"Reluctant Dissenter" Bishop James Patrick Shannon
writes about Cardinal James Francis McIntyre

The two chapters copied below are from the autobiography of Bishop James Patrick Shannon. Cardinal James Francis McIntyre is mentioned several dozen times in these paragraphs.

For more information about this book, please click here: Reluctant Dissenter

Chapter Thirteen

VIETNAM

As a pastor I had the sad duty to offer memorial Masses occasionally for families who had lost a son, a brother, or a father in Vietnam. In seeking to console them I found that my earlier unquestioning support for the war in Vietnam was eroding. I could no longer, in good conscience, assure any of these good people that their loved ones had died in a worthy cause. The change in my thinking about the war took place over the summer and fall of 1966.

July 1 that year, Cardinal Lawrence Shehan, archbishop of Baltimore, issued a pastoral letter about the war in Vietnam and raised the question of the morality of American participation in that conflict. His letter made a strong impression on me. It contrasted sharply with the pro-war positions advocated by most bishops and especially by Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York.

As bishop of the military ordinariate, Spellman was in charge of all Catholic chaplains in every branch of military service. He took this assignment seriously, recruited new chaplains annually in all the dioceses, and went to Vietnam to offer midnight Mass for the troops on Christmas Eve every year of that war until his death.

On September 27, 1966, Pope Paul VI sent a special fact-finding mission to Vietnam to explore with the resident Catholic bishops there the possibilities for a new peace initiative. This effort coincided with the first anniversary of the pope's visit to the United Nations and his impassioned plea there to end all wars. In a papal letter issued for the same anniversary, the pope again called on world leaders to end the war in Vietnam: "We cry to them in God's name to stop....A settlement should be reached now."

Three months later, on Christmas Eve, 1966, offering midnight Mass for the troops at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, Cardinal Spellman replied to those who would fault the American presence in Vietnam: "This war in Vietnam is, I believe, a war for civilization. Certainly it is not a war of our seeking. It is a war thrust upon us and we cannot yield to tyranny. We do hope and pray for victory;... for less than victory is inconceivable."

A "high Vatican source" was quoted on the wire services the next day saying that "Pope Paul does not share Cardinal Spellman's view.... As an impartial observer the pope feels that a negotiated peace, rather than a military victory by either side, is the way to end the war."

The unwillingness of the American bishops to part company with Spellman on the issue of the war prompted Robert McAfee Brown, then a professor of religion at Stanford University, to accuse them in an open letter published in Commonweal (February 17,1967) of failing in their duties as Christian leaders. By then my support for the war was all but gone. Nonetheless I felt obligated to defend the bishops and devoted one of my first "Pilgrim Church" columns to telling Brown that the bishops had no obligation to follow his style for protesting the war.

Good Christian and good theologian that he is, Brown responded to me by offering to change his style if by so doing he and the bishops could help end the war. He was clearly right. The issue was not one of style. It was one of substance. And on that question the Catholic bishops of the United States, with Cardinal Spellman as their leader, were on the wrong side, at least by their massive silence.

This exchange with Brown forced me to admit that he, a Presbyterian, was saying exactly what Pope Paul had been saying clearly for two years.

Stung by Brown and spurred by his public statements, I joined a group of Catholic educators and college presidents in signing an open letter asking all American Catholics to review our country's role in Vietnam. Citing "indiscriminate bombing, the needless destruction of human life," and massive injury to civilian populations, our letter, published at our expense in eight diocesan papers on Easter Sunday, March 24, stopped short of saying that the war was immoral, but clearly implied that it was.

Some of the other signers of that letter were Sister Ann Ida Gannon, B.VM., president of Mundelein College in Chicago; Sister Jacqueline Grennan, president of Webster Groves College in Missouri; Father Colman Barry, O.S.B., president of St. John's University in Minnesota; Dr. George Shuster, assistant to the president of the University of Notre Dame; Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, professor of history at the Catholic University of America; and Father Joseph Fichter, S.J., professor of sociology at Harvard.

The publication of that letter marked a turning point for me. It put my opinion of the war into the public record, and it gave a signal to pro-war advocates that my academic confreres and I were fair game for them. My friend and classmate Father John R. Roach, now the retired archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, then the headmaster of St. Thomas Academy, felt obligated to say in his school paper that our letter was "a gross injustice" to the American traditions of patriotism and loyalty. My friend and former student Father Marvin O'Connell, who had delivered the sermon at my ordination as a bishop, writing in his' syndicated weekly column, labeled our carefully restrained petition "hysterical" and grandly told us that all it did was "muddy the waters" of national public discussion about the war. I did not know at that time that Cardinal Spellman and Cardinal McIntyre had, separately, called Archbishop Vagnozzi, apostolic delegate in the United States, to lodge formal complaints with him about the impropriety of my signing the Easter letter. On April 12, at the spring meeting of all the bishops in Chicago, Cardinal Spellman, walking slowly and being helped by his auxiliary, Bishop Terence Cooke, came up to me, put his arm in mine as we left the meeting hall and said, "Young man, I deeply regret that you and I are on opposite sides of the war in Vietnam." I replied, "Your Eminence, your regret is no greater than mine." He smiled, patted my shoulder, and walked away. I was touched by the courtesy of the exchange.

