Carroll, John

views updated May 21 2018


First Catholic bishop of the U.S., Archbishop of Baltimore; b. Upper Marlborough, Md., Jan. 8, 1735; d. Baltimore, Dec. 3, 1815. The third of seven children of Daniel and Eleanor (Darnall) Carroll was born of a distinguished family. Through his father he descended from Keane Carroll of Ireland, the elder brother of Charles Carroll who migrated to Maryland and served there as attorney general. Through his mother he was related to the Darnalls, whose American branch was founded by Col. Henry Darnall, brother-in-law of Lord Baltimore.

Early Years. Carroll's education began at home with his mother, who had been educated in France; later he attended Bohemia Manor, a short-lived Jesuit school in northern Maryland. In 1748, with his cousin Charles, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, he went to St. Omer, conducted by English Jesuits in French Flanders. He entered the Jesuit novitiate at Watten in 1753 under Father Henry Corbie and in 1755 became a Jesuit scholastic. Completing the scholasticate at Liège, he taught philosophy there, made his profession in 1771, and then taught at the Jesuit college in Bruges. The exact dates of his ordination and renouncing of his father's legacy cannot be documented, but the former probably took place in 1769 and the latter between 1764 and 1771.

After teaching a few months at Bruges, with his superior's consent he toured the Continent as tutor to Charles Philippe, son of the English Lord Stourton. His journal of the tour (177173) offers interesting comment on the central and southern Europe of that time. In the summer of 1773, he became prefect of the sodality at Bruges, where he received news of the dissolution of the Society of Jesus by papal action on July 21, 1773. In October, Austrian officials invaded the college and he was arrested. On the intervention of the English Lord Arundell of Wardour Castle, he was released and went to Wardour as family chaplain until the spring of 1774.

Return to America. Carroll returned in 1774 to live with his mother at Rock Creek, Md. In 1776, the Continental Congress persuaded him to accompany Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase, and Benjamin Franklin to Canada in an effort to win the province to the side of the Colonies in their revolt against England. Arriving in Montreal in April, he was shown no courtesies on the order of Bp. Joseph Briand and had to offer Mass privately in the house of Father Pierre Floquet, a former Jesuit. After the commission's failure, he went to Philadelphia with the ailing Franklin, earning his gratitude for his "friendly assistance and tender care."

After his return to Rock Creek, his zealous ministry soon necessitated the building of St. John's Chapel at Forest Glen on the property of his brother Daniel, one of the framers of the Constitution; he also had to travel 60-mile journeys to reach a Virginia congregation.

Desiring to protect former Jesuit properties in the new nation and to organize the clergy for a more effective ministry, in 1782 he devised a plan that was in substance adopted in 1784, creating a "Form of Government, Rules for the Select Body of Clergy, and Regulations for the Management of Plantations." The American clergy petitioned Rome to name Father John Lewis their superior; but when a vicar-general was appointed, Carroll, on Franklin's recommendation, was made "head of the missions in the provinces of the United States" on June 9, 1784. During the next six years he visited his territory, reported to Rome on conditions (March 1, 1785), and publicly defended the beliefs and rights of Catholics in the new Republic.

In 1784, he published the Address to the Roman Catholics of the United States of America, defending the Faith against the attacks of the apostate Jesuit Charles Wharton, whose Letter to the Roman Catholics of Worcester had appeared in Philadelphia earlier that year. In the Philadelphia Columbian of December 1787, he answered attacks on religious liberty made in its pages, saying: "Freedom and independence acquired by the united efforts, and cemented with the mingled blood of Protestants and Catholic fellow-citizens, should be equally enjoyed by all." In the United States Gazette, June 10, 1789, under the name "Pacificus," he reiterated the principle that the Republic had been created by the "generous exertion of all her citizens to redress their wrongs, to assert their rights, and to lay its foundations on the soundest principles of justice and equal liberty." In December 1789, he composed an "Address of the Roman Catholics" to President Washington, congratulating him on his office and reasserting that Catholics had a well-founded title to justice and equal rights in return for their exertions in the nation's defense.

First U.S. Bishop. In 1788 Rome had decided to create the first diocese in the U.S., and on Sept. 17, 1789, Pius VI ordered the bull prepared naming Carroll bishop of Baltimore, thereby confirming the choice of the American clergy. (see baltimore, archdiocese of.) His consecration took place Aug. 15, 1790, in Lulworth Chapel on the estate of Thomas Weld in Dorset, England, with Bp. Charles Walmesley presiding and Father Charles Plowden preaching the sermon.

