Catholic magazines (Secretary Ickes of the Interior writing for The Christi= Front, and Secretary Wallace of Agriculture, writing for The Commonweal) have renewed interest in the ever-engaging question of Catholic opinion of the Roosevelt administration.
Apart from a few extremists who profess to find Roosevelt biassed against Catholics, there is no well-defined Catholic qua Catholic opinion either for or against the President; in general, Catbolic opinion is divided along political lines.
Considering only the opinions expressed in established and respected Catholic journals, or coming from otherwise reputable sources, one finds a majority of Catholics opposing Roosevelt in some great or less degree, with a minority supporting him.
While six years of administration naturally bring up many controversial issues, a few of the graver issues serve as weathervanes of Catholic opinion. There is, for example. a residue of strong resentment against Roosevelt for his refusal to recall Ambassador Daniels from Mexico, after Daniels had praised the Socialist, antiCatholic regime of Calles. Roosevelt's silence at that time militated against him when he was later charged with Leftist sympathies, notably in his friendship for Hillman. Dubinksy and other Labour leaders in the pink-Socialist faction.
Secretary of State Hull's protest against the Barcclorta bombings, thus singling out the Spanish Nationalists for a rebuke, has not helped the situation, although against it may be counted Roosevelt's rigid neutrality on the Spanish issue, despite the persistent and heavy pressure of proLoyalist groups, who sought a more friendly Presidential attitude towards the Reds.
The Dictatorial Tendencies
Critics of Roosevelt are alarmed over what they term his dictatorial tendencies, of which they cite as an example his proposed Supreme Court reform. Uncertainty about the future, spending on a magnificent scale, unbalanced budgets and political pragmatism are also sore points with Catholic critics, Too much intervention in industry and business is charged to Roosevelt, to the delay of the much-promised prosperity.
Among Catholic supporters of Roosevelt, his alleged Leftism raises no alarm, since it is felt by his friends that the government has to be, at this time, a little left of centre. Since Hillman and Dubinsky, and other leaders of Labour, are known to be, in fact, deadly enemies of the Cornmunist Party, Roosevelt's Catholic friends find his friendship for these men no cause for alarm.
The Supreme Court Reform had its advocates among Catholics, who maintamed that it was an effort to save acts of Congress from judicial review (which is a very old national issue, and not peculiar to the present administration); furthermore, advocates of the Reform pointed out that the Supreme Court has more than once handed down decisions which are contrary to Catholic teachings. One such decision held a slave to be chattel property; another approved sterilisation, and others ran contrary to Catholic teachings on the rights of labour.
Intervention in industry is held to be necessary by Roosevelt's Catholic friends who find fault not with the principle of such intervention but with the application of the principle.
The complaint usually voiced by Catholic social reconstructionists is that the Roosevelt reforms have not gone deeply enough, or, starting out well, they have been baulked by political pressure.
A notable example is the weakening almost unto impotency of the wages and hours legislation, as a result of concessions to the socially backward Southern Congressmen.
Not Straight Catholicity
These approvals and objections are those expressed by critics who judge the administration by Catholic standards, as perhaps, by the social encyclicals.
No account is here taken of those Catholics who are fighting or supporting Roosevelt for political or other motives quite divorced from Catholic considerations. In this latter bloc will be found the genuine Bourbons, the reactionaries, the job-seeking politicians. It is necessary to remark this distinction, lest it be thought that the opposition being described in this article belongs to the latter selfish group. Apart from united opposition to Roosevelt's Mexican policy, the only occasion of Catholic unanimity of opinion on the administration was the solid Catholic opposition to Roosevelt's proposal of a democratic coalition, for the purpose of quarantining " aggressor nations." The Catholic press opened upon this scheme with its heavy artillery, objecting that such a division of nations into sheep and goats was manifestly unsound and unjust; that such a policy would bring about foreign entanglements, and inevitably lead to war; that such a policy was playing directly into the hands of the Comintern, especially in regard to support of the Spanish Loyalists.
The fireworks following Roosevelt's Chicago speech, when he made this proposal, showed a remarkably strong isolationist position in the Catholic press, and also revealed a resolute stand on the part of Catholics against any moves which might lead to war. It can be safely said that the Catholic press is deeply entrenched in the no-war camp. The position can be credited in part to distrust of European diplomacy, to disillusionment over the unjust World War settlements, and to a slow, but healthy, development of the Catholic peace movement in this country.
