Postal Stamps.ca - Canadian Postal Stamps information Visit Postal Stamps.caInformational Site Network Informational
Privacy
Home - Articles - Church History - Catholic Morals - Prayers - Prayers Answered - Saints Children's Bible - History


A Decade Of Controversies And Sc





During the period from 1835 to 1845 the spirit of schism seemed to be in
the air. In this period no one of the larger organizations of churches
was free from agitating controversies, and some of the most important of
them were rent asunder by explosion.

At the time when the Presbyterian Church suffered its great schism, in
1837, it was the most influential religious body in the United States.
In 120 years its solitary presbytery had grown to 135 presbyteries,
including 2140 ministers serving 2865 churches and 220,557 communicants.
But these large figures are an inadequate measure of its influence. It
represented in its ministry and membership the two most masterful races
on the continent, the New England colonists and the Scotch-Irish
immigrants; and the tenacity with which it had adhered to the tradition
derived through both these lines, of admitting none but liberally
educated men to its ministry, had given it exceptional social standing
and control over men of intellectual strength and leadership. In the
four years beginning with 1831 the additions to its roll of communicants
on examination had numbered nearly one hundred thousand. But this
spiritual growth was chilled and stunted by the dissensions that arose.
The revivals ceased and the membership actually dwindled.

The contention had grown (a fact not without parallel in church
history) out of measures devised in the interest of co÷peration and
union. In 1801, in the days of its comparative feebleness, the General
Assembly had proposed to the General Association of Connecticut a Plan
of Union according to which the communities of New England Christians
then beginning to move westward between the parallels that bound the
New England zone, and bringing with them their accustomed
Congregational polity, might co÷perate on terms of mutual concession
with Presbyterian churches in their neighborhood. The proposals had been
fraternally received and accepted, and under the terms of this compact
great accessions had been made to the strength of the Presbyterian
Church, of pastors and congregations marked with the intellectual
activity and religious enterprise of the New England churches, who,
while cordially conforming to the new methods of organization and
discipline, were not in the least penetrated with the traditionary
Scotch veneration for the Westminster standards. For nearly thirty years
the great reinforcements from New England and from men of the New
England way of thinking had been ungrudgingly bestowed and heartily
welcomed. But the great accessions which in the first four years of the
fourth decade of this century had increased the roll of the communicants
of the Presbyterian Church by more than fifty per cent. had come in
undue proportion from the New Englandized regions of western New York
and Ohio. It was inevitable that the jealousy of hereditary
Presbyterians, whose were the fathers, should be aroused by the
perfectly reasonable fear lest the traditional ways of the church which
they felt to be in a peculiar sense their church might be affected by
so large an element from without.

The grounds of explicit complaint against the party called New School
were principally twofold--doctrine and organization.

In the Presbyterian Church at this time were three pretty distinct types
of theological thought. First, there was the unmitigated Scotch
Calvinism; secondly, there was the modification of this system, which
became naturalized in the church after the Great Awakening, when
Jonathan Dickinson and Jonathan Edwards, from neighbor towns in
Massachusetts, came to be looked upon as the great Presbyterian
theologians; thirdly, there was the consistent Calvinism, that had
been still further evolved by the patient labor of students in direct
succession from Edwards, and that was known under the name of
Hopkinsianism. Just now the latest and not the least eminent in this
school, Dr. Nathaniel W. Taylor, of New Haven, was enunciating to large
and enthusiastic classes in Yale Divinity School new definitions and
forms of statement giving rise to much earnest debate. The alarm of
those to whom the very phrase improvement in theology was an
abomination expressed itself in futile indictments for heresy brought
against some of the most eminently godly and useful ministers in all the
church. Lyman Beecher, of Lane Seminary, Edward Beecher, J. M.
Sturtevant, and William Kirby, of Illinois College, and George Duffield,
of the presbytery of Carlisle, Pa., were annoyed by impeachments for
heresy, which all failed before reaching the court of last resort. But
repeated and persistent prosecutions of Albert Barnes, of Philadelphia,
were destined to more conspicuous failure, by reason of their coming up
year after year before the General Assembly, and also by reason of the
position of the accused as pastor of the mother church of the
denomination, the First Church of Philadelphia, which was the customary
meeting-place of the Assembly; withal by reason of the character of the
accused, the honor and love in which he was held for his faithful and
useful work as pastor, his world-wide fame as a devoted and believing
student of the Scriptures, and the Christlike gentleness and meekness
with which he endured the harassing of church trials continuing through
a period of seven years, and compelling him, under an irregular and
illegal sentence of the synod, to sit silent in his church for the space
of a year, as one suspended from the ministry.

