There is no single reason for Irish emigration to the United States. Population growth, an outmoded economy, and famine were major reasons in addition to an increase in literacy. The emigrants came from a variety of regions in Ireland. The Irish had been migrating to the U.S. since the founding of the colonies.
By the time of the American Revolution, Philadelphia and New York had sizable Irish communities. Many Irish lived in the Catholic counties of southern Maryland. When the first federal census was taken in 1790, there were 400,000 Irish in the colonies. The total Irish migration to the U.S. between 1820 and 1920 was 4.3 million.
While the influence of Irish prelates as a formative element within the American Catholic Church is a given element in history, the specific stance of these prelates, quite often in opposition to each other, is not as commonly observed. The latter part of the 19th century saw a number of issues become paramount within the spectrum of concern of the American Catholic.
Among a number of other issues, those of education, a national Catholic university, and ethnicity as seen in national parishes actually found a culmination of expression in the question; how was the Catholic Church to express itself in a democratic society? As history relates today, the excesses of this expression were corrected by the papacy in its response to the issue of Americanism.
Two prelates who stand often together, yet, just as frequently opposed to each other, are John Ireland and Michael Corrigan, archbishops of New York and St. Paul respectively. Neither one was always on the winning side. Each saw his own vision as vital to the survival of the American Catholic Church. Each prelate represents a voice heard today within American Catholic circles.
Their contributions remain with us today as, likewise, does the shadow of their differing views. It is the purpose of this study to explore the stance of each of these prelates with the expectation that it might sharpen one's focus on the Church of today.
Michael A. Corrigan
Michael Augustine Corrigan, the fifth of nine children of Irish immigrant parents, was born Aug. 13, 1839. His father used the grocery and real estate business to become the wealthiest person in Newark, N.J. Michael, looked upon as a frail child, received a private education all the way through his early years. He graduated from Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Pa., in 1859. Having always desired to become a priest, he possessed some linguistic skill from a year of European travel in 1858.
He was sent to Rome by his bishop, James Roosevelt Bayley of the Newark diocese as one of the original 12 students attending North American College when it opened on Dec. 8, 1859. He was ordained at the Basilica of St. John Lateran on Sept. 19, 1863. He stayed one more year to earn a Doctorate of Divinity before returning to the Newark diocese.
Father Corrigan was appointed to Seton Hall College initially as professor of Dogmatic Theology and Sacred Scripture, but then served in administrative capacities as director of the seminary, vice president and director of the college. During rather difficult times for the college, he was able to raise enough money to prevent the school from closing.
In 1868, he was named vicar general of the diocese which was the same geographic region as the state of New Jersey. When Bishop Bayley attended Vatican Council I (1870-71), Corrigan administered the diocese. He was appointed bishop of Newark in 1873.
John Ireland was born in County Kilkenny, Ireland. The exact date of his birth is unknown, but he was baptized on Sept. 11, 1838. His parents migrated with their six children to the United States in 1848, originally to Burlington, Vt., then in 1851 to Chicago, and a year later to St. Paul, Minn.
John Ireland was chosen for study to the priesthood by Bishop Joseph Cretin, the first bishop of the new diocese of St. Paul. Bishop Cretin, in the year 1853 singled out two of the ''dirty little Irish boys,'' John Ireland, age 14, and Thomas O'Gorman, age 11, to study in France for the priesthood. He referred to them as the beginning of his diocesan seminary, the first seminarians of St. Paul.
Ireland studied at the preparatory seminary of Meximieux in the Diocese of Belley in France (Cretin's alma mater) , and graduated with honors in French and oratory. His facility in the language would serve him well in his clerical career. Following theological studies in the Marish Seminary in Montbel, he was ordained Dec. 22, 1861, in St. Paul by Bishop Thomas Langdon Grace, Bishop Cretin's successor.
Ireland served as a curate in the cathedral parish for a few months and then joined the Fifth Minnesota Infantry Regiment as chaplain. He was forced in resign in March 1863 due to uncertain health and the needs of the dioceses. He was appointed rector of St. Paul's cathedral in 1867. Ireland's sermons during this period were written as lessons in Apologetics which he described as the defense of religion.
