Michael Joseph Curley

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The Most Reverend

Michael Joseph Curley
Archbishop of Baltimore-Washington
AppointedAugust 10, 1921
InstalledNovember 30, 1921
Term endedMay 16, 1947
PredecessorJames Gibbons
SuccessorFrancis Patrick Keough (Baltimore)
Patrick O'Boyle (Washington)
OrdinationMarch 19, 1904
by Pietro Respighi
ConsecrationJune 10, 1931
by Benjamin Joseph Keiley
Personal details
Born(1879-10-12)October 12, 1879
Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland
DiedMay 16, 1947(1947-05-16) (aged 67)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
Previous postBishop of St. Augustine (1914–1921)
(Who is like unto god)
Coat of armsMichael Joseph Curley's coat of arms

Michael Joseph Curley (October 12, 1879 – May 16, 1947) was an Irish-born clergyman of the Roman Catholic Church. Originally a priest and bishop in the Diocese of St. Augustine, he served as the tenth Archbishop of Baltimore (1921–1947) as well as the first Archbishop of Washington (1939–1947).

Early life and education[edit]

One of eleven children,[1] Michael Curley was born in Athlone, County Westmeath, to Michael and Maria (née Ward) Curley.[2] He received his early education at a school in his native town conducted by the Marist Brothers.[3] At the age of sixteen, he entered Mungret College in Limerick. He had a distinguished academic career at Mungret, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Royal University of Ireland in 1900. Although he originally dreamed of being a missionary in the Fiji Islands, a visit from Bishop John Moore to Mungret led Curley to volunteer for the Diocese of St. Augustine in the United States. His theological studies were made at the Urban College of the Propaganda in Rome, where he received his Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1903.


On March 19, 1904, Curley was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Pietro Respighi in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.[4] He arrived in Florida in the autumn of 1904, and was named pastor of St. Peter's Church[5] in DeLand.[6] His parish comprised 7,200 square miles (19,000 km2) and was one of the largest on the East Coast.[6] In 1905, he became chancellor of the diocese and secretary to Bishop William John Kenny.[1] He served in these capacities for ten months, at which time he returned to DeLand.[1]

Episcopal ministry[edit]

St. Augustine[edit]

Curley as Bishop of St. Augustine

On April 3, 1914, Curley was appointed the fourth Bishop of St. Augustine by Pope Pius X.[4] He received his episcopal consecration on the following June 30 from Bishop Benjamin Joseph Keiley, with Bishops Patrick James Donahue and Owen Corrigan serving as co-consecrators.[4] At the age of 34, Curley was the youngest member of the American hierarchy.[3] He would spend eight months out of every year on journeys throughout the diocese, and by the end of his tenure, the Catholic population had grown from 39,000 to 41,000, with 40 new churches built.[1]

During the 1910s, anti-Catholicism was on the rise in Florida.[6] Curley attracted national attention by battling thar prejudice in the legislature, which made an unsuccessful attempt to pass a convent-inspection bill.[2] However, the legislature passed legislation that prohibited white women from teaching black children.[1] Curley refused to comply with the law, and three Sisters of St. Joseph were subsequently arrested.[6] He led a campaign to have the law declared unconstitutional, which eventually occurred.[1] He also sought to educate Floridians about Catholicism and demonstrate the bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan.[6]

During World War I, Curley was a strong supporter of the war effort. In 1917, he established the Diocesan Catholic War Council, a group that gave spiritual guidance to Florida's Catholic soldiers heading off to war.[6] He spoke at Liberty Bond rallies and, at the end of the war, celebrated the largest memorial Mass for fallen Allied soldiers at Battery Park in New York City.[6]


On August 10, 1921, Curley was appointed the tenth Archbishop of Baltimore, Maryland, by Pope Benedict XV.[4] His installation took place on the following November 30.[4] His arrival in his new city was described as "one of the greatest welcomes ever tendered a new citizen of Baltimore."[7] During his tenure in Baltimore, Curley distinguished himself as an advocate for education. He established 66 schools in 18 years, placing the importance of constructing schools over churches.[1] In 1926, he declared, "I defy any system of grammar school education in the United States to prove itself superior to the system that is being maintained in the Archdiocese of Baltimore."[2] He also established diocesan offices for Catholic Charities (1923) and for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith (1925).[2]

Outspoken on political and social affairs, Curley was a strong opponent of the foreign policy of President Franklin Roosevelt, anticlerical governments of Mexico and Spain, the American film industry, and the establishment of Newman Centres at secular universities, which he felt undermined Catholic schools.[2] In 1936, he called upon his fellow Catholic bishops to conduct a study of the influences of communism in the United States.[2] He once engaged in a public feud with The Baltimore Sun when one of its reporters compared Adolf Hitler to Ignatius of Loyola.[2] Although his predecessor, the legendary James Gibbons, was a cardinal, Curley never received the same distinction.


Coat of Arms of Most Rev. Michael Joseph Curley

On July 22, 1939, Pope Pius XII separated Washington, DC, from the Archdiocese of Baltimore to form the new Archdiocese of Washington.[2][8] While retaining his position as Archbishop of Baltimore, Curley was named the first Archbishop of Washington and governed the two archdioceses as a single unit.[2][2][8]

His later years were burdened with progressive blindness and failing health. He died from a stroke at 66 and was buried in the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore.[1] After his death, separate archbishops were appointed for Baltimore (Francis Patrick Keough) and Washington (Patrick O'Boyle).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "About Athlone: Famous People". Athlone.ie. Archived from the original on July 7, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Most Rev. Michael Joseph Curley", Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore Archived 2015-02-21 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b O'Donnell, John Hugh (1922). The Catholic Hierarchy of the United States, 1790-1922. Washington, D.C.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Archbishop Michael Joseph Curley". Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
  5. ^ Peter, St. "St. Peter – St. Peter – Deland FL". stpeterdeland.org.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Bishop Michael Joseph Curley (1913-1921)". Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine.
  7. ^ "Archbishop Curley Given Big Ovation". The Washington Post. November 1, 1921.
  8. ^ a b "About Us: The Archdiocese of Washington". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
William John Kenny
Bishop of St. Augustine
Succeeded by
Patrick Joseph Barry
Preceded by
James Gibbons
Archbishop of Baltimore
Succeeded by
Francis Patrick Keough
New title Archbishop of Washington
Succeeded by
Patrick O'Boyle