The earliest leaders in national organization for the propagation of
Christianity at home and abroad were the Congregationalists of New
England and men like-minded with them. But the societies thus originated
were organized on broad and catholic principles, and invited the
co÷peration of all Christians. They naturally became the organs of much
of the active beneficence of Presbyterian congregations, and the
Presbyterian clergy and laity were largely represented in the direction
of them. They were recognized and commended by the representative bodies
of the Presbyterian Church. As a point of high-church theory it was held
by the rigidly Presbyterian party that the work of the gospel in all its
departments and in all lands is the proper function of the church as
such--meaning practically that each sect ought to have its separate
propaganda. There was logical strength in this position as reached from
their premisses, and there were arguments of practical convenience to be
urged in favor of it. But the demand to sunder at once the bonds of
fellowship which united Christians of different names in the beneficent
work of the great national societies was not acceptable even to the
whole of the Old-School party. To the New Englanders it was intolerable.

There were other and less important grounds of difference that were
discussed between the parties. And in the background, behind them all,
was the slavery question. It seems to have been willingly kept in the
background by the leaders of debate on both sides; but it was there. The
New-School synods and presbyteries of the North were firm in their
adherence to the antislavery principles of the church. On the other
hand, the Old-School party relied, in the coup d'Úglise that was in
preparation, on the support of an almost solid South.[296:1]

It was an unpardonable offense of the New-School party that it had grown
to such formidable strength, intellectually, spiritually, and
numerically. The probability that the church might, with the continued
growth and influence of this party, become Americanized and so lose the
purity of its thoroughgoing Scotch traditions was very real, and to some
minds very dreadful. To these the very ark of God seemed in danger.
Arraignments for heresy in presbytery and synod resulted in failure; and
when these and other cases involving questions of orthodoxy or of the
policy of the church were brought into the supreme judicature of the
church, the solemn but unmistakable fact disclosed itself that even the
General Assembly could not be relied on for the support of measures
introduced by the Old-School leaders. In fact, every Assembly from 1831
to 1836, with a single exception, had shown a clear New-School majority.
The foundations were destroyed, and what should the righteous do?

History was about to repeat itself with unwonted preciseness of detail.
On the gathering of the Assembly of 1837 a careful count of noses
revealed what had been known only once before in seven years, and what
might never be again--a clear Old-School majority in the house. To the
pious mind the neglecting of such an opportunity would have been to
tempt Providence. Without notice, without complaint or charges or
specifications, without opportunity of defense, 4 synods, including 533
churches and more than 100,000 communicants, were excommunicated by a
majority vote. The victory of pure doctrine and strict church order,
though perhaps not exactly glorious, was triumphant and irreversible.
There was no more danger to the church from a possible New-School
majority.

When the four exscinded synods, three in western New York and one in
Ohio, together with a great following of sympathizing congregations in
all parts of the country, came together to reconstruct their shattered
polity, they were found to number about four ninths of the late
Presbyterian Church. For thirty years the American church was to present
to Christendom the strange spectacle of two great ecclesiastical bodies
claiming identically the same name, holding the same doctrinal
standards, observing the same ritual and governed by the same
discipline, and occupying the same great territory, and yet completely
dissevered from each other and at times in relations of sharp mutual
antagonism.[297:1]

The theological debate which had split the Presbyterian Church from end
to end was quite as earnest and copious in New England. But owing to the
freer habit of theological inquiry and the looser texture of
organization among the Congregationalist churches, it made no organic
schism beyond the setting up of a new theological seminary in
Connecticut to offset what were deemed the dangerous tendencies of the
New Haven theology. After a few years the party lines had faded out and
the two seminaries were good neighbors.

