Spalding, John Lancaster
SPALDING, JOHN LANCASTER
First bishop of Peoria, Ill., educator; b. Lebanon, Ky., June 2, 1840; d. Peoria, Aug. 25, 1916. He was the first of nine children born to Richard Martin and Mary Jane (Lancaster) Spalding. The Spaldings had emigrated from Lincolnshire, England, to St. Mary's County, Maryland, in the 17th century; the Lancasters lived in Maryland during the colonial period and began to migrate to Kentucky in 1788.
Early Career. After obtaining his early education (1852–57) at St. Mary's College near Lebanon, Spalding was sent (1857) to Mt. St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Maryland. Influenced by his uncle, Bp. Martin John spalding of Louisville, Kentucky, he decided to study for the priesthood. In 1858 he enrolled at Mt. Saint Mary's of the West, Cincinnati, Ohio, a college and seminary that had recently (1856) been founded by Abp. John B. Purcell, a graduate of Mt. St. Mary's and an associate of Bishop Spalding. After graduating as valedictorian of his class (B.A. 1859), Spalding was sent to the newly opened American College at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, where he received his S.T.B. degree (1862) and his S.T.L. (1864). He was ordained by Cardinal Englebert Sterckx, Archbishop of Malines, Belgium, on Dec. 19, 1863. Following a brief visit to Freiburg, Germany, he journeyed to Rome for further studies in Canon Law, returning to the U.S. in 1865.
Although his uncle, who had become archbishop of Baltimore, Maryland, tried to obtain his services, Spalding remained attached to the diocese of Louisville. After a brief period as assistant at the Cathedral of the Assumption, Louisville, he acted as secretary to Bps. Peter J. Lavialle and William G. McCloskey, while performing numerous other duties as diocesan chancellor (1871), editor of the diocesan newspaper, pastor of the African American parish of St. Augustine, and head of the cathedral school. In 1866 he attended the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore as theologian to Abp. Francis N. Blanchet of Oregon City, Oregon. There he worked on behalf of the establishment of a Catholic university in the U.S., an idea first suggested by his uncle who presided over the council as apostolic delegate. The council failed to act on this project, but Spalding continued to write on its behalf for the next two decades.
Bishop. In 1872, following the death of his uncle, Spalding went to New York City to work on The Life of the Most Rev. M. J. Spalding, published in 1873. He found time, too, to serve as director of schools for St. Michael's parish and to bring out a book of Essays and Reviews (1876) based on his articles, sermons, and lectures. By 1877 he had acquired sufficient reputation to be appointed first bishop of Peoria. Consecrated on May 1 by Cardinal John McCloskey of New York, he presided over a diocese that embraced 18,000 square miles in north central Illinois and a Catholic population of 45,000. As bishop he placed much emphasis on the development of parochial schools, which increased during his administration (1877–1908) from 12 to 70 in number and from 2,010 to 11,360 in enrollment. He also supported academies for girls and founded a boys' high school, Spalding Institute, in 1899.
National Leader. Much of Spalding's time was devoted to national causes. Along with Bp. John ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota, he was an ardent sponsor of the irish catholic colonization association, of which he became president (1879). He furthered its effort to encourage settlement of Irish immigrants on Western farmlands, as an alternative to their concentration in Eastern cities and as an impetus to the spread of American Catholicism, by making extensive lecture tours in the East and by publishing his well received Religious Mission of the Irish People and Catholic Colonization (1880).
In Education. He was a strong advocate among the hierarchy for a Catholic institution of higher learning. When financial difficulties led to the temporary closing of Mt. St. Mary's Seminary of the West (1878), he suggested that the bishops assume control of the seminary and establish there a national center of theological study. Cardinal McCloskey rejected this proposal, but Spalding continued to preach on the subject, to promote its discussion in Catholic newspapers and magazines, and to enlist the support of Abp. (later Cardinal) James gibbons of Baltimore. During his ad limina visit to Rome in 1882, he worked to secure papal approval for a university or, failing this, for another plenary council. Leo XIII ordered preparations for such a council the following year and Spalding obtained from Mary Gwendoline caldwell a grant of $300,000 to finance a prospective university.
