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Kenrick, Francis Patrick

KENRICK, FRANCIS PATRICK

Archbishop, author; b. Dublin, Ireland, Dec. 3, 1796;d. Baltimore, Md., July 8, 1863. He was the elder son of Jane (Eustace) and Thomas Kenrick, a successful scrivener. The second son, Peter Richard, became the first archbishop of St. Louis. Francis was educated in local schools under the tutelage of his pastor and uncle, Richard Kenrick, known as the Vincent de Paul of Dublin. At the age of 18 he went to Rome to study for the priesthood at the College of the Propaganda, where he made a brilliant record in Scripture and theology. On April 7, 1821, he was ordained by Abp. Alfonso Frattini, and shortly thereafter he volunteered for the American mission in Kentucky.

His first assignment was to teach theology, Church history, and liturgy at St. Joseph's Seminary, Bardstown, Ky. He also taught history and Greek in the college department. During these years he laid the foundation that made him the foremost theological scholar in the American Church. He was also pastor of the local congregation and acted as secretary to Bp. Benedict flaget. When named a preacher of the 1826 Jubilee Year, he quickly won acclaim throughout his diocese as an apologist ready to defend the teachings of the Church by either the spoken or written word. In 1828 his answer to an attack on the Real Presence was published as the Letters of Omega and Omicron on Transubstantiation (Louisville 1828). The following year he went to the First Provincial Council of Baltimore as Flaget's theologian and was chosen secretary of that assembly. Among the Council's problems was the difficulty with lay trustees in Philadelphia, which had proved too much for the aged Bp. Henry conwell. The Council persuaded Rome to name Kenrick coadjutor of Philadelphia with full jurisdiction; on June 6, 1830, he was consecrated titular bishop of Arath in the Bardstown cathedral by Flaget.

Ordinary of Philadelphia. In 1830 the philadelphia diocese included the states of Pennsylvania and Delaware and what was known as West Jersey. Although Conwell had asked that Kenrick be named his coadjutor, the young bishop met with opposition from his superior when he tried to assume the administration. This situation was not fully remedied until Conwell's death in 1842, when Kenrick succeeded him as ordinary of Philadelphia.

One of Kenrick's first acts as coadjutor in Philadelphia was to attack the trustee problem by placing St. Mary's Church under interdict until the lay trustees recognized his episcopal authority to name pastors. The following year (1832) he convoked the first diocesan synod, which enacted legislation that prevented the recurrence of trusteeism in the diocese; the policy was adopted by other American bishops. Two later synods, in 1842 and 1847, ensured uniformity of discipline and faced the problems arising from increasing immigration. The work of the bishop, his priests, and the Sisters of Charity, during the cholera epidemic in Philadelphia, including the use of St. Augustine's school as a hospital, won goodwill for the Church.

Kenrick was interested in helping the poor, and he used the royalties from his writings for this purpose. He promoted the temperance movement, but would not sponsor Father Theobald Mathew's program because he thought that it slighted the necessary spiritual means. Because he refused to become politically involved in the Irish Freedom Movement, he was not so popular as some of his Irish contemporaries in the American hierarchy. The diocesan newspaper the Catholic Herald, which he founded with the assistance of Michael hurley, OSA, and Father John Hughes, the future archbishop of New York, avoided purely political questions and was criticized for its conservative policy, even in Church affairs. The bishop refused to preside at the Masonic funeral of Stephen Girard from Holy Trinity Church, but he permitted burial in Holy Trinity cemetery without the benefit of clergy because Girard's sudden death had prevented his reconciliation with the Church.

During the early years of his administration, Kenrick founded St. Charles Borromeo, the diocesan seminary. To supply textbooks for his seminarians he wrote four volumes of Theologica Dogmatica (Philadelphia 183440) and three volumes of Theologia Moralis (Baltimore 186061). At the time of his promotion to Baltimore he had translated all of the New Testament and most of the Old. Among his works defending the Church against the attacks of non-Catholics are The Primacy of the Apostolic See Vindicated (Philadelphia 1845) and The Catholic Doctrine on Justification (Philadelphia 1841). A Treatise on Baptism and a Treatise on Confirmation (Baltimore 1852) stressed the necessity of sacramental Baptism and the normal manner of receiving the Holy Spirit in opposition to Quaker and some Baptist teachings.

He fostered a parochial school system that embraced half of the parishes in the diocese and encouraged the founding of the Augustinian college (University), Villanova (1842), and the Jesuit college, St. Joseph's (1851), as well as several private academies and convent schools. He successfully contested compulsory attendance at instructions based on the King James Version of the Bible in Philadelphia public schools. Although he wanted the children of each sect to be permitted to read their own Bible, his stand was distorted into the calumny that "the Catholic bishop wants to take the Bible out of the public schools." This served as an inflammatory note for the Native-American riots of 1844 in which St. Michael's and St. Augustine's churches were burned and St. Phillip's destroyed. Despite criticism, Kenrick restrained his angry flock from retaliation. By temporarily closing the churches in the troubled areas and turning over the keys of church properties, he placed the burden of protection on the civil authorities. His moderation saved bloodshed, and in the public reaction against the "church-burners" he received many noted converts into the Church.

In the 21 years of his administration of Philadelphia, Kenrick made 19 visitations by stagecoach and horseback over a territory extending from Lake Erie to Cape May, N.J., and from the southern boundary of New York to the eastern boundary of West Virginia, an area equal to that of England, Scotland, and Wales. During his rule the number of churches increased from 22 to 92, priests from 35 to 101, and the Catholic population from 35,000 to 170,000, even though the new Diocese of Pittsburgh had removed the western part of the state from Philadelphia's jurisdiction.

Archbishop of Baltimore. On Aug. 3, 1851, Kenrick was promoted to the See of Baltimore. The following year he presided over the First Plenary Council as apostolic delegate. At the request of Pius IX in 1853, he collected the opinions of the American bishops concerning a definition of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and was in Rome for its promulgation in 1854. Through his efforts the Forty Hours devotion was introduced into the U.S. As he had done in Philadelphia, he encouraged each parish to found its own school. In Baltimore he completed his translation of the Sacred Scriptures and continued his contributions to scholarly periodicals.

Kenrick was considered the leading American moral theologian of his generation. During the Civil War, he held the opinion that the institution of slavery under certain protective conditions was not in itself immoral. As the leader of the American hierarchy he stated his position in an address on Christian patriotism in which he taught that national loyalty should prevail over state patriotism. This teaching was not popular with many Marylanders dedicated to the South. Because of his policy of aloofness from all political entanglements, he was disturbed by the pro-Southern editorial policy of Baltimore's Catholic Mirror. It seems that his death was hastened by reports of the slaughter at Gettysburg. His cause for canonization was being considered by the Church authorities of Philadelphia when it was decided instead to promote that of his successor, John Neumann, who was beatified in 1963.

Bibliography: h. j. nolan, The Most Reverend Francis Patrick Kenrick (Catholic University of America Studies in American Church History 37; Washington 1948). j. j. o'shea, The Two Kenricks (Philadelphia 1904). f. e. tourscher, ed., The Kenrick-Frenaye Correspondence, 18301862 (Philadelphia 1920); Diary and Visitation Record of Rt. Rev. Francis Patrick Kenrick (Lancaster, Pa. 1916).

[h. j. nolan]

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