Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Bernard Law: Vocation And Seminary

The source and circumstances of Bernard Law's vocation to the priesthood are puzzling. The Gueguen history portrays Law as a central member of the group beginning The Work in Boston, but just as the group is ready to move into Trimount House, Law graduates and leaves for seminary via the Roman Catholic Diocese of Natchez-Jackson, MS. He first studied philosophy at Saint Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana, which is a seminary associated with the province of Mobile, AL, of which the Jackson diocese is a part, from 1953 to 1955. This is an undergraduate seminary that offers a two-year pre-theology program for students who have already attained a college degree, which appears to be Law's circumstance as of 1953.

A seminarian is normally sponsored by a home parish, and a diocese normally requires that he be well known to clergy and others in the diocese. This requirement can be waived in special circumstances, including for children of military families, and this was probably the case for Law. But exactly why he went in via the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson still isn't completely clear. Bernard Aloysius Law retired from the Air Force in 1950, and he is recorded as passing away in Jackson, MS in 1955. Whether Law's parents relocated to Jackson to be near him (though he would have been in seminary in Louisiana most of the time), or whether he went to Jackson to be near his parents isn't clear.

In addition, neither parent was very Catholic. His mother was a Presbyterian married to a Catholic who apparently never regularized the circumstances of his second marriage, so neither would have been eligible to receive communion in a Catholic parish. Law variously claimed in later life that his mother became Catholic while Law was at Harvard, or in 1955 after her husband's death, but my informant says this didn't happen until Law was in Boston. This means Law himself would probably have needed to join a Mississippi parish on his own, though it's likely he hadn't been confirmed in his youth. This would be another problem that would have had to be addressed before he went to seminary; it's possible he did this at Harvard. That he would apparently be an enthusiastic recruit to Opus Dei and then drop his involvement is just another incongruity.

In the authorized biography and in newspaper interviews, he attributes his vocation to Fr Lawrence Riley, who was chaplain of the Harvard Catholic Club during 1951-52, but elsewhere he says he didn't decide on his vocation until the spring of 1953. (It's worth noting that even in 1953, a Harvard undergraduate degree in medieval history, the major he consistently gives, would have equipped him only to be a dilettante.) It does appear that he was required to go back to square one in his formation and complete two years of pre-theology at a Catholic undergraduate seminary. Whatever credentials he had, they got him into pre-seminary, but he was by no means on a fast track.

The authorized biography says Fr Riley "encouraged him to give his talents to a part of the Church that was more in need of priests" (p xx), which presumably was the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson, though another explanation could simply be that Riley thought his chances of being accepted in a diocese where demand was high would be better. Riley might well have made a recommendation to the vocation director there, just to smooth a process that might well have needed smoothing.

In light of the public image Law later fostered for himself of civil rights crusader, it seems unlikely that he went to Jackson, MS with any intent to further social justice, whatever his later activities may have been. Key early developments in US civil rights history came after Law's arrival in Mississippi, and the earliest ones focused elsewhere, too.

  • May 17, 1954, US Supreme Court rules in Brown v Board of Education that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional
  • December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks initiates a bus boycott, refusing to observe segregation laws
  • September 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus precipitates the Little Rock Crisis, in which President Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard to integrate Little Rock public schools.
Once he completed the two-year pre-theology program at St Joseph, we went on to the Pontifical College Josephinium in Worthington, OH. My informant has always been curious about what happened there. Wikipedia lists his dates of attendance as 1955 to 1961, a remarkable six years. He told me that Law told him he'd asked to take more time because he didn't feel comfortable with the formation he'd had. I replied that as far as I knew, seminarians didn't ask to take more time, they were told they needed more time, and my informant agreed.

This is just yet one more mystery associated with the guy. Neither the official bio nor press interviews that I've run across covers the extra time in seminary.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Bernard Law's Harvard Days -- IV

I kept reflecting on what happened to the Harvard Catholic Club in the early 1950s after yesterday's post. I'm old enough to remember warnings that were common at that time from figures like J Edgar Hoover that Stalinist groups could take over moribund community organizations and remake them as organs to promote their own agenda, and it's hard to avoid thinking something like that happened at Harvard.