Spellman and I were only acquaintances, not close friends. On November 11, 1965, during Vatican IE, we had traveled together by car from Rome to Anzio, where we concelebrated Mass to honor the Americans who had given their lives on that bloody battlefield in World War II. That visit was my longest and closest personal contact with him. Francis Spellman was a decent man. He exemplified admirably the virtues of loyalty and patriotism which my immigrant Irish father and Spellman's immigrant Irish father cherished so deeply. He also respected each of his brother bishops in a special way. I believed him when he said that he regretted our being on different sides of a moral question we both considered important.

In the spring of 19671 was invited by the chief of chaplains of the United States Air Force to bring the sacrament of confirmation to all the bases in the Fifth Air Force, which stretches from Hawaii to Japan. Over a span of three weeks I confirmed and offered Mass at USAF bases in Hawaii at Honolulu, in Japan at Yokota, Fucho, Nagasaki, and Misawa, in Okinawa at Naha, in Taiwan at Tai Chung, at Clark Field in the Philippines, in Guam and again in Honolulu. This trip through the Pacific renewed my admiration for the pastoral ministries of military chaplains but opened my eyes to the enormous human costs of the war in Vietnam.

On each base my days were usually free. The confirmation ceremony was most often an evening event, after duty hours for military personnel. At Yokota air base in Japan and at Clark Field in the Philippines I spent my afternoons visiting and helping to unload the giant C-130 hospital planes which flew casualties to these bases from Vietnam. At Clark I saw an entire hospital ward filled with blind veterans and one filled with soldiers who had lost one or both legs. By then I had concluded that the war in Vietnam was immoral and indefensible. Close contact with the casualties of that war merely reinforced my growing doubts about it.

My opposition to the war was by then well known. This fact set up some tension between me and a few of the chaplains who were my hosts. They were always courteous to me. After all I was their guest. I was also a bishop and, incidentally, a temporary G-16 (the equivalent of a brigadier general), traveling under military orders with my own executive jet and two air force pilots to fly me around the Pacific. But on more than one occasion long lapses in our clerical conversations followed any chance reference to Pope Paul's opposition to the war.

As a matter of principle I never discussed my stand on the war with Archbishop Binz. I had the impression that he wanted it that way. Binz was a social liberal and an ecclesiastical conservative. When I went to Selma at the invitation of Martin Luther King, Jr., I never asked permission of Binz nor informed him of the trip in advance. On my return I sensed that he agreed both with my going there and with my not seeking his prior approval for the trip.

Whatever Archbishop Binz learned about my growing concern over the war he read in the papers. That way he was free to endorse or reject any of my views. But I must record here that he never once even hinted to me that he disagreed with my stand on Vietnam. He was much too careful an ecclesiastic to take a public stand on such a touchy topic. Binz had Romanita.

Sometime in April 1967, probably while I was flying around the Pacific, Binz wrote a confidential letter to the pope, asking that a coadjutor-archbishop be appointed as his assistant, with the right of succession, on grounds that ill health would probably force him to retire before the mandatory retirement age of seventy-five. I knew nothing of this letter. Had I known of it, I might have avoided some embarrassment that summer.

Early in June 1967 Rome announced that Archbishop Vagnozzi, apostolic delegate in the United States, had been named a Cardinal and would receive that honor at a consistory in St. Peter's on June 26. Knowing that this elevation signaled the end of Vagnozzi's term as apostolic delegate in Washington, the American bishops scheduled a going-away dinner in his honor.

I was puzzled when Archbishop Binz asked me to take his place at this testimonial banquet in Washington. Binz liked testimonial dinners. Unaware that he, citing his recent and recurring illnesses, had asked Rome to name his successor, I gladly flew off to Washington for an evening of fine food and a few salubrious toasts at the Madison Hotel. About fifty bishops attended. It was a most pleasant evening.

Just before dessert one of the aides to the apostolic delegate came to my table to tell me that the delegate wished to speak with me privately after dinner. As the crowd left the dining room the delegate and I walked to the end of the head table and sat down. We were then the only persons in the room.

He began by asking about the health of Archbishop Binz. I assured him that Binz was in excellent health. He seemed surprised. I had seen Binz the day before and thought he was in great shape.

It soon became clear that the purpose of our little visit was not to discuss the health of my archbishop. Coming quickly to the point, Vagnozzi told me that Cardinal Spellman and Cardinal McIntyre were very unhappy about my public criticism of the war in Vietnam. I already knew that Spellman did not share my views on the war. But how did McIntyre get into the dialog? Vagnozzi told me that McIntyre had called him to say that my public statements on the war had embarrassed the bishops' conference and that I had to be silenced. I was appalled that Mclntyre would say this and that the delegate would endorse it.

Vagnozzi made it clear that he was giving me a friendly warning. He had ordained me a bishop and may have felt some responsibility for me, but at that moment he was putting me on notice that any more public statements from me about the war would injure my future career as a bishop. In his words, "You could have a brilliant career in the church. You could become an archbishop. But you cannot afford to antagonize the cardinal archbishops of New York and Los Angeles."

Taking his arguments in order I said that I did not aspire to be an archbishop and that, in my opinion, the morality of the war in Vietnam was an entirely separate question from my future career as a bishop. Taking the initiative I reminded the delegate of the several specific instances in which Pope Paul VI had clearly spoken out against the war (at the U.N., at Fatima, in his encyclicals). Warming to my theme I told him that he had been misled by Spellman and McIntyre and that he should take his lead from the pope, not from them.

This response flustered him. He quickly denied that his views differed from the pope's. I said that I thought they did and that, in my opinion, more American bishops should challenge Spellman and McIntyre openly on the war. Clearly he had not expected such a reaction from me. He rose from the table and told me once more that if I persisted in my criticism of the war I would injure my future career as a bishop. I had no response.

