From...................... THE AMERICAN POPE

The Life and Times of Francis Cardinal Spellman

By- John Cooney

Pub. by- Times Books, The New York Times Book Co., Inc. 1984

ISBN- 0-8129-1120-2



After the Pope's speech a mass was held. The rituals and pageantry of the service showed the impact of Vatican II on the Church in that much of the medieval splendor was muted. Cardinals, for instance, had given up their capa magna, a long scarlet cloak with a hood lined with fur, and their fifteen-foot scarlet silk robes.

When Paul finally descended from the platform and headed toward the limousine that would take him to the airport, Spellman followed him. The crowd applauded wildly. The Pope and the Cardinal departed, their limousine flanked by white-helmeted motorcycle police as they sped into the darkness. At the airport, Spellman and Pope Paul were under the gaze of hundreds of thousands of well-wishers and the glare of television cameras. The two embraced, Spellman bent and kissed the pontiffs ring, and the Cardinal remained long enough to watch the Pope's plane disappear into the sky. Paul's words of peace still seemed to ring in the night air.

The Pope soon realized that he had failed with Spellman. After he left New York, Paul was in the final stages of a delicate campaign to bring about a negotiated peace in Vietnam. Vatican communications offices had been reorganized to place greater emphasis on direct links with Vatican representatives in Southeast Asia. Rome beefed up its diplomatic missions in Asia, especially in countries that had direct contact with China and Hanoi. Archbishop Igino Cardinale, the apostolic delegate in London, was in touch with Vietnamese representatives in Europe. The apostolic delegate in Paris, Archbishop Paolo Bertoli, was working on the French to pressure both Hanoi and Saigon. The Vatican was even active in Eastern European capitals such as Budapest, where the so-called Red Bishop Endre Hamvas, who was appointed with the approval of the Communist regime, was trying to act as a mediator. Vatican representatives in Cambodia were reportedly in direct contact with the Vietcong. From all over the world, intelligence poured into the Vatican from diplomats, religious orders, missionaries, and Catholic laymen, and the Pope and Ho Chi Minh even exchanged direct messages.

But as the Pope's activities escalated, so did Spellman's. He became increasingly hawkish. Again, he returned to Vietnam to spend Christmas with the troops, just as he had done in previous wars. But this time his politics wasn't sanctioned by the Vatican.

As he stepped off a military transport in Saigon, an American Army officer unwittingly noted a discouraging fact. "We hardly count it a war if you don't come," he told the Cardinal, and Spellman beamed his approval.

The Cardinal used his visit to propagandize the American war. In his mind, there was no question of the righteousness of the cause. When asked by a reporter in Saigon whether the U.S. presence was justified, Spellman responded with the kind of saber-rattling statement that now made many Catholics shudder and was bound to polarize Americans further. "My country, may it always be right," he replied. ''Right or wrong, my country !''

The concerns of his [Roman Catholic] Church were now secondary in his hierarchy of values.



The response was largely one of dismay, and all the editorials by liberal [Roman] Catholics and all the hand-wringing on the part of a growing number of [Roman Catholic] priests were summarized in a letter to the editor of The New York Times on December 24, 1965.

The priest touched what was a very raw nerve at the Vatican. Spellman's Americanism was out of control-the Cardinal had broken with the Pope.

From a Vatican perspective, even Spellman's Christmas cards in 1965, the year the Pope negotiated a temporary truce, were an insult. The picture on the cards was of him standing before a fighter plane with two military officers .



resented Spellman for backing McCarthy, who had sent tremors of terror throughout the entire department. "Spellman's information about Cuba was better than ours," Herbert Brownell would recall. "His intelligence was very, very good."'

[ Whether Spellman actively tried to stop Castro isn't known. Nor is it known whether he played a role in the Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961. Castro apparently believed he did. After the fiasco Castro criticized Spellman during radio broadcasts, referring to him as the

A week later, on May 5, 1961, priests in Cuba were accused of being

Abruptly, Church schools were closed, many foreign priests were deported, and a handful were arrested for "warlike activities." ]

Spellman aided Johnson in the Dominican Republic, even though he soon learned that the role the marines and the President played in the island's politics was different from what Johnson told the U.S. public. The information came to Spellman through Church channels. The Cardinal was contacted by the papal nuncio from Santo Domingo, Monsignor Clarizio, who begged Spellman to see for himself that the U.S. Marines weren't doing what the President said they were. Clarizio, however, had a credibility problem with Spellman. One of the post-Pope John liberal churchmen, Clarizio was identified with leftists and the pro-Bosch faction.