The unlikeliest place in all American Christendom for a partisan
controversy and a schism would have seemed to be the Unitarian
denomination in and about Boston. Beginning with the refusal not only of
any imposed standard of belief, but of any statement of common opinions,
and with unlimited freedom of opinion in every direction, unless,
perhaps, in the direction of orthodoxy, it was not easy to see how a
splitting wedge could be started in it. But the infection of the time
was not to be resisted. Even Unitarianism must have its heresies and
heresiarchs to deal with. No sooner did the pressure of outside attack
abate than antagonisms began pretty sharply to declare themselves. In
1832 Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson, pastor of the Second Church in Boston,
proposed to the church to abandon or radically change the observance of
the Lord's Supper. When the church demurred at this extraordinary demand
he resigned his office, firing off an elaborate argument against the
usage of the church by way of a parting salute. Without any formal
demission of the ministry, he retired to his literary seclusion at
Concord, from which he brought forth in books and lectures the oracular
utterances which caught more and more the ear of a wide public, and in
which, in casual-seeming parentheses and obiter dicta, Christianity
and all practical religion were condemned by sly innuendo and
half-respectful allusion by which he might without sneering teach the
rest to sneer. In 1838 he was still so far recognized in the ministry
as to be invited to address the graduating class of the Harvard Divinity
School. The blank pantheism which he then enunciated called forth from
Professor Henry Ware, Jr., a sermon in the college chapel on the
personality of God, which he sent with a friendly note to Mr. Emerson.
The gay and Skimpolesque reply of the sage is an illustration of that
flippancy with which he chose to toy in a literary way with momentous
questions, and which was so exasperating to the earnest men of positive
religious convictions with whom he had been associated in the Christian
ministry.

It strikes me very oddly that good and wise men at Cambridge
should think of raising me into an object of criticism. I have
always been, from my incapacity of methodical writing, 'a
chartered libertine,' free to worship and free to rail, lucky
when I could make myself understood, but never esteemed near
enough to the institutions and mind of society to deserve the
notice of masters of literature and religion.... I could not
possibly give you one of the 'arguments' you so cruelly hint
at on which any doctrine of mine stands, for I do not know
what arguments mean in reference to any expression of thought.
I delight in telling what I think, but if you ask me how I
dare say so, or why it is so, I am the most helpless of mortal
men. I do not even see that either of these questions admits
of an answer. So that in the present droll posture of my
affairs, when I see myself suddenly raised into the importance
of a heretic, I am very uneasy when I advert to the supposed
duties of such a personage who is to make good his thesis
against all comers. I certainly shall do no such thing.

The issue was joined and the controversy began. Professor Andrews Norton
in a pamphlet denounced the latest form of infidelity, and the Rev.
George Ripley replied in a volume, to which Professor Norton issued a
rejoinder. But there was not substance enough of religious dogma and
sentiment in the transcendentalist philosophers to give them any
permanent standing in the church. They went into various walks of
secular literature, and have powerfully influenced the course of
opinions; but they came to be no longer recognizable as a religious or
theological party.

Among the minor combatants in the conflict between the Unitarians and
the pantheists was a young man whose name was destined to become
conspicuous, not within the Unitarian fellowship, but on the outskirts
of it. Theodore Parker was a man of a different type from the men about
him of either party. The son of a mechanic, he fought his way through
difficulties to a liberal education, and was thirty years old before his
very great abilities attracted general attention. A greedy gormandizer
of books in many languages, he had little of the dainty scholarship so
much prized at the neighboring university. But the results of his vast
reading were stored in a quick and tenacious memory as ready rhetorical
material wherewith to convince or astonish. Paradox was a passion with
him, that was stimulated by complaints, and even by deprecations, to the
point of irreverence. He liked to make people's flesh crawl. Even in
his advocacy of social and public reforms, which was strenuous and
sincere, he delighted so to urge his cause as to inflame prejudice and
opposition against it. With this temper it is not strange that when he
came to enunciate his departure from some of the accepted tenets of his
brethren, who were habitually reverent in their discipleship toward
Jesus Christ, he should do this in a way to offend and shock. The
immediate reaction of the Unitarian clergy from the statements of his
sermon, in 1841, on The Transient and the Permanent in Christianity,
in which the supernatural was boldly discarded from his belief, was so
general and so earnest as to give occasion to Channing's exclamation,
Now we have a Unitarian orthodoxy! Channing did not live to see the
characteristic tenets of the heresiarch to whom he hesitated to give the
name of Christian not only widely accepted in the Unitarian churches,
but some of them freely discussed as open questions among some orthodox
scholars.

* * * * *

Two very great events in this period of schism may be dispatched with a
brevity out of all proportion to their importance, on account of the
simplicity of motive and action by which they are characterized.

