Hurley attended St. Ignatius College (high school) and John Carroll University, from which he received a B. A. in 1915. He attended St. Bernard Seminary in Rochester, N. Y. , from 1915 to 1916 and St. Mary's Seminary in Cleveland from 1916 to 1919, and was ordained a priest on May 29, 1919.
Hurley was an assistant pastor at the churches of St. Columba in Youngstown, Ohio, from 1919 to 1923; St. Philomena in East Cleveland from 1923 to 1925; and the Immaculate Conception in Cleveland from 1925 to 1927. In 1927 a fellow Cleveland priest, Edward A. Mooney (later cardinal archbishop of Detroit), who had been appointed the apostolic delegate to India the year before, asked Hurley to be his secretary. After diplomatic and language studies at the University of Toulouse, France, Hurley served with Mooney in India (1928 - 1931) and Japan (1931 - 1933). With Mooney's reassignment, Hurley was named chargé d'affaires of the apostolic delegation in Japan (1933 - 1934). Next, he served as attaché to the Papal Secretariat of State in Vatican City (1934 - 1940).
Hurley began another phase of his career on August 19, 1940, when he was appointed the sixth bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Fla. ; he was consecrated in Rome on October 6, 1940, and installed in St. Augustine Cathedral on November 26, 1940. Hurley's episcopal motto, Virtus in arduis ("Virtue in the midst of difficulties"), aptly describes his episcopacy, which can be divided into four periods: diocesan reorganization with few resources (1940 - 1945); papal diplomacy in Yugoslavia and during Florida's postwar boom (1945 - 1950); the Florida Catholic population explosion (1950 - 1958); and the diocesan split and the Second Vatican Council (1958 - 1967). At first Hurley faced a lack of diocesan organization and a poverty of financial and personnel resources, a situation aggravated by the wartime influx of servicemen into South Florida. Hurley responded with characteristic vigor and imagination by recruiting priests from other regions, by instituting an annual Catholic Charities Drive, and by boldly announcing a $1. 5 million fund drive for the construction of Mercy Hospital in Miami.
On October 22, 1945, Hurley was again called to Vatican diplomatic service, this time as regent of the Apostolic Nunciature in Yugoslavia. While carrying on delicate negotiations for the protection of Catholics there, Hurley continued to administer the postwar affairs of his Florida diocese, including the construction of thirteen new churches and twelve new parish schools. Hurley's Yugoslavian experience, especially the 1946 trial of Archbishop (later Cardinal) Aloysius Stepinac for collaboration with the Nazis, strengthened his ecclesiastical sense, his opposition to Communism, and his distaste for priests in religious orders. (Few such priests were admitted into his diocese, even though they and their skills could have been used. ) In appreciation of his services in Yugoslavia, Pope Pius XII named Hurley a titular archbishop (an honorary title) in August 1949. When his Vatican diplomatic service ended in 1950, he returned to his diocese.
The third phase of Hurley's episcopacy (1950 - 1958) was characterized by a 165 percent increase in the Catholic population of his diocese. In response, Hurley established the Diocesan Development Fund (1950) to fuel institutional construction. He promoted Catholic parochial and centralized secondary education, the aggressive recruitment of candidates for the priesthood from Florida (as well as men and women from Ireland), and the erection of twenty-five churches and thirty-nine parochial schools. Hurley's most enduring contribution was his foresighted Florida real estate purchases for future ecclesiastical development. Hurley was disturbed by the loss of one-third of his jurisdiction with the creation of the Diocese of Miami in 1958. At stake were territory, people, property, assets, and personnel. Hurley and the bishop of Miami, Coleman F. Carroll, wrestled for seven years over the matter, until it was settled by a papal commission in 1965.
The Second Vatican Council, which Hurley attended, provided a challenge to his episcopal self-conception. But, as in the case of the interdiocesan controversy, he accepted its authoritative decisions with equanimity. As a result of the limitations imposed by the 1958 split and the changes created by Vatican II, Hurley in the last phase of his episcopacy redirected his energies and rekindled his interest in history. In 1965-1966 he refurbished his cathedral, constructed a new rectory, erected a mission church and a memorial cross at a historic site in St. Augustine, and sponsored a scholarly symposium on the Spanish Borderlands. He died in Orlando, Fla.