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Richard James Cushing
Born Richard James Cushing
(1895-08-24)August 24, 1895
Boston, Massachusetts
Died November 2, 1970(1970-11-02) (aged 75)
Boston, Massachusetts
Title Cardinal, Archbishop emeritus of Boston
Predecessor William Henry O'Connell
Successor Humberto Sousa Medeiros

Richard James Cushing (August 24, 1895 – November 2, 1970) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Boston from 1944 to 1970 and was made a cardinal in 1958. Cushing's main role was as fundraiser and builder of new churches, schools, and institutions. He was on good terms with practically the entire Boston elite, as he softened the traditional confrontation between the Catholic Irish and the Protestant upper-class. Cushing built useful relationships with Jews, Protestants, and institutions outside the usual Catholic community. He helped presidential candidate John F. Kennedy deflect fears of papal interference in American government if a Catholic became president. Cushing's high energy level allowed him to meet with many people all day, often giving lengthy speeches at night. Cushing was not efficient at business affairs, and when expenses built up he counted on his fund-raising skills instead of cost-cutting. Cushing, says Nasaw, was "fun-loving, informal, and outgoing. He looked rather like a tough, handsome, Irish cop and behaved more like a ward politician than a high church cleric."[1] His major weakness in retrospect was overexpansion, adding new institutions that could not be sustained in the long run and had to be cut back by his successors.[2]

Early life and education[edit | edit source]

Cushing was born in South Boston on August 24, 1895.[3] The third of five children, he was the son of Patrick and Mary (née Dahill) Cushing.[4] His parents were both Irish immigrants; his father was originally from Glanworth, County Cork, and his mother from Touraneena, County Waterford.[5] His father, who came to the United States in 1880,[6] worked as a blacksmith and earned $18 per week in the trolley repair pits of the Boston Elevated Railway.[7]

Cushing received his early education at Perry Public Grammar School in the City Point section of South Boston, since there was then no parochial school for boys in Gate of Heaven Parish.[8][9] Cushing dropped out of high school in his freshman year because of his compulsive truancy.[7] He subsequently entered Boston College High School, a Jesuit college preparatory school.[4] His tuition there was paid by his cousin, who was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.[9] He graduated from high school in 1913, receiving honors for Latin and Greek.[10] Cushing was torn for a time between religion and politics.[7] He originally wanted to be a politician, even earning money by speaking for politicians from the back of wagons.[6] He twice considered joining the Jesuits,[6] but came to the conclusion he "was cut out more for the active life and not the teaching apostolate."[9]

He entered Boston College in 1913, becoming a member of the first freshman class following the college's move to Chestnut Hill.[3] At Boston College, he was active in the Marquette Debating Society and elected vice-president of his sophomore class.[9] Following the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915, Cushing enlisted in the United States Army but was medically discharged for his asthma after a few weeks.[10] After attending Boston College for two years, he began his studies for the priesthood at St. John's Seminary in Brighton in September 1915.[4] He was assigned to continue his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, but the escalation of U-boat activity prevented him from sailing across the Atlantic.[9]

Priesthood[edit | edit source]

On May 26, 1921, Cushing was ordained a priest by Cardinal William Henry O'Connell at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.[11] His first assignment was as a curate at St. Patrick's Church in Roxbury, where he remained for two months.[9] He was afterwards transferred to St. Benedict's Church in Somerville.[9] In 1922, Cushing appeared unannounced at the residence of Cardinal O'Connell to request an assignment as a missionary.[4] The young priest declared he wanted to "take heaven by storm."[6] O'Connell denied his request, and instead appointed him assistant director of the Boston office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, an organization dedicated to raising funds for missions.[3] He later served as director of the Society from 1929 to 1944.[3] He was raised to the rank of Monsignor on May 14, 1939.[3]

Episcopal career[edit | edit source]

On June 10, 1939, after Bishop Francis Spellman was named Archbishop of New York, Cushing was appointed auxiliary bishop of Boston and titular bishop of Mela by Pope Pius XII.[11] He received his episcopal consecration on the following June 29 from Cardinal O'Connell, with Bishops John Bertram Peterson and Thomas Addis Emmet, SJ, serving as co-consecrators, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.[11] He took as his episcopal motto: Ut Cognoscant Te (Latin: "That they may know thee").

As an auxiliary bishop, Cushing continued to serve as director of the Society for the Propagation of Faith, and was also named pastor of Sacred Heart Church[12] in Newton Centre.[9] Following the death of Cardinal O'Connell in April 1944, he served as apostolic administrator of the archdiocese.[3]

Archbishop of Boston[edit | edit source]

Cushing was named the third Archbishop of Boston on September 25, 1944, following Cardinal O'Connell's death. During his tenure, Boston would see the excommunication of Fr. Leonard Feeney for his stringent interpretation of the Catholic doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church. Feeney refused to back down from his position, although it has been reported that he was ultimately reconciled with the church before his death.[13]

After the death of Pius XII, Cushing published a moving tribute to him.[14] In 1959, Cushing published a biography of the late Pope Pius XII (1939–1958), depicting the late pope as "Pope of Peace".