As first Catholic bishop, Carroll set a precedent for cordial relations between the government and the hierarchy. In 1791 at his first synod, he initiated the custom of public prayers for the president and the government. He influenced Washington to ask Congress for an appropriation to support the work of two priests among the native people of the Northwest Territory. Carroll also visited Washington in retirement at Mount Vernon and preached the first president's eulogy at St. Peter's Church in Baltimore on Feb. 22, 1800.

His relations with Jefferson were equally cordial, and when the Louisiana Territory was purchased in 1803, he secured Jefferson's protection for the Ursuline nuns and their properties. In return, he appointed to Louisiana priests devoted to American principles, eliciting Jefferson's comment that he had perfect confidence in Carroll's "patriotism and purity of views." Although opposed to the War of 1812, he defended Madison for his religious principles and his endeavors to preserve peace. In tribute to his patriotism, Carroll was invited to speak at the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument in Baltimore but had to decline because of illness.

Interest in Education. Carroll was also a promoter of culture. From its founding until his death, he was president of the Baltimore Library Company and instituted its printed catalog. Under his auspices Catholic colleges for men were founded in Maryland at Georgetown (1788), Baltimore (St. Mary's, 1799), and at Emmitsburg (Mt. St. Mary's, 1808). Academies for girls were begun at Georgetown (Visitation, 1799), Emmitsburg (St. Joseph's, 1809), and Bardstown, Ky. (Nazareth, 1814).

Although primarily concerned with religious education, he had so deep a conviction that education must flourish in the Republic that he became famous in Maryland as a patron of secular schools as well. In 1784 he became a member of the board of directors of the newly chartered St. John's College at Annapolis and was elected president of the board four years later. In 1785 at the second annual commencement of Washington College, Chestertown, Md., honorary degrees were conferred on both George Washington and Carroll. The next year he presided at the public meeting held to initiate a boys' academy for Baltimore. In 1801 he began serving as director on the board of the nonsectarian Female Humane Association Charity School. Two years later he was elected president of the board of trustees for the newly founded Baltimore College open to all denominations. When the University of Maryland was rechartered in 1812 he was elected provost, but had to decline because of ecclesiastical burdens. A monument to Carroll's cultural influence is the old Cathedral of the Assumption in Baltimore, whose cornerstone he laid on July 7, 1806, and whose design he influenced by collaborating with the architect, Benjamin Latrobe.

Ecclesiastaical Administration. Carroll possessed a genius for organization. To him are due the formulation of the principles and the foundations that made possible the later expansion and status of the Church in the U.S. As first bishop, and later first archbishop of Baltimore, he deserves full credit for the vitality of the faith in the early years of the Republic.

After his consecration, faced with the task of coordinating the work of his clergy he called the first national synod in 1791. Under his guidance, rules were drawn up governing the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Penance, and Matrimony for a country where the Catholic minority were scattered, often far from priests, and frequently parties to mixed marriages. The problem of his successor was also discussed and the synod recommended to Rome that the diocese be divided, with a second bishop at Philadelphia, or that a coadjutor with the right of succession be appointed. When Rome adopted the second alternative, he was given a coadjutor in 1794, but it was not until December 1800 that the first coadjutor bishop, Leonard neale, was consecrated.

In 1802 Carroll again suggested a division of his diocese and received Romes permission to recommend boundaries, episcopal cities, and candidates for the new dioceses. He then recommended four sees: Boston, comprising the five New England states of that time; New York, with jurisdiction over that state and eastern New Jersey; Philadelphia, controlling the rest of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware; and Bardstown, Ky., embracing Kentucky and Tennessee. For bishop of Boston, he recommended Jean cheverus; for Philadelphia, Michael egan; for Bardstown, Benedict flaget; for New York, however, he made no recommendation, believing that no worthy candidate could be found in that city. When, on April 8, 1808, Pius VII created the sees, Carroll's candidates were appointed and Richard Concanen was named bishop of New York. Carroll continued his jurisdiction over Maryland and the South; and because Concanen, who was in Italy when he was consecrated, could not find transportation to New York, Carroll made Anthony Kohlmann vicar-general until the bishop should arrive. He consecrated the other new bishops in Baltimore in 1810. The hierarchy then drew up an agreement for the uniformity of Catholic discipline throughout the country. Together with the regulation of the Synod of 1791, this agreement constitutes the earliest codification of Canon Law for the church in the U.S. Carroll and his suffragans also drafted, on Nov. 15, 1810, a solemn protest against Napoleon's captivity of Pius VII and sent it with their first joint encyclical to the hierarchy of Ireland.

