Fortnight For Freedom: Archbishop John Ireland on Patriotism

Thursday, June 30, AD 2016


fortnight for freedom 2016





Like most veterans of the Civil War, go here to read about his service, Archbishop John Ireland had a deep love of this nation.  The following is a speech on patriotism that he delivered to the New York Commandery of the Loyal League on April 4, 1894.  His speech is completely out of step with the popular sentiments of our day that tend to view patriotism, at best, with suspicion and that take for granted freedom hard won by the blood of prior generations.  I find myself much closer to agreement with the Archbishop than I do with the zeitgeist in which we find ourselves.



Patriotism is love of country, and loyalty to its life and weal—love tender and strong, tender as the love of son for mother, strong as the pillars of death; loyalty generous and disinterested, shrinking from no sacrifice, seeking no reward save country’s honor and country’s triumph.

  Patriotism! There is magic in the word. It is bliss to repeat it. Through ages the human race burnt the incense of admiration and reverence at the shrines of patriotism. The most beautiful pages of history are those which recount its deeds. Fireside tales, the outpourings of the memories of peoples, borrow from it their warmest glow.
Poets are sweetest when they re-echo its whisperings; orators are most potent when they thrill its chords to music.

Pagan nations were wrong when they made gods of their noblest patriots. But the error was the excess of a great truth, that heaven unites with earth in approving and blessing patriotism; that patriotism is one of earth’s highest virtues, worthy to have come down from the atmosphere of the skies.

  The exalted patriotism of the exiled Hebrew exhaled itself in a canticle of religion which Jehovah inspired, and which has been transmitted, as the inheritance of God’s people to the Christian Church:

“Upon the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, when we remembered Sion.—If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten. Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I do not remember thee, if I do not make Jerusalem the beginning of my joy.”

The human race pays homage to patriotism because of its supreme value. The value of patriotism to a people is above gold and precious stones, above commerce and industry, above citadels and warships. Patriotism is the vital spark of national honor; it is the fount of the nation’s prosperity, the shield of the nation’s safety. Take patriotism away, the nation’s soul has fled, bloom and beauty have vanished from the nation’s countenance.

The human race pays homage to patriotism because of its supreme loveliness. Patriotism goes out to what is among earth’s possessions the most precious, the first and best and dearest—country—and its effusion is the fragrant flowering of the purest and noblest sentiments of the heart.

Patriotism is innate in all men; the absence of it betokens a perversion of human nature; but it grows its full growth only where thoughts are elevated and heart-beatings are generous.

Next to God is country, and next to religion is patriotism. No praise goes beyond its deserts. It is sublime in its heroic oblation upon the field of battle. “Oh glorious is he,” exclaims in Homer the Trojan warrior, “who for his country falls!” It is sublime in the oft-repeated toil of dutiful citizenship. “Of all human doings,” writes Cicero, “none is more honorable and more estimable than to merit well of the commonwealth.”

Countries are of divine appointment. The Most High “divided the nations, separated the sons of Adam, and appointed the bounds of peoples.” The physical and moral necessities of God’s creatures are revelations of his will and laws. Man is born a social being. A condition of his existence and of his growth of mature age is the family. Nor does the family suffice to itself. A larger social organism is needed, into which families gather, so as to obtain from one another security to life and property and aid in the development of the faculties and powers with which nature has endowed the children of men.

The whole human race is too extensive and too diversified in interests to serve those ends: hence its subdivisions into countries or peoples. Countries have their providential limits—the waters of a sea, a mountain range, the lines of similarity of requirements or of methods of living. The limits widen in space according to the measure of the destinies which the great Ruler allots to peoples, and the importance of their parts in the mighty work of the cycles of years, the ever-advancing tide of humanity’s evolution.

The Lord is the God of nations because he is the God of men. No nation is born into life or vanishes back into nothingness without his bidding. I believe in the providence of God over countries as I believe in his wisdom and his love, and my patriotism to my country rises within my soul invested with the halo of my religion to my God.