Spellman, of course, was too shrewd to investigate the issue personally. He dispatched a young intellectual, Father Robert Fox, the assistant director of Spanish missions in New York. Several weeks later, Fox returned from the Dominican Republic with a report that in essence substantiated what Clarizio had said, and criticized Johnson's methods and policies. The report never saw the light of day. Spellman shelved it and discounted Fox, whom he believed naive. Like Johnson, Spellman wanted to believe that Communists were behind the movement in the Dominican Republic, even when faced with evidence to the contrary.'

Thus, when Johnson raised the matter of sending priests to shine America's tarnished image, Spellman readily agreed and chose the Maryknoll order. As missionaries in any number of developing nations, the Maryknolls' presence wouldn't be considered odd. They could mingle with everyone from peasants to politicians. Besides, like most religious orders, the Maryknolls owed Spellman favors for helping them with fund-raising and recruiting programs.



Spellman approached John Considine, a politically active Maryknoll in Washington, and Maryknoll Bishop John Comber. As a result, a group of priests was assigned to the Dominican Republic. Their funding, $500,000 from the Agency for International Development, was for community projects and leadership training. When the priests arrived Clarizio wasn't happy. He knew that Fox's report had been dismissed. Now he saw what looked like another example of the kind of collusion between the [Roman Catholic] Church and the U.S. government that had resulted in the overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. Clarizio did what he could to thwart the effort.

Much of the order's work was innocuous-trying to establish community- development projects and identify youths who had leadership potential. The priests themselves wore white cassocks to emphasize the religious nature of their work, but they were often treated with suspicion. Not all their work was divorced from the U.S. government. For instance, they tried to find students who would accept pay to write favorable articles about the United States. The people were so embittered that the task proved impossible.

Most priests involved with the project eventually became disillusioned. They saw the [Roman Catholic] Church as being on the wrong side of political as well as personal issues, such as the prohibition on priests' marrying. Most of them left the priesthood. Virtually all of them had started their careers as political conservatives and most wound up as liberals or radicals. One such priest was Miguel d'Escoto Brockman. Years later, Father d'Escoto became the foreign minister of Nicaragua under the revolutionary Sandinist government that overthrew Somoza.

The biggest support Spellman gave Johnson wasn't in Latin America but in Vietnam. Old as he was, Spellman's interest in military affairs remained as strong as ever, and his belief in an imperial America never flagged. He loved playing the role of a man who helped shape American foreign policy. He routinely had military leaders to lunch at the Powerhouse, and he visited the Pentagon and even attended strategy seminars given by army intelligence. According to military records, the last intelligence briefing Spellman attended was in March 1965, at the Carlisle, Pennsylvania, army barracks.

That [Roman Catholic Cardinal] Spellman continued his strong support of U.S. policy in Vietnam wasn't surprising in light of his history of involvement. More than simply his Americanism was at stake. The war effort was something Pope Pius XII had supported, and Pius, as far as Spellman was concerned, was the last Pope with a true understanding of power and the way it should be used.



For his part, Johnson exploited the Cardinal's jingoism.

As the level of American troop commitment to the war escalated, the level of protest against the U.S. military presence in Vietnam increased. The President wanted his efforts blessed, and [Roman Catholic Cardinal] Spellman, more than any other churchman, was willing to proclaim Johnson's crusade a moral one.

When Spellman returned from the front he immediately flew to Washington, where the President met with him at once and routinely asked the Cardinal's assessment of the war. While others wavered, Spellman was always certain that the President's actions were right. Thus, when Johnson asked both Spellman and Billy Graham at a luncheon what he should do next in Vietnam, Graham was uncomfortably silent. "Bomb them!" Spellman unhesitatingly ordered. "Just bomb them!"' And Johnson did.