Carroll received the pallium brought by the British minister, Augustus Foster, on Aug. 18, 1811. By this time he believed that Louisiana and Florida warranted another diocese and recommended the president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Louis Dubourg, who went to New Orleans in 1812 as apostolic administrator of the diocese and was consecrated bishop in 1815.

Religious Foundations. Deeply concerned for the spiritual and educational needs of the laity, he encouraged foundations of religious orders for women: the Carmelites, who settled at Port Tobacco, Md., in 1790; the Poor Clares, who first settled at Frederick, Md.; the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross, founded in 1812 at Hardin's Creek, Ky.; and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, also founded in Kentucky in 1812.

The foundation of the first distinctly American community of religious women, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, was due to his encouragement of their founder, Bl. Elizabeth seton. He had first heard of Mrs. Seton through the Filicchi brothers of Leghorn, Italy; the younger, Antonio, interested him in her conversion in 1804. Carroll confirmed her in New York on May 25, 1806. Two years later he encouraged her to start a school for Catholic girls in Baltimore. In March 1809, he permitted her to take vows, insisting, however, that she accept a dispensation from complete poverty so that she might provide for her five children. During her first difficult years as superior of the small community in Emmitsburg, Carroll was her support and mentor. When on Jan. 17, 1812, he confirmed the rules for her community, although they were substantially those of the French Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul, he saw to it that modifications allowed for conditions in the United States and for Mother Seton's peculiar situation as religious superior and mother of five children.

Carroll encouraged religious orders of men as well. An Augustinian monastery was established in Philadelphia in 1796 under Thomas Matthew carr, with George Washington among the contributors to the building fund for St. Augustine's Church. The Dominicans, arriving in 1804, hoped to start a monastery under Edward fenwick in Maryland, but were persuaded to go to Kentucky where Carroll saw greater need for them. By 1807 they had opened St. Thomas School for boys there.

Having been himself a Jesuit, Carroll hoped to see the Society restored in the U.S. Moreover, rather than see the Jesuits divested of any part of their original strength, he opposed in 1800 the affiliation of the former Jesuits of the U.S. with a pseudo-Jesuit society calling themselves the paccanarists. On March 7, 1801, when a pontifical brief granted canonical existence to the Society in Russia, he sought means of aggregating the American group to the Russian; and on June 21, 1805, he named Robert molyneux to head the qualified restoration. On Dec. 7, 1814, he had the pleasure of receiving a copy of the bull that restored the Society throughout the world. He was too old to rejoin, but cherished "the greatest sensation of joy and thanksgiving" that the Society of Jesus would flourish in the U.S.

To foster the increase of a secular clergy, he supported the establishment of St. Mary's Seminary. While still in England for his consecration in 1790, he had begun negotiations with the French Society of Saint Sulpice to found a seminary in Baltimore, which opened the following year; and in 1802 he vigorously opposed the recall of the Sulpicians to France.

Dissension and Controversy. Thirty priests were trained at St. Mary's between May 25, 1793, when Carroll ordained Stephen badin, the first graduate, and Carroll's own death in 1815. The growth of a native clergy was slow, however, and he had to rely increasingly upon priests from Ireland, France, and Germanyclergy whose temperaments and nationalistic leanings created problems. Germans in Philadelphia and Westmoreland County, Pa., disputed his jurisdiction in 1798; in the former case causing his arrest, and in the latter taking him to court, where Judge Alexander Addison vindicated him, declaring him "the sole episcopal authority of the United States." The next year in Baltimore, a German priest and congregation at St. John's Church began open opposition that resulted in four years of controversy and another court action in which he was again vindicated.

In Norfolk, Va., Charlestown, S.C., and Augusta, Ga., Irish priests allied themselves with trustees to resist his authority. Although the majority of the French clergy proved invaluable, three of their number becoming his suffragan bishops, a few caused scandal and a few returned to France when the position of the Church there improved after 1802. And while Carroll appreciated the ideals and labors of the priests in religious orders, he nevertheless suffered opposition from some of their superiors, among them Charles Neale and John Grassi of the Jesuits.

