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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

The Roman Catholic Church occupies a special position in the community presided over by the Hague regime; seventy-five per cent of the population belongs to the Catholic Church. (Estimate of the Allied Aid Society, 1934. The 1926 Census of Religious Bodies gave the total church members in Jersey City as 190,118, of whom 129,569 were Catholic. Members of Jewish congregations were second, with 18,000, and United Lutherans third, 8190.) The community too is devoutly Catholic, if a visitor may judge from the outdoor shrines and crosses, and from the dilapidated Protestant churches. The Commonweal, national Catholic periodical, has frequently attacked Mayor Hague for the brutality of his police and for his suppression of civil liberties. (See, for example, an article by Barrett McGurn, `A Night in Jersey City,' vol. 28, pp. 183-114. (May 87, 1938.)) And speaking far from Jersey City, the Right Reverend John A. Ryan of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., said in Duluth that many Catholics `have been misled by vicious propaganda into thinking that the issue in that city [Jersey City] is between communism and Americanism, between Catholicism and atheism.... The real conflict is between Americanism and civil rights on the one hand, and, on the other, the subserviency of city officials to selfish employers who seek to prevent effective organization of labor.' (Newark Evening News, July 5, 1938.)

No such remark as this may be discovered in the record of the New Jersey hierarchy; indeed, no critical word from any of them appears to have found its way into print. The comments of the New Jersey priests, on the contrary, have run to the most generous praise. Monsignor John J. Murphy, spiritual director of the Holy Name Federation of the Newark diocese, for instance, said in a speech in Jersey City on March 17, 1937, that the people of the city should be thankful that they have a mayor who tells objectors, `whether they are parlor pinks from Montclair or social scum from Brooklyn, that Jersey City does not want them.' Referring to an injunction issued by federal Judge Clark restraining the Jersey City police from interfering with peaceful picketing, Father Murphy said, `Some of our federal judges ought to be given a little peaceful picketing.' A few months later the Reverend Matthew Toohey, speaking in the Sacred Heart Church in Jersey City, praised Premier Duplessis of Quebec for suppressing communist newspapers and compared him to Mayor Hague, whom he called America's `public enemy number one of communism.' In the absence of any criticism, such statements, among the many that might be cited, indicate general approval by the Catholic Church in New Jersey.

The Hague organization, on its part, does everything it can to preserve the good relations it has with the Catholic hierarchy. In the first place, almost all the important officials are Catholics, with one or two exceptions, such as A. Harry Moore and Arthur Potterton, and some of them have received lay honors in the church, such as John F. O'Neill, the supervisor of county patronage, who is a Knight of St. Gregory. All of the top police officials are Catholics. No intermediary is necessary for dealing with any of these highly placed officials.

It would seem from the record that the police on occasion co-operate extra-legally with church officials. Bookstores, for instance, selling literature of which the Church does not approve are liable to police raids. On March 14, 1933, Inspector (later Chief of Police) Walsh led a party of police on one at 2828 Hudson Boulevard, Jersey City. The National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners summarized the case thus:

This [establishment] was owned by Alexander Schwarzenfeld, whose address was then given as 944 Kelly Street, Bronx, New York. They arrested the two employees who were there and seized the literature which they found. Included in the books were a number of copies of Grip of Desire by Hector France. Inspector Walsh stated that a complaint had been made about the book by the Catholic Church and that copies of that book which were found would be confiscated and referred to the Church and to the Board of Education for decision. He did not make clear just what decision.

The police also seized a large number of books on Marxism and Leninism and literature of the Friends of the Soviet Union, and also all copies of The Memoirs of Cardinal Dubois. Everything, including catalogues, stationery, envelopes, typewriters, files, etc. was taken by the police, who refused to give any receipt therefor.

Schwarzenfeld was then placed in the police line-up and was accused of being a communist and dangerous agitator and with having been involved in `red' riots in Detroit. Schwarzenfeld was informed by Police Captain Doyle that because of his past record and membership in the Communist Party he would get an indefinite stay in Jersey City and then be kicked out. (Report (1938), p. 27.)

There seems to be no source of friction between the Church and the organization over school matters, because the Board of Education has on it at all times a majority of Catholics. They have never been zealous to improve the school system.

The Church also receives direct assistance from the organization in the collection of church funds. When a new church or parish house is to be built or some large sum raised, Protestant and Jewish office-holders as well as Catholic are expected to contribute. If officials become delinquent in their pledges, a stern warning may come from Mayor Hague himself. The author was shown such a letter sent in 1939 to a police captain, on the stationery of the Mayor's office, and signed by the Mayor himself. It stated that Archbishop Walsh had been embarrassed in his paying contractors for work at Darlington Seminary, St. Peter's College, in Jersey City, by the failure of a number of persons, including the recipient, to meet their pledges; and that he had asked the Mayor to assist in the collection. There was no warning of what would happen if the contribution failed to be forthcoming; but the final statement that delinquent pledges should be paid through the Mayor's nephew and private secretary, Frank Hague Eggers, should have been sufficient. The wording of the letter was not friendly and informal; it was, on the contrary, severe and formal.


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