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3 Responses to Fortnight For Freedom: Archbishop John Ireland on Patriotism

  • Breathtaking and inspiring in its wisdom. I will share with my children on Independence Day. The last two paragraphs put love of country in historical and moral perspective. I marvel at the contrast between this view of liberty to the political positions of the USCCB and far too many of our bishops.

  • Maybe had he been a little less nationalistic and a bit more Catholic, Archbishop John Ireland wouldn’t be known as the founder of the Orthodox Church in America.

  • Maybe if Father Alexis Toth hadn’t been so concerned with his ruffled pride he wouldn’t have died a schismatic. Or, here is an idea, maybe if the Vatican had assigned Eastern Rite bishops to America in the nineteenth century, instead of ignoring a manifest problem, the issue wouldn’t have come up at all. It would also have helped if Eastern Rite Bishops in Europe hadn’t ignored their priests in America leaving them without any instructions.

    As for Archbishop Ireland, he was a patriot, and anyone who calls him anything else better have been exposed to enemy fire as he was.

Quotes Suitable for Framing: John Ireland

Thursday, July 30, AD 2015


Be ambitious, seek to elevate yourselves, to better your lot;  too often we are too easily satisfied.  When a man is poor, let him live in a hovel.  I esteem him;  at any moment I tend him the right hand of fellowship;  but if by labor, by energy, he can secure to his family comfort and respectability, and does not, then I despise him.

Father, later Archbishop, John Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day sermon, St. Paul, Minnesota 1865

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21 Responses to Quotes Suitable for Framing: John Ireland

  • Obviously, Bishop Ireland never belonged to the USCCB. If he were alive today, I’m quite sure his brother bishops would correct him in the error of his ways. In particular, his uncharitable, un-pastoral thoughts.

  • Poverty: that by which all things, both the good and bad, are done in its name.

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit…..”

  • Clear thinking by a Bishop….it’s been a long time.

  • When Judas complained (sell and give to the poor) about the woman anointing Jesus with expensive oil perfume, Jesus told us, “. . . .the poor will always be with you, but . . . ”
    Earlier when St. Peter verbally outburst against Jesus’ telling the Apostles he would suffer, “Get thee behind me , Satan. Thou savorest the things of the World not . . .”

  • I think the last three words of that quote ruled out canonization. My car was ransacked of cash and a credit card last week which was the first time I ever left them in the car and first time leaving the car door unlocked. Now I consider the thief sent from God for me to pray monthly that God saves him from eternal damnation. I pray for many criminals I’ve encountered actually for decades now even if I almost killed two…and I would not pray for them if I despised them.

  • A man with a family who could provide comfort (love/at least daily presence) but does not choose to try is the essential problem with the world going awry. John Ireland had good sense. One hundred fifty years have passed since that quote. So many fatherless children could benefit from hearing that sermon so that the emptiness would move to an understanding of what the problem is, rather than it moving to heartlessness. Despising what man does, does not preclude prayer for him. My guess is that some of our Lord’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane was just that.
    Such sermons would serve well if read these days during the Liturgy of the Word – rather than what is made up to be ‘relevant’.

  • The Archbishop, like St. Paul, didn’t much cotton to slackers. St Paul=no work, no eat.
    John Ireland was a great social justice activist in a good way. He was able to move 4000 impoverished Irish families from New York by securing 400,000 of land for them in Minnesota according Wikipedia. He created opportunities for the poor to get out of poverty by helping them to help themselves. Compare that with Pope Francis ideas of income redistribution.

  • Interesting. Ireland’s individualistic attitude is demonstrative of the Americanism of which he was a prime proponent. As Dr. Rao explains:

    Two distinct Catholic viewpoints regarding the best method of protecting the Church and Catholics in America were in obvious conflict by the latter half of the nineteenth century. One of these was convinced that the battle between Catholicism and American society was an unnecessary one. It has long been labeled the Americanist position. This title is a justifiable one, as shall become clear below, since supporters of the Americanist position gradually grew close to the Americanist faith…. Three names stand out among its more significant proponents: Bishop John Keane of Richmond, sometime Rector of Catholic University; Msgr. Denis O’Connell of the North American College in Rome; and Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul. The opposing viewpoint took a much more critical attitude towards the possibilities of an American-Catholic rapprochement. It may simply be called the anti-Americanist outlook. Anti-Americanism had a very flexible set of supporters. Leaders of German-speaking Catholics frequently espoused it. So did several foreign faculty members at Catholic University. Bishops such as Corrigan of New York and McQuaid of Rochester were more comfortable with its skepticism than with the optimism of the Americanist school.

