Mission in Colonial America, IV (English Missions)
MISSION IN COLONIAL AMERICA, IV (ENGLISH MISSIONS)
England was itself a Catholic mission and was mission-minded when Catholic settlers first arrived in America. Simon Stock, OCarm, Lord Henry Arundell, and others advanced the hope of preserving the faith by immigration to the New World; they also asked dedication of colonizing gentlemen to the conversion of Protestants as well as indigenous people in America.
17th-Century Foundations. The first to attempt such a project was George calvert, who established the short-lived Avalon in Newfoundland, Canada (1627); two secular priests, Thomas Longeille and Anthony Smith, accompanied him. It was Calvert's Maryland colony (1634), however, that soon after became the center of mission growth.
Unsettled ecclesiastical conditions in England hindered an orderly provision for the American missions. After the Holy See ruled against the appointment of a bishop in England (1631), the Congregation for the prop-agation of the faith in Rome dealt with the English clergy directly or through Continental prelates or through the major superiors of exempt orders. Under Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, who as patron possessed a semi-feudal role, Jesuit missionaries withdrew (1647) temporarily from Maryland in opposition to Baltimore's oath requirement, application of mortmain, and other decisions on corporate property ownership. They eventually found a solution in lay trusteeship or other devices; but missionaries of this period were often burdened with secular employments to assure their material support. Among those who labored heroically and effectively was Thomas Copley, SJ, who served for nearly 20 years in the earliest times and, with Andrew white, SJ, endured Puritan persecutions. By 1684 native Marylanders such as John Brooke had entered their priestly studies with the Jesuits. The Capuchin Christopher Plunkett served for a time in Maryland and Virginia. At Baltimore's request two secular priests arrived during the period of difficulties with the Jesuits. Hardships of climate and the apostolate, however, often considerably shortened priestly careers.
Toward the end of the 17th century St. Mary's City in St. Mary's County became the center of Catholic life for a population of about 2,000. Missionary excursions to the native tribes led to foundations in Charles and Prince George's Counties. Virginia was often visited by Maryland missionaries, and at times some resided there among a small Catholic population. Chapels were built where priests resided and the manors of gentlemen served as places of worship for remote communities. Native people who remained in St. Mary's County were cared for; other native missions were gravely harmed by migration, the marauding of Susquehannocks, and the period of Puritan power.
The Catholic governor, Thomas Dongan, brought Thomas Harvey, SJ, to New York (1783). Catholic life in New England was very tenuous at this time; occasionally French missionaries, such as Gabriel Druillettes, made visits there. The Catholics on the English Caribbean islands were under the same jurisdiction as these mainland settlements. About 1667 Governor Stapleton of Montserrat, a Catholic, was involved in the struggle of the Catholic population there and on the islands of St. Christopher and Barbados. French and Spanish priests on neighboring islands often attended to these Catholics.
Outstanding Catholic Maryland families, such as the Brents and the Fenwicks, grew strong in the faith. They were well educated in secular and religious matters, and they fostered their spiritual life with retreats. They helped educate the native tribes, protected church property as trustees, and had a paternal Christian care for uneducated Catholic servants and slaves. They furthered tutorial and other education under such masters as Brother Ralph Crouch, SJ. Between 1667 and 1674 conversions to Catholicism averaged more than 40 persons annually.
Penal Age. Before 1690 favorable political and other secular conditions directly aided Catholic life in the New World. After the Restoration of the Stuarts in 1660, the British Crown gave instructions that freedom of conscience was to be respected even in New England. From the beginning, Maryland was free from intolerant laws except during a Puritan decade of power. This freedom was due to the toleration acts and the Calverts. Quakers and Presbyterians as well as Catholics favored the old arrangement without establishment of religion and restriction on conscience. When William and Mary overturned Stuart rule in 1688 a tragic reversal of Catholic fortunes ensued. For the next 20 years newly appointed royal governors in Maryland experimented with the most repressive measures against Catholicism. By 1718, however, some of these laws had been mitigated. Worship was permitted, but only in private. Catholics were excluded from voting, office holding, and the practice of law; and their property was sometimes in danger of a double tax. An oath against the doctrine of transubstantiation was a frequent cause for the imposition of these penalties. There was discrimination against Catholic immigrants and Church educational institutions. Similar provisions were prevalent elsewhere, except in Pennsylvania, where public worship and voting were permitted.
