James Cardinal McIntyre and the Conclave of 1963




James Cardinal McIntyre was very unhappy with Vatican II and spoke about it, one of the few Cardinals who did.  However, McIntyre was a man who never minded swimming against the stream.  Born on June 25, 1886 in New York City,  his father a member of the mounted police and his mother an immigrant from Ireland.  His father was rendered an invalid after a fall from a horse in Central Park, and his mother supported the family as a dressmaker.  When she died in 1896 his father and James went to live with a relative.  To support himself and his father, James became a runner on the New York Stock Exchange.  He was offered a junior partnership in 1914, but declined to pursue his dream of becoming a priest.  He was ordained in 1921 and served as associate pastor at Saint Gabriel’s on the lower East Side until he was made Assistant Chancellor of the Archdiocese of New York in 1923, rising to Chancellor in 1934.  In 1939 he formed the Columbiettes, the woman’s auxilary of the Knights of Columbus.  In 1940 he was named Coadjutor Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York.  In 1946 he was named Coadjutor Archbishop of New York, and in 1948 second Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Ever a fighter, McIntyre led the successful campaign to overturn a California state law which taxed Catholic schools.  He was made a Cardinal in 1953 by Pius XII.  Under his leadership the Archdiocese went through a period of immense growth, McIntyre showing exceptional foresight in purchasing land cheap as the sites of future churches and schools.  Endlessly hardworking, he made sure the Archdiocese ran efficiently and effectively.

McIntyre was Orthdox in his religion and hard right in his politics, which put him at odds with most other of the high clergy in the Church of his day.  He sent his priests to classes conducted by the John Birch Society about the threat of Communist infiltration.  He railed against moral laxity in the film industry, normally a sacred cow in California.

He never let politics stand in the way of friendships.  He was a friend of Dorothy Day although their political views were light years apart.  Go here to read what Day wrote about the Archbishop.

Vatican II met with his disfavor.  In a speech to the Council Fathers on October 23, 1962 he uttered words which proved prophetic in regard to proposed changes in the liturgy:  “The schema on the Liturgy proposes confusion and complication. If it is adopted, it would be an immediate scandal for our people. The continuity of the Mass must be kept.”

He voted in the Conclave of 1963.  He was no happier with Vatican II after the Conclave than before.  When the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters went crazy following Vatican II, a process described in excruciating detail here, McIntyre told them that they had to follow Vatican II guidelines for religious.  They refused to do so, the Vatican backed McIntyre up, and almost all of the IHM sisters left the Church.  Until he retired in 1970 McIntyre continually butted heads with radical priests and nuns.  He was totally opposed to the zeitgeist of the time, and clearly could not have cared less.  After his retirement he served as parish priest at Saint Basil’s in Los Angeles, and would say the Tridentine Mass on the side altars.  He died at 93 in 1979.

The Conclave of 1963 opened on June 21 and lasted until June 24.  Six ballots were taken.  The two main candidates were Cardinal Siri of Genoa, who was known to be displeased with much that had gone on at Vatican II and Cardinal Montini of Milan who was supportive of Vatican II.  By the fourth ballot it was clear that Montini would likely be the eventual choice, which he was on the sixth ballot.  He chose to reign under the name of Paul.

Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini was born in 1897.  His father was a lawyer, journalist and member of Parliament.  He was ordained a priest in 1920 and in the same year earned his doctorate in canon law.  Like many popes before him, he worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State.  In 1931 Cardinal Pacelli appointed him to teach at the Vatican Academy for Diplomats.

Pacelli before he became Pope appointed Montini as Substitute For Ordinary Affairs in the Secretariat of State.  After he became Pope, Pius XII and Montini worked together on a daily basis.  At the command of the Pope he created an office of prisoners of war and refugees to help relatives find loved ones displaced by the world war, and a Pontifical Commission of Assistance which supplied aid to refugees and gave clandestine sanctuary to escaped Allied POWS and to Jews and others who ran afoul of the fascists.

In 1954 Pope Pius XII made Montini Archbishop of Milan.  He was raised to the Cardinalate in 1958 by John XXIII.

At Milan Montini acquired a reputation as a progressive, eager for ecumenicalism and reform.  He was extremely supportive of Vatican II although he understood what a hornet’s nest was being stirred up.  He was considered after the death of Pope John the Cardinal most likely as Pope to carry on John’s work, and that is probably the prime factor which led to his election, at least in earthly terms.

When looking over the long papacy of Paul VI, the word tragic comes most strongly to my mind.  I believe he was horrified by much that happened in the wake of Vatican II, usually in contradiction to the Council documents. On June 29, 1972 he referred to the smoke of Satan having entered the Church.  Go here to read about this telling statement.  He clearly recognized that much had gone wrong, but he did little to attempt to rectify the situation.  Although a very good man, in many ways he was also a very weak man.  Strength and leadership was called for at this time, and the Pope, sadly, gave little of either.  Perhaps the finest moment of his Papacy was when he issued Humanae Vitae, restating the Church’s traditional teaching against artificial contraception.  If he had ruled the other way, I think it would have been almost a fatal blow to the Church, a complete surrender to the spirit of the times, and would have left the Church on the path of extinction trod by the Anglican Church and other Protestant denominations who have traded Christianity for modern liberal secularism.  Under Paul’s pontificate the Church suffered much, but Humanae Vitae and its reverence for life pointed to a revival in the Church that was carried out under Popes John Paul II and  Benedict XVI.


Share With Friends
  • 9

Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Having grown up in LA, I have memories of Cardinal McIntyre. I know he delayed implementation of the New Mass until the last possible minute. Thus I received my First Communion in the Tridentine Rite. The last class to do so.

    I also remember some of the rebellion after Vatican II. One priest spoke publically from the pulpit against McIntyre’s resistance to the “spirit” of the times.

    The very next week, the priest was publically apologizing to McIntyre in the Cathedral.

    Such were the days.

  2. John Cuthbert Ford and Germain Grisez deserve an enormous amount of credit for making sure Paul VI had the best possible orthodox case before pulling the trigger on HV.

    I can strongly recommend Ford’s “Contemporary Moral Theology” books (co-authored with Gerald Kelly). Alas, it was projected to be a long series, but only two books were ever produced (the second, Marriage Questions, being published in 1963). The avalanche hit after that.

    But they are excellent and interesting books, and give the lie to the broad-brush attacks leveled against “manualism.”

Comments are closed.