James E. Kearney

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The Most Reverend

James Edward Kearney
Bishop emeritus of Rochester
InstalledNovember 11, 1937
Term endedOctober 21, 1966
PredecessorEdward Mooney
SuccessorFulton J. Sheen
Other postsBishop of Salt Lake City (1932–37)
OrdinationSeptember 19, 1908
ConsecrationOctober 28, 1932
Personal details
Born(1884-10-28)October 28, 1884
Red Oak, Iowa
DiedJanuary 12, 1977(1977-01-12) (aged 92)
Rochester, New York
DenominationRoman Catholic Church

James Edward Kearney (October 28, 1884 – January 12, 1977) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Salt Lake City (1932–37) and Bishop of Rochester (1937–66).


James Kearney was born in Red Oak, Iowa, the second of the three sons of William Patrick and Rosina (née O'Doherty) Kearney.[1] His parents were Irish immigrants who were originally from County Donegal.[2] In 1886, at age 2, he moved with his family to New York City, where his father worked in retail furniture sales.[2] He received his early education at Public School No. 27 since there was no parochial school at his home parish, St. Agnes Church.[2]

Kearney graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1901, and then attended the Teachers College of Columbia University, where he earned a Regents license to teach in New York State.[3] In 1903, he began his studies for the priesthood at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers.[1] He was designated in 1908 to complete his theological studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.[2]


In anticipation of his assignment to the Catholic University, his priestly ordination took place a year ahead of his class.[3] Kearney was ordained by Bishop Thomas Cusack on September 19, 1908.[4] He earned a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Catholic University in 1909.[1] Following his return to New York City, he was assigned as a curate at St. Cecilia's Church, where he remained until 1928.[3] In addition to his pastoral duties, he taught at Cathedral College.[1]

Kearney served as the first pastor of St. Francis Xavier's Church from 1928 to 1932[5] and founded the parish school there in 1929. During his tenure at St. Francis Xavier, he also served as professor of religion at Good Counsel College in White Plains and as superintendent of parochial schools in the Bronx.[1]


Salt Lake City[edit]

On July 1, 1932, Kearney was appointed the fourth Bishop of Salt Lake City in Utah by Pope Pius XI.[4] He received his episcopal consecration on the following October 28 from Cardinal Patrick Joseph Hayes, with Bishops John Joseph Mitty and John Joseph Dunn serving as co-consecrators, at St. Patrick's Cathedral.[4] His installation took place at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on November 24 of that year.[6]

In 1936, Kearney spoke before the Knights of Columbus, urging them to fight communism and saying, "The spirit of Christ has been driven out of one organization after another...When statesmen meet no thought of God or representative of God is in their council."[7]


Following the promotion of Bishop Edward Mooney to the Archdiocese of Detroit, Kearney was appointed the fifth Bishop of Rochester in New York on October 21, 1937.[4] He was installed on November 11 of that year.[4] During his 29-year tenure, he increased the number of Catholics in the diocese from 223,657 to 361,790; parishes from 129 to 155; priests from 289 to 371; and parochial schools from 72 to 99.[8] He attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council between 1962 and 1965.[8] He also served as state chaplain to the Knights of Columbus and moderator of the Newman Club Federation.[1]

During World War II, Kearney declared, "The spirit of Christianity can dictate a lasting peace, but secularism, exploitation or totalitarianism cannot, whether of Nazi, Communist or Fascist variety."[9] He condemned the "mad craze for entertainment" in modern society, including picture magazines, saying man had brought evil upon himself because he did not "pause to take stock of his relationship with God."[10] In 1947, he denounced the film Forever Amber as a "glorification of immorality and licentiousness," and encouraged Catholics to boycott the film.[11]

He accused colleges of teaching their students "cynical precepts" and causing them to distrust the "perfect lessons they learned at their mother's knee."[12] He also said, "Those who declare it doesn't make any difference what we believe in an attempt to attain religious harmony will fail. For religious intolerance was created...by people who sold dogmatic teaching short."[13]

Later life and death[edit]

On October 21, 1966, Kearney retired as Bishop of Rochester; he was appointed Titular Bishop of Tabaicara by Pope Paul VI on the same date.[4] He resigned his titular see on January 18, 1971.[4] He later died at St. Ann's Home in Rochester, at age 92.[3]


The following buildings or schools are named after Bishop Kearney:

In addition, Kearney Hall, located on the campus of Saint John Fisher College, is named for his mother.

Bishop Kearney also did much of the original planning that led to the foundation of McQuaid Jesuit High School.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who. XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig.
  2. ^ a b c d McNamara, Robert Francis (1968). The Diocese of Rochester, 1868-1968. Rochester: The Diocese of Rochester.
  3. ^ a b c d "James E. Kearney, Catholic Bishop Of Rochester From '37 to '66, Dies". The New York Times. 1977-01-13.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Bishop James Edward Kearney". Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
  5. ^ "Crowd Hails Bishop At Pontifical Mass". New York Times. October 31, 1932. The Most Rev. James Edward Kearney, who was consecrated Bishop of Salt Lake. Utah, by Cardinal Hayea on Friday, celebrated his first solemn pontifical mass ...
  6. ^ "Bishop Kearney to Be Installed". The New York Times. 1932-11-24.
  7. ^ "K. OF C. URGED AT MASS TO FIGHT COMMUNISM; Bishop Kearney Exhorts Them to Prayer to Halt Rise of Atheism in Nation". The New York Times. 1936-02-23.
  8. ^ a b "Diocesan History". Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester.
  9. ^ "CHRISTIANITY SEEN AS BASIS FOR PEACE; Bishop Kearney Says We Cannot Build an Eden on Earth When Victory Is Won". The New York Times. 1943-02-08.
  10. ^ "PICTURE MAGAZINES HELD TOO POPULAR; Bishop Kearney Finds Public Reducing Thinking Capacity by Trivial Pastimes". The New York Times. 1937-08-16.
  11. ^ "'AMBER' SCORED UP-STATE; Bishop in Rochester Urges the Catholics to Boycott Film". The New York Times. 1947-10-29.
  12. ^ "BISHOP SCORES COLLEGES; Kearney Charges 'Cynical' Views Warp Students' Lives". The New York Times. 1937-11-09.
  13. ^ "INTENSIFIED FAITH URGED; Religious Intolerance Is Laid to Persons Who 'Sold Dogma Short'". The New York Times. 1944-11-27.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John Joseph Mitty
Bishop of Salt Lake City
1932 – 1937
Succeeded by
Duane Garrison Hunt
Preceded by
Edward Mooney
Bishop of Rochester
1937 – 1966
Succeeded by
Fulton J. Sheen