In spite of hardships, missionary work went forward. Before James II was deposed, his former chaplain Bonaventure Giffard was appointed vicar bishop apostolic of London with jurisdiction over the American English Colonies. Advances were made into Talbot County on Maryland's eastern shore. Between 1732 and 1763, under the leadership of Ferdinand farmer, SJ, six churches were built in Pennsylvania, serving Philadelphia and the German immigrants in southeastern counties. Franciscans worked among the Scotch immigrants in Pennsylvania. Excursions of missionaries to New Jersey and New York were made, and contacts were established with Catholic Mohawks. French-Catholic Acadians found refuge in Baltimore, Md., and in Philadelphia after they were expelled from Canada. Catholicism continued to grow in the Caribbean islands of St. Christopher, Montserrat, Antigua, and Nevis, in spite of property and other restrictions on Catholics. But provisions for the care of souls were not as satisfactory as on the mainland.
Gentlemen of means in England and America provided land and other investments to support some of the missionaries; in court they successfully contested efforts to prevent such assistance. Although Catholics of the period suffered imprisonment in the earlier years and the threat of it later, the gentry's possession of property and their self-respect prevented social ostracism. They sent their children to Bohemia Manor grammar school, which was opened by Thomas Poulton, SJ (1741). Many went from there to St. Omer's and other Continental European institutions, which put them among the better educated men of America. In their libraries in America, Catholic gentlemen read the spiritual and polemical works of the Elizabethan Robert persons, SJ, as well as those of Bp. Richard challoner of London; and with the clergy, they answered the attacks of hostile elements among Protestants.
In St. Mary's County, where in 1712 50 percent of American English Catholics constituted about 35 percent of the county's population, devotion to the Sacred Heart fostered popular piety. But throughout the colonies the pressure to conform to the Church of England had its effect. The uneducated Catholics of the rising towns were not protected by the plantation-gentry structure of most Catholic communities, and Catholic immigrants were often a scandal, even when they did not abandon their faith.
Revolutionary Prelude to Episcopacy. From the time of the English conquest of French Canada (1763) until the appointment of John carroll as first bishop of the U.S. (1789), ecclesiastical jurisdiction was in a tangle. Innocent XII had indicated that application for priestly faculties should be made regularly to the vicar apostolic of London. Both Giffard and Challoner understood the awkwardness of this arrangement, and they recommended that the bishop of Quebec, Canada, assume this role. But the Congregation of Propaganda continued to recognize the authority of Jesuit superiors. George Hunter, SJ, Superior of Maryland, made trips to both Quebec and London to adjust matters, representing the unfavorable reaction of American Protestants not only to jurisdiction of a French Canadian prelate, but to any North American bishop.
A new complication arose in 1773 when the Society of Jesus was suppressed. The last Jesuit superior, John Lewis, then vicar-general, formed an association that by oath bound the clergy together and protected the American Church against any undue control by Propaganda. A new legal incorporation was effected to safeguard property. The Revolutionary War further alienated the American mission from the bishop of London, who again expressed the desire to be freed of jurisdiction; in 1781 Bp. James Talbot formally disassociated himself from the mission.
Soon a general chapter of the U.S. clergy was called at White Marsh, Md. (June 27, 1783), and a petition was sent to the Holy See requesting appointment of a prefect apostolic from a list of names drawn from the chapter. On June 9, 1784, John Carroll was approved. In addition to the authority held by past superiors, he had the power to confer Confirmation, and he was no longer under the bishop of London but had quasi-autonomous status directly under the Holy See. When Protestant tolerance for episcopacy developed, Carroll sought relief from the weaknesses of the prefecture and was granted the power of bishop ordinary in 1789.
The jurisdiction of Carroll technically extended to the territorial extremities of the U.S. Immigrant Scotch-Irish Highlanders in upper New York had their own priests. Rev. Peter Gibault, who had collaborated with patriots despite the opposition of the bishop of Quebec, continued to serve in the Illinois country after the war. The Franciscan Simplicius Bocquet ministered in the vicinity of Detroit, Mich. Penobscot tribes in Maine successfully applied to Massachusetts for a priest to meet their spiritual needs. Although the treaty of 1763 had added four more Caribbean islands to the jurisdiction of the Catholic bishop of London, the appointment of Carroll severed Caribbean jurisdictional connection with the communities of the United States.
During this period the Catholic life of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York grew strong, and the Catholic population exceeded 25,000. Chapels of public worship were built in Baltimore and elsewhere, and John Carroll initiated one of the first parishioner-supported churches at St. John's, Rock Creek, Md. Educational foundations in Philadelphia and Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) were made. But the growing diversity of secular life in the new nation, particularly in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Trans-Appalachian West, radically modified the social structure of the Catholic community. Favorable provisions of state and Federal constitutions opened public office to Catholics. Particularly in Maryland and Pennsylvania, growing amity with Protestants developed, loss of the faith declined from what it had been, and a greater number of conversions to Catholicism took place, including that of Gov. Thomas Sim Lee during his term of office in Maryland.
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[t. o. hanley/eds.]