Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Origins of Radical Catholicism X: A Catholic University

The next scheme the liberal party came up with was the founding of a Catholic University in Washington DC.  John Lancaster Spalding, Bishop of Peoria, won the endorsement of the majority of bishops at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884 for this idea.  This should not be surprising as Spalding had already presented the plan to Leo XIII for his approval—which was given—and he also had persuaded a wealthy New York Heiress Mary Gwendolyn Caldwell for a burse of three hundred thousand dollars (worth approx 6.7 million today) to realize the initial phase of the university.  Caldwell Hall, the principal residence for priests professors is named after Ms. Caldwell.   (We might do an adults-only blog on the Spalding/Caldwell ties.)   Not everyone was in favor of this projected university; there was, one should not be surprised, an agenda.  The primary function of the University was to be a  seminarium principale for the American Church—a place where dioceses could send their men to study and earn pontifical degrees without having to go to Europe.  Up until this time, if a priest wished to earn a church-recognized degree (which was required for seminary professors) he had to go to one of the European universities such as Leuven in Belgium or Innsbruck in Austria or one of the Roman Universities.  (There were other options, notably in Spain, but most Americans went to one of the three named; and in fact most went to Rome.) The liberals, in their project to stamp the Church in the United States with a distinctly American identity, wanted to avoid exposing future generations of clergy as much as possible to European thought and customs.  Given the strong monarchial and integrist tenor of late nineteenth century Europe this is understandable.  As the Americanist agenda became more clear, the more conservative bishops—German and American alike—began to back off their support.  Corrigan led the way.  Of course, Corrigan had an agenda too—he wanted Fordham, the Jesuit University in his archdiocese, to be the official Catholic University for the United States.  Milwaukee Archbishop Michael Heiss, the leading German bishop in the United States and an implacable foe of the liberal party, was a member of the committee to choose a rector, and his abrupt resignation alerted Rome that something more than what appeared was going on.  The Jesuits—jealous to protect Georgetown from a second church affiliated university in Washington and anxious to make their university at Fordham the Catholic University, worked with Corrigan.  In the end, it was Gibbons (who ironically was not a supporter of the idea) who used his friendship with Leo XIII to bring the project to fruition.  The University opened in 1889—the centenary year for the establishment of a Catholic hierarchy in the United States—with John Joseph Keane as Rector.  (Keane, you may remember from earlier posts, was a leading liberal).  The university would be the scene of many a battle between liberals and conservatives over the course of the twentieth century, not least of which was the Henry Poels debacle in 1908, the John Courtney Murray archdebacle in the 1950’s, and the case of Father Charles Curran after the Humanae Vitae Encyclical in 1968 with Act II of this tragic farce from 1986-89.   These are blips, however, on a fairly consistent track record of arbitrary authority triumphing over sound scholarship.   At some future time when I do a blog or two on the John Courtney Murray debacle I will justify the words "arbitrary" and "sound," but until then we move on—the next blog will be on the Apostolic Delegation.  Remember that while blogs are posted most days, there will be gaps as i do have a (not terribly demanding) day job.  The image today is McMahon Hall on the campus of The Catholic University of America, Washington DC

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