In the year 1844 the slavery agitation in the Methodist Episcopal Church
culminated, not in the rupture of the church, but in the
well-considered, deliberate division of it between North and South. The
history of the slavery question among the Methodists was a typical one.
From the beginning the Methodist Society had been committed by its
founder and his early successors to the strictest (not the strongest)
position on this question. Not only was the system of slavery denounced
as iniquitous, but the attempt was made to enforce the rigid rule that
persons involved under this system in the relation of master to slave
should be excluded from the ministry, if not from the communion. But the
enforcement of this rule was found to be not only difficult, but wrong,
and difficult simply because it was wrong. Then followed that illogical
confusion of ideas studiously fostered by zealots at either extreme: If
the slave-holder may be in some circumstances a faithful Christian
disciple, fulfilling in righteousness and love a Christian duty, then
slavery is right; if slavery is wrong, then every slave-holder is a
manstealer, and should be excommunicated as such without asking any
further questions. Two statements more palpably illogical were never put
forth for the darkening of counsel. But each extreme was eager to
sustain the unreason of the opposite extreme as the only alternative of
its own unreason, and so, what with contrary gusts from North and South,
they fell into a place where two seas met and ran the ship aground. The
attempts made from 1836 to 1840, by stretching to the utmost the
authority of the General Conference and the bishops, for the suppression
of modern abolitionism in the church (without saying what they meant
by the phrase) had their natural effect: the antislavery sentiment in
the church organized and uttered itself more vigorously and more
extravagantly than ever on the basis, All slave-holding is sin; no
fellowship with slave-holders. In 1843 an antislavery secession took
place, which drew after it a following of six thousand, increased in a
few months to fifteen thousand. The paradoxical result of this movement
is not without many parallels in church history: After the drawing off
of fifteen thousand of the most zealous antislavery men in the church,
the antislavery party in the church was vastly stronger, even in
numbers, than it had been before. The General Conference of 1836 had
pronounced itself, without a dissenting vote, to be decidedly opposed
to modern abolitionism. The General Conference of 1844, on the first
test vote on the question of excluding from the ministry one who had
become a slave-holder through marriage, revealed a majority of one
hundred and seventeen to fifty-six in favor of the most rigorous
antislavery discipline. The graver question upon the case of Bishop
Andrew, who was in the like condemnation, could not be decided
otherwise. The form of the Conference's action in this case was
studiously inoffensive. It imputed no wrong and proposed no censure,
but, simply on the ground that the circumstances would embarrass him in
the exercise of his office, declared it as the sense of this General
Conference that he desist from the exercise of this office so long as
this impediment remains. The issue could not have been simpler and
clearer. The Conference was warned that the passage of the resolution
would be followed by the secession of the South. The debate was long,
earnest, and tender. At the end of it the resolution was passed, one
hundred and eleven to sixty-nine. At once notice was given of the
intended secession. Commissioners were appointed from both parties to
adjust the conditions of it, and in the next year (1845) was organized
the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

Under the fierce tyranny then dominant at the South the southern
Baptists might not fall behind their Methodist neighbors in zeal for
slavery. This time it was the South that forced the issue. The Alabama
Baptist Convention, without waiting for a concrete case, demanded of the
national missionary boards the distinct, explicit avowal that
slave-holders are eligible and entitled equally with non-slave-holders
to all the privileges and immunities of their several unions. The
answer of the Foreign Mission Board was perfectly kind, but, on the main
point, perfectly unequivocal: We can never be a party to any
arrangement which would imply approbation of slavery. The result had
been foreseen. The great denomination was divided between North and
South. The Southern Baptist Convention was organized in May, 1845, and
began its home and foreign missionary work without delay.

This dark chapter of our story is not without its brighter aspects. (1)
Amid the inevitable asperities attendant on such debate and division
there were many and beautiful manifestations of brotherly love between
the separated parties. (2) These strifes fell out to the furtherance of
the gospel. Emulations, indeed, are not among the works of the Spirit.
In the strenuous labors of the two divided denominations, greatly
exceeding what had gone before, it is plain that sometimes Christ was
preached of envy and strife. Nevertheless Christ was preached, with
great and salutary results; and therein do we rejoice, yea, and will
rejoice.