We walked to his waiting car in silence. Cardinal Patrick O'Boyle, archbishop of Washington, was waiting for us at the curb. After Vagnozzi entered the car, O'Boyle turned to me, embraced me, and said, "Coraggio." Did O'Boyle know why Vagnozzi had taken me aside? Presumably he did. Otherwise why would he urge me to have courage?

On my return to Minnesota I reported to Archbishop Binz all that had happened. He carefully refrained from discussing further with me the admonition given me by Vagnozzi. I have always felt that my taking Binz's place at that testimonial banquet was a diplomatic method for the delegate to get me to Washington without summoning me and to deliver an oral warning to me without leaving any carbon copies.

I told Archbishop Binz that I was appalled at the delegate's linking my future promotions in the hierarchy directly with my future silence on Vietnam. In all this I knew I was making Binz very uncomfortable. By then I had come to believe that he liked me as a person and wished me well as a bishop. But he wanted no trouble with cardinals, especially McIntyre. Without intending it I was drawing him into a debate which he did not relish and in which one day he would be forced to take sides. That day was still more than a year away.

Within a month of my visit with the delegate I was invited to join a new national coalition, "Negotiation Now," organized to press for a settlement in Vietnam. Again, without telling my archbishop, I added my name to the list of clerics and laity who signed a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on July 9,1967. This time I was not the only bishop listed. Bishop John J. Dougherty, president of Seton Hall University and auxiliary bishop of Newark, New Jersey, and Bishop Victor J. Reed, later archbishop of Oklahoma City, were cosigners. By then a new apostolic delegate, Archbishop Luigi Raimondi, had been named to succeed Vagnozzi. I was not anxious to be or to be perceived as deliberately disobeying the warning Vagnozzi had taken such pains to deliver to me in person. But, to my knowledge, Binz, Spellman, McIntyre, and I (and maybe Cardinal O'Boyle) were the only persons who knew of the warning Vagnozzi had given me.

In conscience, however, I felt obliged to challenge the popular opinion so explicitly stated by Cardinal Spellman at his midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, 1966, that victory was the only acceptable goal of our role in Vietnam. In my view victory in that endless war was no longer possible for either party. A negotiated peace was the only logical option, and the sooner the better. Pope Paul VI had already stated this view as his own on this question.

On August 15, 1967, Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan, archbishop of Atlanta, added his signature to the proponents of "Negotiation Now." Hallinan was then very ill with cancer and was to die within a year. His support for our petition gave us encouragement. The silence of the American bishops on the war in Vietnam at that late date was still deafening.

On August 4, 1967, the Vatican announced that Bishop Leo C. Byrne, of Wichita, Kansas, was to be the new coadjutor-archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, with the right to succeed Archbishop Binz whenever he should choose to retire. The appointment was well received. Binz, Byrne, and I were then fellow members of the administrative board of the bishops' national conference. Binz was pleased at the prospect of turning over his administrative duties to Archbishop Byrne. I welcomed our new archbishop because of the energetic leadership he promised for the diocese and for the personal encouragement I hoped he could give me in my relations with superiors I had no desire to offend. On the day of his installation at the St. Paul cathedral, September 27, Byrne was asked by a reporter how he felt about my endorsement of "Negotiation Now." He smiled and told the reporter, "The situation is well in hand." I still do not know what he meant.

Wisely or not, I had decided to handle the war question with Byrne just as I had with Binz. Hence I never raised it with him in private, considering it prudent to leave him free to say that my views were not his and that I had never discussed diem with him. He never took die initiative to discuss the war with me. Hence I assumed that he was comfortable with this arrangement.

On October 11, 1967, in the Caucus Room of the Old Senate Building in Washington I chaired a national meeting of "Negotiation Now," convened to present to any members of Congress who would listen our urgent plea for a negotiated peace in Vietnam. The meeting was well attended and widely reported in the press.

One never knows whether efforts like that have any effect. In reviewing the record now I can only say that, effective or not, I considered my testimony then to be a serious moral obligation. My friend Father Marvin O'Connell felt otherwise. Writing about "Negotiation Now," he called the three bishops and the one archbishop who endorsed it "amateurs." We never claimed to be professionals. We merely said publicly what we thought in private about the war in order to face ourselves each morning in the mirror.

In January 1968 the national coalition Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam (CALCAV), on whose board I served, invited me to take part in a prayer service in Washington, D.C., to be billed as a memorial to all Americans who had given their lives in battle throughout our history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Abraham Heschel, and I were to be the speakers at this assembly, scheduled for February 6, 1968, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

The day before this date we were notified by the Department of the Interior, the agency responsible for all national cemeteries, that our request for a permit to march and to pray at Arlington had been denied. The reason for the denial was the fear, among federal officials, that our speeches might be inflammatory and that our march might turn into violence.

We petitioned Interior to reconsider and promised to conduct the entire march in silence, if they would allow Dr. King, Rabbi Heschel, and me the privilege of announcing the beginning and the end of three minutes of silent prayer, once our marchers reached the Tomb. This permission was granted.

About three hundred persons gathered at the main gate of Arlington on the morning of February 6. We distributed handbills explaining the rules we had accepted for the occasion. In total silence and in good order we then marched, six abreast, up the hill to the tomb, led by two flag bearers carrying the Stars and Stripes, a rabbi carrying the scrolls of the Torah, a minister carrying the Holy Bible, and each marcher carrying a small American flag.