Significance. Carroll's leadership and administration of the Church in the U.S. fixed traditions that later enhanced its prestige. His devotion to religious freedom and his delineation of the relations of the Church with Rome in spiritual matters defined and gave proof of the compatibility of Catholicism and democracy. His charity was endless. In these difficult years he measured each crisis by the ultimate and common good not only of the Church but also of the nation. He lived to see independence declared, won, and again preserved in the War of 1812; the Catholic population quadrupled and the clergy doubled. As Cardinal Gibbons expressed it: "His aim was that the clergy and people should be identified with the land. From this mutual accord of Churchand State there could but follow beneficent effects for both." Enfeebled by age and illness, Carroll received the last Sacraments on Nov. 23 and died on Dec. 3, 1815. He was buried in the chapel of St. Mary's Seminary, but in 1824 his body was removed to the Cathedral (later Basilica) of the Assumption.

Bibliography: d. brent, Biographical Sketch of the Most Rev. John Carroll, ed. J. C. Brent (Baltimore 1843). p. guilday, The Life and Times of John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore, 17351815 (Westminster, Md. 1954). j. d. shea, Life and Times of the Most Rev. John Carroll, Bishop and First Archbishop of Baltimore (New York 1888). a. m. melville, John Carroll of Baltimore (New York 1955).

[a. m. melville]

Carroll, John

views updated Jun 27 2018

John Carroll

Born January 8, 1735 (Upper Marlboro, Maryland)

Died December 3, 1815 (Baltimore, Maryland)

Catholic leader

John Carroll is known as the founder of the Roman Catholic Church in America. He was the first Roman Catholic bishop of Baltimore and later was made archbishop of Baltimore. (The Roman Catholic Church is often called simply the Catholic Church; its members are called Roman Catholics or just Catholics.) Carroll was dedicated to building a national church that differed from the Roman Catholic Church in Europe, where church and state were closely tied to one another. He worked to counter anti-Catholic discrimination in America by stressing Catholic commitment to democratic ideals. Carroll's efforts to promote the Roman Catholic faith included a sincere attempt to create religious unity among all denominations of Christianity. His Address to the Roman Catholics of the United States of America was the first Catholic work written by an American that was published in the United States.

"America may come to exhibit a proof to the world, that general and equal toleration, by giving a free circulation to fair argument, is the most effectual method to bring all denominations to a unity of faith."

As head of the Catholic clergy during the nation's formative years, Carroll established three seminaries and cofounded a college that became Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Carroll took an active role in civic affairs while pursuing his religious duties. He was on the board of St. John's College at Annapolis, Maryland, and served as president of the board at Baltimore College, Maryland. Carroll also served as president of the Female Humane Association and of the Baltimore Library Company and was a pioneer of the Maryland Historical Society.

A Catholic education

John Carroll was born into a wealthy Catholic family in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, on January 8, 1735. His mother was Eleanor Darnall, a well-educated woman and an heiress in one of Maryland's most distinguished families. John's father was Daniel Carroll, a successful merchant born in Ireland. John was the fourth of seven children born to the Carrolls. John, who was also called Jackey as a child, received his elementary education at home from his mother, who had been educated in France. In the early eighteenth century, Maryland had rigorous anti-Catholic legislation in place because of Catholicism's traditional ties to European monarchies. These laws forbade the public celebration of Mass (Catholic service) and denied Catholics the right to vote and the right to hold public office. Catholic education was also outlawed, but wealthy Catholic parents could send their children to schools that had been established in Catholic manor houses (residences of Catholic leaders who had special legal privileges).

One such school was called Bohemia Manor Academy. It was established by the Jesuits in northern Cecil County, Maryland. Established in the sixteenth century, the Jesuits are a religious order within the Catholic Church that brought rejuvenation to the Church as new religious denominations such as the Protestants were being formed. The Jesuits focused on missionary work and education with the Church. Carroll was sent to Bohemia Manor Academy in 1747 at the age of twelve. He remained at Bohemia for a year while he prepared to journey to Europe to complete his education. For many years, American Catholic colonists had been sending their children to Europe in order to continue the tradition of a Catholic education. In 1748, Carroll made the voyage across the Atlantic to French Flanders, where he was enrolled in the English Jesuits' college at St. Omer. Carroll did not return to his home in the United States until the eve of the American Revolution (1775–83), over twenty-five years later.

