EARS AGO, I knew a seminarian named Mario Portella, who was later ordained a priest and now resides in Florence. In the 1990s, he gave me a VHS cassette—the current generation won’t know what that is—containing a video produced in 1941. The film location was Our Lady of Sorrows, on the west side of Chicago. You’ll notice this film was helpful in assembling drafts for the Campion Hymnal when you click on the upper right image.
The narrator was MONSIGNOR FULTON J. SHEEN, who would be consecrated a bishop ten years later. (He was already a huge radio star by 1941.) If you think about it, this was quite a progressive thing to do. 1
Consider what America was like in 1941. The Second World War was raging, and America would soon begin fighting. Moreover, very few people had television in those days! Only after WW2 did television become popular in America. For whom was this film intended? Was it played in theaters? I doubt that; yet the production is masterful. 2
In the following excerpt, notice how the commentary fits perfectly, multiple camera angles are used, the ceremonies are done with precision, and they even include “text” shots:
The ancient Mass was discovered by a new generation in the 1990s, and has taken off in a way nobody expected. That’s why I included some film from 2017 toward the end of that excerpt.
Fulton J. Sheen might also be considered “progressive” in that he took political stances. His entire life, he fought communism. The following excerpt by Sheen is interesting, because which of us can waltz into the President’s office?
HE SUBJECT OF COMMUNISM became intense during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. One incident of that period is worth recalling. The foreign policy of the United States was considering lifting the embargo against sending arms to the Communists in Spain. In order to combat this movement, a meeting was held in Constitution Hall, Washington. The speakers were three: a former Spanish ambassador, a young woman who had been in Spain and had fought against the Communists, and myself. Thousands were turned away from Constitution Hall. It is very likely that this meeting had something to do with the breaking down of the movement to send arms to the Communists.
The day after that meeting in Constitution Hall, I had a meeting with President Roosevelt. Its purpose really was to ask for an assignment to the Housing Committee for a friend of mine who was defeated for a second term in Congress. I was always opposed to asking any favor from a politician, but because this man had been a good friend of mine for years, I broke my resolution.
When I went in to see President Roosevelt he was angry. I thought he was angry with the Secretary of War, who had just left the office. I soon learned that he was angry with me. He had the Washington Post laid upright before him on the desk. When I came in, he began: “There is one thing that I will not tolerate in this country, and that is giving speeches such as you gave last night in Constitution Hall.” I asked: “What was said, Mr. President, that offended you?” He read a line from the paper. I knew no such statement had been made. I then asked: “Mr. President, let me see the paper.” Recognizing that he was not quoting from the speeches at Constitution Hall, but from another meeting in Washington, he quickly rumpled up the paper and threw it into the wastebasket: “You must take my word when I say anything.” “I can take your word,” I assured him, “unless it is not true.”
President Roosevelt said: “You think you know a great deal about the Church’s attitude toward communism, don’t you? I want to tell you that I am in touch with a great authority who tells me the Church wants the Communists to win in Spain.” I said: “Mr. President, I am not the least bit impressed with your authority.” He said: “I did not tell you who it was.” I said: “You are referring to Cardinal Mundelein, and I know that Cardinal Mundelein never made the statement that you have attributed to him.”
He then changed the subject, and began attacking the Archbishop of Baltimore. He said: “Imagine, that man who is seated on the chair that was once occupied by a cousin of mine called the Ambassador from Spain to the United States a ‘liar.’ I will have no dealings with any man who cannot contain himself and uses words of this kind to destroy public servants.” And he went on: “Another thing, one of my bodyguards went over to St. Augustine’s Church last Sunday. He said that the priest asked parishioners to join a protest against Roosevelt, who is in favor of sending arms to the Communists in Spain.” The President then shouted: “That man is a liar.” Recognizing that he was using the word he had condemned in the mouth of Archbishop Curley, he laughingly said: “You know how it is, we men in public life become a little excited now and then.”
Seeing that we were getting nowhere, I said: “Mr. President, I came to see you about a position in Housing.” He said: “Oh, Eddie voted for everything I wanted in Congress. He wants to be in Housing, does he not?” “Yes.” So he wrote on a pad his name and said: “The moment you leave this office I will call Mrs. So-and-So [he mentioned the name of a woman who was in charge of Housing] and you call Eddie and tell him he has the job.”
When I left the White House I called Eddie and said: “Eddie, I saw the President. I am sorry, you do not get the job.” He said: “Is that what the President said after all I did for him?” I said: “No, he said you would have it.” My friend never received the job.
That story is from Sheen’s marvelous autobiography, Treasure in Clay, which you should purchase immediately if you don’t own it. As always, please buy through Amazon Smile so CCWatershed will get a portion of the proceeds. Thank you!
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 When I use that word, I am not speaking about the mealy-mouthed “progressive” Catholics who reject the holy doctrines of our Church yet never plainly admit it—and think themselves very clever. The less said about such people, the better.
2 According to Chicago Tribune, this 1941 film (whose official title is The Eternal Gift) played for two days at the Chicago Civic Opera House from 31 March 1941 through 1 April 1941. The entire video can be viewed on YouTube.