Second bishop of the Cleveland, Ohio, Diocese; b. Glasgow, Scotland, Sept. 28, 1824; d. St. Augustine, Fla., April 13, 1891. The Gilmour family, of Scotch Covenanter stock, came to Cumbola, Pa., when Richard was 13. At a Father Mathew temperance rally, the boy became interested in the Catholic Church (see mathew, theobald). He was baptized in 1842 by Father Patrick Rafferty and, under this Pennsylvania missionary, began studies for the priesthood, completing them at Mt. St. Mary's, Emmitsburg, Md. He was ordained Aug. 30, 1852, by Abp. John B. Purcell in Cincinnati, Ohio. Assigned to the Ohio River area, Gilmour built churches at Portsmouth and Ironton, Ohio, visited counties in Kentucky and Virginia, and served parishes in Cincinnati and Dayton.
On April 14, 1872, he was consecrated bishop of Cleveland, where the growing Catholic population faced a bitter nativism, especially in the newspapers. Gilmour's first pastoral in 1873 showed that he would provide leadership: "Catholics are too timid; they seem to go on the principle that if they are tolerated, they are doing well." He stressed the rights of Church and conscience, yet in all civic matters, obedience to the state. He demanded Catholic schools that were "equal to the best," and a just share of public school funds. In 1874, to strengthen the Church's voice, he founded the Catholic Universe and the Catholic Central Association for the betterment of social and religious conditions. After a two-year illness that kept him away from the diocese, he returned in 1876 to continue his leadership.
During his episcopate the number of churches increased from 160 to 233, and schools from 90 to 142; many earlier structures were replaced and four new hospitals were built. He introduced the Dominicans of New Jersey, Felicians, and Sisters of St. Joseph, Notre Dame, Charity of Cincinnati; he brought the Jesuits to Cleveland to open St. Ignatius College (later John Carroll University) in 1886. Gilmour encouraged native vocations to the priesthood: 122 priests, 55 of them American-born and about 27 of them from the diocese, were ordained from 1872 to 1892.
At this time, the question of public funds for private schools was being bitterly debated in the United States. In Ohio, Gilmour joined other bishops in calling for distribution of funds to parochial as well as to public schools; in 1873 he offered a plan of "shared control" of Catholic schools in his diocese. As secularization of public schools continued, the bishop told the American Congress of Churches at Cleveland in 1886: "Catholics object neither to State schools, nor to religion in State schools. However, they do object that any other than the Catholic religion be taught Catholic children." By 1872, Ohio, with 16 other states, had already forbidden religious school aid. Aware of this, Gilmour turned to the multiplication and improvement of Catholic schools, and required Catholic children to attend them. He successfully fought attempts to tax Catholic school property (Gilmour v. Pelton, Ohio, 1883), established a diocesan school board, and argued effectively at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore for strong sanctions for Catholic education. The bishop himself produced the popular textbooks known as "Gilmour Readers," and the "Gilmour Bible History," published by Benziger Brothers. Gilmour participated forcefully in the discussions of the Baltimore Plenary Council in 1884, especially those on church property, secret societies, education, and the controversial subjects of irremovable rectors and consultors.
Generally conservative, he upheld the authority of the bishops. As he expressed it to Abp. (later Cardinal) James Gibbons: "The clergy need to be strengthened against the people, and the people against the irresponsible ways of the clergy, and the bishop against both." At Gibbons's request, he joined bishops Joseph Dwenger of Fort Wayne, Ind., and John Moore of St. Augustine, Fla., in presenting the conciliar acts and decrees at Rome. When the Congregation of Propaganda vetoed the decree requiring the bishop in property transactions to have only the counsel, not the consent, of the consultors, Gilmour led the American bishops in persuading Leo XIII to retain the original decree.
Experience in cosmopolitan Cleveland gave Gilmour an understanding of the dangers of nationality conflict. Although, when possible, he provided immigrant Catholics with churches and priests of their own language, he urged them to be American Catholics. While in Rome in 1885, he and Moore strongly opposed the Germanizing influence in a "Memorial on the Question of the Germans in the Church in America." In his concern over secret societies, Gilmour required the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Cleveland to break with the Ireland-based Fenians.
Gilmour's voice was that of a strong bishop, conscious that the Church's problems in the 19th-century United States could be best solved by candor, discipline, and unity. Although generally conservative, he was among the midwestern bishops advocating a plenary council and a Catholic university. He supported the first American Catholic Lay Congress (1889) and Cardinal Gibbons in his defense of labor unions. After his death in 1891, 5,000 citizens honored him at a memorial service.
Bibliography: m. j. hynes, History of the Diocese of Cleveland 1847–1952 (Cleveland 1953). j. t. ellis, The Life of James Cardinal Gibbons, 2 v. (Milwaukee 1952). c. j. barry, The Catholic Church and German Americans (Milwaukee 1953). p. d. jordan, Ohio Comes of Age 1873–1900, v.5 of History of the State of Ohio, ed. c. wittke, 6 v. (Columbus, Ohio 1941–44). r. d. cross The Emergence of Liberal Catholicism in America (Cambridge, Mass. 1958).
[p. j. hallinan]