On September 7, 1753, at age eighteen, Carroll joined the Society of Jesus and entered the Jesuit novitiate (residence for new members) in nearby Watten, Flanders. He took his first religious vows two years later and was sent to the English College at Liège (a modern-day province in Belgium) to begin a demanding course of study in philosophy, rhetoric, literature, the natural sciences, and higher mathematics. Carroll returned to St. Omer in 1758 to teach.

At this time, the Jesuits began to experience difficulties in several European nations. France was making efforts to eliminate the Jesuits, and they were also being expelled, mostly for political reasons, from Portugal, Spain, and Italy. However, the Jesuits did not let these political battles interrupt their religious mission. Carroll taught philosophy and theology at St. Omer until the French government confiscated the college in August 1762. The Jesuits then set up a new establishment in Bruges, Flanders, where Carroll taught before returning to Liège to complete his seminary training in 1765. Carroll took his vow of poverty, releasing all claims to any future inheritance of his father's property in keeping with the Jesuit tradition, and was ordained in 1769.

In the summer of 1771, Carroll set out on a tour of Europe as the chaperone of a young man who was the son of Lord Stourton, an English Catholic nobleman. The pair traveled through France, Germany, and Italy before ending their tour in July 1773 at Liège. While in Rome, Carroll spent time observing debates about the proposed suppression of the Society of Jesus occurring in various European countries, a topic that was receiving a great deal of attention under the reign of Pope Clement XIV (1705–1774). Three months after Carroll left Rome, the pope reluctantly signed a decree under pressure from the governments of France, Spain, and Portugal officially limiting the Jesuits, restricting their work, and evicting them from the college in Bruges. A copy of the decree was sent to each place where Jesuit clergy resided, along with an Act of Submission that was to be signed by every member of the Society. Signing the act was to promise to be faithful to the main Catholic Church rather than the Jesuit order. Carroll took refuge in England at Wardour Castle as a guest and chaplain of Lord Arundell; while he was there, he wrote a letter defending the Jesuit cause. With his future in Europe uncertain, Carroll also wrote to his family and advised them of his plans to return to the United States in 1774.

A ministry in America

When Carroll returned to Maryland in the summer of 1774, he went to live with his mother in her home at Rock Creek. (His father had died in 1750.) For the next thirteen years, Carroll traveled around Maryland and Virginia, living the life of a missionary under the jurisdiction (authority) of the English Catholics. It was a demanding job, and he often rode more than twenty-five miles on horseback to visit the sick among those he served. Maryland law still forbade public Catholic churches, so Carroll built a tiny frame chapel on his mother's estate in order to conduct Mass while he was at home. He devoted himself to the study of ancient literature and also kept busy with the social obligations that were part of his family's routine. The Carroll family (see box) was influential in the colonial struggle for independence, and John was a vocal supporter of the Patriots' cause. Patriots were American colonists who supported the rebel cause to gain independence from British rule.

The Carrolls of Maryland

John Carroll was part of a family very influential in early American politics. Ties of blood and marriage linked the two principal branches of the Carroll family in the early eighteenth century. The names Charles, Daniel, Mary, and Eleanor were used repeatedly within the Carroll family, making it somewhat difficult to track the family lineage of the Carrolls in Maryland. Both branches were descended from Daniel Carroll of Upper Marlboro and Charles Carroll, an attorney general of the United States. All were vocal supporters of the revolutionaries in America, who wanted independence from Britain. The various branches of the Carroll family claim a common ancestor in Florence O'Carroll, King of Ely, Ireland, who died in 1205.

Charles Carroll, the attorney general, had a son named Charles Carroll of Annapolis, who became one of the wealthiest landowners of the colonies. He in turn had a son named Charles Carroll of Carrollton, born in 1737. This Charles Carroll was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and was the cousin of Archbishop John Carroll. Charles Carroll of Carrollton attended school with John Carroll at Bohemia Manor Academy and later journeyed with him to St. Omer in France. While John went on to enter the priesthood, Charles studied law. They later served together as representatives of the Continental Congress on a diplomatic mission to secure Canadian neutrality during the American Revolution.

