Monday, March 21, 2011

Origins of Radical Catholicism IX: Factions among the Bishops

       Before we go on, let me clarify the situation in the American hierarchy at this point.  There were essentially three factions among the bishops: the American Liberals, the American Conservatives, and the Germans. 
We have talked a lot about the liberals.  The Dean of the Liberal faction was Cardinal James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore.  The other principle players were John Ireland, Archbishop of Saint Paul Minnesota; Denis O’Connell, Rector of the North American College in Rome (and later Bishop of Richmond); John Lancaster Spalding, Bishop of Peoria; John Joseph Keane, Bishop of Richmond, and John Moore, Bishop of Saint Augustine, FL. 
The American Conservative faction was larger but had less influence.  It was led by Archbishop Corrigan of New York and included Bernard McQuaid, Bishop of Rochester NY; Patrick Feehan, Archbishop of Chicago; Patrick John Ryan, Archbishop of Philadelphia; William Henry Elder, Archbishop of Cincinnati; and William H. Gross, Archbishop of Oregon City, OR.  You might remember Elder—he was the bishop who during the Yankee occupation of Natchez in the American Civil War was imprisoned by the Yankee army for refusing to have prayers said in the churches for the President of the United States.  (See Blog for 2/10/11.)
It is difficult to know where to put Peter Richard Kenrick, Archbishop of Saint Louis.  In some respects he might also be considered in this party but he was pretty much of a non-entity as his stands at Vatican I had alienated Rome.  I suppose actually that Kenrick would have been considered a Liberal and an Americanist at the time of the Council.  He advocated that issues in the American Church not be referred to the Roman Curia but dealt with by the American hierarchy, and this would be a position that men like Gibbons (more subtly than Kenrick) and Ireland (who was never subtle) would espouse. Kenrick also was one of the few bishops at the Council who opposed the definition of Papal Infallibility.  His positions on these issues put him on the enemies list for the Roman Curia and made him a pariah among his fellow American bishops.  In the matter of the Knights of Labor he opposed Gibbons and the defense of Labor Unions.  He probably resented Gibbons for several reasons, not least of which is that Gibbons had succeed his brother, Francis Kenrick, as Archbishop of Baltimore and Gibbons became a Cardinal, an honor never extended to Kenrick’s brother.  The last few years of his episcopacy he had a co-adjutor, John Joseph Kain, to whom he was ardently and publicly opposed.  Finally in 1896 Pope Leo XIII canonically deposed him and he died weeks later. His was a sad story. But back to our main theme.
The third party among the Hierarchy were the German bishops led by Archbishop Katzer of Milwaukee.  (Katzer was actually Austrian born but we are including the German-speaking bishops in this category.) Katzer’s predecessor, Michael Heiss had led the German faction prior to his death in 1890.  Others in this party were Sebastian Messmer (actually Swiss, but German speaking) of Green Bay, Kilian Flasch (d. 1891) and James Schwebach of LaCrosse.  Henry Muehlsiepen, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis was also in this camp—and a leading protagonist of the German cause—and while not a bishop wielded considerable power and influence given the confused state of Kenrick’s episcopacy.  Not all German-born or German-speaking bishops could be counted on to support the more extreme demands of the German party.  Bishops Joseph Rademacher of Nashville and Henry Richter of Grand Rapids distanced themselves from the German agenda.
The German agenda deserves a posting of its own and we will do that soon. 
The Liberal Americanist wing, despite its smaller size, dominated through the 1880’s and into the 1890’s.  Their strength was most likely due to Gibbons personally.  He was the only American Cardinal at the time, but more important (and not unrelated) was the friendship and trust in which Pope Leo XIII held him.  Leo was no liberal—especially in theological and ecclesiological matters—but he was no conservative either and he did make some surprising choices for his Cardinals, John Henry Newman being another liberal whose appointment to the Sacred College astonished (and in the case of Henry Manning , Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, dismayed) his contemporaries.  Even after the fall of the liberals in 1894 Gibbons remained in Leo’s confidence.  Corrigan, on the other hand, as hard as he worked for Roman favor, never got his galero.     
The image today is Cardinal Gibbons, the leader of the Americanist Party

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