Spalding, Martin John
SPALDING, MARTIN JOHN
Archbishop, church historian, and apologist; b. Rolling Fork, Ky., May 23, 1810; d. Baltimore, Md., Feb. 7,1872. He was the third son of the thrice-married Richard and his first wife, Henrietta (Hamilton) Spalding, and was the most outstanding of his father's 21 children. The Spalding family had arrived in Maryland in 1657 and had migrated with other Catholic families to Kentucky in 1790.
Early Career. Spalding's early education (1821–26) was under Rev. William Byrne at his pretentiously named St. Mary's College, Lebanon, Kentucky; he achieved frontier fame for his mathematical proficiency, serving as a student instructor under the Lancastrian system used by Byrne. At St. Thomas Seminary, Bardstown, Kentucky (1826), Spalding came under the influence of Bps. B. J. flaget and J. B. david and the Roman-trained F. P. kenrick, later archbishop. In 1830 Flaget, seeking to develop a "Little Propaganda of the West," sent Spalding and a classmate to the Urban College, Rome, where the rector and vice rector (later cardinals), Karl von reisach and Paul cullen, broadened the outlook of the raw frontier youths. In spite of serious illness involving the loss of a major portion of a school year, Spalding was the first American to win his doctorate in theology (1834); he was ordained (Aug. 13, 1834) and appointed (1835) pastor of St. Joseph's Cathedral, Bardstown.
To his pastoral duties and philosophy classes at St. Joseph's College, Bardstown, Spalding added literary efforts, first with the short-lived St. Joseph's College Minerva and more lastingly as an editor of the Catholic Advocate, first issued Feb. 13, 1836. Frontier pastoral experience, dissatisfaction with oral controversies, and a bent for historico-apologetic study inclined Spalding to use lectures and articles in newspapers and journals to inform the well-disposed rather than to challenge the anti-Catholic extremist of the day. These attitudes set the pattern of his future writings. He served as president of St. Joseph's College from 1838 to 1840, when he was appointed administrator of St. Peter's in Lexington, Kentucky, with a wide circuit of 11 mission stations and with many lecture opportunities. When the see was transferred to Louisville (1841), he was recalled to Bardstown, serving four mission stations there.
Spalding gained national prominence by writing D'Aubigné's "History of the Great Reformation in Germany and Switzerland," Reviewed (1844), later expanded into The History of the Protestant Reformation (1860). In October 1844, after publishing his Sketches of the Early Catholic Missions of Kentucky (1844), he became vicar-general of Louisville, where, as a result of Flaget's age and Chabrat's increasing blindness, Spalding had to exercise unobtrusively the major administrative functions of the diocese. His lectures in the cathedral formed his next book, General Evidences of Catholicity (1847). At the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore (1846) he was unsuccessful in his endeavor to have a national tract society established. On Sept. 10, 1848, despite initial opposition from Flaget because of poor health, too close attachment to his many relatives, and the need for an outsider to lead the diocese (later archdiocese) of louis ville, Spalding was finally consecrated coadjutor; he succeeded to the see Feb. 11, 1850. His Sketches of the Life … of … Flaget was published in 1852.
Bishop of Louisville. As the tide of Irish and German immigration filled up the former missionary territory, the diocese urgently needed a more efficient administrative organization on all levels, as well as more priests, brothers, and sisters to staff parishes, schools, orphanages, and hospitals. The new bishop continued work on the cathedral begun by Chabrat (1849), consecrating it Oct. 3, 1852, and he entrusted the financial affairs of the diocese to his brother Rev. B. J. Spalding (1812–68), who handled them ably until his death. He settled the dispute over the jurisdiction of the Covington area by having it erected into a new see (1853). Spalding was close to Archbishop Kenrick at the First Plenary Council of Baltimore (1852), where he preached the memorial sermon for the deceased bishops, and he became familiar with the intricacies of gaining approval for national legislation for the Church. This, joined to practical knowledge from his frequent diocesan synods and extensive participation in the first three Provincial Councils of Cincinnati, Ohio, became a valuable preparation of his own conciliar activities. His visit to Europe from November of 1852 to April of 1853 helped to solve other diocesan problems; he recruited ten clerics, made provisions for the xaverian brothers to come to Louisville (1854), secured financial aid from the Lyons Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and laid the groundwork for the American College at Louvain, Belgium, which, with Bp. Peter P. lefevere of Detroit, Michigan, he founded in 1857. After his return he established a chancery office in Louisville and developed an efficiently functioning diocese.
