John Joseph Cantwell

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John Joseph Cantwell, c. 1922.
Styles of
John Joseph Cantwell
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Reference styleThe Most Reverend
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleMonsignor
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John Joseph Cantwell (December 1, 1874 – October 30, 1947) was the first archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.


Archbishop Cantwell was born in Limerick, Ireland. He was educated at the Jesuit Crescent College, Limerick and St. Patrick's College, Thurles. He was ordained priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco on June 18, 1899 and was initially assigned as curate of Berkeley's St Joseph The Worker parish. Father Cantwell established the Newman Club at the University of California, Berkeley, served as first chaplain. In 1906, San Francisco Archbishop Patrick W. Riordan appointed Cantwell his secretary, and he moved from Berkeley to the Archbishop Residence at 1000 Fulton Street. In August 1908 Riordan sent Cantwell (by now his Archdiocesan vicar general) to Rome, to inquire of Pope Pius X as to Riordan's successor. In 1912, Fathers Cantwell and Michael D. Connolly accompanied Bishop Edward J. Hanna from Rochester, New York to San Francisco where after Riordan's death December 27, 1914, Cantwell served as Vicar General to Archbishop Hanna (1915–1917).

Pope Benedict XV appointed John J. Cantwell Bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles in September 1917, two years after the death of Bishop Thomas Conaty, and Cantwell was formally ordained that December.

Two divisions of the Monterey-Los Angeles diocese occurred during Archbishop Cantwell's 30-year term. In June 1922 it was split by Pope Pius XI to form the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno and the Diocese of Los Angeles-San Diego. The latter diocese was split in July 1936 to create the Diocese of San Diego and the present-day Archdiocese of Los Angeles, with Pope Pius XI elevating Cantwell to Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Archbishop Cantwell founded a minor and major seminary, 16 hospitals and clinics, 205 parishes, 34 high schools, and 43 parochial schools. During his tenure the number of Catholics in the area grew from 178,000 to 601,000. In 1933, he established the Catholic Motion Picture Actor’s Guild of America, which evolved into the National Legion of Decency.[1]

Spencer Tracy, Bing Crosby, Irene Dunne, Pat O'Brien (actor), June Marlowe, James Cagney, Loretta Young, Frank McHugh, J. Carrol Naish, Barry Fitzgerald and many Roman Catholics in the motion picture industry were friends of Cantwell. The funeral of Archbishop Cantwell in 1947 at the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana was attended by Catholic prelates from across the country including Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York and members of the motion picture and aircraft industries.

Archbishop Cantwell was noted for being particularly sensitive to the needs of non-English speaking Catholics in the archdiocese, and he created 50 Hispanic parishes and missions. He was a major supporter of the Cristero movement, particularly in the early 1930s after their defeat in armed conflict with the secularist Mexican government.[2] Many exiled Mexican clerics were given refuge in the Los Angeles diocese during that era.[3]

Archbishop Cantwell's remains are located in the mausoleum of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ McNamara, Pat. 2009. "Archbishop John J. Cantwell 1874-1947" in [Patheos] accessed 3/28/2016
  2. ^ Rieff, David Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World London 1992 p.164 ISBN 978-0-224-03304-6
  3. ^ Davis, Mike City of Quartz London 1990 p.330 ISBN 0099998203

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Thomas James Conaty
Bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles
Succeeded by
See of Los Angeles-San Diego
Preceded by
See of Monterey-Los Angeles
Bishop of Los Angeles-San Diego
Succeeded by
See of Los Angeles
Preceded by
See of Los Angeles-San Diego
Archbishop of Los Angeles
Succeeded by
James Francis McIntyre