He always complimented his audience and took pains not to talk down to them. He believed that people would ''flock to hear a priest who has something to say.'' Like most priests of his day, he seldom spoke for less than 45 minutes. He represented Bishop Grace at Vatican I. When Pius IX appointed Ireland vicar apostolic of Nebraska in 1875, Grace successfully petitioned the pontiff to revoke the appointment so that he could continue to serve in Minnesota. Later in the same year Pius IX appointed Ireland coadjutor with the right of succession to the bishop of St. Paul. He was consecrated on Dec. 21, 1875, by Bishop Grace.
During his seven years as bishop of Newark, Michael Corrigan added 69 parishes and missions and looked toward a uniformity in practice. This centralization was readily manifest in a diocesan synod held in April 1878. He was able to secure all diocesan property in the name of the bishop. Corporations for each parish were established, consisting of the bishop, vicar general, pastor and two lay trustees.
He was appointed co-adjutor of New York by Pope Leo XIII in 1880. He would serve under Cardinal John McCloskey, the first American ever to receive the red hat, who suffered from malaria. During this era, the American Catholic population had experienced a shift from the agrarian South to the urban North. The Church in New York has been referred to as the most important center of Catholicism in the U.S. at this time.
Due to the sickness of Cardinal McCloskey, the diocese was, to a great extent, run by Corrigan. As coadjutor, Corrigan visited every parish, opened 75 schools and welcomed 24 religious orders into the diocese. He further witnessed a proliferation of Catholic charitable institutions. In regard to the immigrant population, he witnessed the rise of ethnic parishes, the creation of Italian national parishes. In particular, Irish and Italian clergy became available to serve these ethnic parishes.
American College in Rome
Corrigan in 1881 formed an episcopal board for the financial relief of Mount St. Mary's College. Three years later, in working again with several bishops, he was able to preserve the American College in Rome from seizure by the Italian government. This cooperation among bishops actually led to the Third Plenary Council in Baltimore in 1884. The eastern bishops actually felt provincial councils more effective. They saw the country as far too diverse for a national council, but the wish for a national council as expressed by the bishops from the West, St. Paul, and Milwaukee, among other sites, reigned.
Bishops from the West believed a council was needed to regularize ecclesiastical affairs better, specifically the relations between bishops and priests, in addition to adapting the training of priests to meet current needs. The Westerners also felt that only a national council would produce legislation that would be widely respected in the American Church.
Thus, the Vatican ordered the metropolitans of the U.S. to Rome to prepare for a plenary council. Corrigan represented Cardinal McCloskey. In Rome Corrigan pleaded that a foreigner not be sent as the Vatican delegate to this council for fear of the charge of foreign intervention. Rather, James Gibbons of Baltimore was chosen, even though Corrigan was fully expecting that the honor be given to Cardinal McCloskey. Corrigan and Gibbons worked closely on the agenda for the Council when they returned to the U.S.
Significant issues at the Council included the establishment of a parochial school in every parish, a uniform catechism and the establishment of a Catholic university. Corrigan thought that Seton Hall was the likely site and offered to sell the college for $250,000.
When the Bishop of New York realized in what direction the voting was going, -- Washington, D.C., became the ultimate choice of the hierarchy -- he sought to have the Vatican stop the project on the grounds that it was too hastily approved by the Council, would not be financially sound and was unrealistic from an educational standpoint, given the present condition of the Church in America.
Catholic University Approved
Cardinal Gibbons responded to each of these objections. Leo XIII approved the university in April 1887. Despite Corrigan's opposition to his brother bishops regarding the existence of an American Catholic university, his knowledge of acts and decisions of previous councils was often called upon at the council. His role, along with that of Gibbons, has been described as one of a conciliator. William McCloskey, bishop of Louisville, referred to Corrigan as ''the Athanasius of the Council, combining learning and prudence with solid sense.''
While the concept of a Catholic university played a leading role in splitting the American hierarchy, nationality added to the tension in the hierarchy in the Church of the 19th century. German-Americans resented the growing domination of the Church in America by the Irish. They felt they were underrepresented in the hierarchy.