Daniel Carroll of Upper Marlboro immigrated to America from Ireland at the beginning of the eighteenth century and became a wealthy merchant. He married Eleanor Darnall and was the father of Archbishop John Carroll. John's older brother was Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek. He was a member of the Continental Congress and signed the Constitution on behalf of the state of Maryland. He was one of only two Catholics to sign the Constitution. Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek would marry Eleanor Carroll, cousin to Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

American Patriots hoped that people in Canada might support the revolutionary cause. In an effort to persuade the Canadians, the Continental Congress sent delegates to Montreal, Quebec, in 1776 and asked Carroll to accompany the delegation. He joined Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790; see entry in volume 1), Samuel Chase (1741–1811), and his own cousin, Charles Carroll (1737–1832), on the unsuccessful mission. They failed to even secure Canada's neutrality. Although the diplomatic mission failed, Carroll developed a lasting friendship with Franklin that proved invaluable in Carroll's future endeavors.

By 1783, it was apparent that if America won its independence from Britain, Catholic leaders in Britain would cut all ties to the American Catholic organizations. Carroll and five other priests met in Whitemarsh, Maryland, in June to discuss a plan that would allow them to carry on their mission work and protect their properties as well from actions by the Church in Europe. The Maryland clergy sent a petition to Rome in November 1783, requesting permission to nominate a superior in America who would have the powers of a bishop. This person would take care of the daily business affairs of administration, allowing the priests to continue their ministry throughout the scattered Catholic communities in the United States. Benjamin Franklin was on a diplomatic mission in Paris in 1784 when Vatican officials from Rome approached him to discuss who might be the best person to lead the Catholics in America. At Franklin's suggestion, Pope Pius VI (1717–1799) chose Carroll for the position, naming him Superior of the American Missions in the thirteen states of the United States in North America on June 6, 1784. Carroll now had the power to administer the sacrament of confirmation (a ceremony in which a person receives the gift of the Holy Spirit) and was asked to send a report on the state of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.

The Bishop of Baltimore

In his new role as leader of the Catholic Church in America, Carroll wrote an Address to the Roman Catholics of the United States of America, defending the loyalty of Catholics. Catholicism had long been a major religion in Europe associated with various monarchs. Many in America questioned Catholics' loyalty to the new nation without a monarchy. Carroll also wrote articles for American journals, demanding equal rights for Roman Catholics. Convinced that the new nation needed a bishop directly under the Holy Father in Rome reflecting the new nation's independence rather than being administered by the Church through a European country, Carroll and the priests of Maryland again petitioned the pope in 1788. As a result, the American clergy were allowed to elect their first bishop; they chose Carroll in a nearly unanimous ballot. Pope Pius VI named Carroll the bishop of the new diocese of Baltimore on November 6, 1789. Carroll was ordained as bishop in the private chapel of the Weld family in Lulworth Castle, Dorset, England, on August 15, 1790. In November 1791, Carroll convened his first, and only, synod (assembly of priests) in the United States.

Bishop Carroll's primary interest was education. He invited the religious order (group) of the Sulpicians to open St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. It was the first Catholic seminary in the United States. Carroll invited other religious orders to open schools. Among those who responded to this invitation was Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774–1821; see entry in volume 2), the founder of a religious order called the Sisters of Charity. She established a motherhouse (place where nuns or sisters of a religious order live) and an academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Carroll himself founded Georgetown University in 1789 and welcomed some former Jesuits to begin classes there. He helped raise funds to begin construction on the campus. The first building was named the Carroll Building. Carroll worked toward establishing the Society of Jesus in the United States after its suppression in Europe and entrusted it with Georgetown College and other properties. Georgetown would receive its federal charter, signed by President James Madison (1751–1836; served 1809–17; see entry in volume 2), in 1815. It later became Georgetown University, the best known of the many educational institutions founded by Carroll.

Archbishop of Baltimore

In 1804, Pope Pius VII (1742–1823) added the administration of the Virgin Islands to Bishop Carroll's diocese. A diocese is the area over which a bishop has the authority and responsibility to direct Catholic clergy and church members. In 1805, the diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas were also added to Carroll's jurisdiction. (The United States had acquired the Louisiana Purchase, a vast area of land west of the Mississippi, from France in 1803). On April 8, 1808, the diocese of Baltimore was made an archdiocese (a diocese recognized for its exceptional importance because of its size or history), and Bishop Carroll became archbishop (a bishop who resides over an archdiocese) of Baltimore. Four new bishop's offices were established in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and Bardstown, Kentucky.