His work contributed to making the Roman Catholic Church acceptable to the general American population at the time of then-Senator John F. Kennedy's run for the White House. Part of this work included reaching out to the non-Catholics of Boston after "the muscular style of involved Catholicism that Cardinal O'Connell brought to bear on issues of his day - religious, social, and political - in Boston and Massachusetts".[15]

Archbishop Cushing was honored by B’nai B’rith as "man of the Year" in 1956 for "a lifetime of distinguished service to the cause of human brotherhood under God and in further recognition of great leadership in the fields of education and community relations."[16]

Cushing was created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Susanna by Pope John XXIII in the consistory of December 15, 1958. He was one of the cardinal electors in the 1963 papal conclave, which elected Pope Paul VI.

The Cardinal was a close friend of the Kennedy family. He officiated at the marriage of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in 1953, at which he also read a special prayer from Pope Pius XII, and baptized many of the Kennedy children. Cushing gave the prayer invocation at Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. The Cardinal also celebrated President Kennedy's funeral Mass in 1963 at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The day before the funeral, he gave a televised eulogy for the President. Cushing later defended Jacqueline Kennedy after her marriage to Aristotle Onassis in 1968. He received a large amount of hate mail and was contradicted by the Vatican.[17]

Biography of Pope Pius XII[edit | edit source]

In 1959, Cushing published his only book, a biography of the late Pope Pius XII (1939–1958). It is an almost hagiographic biography, written shortly after the death of the Pontiff. Cushing depicted him as the "Pope of Peace" who, armed only with the spiritual weapons of his office, triumphed over insidious attacks that seemed about to destroy the center of Christendom.

Second Vatican Council[edit | edit source]

At the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), Cushing played a vital role in drafting Nostra aetate, the document that officially absolved the Jews of deicide charge. His emotional comments during debates over the drafts were echoed in the final version:

We must cast the Declaration on the Jews in a much more positive form, one not so timid, but much more loving ... For the sake of our common heritage we, the children of Abraham according to the spirit, must foster a special reverence and love for the children of Abraham according to the flesh. As children of Adam, they are our kin, as children of Abraham they are Christ's blood relatives. 2. So far as the guilt of Jews in the death of our Savior is concerned, the rejection of the Messiah by His own, is according to Scripture, a mystery—a mystery given us for our instruction, not for our self-exaltation ... We cannot sit in judgement on the onetime leaders of Israel—God alone is their judge. Much less can we burden later generations of Jews with any burden of guilt for the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, for the death of the Savior of the world, except that universal guilt in which we all have a part ... In clear and unmistakable language, we must deny, therefore, that the Jews are guilty of our Savior's death. We must condemn especially those who seek to justify, as Christian deeds, discrimination, hatred and even persecution of Jews ... 3. I ask myself, Venerable Brothers, whether we should not humbly acknowledge before the whole world that, toward their Jewish brethren, Christians have all too often not shown themselves as true Christians, as faithful followers of Christ. How many [Jews] have suffered in our own time? How many died because Christians were indifferent and kept silent? ... If in recent years, not many Christian voices were raised against those injustices, at least let ours now be heard in humility.[18]

He was deeply committed to implementing the council's reforms and promoting renewal in the church.[19] In an unprecedented gesture of ecumenism, he encouraged Catholics to attend Billy Graham's crusades.[20] Cushing strongly condemned Communism, particularly the regime of Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia.[21]

Cushing's resignation as Boston's archbishop was accepted on September 8, 1970. Upon his resignation, Senator Ted Kennedy stated: "For three-quarters of a century [Cushing's] life has been a light in a world that cries out for illumination. He will never have to account for his stewardship, for if his goodness is not known to God, no one's ever will be."[22]

Sexual abuse scandals in the Boston archdiocese[edit | edit source]

Cushing was archbishop during some of the sexual abuse incidents in the Boston archdiocese, revealed publicly after his death under his successor Cardinal Law, who became the first high-level Catholic Church official to be accused of actively participating in the cover-up of child molestation by predatory priests.[23]

The notorious child-molesting priest John Geoghan committed many of his crimes, as did others, during Cushing's tenure as archbishop.[24]

Death[edit | edit source]

Less than two months later, he died from cancer in Boston at the age of 75 on the feast of All Souls Day, and was buried in Hanover, Massachusetts at the Portiuncula Chapel on the grounds of the Cardinal Cushing Centers.[25][26][27]

Miscellaneous[edit | edit source]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