A German-American priest, Peter Abbelen, the vicar general of Milwaukee, petitioned Rome for a vicar general for Germans in dioceses with a large German population. Corrigan was able to persuade Gibbons to call a meeting of the four East coast archbishops, Baltimore, Boston, New York and Philadelphia, who in turn petitioned Rome to leave matters as they were and to make no laws in favor of one class only.
Archbishop Corrigan, toward the end of his reign, became involved in a decade-long dispute with Father Edward McGlynn. Father McGlynn was an opponent of parochial schools and a supporter of the land and tax theories of Henry George who was the candidate for mayor of New York Cityin 1886. When he refused to obey Archbishop Corrigan in withdrawing from politics, he incurred a suspension, was removed from his pastorate, and summoned to Rome, but refused to go on grounds of ill health. He then incurred excommunication.
McGlynn maintained that he was treated unfairly because he was never given a trial. This denial on Corrigan's part would haunt him publicly in the press for years. Eventually the censure was lifted in 1892 through the intervention of the Vatican. Archbishop Corrigan had no choice after the Vatican action but to appoint McGlynn to a pastorate, this time to St. Mary's Church in Newburg, New York, in 1895.
Father Edward McGlynn originally had no supporters among the American bishops. Some prelates, however, including Archbishop John Ireland, reluctantly used their influence in Rome for McGlynn, stating that he had been denied due process.
Corrigan recognized these liberal tendencies within the hierarchy. By the end of the century, they were labeled as ''Americanism.'' Thus, by 1890, there were two distinct blocks within the American hierarchy. The liberal block was led by Ireland but followed by Cardinal Gibbons, among others. The conservatives, actually a larger group, included some German-American prelates, some Jesuits with their connections in Rome and of course, Corrigan as the leader of this conservative block.
In fact, the McGlynn affair touched upon other issues, such as Irish nationalism, schools, the relation of church and state, and, of course, the identity of American Catholicism. McGlynn's opposition to parochial schools came at a time when the bishops were attempting to build a school in every parish. His support of socialistic reform methods frightened conservatives during a time of labor uprisings. McGlynn's views on some issues were also seen as heretical which added more fuel to the fire in the Americanist crisis.
Vision for Catholic Workmen
During his nine years as co-adjutor, Ireland became active in the Catholic Total Abstinence Society and sponsored a rural colonization program. Through his efforts more than 4,000 Catholic families moved from the slums of eastern urban areas and settled in farmland in western Minnesota. Ireland believed that the ''ideal locale'' for the Catholic immigrant, and specifically the Irishman, was the countryside.
He had a vision of Catholic workmen owning and farming their own land and thus having a measure of independence and respectability not found among propertyless day laborers. In fact this and other colonization plans met with opposition among Catholic prelates, specifically Archbishop John Hughes of New York, who perceived them as idealized and remote from the Church. Therefore, no plan ever gained significant support within the Catholic community. To Ireland's credit, he did not underplay the difficulties of settling west and also stationed a priest in each new settlement.
In July 1884, Grace resigned due to ill health and his co-adjutor followed in his footsteps. Ireland as the new bishop attended the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in that same year where he gave his 90-minute speech ''The Church -- the Support of the Just Government.'' The thrust of the presentation was that Roman Catholicism and the American ethos were mutually beneficial and supportive.
Ireland's attempts at Americanizing the Church at times were pushed to extremes. A case in point was the situation of the School Sisters of St. Francis, a German order, responding to the invitation of Bishop Grace, to establish a motherhouse in the diocese of St. Paul. The Sisters already staffed 12 parish schools in southern Minnesota by 1884. Ireland demanded of the superior that the Order accept no more postulants from Europe, that all sisters teaching attend an American normal school and that the order become a diocesan community.
Mother Alexia Moves to Milwaukee
Mother Alexia accepted only the normal school requisite and therefore moved on to the more friendly neighboring diocese of Milwaukee to establish her motherhouse. It is no wonder that within three years, Ireland was recognized as a member of the Americanist party. Four clergymen working together constantly in 1887 formed the heart of what was to become the Americanist party -- Archbishop James Gibbons of Baltimore, John Keane, bishop of Richmond, Denis O'Connell, rector of North American College in Rome, in addition to Ireland.
The germination of the group came with the approval of the Catholic University of America and, likewise, the Knights of Labor by the Holy See. Four years later, St. Paul was raised to the rank of archdiocese and Ireland was named its first archbishop.