At the tomb Dr. King called out in a clear voice, "In this period of absolute silence, let us pray" After three minutes of silent prayer, Rabbi Abraham Heschel said, "Eli, Eli, Lama Azavtani," the beginning of the Twenty-Second Psalm in Hebrew, known to Christians as Christ's call on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" I then signaled aloud that our three minutes were ended: "Let us go in peace, Amen." Again, in a column of six abreast we slowly and silently walked back down the hill to the gate and into our waiting buses. The entire ceremony passed without incident.

Reviewing the record of the war and of our petitions to end it I have no regrets, either about the substance of our pleas or the style in which we presented them. This statement may smack of hubris to some readers. It is still my very firm opinion that active participation by the United States in the war in Vietnam was a mistake from the beginning of that interminable blood-letting.

Chapter Fifteen

"THE NEW AMERICAN CATHOLIC"

The Second Vatican Council prompted the media to increase their coverage of religion in general and of the Catholic Church in particular. In October 1967 the National Broadcasting Company decided to produce a one-hour documentary on the changes wrought within the American Catholic community as a result of Vatican II. Stuart Schulberg, then NBC's producer for Dave Gangway's Today show, was named to produce the documentary.

Bishop John A. Donovan, bishop of Toledo, Ohio, was then chairman of the Bishops' National Committee on Radio and Television. This committee maintained a New York City office, called the National Catholic Office for Radio and Television (NCORT), the purpose of which was to encourage liaison with producers working in the media, to insure that their coverage of things Catholic was accurate. NCORT had no production facilities. It was merely a Catholic resource for the networks and independent producers. NCORT, hearing of NBC's plans, offered its services to Stuart Schulberg and gave him a list of persons to consult in preparing the program. My name was on that list.

Schulberg and two of his writers came to see me at St. Helena's. We spent the better part of a day discussing Vatican II, its origins, and its results. As I commented on the different documents issued by the Council I would name the scholars or experts who had drafted these statements and others who, in my opinion, were best able to discuss them accurately on camera for NBC. In the course of that day's visit I probably named thirty persons, lay and clerical, male and female, whom I thought Schulberg might interview. In naming these persons I carefully identified spokespersons on both sides of any controverted questions.

At the end of the day Schulberg asked me to be one of the persons interviewed on camera about the Council. I declined and urged him to recruit some senior bishop, possibly Archbishop John Dearden of Detroit or Bishop Fulton J. Sheen of Rochester, New York, who were well known to the general public and credible spokesmen for the Catholic Church.

I admitted privately to Schulberg that I had a growing concern that my official assignment as press officer for the episcopal conference was giving me too much exposure and that I thought it prudent to cultivate a lower profile. I promised to continue to help him and his staff, and he withdrew his request for me to be interviewed on camera in the series.

Within the next several weeks I learned from my daily correspondence that some persons whom NCORT had recommended to Schulberg were being interviewed and that the production was moving along. Next I received a telephone call from Charles Reilly, executive director of NCORT, who reported that the NBC project was nearly finished but that it still needed some knowledgeable Catholic person to act as host or interlocutor to connect its different segments.

I could see it coming. Bishop Donovan and his staff were building their case to ask me to serve as the interlocutor for the show. Sure enough. Schulberg had told the bishop that I had been of great help to him and his crew and that they wanted me to present on camera the "bridge" between the different interviews. Schulberg had also told Bishop Donovan that I did not want this assignment.

John Donovan (now deceased) and I were good friends. I called him to discuss this invitation and jokingly told him that he was a stalking horse for NBC. To the contrary, he said that he was asking me to do this as a favor to the national conference of bishops. He thought I would do a good job, and he wanted to be sure that the episcopal conference could not be faulted for lack of cooperation with the network.

Again I proposed the names of Archbishop Dearden and Bishop Sheen. Donovan admitted that each of them had been asked and had declined. Hence I was at least NBC's third choice. When Donovan put his request to me a second time, on the grounds that some bishop had to do it and that he was asking me to do it on behalf of the episcopal conference, I could not refuse.

All smiles, Stuart Schulberg and his crew came back to St. Helena's the next week, this time with cameras. They televised part of our Sunday Mass and spent a day filming clips of me building verbal bridges between the several interviews which they already had on tape.

I taped my segment of the show one day in our rectory, without seeing any of the other interviews which would be the substance of the final narrative. I was impressed with the professional caliber of Schulberg and his staff. At no time did they try to slant or influence what I had to say. I knew that they had interviewed liberals and conservatives and that, on balance, they had recruited more exponents of change than of tradition. The original purpose of the documentary was to focus on change in the church. Its subtitle was "The Changing Church." Hence I saw my role in the production as that of a moderator, in the literal sense.

Titled "The New American Catholic," the show was first televised nationally on June 21, 1968. The next day Cardinal McIntyre issued a strong press release in Los Angeles criticizing the production as "erroneous, misleading, and unauthorized." Blaming me, by name, for my part in the production, he said, "Bishop Shannon was not speaking for the people of God." It did not surprise me that McIntyre did not like the show. Before, during, and after Vatican II he was repeatedly on record warning the church of the dangers inherent in any kind of change. Writing in 1964, John Cogley, then religion editor of the New Tork Times, had said of McIntyre: "He has been described by more than one Vatican observer as the most reactionary prelate in the church, bar none -- not even those of the Curia."

