Father Charles Coughlin

Enlarge picture
Father Charles Coughlin began spouting anti-Semitic comments on the radio in the 1930s.

Father Charles Coughlin

The famous “radio priest” Father Coughlin, pastor of the Shrine of the Little Flower, became one of the most virulent anti-Semites of the 1930s.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, on October 25, 1891, Charles Coughlin was ordained a Catholic priest in 1916 and became the pastor of the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, in 1926. Coughlin accepted the role of a “radio priest” in 1930 and slowly gained a following until shortly before the presidential election in 1932. On the CBS network Father Coughlin railed against Herbert Hoover and became an ardent supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Coughlin became the voice of the common man when he vented his frustrations over the machinations of bankers and the uneven distribution of wealth. Far from being a socialist or Communist sympathizer, however, the priest used his electronic pulpit to blast liberalism and socialism in the government.

Because he had become such a vocal and enthusiastic endorser of the candidacy of Roosevelt, many among Father Coughlin’s radio constituency expected that the outspoken priest would receive a high post in the new administration. Although he may not have admitted it openly, Coughlin harbored such expectations himself. He confided to certain friends that if Roosevelt should so reward him, he would quit the church and become a positive force within the government. When the rumored post did not materialize, Coughlin became openly disgruntled. By 1937 his attacks on Roosevelt had grown so virulent that he received a rebuke from Pope Pius XI.

Dropped by CBS, Father Coughlin was certain that NBC would welcome him and his radio parish of millions. Unwilling to rile the Roosevelt administration, NBC informed Coughlin that they had a policy of not accepting commercial religious broadcasting. Incensed, the volatile cleric used WOR New York and WJR Detroit as his flagship stations and then, with the thousands of dollars of voluntary contributions from his radio audience, bought time on individual stations throughout the United States.

Coughlin developed a magazine called Social Injustice to supplement in print his rants over the airwaves. He continued to fulminate against the Roosevelt administration, but his invective now included Jews. To the horror of many of his steadfast listeners, he became perhaps the foremost preacher of anti-Semitism in the nation. He was an embarrassment to Catholics, and prominent leaders within the church fomented a movement to remove him from the airwaves. In l942 Social Injustice was banned from the mail by enforcement of the Espionage Act invoked during World War II.

In that same year, yielding to pressure from both the secular and religious establishments, Coughlin left his bully pulpit on the radio and returned to the Shrine of the Little Flower. He remained active as pastor until 1966. He died on October 27, 1979, at the age of eighty-eight.

References in periodicals archive ?
Trump's rap has roots in the Salem witch trials, the white knights in the white sheets, the sermons of Father Charles Coughlin and the purges of Senator Joe McCarthy.
Throughout, Roosevelt was good-humored and elegantly ruthless in dealing with adversaries that included several prominent citizens, including Joseph Kennedy, Charles Lindbergh, radio personality Father Charles Coughlin, and a panoply of politicians, generally grouped as ideological members of what would be founded as the America First Committee on September 1940.
Indeed, one of the nation's most prominent anti-Semites, the "Radio Priest,'' Father Charles Coughlin, was based in Detroit, and his radio "sermons'' were often non-stop anti-Semitic vitriol.
Father Charles Coughlin used to keep the bloodied shirt of a Catholic Mexican martyr draped over a chair in his office.
Examining the ethereal relationships listeners formed with radio characters--the radio democracy exemplified by Roosevelt's fireside chats, the faith in popular radio champions such as Father Charles Coughlin and Dr.
In the Depression-era United States, this program of social justice and unity inspired "radio priest" Father Charles Coughlin and the followers of his grassroots movement, the Christian Front, to form their own brand of anticommunist social justice.
This is in contrast to the antisemitism the first truly Jewish star, Hank Greenberg, faced in his early years in Detroit, which, in the 1930s, was home to two of the most openly virulent antisemites in the United States: Henry Ford and Father Charles Coughlin.
Moon must bring up Father Charles Coughlin and his anti-Semitism, even though he bears little resemblance to modern religious conservatives--even though American Christian conservatives are diehard supporters of the Israeli state, and curiously enchanted by all things Jewish.
Although there were extremists like Father Charles Coughlin, who called Roosevelt's program the "Jew Deal," the great majority of American Christians resisted efforts to fan their mild anti-Semitism into the kind of hatred Hitler ignited in German Christians.
Not all of these applications turned out to be sources of pride for the Church in the long run (see the chapter, for example, on Father Charles Coughlin and his anti-Semitism), but the Church's leadership was not as limited then as it is today by an overriding emphasis on a single issue such as abortion.
Other political ministries such as those of Father Charles Coughlin and Carl McIntire are not the primary focus of this study but appear in their relation to struggles over access to the air waves.
A delicious irony in the Hayden memoir is that he grew up in the very Royal Oak, Michigan, parish, the Church of the Little Flower that was the stronghold of the 1930s pro-fascist radio priest, Father Charles Coughlin.