Organized Anti-Semitism in America: The Rise of Group Prejudice during the Decade 1930-40

By Donald S. Strong | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
The National Union for Social Justice and the Christian Front

FATHER CHARLES E. COUGHLIN is comparatively a latecomer to the field of anti-semitism. As early as 1933, the leaders of most of the anti-semitic organizations treated in this study began to present their anti-semitic ideology as explanation of the country's ills, but Coughlin did not begin spreading his variation of the ideology until 1938. He differs, too, in that he had an established reputation before he turned to anti-semitism; other leaders were unknown until they drew attention to themselves by their attacks on Jews. And he is especially important because he has brought a large Catholic contingent into an anti-semitic movement that has been chiefly Protestant.


LEADERSHIP

Coughlin was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1891. His family background and early life is described concisely by Raymond Gram Swing:1

. . . he was of pure Irish stock. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were Irish-American workingmen. His greatgrandfather helped dig the Erie Canal. His father, born in Indiana, was stoker on the Great Lakes, drifted to Hamilton, Ontario, became sexton of the cathedral, met a devout seamstress, also of Irish stock, and married her.

He was educated in St. Mary's parochial school of Hamilton, then in St. Michael's College (under the Basilian Fathers), and took his first college degree at the age of twenty at the University of Toronto . . . He was able to go for a three months trip to Europe after finishing at Toronto, and came back troubled in mind as to his career. His inclinations were in three directions -- the church, politics, and sociology . . . At the dock, on his return from Europe, he met his favorite college teacher, who took him away for a long talk. It ended in his being persuaded to enter the church; and he plunged into the arduous preparatory work under the Basilian order in Toronto. He was ordained four years later and spent his first year as a priest teaching English in Assumption College, Sandwich, Ontario. Then began the trips to Detroit, and the transfer to that diocese followed. For three years he was in Kalamazoo and for a short period in North Branch before Bishop Gallagher chose him for the trying task of building up the parish of Royal Oak.

-57-

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