Book Reviews2 Vatican Secret Diplomacy: Joseph P. Hurley and Pope Pius XII

Book written by: Charles R. Gallagher, S.J.  New Haven: Yale


This book is the biography of Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley who was the Bishop of St. Augustine, Florida and the first American to become an ambassador for the Vatican.  Before he was appointed bishop of St. Augustine, Hurley worked in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See.  He first worked in India with the Apostolic Delegate, Edward Mooney, there and then moved with him to Japan to be the Apostolic Delegate there.  While in Japan, Mooney, was appointed bishop of Rochester, New York – leaving Hurley in charge of the Vatican embassy during the interim.  Hurley served so well that he was brought to Rome to serve in one of the sections of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State during the 1930s when Pius XI was Pope.  Hurley became a close friend and translator for Pius XI - they also held similar views about the Nazis and Fascists. 


Then in 1939 Pope Pius XI died and Pius XII was elected Pope.  Hurley did not agree with his diplomacy with the Nazis and Fascists.  He thought the Pope should speak out more and began secretly to work with the Americans and other allies to thwart the Nazis and Fascists. 


In 1940, Hurley’s superiors had him appointed bishop of St. Augustine, Florida.  Even as bishop of St. Augustine he worked with the Roosevelt government to supply propaganda.  He still felt Pius XII was doing too little for the Jews and that he should support the allies more than he did. 


When World War II ended Hurley became involved again in Vatican diplomacy by representing the Vatican in Yugoslavia.  Hurley proved to be a tough diplomat with Marshal Tito.  He sought American help in his endeavors, but was eventually disappointed by the American government’s response to the Communists in Yugoslavia.  The American government wanted to split the Yugoslavs from the Soviet Union’s influence or control.  Hurley wanted them to play hard ball.  He also wanted the Vatican to do this especially in regards to Cardinal Aloysius Stepianc, archbishop of Zagreb who was accused of helping Croatian Fascists and was imprisoned.  He was almost executed, but Hurley and others were able to prevail upon Tito to change the sentence to house arrest.  Hurley again became a problem for the Americans and the Vatican and he was sent back to his diocese of St. Augustine with an honorary title of “archbishop.”


Bishop Joseph Hurley was a very conservative and militant pro-democracy person.  He was so anti-communist that he was one of the few American bishops to attend Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s funeral. Hurley supported McCarthy’s pursuit of Communists as well as the idea that all Americans should support their country first and their religion second.  He lived this way and worked hard for his country.  He opposed Pius XII in diplomacy towards the Nazis and Fascists.  He thought the Pope was too silent and was out of contact with reality as to what the Nazis and Fascists were doing - especially to the Jews.  (This of course is his view and he might not have known exactly what Pius XII did in secret for the Jews and others.)


Pius XII’s diplomatic and other actions have been made public over time.  He tried as best as he could to relieve and save as many people as possible.  He feared that to forcibly speak out against the Holocaust and other crimes committed by the Nazis would only increase the death toll and the misery of those under their control as he knew had happened when the Dutch bishops spoke out.


Bishop Hurley was a patriotic American and a very conservative individual.  As a Vatican diplomat he was involved with the Fr. Charles Coughlin issue, the beginnings of World War II, and the beginnings of the Cold War.  As an American he helped with propaganda during World War II and was involved for a while with the Cold War.  He died October 30, 1967.


Fr. Charles Gallagher, S.J. has provided a very readable biography of Bishop Hurley and his diplomatic career.  He provides several photographs, endnotes, and an index.  His sources are the archives of Bishop Hurley and the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida.  He is the archivist for the Diocese of St. Augustine and cataloged Bishop Hurley’s archives.  He is the author of Cross and Crozier:  a history of Catholicism in the Diocese of St. Augustine (1999). 

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This new book is recommended to those interested in Catholic diplomacy during World War II and what some American Catholics did to counteract the Nazis. The book will also be of interest to those studying Pope Pius XII.

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