Father Francis P. Duffy and the Fighting 69th

This city is too large for most of us, but not for Father Duffy. Not too large, I mean, for him to invest it with the homeliness of a neighborhood. When he walked down the street—any street—he was like a curé striding through his own village. Everybody knew him.

His friends included politicians and policemen, longshoremen and literary types. Duffy once said his secret was simple: "Being fond of people. Just people."

As New York's Governor Alfred E. Smith ran for President on the Democratic ticket in 1928, a new wave of anti-Catholicism swept the country. How, many asked, could Smith be a loyal Catholic and a loyal American? Duffy helped write Smith's responses to the anti-Catholic charges thrown against him.

After his death of colitis in June 1932, Duffy's funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral attracted some 25,000 people. The story goes that a wealthy society matron tried to get past the crowd, and was blocked by a police officer. "But," she said, "I was a friend of Father Duffy." The policeman replied: "Lady, everyone in New York was a friend of Father Duffy."

11/8/2011 5:00:00 AM
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  • Pat McNamara
    About Pat McNamara
    Dr. Pat McNamara is a published historian. He blogs about American Catholic History at McNamara's Blog.
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