Front Our Own Correspondent
• NEW YORK. (The following despatch was revelled from New York this week by airmail. It was dated April 28. It dues not cover any developrhents since that date.— Editor, C.H,) Because it is well known that a man cannot be divorced from his office and a priest not separated from his Church, American Catholics are distressed over the inevitable linking of American Catholicism with the views of the Royal Oak (Mich.) radio orator.
On the other hand, the national press, especially the paper most active in pushing for the sedition trial, P.M. (New York), has carefully distinguished between the attitude of Fr. Coughlin and the attitude of the rest of the Church in U.S.A. No bishop and no other priest has been linked with Coughlin.
The sedition charges are the direct result of a campaign by P.M., a daily paper which started as Stalinist-Liberal and later became anti-Stalinist and moderately leftist. P.M. stands out for crusading against all alleged Nazis. Fascists. Bundists, nativists, antiSemites. anti-Negroes in Government offices or prominent public positions.
HOW IT BEGAN '
Citing statements in Social Justice, Fr.
Coughlin's weekly. P.M.. has alleged that there are seditious utterances, constituting a serious offence under 1917 laws in effect during this war. These statements appeared both previous to and subsequent to the episode of Pearl Harbour. P.M. roused its readers to protest to the Attorney-General, Francis Biddle, demanding action. Biddle replied with a sedition charge against the publishers of Social Justice.
That wely, once openly edited by Fr. Coughlin, was, since 1940, edited by a lay group. Responding to the wide criticism of anti-Semitic attacks by Fr. Coughlin over the radio in the autumn of 1940, Mgr. Edward Mooney, Bishop of Detroit, ordered Fr. Coughlin to submit all scripts to the censor. The Archbisbop also publicly corrected and reproved him for misquoting the Pope and other excesses.
As a result, Fr. Coughlin ceased to speak and act in public. Social Justice also changed hands, and Fr' Coughlin declared himself no longer responsible for its policy and opinions.
OWNED BY HIS PARENTS
It appears now that Social Justice is owned by the parents of Fr. Coughlin. and as a result of the present charges, Fr. Cotighlin has slated publicly that he was solely responsible for Social Justice, not his parents. nor anyone else.
This statement, it would seem, leaves Fr. Coughlin open to the charge of misleading his Archbishop, for Mgr. Mooney had only a short time ago stated that Social Justice was not a Catholic publication. He also stated that no Catholic priest in Detroit contributed to it or was in any way responsible.
Two weeks before the sedition trial was due to open, Louis B. Ward, a non-Catholic, one-time business adviser to Fr. Coughlin, and expected to be an important figure in the trial, died of heart attack.
The Michigan Catholic, the official Detroit diocesan paper, has made no mention of Fr. Coughlin's admission of responsibility for Social Justice, thus avoiding underlining the Catholic charge against Fr. Coughlin. Further. more, Wage Earner, published by the Detroit Chapter of the Catholic Labourites, has carried a big story, " Why Church Could Not Curb Social Justice." In this story the canonical position in regard to censorship, obedience to the bishop, etc., is elaborated.
What is the general Catholic reaction to the unfortunate troubles? Naturally it is strongly affected by the war. Relatives of men in the Services want the war won and over with, and therefore there is very little sympathy for Fr. Coughlin, despite his huge pre-war Catholic following, especially among those of Irish descent. The heroism of O'Hare, Kelly and other American pilots. soSdiers of Irish descent, has also brought the Irish Catholics much closer to the war.
It is hard to determine the real strength of the die-hard Coughlin supporters, because of the Federal penalty on the circulation of banned issues of Social Justice, But there are available some old and unbanned copies in Yorkville, the German section of New York City. Unbanned copies have also been sold in Detroit, Boston, and other places. There is no doubt, however, that the wind has been knocked out of Coughlinite sails. Loyal Catholics have hecn frightened away from Fr. Coughlin by the association with his movement of people of alleged Nazi connections.
One of the points of interest is whether the many who have now openly turned against Fr. Coughlin will he consistent to the point of turning their guns on the subversive activities of the Communist Party. P.M.. for example, shows no signs of doing so: in fact it pooh-poohs the Communist menace on the grounds that the Commies have not won any public office in the National Government, do not control the Labour movement, or the masses, and have only a small party membership.
Liberal observers reply that the Communist success lies in their underground operations. They charge P.M. with rot telling the whole story. While the Communists are not prominent in public life, they are active in all circles, politics, education, labour, social reform. etc., and they gain their successes by infiltration.