  • In 1947, founded St. Coletta by the Sea (now the Cardinal Cushing Centers in his honor) with sponsorship from the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.[29] The organization, now Cardinal Cushing Centers[30] continues to support developmentally disabled individuals ages 6 through the life continuum with campuses in Hanover, Massachusetts and Braintree, Massachusetts and community homes throughout the South Shore of Massachusetts.
  • The now-closed Cardinal Cushing College, a women's college in Brookline, Massachusetts, was named after him.
  • In 1950, Richard Cardinal Cushing founded the Bon Secours Hospital, now Holy Family Hospital and Medical Center, in Methuen, Massachusetts. Through his guidance and leadership, the hospital has become one of the top Catholic hospitals in the state of Massachusetts
  • Emmanuel College's Cardinal Cushing Library Building is named in his honor. The building houses the campus' library, a lecture hall, and various classrooms.
  • Boston College has two buildings named in his honor: Cushing Hall, a freshman dormitory on the Newton Campus as well as another Cushing Hall, the home of the Connell School of Nursing.
  • St. John's Seminary (Massachusetts) has their third theology classroom named after the Cardinal: The Richard Cardinal Cushing Classroom.
  • The main student center of Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire is named the Cardinal. The Cushing houses, among many other significant groups and offices, the Meelia Center for Community Service, a service outreach organization in the greater Manchester area.
  • In 1961 in Santa Cruz (Bolivia) he left funds for the construction of two schools: The Marista and another that at the beginning was the Cardinal Cushing Institute and then in 1969 the Colegio Cardinal Cushing administered by the religious of Jesus Mary. He was part of the US campaign in the region Santa Cruz, which included propaganda, repression and the use of the Christian faith against the indio peasants. Cardinal Cushing held a Eucharistic congress as of August 9, 1961, and inaugurate the Christ the Redeemer statue.[31]

Works[edit | edit source]

This is an incomplete list of the various writings of Richard Cardinal Cushing.

  • Answering the Call, 1942
  • Soldiers of the Cross, 1942
  • Native Clergy are the Pillars of the Church, 1943
  • The Missions in War and Peace, 1944
  • Grey Nuns: An Appeal for Vocations, 1944
  • The Battle Against Self, 1945
  • The Guide-Posts of the Almighty to Permanent Industrial Peace and Prosperity, 1946
  • Restoring all Things in Christ: The Spirit and the Teaching of Pope Pius X, 1946
  • Where is Father Hennessey?: Now We Know the Answer, 1946
  • The Spiritual Approach to the Atomic Age, 1946
  • Notes for the confessors of religious : a collection of excerpts from articles and books on the spiritual direction of sisters prepared for the guidance of ordinary and extraordinary confessors in the Archdiocese of Boston (ad usum privatum), 1946
  • The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, 1947?
  • A Novena of Talks on the Our Father, 1947?
  • The Third Choice, Americanism : from an address against universal military training, 1948
  • The Diamond Jubilee of the Poor Clares in the United States, 1950?
  • The Return of the "Other Sheep" to the One Fold of St. Peter, 1957
  • A Call to the Laity: Addresses on the Lay Apostolate, 1957
  • Meditations for Religious, 1959
  • Pope Pius XII, 1959
  • Rendezvous with Revolution 196-
  • Questions and Answers on Communism, 1960
  • A Seminary for Advanced Vocations, 1960?
  • The Purpose of Living, 1960
  • The Ecumenical Council and its Hopes, 1960
  • The Age of Lay Sanctity, 1960?
  • Assorted Prayers 196?
  • Spiritual Guideposts, 1960
  • Americans Unite!, 1960
  • I'm Proud of My Dirty Hands, 1960?
  • Moral Values and the American Society: Pastoral Letter, The Holy Season of Lent, 1961 1961
  • The Sacraments: Seven Channels of Grace for every State in Life, 1962
  • The Mission of the Teacher, 1962
  • The Call of the Council: Pastoral Letter, 1962
  • St. Martin de Porres, 1962
  • A Bridge Between East and West, 1963
  • Call Me John; A Life of Pope John XXIII, 1963
  • Saint Patrick and the Irish, 1963
  • Liturgy and Life : First Sunday of Advent, November 1964: Pastoral Letter, 1964
  • A Summons to Racial Justice, 1964
  • Richard Cardinal Cushing in Prose and Photos, 1965
  • Along with Christ, 1965
  • "A Quiet Burial" for a Biography, 1965
  • The Servant Church, 1966


  • The Church and Philosophy, Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, v23 (1949); 9-15
  • God's People, Review of Social Economy, v10 n1: 87-89
  • The Need for the Study of American Church History, The Catholic Historical Review, v36 n1: 43-46
  • Religion in Liberal Arts Education, Christian Education, v30 n1: 13-24

