From Our Own Correspondent NEW YORK.
Political observers, their eyes on every straw in the wind, hoping to find signs of a definite trend toward one or another of the two Presidential candidates, gleefully seized on the news of Republican candidate Wendell Willkic's luncheon with the Archbishop of New York, Mgr. Spellman. Reporters hastily interviewed Mr. Willkie, only to learn that he and the Archbishop had "an interesting chat."
To say anything further, Mr. Willkie told the Press, would be to violate the Archbishop's hospitality.
High hopes that the luncheon engagement presaged an unofficial Catholic support of the Republican candidate sank hack to normal, and then, within a week, tiaaled out when Archbishop Spellman journeyed to Hyde Park to have luncheon with Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt.
LESSER OF TWO EVILS
Concern over the possible significance of the Archbishop's luncheons may well be understood in new of the Catholic hostility toward Roosevelt, a hostility now taking the positive form of support for Willkie. This support is positive only in the sense that growing numbers of Catholics say they will vote for Witlkie. Thus far, however, no Catholic of prominence or of widely respected opinion, has come Out with an honest to God three cheers for the Republican candidate. Wendell Willkie is snore correctly described as the lesser of evils (in certain Catholic eyes) Than as the greater good.
Willkie's record is explanation in itself. Having built up a fortune through business deals, high finances, and operations in the electric power field, Willkie's sole claim to prominence was his bitter opposition to the introduction of publicly owned power in the Tennessee Valley. Magnate in control of the powerful Commonwealth and Southern electrical interests, Willkie fought the Government effort to introduce publicly owned power up to the Supreme Court.
KNIGHT ERRANT OF VESTED INTERESTS
In doing so, he won the enthusiastic support of every financial baron in the States: Willkie was the knight errant of the vested interests, and the vested interests are now ready to pay their good servant by means of support of his presidential campaign.
Since the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno clearly states that some forms of property should he held in public control, and public utilities are generally interpreted as coming under this heading, the question is properly raised: Why should Catholics support a candidate who stands for private ownership of a form of property so easily used against public interests?
The answer is that Catholics by and large are not supporting a vested interests baron; but many are opposing Roosevelt. As one Catholic commentator put it, our system of Presidential elections is more a system of rejection than selection. In this case, Roosevelt is the man who will be rejected by very many Catholics, ROOSEVELT—A DICTATOR
As readers of the CATHOLIC HERALD may recall, your correspondent reported Catholic opinions on Roosevelt in the middle of his second term. At that time many, not all, Catholics had a number of objections to Roosevelt and to his New Deal. Some of these objections continue_ One current objection is to the third term. Another term will make Roosevelt a dictator, some Catholics say. America, the national weekly published by the Jesuit Fathers of the New York province, has been continually hitting at Roosevelt and his supposed trend to dictatorship.
The conscription is ahother cause for alarm, But now Winkle is for conscription, and that issue is neutralised.
Another issue now neutralised by Willkie's agreement in principle with Roosevelt is the President's belligerent attitude towards the Totalitarian nations. Roosevelt is pushing us into war, many Catholics cried in alarm. But Willkie' s speeches indicate a view of international affairs practically similar to the President's.
Never having held a public office, Willkie cannot be criticised for the type of men associated in office with him. In the cast of Roosevelt, Catholics complain that he has appointed a suspiciously large number of Leftists, some of therm followers of the Party Line. It is only since the outbreak of the war that a purge has been instituted in public works, with hundreds of Communists ousted from the public pay-roll.
Willkie has made the usual conciliatory gestures towards Labour, but Labour knows that Roosevelt is on their side. Labour has voiced its criticism of Roosevelt and some of his appointments more than once, but when the ballots are counted, Labour's will be found in the Roosevelt box.
Catholic hostility to Roosevelt therefore boils down to old complaints and objections, coupled with vexation at his Third Term ambitions and the manner in which he jockeyed a Third Term nomination. Even Roosevelt's friends among the news commentators were keenly disappointed at the low grade politics employed by the President. His friends had expected behaviour in keeping with bigness of character; instead, they found machinations proper to the level of ward heeling hacks.
Roosevelt did let down his friends badly before and during the convention. But even so, this let down hardly discounts the President to the extent of prompting his supporters to choose Willkie.
Cetholies may reject Roosevelt, as the signs now indicatethey will, in important numbers, but the reasons for their support of Willkie are hardly reasons to make the Republican party stand up and cheer. A lesser evil is being chosen, in the view of Catholic Willkie supporters—if we except
the born Republicans.