What did surprise me about McIntyre's criticism of the NBC show was that he found it so offensive that he denounced it and me by name in a press release issued explicitly for this purpose. There is a well-observed fraternal code of mutual protection among the bishops. Cardinal Spellman, I had learned, respected it. McIntyre did not.

Because of scheduling conflicts, KSTP, then our local NBC station in Minnesota, did not broadcast "The New American Catholic" until July 7. Forewarned by McIntyre's criticism of the show, I watched it with great care and with a note pad and pencil at hand. It did, as I expected, focus on changes among American Catholics occasioned by the dialog and the decrees of Vatican II. But it was, in my opinion, a balanced, accurate, lively production. I could see nothing in either its matter or its manner which would offend even the most conservative Catholic. The reviews were favorable.

John Dart, reviewing it for the Los Angeles Times, in lavish terms that would return to haunt me, said, "The Spirit [of excitement and spirituality] was captured superbly in "The New American Catholic…" The narrator was articulate, straightforward Bishop James Shannon, another hero. The auxiliary bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis has emerged as the most sought-after liaison between the U.S. Catholic hierarchy and the public. The choice for narrator could not have been better." George Gent, a Catholic, reviewing it for the New York Times, implied that he held personal views opposing some of the changes occurring in the church, but also said, "The closest thing to a balanced perspective was provided by the Most Reverend James Shannon ... who spoke of the current tensions from what might be termed a moderate position." Good enough. I had defined my role as that of a moderator in a serious dialog on which different persons held different but legitimate positions.

After weighing the question I decided not to respond personally to Cardinal McIntyre's criticism. After all, he had not sent it directly to me. I did not know precisely what he found objectionable in the separate segments of the show. And I knew I would be seeing him shortly at a scheduled meeting in Washington, D.C., of the board of trustees of the Catholic University of America, of which he was a member and to which I had just been elected in April of that year.

Bishop Donovan wrote and Father Theodore Hesburgh sent a telegram to tell me they thought the show was well done and to thank me for doing it. Their kind words and the favorable reviews balanced, in my mind, the criticism from Cardinal McIntyre.

What I did not know then was that on June 24 Cardinal McIntyre had also sent a stinging letter to Archbishop John Dearden, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, denouncing me and Bishop Victor J. Reed, then the bishop of Oklahoma City-Tulsa, for our participation on camera in the documentary. That letter also went to the apostolic delegate, to every archbishop in the country, and to all the bishops in California. I first learned of it from Bishop Donovan, who received a copy of it because of his role as the bishop in charge of NCORT. No copy was sent to me, but each of my archbishops, I was to learn some time later, had received copies. They did not share these with me.

The letter faulted the program for statements on authority by Father John McKenzie, S.J., then a professor at the University of Notre Dame; for statements on celibacy by Donald J. Thorman (a layman, the publisher of the National Catholic Reporter}; for a joyful liturgical service at the Catholic Community of John XXIII in Oklahoma City, which the cardinal considered "grossly lacking in...reverence and respect"; and for a "considerable segment [which] showed pictures [filmed in Los Angeles] of the Immaculate Heart Community's departure from religious tradition and its obvious defiance of regulations and directives issued by the Sacred Congregation for Religious." McIntyre was then deep in confrontation with this much admired religious community headquartered in his archdiocese.

The letter reserved its heaviest blows for me:

"While Bishop Shannon, as commentator, did not directly advocate a definite opinion on any of the divergences or deviations from ecclesiastical precedent and tradition which were presented, the mere fact of his participation, and that of Bishop Reed, constituted open approval of these deviations as far as the viewing public was concerned.

"It was evident that the very title of the program and its mode of presentation, with its emphasis on the word 'new,' and its consequent implication of a split between the 'old' or 'traditional' church and the 'new' church, was an initial attempt to suggest to the public mind a spirit of schism in Catholic belief and practice, and an implicit appeal for public support of such a schism.

"I feel that the participation of two Bishops in this program was an exercise of exceedingly poor taste and judgment. They assumed the right to speak nationally on matters and issues upon which they had no authority to speak nationally. Surely, from their presence on the program, the ordinary listener would assume that the program was authentic and deduce that it represented the mind of the bishops of the nation and had their official approval.

"Accordingly, I ventured to issue a statement to the secular press here, a copy of which I enclose herewith. Frankly, I am shocked at Bishop Shannon's participation in this program, particularly since for all practical purpose at the St. Louis Conference of the United States Bishops, he appeared to be the authorized press spokesman for the body of the bishops. In fact, he has been very active with the press; the Religious Editor of the Los Angeles Times recently stated that Bishop Shannon 'has emerged as the most sought-after liaison between the United States Hierarchy and the public.' Leaving aside the question as to the source of the authority upon which he has assumed this role, the fact remains that his participation in this program, at least in the mind of the press, is interpreted as authentic, authorized and representative of the position of the bishops of the United States.

"I would maintain that the program induces schism. It should be disapproved by the Bishops as a body. It was not authorized. In fact, the opinions and ideas promulgated in the program were not in accordance with votes and decisions of the National Conference of Bishops on the matters therein treated. They were not in accordance with the pronouncements of Pope Paul VI on the matter of celibacy. They were not in accordance with the regulations of the Sacred Congregation for Religious on the matter of the Religious discipline and the holy habit of nuns.

"Therefore, why should not the false impressions created by this program be corrected?

