"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

BECKMAN, Francis J.L.

From Encyclopedia Dubuque
Jump to navigationJump to search
Archbishop Francis J. L. Beckman

BECKMAN, Francis J. L. (Cincinnati, OH, Oct. 25, 1875--Chicago, IL, Oct. 17, 1948). Born in Ohio, Beckman received his early training at the St. Lawrence School in his hometown. He prepared for the priesthood at St. Gregory's Preparatory Seminary and later at Mt. St. Mary of the West. Following his ordination in 1902 he served as assistant pastor of St. Paul's Church in Cincinnati and then was assigned to the faculty of Mt. St. Mary. Before beginning his teaching, he did post-graduate work at the University of Louvain in Belgium; Munich, Germany; and at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. He received his doctorate of sacred theology in 1908. (1)

Beckman returned to Mt. St. Mary and taught in the philosophy department for five years. He was then named president of the seminary, a post he held for ten years. In 1920 Pope Pius XI named him a domestic prelate with the title of Rt. Rev. Msgr. In 1918 while rector of the seminary, Father Beckman founded the Catholic Students Mission Crusade, an organization that by 1948 had over one million members. (2)

On December 23, 1923, he was appointed bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska. Hr was consecrated in St. Peter's Church of Cincinnati the following May and on January 23, 1930 he was appointed the archbishop of Dubuque. (3)

Photo courtesy: Paul Hemmer and the Telegraph Herald

Beckman was installed as archbishop in May 1930. As the spiritual and administrative director of the ARCHDIOCESE OF DUBUQUE he promoted the Legion of Mary and organized ST. VINCENT DE PAUL SOCIETY, Holy Name Societies, Rural Life Conference, marriage court, Conference on Industrial Relations, CATHOLIC YOUTH ORGANIZATION (CYO), and the Council of Catholic Women. The Catholic Student's Mission Crusade that Beckman founded while in Cincinnati held its 1935 national convention in Dubuque. In the field of education, he gave LORAS COLLEGE a new document of administrative procedure, approved construction of the stadium, and promoted the arts. He opened the midwest branch of the Catholic University of America summer school at Loras in 1934 and the Loras Institute of Liturgical Music in 1938. He dedicated four churches in Dubuque, raised six others to the status of parishes, consecrated three bishops and witnessed 156 young men of his diocese ordained priests. (4) He became the national chaplain of the Confraternity of Pilgrims and led a Pilgrimage with others from Dubuque in 1938 to the Eucharistic Congress in New Orleans in New Orleans and the Minneapolis-St. Paul meeting in 1941. (5)

In 1938 Archbishop Beckman's concern for the future of America's youth led him to attend the National Council of Catholic Women meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi. Speaking on the subject of "Art for Youth and the Church" he claimed that 'evil forces' were fostering a type of art 'embodying evil and malicious propaganda' and that the church had to act. He then attacked current music as "degenerated and demoralizing" saying:

            We permit, if not freely endorse by our criminal indifference
            'jam session,' 'jitter-bugs' and cannibalist rhythmic orgies
            to occupy a place in our social scheme of things wooing our
            youth along the path to Hell! In such a setting, art has been
            robbed... (6)

In 1939 the program of the NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR DECENT LITERATURE was extended throughout the archdiocese by Archbishop Beckman. In a pastor letter of February 9th he directed

             every society, club and organization and every individual
             in every parish to be urged to enter wholeheartedly into
             the work of a crusade against literature offensive to
             public decency and harmful to the morals of youth. (7)