    The Americanist camp clearly prevailed, and one can draw a straight philosophical/theological line from Irealand to John Courtney Murray. Murray, of course, was perhaps the most influential adherents of Americanism, managing to export Americanism into the heart of Vatican II, by authoring and advocating for “Dignitatis Humanae” which universalized the American notion of freedom of religion as a natural right of man and not simply a tolerated evil, and the unacceptability of the social Kingship of Christ being embodied in the laws and ethos of the state.

    Ireland also rigorously objected to “Uniate” Eastern rite priests being allowed to function in America, as they were not interested in his project of integrating into American society, or in his ideas about religious liberty. Consequently, many uniates ended up breaking communion with Rome and becoming schismatics.

    One small but sure sign of his Americanist, puritanical bent was his role as spokesman for the oxymoronically named “Catholic Total Abstinence Society.” One wonders how much fun GK Chesterton would have such an un-Catholic idea as “total abstinence.”

  • Yes, John Ireland became known as “The Founder of the Orthodox Church in America” thanks to his persecution of Eastern Rite Catholics. About two million (!) of them left the Catholic Church for their Orthodox counterparts or created their own, the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA (which is under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople). All because, in violation of multiple Papal statements concerning the Eastern churches, he decided that ALL Catholic priests had to be celibate. It was too bad that he ultimately had his way with the Vatican.

    Pope Francis has done a few things that might be questioned, but reversing the Ireland-inspired ban of married Eastern Catholic priests in America is not one of them.

  • Ah, Americanism, the phantom heresy!
    Gibbons was on good terms with both Pope Leo, who gave him his cardinal’s cap, and Pope Pius of whom he wrote a biography. Americanism was an imaginary heresy, largely the result of Pope Leo XIII being ill-informed about conditions in America and paying too much heed to idiots among American clerics who delighted in attempting to stir up trouble over nothing. Modernism was a real enough heresy, although Pope Pius tended to throw the baby out with the bath water and completely orthodox Catholic scholars suffered along with complete heretics.
    Cardinal Gibbons and the rest of the American heirarchy responded that no one among them taught these propositions that were condemned:
    1.undue insistence on interior initiative in the spiritual life, as leading to disobedience
    2.attacks on religious vows, and disparagement of the value of religious orders in the modern world
    3.minimizing Catholic doctrine
    4.minimizing the importance of spiritual direction
    They were really scratching their heads on this one and had a hard time figuring out why the Pope was concerned with a non-problem in this country.
    This tempest in a papal tea pot had more to do with the French Church. A biography of Father Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulists and now a Servant of God, was mistranslated into French and portrayed Father Hecker as some sort of flaming radical which he was not. This book became popular among liberal Catholics in France. As usual the relationship
    between the French Church and the Vatican was turbulent at this time. Pope Leo XIII’s concern about “Americanism” could have better been labeled a concern about “Frenchism”. Purportedly Leo XIII was reluctant to attack the Church in America, which he had often praised, and made his rebuke of “Americanism” as soft as possible.
    “We having thought it fitting, beloved son, in view of your high office, that this letter should be addressed specially to you. It will also be our care to see that copies are sent to the bishops of the United States, testifying again that love by which we embrace your whole country, a country which in past times has done so much for the cause of religion, and which will by the Divine assistance continue to do still greater things. To you, and to all the faithful of America, we grant most lovingly, as a pledge of Divine assistance, our apostolic benediction.”
    The statements of loyalty from the American heirarchy were sufficient for the Pope and “Americanism” vanished from history as quickly as it appeared.

  • My favorite Archbishop Ireland quotes are “You’re not a real priest!” and “No Eastern Rite Liturgy!,” spoken to Father, now Saint, Alexis Toth, who thereupon led hundreds of thousands of Uniates back to the Orthodox faith (and became my parish‘s Patron Saint).

