Kenrick, Peter Richard

views updated


First archbishop of St. Louis, author; b. Dublin, Ireland, Aug. 17, 1806; d. St. Louis, Mo., March 4, 1896. Upon completion of his education at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Ireland, he was ordained on March 6,1832. A year later he traveled to Philadelphia at the invitation of his elder brother, Francis Patrick, the bishop of that diocese. There he became rector of the cathedral, president of the seminary, and vicar-general. It was during this time that he also published The New Month of Mary (1840), The Validity of Anglican Ordinations (1841), and The Holy House of Loretto (1842). On Nov. 30, 1841, he was named coadjutor bishop of St. Louis and was consecrated in Philadelphia by Bishop Joseph rosati of St. Louis. Rosati then left for Haiti, under the commission of Gregory XVI, sending Kenrick to administer the St. Louis diocese in his absence. When Rosati died on Sept. 25, 1843, Kenrick became bishop of St. Louis. On Jan. 30, 1847, Pius IX raised St. Louis to an archdiocese, appointing Kenrick as its first archbishop. It was almost two years, however, before Kenrick received the pallium, and another year before he had suffragan sees assigned to him.

Kenrick's lengthly tenure in St. Louis was characterized by an impressive growth of the area and of the Church. During his time, the population of the city rose from 20,000 to 500,000; the Catholic population of the see, from 100,000 to 200,000, although the size of the archdiocese was substantially reduced. The number of priests increased from 75 in the early 1840s to 350 near the end of the nineteenth century; parishes increased from 39 to 165. Part of this growth in parishes was made possible by the bank that Kenrick established to help finance diocesan programs; he managed and supervised the bank until the late 1860s. After the Civil War, Missouri adopted the so-called Drake constitution, which forbade any clergyman from preaching or solemnizing marriages without first taking an oath of loyalty to the State. When one of his priests was imprisoned for failing to take the oath, Kenrick appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overruled two previous decisions of Missouri courts that the oath was constitutional.

Kenrick played an active role in vatican council i as one of the leaders of the minority party that opposed the definition of papal infallibility. He not only held that definition was inopportune because it would keep interested non-Catholics from the Church and possibly cause a schism within it, but, theoretically, he believed that papal pronouncements were infallible only if the bishops of the world concurred in them. For these reasons, he vigorously opposed the definition of papal infallibility as understood by the majority in the council and published in Naples his Concio, a pamphlet that represented the general views of the minority. Following the definition, the pamphlet was condemned by the Congregation of the Index, but it did not appear on the list of prohibited works.

While in Rome, Kenrick asked the cardinal prefect of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide for a coadjutor. Approximately one year after his return from the council, he consecrated Patrick J. Ryan, who had been serving as administrator of the archdiocese. For reasons not altogether clear from extant sources, Ryan thereafter performed all episcopal functions in the archdiocese and governed it with the assistance of the vicar-general. Meanwhile Kenrick, though still retaining the powers of governing, went into what was equivalent to retirement. For 12 years Ryan ordained, confirmed, made the parish visitations, and dedicated the churches, until 1884 when he was appointed archbishop of Philadelphia. With Ryan's departure from St. Louis, Kenrick abandoned his retirement and once again took up the customary episcopal duties. He also attended the Third Plenary Council in Baltimore (1884).

In the early 1890s the pastors of St. Louis petitioned Cardinal James Gibbons for a coadjutor; the Holy See named Bishop John J. Kain of Wheeling, who arrived in St. Louis on Aug. 23, 1893, and was made administrator on December 14. On May 21, 1895, the Holy See appointed him archbishop of St. Louis and named Kenrick titular archbishop of Marcianopolis.

It was characteristic of Kenrick to formulate an opinion and then stand by it. Incidents throughout his life indicate that he was independent in his thinking and strong-willed. When he first asked for a coadjutor, for instance, he did so against the advice of his brother, Francis Patrick, then archbishop of Baltimore. When the proposition to publish his brother's revised English version of the Sacred Scriptures was introduced at the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore (1866), Peter Kenrick was its chief opponent. At the time of the Civil War, he refused to allow the U.S. flag to be flown from his cathedral as some other bishops had done. He was so generally suspect for his Southern sympathies that Secretary of State William Seward questioned Archbishop John Hughes of New York about having Kenrick removed from his see by the Vatican.

A judgment concerning such resolute independence is difficult to make and is complicated by the fact that much of Kenrick's correspondence has been lost; at times what is available is not conclusive and may even be contradictory. For 54 years he acted as administrator, as bishop, and then as archbishop of St. Louis; Pius IX called Kenrick "a great man" and Leo XIII referred to him as "a noble man and a true Christian bishop."

Bibliography: j. e. rothensteiner, History of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, 2 v. (St. Louis 1928). h. j. nolan, The Most Reverend Francis Patrick Kenrick, Third Bishop of Philadelphia, 18301851 (Washington 1948).

[j. leibrecht]

About this article

Kenrick, Peter Richard

Updated About content Print Article