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The FBI and the Catholic Church, 1935-1962

Steve Rosswurm

Publication Year: 2009

During his long tenure as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover made no secret of his high regard for the Catholic faith. Though himself a Protestant, he shared with Catholicism a set of values and a vision of the world, grounded in certain assumptions about the way things ought to be in a well-ordered society. The Church reciprocated Hoover’s admiration, establishing the basis for a working alliance between two powerful and influential American institutions. Steve Rosswurm explores the history of that relationship from the turbulent 1930s to the 1960s, when growing Catholic opposition to the Vietnam War led Hoover to distance himself from the Church. Drawing on a vast range of sources, including thousands of pages of previously classified FBI files, Rosswurm pursues his investigation along two parallel tracks. First, he looks at the joint war waged by Hoover and the Catholic hierarchy against forces considered threats to their organizations, values, and nation. Second, he examines how each pursued its own institutional interests with the help of the other. While opposition to communism was a preoccupation of both institutions, it was not the only passion they shared, according to Rosswurm. Even more important, perhaps, was their fervent commitment to upholding traditional gender roles, particularly the prerogatives of patriarchal authority. When women and men carried out their assigned obligations, they believed, society ran smoothly; when they did not, chaos ensued. Organized topically, The FBI and the Catholic Church, 1935–1962 looks not only at the shared values and interests of the two institutions, but also at the personal relationships between Hoover and his agents and some of the most influential Catholic prelates of the time. Rosswurm discusses the role played by Edward A. Tamm, the FBI’s highest-ranking Catholic, in forging the alliance; the story behind Father John Cronin’s 1945 report on the dangers of communism; the spying conducted by Father Edward Conway S.J. on behalf of the FBI while treasurer of the National Committee for Atomic Information; and Monsignor Charles Owen Rice’s FBI-aided battle against communists within the CIO.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press


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Title Page

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p. i

Copyright Page

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p. iv

Table of Contents

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

I am most grateful to the librarians and archivists who have provided such useful assistance over the years. The interlibrary loan librarians at Lake Forest College—Guynell Williams, Rita Koller, Ping-Chih Keil, Ruth Henderson, and Susan Cloud—have done an excellent job of tracking down and obtaining hard-to-find material. Susan’s efforts over the ...

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pp. 1-8

There “is no group,” the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Catholic Review argued in 1942, that held J. Edgar Hoover (1895–1972), director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in “higher esteem” than U.S. Catholics. Six years later Novena Notes, the publication of the enormously popular Our Sorrowful Mother devotion, noted that Hoover was so respected by Catholics that he might as well have been a “Catholic priest or bishop.” ...

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Chapter 1: The Creation of a Catholic Protestant and Protestant Catholics

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pp. 9-52

It must have been a pretty heady experience for the 120 Holy Cross men who heard J. Edgar Hoover’s commencement address that warm June day in 1944. Few of them, after all, had spent much time outside the Catholic ghetto in which they had been born. Beyond that world of family, school, and parish, though, they knew—either firsthand or through others’ stories—that there was much Protestant dislike, even hostility, ...

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Chapter 2: The Boss’s Bishops

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pp. 53-96

John Cardinal O’Har a, C.S.C. (1888–1960), spent most of his childhood in Peru, Indiana, a small farming town in the Fort Wayne diocese. After his father was appointed American consul to Uruguay in 1905, O’Hara lived with his family in South America for three years. Entering Notre Dame in 1909, he received his B.A. there and then joined the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Ordained in 1916, he went on to become ...

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Chapter 3: Assistant to the Director Edward Tamm and His Chicago Connections

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pp. 97-132

It was America’s first postwar Eucharistic Congress. Honoring the Real Presence of Jesus Christ and celebrating the centennial of the Dio­cese of Buffalo, it began September 21 and concluded September 25, 1947. Among its highlights were the opening and closing pontifical Masses, at­tended by 15,000 and 20,000, respectively; the meeting for workingmen, with 42,000 present; and Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen’s speech before an ...

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Chapter 4: Father John F. Cronin and the Bishops’ Report on Communism

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pp. 133-179

Father John Cronin, S.S. (1908–1994), was as significant to his church’s anti-Communist activities as it was to the anti-Communism movement as a whole. After a bruising two-year battle with Communists in the Baltimore shipyards, he persuaded the U.S. Catholic hierarchy to finance a year-long study of subversion, which resulted in his “The Problem of American Communism in 1945: Facts and Recommendations.” That ...

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Chapter 5: A Jesuit Informant: Father Edward A. Conway, S.J., and the National Committee for Atomic Information

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pp. 180-225

The hearings that resulted in the well-publicized decision not to renew Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance began on April 12, 1954. A week or so into them Father Edward A. Conway, S.J. (1902–1965), wrote a brief memo to his superior: Conway wanted him to know that he had played a part in the prehistory of the drama going on at the Atomic Energy Commission. “In view of the excitement over...

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Chapter 6: Anti-Communism in the CIO: Monsignor Charles Owen Rice and the FBI

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pp. 226-273

Might haunt him from the grave if I get the chance,” wrote Mon-signor Charles Owen Rice (1908–2005), referring to me, in his contribution to a symposium on his writings that I organized. There was good reason for Rice to feel this way: I had interviewed him in 1986, published an essay in which he figured prominently in 1992, and planned the 1999 symposium. During that same time I also had given several scholarly ...

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pp. 275-277

Father Hugh Calkins, O.S.M., who wrote two weekly columns—“Lights and Shadows” and “Two Worlds”—for the Novena Notes in the 1940s and 1950s, found little good in the world around him. A member, as were two brothers and two nephews, of the Servites, or Friar Servants of Mary, who oversaw the enormously popular Our Lady of Sorrows Friday night ritual, Calkins railed constantly at secular evils...


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pp. 279-282


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pp. 283-324


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pp. 325-330

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613760383
E-ISBN-10: 1613760388
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558497290
Print-ISBN-10: 1558497293

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 794701594
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The FBI and the Catholic Church, 1935-1962

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Subject Headings

  • United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation -- History.
  • Catholic Church -- History.
  • United States -- History -- 20th century.
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