  • Ah, the Orthodox,always willing to forgive and forget, in the true spirit of Christ! The problem for Eastern Rite Catholics in the U.S. was not a burst of ill-temper by Archbishop Ireland, but by the fact that their bishops in Europe failed to set up a structure of bishops for them in the U.S. or even stay in contact with their priests. The attitude of the Latin Rite bishops was not usually helpful, today the least, but the establishment of hierarchies in the U.S. for the Eastern Rite was the central issue.

  • Don, I have to disagree. The establishment of hierarchies in the U.S. for the Eastern Rite was not the central issue, it was merely the resolution of the issue. The central issue was a lack of charity on the part of Latin rite bishops such as Ireland. To this day there are countries with Eastern rite parishes but without Eastern hierarchs, and Latin rite hierarchs substitute just fine for their Eastern brethren. For some reason Ireland did not see the Eastern rite bishops in Eastern Europe as brother bishops. The same can be said of Europe too, where the aftermath of the 1919-21 Polish-Soviet War saw Polish authorities arresting Ukrainian Catholic clergy because they wanted them to be Latinized. There seems to be no explanation other than xenophobia.

  • “Ah, the Orthodox, always willing to forgive and forget, in the true spirit of Christ!”

    Now THAT I can agree with. I don’t blame the Orthodox for being angry about things like the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, but I hear crickets chirping when the subject of the Orthodox repression of the Copts in Egypt comes up, a persecution that led directly to the Islamic conquest. It turns out that demanding apologies are easier than issuing them.

  • “The establishment of hierarchies in the U.S. for the Eastern Rite was not the central issue, it was merely the resolution of the issue.”

    Lack of charity there certainly was, but you have to understand the immense tasks that the Latin Rite Bishops had to perform. America was still very much of a mission territory where the Church overwhelmingly consisted of poor, immigrant populations. They had to build churches, schools and hospitals, often while confronting a hostile Protestant majority, while helping to lift ordinary Catholics out of poverty, and making sure they received the sacraments with a priest shortage that was always a pressing issue. Ethnic divisions within Latin Rite Catholics made the tasks no easier. Dealing with Eastern Rite Catholics, a task which should have fallen to their own bishops, was another headache they did not need. I blame the Vatican for not dealing with a situation where Eastern bishops were sorely needed.

  • “Ethnic divisions within Latin Rite Catholics made the tasks no easier.”
    True enough. The conflicts between ethnic groups were very real, with nearly everyone resenting the Irish for their language advantage (i.e., most Irish did not need to learn English). Just recently an Eastern European in-law of mine described her neighbors from the same country but Eastern rite as “a bunch of drunks”. In the end it largely worked out, and that outcome seems to make the divisions and conflicts all the more unnecessary and painful.

  • For a “phantom heresy” Americanism sure as heck won the day in this country and at Vatican II with JC Murray’s magnum opus, Dignitatis Humanae, which is quintessential Americanism and would probably have been applauded by Ireland and his ilk. Unfortunately, it doesn’t square with Catholic orthodoxy, a problem widely noted, not just by “traditionalists.” But I guess to those who cheer on such things because, well, “America!”, it’s comforting to suppose that Leo XIII was just an idiot who didn’t know what he was talking about or was misled, yadda yadda. You know, same thing liberals always say when the Popes condemn their ideas. Cf, the Modernist movement, which similarly was “shocked, shocked” that Pius X thought anything amiss.

  • Tom, what you call Americanism simply is not what Leo XIII was writing about. You conflate Dignitatis Humananae of Vatican II with the phantom heresy and that is an ahistorical juxtaposition. I would add that the Catholic Church being in favor of religious liberty certainly makes common sense in a world where there are virtually no states willing to enforce Catholic orthodoxy on recalcitrant populations, a policy that in any case was often a disaster for the Church. I am not a big fan of much that was done at Vatican II, but Dignitatis Humananae was simply a long overdue reflection of current reality. A very thought provoking look at Dignitatis Humananae in light of the history of the Church by Professor Thomas Pink is linked below:

  • Archbishop Ireland was WRONG in his words and deeds to Fr. Alexis Toth. There is no getting around that.