At the opening of the council in Baltimore on Nov. 16, 1884, Spalding delivered a noted sermon on "The Higher Education of the Priesthood" setting forth his case for a Catholic university. While he praised the professional training available at Catholic seminaries, he regarded them as intellectually sterile and inadequate in training Catholic spokesmen capable of influencing contemporary controversies. A school of intellectual culture, offering courses in philosophy and theology as the nucleus of a complete university program and flourishing in the atmosphere of American freedom, was necessary for the effective defense of the faith and reform of American life. Pressing his arguments during the council, he secured the approval of the hierarchy and the appointment of a committee to handle the details. Spalding was an active member of the committee during its five years of planning and fund-raising and delivered the address at the laying of the cornerstone of the catholic university of america, Washington, D.C., on May 24, 1888. His speech, delivered before President Grover Cleveland and about 30 bishops, was full of praise for the American political system and for its separation of Church and State. The message was not without its critics among both the members of the Congregation of the Propaganda in Rome and the conservative-minded members of the American hierarchy, who regarded it as too liberal. Spalding himself refused a proferred appointment as rector, but he gave the university consistent attention and supported the appointment as rector of Bp. John J. keane, whose "liberalism" caused his dismissal in 1896.
The creation of a Catholic university was only one facet of Spalding's interest in education. He produced a number of books on the subject, including Education and the Higher Life (1890), Things of the Mind (1894), Means and Ends of Education (1895), Thoughts and Theories of Life and Education (1897), and Religion, Agnosticism, and Education (1902). In all his works he opposed state interference in education and urged Catholics to support a parochial school system without seeking state financial aid. Spalding was intimately concerned with the school controversy of the 1890s, involving the relations of public and private school systems. Although he counseled moderation in the quarrel, he joined the other Illinois bishops in condemning the Edwards Law, which placed certain restrictions on attendance and teaching in parochial schools. Regarding the law as an unconstitutional assault upon freedom of worship, he joined in the pastoral letter on education issued by the bishops of the Province of Chicago, Illinois, and defended its views in the press. The election of 1892 resulted in victory for the Democrats and Gov. John P. Altgeld, and in quick repeal of the Edwards Law. Spalding also participated in the controversy over Archbishop Ireland's faribault plan to integrate parochial schools into the public school system. Despite a decision by a papal commission to tolerate the plan, Spalding was fundamentally opposed to it and remained critical of the exclusion of religion in the public schools. He insisted upon further development of the independent Catholic school system enjoined by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, which had required the establishment of parochial schools in every parish where that was possible.
Among persistent themes in Spalding's educational writings were encouragement of research in an atmosphere of freedom, improved education of the clergy, and education for women. He gave his support to Trinity College for women in Washington, D.C., opened in 1900, and to Rev. Thomas E. Shields's plan for the Sisters College of the Catholic University of America, opened in 1911. Spalding's status as an educator was recognized by the American archbishops who placed him in charge of the Catholic educational exhibit at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. He also served (1884–1907) on the board of trustees of the Catholic University, and he was awarded honorary degrees by Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, and Columbia University, New York City. His work earned the praise of professional educators, who credit him with broadening the outlook of Catholic education, which had been confined by nationalistic and linguistic interests; with cultivating the intellectual virtues; and with changing its focus from the past to the present.
Other Issues. Americanism was a frequent theme in Spalding's speeches, notably his sermon in the Church of the Gésu, Rome, on March 21, 1900. His criticism of European culture and glorification of American institutions were purely patriotic; they were in no way infected with the doctrinal errors known as americanism condemned by Leo XIII's Testem benevolentiae (1899). The practical Americanism of Spalding was illustrated in 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to the arbitration commission in the coal strike. The miners, many of whom were Catholic, suggested the appointment, and Spalding was instrumental in arranging a satisfactory settlement of the dispute. He enjoyed a reputation as a critic of business abuses and a friend of labor until he suffered a paralytic stroke in 1905. Three years later he resigned as bishop of Peoria, but remained in that city as titular archbishop of Scitopolis until his death in 1916.
Publications. As perhaps the premier American Catholic essayist of his day, Spalding was the author of numerous books, among which were Opportunity and Other Essays (1898–1900), Aphorisms and Reflections (1901), Socialism and Labor and Other Arguments (1902, 1905), Glimpses of Truth (1903), and Religion, Art, and Other Essays (1905). He also published several volumes of poetry, among which were America and Other Poems (1885); The Poet's Praise (1887); Songs Chiefly from the German, written in 1896 under the pseudonym of Henry Hamilton; and God and the Soul (1901). A Kentucky Pioneer, his major narrative poem, was not published until 1932.
Bibliography: j. t. ellis, John Lancaster Spalding (Milwaukee 1962). m. e. henthorne, The Irish Catholic Colonization Association of the United States (Champaign, Ill. 1932). j. j. cosgrove, Most Reverend John Lancaster Spalding, First Bishop of Peoria (Mendota, Ill. 1960).
[j. l. morrison]