The Americanizing issue remained with Ireland for many years. This country has often been termed a melting pot for people of all nationalities. While Ireland was ahead of his time in the politics of America in preaching an equality for blacks of whom there were very few in his diocese, he looked upon native Americans as ''simply wards of the state.''
He further gave no support to Greeks, especially of a Uniate tradition. His ecumenism was far out of touch with present standards for he would not allow Roman Catholics to approach Uniate priests for the sacraments. This treatment ultimately led one uniate priest, Father Alexis Toth, and 365 parishioners to join the Russian Orthodox church.
Others followed, by some estimates, a quarter of a million communicants, due to the lack of support within the American episcopacy for the Uniate Church. While one might assume that American prelates objected to Uniate priests due to the issue of celibacy, the question of authority entered in. When Uniate episcopacies would be established in the U.S., these priests would fall under that jurisdiction.
An issue very dear to the hearts of many Catholic Americans was parochial education. Ireland believed that the financial obstacles to Catholic education were overwhelming and that therefore only a fraction of Catholic children would be taught in this system. In addressing the National Education Association in 1890, he promoted what came to be known as the Fairbault School Plan.
Under this system the local board of education rented the parochial school building. After school the building reverted to the parish, and the same teachers would teach these children catechism. The majority of his episcopal colleagues were against the plan. It is believed that Leo XIII gave his blessing to such a plan due to Ireland's ''supposed popularity'' in some republican circles in Paris. The Papacy at that time was attempting to improve relations with the French Third Republic. However, agreements made with the local Fairbault school board soon collapsed, and it appeared that the plan was dead.
A further educational issue in which Ireland took central stage was the building of a Catholic university in Washington, D.C. Ireland and John Keane, archbishop of Dubuque, were avid supporters of the building of the Catholic university. In fact, Ireland carried a letter from a group of bishops supporting the university to Pope Leo XIII during his ad limina visit in 1886.
Ireland further found himself having to agree to an apostolic delegate Francesco Satolli, with whom he did not enjoy a good relationship and which cost him good will among some of his colleagues. He saw his friends, Bishop Keane and Bishop O'Connell both dismissed from their rectorships of the Catholic University and the North American College respectively for failure to carry out their responsibilities.
Ireland and Republicans
Ireland faced difficult financial problems when his investments went bad and he faced bankruptcy. He was bailed out through wealthy Republicans, who in turn were delighted when he campaigned against Tammany Hall and the Democrats in the state election of New York. He was publicly chastised and naturally humiliated by Bishop McQuaid, bishop of Rochester, New York, for leaving his own archdiocese to carry on such activities.
Ireland was at it again in the 1896 Presidential election. James Hill, one of the archbishop's financial donors, was asked to state his views on the issues which readily would support the republican candidacy of William McKinley. Ireland did speak on behalf of McKinley, Minnesota went Republican, and, of course, McKinley won the presidency. How much of this outcome was due to Ireland, one cannot say.
While there were complaints to the Holy See regarding Ireland's intervention -- Were his speeches the official mind of the Church? -- nothing came of it in the end. Ireland's influence with the Republican Party did bear some fruit -- Joseph McKenna, a Catholic, was appointed attorney general.
The archbishop was asked in 1898 to approach President McKinley to try to avert the impending Spanish American War. His negotiations were unsuccessful, and he imprudently cheered America's victories over Catholic Spain. During the war, McKinley appointed Ireland to a commission for settlement of friars' land in the Philippines.
Ireland's fluency in French was called upon in 1899 when he preached the sermon in the cathedral of Orleans, France, honoring the 470th anniversary of the raising of the siege of that city by St. Joan of Arc. A year later President McKinley requested that Ireland return to France and present to the French people, in the name of all Americans, a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette. Ireland was then invested with the Cross of the Legion of Honor.
In the autumn of 1898, rumor was spreading that Leo XIII intended to issue a condemnation of ''Americanism.'' The charge was that some French Catholics had adopted ''some principles of individual liberty,'' an initiative identified as American, which were perceived as a ''danger to Catholic doctrine and discipline.'' Ireland had no way of preventing the publication of Testem Benevolentiae. Since it was perceived as no more than a mild rebuke, he accepted it.
