Friday, April 11, 2014

When Bishops Forgot They Were Called To Be Apostles

Archbishop Michael Augustine
Cardinal McCloskey built the elegant but not pretentious Cardinal’s residence on the corner of Madison Avenue and 50th Street in New York.  McCloskey’s successor as Archbishop of New York, Michael Augustine Corrigan never was given the Cardinal’s Hat, but he maintained the princely life-style associated with that dignity.  Corrigan had been born in Newark NJ in 1839, the fifth of nine children of Thomas and Mary Corrigan.  His parents were Irish immigrants, but became comfortable financially through his father’s liquor business.  As his father was gifted in business, Michael was gifted intellectually and when he decided to study for the priesthood in the Diocese of Newark, he was sent to the newly opened North American College in Rome.  The NAC then occupied conventual buildings of the Dominican Priory at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva near the Pantheon.  (You can still see the faded lettering of the North American College over the doorway of the building in the Piazza Sopra Minerva.) Returning to the States with a Pontifical Degree in Theology, Corrigan was assigned to teach at the Newark Diocese’ Seton Hall College.  His contacts were wide and his rise was rapid.  He was named president of the College in 1869 and Bishop of Newark in 1872.  Corrigan succeded James Roosevelt Bayley as Bishop of Newark when Bayley went on to become Archbishop of Baltimore.  Bayley came from a very blue-blood Protestant family and had been ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church.  At age 28 he entered the Catholic Church and two years later was ordained to the Catholic priesthood.  His Roosevelt grandfather disinherited him from his considerable inheritance when he was ordained.  It should also be noted that he was the nephew of Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, who herself had converted to Catholicism to the disgust of her family a generation and a half before.  In 1853 Bayley was consecrated the first bishop of Newark. 
Corrigan, the son of an Irish immigrant, had to follow in the footsteps of this aristocratic predecessor and he rose to the occasion.  For many of the Irish immigrants, and Corrigan was no exception, the rise from having pigs in the parlor to lace curtains on the windows was a quick and easy one.  They were not accepted by the old Yankee blue-bloods whose genteel ways they aped, but they held their heads high and flashed their money in a way the Irish call flahoolach.  The Catholic aristocracy, almost entirely Irish, was a closed circle and they rallied around their own.  Corrigan was one of them and their money helped expand parishes, schools, hospitals and other institutions of the rapidly growing immigrant Church. 
Corrigan was installed as Archbishop of New York and moved into McCloskey’s Mansion in 1885.  While Catholics were still not accepted in the “400,” Corrigan was anxious to win the favor of the WASP upper classes and embraced their political and economic philosophy—even though that meant not looking after the temporal interests of  his flock—all but of a few of whom were immigrant laborers of the poorest sort.  When Dr. Edward McGlynn, Pastor of Saint Stephens on East 28th Street, a priest who was probably the most popular Catholic preacher in the City of New York, endorsed Henry George, the candidate of the United Labor Party and supported by the more radical and socialist elements of New York Politics, for mayor, Corrigan went wild and excommunicated McGlynn.  Despite his excommunication, the sympathy of the Catholic New Yorker-in-the-street went with McGlynn.  The immigrant New York faithful never warmed to their new Archbishop.  Moreover, Corrigan’s economic views put him in conflict with Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore, a strong champion of the labor movement.  Gibbons had the Pope’s (Leo XIII) ear and while Corrigan may have defended the interests of the Protestant ascendancy, Gibbon’s influence probably cost Corrigan a Cardinal’s hat. Corrigan died in 1902 of pneumonia and is buried in the crypt of the Archbishop’s of New York in St Patrick’s Cathedral. 

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