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Catholic America under Archbishop Carroll

December 17, AD2016

What became troubling in America in the late 18th century, with its hard-won freedoms, was instead of maintaining consistent and constant with their Holy Faith, Catholic behavior, in wanting to become assimilated into the new country began to adopt a way of life that began to ignore and downplayed the very points of Catholic doctrine which Protestantism attacked. Several closed their eyes to the evil of this heresy and its mentality perhaps as a need to survive within the societal dictates and though this attitude may be explained away by the natural desire to achieve social and economic success, nonetheless it became a shameless attitude with regard to the glory of God and the doctrine that the Catholic Church as the only true religion, as well as dishonoring those whose blood fought and then spilled defending Catholicism.

An Errant Ecumenism

With this attitude continuing and intensifying, it generated a fellowship of sorts with Protestant beliefs and as such an errant Ecumenism was established within the American Catholic character. Where the doctrinal opposition between the two religions was becoming undervalued, what became the more important goal was the seeming emotional satisfaction of being accepted as Catholics in a predominant and Protestant society. The view was indeed overestimated. A disturbing seduction into our Catholic character was beginning to form and a little over a century later, Pope Leo XIII saw the cause and aptly named the sin, Americanism.

The Age of Reason

Coupled in this vortex of melding and attempting to remain distinct, somewhat, was, of course, the doctrine; The Age of Reason. The thinking as well, as the concept of life, was directed in the cause of rationality, the concept of enlightenment and the great ‘god’ man’s reason. The Age of Reason created the idea that revelation was no longer the province of God, but man’s intellect away from the source of the ultimate truth. It was reasoned man was no longer bound from learning that the ultimate only could come from God, through the intellect which was defined as the ability to form and operate upon concepts in abstraction, narrowing information to its bare content, without emotion. The viewpoint of rationality enclosed the theory of an ordered inference and comprehension leading to an understanding and hence the logical explanation. The ‘prior dogmas of miracles, prophecy, and religious rites were treated not only as unscientific in view of deductive reason, they smacked of superstitious beliefs better left to the uneducated

Society and Man Were Now Free to Postulate

The result, society and man were now free to postulate his own theories of existence and his ideas about earth and its relation to the sun, though contemptuous of religion, most especially the Catholic Church, this ‘age of reason’ negated the Church’s stance of the pursuit of knowledge by the gifts of intellect from God to man which is born in reason, yet governed and grounded in faith. As stated in Psalm 19:1-2 and Corinthians 3:19a; “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. The glory of God is clearly revealed in the works of God’s hands. He alone is the giver of wisdom and knowledge. In deviating from the Bible, God’s Word, as absolute truth, man has formulated all kinds of theories to explain his world “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”

Values Inherent in the Catholic Faith

The components involved may appear innocuous, yet at the time, a very real distinction of values inherent in the Catholic faith juxtaposed alongside the new hard won freedoms in America gave cause for the slow setting aside of values. There is a great and delicate responsibility inherent with freedom, for it is not the throwing aside of God in the name of man-made laws and rights, but rather the more important necessity of acknowledging the laws of God for the commitment to those very freedoms., which is in greater jeopardy in the present day.
Yet within all the gains, America was expanding her boundaries with the seeds of ownership by rights which subsequently engendered the industrial revolution in the very near future, as was Europe. Though within all the burgeoning, American Catholics were keenly aware that their spiritual direction was under still auspices from London. To counteract an already suspicious climate for Catholic religious freedom, it was vital in this matter for a complete break from England. For which Father Carroll appealed to Rome, explaining how essential a native born American priest was of the utmost importance to govern spiritual matters and church doctrine. In this request, Pope Pius VII, relayed to the papal nuncio at Paris who consulting with Dr. Franklin, at the latter’s request, Father Carroll was appointed superior of the clergy of the United States in 1784.