By the time of the Gueguen history, the early 1950s, the Catholic Club was occupied mostly in recruiting for The Work, and it's plain that the only recruits were male, with the goal of moving them into the new Opus Dei center, Trimount House. We must assume the culture there would have been consistent with other Opus Dei centers, with strict segregation of the sexes (if women were there at all other than as housekeepers) and a misogynistic atmosphere.

Presumably this phase ended, and the Harvard Catholic Club is now called the Harvard Catholic Center, "to better represent the entire University Catholic community".

This does raise the question of what the appeal of Catholicism actually was for Bernard Law as an undergraduate. The authorized biography, Boston's Cardinal: Bernard Law, the Man and His Witness, mentions a letter home in his freshman year that "remarked of a freshman smoker that included 'night club' acts: 'It really was incongruous to have this disgustingly base entertainment in a building that once served as a Church.'" (p xviii)

Yet we've already seen that he was in Adams House, where the Harvard Crimson said in 1949, the same year as Law's complaint, that residents

wear their share of dirty white shoes and striped ties, and drink brandy or sherry freely. The house’s dignified yet comfortable atmosphere is well-suited to impress a date.
Other histories of Adams House note that multiple entries allowed residents to avoid curfew or parietal hours, a positive feature, and to wear a bathing suit in the house swimming pool was "not done". Other activities included campy formal readings of Winnie the Pooh. Er, if any of this bothered Law at the time, couldn't he have moved out? Instead, he was there all four years.

My informant has provided what I think is a very credible suggestion on who the "angel" was who helped Law get into Harvard -- again, I'm skeptical that he could have made it in purely as a walk-on. A very good candidate for helping Law would be William Henry Hastie:

In the early 1930s William H. Hastie worked first as a race relations advisor to the Roosevelt administration, and then in 1933 became assistant solicitor of the Department of the Interior.

In 1937 Hastie became the first African-American federal judge when President Roosevelt appointed him to the bench of the Federal District Court in the Virgin Islands.

. . . Between 1946 and 1949 Hastie returned to the Virgin Islands, this time as its first African-American governor. Then in 1949 he was appointed to the Third United States Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest judicial position attained by an African American to that time.

Hastie, a Harvard Law School graduate, would have been a member of the Democrat Establishment. As governor of the Virgin Islands, he had apparently already appointed Law's father to be head of the islands' development authority, so he had a history of doing favors for the family.

It's also possible that Bernard Aloysius Law by this time was double- or even triple-dipping, collecting a likely generous salary as head of the development authority, continuing to receive Air Force pay or a pension after 1950, and potentially receiving pay for intelligence work beyond that. This in fact could have sustained young Bernard Francis at Adams House.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Bernard Law's Harvard Days -- III: Was He Opus Dei?

From the outline of the Fr Feeney case in the last post, it's hard to avoid thinking that the Archdiocese of Boston, having done all it could, including excommunicating students at the St Benedict Center, to kill enthusiasm among Catholic students at Harvard, then went looking for a way to rekindle Catholic enthusiasm at Harvard. Cardinal Cushing then settled on Opus Dei, a new arrival in the US. It had established a first foothold in Chicago, but it began a second effort in Boston. Its main focus was on the Harvard Catholic Club, which had been in existence under different names since the 1890s, but which had apparently faded as interest in the St Benedict Center grew.

As we saw in yesterday's post, Fr Joseph Muzquiz, an Opus Dei priest assigned to create a US presence for the movement in the early 1950s, met in 1951 with Fr Lawrence Riley, Cardinal Cushing's secretary and briefly the chaplain of the Harvard Catholic Club, about establishing an Opus Dei presence at Harvard. Cushing approved the idea, and the Opus Dei organization grew at Harvard via the Catholic Club in the period between 1951 and 1953.

My own view of Opus Dei continues to be a version of "by their fruits": the movement became active and increasingly influential in the Vatican, as well as in the US, from the late 1940s onward. That period can hardly have been more disastrous for the practice of Christian morality, whatever the influence Opus Dei has been able to exert in the Church or the world. This discussion refers to Opus Dei's influence in Spain, where the movement started, and where it has continued to wield political and economic influence:

Things did not go well [in the 1950s] for the network of interests and enterprises woven around the "Work", as they internally called the institution. Mostly led by people without experience, the group ventures into the realms of finance, publishing, and international trade, ended in internal and external conflicts, spectacular failures, and a reputation for immorality and arbitrariness that have subsequently characterized the business ventures of men whose mentors proclaimed the idea of sanctification of work.
I've repeatedly characterized Msgr William Stetson, an Opus Dei priest and highly influential figure in The Work in the US, in this blog as a "bungler", and the more I learn, the more I'm inclined to say that he's not an exception. Still, I recognize that there are devout and sincere people in the movement.

