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Riordan, Patrick William


Archbishop of san francisco; b. Chatham, New Brunswick, Canada, Aug. 27, 1841; d. San Francisco, Dec. 27, 1914. His parents, Matthew and Mary Riordan, of Kinsale, Ireland, moved to Chicago, Illinois, when Patrick was seven years old. He attended St. Mary of the Lake University and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1858. Selected as one of the first 12 students of the North American College in Rome, Riordan left for Europe in 1859 to enter the Propaganda Seminary with the understanding that he would transfer to the American College when it opened on December 7 of the same year. For reasons of health he left Rome and studied first at the College of the Holy Ghost, Paris, and then at the American College, Louvain, Belgium, where he received his licentiate in sacred theology in 1866, having been ordained at Mechlin, Belgium, on June 10, 1865.

Riordan served at St. Mary of the Lake as professor of canon law and dogmatic theology until 1868 when he became pastor at Woodstock, Illinois, and successively at Joliet and at St. James in Chicago in 1871. In 1883 he was named coadjutor archbishop of San Francisco with the right of succession to Archbishop Joseph S. Alemany and succeeded to the see on Dec. 28, 1884.

Riordan participated actively in the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884 and spoke against the establishment of irremovable rectors in the western states as a premature move for missionary territory. He was named president of the commission of prelates for the Native American and African American missions and served on the commission for the study of secret societies. He supported the establishment of national churches wherein immigrants could hear their mother tongue and in his own archdiocese formed Italian, Spanish, Slavonian, Portuguese, French, and German churches. He built St. Mary's Cathedral in 1891.

Riordan led the campaign to exempt churches from the taxation that had been imposed by the State of California in 1868. By a narrow margin the churches were granted tax exemption on Nov. 6, 1900, although church schools remained taxable. The problem of the pious fund had vexed the bishops of California since 1869 when the Mexican government defaulted on its payment of indemnities to the Catholic Church in California. Riordan was named to bring the case before the Hague Tribunal, where he and Garrett McInerney won a unanimous decision in favor of the Church in the first case of international arbitration brought before that tribunal. The Mexican government defaulted in 1913 and has ignored the Hague decision ever since.

Riordan initiated an archdiocesan fund drive for St. Patrick's Seminary, Menlo Park, entrusting it to the Sulpician Fathers from Baltimore. This mother seminary opened in 1898, serving the entire West as the only diocesan major seminary for more than a quarter of a century.

Riordan constantly appealed to clergy and laity to work together in close harmony for the salvation of souls, particularly to effect the conversion of non-Catholics. His sermons were marked by an irenic spirit and his public statements on moral and social matters attracted attention in the daily press. His fluency in six languages endeared him to the immigrants flocking to California.

Bibliography: t. j. brennan, "Archbishop Riordan," Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia 26 (1915): 4754.

[m. j. hurley]

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