Shared Views, But Differed on Some Issues
It may be seen from the foregoing that Corrigan and Ireland shared views, yet differed dramatically on several issues. In fact, one issue on which they disagreed, that of an apostolic delegate for the U.S., was designed, in the view of Leo XIII, to restore some degree of harmony among warring prelates, including Corrigan and Ireland. These hostilities, unfortunately, were battled in the daily newspapers.
It was not uncommon for prelates to leak stories to the press expressing their own point of view on an issue. The presence of the apostolic delegate, however, only led to a higher level of strife among the prelates. Ireland was one of the few American prelates who went along with the idea of an apostolic delegate.
This choice, on his part, cost him considerably with his confreres. In this case, Corrigan remained with the majority. The choice cost Ireland even further in that the red hat, which he had long desired, was denied him through the pen of the apostolic delegate, Francesco Cardinal Satolli.
Ireland's school plan, specifically labeled due to the geographic position as the Faribault plan, fizzled out on the local level with failure of enactment of local school boards. The plan was commonly viewed within the American episcopacy as a betrayal of Baltimore III, which required every parish to have a parish school. The Vatican accepted both plans to the chagrin of many but only after much publicity of disagreement among the prelates in the press and Ireland's promotion of his own plan in the Vatican.
Corrigan and Ireland readily disagreed on the establishment of what would eventually evolve as The Catholic University of America. The archbishop of New York originally expressed no opposition as he thought the site of Seton Hall was appropriate. He later perceived Washington, D.C., an ill advised site, by way of promotion of an Americanist agenda. In fact, conflict between Americanist and anti-Americanist faculty would carry on through the resignation of an anti-Americanist, Msgr. Joseph Schroeder, in 1897. Corrigan's failure to allow fund- raising for the university in his wealthy diocese of New York made the American bishops work that much harder in other dioceses.
The issue, however, which caused Corrigan the most strife in his episcopate was that of Father Edward McGlynn. To Corrigan's great disappointment, Ireland was quite instrumental in the priest's reinstatement. Ireland had been asked by neighboring prelates in New York to intervene on McGlynn's behalf in the curia.
Thus, Cardinal Satolli, the apostolic delegate asked the Vatican secretary of state Rampolla for faculties to absolve and restore McGlynn on two conditions, that he retract any teachings on ''public economy'' at variance with Catholic doctrine, and that he go to Rome and explain to the pope his conduct.
McGlynn issued a formal letter to Satolli stating that he was never at variance with Church teaching. Many prelates would have disagreed with that statement and wondered why he was not ordered to retract his numerous savage attacks against Corrigan, but reconciliation soon followed and Corrigan was ordered to reinstate him in the diocese.
For all of their efforts over many years neither one attained the red hat that was often spoken of and fostered by varied parties. Corrigan left his archdiocese, at his death in 1902, certainly better able to meet the needs of the largest Catholic population in the country. This was achieved through his concern for immigrants, the education of clergy, scholarship, religious education, a seminary. He had contributed toward building episcopal collegiality yet also undermined it.
Ireland's last years were spent in more peaceful serenity. He became a liaison between the Vatican and Theodore Roosevelt's administration. He spent much of his energy in the building of the churches in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Certainly Ireland, like Corrigan, was vitally concerned about education in this country, whether it be in a seminary, parish or Catholic University.
Like Corrigan, he had his own role in building, yet undermining, episcopal collegiality. Cardinal James Gibbons said of him upon his death in 1918, that he demonstrated the ''harmony that exists between the Constitution of the Church and the Constitution of the United States.'' Corrigan more readily brought to the fore the influence of Rome upon the Church in America.
Thus lay the tension of the Americanist crisis. To a certain extent, that tension shadows the American bishops today. Fortunately, it is not as readily played out in the press, even though a press eager for sensationalism is very much with us today. John Ireland and Michael Corrigan provided that varied mixing of the old sod within American soil -- a soil we walk again today in a bit more secure fashion because we have seen the imprint of an Ireland and a Corrigan fashioning the Church in America. TP
SISTER MADELEINE GRACE, C.V.I., a member of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, is associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.