Keane, John Joseph
KEANE, JOHN JOSEPH
Archbishop, first rector of The Catholic University of America; b. Ballyshannon, Donegal, Ireland, Sept. 12, 1839; d. Dubuque, Iowa, June 22, 1918. He was one of the five children of Hugh and Fannie (Connolly) Keane. When John was seven years old, the family emigrated to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, and then moved to Baltimore, Md., in 1848. After graduating from Calvert Hall, Baltimore, in 1856 and working for firms in Baltimore for three years, he entered St. Charles' College, Ellicott City, and later St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. He was ordained on July 2, 1866, by Archbishop Martin J. Spalding, who assigned him to St. Patrick's Church, Washington, D.C.
During the 12 years that he labored in Washington as an assistant, he was an enthusiastic promoter of the temperance movement and was instrumental in the formation of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America (1872), as well as the Catholic Young Men's National Union (1875), the Carroll Institute (1873), and the Tabernacle Society in Washington. The zeal and ability he displayed in furthering the objectives of these organizations and in working for the welfare of all classes in the parish attracted the notice of his superiors, who obtained his appointment on March 31, 1878 to the Diocese of Richmond, Va., as its fifth bishop. It soon became clear that all within the jurisdiction of the new bishop had a claim on his attention and care. By lecturing throughout the diocese to Protestant groups, he lessened prejudice against the Church. Despite opposition, he persisted in an endeavor to instruct African Americans in the Church's teachings, eventually recording some gains among them. From the beginning of his episcopal career, he fostered devotion to the Holy Spirit, publishing in 1880 A Sodality Manual for the Use of the Servants of the Holy Ghost.
Rectorship at Catholic University. After the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884), he became more influential in ecclesiastical affairs. In May of 1885, as a member of the committee appointed by the council to found a Catholic university in the United States, he entered wholeheartedly into the work of collecting for the proposed institution. He and Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul represented the committee in obtaining the Holy See's approval for the establishment of The catholic university of america in Washington, D.C. He was relieved of the care of the Richmond diocese on Aug. 14, 1888, to devote all his energy to the founding of the university, which opened Nov. 13, 1889, with Keane as its first rector. Within a few years he gained a national reputation as an administrator and as an interesting and powerful orator, widely quoted in newspapers. At the same time, he became more clearly identified with the so-called liberal or progressive members of the American hierarchy through active participation in controversial matters. He had a part in preventing the condemnation of the knights of labor and in influencing Roman authorities to set aside many of the demands that the Germans had made in the Abbelen memorial (see abbelen, peter). He was active in the controversy over the school question and over Cahenslyism (see cahensly, peter paul), in obtaining full and suitable representation of the Catholic Church at the Chicago Parliament of Religions, and in advocating the rapid Americanization of Catholic immigrants. Consequently, he incurred the enmity of prominent ecclesiastics who made up the conservative party in the American Church, as well as of conservatives in Europe who had an interest in American Church affairs. Roman authorities, who were kept fully informed about his activities (which were frequently represented as indicating dangerous liberalism), gradually lost confidence in him and in his ability to retain the support of Catholics of all national origins for the university. On Sept. 15, 1896, Leo XIII removed him from the rectorship and offered him a choice of honorable positions.
Later Career. He accepted his banishment from the institution that owed to him, more than to any other prelate, its existence and spirit. To counteract the impression that he and his progressive friends were held in disfavor by their ecclesiastical superiors because of his dismissal from the university, he accepted the Holy Father's invitation to work in Rome. He was raised to archiepiscopal rank and appointed a consultor of the Congregation of the Propaganda and of the Congregation of Studies. For two and one half years he lived simply in two rooms at the Canadian College, serving in Rome and elsewhere in Europe the interests of the American Church and of his friends. In the controversy known as Americanism that raged in Europe from 1897 to 1899, he was attacked in an unprincipled manner by critics who pictured him "as a rationalist, throwing all dogma over to modern ideas." He engaged in an exhausting battle in Rome to counteract this endeavor to destroy his good name and won a victory. At the request of the governing board of The Catholic University of America, he was released in 1899 from his duties in Rome to devote a year to procuring donations from wealthy Catholics in the United States, since the institution was then in financial difficulty. He entered upon the familiar paths of former years with some enthusiasm and with modest success. While he was engaged in this work, the Archdiocese of Dubuque became vacant and his friends urged the Holy See to name him to the post. After considerable delay, he received the appointment on July 24, 1900.
He considered the appointment to Dubuque a satisfactory answer to those who had been attacking him for several years and became engrossed in the administration of the archdiocese. He devoted particular attention to the development of Loras College, and he gave all the Catholic educational institutions of the archdiocese new inspiration and impetus. During his tenure, 12 new academies for girls and two for boys were constructed. He carried on an effective campaign against alcoholism and its attendant evils throughout his administration, forming in 1902 an Archdiocesan Total Abstinence Union. By the year 1909 he became aware of a loss of physical vigor and of some impairment of his faculties. When an attempt to have a coadjutor or an auxiliary appointed for Dubuque failed, Keane sent his resignation to the pope, who accepted it on April 3, 1911. He lived at the cathedral rectory until his death. Many of his lectures were published, and articles by him on various topics appeared in the Catholic World, American Ecclesiastical Review, American Catholic Quarterly Review and the North American Review.
See Also: americanism.
Bibliography: j. j. keane, Onward and Upward, comp. m. f. egan (Baltimore 1902). p. h. ahern, The Life of John J. Keane, Educator and Archbishop 1839–1918 (Milwaukee 1955); The Catholic University of America, 1887–1896: The Rectorship of John J. Keane (Washington 1949).
[p. h. ahern]