As the war dragged on, Spellman had his picture taken not simply with generals and G.I.s but blessing bombers and machine guns. But what had been the symbols of a holy crusade during World War II appeared unseemly. As Spellman rushed in and out of the war zone, he was ridiculed by antiwar activists as "the Bob Hope of the clergy." His cathedral became a magnet for demonstrators. The war became known as "Spellman's War," which itself became a slogan on peace marchers' buttons.

While resenting his critics intensely, Spellman seemed to thrive on the criticism. At the age of seventy-seven, when most old men were ignored, he was at the heart of a great controversy, and he loved the attention.

Nonetheless, the price he paid was steep. Increasingly, he was the object of ridicule and scorn, and the adverse publicity he received damaged him in far wider circles than those of antiwar activists and the Vatican. He began to lose his grip in New York, the heart of his political kingdom.

For decades Spellman moved through New York's political mainstream as a revered and feared entity. It wasn't unusual for the Cardinal, when he appeared at cocktail parties in people's homes, to sit in a parlor that was emptied of all but those Spellman wanted to see. People paid him court, sought favors from him, and, if they were men of prominence, usually spoke with Spellman of matters of common concern. One of the oddities about the Cardinal's political prowess was that it went largely untested. Politicians didn't know what would happen if they failed to woo him and seek his advice on candidates for office or political positions they should take. They had only to remember what had happened to John Kennedy's education bill or how Governor Lehman almost did not become Senator Lehman as a result of Spellman.



Since the days of Mayor O'Dwyer, Cardinal Spellman was taken for granted as a powerful factor in city politics. O'Dwyer had hastily been appointed ambassador to Mexico in 1950, escaping city office before his house of cards fell on top of him. His administration at the time was under intense scrutiny by Senator Estes Kefauver's committee investigating organized crime. A number of racketeers on the city payroll, such as James F. ["Big Jim"] Moran, an associate of Frank Costello, had used his job of issuing permits in the fire department to extort $500,000 a year from business owners.

When Vincent R. Impellitteri, an accident of fate who was city council president, became mayor, Spellman couldn't have asked for a more compliant personality. "Impy" had tumbled into the council presidency because the Democratic ticket had consisted of O'Dwyer [an Irishman] and Lazarus Joseph [a Jew], who was running for comptroller. The ethnic-conscious New Yorkers believed they needed an Italian to round out the ticket's appeal. An ardent Catholic, Impellitteri was in awe of Spellman and asked his blessing whenever the mayor met the Cardinal. During Impellitteri's forty months as mayor, the city got behind Spellman's campaign against 'The Miracle', and the Powerhouse's grip was believed to have been strengthened. Charlie Silver was appointed to the school board. Monsignors from the Powerhouse moved through the city's social-service and education offices, making their views known, and in time they seemed like permanent fixtures. "Monsignor Ahern was always in my office," Abe Beame would recall. "The Cardinal was always interested in everything that was going on, and his men were very good at presenting their case. Monsignor Ahern could have been a politician if he weren't a priest."8

The effectiveness of the Powerhouse was always difficult to quantify. Nothing was written down, but quite obviously the archdiocese prospered. The man most influential then wasn't Impellitteri but Robert Moses, whose massive building programs were changing the contours of the city. Moses needed Spellman's support for his projects, and Spellman needed Moses. The Church owned a great deal of property, and many Moses projects needed the relocation of archdiocesan holdings. "Sometimes he [Moses] and the Church swapped pieces of land as casually as if they were playing Monopoly," noted Robert A. Care in his biography of Moses, The Power Broker.9 As for the less than brilliant Impellitteri, he found Spellman "just great." The Cardinal sent him little notes on his speeches and gave him his public blessing. "The Cardinal was a wonderful man," according to Impellitteri. "He never asked me for a thing."10

One of the Cardinal's chief political conveyor belts was Thomas J. Shanahan, from the O'Dwyer days, who was chairman of the Cardinal's Committee of the Laity from 1945 to 1960 and the Democratic Party's financial chairman for mayoral elections from 1945 to 1953. Shanahan loved money as much as Spellman did.