Interestingly, although Opus Dei prefers to keep a low profile and discourages members from identifying themselves as such, there are two major histories of Opus Dei activities in Boston and at Harvard that cover the time Bernard Law and William Stetson were there. One is linked above, by Frederico M Requena and focuses more on the later 1950s, although it's valuable in covering the early meetings with Cushing and Riley. The other has frequently been referenced here, by John Arthur Gueguen, Jr, himself apparently an Opus Dei numerary. I quoted extensively from it here on September 8. The relevant part is worth repeating:

Searching online, I discovered a document The Early Days of Opus Dei in Boston As Recalled by the First Generation (1946-1956), by John Arthur Gueguen, Jr. This was compiled primarily from the memories of the principals, including Msgr Stetson. On page 73, we find in a footnote,
Stetson and Law had met at the Harvard Catholic Club in fall 1950, shortly after Stetson entered Harvard College. Law introduced Stetson to other Catholic students, including Carl Schmitt, then a senior.
On p 74, in a footnote:
Law, Stetson, Bucciarelli and others met frequently at the early Mass at St. Paul’s, the parish that served Harvard students. Several of them sang in the choir.
In a footnote on p 85:
In his senior year, Law served as the [Catholic] Club’s vice-president and sang in St. Paul’s student choir with Stetson.
On pp 102-103:
Like Bucciarelli, Bill Stetson had been introduced to the Work by Bernard Law during the 1952-53 school year, when he was a junior.
Clearly by this account, Law had become a big wheel in the Catholic Club and is portrayed as being the center of the group that was attracted to Opus Dei via the club. In fact, one might reasonably conclude that the Harvard Catholic Club, moribund following the St Benedict Center fiasco, had been taken over by Opus Dei and was from this period effectively functioning as an Opus Dei front. And Law was at its center.

However, although the Trimount House Opus Dei residence was complete by the summer of 1953, Law graduated from Harvard in June of that year and moved on to seminary, so his direct involvement ends there. However, this site lists Law, at the time Archpriest of St Mary Major in Rome, among "Cardinals who promote or are linked to Opus Dei, not necessarily members".

My informant, who was acquainted with Law during his time as Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, said that William Stetson during this period had some type of traveling assignment with Opus Dei, which would have preceded his time as vicar in Chicago, and he met frequently with Law on his various itineraries. He also reported that Law had "a bookshelf about ten feet long with books on Opus Dei" in his personal library at the time -- but that could be attributed simply to Law's general interest in new developments in the Church.

There can be little question that Law was very familiar with Opus Dei, he was generally sympathetic to it, and he found it very useful at various times in advancing his own career. However, Opus Dei by itself is not a sole explanation for Law's advancement, and his agenda was not driven exclusively by Opus Dei.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Bernard Law's Harvard Days -- II

Law's arrival at Harvard in the fall of 1949 coincided with the denouement of the Father Feeney Case, otherwise known as the Boston Heresy Case. Feeney proclaimed the established Catholic doctrine Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, which in Boston was viewed as heterodox, outmoded, and inconvenient and led to his ultimate excommunication.
In the fall of 1941, [Jesuit] Father Feeney, then an instructor at the Weston seminary, became involved with Saint Benedict Center, a Catholic library apostolate serving the Catholic students at Harvard, Radcliffe, and other institutions of higher learning in the Cambridge area. . . . During his years at the Center Feeney is known to have received more than 200 young people. . . into the Catholic Church,

. . . . Tension between Saint Benedict Center, the elite universities in the Cambridge area, and the hierarchy began mounting in the early postwar years. The Center increasingly became repulsed by the complacency Jesuits studying at Harvard when the Catholic faith was ridiculed. Per [Center foundress Catherine] Clarke:

Our students often saw the priests sit, apparently unmoved, in the classes of atheists and Marxist sympathizers. The priests listened while these professors frequently denied Christ, questioned His claims, belittled Him, or cast reflections on devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Through it all, the priests remained, if not smiling and serene, at least without the open protest and complaint, the kind that any true priest is required to give under circumstances like these.
Father Feeney forbade these hypocritical Jesuits from attending Saint Benedict Center in 1947. In addition to converts, many Harvard and Radcliffe students attending Saint Benedict Center began to see a conflict between their studies and their faith. Some even resigned, penning letters to administrators explaining their reasons for doing so. While Feeney never pushed students to take so drastic a sacrifice, he celebrated those who took the brave step.
Prompted by influential figures at Boston College and Harvard, sanctions were gradually placed against Fr Feeney and the Saint Benedict Center, and in October 1949, Fr Feeney was expelled from the Jesuits for "serious and permanent disobedience". He was excommunicated by the Holy Office (predecessor of the CDF) for "heresy" in 1953. However, the excommunication was lifted in 1972 with no recantation required from Feeney. The Feeney case has since been characterized as "the first of several times the archbishops of Boston would compromise the Catholic faith for the sake of good politics and cordial relations with the secular powers that be".

I don't think there was actually much difference between an elite-school education in the 1940s and the one I had 20 years later. Standard reading required of freshmen and sophomores would have included Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa, which has since been accused of academic fraud, and B F Skinner's Walden Two. Darwinian theory was routinely taught, and it was generally implied in all empirical science courses that scientific materialism was the only intellectually respectable world view. Harvard PhD, and later professor, B F Skinner's views dominated psychology. Philosophy courses focused on Sartre, Wittgenstein, and William James, with Aquinas as a discredited footnote.

I simply don't know how Law, whose roommate, as we've already seen, suggested he was something of a squish over Catholicism, would have responded to Fr Feeney. However, Cardinal Cushing, not a Feeney supporter, had already begun to address the issue of hard-line Catholicism at Harvard. According to this account,

With the beginning of the 1950-51 school year, Archbishop Cushing adopted a provisional solution [to the Feeney problem]: as chaplain of the Catholic Club he named his own secretary, Fr. Lawrence J. Riley, who was also on the faculty of St. John’s Seminary.

Fr. Riley continued as chaplain through the 1951 school year. In a report on his first year in that position, he informed the Archbishop about the status of the programs at the Club, which involved between 30 and 40 people. Fr Riley added, in an unenthusiastic tone, "For neither activity was there much support from the members of the Club."

The article later cites Fr Joseph Muzquiz, an early Opus Dei priest assigned to create a US presence for the movement in the early 1950s, who met in 1951 with Fr Riley about the situation at
Harvard, the most prestigious university in America, where the only Catholic group was unfortunately the St Benedict Center, which continued to oppose the hierarchy of the Church, and the Archbishop had excommunicated those who continued to attend their activites.
Actually, the Harvard Catholic Club had been a prestigious institution since the late 19th century, but it appears that interest had faded with the establishment of the Saint Benedict Center, which seems to have had much greater appeal for serious Catholic students in the area. Fr Riley's own efforts to rekindle Catholic participation in the Catholic Club seem to have met with only a lukewarm response, and according to the article linked here, Fr Riley was chaplain of the Catholic Club only in the 1951-52 school year, while elsewhere, Law says he made his final decision about a vocation in the spring of 1953.

Nevertheless, my informant tells me that Law cited Fr Riley as a key influence in discerning his vocation, and this article that appeared in the Boston College campus paper at the time of Law's arrival in Boston as archbishop says Law

stated publicly that he owed his vocation to the priesthood to the Most Reverend Lawrence J. Riley, who is an auxilary bishop in the Boston Archdiocese. Bishop Riley is a graduate of the Boston College Class of 1936 and was the chaplain of the Harvard Catholic Club when Bernard Law was a Harvard undergraduate.
The odd thing is that Riley appears to have been a much less inspiring figure than poor Fr Feeney, but there must have been something about him that inspired the young Bernard Law. In light of later characterizations of Law as a conservative or hard-liner, this seems incongruous -- as does the account we've already seen of Law's Baptist Adams House roommate, who said Law never attempted to proselytize.

