John McCloskey

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John McCloskey

John McCloskey (1810-1885) was the second arch bishop of New York and the first American to be elevated to the Roman Catholic College of Cardinals.

John McCloskey was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 10, 1810, the son of Patrick and Elizabeth Harron McCloskey, recent immigrants from Ireland. His father, a clerk, died when John was 15 years old, at which time the young man became the ward of Cornelius Heeney, a wealthy merchant. He graduated from Mount Saint Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md., in 1828 and returned to the school a year later to study for the priesthood.

Ordained in 1834, McCloskey served as a parish assistant and seminary instructor until he was given an opportunity to study in Rome. He was in Italy from 1835 to 1837. When he returned he was appointed rector of St. Joseph's Church in Greenwich, Conn. He served also as president of St. John's College, Fordham, N. Y. (now Fordham University), and rector of St. John's Seminary.

In 1844 McCloskey was appointed coadjutor bishop of New York's vigorous archbishop John Hughes. Because he was cosmopolitan, fluent in several languages, and at ease with members of the city's upper classes, McCloskey's personality complemented that of the archbishop. In 1847 he was named first bishop of Albany, N. Y. In 1864 he was chosen to succeed Hughes as archbishop of New York.

McCloskey continued the diocesan work begun by Hughes, although he conducted affairs in a more subdued manner. He settled disputes with religious orders and condemned Fenian (Irish nationalist) extremists, who hoped to liberate Ireland from Great Britain by invading Canada. In 1869-1870 McCloskey attended the First Vatican Council, where he reluctantly voted for the declaration of the dogma of papal infallibility, a step he regarded as inexpedient. In 1875 he was made the first American member of the College of Cardinals, an event which brought him wide attention in the United States.

At home McCloskey carried forward the building of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and raised large amounts of money for charitable work. Although his most significant tangible work was the raising of St. Patrick's, he was also responsible for the establishment of seminaries, missions, and churches within the diocese. In 1880 his work was lightened by the appointment of a coadjutor, Michael Augustine Corrigan. After his golden jubilee as a priest in 1884, McCloskey withdrew from active management of the diocese. He died on Oct. 10, 1885, in New York City.

Further Reading

A biography of McCloskey was written by an archbishop of New York, John Cardinal Farley, The Life of John Cardinal McCloskey: First Prince of the Church in America (1918). The early years of his career to his appointment as archbishop can be followed in John R. G. Hassard, Life of Most Reverend John Hughes (1866), and the later years in John Talbot Smith, The Catholic Church in New York (2 vols., 1908). □