"You are free to use this protest as you may see fit. I consider the situation as serious--very serious in its potential effects upon the faith and spiritual tranquility of our people. I regret that I am compelled to express my views on this matter so strongly and positively but the circumstances seem to justify action."

Archbishop Dearden asked Bishop Donovan's help in framing an appropriate response to Cardinal McIntyre. On July 1 the NCORT staff, at Donovan's request, prepared a memorandum reciting the history of the NBC production and of their and my respective roles in it, a copy of which was sent, through Dearden, to McIntyre.

McIntyre was still not satisfied. He wrote to Dearden on July 8 and called the "unsigned" memorandum "inadequate, incomplete... (and not responsive to) the obvious points of my complaint." This time he explicidy told Dearden what kind of action he wanted: "I respectfully petition that a definite place be given on the agenda of our next meeting of the Coetus [i.e., the Conference of Bishops] to the study and discussion of this happening, its deductions and the possibility of consequences that can be most injurious. The impression received by the public with regard to the thinking and policy of the Bishops of the country is at stake. Are we advocating a ‘New Church'? Are we rebuffing the Holy Father in his attitude on celibacy? Are we depriving ourselves of the authority of our respective offices and of our corporate body? We must provide against the repetition of this showing, and, further, against any similar programs."

On July 12 Archbishop Binz received a copy of McIntyre's letter of July 8 (his second) to Dearden and a copy of the NCORT memorandum of July 1. Binz called me at once and asked me to come to his home to discuss this correspondence.

Binz was concerned that this matter had escalated to the point where it would be on the agenda for the next meeting of the administrative board (i.e., the executive committee) of the National Conference. I was convinced that McIntyre's charges were so illusory and so unsupported that the bishops could not possibly take them or him seriously.

McIntyre was then eighty-two, seven years above the age at which Pope Paul VI had asked every bishop in the world to submit his resignation. I told Binz that I could not take McIntyre's defense of tradition and loyalty to Rome seriously in the light of his own obstinate refusal to comply with an explicit Vatican decree which bishops in every other nation had readily accepted.

I tracked through with Binz the separate allegations McIntyre had made in his two letters against the NBC show and against me. Each charge fell into one of two categories: either McIntyre had his facts wrong, or his unyielding allegiance to pre-Council customs (e.g., about nun's wearing apparel) blinded him to the legitimacy of several non-doctrinal changes in the church. In my zealous defense of NBC I came on a little too strong for my archbishop. I recall saying "McIntyre is a silly old man." Binz, always the archbishop, chided me, "Jim, you should not speak that way about him. He is a prince of the Holy Roman Church." Some prince!

At this point Binz decided to take me into his confidence on another related but more serious matter. As the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, he was the ranking prelate in the ten dioceses of Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Typically, the appointment of a new bishop in any one of these states had to have his approval. His key role in this process gave him great but not final authority in deciding who would be named ordinaries (i.e., presiding bishops) in vacant dioceses.

It was public knowledge that Francis J. Schenk, bishop of Duluth, was then seriously ill. Binz then told me that Schenk's illness was terminal, that he had submitted his resignation to Rome, and that the process was underway to name his successor. As archbishop of the three-state province, Binz had then submitted my name to the apostolic delegate, with his personal recommendation that I be named coadjutor-bishop of Duluth, with the canonical right to succeed Schenk.

All this was a surprise to me. Everyone who knew Schenk liked him. It saddened me to learn that death was close for him.

I was not then particularly eager to be named bishop of any diocese. In spite of my periodic bouts with McIntyre I enjoyed my work and found the role of an auxiliary bishop satisfying. Binz and I were on cordial terms. Nonetheless I realized that after more than three years in that position it was probably time for me to move on.

Then Binz dropped die other shoe. In response to his endorsement of me, he had been told by the apostolic delegate that I could not possibly be promoted to Duluth because of the serious and repeated complaints McIntyre had lodged against me. My advancement in the church, he felt, would be an insult which McIntyre would not tolerate.

Binz assured me that he had done everything he could to help me. I believed him. He was clearly embarrassed to admit that the cardinal archbishop of Los Angeles had a veto power over the recommendations of the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis on episcopal appointments within the state of Minnesota.

After a long silence, I asked, rather lamely, "Can McIntyre really do this to us?" Binz replied: "He's already done it. Archbishop Raimondi (the apostolic delegate) has told me that he cannot risk antagonizing McIntyre by approving your move to Duluth. A new bishop will be named there within the month, and whoever it is, it will not be you." I asked Binz how long McIntyre's veto power might last. He could not guess. He did say, quoting Raimondi, that my chance of being named to head any other diocese was negligible as long as McIntyre stayed in office and did not change his mind about me.

In retrospect it is chilling to recall that McIntyre did not resign until he was eighty-five, a full decade beyond the retirement age set by Pope Paul VI, and that he did not die until 1979. Only God knows whether he ever changed his mind about me.

I knew that Binz was reluctant that day to admit that McIntyre could and would override a senior archbishop and trample a junior auxiliary Binz would never fault another bishop by name. He was appalled by McIntyre's ruthless style and he was embarrassed to let me glimpse this seamy side of ecclesiastical politics. As I left his home that night I felt more anguish for him than concern for my own career. Binz had to swallow hard to take McIntyre's heavy-handed intrusion into church affairs in Minnesota. Nonetheless he spoke not one negative word to me about McIntyre, then or ever.

The apostolic delegate announced on July 24, 1968, that Father Paul Anderson of Huron, South Dakota, was to be the new bishop in Duluth. I was delighted. Paul Anderson, now deceased, was the kind of bishop Jesus Christ had in mind when he put together the original team.