    Nevertheless, Fr. Toth was WRONG to take his flock and go join what is, in effect, a schismatic organization. The Church of Constantinople NEVER held the primary see of the Universal Church and its Archbishop was NEVER in charge in any way of the Universal Church. As a result of the Great Schism, the Church of Constantinople left itself open to heresies (remarriage after divorce!) and Constantinople fell under the control of Islam. We all know what has happened since then – divisions in Orthodoxy according to national lines and the constant squabbling between the Moscow Patriarch and the Patriarch of Constantinople.

    It was the Catholic Pope of Rome who put an end to the iconoclasm heresy that befell the Christian East – now known as the Triumph of Orthodoxy (really!)

    Fr. Toth was not the first Catholic priest to be treated like garbage by a Catholic bishop and he wasn’t the last one, either. I see his actions as taking countless Catholics out of the Church as nothing praiseworthy, to say the least.

    Pittsburgh was at the epicenter of the ban on married Eastern Catholic priests that began in the 1920s. Parishes and families were split – and some remain so. The Pope was wrong to enact that edict and the Catholics who ran to Orthodoxy were wrong, too. When something goes wrong in the Church, you stay and you fight and you make things right. Running away is chicken ****.

    The Latin Church has done a terrible job of educating its young about the history and the traditions of the Eastern Catholic Churches, but then the Latin Church has done a terrible job of educating its young about the Latin Church, too.

    Poland’s long and bitter history with Ukraine, Orthodoxy and the Ukrainian Catholics and the Ruthenian Catholics cannot be summed up easily or quickly. Poland has ALWAYS seen itself as a Western nation and saw the East as a bunch of barbarians. Given the way the Czars ran Russia and that the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the largest empires in Europe, if not the world (at that time), it’s easy to understand that viewpoint.

    Dr Rao is one of the writers of the Remnant. Dr. Rao goes off abut things, like Christopher Ferrara does about others, that make me think they have too much time on their hands and are guilty in their own way of wanting to establish a Utopia on Earth (or thinking the Habsburg Empire was just that). Tirades about Thanksgiving I find annoying, just like whining about the American Revolution rebelling against a “so-called legitimate” King George.

  • Don, what you or I think might be an appropriate position for the Church on religious liberty is irrelevant. The fact is that the Church has never taught that error has rights in the public forum. DH apparently altered that perennial teaching, allowing for teaching and proselytization even in public, and discouraging the very recognition of the Social Kingship of Christ that you point out is rare. One reason it’s rare is that Ireland’s ideas won the day, and post Vatican II, the Holy See actively *discouraged* Catholic governments from according special privileges and protections to the Faith. Ireland and DH both hold the same error, that Truth is entitled to no special place in society, which should simply become a free market of ideas. This appeals to Americans, but is antithetical to Catholic teaching.

  • “The fact is that the Church has never taught that error has rights in the public forum. DH apparently altered that perennial teaching, allowing for teaching and proselytization even in public, and discouraging the very recognition of the Social Kingship of Christ that you point out is rare.”

    Well it certainly teaches that now. I am somewhat concerned whenever there is an about face on Church teaching even when I think the new teaching is much better than the old teaching. The about face in this case is not completely one hundred percent. The Jews for example always were given toleration by the Church although that tolerance was grudging. The Church until Constantine never had the power to impose civil or criminal penalties on other religions and therefore tolerance was the de facto policy, albeit once again grudging. In the Crusader States, Islam was granted de facto tolerance by most of the Christian rulers with the grudging approval of the Church.

    I find it interesting that the most anti-Catholic countries these days, and where the Church is weakest, are precisely those countries that used to use the secular power to uphold the Church. Getting in bed with Caesar has always been a bad deal for the Church, as demonstrated by the hostility such alliances generate and the desire of Caesar to control the Church he is upholding.

