Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Origins of Radical Catholicism VIII: The Fight for Catholic Schools, part 3.

I mentioned in the last episode that Cardinal Melchers, the exiled archbishop of Cologne, delated (reported for heresy) Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul Minnesota to Rome for his endorsement of the Public School system in the United States.  The issue behind Ireland’s speech and Melcher’s denunciation was English-only education and, on a broader scale, the integration of immigrants (in the instance of Melcher’s concern, specifically German immigrants) into American society and culture.  There was more.  Ireland and others in the liberal faction were trying to get John Lancaster Spalding, the bishop of Peoria, appointed to be the Archbishop of Milwaukee.  John Martin Henni, a Swiss had been appointed bishop of the new see in 1844 and promoted to Archbishop when the diocese became the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1875.  His successor, Michael Heiss was German.  When Heiss died in 1890 there was a concern on the part of the liberals to make sure the new Archbishop was American born lest the Germans become entrenched there and use it as a powerbase.  Spalding was perfect, or rather appeared perfect as a candidate for the See.  He came from an old Maryland Catholic family that had emigrated to Kentucky at the end of the 18th century and his uncle Martin John Spalding had been Archbishop of Baltimore from 1864 until his death in 1872.  Spalding would have blocked the German domination of the Church in Wisconsin and supported the English-only education policies of the Republican gubernatorial administration in Wisconsin.   In the event, it did not happen and Milwaukee would be ruled by an Austrian (Frederick Katzer) and then a Swiss-German (Gerard Messmer) Archbishop for the next forty years.  Despite the efforts of Gibbons and Ireland, Catholicism in Milwaukee would be German Catholicism. 
While Melchers and the German Catholic community were mobilized to resistance by Ireland’s speech, Americans in general (and that means Protestants) cheered it.  A Baptist minister described the Catholic Church as follows:
There are two distinct and hostile parties in the Roman Catholic Church in America.  One is led by Archbishop Ireland.  It stands for Americanism and a large independence.  It is sympathetic with modern thought.  It believes the Roman Catholic Church should take its place in all the great moral reforms.  It is small but progressive, vigorous, and brave.
The other party is led by the overwhelming majority of the hierarchy.  It is conservative, out of touch with American or modern ideas.  It is the old medieval European Church transplanted into The Nineteenth Century and this country of freedom, interesting as an antiquity and curiosity, but fast losing its power and consequently growing in bitterness.
Statements like this did not help Ireland’s cause and they certainly did not endear him to the authorities in Rome.  Ella B. Edes, a Brahmin convert to Catholicism who served as a secretary to Cardinal Simeoni of the Propaganda Fide—the Roman Congregation that oversaw the American Church at the time—and spy-agent provocateur for Archbishop Corrigan of New York, remarked that “Ireland is the stuff of which heretics are made.”  Edes had perhaps the most viperfish tongue to ever grace the halls of the Vatican—no small distinction—and Simeoni to whom she reported the back-alley gossip of the American Church was pathologically anti-American.  This is not to say that Edes’ wasn’t witty nor to say that Simeoni’s fears were unfounded.  But distrust of Ireland in Rome undoubtedly had much to do with Spalding’s never rising above Peoria and Ireland’s never getting a red hat. Both men had the talent to go further in their careers than they did, but neither knew his Achilles’ heel and it marked them each for disappointment.
In the immediate fallout, the Schools Question ended up in Rome for a decision and that will be part of the story of the first Apostolic Delegate.      

1 comment:

  1. Of course, Archbishop Ireland's treatment of Fr Alexis Toth and the subsequent movement of thousands out of Catholicism and into Orthodoxy (and the founding of the Orthodox Church in America) couldn't have helped him much in Rome, either.