In its domestic policies the administration has a better general average of popularity among Catholics. Roosevelt's labour policies, which have greatly bettered the condition of labour, and have been instrumental in giving legal sanction to principles of social justice, have won for the President the support of Catholic trade unionists and friends of labour. The National Labour Relations Board, and other administration measures in labour's behalf have been criticised for certain decisions, or methods, but the principle of government intervention in labour disputes has not been questioned by Catholic critics, as indeed, it could hardly be, in view of papal teachings on the sub ject. • Quite similarly Catholics have no quarrel with the principle of government-provided power, although criticism has been levelled at the management of T.V.A., which is even now under investigation. So it goes with other government projects: in general the good intentions are commended, while faults are sometimes found with methods of carrying them out. " Made work " by the W.P.A. has been criticised on the grounds that it has been accompanied by waste of labour and material, and that it is a poorly disguised dole for manufactured work.
A general indictment of the W.P.A. is not made, however, since the government has used W.P.A. to encourage many useful educational and cultural projects. Some Catholics complain that the W.P.A., the Federal Theatre, and other government projects are run by Communists, or their sympathisers, but these critics are to be found chiefly in the New York area, where Communists are plentiful and quick to seize every opportunuity. Beyond New York, such charges are not made,
Useful Catholics One government effort, the Civilian Conservation Corps, has thus far come through with flying colours, The C.C.C. is universally approved by Americans, including Catholics. Lt has done constructive work, both in the rehabilitation of urban and rural unemployed youth, and in the rehab
ilitation of deforested, eroded, and other blighted areas of the country.
In the matter of political appointments, which might be taken as recognition of Catholics' usefulness to the nation, some Catholics complain that Roosevelt has given no such recognition.
On the other hand, Catholic economists and sociologists have told your correspondent that there are few Catholics able to discharge positions of high responsibility at this time, a condition which they say will be remedied in a few years.
Defenders of Roosevelt against charges of anti-Catholic bias point out that his personal secretary, Grace Tully, who has been with him since he was Governor of New York, is a Catholic, and that he has other
Catholics in his confidential retinue. In Roosevelt's first cabinet, Senator Walsh, a nationally known and respected Catholic jurist, was given the important post of Attorney General. The Catholic representation in the present cabinet, in the person of Postmaster-General Sunny Jim Farley, arouses little enthusiasm among Catholics, since Sunny Jan's sole claim to fame is his political acumen. But Catholics have been appointed to other government posts, including Mgr. Haas, to the National Labour Relations Board; Mgr. John A. Ryan to a Federal Commission; Edward I. McGra.dy as Assistant Secretary all Labour (intended to succeed Mrs. Perkins at one time, but the Madame would not budge); Frank Murphy to the Governor-Generalship of the Philippines; in addition, the number of Catholics in the upper ratings of the American diplomatic corps has never been so high as it is now, with Roosevelt appointments.
The appointment of Joseph P. Kennedy as Ambassador in London proved
especially popular with many Catholics, although it came as a sour pill to Catholics opposing Roosevelt; since they knew Kennedy to be a Roosevelt man.
Now must be added the other side of the appointment picture.
While, in other times, the appointment of any Catholic to an important public post would have been the signal for the general dancing of Catholics in the streets, today the rejoicing is withheld on the grounds that the appointees are Roosevelt men.
Thus all the appointments just named are discounted by Catholic critics of F.D.R., who regard them either as sops to hold Catholic votes, or as purely political appointments, not as recognition of Cath olic opinion. There is also some disgruntlement on the part of certain Catholic university alumni, over the government's ignoring of their favourite sons, Since the disgruntled group has been at F.D.R. hammer and tongs for the past six years there is no wonder that no appointments come their way.
So far as direct references to Catholicism, and relations with representatives of the Church are concerned, Roosevelt has always been meticulously careful to give all due credit to Catholics for their part in building the nation. On many occasions he has been markedly friendly to the Church, and whenever he has referred to religion in his speeches he has always very clearly and forcefully stated his belief in the necessity for freedom of religion and preservation of the rights of religion.
Of the four American princes of the Church, Cardinal Mundelein, of Chicago, has been most friendly to Roosevelt. His Eminence and the President have dined together several times. James Roosevelt, eldest son of the President, while addressing the Catholic Youth Organisation in Chicago last year, gave an essentially Catholic speech, very correctly and aptly applying the Pauline exposition of the doctrine of the Mystical Body to present-day problems.
Another member of the " royal family, as their enemies have termed it, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, does not enjoy such popularity. The ubiquitous, well-intentioned First Lady appears to be the epitome of American Protestant humanitarianism; she is the heroine of all worthy women who give their time to worthy causes.
Lastly, it may be said that two Catholic schools of thought are developing in reference -to the present administratioa: one, which favours more and stronger government intervention for the purpose of legally implementing social justice, and another which opposes any further extension of Federal power, especially executive power, lest such extension lead to dictatorship by Roosevelt, or at least, an excessive centralisation of power.