Another question is how, or even whether, he was catechized and confirmed, either in his early teens or at the Harvard Catholic Club. The picture that's emerged is that the family wasn't observant, and he doesn't seem to have had religious instruction in childhood. Why the Catholic Club all of a sudden? Did he even know what Catholic is?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Bernard Law's Harvard Days -- I

Let's back up and look at something I didn't understand at all when I was an undergraduate at an elite school (not Harvard) in the 1960s. By then, all the Ivies had nominally become academically selective, although many studies from that time forward, like Ferdinand Lundberg's The Rich and the Super-Rich, made, and make, the point that in the Ivies and similar schools, one can fly coach, or one can fly first class. Those flying coach have the impression that everyone is subject to academic competition, and admission is primarily determined by grades, extracurriculars, and SAT scores.

The coach passengers, like me, were and are flattered by the idea that we've been through a rigorous and merit-based selection process, and we're the ones who've come out on top, unlike the poor slobs who wound up at the safety schools. Run down to the bookstore and get the decals for your parents' car windows and shell out for the licensed merchandise! What we weren't told, and what many still don't understand, is that the Ivies are only partly merit-based, and a percentage of entering classes is still reserved for legacies and other major-donor offspring. The exact size of this percentage, those flying first class, is a closely guarded secret. However, this is simply an extension of policies that have always been in place in the Ivy League.

I was a pretty dense kid back then. I'd wonder, "Gee, Clotty Shipworth has the same name as Shipworth Hall! What a weird coincidence," and I'd think no more of it. Or I'd notice that there was a certain stuffy air of English boarding-school culture, various styles of hazing and certain aspects of preppiness that I'd never seen as a public-school kid, and I'd just chalk it up to -- well, I don't know what I just chalked it up to. What I didn't understand was that the Establishment had found it convenient in the late 1940s to seem merit-based and egalitarian and tone down traditional Ivy exclusivity.

Various social historians from Lundberg onward, as well as communications to Ivy alumni from the 1940s time period, make the point, however, that there's still a first-class cabin, and in effect, it's just a continuation of the old Ivy culture that dates from before 1776. But if you think about it, it was in the Establishment's interest to change the visuals -- if someone now says he went to Princeton, everyone gets to assume he scored really well on tests and got good grades. But Princeton didn't even admit blacks until just before World War II, and the Jewish roommates Law mentions at Harvard in a Boston Globe interview were there under a quota that, according to Alan Dershowitz, has never been lifted, just remarketed as a "diversity" program.

Harvard in the late 1940s, when Bernard Law was considering applying, was only in the process of making that minimal transition. Even now, commentators of the Lundberg school make the point that where one attended prep school is a much more accurate social indicator than where one went to college. If I went to St Paul's and Yale, it says far more about me socially than if I simply went to Yale. Anyone can go to Yale, they just need good SATs and stuff. Not everyone can go to St Paul's.

The egalitarian pose that downplayed this attitude had only partly begun to take hold in the late 1940s, and in fact, the pseudo-aristocratic ideal has never completely disappeared. My parents, anxious to get me into an Ivy in the 1960s, were still careful to ply family connections and get me a recommendation from an authentic Establishment alumnus. It worked. Would I have gotten in without it? Who knows? I think this represents something of the dilemma the Law family must have faced in considering Harvard in the late 1940s.

My informant thinks it might be worth trying to find out if any Catholic parish schools on the upper West Side of Manhattan had any record of the cardinal's time there. I tend to doubt it. What we do know is that his parents sent him to the largely black public school in St Thomas when they lived there. (A Catholic high school, founded in 1946, was in fact available in St Thomas.) His parents weren't very Catholic; neither would have been eligible to receive communion if they ever went to mass. I strongly suspect he was sent to New York public schools as well. A fuzzy memory of his whole childhood would have suited the cardinal in his later years and forestalled any inquiry into whether he'd been to Catholic school at all.

But this adds to the dilemma: Harvard even now apparently reserves a substantial quota in entering classes for applicants from prestigious prep schools. In the late 1940s, this would have been even more the case. That he would come from a working-class and military background via a largely black high school in the Virgin Islands might make him an intriguing curiosity case, but not much more. I suspect his chances at Dartmouth, an Ivy with a more established preference for outliers, would have been better, but this isn't among the schools he said he applied for in the official bio. And Dartmouth at the time would have been just as interested in a pedigree.

