Catholics and Politics: Charles Coughlin, John Ryan, and the 1936 Presidential Campaign Website…
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second President of the United States, served longer than any other President in United States history. Elected to four consecutive terms, Roosevelt served from 1933 until his death in 1945. Millions of Catholic voters helped bring Roosevelt his landslide victory in 1936. Estimates of the number of Catholics voting for FDR range from 70% – 81%.
None of this Catholic support was taken for granted during the campaign of 1936, however, nor did all Catholics support a second term for Roosevelt. To the contrary, relations between certain prominent Catholics and members of the Roosevelt administration were strained. Father Charles Coughlin, a former FDR supporter who had become an outspoken critic of the President during the 1936 campaign, actively campaigned against him in the months before the election. Father John Ryan, on the other hand, publicly supported Roosevelt during the campaign, delivering a national radio broadcast under the auspices of the Democratic National Committee on his behalf. This website features previously unavailable audio and documents related to the presidential campaign of 1936 and the involvement of each priest in that campaign.
Just a note on some new web materials we will be posting soon. By November, we hope to have additional materials relating to Catholic responses to Kristallnacht up on the American Catholic History Classroom website. The materials include responses to the CUA anti-Nazi broadcast from our collection, and a transcript of a broadcast delivered by Father Charles E. Coughlin on November 20, 1938. Coughlin’s speech is, in part, a response to the CUA anti-Nazi broadcast, and a very different perspective on the Nazi pogrom against the Jews–where the CUA broadcast condemns Kristallnacht, the Coughlin broadcast justifies it. The Coughlin broadcast, which is anti-Semitic, causes him to become increasingly marginalized among Church leadership, while the CUA broadcast marks a move among US Catholic institutional leaders toward ecumenism.
Secondly, we have just completed a website on Father John A. Ryan, Father Coughlin, and the Presidential election of 1936. Again, we have here two different Catholic perspectives… Father Ryan delivers a radio broadcast supporting incumbent Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while Coughlin rails against the re-election of the president. This site will contain about 40 documents and supplementary educational materials and will be up early next year. The new sites mark a continuation of our attempt to make our materials available to educators and researchers alike.