* * * * *

Two important orders in the American church, which for a time had almost
faded out from our field of vision, come back, from about this epoch of
debate and division, into continually growing conspicuousness and
strength. Neither of them was implicated in that great debate involving
the fundamental principles of the kingdom of heaven,--the principles of
righteousness and love to men,--by which other parts of the church had
been agitated and sometimes divided. Whether to their discredit or to
their honor, it is part of history that neither the Protestant Episcopal
Church nor the Roman Catholic Church took any important part, either
corporately or through its representative men, in the agonizing struggle
of the American church to maintain justice and humanity in public law
and policy. But standing thus aloof from the great ethical questions
that agitated the conscience of the nation, they were both of them
disturbed by controversies internal or external, which demand mention at
least in this chapter.

The beginning of the resuscitation of the Protestant Episcopal Church
from the dead-and-alive condition in which it had so long been
languishing is dated from the year 1811.[304:1] This year was marked by
the accession to the episcopate of two eminent men, representing two
strongly divergent parties in that church--Bishop Griswold, of
Massachusetts, Evangelical, and Bishop Hobart, of New York,
High-churchman. A quorum of three bishops having been gotten together,
not without great difficulty, the two were consecrated in Trinity
Church, New York, May 29, 1811.

The time was opportune and the conjuncture of circumstances singularly
favorable. The stigma of Toryism, which had marked the church from long
before the War of Independence, was now more than erased. In New England
the Episcopal Church was of necessity committed to that political party
which favored the abolition of the privileges of the standing order; and
this was the anti-English party, which, under the lead of Jefferson, was
fast forcing the country into war with England. The Episcopalians were
now in a position to retort the charge of disloyalty under which they
had not unjustly suffered. At the same time their church lost nothing of
the social prestige incidental to its relation to the established Church
of England. Politicians of the Democratic party, including some men of
well-deserved credit and influence, naturally attached themselves to a
religious party having many points of congeniality.[305:1]

In another sense, also, the time was opportune for an advance of the
Episcopal Church. In the person of Bishop Hobart it had now a bold,
energetic, and able representative of principles hitherto not much in
favor in America--the thoroughgoing High-church principles of Archbishop
Laud. Before this time the Episcopal Church had had very little to
contribute by way of enriching the diversity of the American sects. It
was simply the feeblest of the communions bearing the common family
traits of the Great Awakening, with the not unimportant differentia of
its settled ritual of worship and its traditions of order and decorum.
But when Bishop Hobart put the trumpet to his lips and prepared himself
to sound, the public heard a very different note, and no uncertain one.
The church (meaning his own fragment of the church) the one channel of
saving grace; the vehicles of that grace, the sacraments, valid only
when ministered by a priesthood with the right pedigree of ordination;
submission to the constituted authorities of the church absolutely
unlimited, except by clear divine requirements; abstinence from
prayer-meetings; firm opposition to revivals of religion; refusal of all
co÷peration with Christians outside of his own sect in endeavors for the
general advancement of religion--such were some of the principles and
duties inculcated by this bishop of the new era as of binding
force.[306:1] The courage of this attitude was splendid and captivating.
It requires, even at the present time, not a little force of conviction
to sustain one in publicly enunciating such views; but at the time of
the accession of Hobart, when the Episcopal Church was just beginning to
lift up its head out of the dust of despair, it needed the heroism of a
martyr. It was not only the vast multitude of American Christians
outside of the Episcopal Church, comprising almost all the learning, the
evangelistic zeal, and the charitable activity and self-denial of the
American church of that time, that heard these unwonted pretensions with
indignation or with ridicule; in the Episcopal Church itself they were
disclaimed, scouted, and denounced with (if possible) greater
indignation still. But the new party had elements of growth for which
its adversaries did not sufficiently reckon. The experience of other
orders in the church confirms this principle: that steady persistence
and iteration in assuring any body of believers that they are in some
special sense the favorites of Heaven, and in assuring any body of
clergy that they are endued from on high with some special and
exceptional powers, will by and by make an impression on the mind. The
flattering assurance may be coyly waived aside; it may even be
indignantly repelled; but in the long run there will be a growing number
of the brethren who become convinced that there is something in it. It
was in harmony with human nature that the party of high pretensions to
distinguished privileges for the church and prerogatives for the
priesthood should in a few years become a formidable contestant for
the control of the denomination. The controversy between the two parties
rose to its height of exacerbation during the prevalence of that strange
epidemic of controversy which ran simultaneously through so many of the
great religious organizations of the country at once. No denomination
had it in a more malignant form than the Episcopalians. The war of
pamphlets and newspapers was fiercely waged, and the election of bishops
sometimes became a bitter party contest, with the unpleasant incidents
of such competitions. In the midst of the controversy at home the
publication of the Oxford Tracts added new asperity to it. A distressing
episode of the controversy was the arraignment of no less than four of
the twenty bishops on charges affecting their personal character. In the
morbid condition of the body ecclesiastic every such hurt festered. The
highest febrile temperature was reached when, at an ordination in 1843,
two of the leading presbyters in the diocese of New York rose in their
places, and, reading each one his solemn protest against the ordaining
of one of the candidates on the ground of his Romanizing opinions, left
the church.