Beyond that, it's hard to determine the Law family's true financial circumstances. My informant has discovered that Bernard A. Law authored a 1940 book, Fighting Planes of the World, that may have been an attempt to shore up family finances. In any case, it doesn't appear that the Law family, whether Law's later story about Wedgewood china is true, was inclined to send Bernard to any sort of private school before Harvard.

We don't know if he attended Harvard under any sort of scholarship. However, the evidence we have is that he lived the whole four years at Adams House, the socially prestigious residence with its own swimming pool that calls itself the "gold coast". Surely there would have been less expensive places to live in Cambridge. Beyond that, travel expenses from Jackson, MS or the Virgin Islands, where his parents lived while he was at Harvard, would have been significant in themselves.

It's hard to avoid thinking that someone put in a good word for Law with the Harvard admissions office, and somehow his above-average lifestyle there was accommodated. It's hard to avoid thinking that, struggling even to fly coach, he somehow got a first-class upgrade. As yesterday's visitor put it, "It almost begs the question with Law? Who 'made' him & why?"

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Meaning Of A Spanish Word And Yet More On The Law Family

I was going to move on to Law's time at Harvard today, but I found quite a bit more on Ancestry.com regarding Bernard Law's father, Bernard Aloysius Law, and the family background, so Harvard will be deferred. Sometimes on Ancestry.com, which I'd already checked several times, you have to know exactly what questions to ask, and this is what happened here.

My informant also pointed out that in the Mexican newspaper story I quoted yesterday, the full sense does not come out in the Google translation of "The birth of Law in Torreón was circumstantial". He says,

Usual translation of circunstancial is unplanned, accidental, unintentional. Google is good in Spanish but misses nuances at times. Wonder how the reporter found that out? . . . I'm sure the polo club was not impressed.
Another visitor noted,
Interesting that Law was born 5 months after his parents were wed. Must have been quite a scandal. I don't think many 5-month-old preemies survived in '31. Is there a church of record for Law's parents' marriage? . . . Why so many discrepancies? We wonder in politics who is sponsoring a candidate or an issue. It almost begs the question with Law? Who 'made' him & why?
Indeed. Well, the discrepancies, and the questions, just keep on coming! Via Ancestry.com, I learned that Bernard Aloysius's father, Bernard Francis's paternal grandfather, was John P Law (1848-1914), himself the son of Irish immigrants, which by the way contradicts the statement in the official biography that Law was of Scots descent (the Stubblefields were Washington State pioneer stock).

John P Law was a conductor on the Lackawanna Railroad throughout his career. It would have been steady work at the peak of the rail industry, but with dangerous conditions and long hours, and it would not have created a family fortune. John P had many children from two wives (the first one passed away; Bernard Aloysius was from the second). By the time of John P's death, the family had gravitated to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. At that time, Bernard Aloysius, in his early twenties, was working as a store clerk. He had completed four years of high school, but had no college.

On April 24, 1914, he enlisted in the New York State National Guard as an enlisted man. By 1916, he was serving with General Pershing in the Mexican punitive expedition on the border. This lasted from ‎March 14, 1916 to February 7, 1917. President Wilson ordered a full division of the New York Guard for service in this campaign. As the link indicates, because the end of the expedition coincided with the start of US involvement in World War I, little attention has been paid to it, but my informant, something of an intelligence buff, tells me that many details remain classified, apparently because the expedition itself nearly led to war with Mexico, and the circumstances remain extremely sensitive.

Bernard Aloysius Law was honorably discharged from the New York Guard on March 2, 1917 to begin flight training in the Air Corps as a commissioned officer in Coronado, CA. On April 6, 1917, the US declared war on Germany, and Bernard Aloysius went to France and served as a pilot. He was discharged with the rank of captain on March 21, 1919. However, Cardinal Law refers to his father as being "in and out of the Air [Corps]" over the subsequent decades, the Mexican newspaper story refers to him as a major in the 1930s, and via Ancestry.com records, he retired in 1950 as a colonel. We have only sketchy information on what he was doing during that time.

