THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Un-Natural New Deal

As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, Catholics — or at least some of them — finally seem to have made the grade and become part of the mainstream by the 1930s . . . depending on what is meant by “mainstream” and a few other things, like “making the grade.”  With Msgr. John Ryan and Fr. Charles Coughlin leading the way, however, everything looked just peachy-keeno.


Or not.

Some members of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy, for example, spoke of “increasing agitation of ‘cunning propagandists’.”  (Mueller, The Church and the Social Question, op. cit., 119.) A few organizations, such as the Central Bureau of the Catholic Central Verein of America in Saint Louis (Ibid., 118-120.), expressed grave reservations about Roosevelt’s plans and their consistency with Catholic doctrine, the natural law, or just plain common sense.

Dorothy Day


In this regard, mention should be made of recent efforts to transform Dorothy Day back into a socialist and promote her as a supporter of the New Deal. (Harry Murray, “Dorothy Day, Welfare Reform and Personal Responsibility,” The Merton Annual, Vol. 12. Louisville, Kentucky: The Thomas Merton Center, 1999, 189-206.) On the contrary, she was strongly opposed to what she saw as the anti-personalist agenda and the overtly statist approach of Roosevelt’s program (Kurt Buhring, “Day and Niebuhr on the Great Depression,” Lance Richey and Adam Deville, ed., Dorothy Day and the Church: Past, Present, and Future.  Solidarity Hall, 2016, 393-406).  As Day stated in her autobiography, she and Peter Maurin “wanted none of the state relief” of the New Deal (Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the legendary Catholic Social Activist.  San Francisco, California: HarperOne, 2009, 180), which they believed to be misguided. (Buhring, “Day and Niebuhr,” op. cit., 401.)

Peter Maurin


Significantly, in contrast to the Keynesian (and New Deal) emphasis on full employment through the wage system and “the euthanasia of the rentier” (small owner) Keynes advocated, Maurin criticized organized labor.  This was because in his opinion it rejected responsibility and contributed to the Servile State “instead of aiming for the ownership of the means of production.” (Day, The Long Loneliness, op. cit., 222; cf. Walter Reuther, Testimony before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, February 20, 1967.)  Day rejected the New Deal in part because it sought “[s]ecurity for the worker, not ownership.” (David L. Gregory, “Dorothy Day and the Transformation of Work: Lessons for Labor,” Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement: Centenary Essays. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Marquette University Press, 2001, 284.)

In Keynesian theory, the small owner who lives off the income from investments is a drag on the economy because he consumes capital income instead of reinvesting it.  Keynes assumed that only labor income should be used for consumption, while capital income should be used to finance more capital.  This transforms production for consumption, into production for accumulation.  (John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936), IV.16.iv, V.19.ii, V.20.iii, VI.24.ii.)

Huey Long


Despite the scattered opposition, and although they could not be said to have influenced it, between them Farley, Ryan and Coughlin secured the support of the bulk of the hierarchy and of many Catholics for the New Deal at a critical time. (Broderick, Right Reverend New Dealer, op. cit., 241-242.)

It was an uneasy alliance, however.  When Coughlin decided that he could not accept the second phase of the New Deal, he split from Roosevelt and shifted his allegiance to Huey Long, “the Kingfish.”  He then engaged in a running battle with Ryan (“Monsignor Raps Father Coughlin: The Right Rev. John A. Ryan Speaks Under Democratic Auspices,” The Spokesman-Review, October 9, 1936, 2; “Father Coughlin Will Answer Monsignor Ryan,” Lewiston Daily Sun, October 2, 1936, 1), while Long himself went after Farley. (Farley, Jim Farley’s Story, op. cit., 50-52.)

Fr. Charles Coughlin


At one point the rhetoric and barrage of accusation and counter-accusation between Ryan and Coughlin became so heated that Archbishop Michael Joseph Curley of Baltimore called on both men to “do a great favor to the church and to the country at large” by “retir[ing] for some time to the Carthusian order, where perpetual silence is observed.” (“Church Organ Raps Priests: Paper Says Coughlin And Ryan Should ‘Rest A While’,” Reading Eagle, October 16, 1936, 2; “Coughlin and Ryan Asked to ‘Shut Up’,” The Florence Times, October 16, 1936, 1.)

When Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, Pius XI’s Secretary of State and the future Pope Pius XII, visited the United States in part to investigate the situation (denied initially, “Papal Aide to Sail on Trip to America: Vacation Trip to Be Incognito, With Coughlin’s Activities Not a Factor,” The Washington Star, October 1, 1936, A-12), he refused to comment on, or have anything to do directly with either Coughlin or Ryan. (“Pacelli Sails for America: Papal  Secretary’s Visit Linked With Coughlin,” The Times-News, Hendersonville, North Carolina, October 1, 1936, 1; “Cardinal Pacelli Arrives in New York for Visit,” Lewiston Daily Sun, October 2, 1936, 1; Joseph Alsop and Robert Kintner, “The Capital Parade: Passage in Pope’s Encyclical Declared Rebuke for Coughlin,” The Washington Star, November 15, 1939, A-11.)

Jim Farley


With the Catholic vote secured, the ethical Farley became expendable.  Encouraged by Roosevelt to run for president in 1940 after being assured several times that FDR had absolutely no intention of running again (Farley, Jim Farley’s Story, op. cit., 151-191, 217-282.), and to demonstrate his opposition to a third term, Farley sought the Democratic nomination.

Almost immediately Roosevelt allowed himself to be drafted in a carefully orchestrated spontaneous demonstration, making Farley appear a fool. (Ibid., 284-291.) Although the president’s mother, Sara, and Eleanor pleaded with him to stay on and manage FDR’s campaign (Ibid., 307-317), Farley retired from public life and accepted a position with Coca Cola. (Ibid., 323.)

With the rabblerousing Coughlin out of the way and the politically astute Farley neutralized, the only Catholic FDR had to deal with was the easily controlled Ryan.  This he did by keeping Ryan hanging with half-promises, and tossing him the bone of giving the Inauguration benediction in 1937 and 1945.