After the death of President George Washington (1732–1799; served 1789–97; see entry in volume 2), Carroll issued a circular (written order) to his clergy, calling for a day of mourning. It was designed to demonstrate to the country the sorrow and regret experienced by Catholics at the loss of the nation's great leader. At the invitation of Congress, and with the full support of all Christian congregations in the United States, Carroll presented the eulogy for Washington at St. Peter's Church in Baltimore on February 22, 1800. Archbishop Carroll was asked to lay the cornerstone of Washington's Monument in Baltimore in the fall of 1815, but he had to decline because of failing health.

Church politics and infighting continued during the final year of Carroll's life, but his passing on December 3, 1815, was deeply mourned by all. Newspapers announcing his death were bordered in black, just as they had been when President Washington died. Carroll's body was laid out for public viewing for several days before being carried through the crowded streets. The funeral Mass was offered in St. Peter's, and his body was interred in the chapel of St. Mary's Seminary. In 1824, his remains were moved to the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore.

For More Information


Guilday, Peter. The Life and Times of John Carroll: Archbishop of Baltimore 1735–1815. New York: Encyclopedia Press, 1922. Reprint, Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1954.

Hanley, Thomas O'Brien, ed. The John Carroll Papers. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1976.

Kauffman, Christopher J. Tradition and Transformation in Catholic Culture: The Priests of Saint Sulpice in the United States from 1791 to the Present. New York: Macmillan, 1988.

Kupke, Raymond J., ed. American Catholic Preaching and Piety in the Time of John Carroll. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991.

Web Sites

"John Carroll." The Catholic Encyclopedia. (accessed on August 12, 2005).

"The Life of John Carroll." John Carroll University. (accessed on August 12, 2005).

Carroll, John

views updated Jun 27 2018


CARROLL, JOHN (17351815), first Roman Catholic bishop of the United States (1789). Carroll attended Saint Omer College in French Flanders in 1748 and a few years later joined the Jesuits. By 1771 he had been ordained a priest and made his final vows in the order. When Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuits in 1773, Carroll was briefly under arrest. The next year he returned to his family estate in Maryland, ministering as best he could under the uncertain jurisdiction ex-Jesuits then faced. He joined his cousin, Charles Carroll, and Benjamin Franklin in an attempt at winning Canadian support for political independence, which would open the way for an American Catholic church.

Carroll's church leadership emerged in 17821783, inspired by concepts of church-state separation drawn from the writings of Roberto Bellarmino, Francisco Suárez, and English Catholic commentators on the subject. Carroll viewed the relationship between the pope and Roman Catholic congregations as principally spiritual rather than administrative; thus his plan for the American Catholic church placed church property in the United States in its own corporations, both clerical and lay, in this way guarding against foreign intrusion. Carroll also emphasized the spiritual nature of the office of bishop, a view he would explain in a disciplinary decree published in 1797.

In order to ensure against a nonresident appointee by Rome, Carroll advocated electing the first American bishop by vote of the clergy. Thereafter, he expected, the American hierarchy could follow more common ecclesial practices. However, the first American see, Baltimore, remained under the administrative control of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith, a body administered by Rome, thus weakening American control over episcopal appointees. Later, as first archbishop of Baltimore (18081815), Carroll was to acknowledge the lack of suitable American candidates to fill offices created by four new dioceses.

Consistent with Maryland Catholic tradition, Carroll held that no one should be molested in the free exercise of his religion. He believed that the Maryland constitution honored this principle. He wrote against states with laws that favored Protestantism (1789), arguing that such laws went beyond what was just in interpreting the role of religion in the state's promotion of public morality. In An Address to the Roman Catholics (1784), Carroll responded to what he considered distortions of Catholic teachings in these and other areas. His arguments were effective in the era before the rise of Nativisma movement characterized by hostility toward immigrants, particularly Irish Catholics.