Cardinal Gibbons and the Knights of Labor

Monday, September 3, AD 2012



This Labor Day I recall an episode in both the history of labor in the United States and in the history of the Catholic Church in America.  The last half of the nineteenth century was a time of labor strife, as businesses grew larger, the fruit of the ongoing Industrial Revolution, and workers fought for improvement of working conditions that by any standard were frequently abysmal.  Prior to the Civil War apologists for slavery often argued that the average slave in the South was better fed, better housed and better clothed than the average industrial worker in the North.  This of course overlooked the entire question of liberty, but there were enough terrible examples of wretched working conditions in the North to give the argument facile support.

Unions sprang up to represent workers.  One of the largest in its day was the Knights of Labor founded in 1868.  Successful in several large strikes, by 1886 the membership totaled 700,000, perhaps a majority of whom were Catholic.  In 1886 the Archbishop of Quebec condemned the Knights in Canada based upon the secrecy that attended the meetings of the organization and forbade Catholics to join it.

The American hierarchy voted 10 to 2 against condemning the Knights.  Archbishop James Gibbons was going to Rome in 1887 to receive his red hat as Pope Leo XIII had made him a Cardinal.  While there he took the opportunity to submit a lengthy letter in support of the Knights.  Although the letter bears the name of Gibbons, it was probably written by his friend Bishop John Ireland of Saint Paul, who had long been active in support of the rights of workers.  The letter did the trick and the Vatican announced that the Knights were not to be condemned.  The arguments made in the letter had an impact on Pope Leo XIII and helped lay the groundwork for his historic encyclical  Rerum Novarum (1891) in which he defended the rights of workers to organize to seek better working conditions.  Ironically the subject matter of the letter, the Knights of Labor, was in decline, too many of its strikes having involved violence which the leadership of the Knights condemned, but which tarnished the Knights in the eyes of the public.  The Knights would cease to operate as a labor union in 1900, newer unions taking the place of this pioneering organization.

The letter of Cardinal Gibbons stressed that Catholic workers in America who belonged to labor organizations were not hostile to the Church as often occurred in Europe where Unions were organized by Leftist and Anarchist groups.  In America most Americans supported the workers in their struggle to improve their lot, with both major political parties vying to pass legislation aiding workers.  In short, the letter explained American labor and political conditions to the Vatican and how these differed substantially from those existing in Europe.  The letter and the decision of the Vatican were good examples of effective communication between American ecclesiastics and Rome.  Here is the text of the letter:

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12 Responses to Cardinal Gibbons and the Knights of Labor

  • History lessons such as these illustrate how Catholic Social Teaching by the Bishop of Rome and European bishops needed to be interpreted for and by US pastors. Same went for “separation of Church-State,” democracy, conscience freedom and such. Ironically, they are all back on the front burner with the new atheism and hostility to Natural Law

  • By one of those ironies of history, in the mid-19th century, one finds deeply conservative Monarchist bishops and clergy in France supporting workers’ rights, inspired by their inveterate hatred of the French Revolution and all its works, including, of course, the Allarde Decree of 17 March 1791 and the Le Chapelier Law of 14 June 1791.

    It was not until the law of 25 May 1864, under Napoléon III that workers regained the right to associate and to strike.

    Père Henri-Dominique Lacordaire OP, who restored the Dominican order in France in 1850 and who was the most celebrated preacher of his day was an early champion of the rights of labour. An admirer of Lord Shaftsbury’s Factories Acts in the UK, he famously remarked, “Between the weak and the strong, between the rich and the poor, between the master and the servant, it is freedom which oppresses and the law which sets free.”

  • Donald,

    Thanks for posting this article and letter. The late 19th Century (bleeding into the early 20th Century) was one of the most outstanding times in human history for technological growth, and the improvement of the lives of all people. But, it was not without some pain, especially felt among the workers who became little more than “wage slaves”.

    Ultimately, work places were made safe and salaries rose. While there certainly was violence and blood, what is amazing is that the antagonism, and anarchy, that marked European labor movements did not take hold as deeply nor as long here in the US. This was due (IMHO) to the influence and true interest of Catholic Church leadership here, as compared to the European model.

