Monsignor Denis O’Connell and Archbishop Ireland did a masterful job in putting their foe, Archbishop Corrigan of New York—the leader of the Conservatives—in bad light for the arrival of the papal delegate, Archbishop Francesco Satolli. O’Connell, traveling with Satolli, wrote Corrigan informing him that he and Archbishop Satolli would be arriving in New York on their way to the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago where Satolli would be representing the Holy Father at a Vatican Exhibit. A letter obviously could travel no faster than the ship that carried it so it gave Corrigan no advance warning. Nevertheless, Corrigan had heard rumors and tracked them down to learn that Satolli was coming and would be aboard the Majestic when it docked in New York on October 12 1892. But Ireland had arranged a curve ball to Corrigan in case of just such an event. As Satolli was coming to the exhibition at the invitation of the United States Government who was sponsoring the Columbian Exhibition, the Delegate was an official guest of the government and would be met by a Coast Guard cutter as the ship entered the harbor and conveyed privately to shore. Try as he could, Corrigan could not get information regarding the cutter or its landing place. Thus he was neither aboard the cutter nor at its dock to greet the Delegate. The liberals leaked it to the press that this was a “snub” to the papal representative and so it was interpreted by all, including Satolli. This was only the first step in the anti-Corrigan plan.
Corrigan could not find the cutter or its dock, but he did know the date of arrival and he had arranged a dinner at his residence adjoining Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for the papal representative. Under the circumstances the dinner was, shall we say, “strained.” The next morning Satolli and O’Connell boarded a private railway car arranged for by Gibbons and travelled on to Baltimore where Gibbons welcomed the Delegate more appropriately. He was taken to Washington where again there was a very gracious welcome by the Secretary of State on behalf of President Harrison who was absent tending to his dying wife. Satolli’s remarks, prepared by O’Connell, praised the American form of republican government and its freedom of Worship—this was a bit edgy for the time as we shall see in several future blogs about the situation in France and then later about an American Jesuit who would be removed from teaching these ideas at the Catholic University in Washington. But for now, back to Satolli. While in Washington the papal representative was taken to the new Catholic University where he was greeted by university officials and faculty. Then on to Chicago with various stops along the way, all orchestrated by Archbishop Ireland who made sure that the Delegate was treated with great respect to contrast with Corrigan’s failures in New York. Meanwhile, Denis O’Connell kept sending messages back to Cardinal Rampolla (the papal Secretary of State) in Rome about the warm welcomes extended to the papal representative and never mentioning Corrigan in his dispatches. Then, somewhat ill-considered, Corrigan’s New York Catholic Newspaper published a diatribe against government collaboration with the Church in regards to education and Satolli, by now a convert to the liberal cause, cabled Rampolla himself about how injurious such criticism could be to the cause of the Church in the United States. Corrigan was in deep, up to his ears and the liberals were enjoying every bit of it.
Ireland next brought Archbishop Satolli to his diocese, Saint Paul Minnesota, to help him prepare for a meeting of the American Archbishops. Ireland’s real agenda was to convince Satolli of Ireland’s program on “The Schools Issue.” Ireland had a fourteen point program in which he basically supported public school education over the parochial system advocated by most American bishops. Indeed the bishops had incorporated the idea that every parish should have its parochial school and parents should be obligated to send their children to these schools under penalty of being deprived of the sacraments as legislation at the Plenary Councils of Baltimore. Ireland, on the other hand, had sold a number of Catholic Schools to the State of Minnesota which in turned hired the nuns and priests to teach in these now public schools, reserving religious education for Catholics until after normal school hours. Ireland did a great sales job and Satolli endorsed the fourteen points at the subsequent meeting of the Archbishops. The leading opponent to Ireland’s plan was, of course, Archbishop Corrigan of New York who now found himself more isolated than ever from Satolli.
Satolli also polled the Archbishops on the suitability of establishing a permanent Apostolic Delegation in Washington. Rome was determined to do so, but wanted it to be at the “request” of the American hierarchy. Ireland was the only one of the Archbishops to vote in favor of the delegation. Most of the others demurred claiming they needed to consult the suffragen bishops of their respective provinces. Even Gibbons did not speak in its behalf, but remained silent. This was an orchestrated plan however. Gibbons’ had not joined in the chorus against the delegation and his silence was explained as “fear” in face of the opposition and, given that he was the senior American Churchman, a reluctance of compromising himself in case he should be needed as mediator between opposing wings of the hierarchy. Satolli was furious at the Archbishops for refusing to endorse the Delegation and he blamed Corrigan and the conservatives for the reluctance of the American hierarchy, cabling Rampolla in Rome that the Holy See should just go ahead and establish the Delegation with or without the approval of the American hierarchy.
Corrigan realized that he was being made a scapegoat both with Satolli and the Holy See and he begged O’Connell to smooth things out. O’Connell told Corrigan not to worry, it was just a tempest in a teapot (idiomatic translation of the actual words which were incidente accidentale). Well, if it were, O’Connell was making sure the winds blew strong in that teapot. He wrote Rampolla telling the Cardinal that the pope needed to back up Satolli’s endorsement of Ireland’s fourteen points as well as the other liberal agenda to show that Satolli was speaking for the Holy See because the American Archbishops opposition to Satolli and his proposed Delegation was a contest between their authority and Roman authority. Rome needed to bring the bishops into line. This is so deliciously ironic that the conservatives found themselves out on a limb and the liberals looked like the loyalists. Gibbons, Ireland, O’Connell, Keane and their party were having a field day and poor Satolli was being played like a puppet on strings and had no idea. But such hubris leads to overconfidence and that brings us to a fall. Stay tuned. The image today is the Papal Nunciature in Washington DC, originally the Apostolic Delegation until the Holy See and the United States established formal diplomatic relations during the Reagan Administration.