L.A. Msgr. Benjamin G. Hawkes
September 29, 1985
LOS ANGELES — Msgr. Benjamin G. Hawkes, 86, who resigned less than three weeks ago as the vicar general and director of finances for the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese, has died after suffering a stroke.
For two decades, Msgr. Hawkes was a powerful behind-the-scenes figure within the nation's largest archdiocese, helping it grow from a debt-ridden institution to one of the nation's wealthiest, worth an estimated $1 billion. He was pastor of St. Basil's Church on Wilshire Boulevard and was known for his wealthy lifestyle and rich associates. He reportedly was fond of telling his fellow priests, "The rich have souls, too."
Msgr. Hawkes also was noted for his commanding, stern-faced presence. Actor Robert DeNiro studied his actions while saying mass in preparing for his role in the movie "True Confessions."
Another priest at St. Basil's said he found Msgr. Hawkes, who had
"clearly suffered a stroke," lying on the floor of the church rectory Sunday, four days after returning from a one-week trip to Rome. He was taken to Queen of Angeles Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
"Msgr. Hawkes labored day and night that the kingdom of God might be deeply rooted here in southern California," recently installed Archbishop Roger Mahony told the Los Angeles Times.
"He was a great churchman. (He) was at the very heart and center of every apostolate and major expansion project within this archdiocese."
Msgr. Hawkes left a promising career as an accountant for Lockheed Aircraft in 1950 to become a priest. Two years later, James Cardinal McIntyre selected him as his personal secretary, promoting him to chancellor in 1962 and to vicar general and financial director in 1967.
He managed the archdiocese's investments, making profits by buying and selling land, and directed a major effort during the 1960s to establish more parishes and parochial schools.
When Timothy Cardinal Manning succeeded Cardinal McIntyre in 1970, Msgr. Hawkes maintained his administrative position.
When Archbishop Mahony replaced Cardinal Manning early this month, Msgr. Hawkes offered his resignation, reportedly as a courtesy to the incoming archbishop. Archbishop Mahony accepted it in a surprise move that was seen as a sign of his determination to control the archdiocese.