Two Revolutions,” by George N.Shuster (pp. 262–264).

20. Coughlin, Charles E., “Am Ian Anti-Semite”: 9 Addresseson Various “ISMS” Answering the Question (Royal Oak, Mich., 1939).Google ScholarFahey, , Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World, pp. 88, 89, 90, 91, 291, 293.Google Scholar

21. Coughlin, , “Let us Consider the Record,” in “Am Ian Anti-Semite?,” pp. 6162.Google Scholar

22. “Not Anti-Semitism but Anti-Communism,” in “Am I an Anti-Semite?,” pp. 7980.Google Scholar Interview with Brother Benignus, CSSp., Holy Ghost Missionary College, Kimmage, Dublin, 28 March 1979.

23. Social Justice, 12 12 1938, p. 1.Google Scholar

24. Ibid.

25. Marcus, , Father Charles E. Coughlin, p. 62.Google Scholar No other books were advertised in the pages of Social Justice to the degree that Fahey's were.

26. Charles E. Coughlin to Denis Fahey, 29 March 1940, Fahey Papers.

27. Social Justice, 14 11 1938, p. 11.Google Scholar Emphasis mine.

28. Ibid., 21 November 1938, p. 23. Emphasis mine.

29. Ibid., 13 November 1938, p. 7.

30. ibid.

31. Ibid., 12 June 1939.

32. Charles E. Coughlin to Denis Fahey, 5 March 1941, Fahey Papers. Emphasis mine.

33. Ibid.

34. Ibid. Emphasis mine.

35. Ibid.

36. Charles E. Coughlin to Denis Fahey, 27 May 1953, Fahey Papers.

37. Ibid. Coughlin capitalizes the “M” and the “S” in “the mystical body of Satan” in his letter to Fahey in 1953, whereas they are in the lowercase in his communication in 1941.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid.

40. Ibid.

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