The result of the long conflict was not immediately apparent. It was not
only that high opinions, even the highest of the Tractarian school,
were to be tolerated within the church, but that the High-church party
was to be the dominant party. The Episcopal Church was to stand before
the public as representing, not that which it held in common with the
other churches of the country, but that which was most distinctive. From
this time forth the Evangelical party continued relatively to decline,
down to the time, thirty years later, when it was represented in the
inconsiderable secession of the Reformed Episcopal Church. The
combination of circumstances and influences by which this party
supremacy was brought about is an interesting study, for which, however,
there is no room in this brief compendium of history.

A more important fact is this: that in spite of these agitating internal
strifes, and even by reason of them, the growth of the denomination was
wonderfully rapid and strong. No fact in the external history of the
American church at this period is more imposing than this growth of the
Episcopal Church from nothing to a really commanding stature. It is easy
to enumerate minor influences tending to this result, some of which are
not of high spiritual dignity; but these must not be overestimated. The
nature of this growth, as well as the numerical amount of it, requires
to be considered. This strongly distinguished order in the American
church has been aggrandized, not, to any great degree, by immigration,
nor by conquest from the ranks of the irreligious, but by a continual
stream of accessions both to its laity and to its clergy from other
sects of the church. These accessions have of course been variable in
quality, but they have included many such as no denomination could
afford to lose, and such as any would be proud to receive. Without
judging of individual cases, it is natural and reasonable to explain so
considerable a current setting so steadily for two generations toward
the Episcopal Church as being attracted by the distinctive
characteristics of that church. Foremost among these we may reckon the
study of the dignity and beauty of public worship, and the tradition and
use of forms of devotion of singular excellence and value. A tendency to
revert to the ancient Calvinist doctrine of the sacraments has
prepossessed some in favor of that sect in which the old Calvinism is
still cherished. Some have rejoiced to find a door of access to the
communion of the church not beset with revivalist exactions of
examination and scrutiny of the sacred interior experiences of the soul.
Some have reacted from an excessive or inquisitive or arbitrary church
discipline, toward a default of discipline. Some, worthily weary of
sectarian division and of the evangelical doctrine that schism is the
normal condition of the church of Christ, have found real comfort in
taking refuge in a sect in which, closing their eyes, they can say,
There are no schisms in the church; the church is one and undivided,
and we are it. These and other like considerations, mingled in varying
proportions, have been honorable motives impelling toward the Episcopal
denomination; and few that have felt the force of them have felt
constrained stubbornly to resist the gentle assurances offered by the
apostolic succession theory of a superior authority and prerogative
with which they had become invested. The numerous accessions to the
Episcopal Church from other communions have, of course, been in large
part reinforcements to the already dominant party.

In the Roman Catholic Church of the United States, during this stormy
period, there was by no means a perfect calm. The ineradicable feeling
of the American citizen--however recent his naturalization--that he has
a right to do what he will with his own, had kept asserting itself in
that plausible but untenable claim of the laity to manage the church
property acquired by their own contributions, which is known to Catholic
writers as trusteeism. Through the whole breadth of the country, from
Buffalo to New Orleans, sharp conflicts over this question between
clergy and laity had continued to vex the peace of the church, and the
victory of the clergy had not been unvarying and complete. When, in
1837, Bishop John Hughes took the reins of spiritual power in New York,
he resolved to try conclusions with the trustees who attempted to
overrule his authority in his own cathedral. Sharply threatening to put
the church under interdict, if necessary, he brought the recalcitrants
to terms at last by a less formidable process. He appealed to the
congregation to withhold all further contributions from the trustees.
The appeal, for conscience' sake, to refrain from giving has always a
double hope of success. And the bishop succeeded in ousting the
trustees, at the serious risk of teaching the people a trick which has
since been found equally effective when applied on the opposite side of
a dispute between clergyman and congregation. In Philadelphia the long
struggle was not ended without the actual interdicting of the cathedral
of St. Mary's, April, 1831. In Buffalo, so late as 1847, even this
extreme measure, applied to the largest congregation in the newly
erected diocese, did not at once enforce submission.

