For other stories from this series refer to ‘Cardinal Stories‘ category from the sidebar (>>>) … scroll down, quite a bit.
John Joseph Wright was born in Dorchester (suburb of Boston), Massachusetts, on July 18, 1909; a son of John Wright, a clerk at a paper mill.
He entered Saint John’s Seminary (near Boston) in 1931 after graduating from Boston College. After his first year there he was sent to Rome to study at the Pontifical North American College and the prestigious, Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained a priest by the Vicar General of Rome, Italian Cardinal Francesco Marchetti Selvaggiani, in Rome, at the North American College, on December 8, 1935; he was 26. After he obtained a doctorate in scared theology he returned to the U.S. and taught philosophy and theology at his alma mater.
In 1944 he became the private secretary to the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal William Henry O’Connell (the first cardinal to use a plane in order to get to a conclave on time). He continued in this post with O’Connell’s successor Cushing. He was made a monsignor in December 17, 1944.
Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, with a titular bishopric, on April 28, 1969. Appointed Bishop of Worcester, Massachusetts, January 1950. Transferred to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, nine year later.
He attended Vatican II where he was initially thought to be associated with the progressives. As time went on people realized that this was not the case. He was more likely a moderate, moderate, possibly just middle of the road. But, in reality, this also was not the case. He was, deep, down a traditionalist.
When Paul VI (#263) issued the still divisive and ‘eyebrow raising’ Humanae Vitae he publicly came out in support it — to the relief of the by then badly stumbling pope. Wright could not understand the opposition to Humanae Vitae. He did not agree with the priests that opted to leave the Church or those that openly supported married couples using contraception. The pope rewarded him with a cardinalate on April 1969. He was also given the high-profile post, Prefect, Congregation for the Clergy.
As he was leaving for Rome to take up his post as the ‘Head of clergy’, a U.S. reporter asked him about his views of U.S. clergymen who felt that Humanae Vitae was a mistake. His response was: “In my opinion, what they need is to go to confession, and that right away… They gave their word. They should keep it”.