Beckman was tremendously impressed with the Catholic culture of Europe that he had observed between 1904 and 1905 as a young priest in Belgium, Bavaria, and Rome. In 1936 at his invitation the American graduates of the University of Innsbruck, Austria held their thirty-sixth annual reunion in Dubuque. (8) Beginning with a room of artifacts collected by William Kessler, a priest who taught history at Columbia Academy, Beckman began building a collection of art. In 1933 he arranged for the extensive art collection of the late Colonel Altmyre of Chicago to be given to the collection including "ten or twelve valuable oil paintings including a landscape measuring about four by eight feet. (9) By 1936 the entire collection, known as the COLUMBIA MUSEUM OF HISTORY, ART, AND SCIENCE, occupied the lower floor of the Science Hall at the college. After 1938, estimates of the collection's value ranged in excess of $1,500,000. By 1940 there were 170,000 exhibits. (10) Paintings in the collection included examples of Winslow Homer, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Van Dyck. The ceramics collection included Delft, Sevres, and Ming. Among historical documents was the original manuscript of Chopin's Second Nocturne and a holograph letter by Edgar Allen Poe. Support for the museum's activities came through the MIDWEST ANTIQUARIAN ASSOCIATION.

America's increased involvement in European troubles after 1935 concerned Archbishop Beckman who made his first national RADIO sermon about the church as an instrument of peace in February 1935. Later he wrote an open letter, often quoted in the media, to Senator Borah encouraging him in his efforts to maintain American neutrality. (11)

After Germany invaded Poland, Archbishop Beckman was the only high-ranking Catholic to write a letter to Father Coughlin.

               I am with you in spirit tonight. I send my representative
               Edward Wendell SCHROEDER 
               to participate in your meeting. I cannot stand apart from 
               you in this critical hour of need. God bless you! (12)

At a peace rally on October 20, 1939, Archbishop Beckman supported the peace stand of his Coughlin. The next week during a nationwide radio broadcast with Coughlin, Beckman maintained that Communists wanted the United States to enter the war so that, in an exhausted condition, it would be susceptible to communist thought. (13)


Beckman's speech-making continued. On June 21-22, 1941, the newly constructed Rock Bowl of LORAS COLLEGE witnessed a huge rally sponsored by America First. Archbishop Beckman's address in which he criticized the congressional repeal of the arms embargo was broadcast nationally. (14) On July 27, 1941 without accepting suggestions that he tone down his remarks, the archbishop launched into a powerful attack upon those who encouraged American involvement in the war then spreading in Europe. This led Catholic writer and educator William Agar to request that the archbishop retract his "ill-mannered and un-American" statement and Time Magazine to suggest that his speech suggested Beckman was "the first Catholic of his rank openly to show himself as an anti-Semite." (15)

In October, 1941 Archbishop Beckman unleashed an attack on President Roosevelt's foreign policy which was carried in German newspapers. Included in his remarks were:

              This war is nothing more nor less than a struggle to
              re-establish the shattered boundaries of international
              finance..The entrenched internationalists had their 
              day; they financed the world into eternal debt and
              milked whole peoples, grinding them down into the dust
              of poverty (16)

Archbishop Beckman's last attack on aid to the Soviet Union was made from Cincinnati on November 8, 1941. The political struggle to prevent America's slow but steady entry into WORLD WAR II ended with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Archbishop Beckman's grand plans, reflected in the expanding collections of the Columbia Museum of History, Art and Science, required a great deal of money. It is believed that in 1936 Phillip Suetter of Yreka, California, introduced him to the profits using borrowed money that could be made in GOLD mines. Suetter confided in the archbishop that test holes drilled in southwestern Oregon had yielded gold and that with sufficient funding an annual income over one million dollars was possible. Suetter suggested that Beckman could invest cash and raise additional money by issuing interest-bearing promissory notes that would be sold. Beckman's later attempts to stop the sale of these notes were unsuccessful. (17)

The archbishop made his first inspection trip to the MINING property in February 1939. In May 1939, Msgr. Peter O' Loughlin used his power of attorney, given to him by Beckman, to stop all mining and freeze all assets until an accounting of the funds could be made. After an out-of-court settlement was reached, an article in the WITNESS assured parishioners that the matter was only a personal investment of Beckman. (18)