The Bishopric of Baltimore

Five years after the ratification of the Constitution, the bishopric of Baltimore was established on a second petition from the clergy, and, Dr. Carroll being their choice for bishop, was consecrated in England in 1790. As the only Roman Catholic diocese in the United States, Baltimore oversaw all the states and territories of the union. The first priority required the need to ascertain the number of parishes and also giving attention to the French settlements in the west, which prior had its dependence on the bishop of Quebec. The greatest want was the need of priests, which became supplied by the eradication of Catholicism during the French Revolution, many emigrated to the United States. The Sulpicians were able to provide aid and support for the Indians and the French in the northwest. From England arrived the Dominicans and a community of Carmelite nuns as well as another of the Poor Clares.
To ensure the education of American Catholics and the training for American priests, Bishop Carroll in 1788 laid the foundation for Georgetown College, it was completed in 1791 though the majority of aid he received from his English friends. The theological seminary was connected which in 1792 was merged in that of St. Mary’s, Baltimore. Shortly after the establishing of St. John’s College at Annapolis, he received the degree of L.L.D. On 7 November, 1791.

The Only Synod

Though Bishop Carroll held the only synod of his twenty-five-year episcopacy, the main concerns, which he expressed in his pastoral letter, dealt with the administration of the sacraments and the support of the Church and at that first and only meeting, nothing was legislated in the area of education, his principal objectives.
In the ensuing years prior to 1800, the extent of his diocese expanded and the consequences as such made the spreading of God’s word more difficult. The situation required the choice of either dividing his see into several dioceses or appoint a coadjutor to assist in the enormous extent of his diocese. Dr. Carroll solicited Pope Plus VII, and in response to this request, the Rev. Leonard Veale was appointed his coadjutor in 1800. Further on, the Pope also erected Baltimore into an archiepiscopal see in 1808, with four Episcopal sees as suffragans with Bishop Carroll now the Archbishop of the United States.

Archbishop Carroll

With his resolve to continue the building of Catholic schools, Archbishop Carroll also established with the aid Mrs. Seton the institution of the Sisters of Charity at Emmetsburg in 1803. By 1806 he laid the foundation of the present cathedral of Baltimore, which he was enabled to dedicate before his death and in conjunction with them, framed additional rules for the government of the growing church. In 1808 Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary in Emmetsburg. Carroll would likewise give his approval to the founding of visitation nuns, who in 1799, under the direction of Leonard Neale, his successor, would begin Visitation Academy in Georgetown. In 1805 Carroll would urge English Dominicans to begin a priory and college in Kentucky for the large number of Maryland Catholics migrating there. And in 1805, not feeling a need to inform Rome of his intentions, he not only transferred Georgetown College to the Jesuits, he, by an affiliation with the Russian Jesuits, who had been protected from suppression by Catherine the Great, Archbishop Carroll restored the former missions in Maryland and Pennsylvania back to the Jesuits.

His Writings

The remainder of his life was devoted to the interests of his diocese, which now embraced Maryland, Virginia, and the southern states as far as the gulf and the Mississippi. Although not taking an active part in politics, Archbishop Carroll was an ardent federalist, and always voted with his party. His writings are mostly controversial. Among them are “An Address to the Roman Catholics of the United States of America,” “A Concise View of the Principal Points of Controversy between the Protestant and Roman Churches,” “A Review of the important Controversy between Dr. Carroll and the Rev. Messrs. Wharton and Hawkins,” and “A Discourse on General Washington.”

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

A cradle Catholic, who did go AWOL for several years, I returned home with more sense. From which, led to my writing for the Church. The value in one's examination of conscious where the collected litter of chaff is stripped, leaving the richness of the wheat. However much is our capability for being elusive in hiding the truth from ourselves, the written at all times demands the truth.

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  • johnnysc

    The writer brings up excellent points and one that still is troubling today is the false ecumenism with protestantism. In looking for allies against freedom of religion attacks the Catholic Church seems to be happy to lax into an I’m ok your ok mentality and find excuses for the teaching of Jesus which states there is no salvation outside of His Church, the Catholic Church.

  • Micha_Elyi

    This article should get a once-over by a proofreader. Examples:

    “The creation of the idea that revelation was no longer the province of
    God, but man’s intellect away from the source of the ultimate truth.” (not a sentence)

    “Pope Plus” (not a person)

    • ericdijon

      I had difficulty with the piece as well and took the blame for myself.

      On the “not a sentence” sentence, I equated the spirit of meaning to be in line with Venerable Fulton Sheen’s assertion that a materialistic man assumes to invent or originate truth rather than discovering or finding truths that God had made available for him to witness. Perhaps I am mistaken.