We must conclude that Bernard Aloysius made very, very good contacts while in service with the Mexican punitive expedition who were able to further his subsequent career. Beyond that, we know very little, except that he appears to have been doing work that may have been connected with political developments in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s.

By sometime in 1919, though, Bernard Aloysius found himself in Houston, TX, where he married a Louise Elizabeth Lindsey (1898-1982). Louise had already had one previous marriage, and had a daughter from that marriage. The ex-husband was still living. Divorce at that time was still a major scandal. We don't know how long the marrriage to Louise Lindsey lasted, but it had presumably ended in divorce before Bernard Aloysius's second marriage to Helen Stubblefield.

Naturally, assuming Bernard Aloysius Law was Catholic (his father was buried in a Catholic cemetery, so this is probably the case), we're beginning to see a complex canonical situation, to which we don't have all the necessary information. If the marriage to Louise Lindsey was civil, in addition to her divorce, the Church's position would presumably be that this marriage was simply a cohabitation, although Bernard Aloysius would not be eligible for communion as long as it lasted.

Since he apparently later divorced Louise Lindsey, he would be eligible to marry Helen Stubblefield, although since she was not Catholic, we must presume the rushed El Paso wedding was also civil. Had Bernard Aloysius wished to marry Helen in a Presbyterian (or other Protestant) ceremony, he would have been required to get the local bishop's approval. Considering the circumstances, he probably didn't.

What we do know is that Bernard Aloysius passed away in 1955. Public statements from Cardinal Law variously indicate that Helen converted to Catholicism "while I was at Harvard" (which would have been before 1953) or "in 1955", which strongly suggests that she and her son were aware of the canonical situation, and she could not have become Catholic until after the death of her husband. However, my informant says that Helen did not in fact convert until Cardinal Law was in Boston, another of many discrepancies in the record.

The final piece in today's puzzle is the family's residence in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Bernard Aloysius's 1942 draft card, available through Ancestry.com, gives his address as 601 West 110th St (also known as Cathedral Parkway) in Manhattan. Information in the 1940 census indicates the family had lived there at least since 1935. This corresponds with the Mexican newspaper story that the Law family left Torreón for New York at some point in the 1930s. However, it appears that the family lived at that address for at least seven years, which contradicts Law's frequent public statements that the family moved often, and he had little memory of where they lived.

601 West 110th St in Manhattan appears to be the same building it was in the 1930s, an upscale apartment-condo, part of which is now used as a student residence for Barnard College. It's in the neighborhood of Columbia University and the Episcopalian cathedral. Bernard Aloysius Law's occupation in the 1940 census is given as "aviator". As "class of worker", he gave "working on own account" (which today might correspond to "contractor"). He worked 60 hours per week, 52 weeks in the past year. His income is listed as "0". Under "income other source" is listed as "yes".

Where was the future cardinal in school during this time, which would have been between ages 5 and 12? Did he have any relation at all to the Catholic Church? We don't know. Was he in fact eating exclusively from Wedgewood china? What is the real timeline of his family's places of residence? We don't know. In fact, we know very little, and probably as we learn more, we know less and less, except that Law's public statements about himself, and his official bio, seem less and less reliable.

I'll try again to get to the Harvard puzzles tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

More On Cardinal Law's Family And Early Life

My informant has located a number of additional sources on Law's parents and his childhood, including accounts by Law himself in later interviews. Law's versions, as well as the version in the official biography, are often in conflict and also at variance with the known public record.

My informant did, thanks to his very good Spanish, locate a version in a Torreón newspaper that was published at the time the film Spotlight was released. My own Spanish is at best halting LA Spanglish, so I am going to rely on Google Translate without emendation for the quote below. Those more adept can follow the link for the original.

The birth of Law in Torreón was circumstantial and is linked to the extinct Transport Aeronautics Corporation (CAT) SA that since the late 20s offered the service of passenger transport and mail between several cities in the United States and Mexico, including Torreón. It was a novel service for a young city that was recovering from the ravages of the Revolution and began, not without difficulties, to regain its economic vigor. Bernard Francis' father was Bernard A. Law, an officer of the United States Air Force who was assigned as CAT Transit superintendent in Torreón in those years.