  • JP 11 championed the sacred dignity of the worker, who made labour sacred, and thus stole the Commie thunder. Leo X111 started with the FACTORY OWNER etc and asked for trickle down as it were, whereas JP11 reversed that and showed where the HUMAN’s SACRED VALUE entered in. That kind of moral evolution is crucial and is the kind of revolution that the late Cdl MARTINI called for in updating the Church being 200 years out of date. Clericalism, bishops addressed and some/many living as lords and Kings with almost untrammeled power. Clericalism needs to be stripped so Servant Leaders take over after 2i00 years as JESUS demanded

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  • Rerum Novarum is actually quite positive about Trade Unions, and was influenced by the ideas of Henry, Cardinal Manning (Archbishop of Westminster) whose intervention in the London dock strike of 1889 made him a hero in the eyes of working men. Unions were given full legal recognition in the 1870s, and Margaret Thatcher actually removed some of the rights which had been granted by her Conservative predecessor Benjamin Disraeli over a century before.

    The anarcho-syndicalism prevalent on the Continent was indeed largely absent in Britain and America. This is due less to the influence of the Church than to a tradition of effective representative government which militated against revolution.

  • John, Cardinal Gibbons considered his victory re: the Knights of Labor to be greatly helped by Manning. Gibbons wrote to him: “I cannot sufficiently express to you how much I have felt strengthened in my position by being able to refer in the document to your utterances on the claims of the working man to our sympathy and support.” Gibbons in later years recalled with amusement a cartoon which had Manning on one side of Pope Leo, and Gibbons on the other, with Pope Leo exclaiming that he must watch himself between two such foxes!

  • John,

    Thanks very much for the information. This is one of the reasons I love TAC so much; unlike many other blogs, the correspondents here (excepting myself) have so much knowledge that the comboxes are actually a great continuation of the excellent posts.

  • John Nolan

    Anarcho-syndicalism, in the tradition of Sorel and Proudhon, has deep roots in the Latin distrust of government, as such. Its main appeal was always in Italy, Spain and France south of the Loire, places in which the political class is held in deep and, often, well-merited contempt.

    In Britain, trade unionism and the Labour party had strong roots in the Nonconformist tradition, especially Methodism in England & Wales and the Covenanter legacy in Scotland.

  • Cardinal Manning was a very great man, but his indignation at wrongdoing sometimes betrayed him into remarks more acerbic than was becoming in a clergyman, as when he said of Lord Palmerston (the Prime Minister) that his character was below his talents.

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Father John Ireland and the Fifth Minnesota

Thursday, August 23, AD 2012



One of the titans of the Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Century in the United States was Archbishop John Ireland, the first Archbishop of Saint Paul, Minnesota.  Future blog posts will cover his career as Archbishop.  This blog post is focused on his service during the Civil War.  Ordained a priest only a year, Father John Ireland at 24 in 1862 received permission of his bishop to join the Fifth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry.  He joined the regiment immediately after the battle of Shiloh.

At the battle of Corinth on October 4, 1862 the Fifth Minnesota saved the day for the Union with a charge that stopped a Confederate breakthrough of the Union lines.  Running short on ammunition, the troops received additional cartridges from Chaplain Ireland who ran down the line dispensing ammunition.  When the fighting was over, the soldiers noted that their chaplain tirelessly tended the wounded and administered the Last Rites to soldiers whose wounds were beyond human aid.

The troops were very fond of their young priest and built him a portable altar from saplings.  His sermons were popular with the men, being direct, blunt and brief.  He was noted for his sunny disposition, quick wit  and his courage.  He was also an enthusiastic chess player, and would take on all comers in the evenings in camp.

Before battles he would hear the confessions of huge numbers of soldiers, with some Protestant soldiers often asking for admission to the Church.  He was always ready to pray with any soldiers no matter their religion, and give them what comfort he could in reminding them that God was ever at their side during their time of peril.  On one occasion he went to the side of an officer who had been shot and was bleeding to death and had asked for a chaplain.   the Archbishop recalled the scene decades after the War.   ‘Speak to me,’ he said, ‘of Jesus.’ He had been baptized — there was no time to talk of Church. I talked of the Savior, and of sorrow for sin. The memory of that scene has never been effaced from my mind. I have not doubted the salvation of that soul.”

