The Apostolic Delegation was established and Archbishop Satolli named Delegate on January 22, 1893. This followed the presidential election of 1892 so as not to influence the outcome of the election, Republican incumbent Benjamin Harrison having invited Papal representation at the Columbian exhibition and thus having furnished the Holy See with an excuse for getting Satolli into the country. Harrison lost his reelection bid, but the Vatican having sent a papal Ablegate to the States probably had little or no effect on his defeat. There were other reasons having nothing to do with religion that Grover Cleveland and the Democrats retook the White House.
Satolli, had been lured out onto very thin ice by the liberal faction, most notably Monsignor Denis O’Connel and Archbishop John Ireland. His lifting the excommunication of McGlynn (see blogs of March 9, 10, 11, and 12) not only had infuriated Corrigan but also Cardinal Mieczyslaw Ledóchowski, the new head of Propaganda Fide in Rome. Ledóchowski, was a conservative and would have had far more sympathy with Corrigan, but he probably had not yet figured out the game that the liberals in America were playing with Corrigan. As a “new kid” on the block and self-conscious of his authority, Ledóchowski, would have resented Satolli’s independence in acting without consulting him as Propaganda still had control over the American Church. Furthermore, Ledóchowski,’s appointment to Propaganda Fide put tension between his congregation—Propaganda Fide—and the Secretariate of State and Cardinal Rampola. Rampola had set a pro-French policy for the Church which is something we will talk about very soon. Ledóchowski, was pro-German in his policies. Not a good mix. Satolli, as a papal representative had been answerable to the Secretariat of State while the territory to which he was accredited, the United States, was under Propaganda Fide. So in the background of the McGlynn affair was a turf war. Satolli was going to lose whichever way he handled the McGlynn matter. Moreover, while Satolli was—at least for the time being—in the paws of the liberals, Ledóchowski managed to secure the appointments of the number two and three members of the Apostolic Delegation for his loyalists which caused deep concern among the liberals. Of course—and keep this in the mix—the fact that Leo’s esteem for Gibbons, at times it seems almost a blind esteem, gave the liberals some weight that even Ledóchowski had to consider. And Corrigan, for some short-sighted reason, kept muddying the waters as his diocesan newspaper continued to print articles decrying the Delegation. While Corrigan denied responsibility for these articles and complained the editor would not divulge the name(s) of the authors, the editor himself turned on Corrigan and sent Rome correspondence showing that Corrigan was indeed behind the anti-Delegation articles. It was very foolish of Corrigan who never got the Cardinal’s hat either because Rome deemed him not sufficiently loyal or more than sufficiently stupid to trust him any further than they had already committed in naming him Archbishop of New York. But then, to be fair, Corrigan had no right to expect a red hat as previously only one Archbishop of New York, his immediate predecessor, was so honored. All his successors have been named Cardinals and it is presumable that the current Archbishop, Timothy Dolan, will be made a Cardinal when his predecessor turns 80 and can no longer vote in a conclave.
The big mistake that led to a wedge between Satolli and the liberals came in the World Parliament of Religions in September 1893. Rome had always forbidden Catholic Participation in any such ecumenical or inter-faith gathering, even if it did not involve prayer. The American Archbishops, at the urging of Ireland, had decided to participate in this gathering, claiming that the opportunity of presenting Catholic Doctrine and Truth outweighed any danger of religious indifferentism (the idea that all religions are equally truthful and valid ways of approaching God). The liberals—Keane, Gibbons, and Ireland—were all prominent participants. Gibbons explained that the Church needed to stand with other religious leaders against the common enemies: “materialism, agnosticism, and atheism.” Rampola back in Rome was not impressed at this violation of Church policy though he communicated to Gibbons that Leo XIII recognized the “good intentions” of the Americans in participating. Satolli, though he understood America and the American mind well, was still first and foremost a Roman and saw this as a breach of the stringent ban on any such pan-religious activities. Ledóchowski, likewise, was totally appalled when he heard of it and communicated this to Satolli. This moved Satolli somewhat more to Ledóchowski’s camp. Despite the earlier assurances that the American Church would be free of Propaganda Fide once a Delegation had been established, authority was split and Satolli had to answer to Ledóchowski regarding ecclesiastical matters and Rampola regarding political and diplomatic matters. Given Ledóchowski’s conservativism, Satolli knew which way the wind was blowing and anxious to kiss and make up with Ledóchowski for the way he had handled the McGlynn absolution. At the same time Satolii began to disengage himself from Gibbons, Ireland, and the liberals.
There was one more nail in the coffin of the liberal’s hope for control of the Delegation. During the World Parliament of Religions the Archbishops held a meeting and could not come to a consensus on the issue of secret societies and whether Catholics could belong to them. Under consideration were specifically The Oddfellows and the Knights of Pythias. The prelate’s failure to make an outright condemnation shocked Satolli as the Holy Office (today’s Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith) had been unambiguous in previous cases in condemning Secret Societies. Satolli finally saw that the Americans were not given to be little ducklings in a tidy line behind the Roman hen. For the most part, the old generation of bishops, liberals or conservatives, didn’t accommodate themselves to the authority of the new Delegation but Rome would soon begin appointing bishops who knew who the boss was. Before we get there, however, we have some other issues to look at—notably the Americanist heresy and Rome’s alarm at the American understanding of Catholicism.
Let me say that though I use a variety of sources in my research for this series, I am particularly indebted to Gerald P. Fogarty SJ and his The Vatican and the American Hierarchy 1870 to 1965. I am so dependent on Fogarty’s work that I would be a plagiarist (at least) if I didn’t acknowledge it. Today's image is the plaque on the front of the Basilica of the Portiuncula (Saint Mary of the Angels) in Assisi commemorating the two inter-faith meetings held their under the auspices of John Paul II. Such meetings were once prohibited.