Troubles continued. In September 1942, Suetter was found guilty on five of seven counts violation of the Securities and Exchange Act. Beckman was called as a witness for the prosecution. Worse, holders of the archbishop's notes began demanding payment of interest. When residents of Indiana and other places demanded their payment of interest, the archbishop was heard wondering aloud, "What kind of Catholics are these people?" Dubuque parishes were asked to pay a proportioned cost of the CYO Orchestra. Loras administrators were asked to pay bills for art and the archbishop repeatedly requested the Loras endowment be turned into cash. These requests were turned down. (19)

Efforts to solve the financial difficulties began in June 1941 with the creation of a Special Commission on Administration with authority over the archdiocese's financial matters. A committee of three archbishops chosen by the Apostolic Delegate investigated and found serious financial irregularities, but that spiritually the archdiocese was in good condition. On the basis of their report, it was announced that a coadjutor archbishop who would also serve as the apostolic administrator would appointed. (20) By 1942 pieces of the Beckman art collection were being sold to priests and institutions with perhaps $100,000 raised. By the end of the year, the cost of the mining adventure to the archdiocese was estimated at $600,000. (21)

Archbishop Beckman announced in December 1942 that a campaign would be launched on the first anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The effort's goal would be the construction of a chapel in Keane Hall on the LORAS COLLEGE campus as a memorial to Aloysius SCHMITT, the first priest to be killed in WORLD WAR II. (22) Stirred by the sinking of the destroyer Juneau on November 14, 1942, and the loss of the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, the archbishop led a mass of requiem at St. Mary's Church in Waterloo in February, 1943. In the ceremony assisted by priests from Waterloo, Dubuque and nearby cities, he commented that the spirit of the ship " which might otherwise have been christened the "Good Ship Sullivan" would live forever. (23)

On July 21, 1944, announcement was made of the appointment of Bishop Henry P. ROHLMAN as coadjutor archbishop. Archbishop Beckman was relieved of his administrative duties in September, 1944. His formal resignation was accepted by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1946 and he was then appointed titular archbishop of Phulli. (24)

In 1948 retired Archbishop Beckman, spiritual director of the Silver Jubilee pilgrimages to the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, Canada returned from the sixth and final pilgrimage of the season. The Pilgrims society, founded in 1923 by Patrick W. O'Grady of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was raised to a confraternity by the Archbishop in 1942, when he became its spiritual director. (25)



1. "Death Comes to Archbishop Francis Beckman; Funeral in Dubuque Thursday," Telegraph-Herald, October 18, 1948, p. 8A

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Gallagher, Mary Kevin. Seed/Harvest: A History of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Dubuque: Archdiocese of Dubuque Press, 1987, p. 81

6. "Bishop Hits 'Jitter-bugs'," Associated Press, October 26, 1938

7. "Bad Literature Drive Extended," Telegraph-Herald, March 23, 1939, p. 17

8. "Convention is Opened With Solemn Mass," Telegraph-Herald, July 22, 1936, p. 1

9. "Rubens Copy in Art Group at Museum," Telegraph-Herald, April 16, 1933, p. 3

10.Gallagher, p. 85

11. Ibid., p. 88

12. "Father Coughlin's Friend," The Star Press, October 18, 1942

12. Gallagher, p. 89

13. Ibid., p. 90

14. Ibid., p. 91

15. Ibid., p. 95

16. "Father Coughlin's Friend..."

17. Gallagher, p. 99

18. Ibid. p. 100

19. Ibid. p. 101

20. Ibid.

21. "Plan Campaign for Memorial," Telegraph Herald, December 3, 1942, p. 35

22. "Archbishop Beckman Pontificates at Mass," Telegraph-Herald, February 9, 1943, p. 1A

23. "Death Comes..."

24. "Jubilee Pilgrimage to Canada Finished," Telegraph-Herald, September 6, 1948, p. 5