Father Ireland was mustered out of service in March of 1863 due to ill-health, but he never forgot his time in the Union Army.  He was ever active in the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization,   and would write about his experiences as a combat chaplain.  Unlike most Catholics of his day, he was a firm Republican, the friend of Republican presidents including McKinley and Roosevelt, and never forgot why the Civil War had to be fought, as this statement by him regarding the rights of blacks indicates:

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10 Responses to Father John Ireland and the Fifth Minnesota

  • Thanks for this post. Attended the same College where one of our professors upheld his memory for us. His last quote is as you said so relevant. It also echoes the views of the Founders, a civil-non-sectarian virtuous patriotism, with out being denominational. They of course would throw a fit if they were faced with today’s acceptance of abortion and same gender unions, including equating them to “marriage,” which are so accepted by today’s “Christian” leaders in State, Court and some Church bodies

  • It should be noted that this bishop’s name is still mentioned with some rancour in Greek Catholic circles. He being the cause for the largest mass conversion to Orthodoxy in hundreds of years (from Wikipedia):

    In 1891, Ireland refused to accept the credentials of Greek-Catholic priest Alexis Toth, citing the decree that married priests of the Eastern Catholic Churches were not permitted to function in the Catholic Church in the United States, despite Toth being a widower. Ireland then forbade Toth to minister to his own parishioners, despite the fact that Toth had jurisdiction from his own Bishop, and did not depend on Ireland. Ireland was also involved in efforts to expel all Eastern Catholic clergy from the United States of America. Forced into an impasse, Toth went on to lead thousands of Greek-Catholics to leave the Catholic Church to join the Russian Orthodox Church. Because of this, Archbishop Ireland is sometimes referred to, ironically, as “The Father of the Orthodox Church in America.” Marvin R. O’Connell, author of a biography on Ireland, summarizes the situation by stating that “if Ireland’s advocacy of the blacks displayed him at his best, his belligerence toward the Greek Catholics showed him at his bull-headed worst.”

  • Joseph: You’re correct about the Greek Catholic problem. And Archbishop flirted with Modernism. But this article is on the Fifth Minnesota. “This blog post is focused on his service during the Civil War.”

  • I believe that Archbishop Ireland’s treatment of Fr. Toth is fair game for discussion, his service in the Civil War notwithstanding.

    Pittsburgh, where I live, is the home of the Byzantine Ruthenain Archeparchy. The Rusyns have suffered through two schisms in the USA. First, there was the lousy treatment of Fr. Toth that led to the establishment of the Orthodox Church of America. Second, the Latin bishops of the USA petitioned the Holy See to ban married clergy in the Eastern Churches in the USA in the 1920s, which was approved. A second schism occurred, and the American Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Diocese (based in Johnstown, PA was established.

    I was unaware of Archbishop Ireland’s service in the Civil War, and I found Mr. McClarey’s post to be informative. I was aware of Archbishop Ireland’s role in the construction of the magnificent cathedral in St. Paul. However, having worked for several years volunteering with the Sisters of St. Basil at Mount St. Macrina in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, I learned firsthand that Archbishop Ireland’s words and deeds regarding the Byzantine Church caused a great deal of harm.

  • Why do you believe that your issue is important in response to a post about Father Ireland in the Civil War? What if I decided that you can’t post because the Greeks are virtually bankrupt today? That would be just as valid as your change of the subject, wouldn’t it?

  • I would ask that comments regarding Archbishop Ireland and the Uniates (Eastern Catholics) be left for future posts. I will have several more posts on this remarkable man in the months to come. I find him fascinating, and I will treat his career in full, including the controversies raised in this thread. For now please focus on his role as a chaplain in the Civil War and his thoughts regarding patriotism.

  • During my research for an upcoming book tentatively titled “Pro Deo Pro Patria::The Life and Death of a Catholic Military School,” I learned that one of the few remaining Catholic military schools St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota is an archdiocesan school founded by Bishop Ireland.

  • I deleted your comment Seraphim. The controveries you alluded to in your comment will be dealt with in a future post, but for now I must insist that my wishes be respected in this thread.

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