As the date for the administrative board meeting in Washington approached, it gave me some solace to realize that Archbishop Binz, Archbishop Byrne, and I were all members of that body. We could make some kind of joint defense against whatever attack McIntyre would mount. Granted, we were only three out of forty members. But Bishop John Donovan was also a member. I knew I could count on him to explain that I had become involved in the NBC project specifically at his request and on behalf of the episcopal conference.

Before we left for Washington Archbishop Binz asked me if I was prepared to defend the NBC production with the bishops and to answer McIntyre's specific charges against me. I assured him that I was. I knew then that one of the charges was that I had encouraged schism in the church. I did not know that McIntyre would raise the more sinister charge of heresy against me at our meeting in September.

In retrospect it is clear to me that Archbishop Binz was doing all he could to warn me not to take Cardinal McIntyre too lightly. In his heart Binz knew that McIntyre was abusing his authority and coming down much too hard on me. But Binz also knew that it was unwise for any bishop, young or old, to go one-on-one against McIntyre, no matter what the issue.

At 9:00 A.M. on September 17, 1968, the executive committee of the bishops' national conference met at their headquarters building in Washington. As usual, we were arranged classroom style, according to the alphabet, from front to back. The agenda scheduled Cardinal McIntyre's motion for discussion as the first item following our break for lunch.

At lunch Archbishop Binz called me aside and said that he had not slept well the night before. He asked if I would object if he returned to the hotel to rest instead of attending the afternoon meeting. My heart sank. He did not need my permission to leave the meeting. He was pulling out on me because he did not want to antagonize McIntyre by any defense he might offer of my part in the NBC program. I assured him that I would understand if he went back to the hotel to rest. He thanked me and said, "I have talked to Archbishop Leo Byrne. He will be at the meeting this afternoon to speak for you, if necessary."

After lunch Binz left for the hotel and the afternoon session was called to order. Archbishop Dearden, as chairman, recognized Cardinal McIntyre. I noticed at once that Archbishop Byrne was not in his place. I scanned the room. He was not there. For the first time the thought occurred to me that Binz and Byrne had decided, jointly or separately, that it was too risky, politically, for them to side with me against the cardinal.

McIntyre carefully recapitulated his objections to the NBC production: he had not given NBC permission to take any pictures in Catholic institutions in Los Angeles; he had refused their request for an interview with him; the sequence showing nuns at Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood, singing and wearing brightly colored dresses "at Mass," violated the rule of the sacred liturgy; the title of the documentary smacked of the heresy of "Americanism" which had been condemned by Pope Leo XIII in 1899; and furthermore, the second nationwide showing of the NBC documentary on August 30 in prime time "in response to public interest" was a deliberate insult to the Catholics of this country. The cardinal ended his remarks by asking the bishops to condemn the NBC documentary as subversive to the Catholic faith and to censure me for my youthful temerity in having participated as a bishop in such a damaging production, although the motion under discussion did not mention me by name.

Binz was right. McIntyre was a deadly adversary. 1 never dreamed he would raise the specter of heresy, nor that his oral remarks would focus so personally on me. When the cardinal was finished Bishop John Donovan rose to my defense. He urged the bishops to vote against the motion for two reasons: the NBC production presented a favorable and accurate image of American Catholics and legitimate changes in the church after Vatican II; and I had taken part in the production at his urgent insistence, against my own preference.

Archbishop Byrne was still not in the room. I continued to hope that he might arrive in time to help me. Bishop Fulton Sheen then asked to be recognized. I knew that he had been asked to act as narrator for the NBC documentary and hoped he might say a kind word for me. I was mistaken. His remarks focused on how demanding the television medium is for performers, especially for novices who are not acquainted with the skills and techniques necessary to be effective on camera and to fend off hostile interviewers. Till then no one had criticized my voice, gestures, or rhetorical style. He was doing so in such a way that, without reaching the charge of heresy, he was signaling his intention to vote in favor of the motion. His voice in that group, as with the public, carried great weight.

When no one else asked to speak, I rose to plead my case. In defense of the show, and in my own defense, I recapitulated the early and final stages of the production, stressing the scrupulous fairness of its producer, Stuart Schulberg, and his associates and my own desire to do a good job that would reflect favorably on the church.

I reminded the bishops that the so-called heresy of Americanism, by which Catholics in this country in the late nineteenth century had allegedly put their devotion to their country ahead of their devotion to the church, was recognized by historians as an illusion of anti-American French and Italian Catholics and that no definition of that "heresy" had ever been formulated by any of its critics. I also explained, directly to Cardinal McIntyre, that the sequence in the show picturing the singing nuns in bright colored dresses at Immaculate Heart College was not shot during Mass, as he had inferred, but during their community recreation period.

In closing I asked what purpose the motion under discussion would serve. Was it to put NBC on notice that any future production about Catholic life would require an imprimatur from some Catholic censor? We had no authority to make such a demand. Was it to warn viewers who had already seen the show that it taught what Cardinal McIntyre considered heresy? Or was it to make some kind of record to illustrate what Cardinal McIntyre considered my youthful temerity or my heretical proclivities? Later evidence would seem to show that having such a record to use against me was part of his plan.

As I was concluding my remarks, Archbishop Leo Byrne entered the room and took his place near the front. In closing I did not beg but I asked the bishops most earnestly to vote against Cardinal McIntyre's resolution.

