Before Joseph P. Hurley was appointed the Bishop of St. Augustine, Florida, he was also the first American to become a nuncio (or ambassador) for the Vatican. In his time in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See, he first worked in India with the Apostolic Delegate, Edward Mooney then moved with him to Japan to be the Apostolic Delegate there. While in Japan, Mooney was appointed bishop of Rochester, New York, and Hurley ended up in charge of the Vatican embassy during the interim. He served so well during that period that he was brought to Rome to serve in one of the sections of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. This was during the 1930s, in the era of Pope Pius XI, Hurley became a close friend and translator for the pope; 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 Pope Pius XII’s diplomacy with the Nazis and Fascists. He thought the pope should speak out more than he did. Hurley became disillusioned with the pope and began to secretly work with Americans and other allies to thwart the Nazis and Fascists. Hurley’s superiors had him appointed bishop of St. Augustine, Florida, in 1940, but even then he worked with the Roosevelt government to supply propaganda for them and to them. He still felt Pius XII was doing too little for the Jews and believed that he should support the allies more vigorously.
When World War II ended, Hurley became involved again in Church diplomacy by representing the Vatican in Yugoslavia, and he 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 U.S. government wanted to split the Yugoslavs from the Soviet Union’s influence or control. Hurley wanted them to play hardball; he wanted the same from the Vatican, especially in regards to Cardinal Aloysius Stepianc, archbishop of Zagreb, who was accused of helping Croatian Fascists and was imprisoned for it. He was almost executed, but Hurley and others prevailed upon Tito to change the sentence to house arrest. Once more a problem for the Americans and the Vatican, he was sent back to his old diocese of St. Augustine with an honorary title of “archbishop.”
Bishop Joseph Hurley was a very conservative, militantly pro-democracy person, 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 and the idea that all Americans should support their country first and their religion second. He lived by that rule and worked hard for his country, opposing Pius XII in diplomacy toward the Nazis and Fascists, believing that the pope was too silent and out of contact with reality as to what the Nazis and Fascists were doing, especially to the Jews. 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, how he tried his best to relieve and save as many people as he could. He feared that speaking out forcibly against the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes would only increase the death toll and the misery of those under their control, as happened when the Dutch bishops spoke out.
In this very readable biography of Bishop Hurley’s diplomatic career, Fr. Charles Gallagher provides several photographs, endnotes, and an index. His sources are the archives of Bishop Hurley and the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida; the author is the archivist for the Diocese of St. Augustine and cataloged Bishop Hurley’s archives. He is also the author of Cross and Crozier: A History of Catholicism in the Diocese of St. Augustine (1999). This book is recommended to those interested in Catholic diplomacy during World War II, what some American Catholics did to counteract the Nazis, and Pope Pius XII (on whom it does reflect negatively).