Works on Richard Cardinal Cushing

  • The World's Cardinal By M.C. Devine, 1964
  • Salt of the Earth: An Informal Profile of Richard Cushing by John H Fenton, 1965
  • Cushing of Boston: A Candid Portrait by Joseph Dever, 1965
  • Cardinal Cushing of Boston by John Henry Cutler, 1970

References[edit | edit source]

  1. David Nasaw, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (2012) pp 625-27
  2. Robert Muccigrosso, ed., Research Guide to American Historical Biography (1988) 5:2466-9
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Miranda, Salvador. "CUSHING, Richard James (1895-1970)". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. http://www2.fiu.edu/~mirandas/bios-c.htm#Cushing. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Cardinal Cushing Dies in Boston at 75". The New York Times. November 3, 1970. 
  5. "The Catholic Church in Massachusetts (XXI.2)". OBLATVS. http://oblatvs.blogspot.com/2009/09/catholic-church-in-massachusetts-xxi2.html. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "The Unlikely Cardinal". Time Magazine. August 21, 1964. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,876036-5,00.html. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Cushing: Ecumenical Leader, Kennedys' Friend, Communists' Foe". The New York Times. September 9, 1970. 
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 24, 2011. https://web.archive.org/web/20110324183454/http://www.gateofheavenparish.com/history3.html. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Dever, Joseph (1965). Cushing of Boston: A Candid Portrait. Boston: Bruce Humphries. https://archive.org/details/cushingofbostonc00deve. [dead link]
  10. 10.0 10.1 McMahon, Kelly (January 16, 2001). "Boston Irish Reporter Names BC Alumnus Cardinal Cushing "Boston Irish Person of the Century"". South Boston 2004. http://www.mcgoffonline.com/SB_200/cardinal_cushing.htm. [dead link]
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "Richard James Cardinal Cushing". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bcushing.html. 
  12. "WEBSITE.WS - Your Internet Address For Life™". http://www.sacredheart.ws/index.php. 
  13. "Religion: Feeney Forgiven". October 14, 1974. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,908875,00.html. 
  14. Pope Pius XII by Richard Cushing, St. Paul Editions, Boston, 1959
  15. Boston Globe "'What Will Lake Street Think?' No Longer" December 14, 2003
  16. "Archbishop of Boston Honored by B'nai B'rith As "man of the Year"" (in en-US). 1956-02-16. https://www.jta.org/1956/02/16/archive/archbishop-of-boston-honored-by-bnai-brith-as-man-of-the-year. 
  17. Time magazine "The Cardinal and Jackie", November 1, 1968
  18. Oesterreicher, pp. 197-98
  19. TIME Magazine. The Unlikely Cardinal August 21, 1964
  20. Time magazine. Big Man in a Long Red Robe November 16, 1970]
  21. Time magazine How Are Things in Yugoslavia? September 1, 1947
  22. "Change of the Guard". Time magazine. November 21, 1970. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,942283,00.html. 
  23. Becker, Deborah (2010). "Irish Catholics Call For Cardinal Law's Resignation, Following Clergy Abuse Report". WBUR-FM. Archived from the original on February 22, 2012. https://web.archive.org/web/20120222041434/http://www.wbur.org/2010/02/10/irish-priests-followup. 
  24. "Boston Globe / Spotlight / Abuse in the Catholic Church". http://archive.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/documents/parent_letter_1961.htm. 
  25. "Cardinal Cushing Centers". http://www.cardinalcushingcenters.org/. 
  26. "Jewish Leaders Express Sorrow at Death of Cardinal Cushing" (in en-US). 1970-11-04. https://www.jta.org/1970/11/04/archive/jewish-leaders-express-sorrow-at-death-of-cardinal-cushing. 
  27. "Cardinal Cushing, 75, Dies Catholics Mourn Prelate | News | The Harvard Crimson" (in en). https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1970/11/3/cardinal-cushing-75-dies-catholics-mourn/. 
  28. The Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle. Homepage
  29. "Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi -". http://www.lakeosfs.org. 
  30. "Cardinal Cushing Centers". http://www.cardinalcushingcenters.org. 
  31. Marchetti, Juan Carlos Zambrana. "Bolivia. Un Cristo contra el indio". http://www.resumenlatinoamericano.org/2019/11/02/bolivia-un-cristo-contra-el-indio/. Retrieved 2 November 2019. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Cutler, John Henry. Cardinal Cushing of Boston (1970), the major biography.
  • Rabbi James Rudin. Cushing, Spellman, O'Connor: The Surprising Story of How Three American Cardinals Transformed Catholic-Jewish Relations (2011) excerpt and text search

External links[edit | edit source]

Episcopal succession[edit | edit source]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
William Henry O'Connell
Archbishop of Boston
1944 – 1970
Succeeded by
Humberto Sousa Medeiros

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