John Carroll was also eminent as a builder of the church in visible form. Emerging into the world of public worship after 1776, the Catholic community under his leadership determinedly built parishes and institutions. Among the lasting legacies of his episcopacy were the establishment of Saint Mary's Seminary, the recruitment of priests from Europe, and the founding of Georgetown College for the laity of all faiths. He placed high value on the ministry and education of women, as seen in his sponsorship of Elizabeth Ann Seton's founding of the Daughters of Charity and of parochial schools. He also sponsored establishments of the Carmelite and Visitation orders. Carroll also contributed his services to Saint John's and Washington colleges and to what became the University of Maryland.


The primary source for Carroll's writings is The John Carroll Papers, 3 vols., edited by Thomas O'Brien Hanley (Notre Dame, Ind., 1976). Arranged in chronological order, it has title and date listings for each volume, useful for the references made above. Annabelle M. Melville's John Carroll of Baltimore (New York, 1955) to some extent abridges Peter K. Guilday's biography, The Life and Times of John Carroll, 2 vols. (1922; reprint, Westminster, Md., 1954). Joseph Agonito has made the most extensive use to date of the Carroll papers in "Ecumenical Stirrings: Catholic-Protestant Relations during the Episcopacy of John Carroll," Church History 45 (1976): 358373.

Thomas O'Brien Hanley (1987)

John Carroll

views updated May 21 2018

John Carroll

John Carroll (1735-1815) was the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in America. He designed the organization of the American Catholic Church, encouraged its educational activities, and emphasized its compatibility with democracy.

John Carroll was born in Upper Marlborough, Md., on Jan. 8, 1735, to Daniel Carroll, a wealthy merchant and landowner, and Eleanor Darnall Carroll. When he was 12 years old, John entered a Jesuit school in Maryland; in 1748 he went to Europe to continue his studies. He first attended St. Omers in France and then became a novice at the Jesuit college in Liège, Belgium, where he eventually taught. During this period he was ordained.

Carroll returned to America in 1774. Although he was a member of the colonial aristocracy, Carroll was active in behalf of the Revolutionary cause and the fledgling republic. In 1776 the Continental Congress asked him to join the Committee to Canada, consisting of his cousin Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase, and Benjamin Franklin, in its effort to persuade the Canadians to revolt against England. The mission failed and Carroll returned to Philadelphia with the ailing Franklin, who remained his lifelong friend. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were among the many prominent men who welcomed his counsel. He worked to integrate his Church into the life of the country, urging that the liturgy be read in the vernacular and offering prayers for officials and the government.

Instrumental in obtaining religious tolerance for Catholics, Carroll worked to preserve the Church property which had belonged to the Jesuits before the order was disbanded. In 1784 he was appointed Supreme of Missions. Pius VI named him bishop of Baltimore in 1789, a post he accepted because he was convinced that an American bishop was needed.

Carroll's goal was to unify the disparate elements in the Church. In 1791 he called the first national synod for the purpose of coordinating the work of the clergy. Irish, German, French, and Spanish priests were jealous and distrustful of each other. The laity was even more seriously fragmented, for control of Church property was in the hands of lay trustees, who were not willing to use the property for the benefit of all Catholics. Carroll insisted that this practice be changed. By 1810 four additional sees had been created—Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Bardstown, Ky. After Carroll consecrated the bishops, they worked out a pattern for uniformity of Catholic discipline. These regulations and those Carroll laid out at the synod of 1791 were the first canon law in the United States.

Carroll supported the establishment of parochial schools, academies, religious orders, and secular schools. Catholic colleges were established at Georgetown (1788) and Baltimore (1799). He was president of the board of trustees of St. John's College at Annapolis, Md. He died in Baltimore on Dec. 3, 1815.

Further Reading

Theodore Maynard, The Story of American Catholicism (1960), contains substantially sound information on Carroll, but there is little documentation. John Tracy Ellis, Catholics in Colonial America (1965), supplies additional detail and more documentation. Andrew M. Greeley, The Catholic Experience: An Interpretation of the History of American Catholicism (1967), contains numerous references to Carroll, but Greeley makes no attempt to be objective and there is no documentation. John Tracy Ellis, ed., Documents of American Catholic History (2 vols., 1956; 2d ed. 1962; rev. ed. 1967), is the best source for Carroll's statements.

Additional Sources

Shea, John Dawson Gilmary, History of the Catholic Church within the limits of the United States, New York: Arno Press, 1978, c1886-1892. □

About this article

John Carroll

All Sources -
Updated Aug 13 2018 About content Print Topic