The conflict with trusteeism was only one out of many conflicts which
gave abundant exercise to the administrative abilities of the American
bishops. The mutual jealousies of the various nationalities and races
among the laity, and of the various sects of the regular clergy,
menaced, and have not wholly ceased to menace, the harmony of the
church, if not its unity.

One disturbing element by which the Roman Catholic Church in some
European countries has been sorely vexed makes no considerable figure in
the corresponding history in America. There has never been here any
Liberal Catholic party. The fact stands in analogy with many like
facts. Visitors to America from the established churches of England or
Scotland or Germany have often been surprised to find the temper of the
old-country church so much broader and less rigid than that of the
daughter church in the new and free republic. The reason is less
recondite than might be supposed. In the old countries there are
retained in connection with the state-church, by constraint of law or of
powerful social or family influences, many whose adhesion to its
distinctive tenets and rules is slight and superficial. It is out of
such material that the liberal church party grows. In the migration it
is not that the liberal churchman becomes more strict, but that, being
released from outside pressure, he becomes less of a churchman. He
easily draws off from his hereditary communion and joins himself to some
other, or to none at all. This process of evaporation leaves behind it a
strong residuum in which all characteristic elements are held as in a
saturated solution.

A further security of the American Catholic Church against the growth of
any Liberal Catholic party like those of continental Europe is the
absolutist organization of the hierarchy under the personal government
of the pope. In these last few centuries great progress has been made by
the Roman see in extinguishing the ancient traditions of local or
national independence in the election of bishops. Nevertheless in
Catholic Europe important relics of this independence give an effective
check to the absolute power of Rome. In America no trace of this
historic independence has ever existed. The power of appointing and
removing bishops is held absolutely and exclusively by the pope and
exercised through the Congregation of the Propaganda. The power of
ordaining and assigning priests is held by the bishop, who also holds or
controls the title to the church property in his diocese. The security
against partisan division within the church is as complete as it can be
made without gravely increasing the risks of alienating additional
multitudes from the fellowship of the church.[312:1]

* * * * *

During the whole of this dreary decade there were fightings without as
well as within for the Catholic Church in the United States. Its great
and sudden growth solely by immigration had made it distinctively a
church of foreigners, and chiefly of Irishmen. The conditions were
favorable for the development of a race prejudice aggravated by a
religious antipathy. It was a good time for the impostor, the fanatic,
and the demagogue to get in their work. In Boston, in 1834, the report
that a woman was detained against her will in the Ursuline convent at
Charlestown, near Boston, led to the burning of the building by a
drunken mob. The Titus Oates of the American no-popery panic, in 1836,
was an infamous woman named Maria Monk, whose monstrous stories of
secret horrors perpetrated in a convent in Montreal, in which she
claimed to have lived as a nun, were published by a respectable house
and had immense currency. A New York pastor of good standing, Dr.
Brownlee, made himself sponsor for her character and her stories; and
when these had been thoroughly exposed, by Protestant ministers and
laymen, for the shameless frauds that they were, there were plenty of
zealots to sustain her still. A Protestant Society was organized in
New York, and solicited the contributions of the benevolent and pious to
promote the dissemination of raw-head-and-bloody-bones literature on the
horrors of popery. The enterprise met with reprobation from sober-minded
Protestants, but it was not without its influence for mischief. The
presence of a great foreign vote, easily manipulated and cast in block,
was proving a copious source of political corruption. Large concessions
of privilege or of public property to Catholic institutions were
reasonably suspected to have been made in consideration of clerical
services in partisan politics.[313:1] The conditions provoked, we might
say necessitated, a political reform movement, which took the name and
character of Native American. In Philadelphia, a city notorious at
that time for misgovernment and turbulence, an orderly American
meeting was attacked and broken up by an Irish mob. One act of violence
led to another, the excitement increasing from day to day; deadly shots
were exchanged in the streets, houses from which balls had been fired
into the crowd were set in flames, which spread to other houses,
churches were burned, and the whole city dominated by mobs that were
finally suppressed by the State militia. It was an appropriate climax
to the ten years of ecclesiastical and social turmoil.[314:1]





Next: The Great Immigration

Previous: Conflicts Of The Church With Pub



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK