Friday, March 31, 2006

Toward the Bicentennial

OK, friends, we're on the clock.

A week from tomorrow, 8 April, we'll be two years out from what better be a fitting celebration -- 200 years of the American hierarchy's first expansion. On that day in 1808, the diocese of Baltimore, founded twenty years earlier to serve the whole of the 13 original states, became an archdiocese as new local churches were founded at Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Bardstown (now Louisville).

And the divide between Tridentine and Enlightenment Catholics remains....

With an eye to the reopening of the restored Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore -- US Catholicism's mother church -- this coming November, the current holder of the Premier See, Cardinal William Keeler, gives an interview to 30 giorni on the basilica, the pioneer bishop John Carroll, and his see's place in the wider prism of the American tradition of religious freedom.
The reply that George Washington delivered to Pius VI about the freedom of the Pope to nominate the bishops in the newly born Confederation of the American States was surprising. The choice fell on the Jesuit John Carroll – who then became archbishop of Baltimore – who had greatly insisted that the first bishop be a native and not one sent from Rome…
KEELER: Carroll well understood that you need someone who understands the local situation. That’s why in more recent periods the popes have tried very hard to ensure that they have native bishops all around the world, aware of the local culture, the ways of the particular people, in the sole purpose of helping to advance the cause of the Church.
And the second American bishop was also a Jesuit, Leonard Neall [sic -- it's Neale]. When I was once ordaining some Jesuits, I told them that the decision of Clement XIV to abolish their order had been a blessing for us, because that made it possible for the Jesuits to come back from Rome and for two of them to be nominated the first two bishops in the United States.
For the bulk of its earlier years, to avoid a vacuum at the top, Baltimore had a constant stream of coadjutors. John Carroll was succeeded immediately on his 1815 death by Neale, who died two years later in a carriage accident and whose coadjutor, the Sulpician Ambrose Marechal, took over immediately....

Well, almost -- Marechal's appointment as coadjutor had been finalized in Rome, but the news hadn't arrived at Baltimore until after Neale's death. Same thing happened with Marechal's coadjutor-successor, James Whitfield. The last of the line was Samuel Eccleston, another Sulpician who rose to the US Church's top post at the age of 33, a month after he was ordained as coadjutor to Archbishop Whitfield.

Many of you are bored right now, I can tell....

Keeler on the Baltimore Catechism:
Baltimore hosted many Provincial and Plenary Councils, in which all the American Church was represented. What did they talk about?
KEELER: Particularly those topics that we are also concerned about today, that is to give young people a Christian education, pass on a living faith to the generation growing up. The first Plenary Councils established norms about this, before there were public schools on American soil. Those then existing were run by the different religious denominations: Catholics, Baptists, etc....

Your Eminence, what is the “Baltimore Catechism”?
KEELER: The third Plenary American Council decided on the composition of a catechism that would be valid throughout the United States given that there were so many different catechisms in use then. The Council set up a special committee and an Italian priest was chosen to draft the texts that were then reviewed by a committee of bishops. The Catechism was published around 1890.
If I were the interviewer, I'd immediately ask the archbishop of Baltimore "Why did God make me?" just to be sure he could answer the first question of the Catechism published by Gibbons verbatim.

Speaking of Q&A Catechism, word is that the Compendium is out today? I don't know, but while looking for the answer I did find a place where you can send birthday e-cards to Benedict XVI, who turns 79 on Easter Sunday....