Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The FBI and the Catholic Church, 1935-1962

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The FBI and the Catholic Church, 1935-1962

Article excerpt

The FBI and the Catholic Church, 1935-1962. By Steve Rosswurm. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 2009. Pp. xi, 330. ISBN 978-1-558-49729-0.)

The author, a professor of history at Lake Forest College in Illinois, spent two decades filing Freedom of Information and Privacy Act requests with the FBI, attempting to learn how close the relationship was between J. Edgar Hoover's investigators and high Roman Catholic prelates in this country during the Depression, World War ?, the Second Red Scare, and the Kennedy administration. This book is largely a recounting of what was in the files, supplemented by other scholarly works and interpreted in the standard left-ofcenter approach. Sadly, Steve Rosswurm's research reveals little new information, and this study will probably be of importance only to a handful of specialists. The book also has some irritating flaws.

After all of his labors, Rosswurm discovered, apparently to his shock, that in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, J. Edgar Hoover and his top agents, several leading Catholic clergy, and the public in general believed in Christianity, patriotism, the traditional family, and anticommunism; perhaps worse, they rejected sodomy. All of these Americans, he contends, had "a profound distaste for modernity" (p. 71). That would draw titters in a historical methodology class.

We also read that the FBI engaged in some underhanded tactics to defend the morality and safety of the vast majority of Americans. This is not exactly news. Rosswurm informs us as well that church figures such as Cardinal Francis Spellman, Cardinal John O'Hara, Bishop Fulton J. …

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