As I sat down I hoped that Archbishop Byrne would ask to be recognized. He did not. As Archbishop Dearden prepared to call the question, I asked, as a courtesy to me, if the bishops would vote by raising their hands, not by their usual voice vote. Dearden agreed. McIntyre's resolution won by a vote of 13 to 7, with 8 abstentions. Archbishop Byrne did not vote. He explained, for the record, that he felt obligated to abstain because he had not been present to hear the discussion.

My great pride in being an American Catholic bishop suffered a blow that day from which it has never recovered. I could not know what was going through the minds of all the bishops in that room. One bishop who was there wrote me the next day, calling the discussion and the decision on McIntyre's resolution "the shabbiest performance" he had ever seen. As we moved through the rest of our agenda that afternoon my mind was not on it. Shortly before the time set for adjournment I left the meeting alone and walked back to the Mayflower Hotel. I was hurt, puzzled, and angry

McIntyre's intemperate and vindictive conduct no longer surprised me. But the deliberate failure of my own archbishops to help me, or to warn me in advance that they would not help me, shattered my great respect for both of them. These two good and honorable priests crumbled under McIntyre's iron fist. I was as sad for them as for myself. Thomas Aquinas says that weakness in a leader is as heinous as malice in a subordinate. The weakness of my two archbishops, demonstrated publicly that day to a select group of their peers, strengthened my conviction that promotion or position in the church, purchased at the price they were willing to pay, is worthless.

Binz, Byrne, and I were scheduled to take the same taxi to the airport. Binz was flying to Chicago. Byrne and I were booked for the same dinner flight to Minnesota. We met at the appointed time in the Mayflower lobby. When the taxi arrived I asked them to go on without me. Traveling together that night, I explained, would be difficult for each of us. I took the next cab and changed my reservation at the airport so that Byrne and I would have no need, in flight, to review any of the painful events of that afternoon.

In fairness to the bishops who voted for McIntyre's resolution that day I must say that they were not aware of the cardinal's running vendetta against me. To my knowledge Binz, Byrne, and I were the only bishops present that day who knew of his effective intervention with the apostolic delegate against my being named to head a diocese. Our earlier awareness of McIntyre's anger toward me made his resolution, in my eyes, more ominous than it was to the other bishops who read his motion at its face value as a blast against NBC.

Some support for my position came to me on October 10, 1968, when Bishop William Connare, of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, wrote me to apologize for his "aye" vote on September 17. His gracious letter said, "I voted without being fully aware of the implication of my vote. I should have at least had the presence of mind to abstain."

I have never been certain why McIntyre considered me such a dangerous person. Was it my anti-Vietnam position? My growing visibility as a press officer for the bishops? My favorable writings about John XXIII, Vatican II, and the spirit of change? Or a combination of all of these positions, so different from his own? I have a theory that the NBC documentary was merely the occasion, not the cause, of McIntyre's determination to silence me.

He was never able to accept the openness, the confident sense of freedom, and the wholesome nondoctrinal changes in the Catholic Church which John XXIII and Vatican n considered necessary and long overdue. McIntyre's early training on Wall Street qualified him eminently for the demanding task of managing large amounts of money and of overseeing vast church and school building programs in Los Angeles after World War II, but he simply could not comprehend the premises which led to the convocation of Vatican n or to the conclusions reached by that assembly.

It was pathetic to watch him at the postconciliar sessions of the bishops. When all the bishops assembled for their semiannual meetings, the cardinals sat at a head table on a raised dais facing the rest of the hierarchy. Bank-and-file bishops wishing to speak would walk to the nearest aisle microphone. But table microphones were placed between every two cardinals and were within arm's reach for anyone at the head table. McIntyre could and did use this handy medium to interrupt at will or to cut off discussions on the floor which challenged his clear-cut categories of orthodoxy and acceptable practice in the church. His rasping voice and quaking anger could intimidate all but the most stout-hearted speakers. No democratic assembly in the world would have tolerated the high-handed manner in which he habitually handled dissent or expressions contrary to the norms he considered clear, fixed, and unchangeable.

Theoretically the vote of each bishop in the national conference has the same weight. But in practice, the vote of a cardinal, at that time, must have counted as a hundred votes by ordinary bishops. And the vote of two cardinals was usually enough to decide the issue, no matter how many votes there were on the other side. Maybe all this has changed since I was a part of the process. I hope so.

Even though my name was never mentioned in the resolution offered by McIntyre on September 17, I feared that its passage would give him a solid piece of evidence to use at his convenience in the future to document his conviction that I was, to use his phrase, "an incipient heretic."

On September 24, 1968, a news story about me in the Minneapolis Star, quoting the National Catholic Reporter, carried the caption: "Bishop Quiet on Reported Criticism by Cardinal." When I read it my first thought was the concern it might cause my mother. I called her to invite myself home to dinner. She had seen the story and asked me if it were true. Without divulging any more details than necessary about my embarrassing exchange with Cardinal McIntyre, I admitted that the story was essentially correct. Fortunately, the story did not seem to disturb her deeply.

After dinner I overheard her talking to my sisters in the kitchen as they dried the dishes. Her marvelous comment, offered, I am sure, to allay any fears they might have about my difficulties with the cardinal, was a line I shall always remember, "I've read about that old man in California. He was in a lot of trouble before he got in trouble with Jim." Thank God for mothers. They have an instinct for coming down on the side of their children, no matter who the adversary, no matter what the issue.