According to the registry of Genealogies of Mexico (www.genealogia.org.mx) the greater Law was born in Kingston, Penssylvania, in 1891, approximately. In the Hemerographic archive of El Siglo de Torreón (h.elsiglodetorreon.com.mx) there are several references to the life of the father of the cardinal and archbishop. One of them indicates that he participated in the Great War, known today as the First World War. Upon his return to the United States, in 1918, he joined the Air Club of America. By 1929 he was already in Torreón working for the CAT.

Bernard Francis's mother was Helen Stubblefield, originally from Walla Walla, Washington State and born in 1912. Social reviews published by this newspaper in the early 1930s mention her as an excellent piano performer. Helen and Bernard met during a trip that she made at the end of the 20s to Torreón to visit the family of her uncle who lived here. The American colony in La Laguna was one of the most important at that time.

Despite the religious and age differences, the couple formalized their relationship. According to the biographical book "Boston's Cardinal: Bernard Law, the Man and His Witness," Helen came from a Presbyterian family and Bernard from one of Catholics. She was 20 years old and he was 40 when they got married on June 3, 1931 in El Paso, Texas. Only five months later, Bernard Francis would be born in Torreón, who in the end would end up professing his father's religion. According to the referred text, the couple was united by the "love of music and literature".

Although not professionally, now Mrs. Law continued playing the piano. Account of it gives a review of the 5 of November of 1932 published by the Century of Torreón in which it is related that, in spite of being "a little indisposed", the Mrs. of Law could show "the irreproachable technique, the purity and precision of his execution and his great artistic temperament ". The recital was held on the night of 4 in the late Teatro Princesa with the aim of raising funds to help children with limited resources in the city. That day Bernard Francis was one year old. From his mother he inherited a taste for the piano that he learned to play alone.

The Law family had an active social life in the first half of the decade of the 30s. In the newspaper library they are mentioned in personalities receptions, pleasure trips, altruistic activities and participation and organization of sports jousts, such as the meeting of polo that was carried out in 1933. According to a mention in a social column that refers to the convalescence of Mrs. Law in November 1934, the family lived in the house marked with the number 5 on the Avenida Hidalgo west, where there is now a self-service store.

The reference to polo is tantalizing and would fit a version of Law's early life that included eating from Wedgewood china, as well as Adams House at Harvard, but beyond that, we know nothing. In a 1984 Boston Globe interview, Law himself in part gave this version:
During most of Bishop Law's childhood, his father was in and out of the Air Force, barnstorming in airplanes and running small airlines or airports, he recalled yesterday in a telephone interview. There was so much travel during those days that "it is really too hard to recall," he said. "There was a lot of moving, but they were very happy years. My mother and father and I were a very close-knit family."

His father was Catholic and his mother Presbyterian, but she converted to Catholicism while her son was at Harvard. "It was not a particularly church-going family," he noted.

My informant, in fact, says that Law would mention that he was "raised Methodist". This may have been a minor fault of memory on my informant's part, or it may have been just a different story from Law himself. One would guess, on one hand, that his mother would have had more influence on his early religious formation, such as it may have been.

But the reference to travel suggests the family was never tied to any parish of any denomination, and i would suggest that, whether Law was baptized Catholic, he at least makes no mention of first communion or confirmation in the Church. My informant's suspicion that Law was not a cradle Catholic seems well-founded.

Farther down in the 1984 interview, we see:

In his freshman year in Cambridge, Law roomed with Robert Wayne Oliver, a Southern Baptist, and two Jewish students.

Now an attorney who works as an adviser to Oregon's Gov. Victor Atiyeh, Oliver said that although he and Law became close friends and roomed together [which must have been in Adams House] for four years, "He did not try to proselytize me. . . At the same time, he gave me a very good understanding and appreciation of the nature of his church and manner in which he practiced his faith.

"He had a great sense of humor. He was firm in his faith, but in no way was he a zealot. He respected other people's divergent views. He was not provocative. Nor did he make anyone feel he was a lost sinner."

But this still raises the question of where Law received any real faith formation, even if, by the time he got to Adams House, he was representing himself as Catholic, if not a very fervent one.

Tomorrow I'll take a closer look at Harvard and Law's vocation to the priesthood. Nevertheless, I'd be interested to hear from anyone familiar with how Catholic vocation directors work what the reaction of a real vocation director would be to this background.