The spread of the Church and the increase of foreign-born in Kentucky sparked anti-Catholic demonstrations during the visit of Abp. G. bedini to Louisville (1853), presaging the outbreaks of violence culminating in the "Bloody Monday" riots of Aug. 5, 1855. Although more than 20 people were killed on this day, the toll in lives and property would have been much higher had it not been for the calm leadership of Spalding, who put the burden of control on the mayor. By dispassionate reasoning in An Address to the Impartial Public on the Intolerant Spirit of the Times (1854) and lectures correcting the calumnies of S. F. B. Morse and of G. D. Prentice of the Louisville Journal, later published with other articles in Miscellanea (1858), Spalding was able to restore some harmony among the groups. He gained grudging respect from his opponents, established an atmosphere that recalled the Irish and Germans to Louisville, and even secured a token indemnity bill from the Know Nothing-dominated legislature (see know-nothingism). Spalding continued to establish churches, schools, and orphanages, and introduced into his diocese a house for Magdalens, and a conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (1854), as well as the Franciscan Fathers, the Brothers of Christian Instruction, the Ursulines, and the Sisters of Notre Dame. He was also energetic in supporting the north american college in Rome at its foundation (1855–59) and especially in securing its endowment in 1869.
In the Civil War period Spalding reflected the attitude of his area, favoring first the neutrality policy of Kentucky and preferring the Church in general to follow an impartial course of action while performing works of charity for both sides. He opposed the Kentucky test-oath bill, which was vetoed by Gov. B. Magoffin; when it became law, Spalding took it under protest of unconstitutionality. He supplied chaplains and nursing sisters for North and South and endeavored to maintain strict impartiality himself in his spoken and written words. He was understanding of, but opposed to, the extreme position of some bishops, protesting to Rome in 1863 when he felt they were putting the Church in a bad light by their partisanship. A coolness developed between himself and Abp.J. B. purcell over the attitude of the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati, but never an open break. Spalding himself suspended the Louisville Guardian during the war. The apparent delay between the death of Kenrick (July 8,1863) and Spalding's installation as archbishop of Baltimore (July 31, 1864) was caused reputedly by Secretary of State William Seward's alleged protest to Rome over sending one of doubtful loyalty to the powder-keg city of Baltimore.
Archbishop of Baltimore. In Baltimore Spalding scrupulously maintained his neutrality, supplying chaplains both for Federally occupied territory and for Confederate prisoners. He decreed public mourning after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, but would not directly intercede in behalf of assassin Mrs. Mary surratt, although he did petition the government to allow the return of Bp. Patrick Lynch to Charleston, South Carolina. When peace came, he sought to heal the scars of war as quickly as possible, appealing for and administering financial help to the people of the South. Within one year in his archdiocese he began 20 new churches. He completed the cathedral, organized conferences of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, began St. Mary's Industrial School as a protectory under the Xaverian Brothers, established homes for the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the Little Sisters of the Poor, and welcomed the Passionist Fathers to the archdiocese. His major effort was as apostolic delegate for the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore of 1866 (see baltimore, coun cils of). After months of preparation with his theologian advisers, he presented a unified and cohesive outline, updating previous legislation and adapting it to current circumstances, yet leaving it broad enough for individual bishops to apply it as needed in their own jurisdictions. Unusual agreement was reached in all areas except that concerning Spalding's project of entrusting the mission work among the African Americans to special prefects apostolic. In this he was strongly opposed by Abp. P. R. kenrick of St. Louis, Missouri, who feared a divided authority, and Kenrick's views prevailed. With few modifications, the 534 decrees were approved by the Congregation of Propaganda on Jan. 24, 1868. The decrees, with some changes at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884), formed the basis of American ecclesiastical law and set the pattern of administrative development of the Church in the U.S. The manner of preparation and discussion became a model for later Church councils.
In 1867 Spalding was in Rome at the centenary of SS. Peter and Paul when Pius IX convoked Vatican Council I (1869–70). On Aug. 16, 1868, he consecrated as vicar apostolic of North Carolina James Gibbons, his protégé and secretary since 1865. The sudden death (Aug. 6, 1868) by fire of his brother Benedict and the difficulty in settling his affairs led to strained relations with the bishop of Louisville, William mccloskey; it also caused problems later for his nephew John Lancaster spalding. At Vatican Council I Spalding was elected to the Commission on the Faith, having previously been appointed to the Commission on Postulata, which examined all matters proposed for deliberation before they were presented to the Council. Although Spalding at first desired the doctrine of papal infallibility to remain implicitly defined, he later came out strongly in favor of explicit definition. In Rome he wrote his pastoral On Papal Infallibility (1870), clearing up some of the confusion that had attended the American position. After his return, using Michael O'Connor, SJ, as his agent, Spalding secured the first priests of St. Joseph's Society, formed in England by Rev. (later Cardinal) Herbert Vaughan, for the work of the conversion of the African Americans (see josephites). Shortly after welcoming them to Baltimore on Dec. 5, 1871, he went into his final illness.
Bibliography: j. l. spalding, The Life of the Most Reverend M. J. Spalding (New York 1873). b. j. webb, The Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky (Louisville 1884). a. g. mcgann, Nativism in Kentucky to 1860 (Washington 1944). r. f. trisco, The Holy See and the Nascent Church in the Middle Western United States, 1826–1850 (Analecta Gregoriana 125; 1962). a. a. micek, The Apologetics of Martin John Spalding (Washington 1951).
[p. e. hogan]