Washington, D.C., Archdiocese of
WASHINGTON, D.C., ARCHDIOCESE OF
The archdiocese of Washington, D.C. (Washingtonensis ), was erected by Pius XII on July 22, 1939, and united with the Archdiocese of baltimore, Md., on equal status, under Michael J. curley, tenth archbishop of Baltimore, whose title was changed to archbishop of Baltimore and Washington. On Nov. 27, 1947, the Federal District of Columbia, and Montgomery, Prince Georges, St. Mary's, Calvert, and Charles Counties of the state of Maryland, an area of 2,104 square miles, were separated from the See of Baltimore and their administration entrusted to Patrick A. o'boyle (1896–1987) as archbishop of Washington. Like approximately 40 other archiepiscopal sees, Washington, until 1965, had no metropolitan jurisdiction over suffragan sees. However, in 1965, it was given metropolitan status, with the prelature nullius of the Virgin Islands as a suffragan see.
Catholic beginnings. It was in St. Mary's County that the original settlers of colonial Maryland landed from the Ark and the Dove on March 25, 1634, under the leadership of Leonard Calvert, brother of the lord proprietor, Cecilius Calvert, second baron of Baltimore. Accompanying this group of approximately 150 Englishmen, the majority of whom were Protestants, were three English Jesuits, Fathers Andrew white and John Altham and Brother Thomas Gervase. From the Jesuits' headquarters in St. Mary's City, the first colonial capital, came an unbroken succession of priests from whose number the first bishop of the United States was chosen 155 years later in the person of John carroll. There, too, the general assembly of the colony, composed of both Catholic and Protestant members, enacted in April of 1649 the famous act of religious toleration, unique in the English-speaking world of that time, which stated that no one "professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth bee any waies troubled, Molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof within this Province…" (Ellis, Documents, 116). After the Protestant triumph in England in 1688, however, the Maryland Catholics were subjected to a penal code that was in effect for the better part of a century. But with the American Revolution there ensued a radical change, and on Nov. 11, 1776, Maryland's assembly adopted a Declaration of Rights that guaranteed religious liberty, giving Maryland's Catholics a new start.
The Federal district and the five counties of Maryland, which today constitute the archdiocese, have shared in the rule of the archbishops of Baltimore, who, beginning with Carroll, numbered men such as Francis Patrick kenrick (1851–63), Martin John spalding (1864–72), James Roosevelt bayley (1872–77), and James gibbons (1877–1921). With the rise of the United States to a world power in the late 19th century, attention was focused on its national capital, and the suggestion was made that in keeping with its dignity it should be made an episcopal see. Gibbons, who was strongly opposed to the separation of Washington from Baltimore, made a trip to Rome in May of 1914, expressly to prevent the rumored separation. However, he was ready to second the suggestion of Giovanni Bonzano, apostolic delegate to the United States, to the effect that the name of Washington be added to that of Baltimore in the title of the see. But Gibbons had been dead 18 years before the Holy See took the first step by erecting the Archdiocese of Washington and putting it under the administration of the same prelate who ruled the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The complete separation of the two sees occurred six months after the death of Archbishop Curley, Gibbons' successor.
Independent Jurisdiction. Patrick A. O'Boyle, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, was installed as the second archbishop of Washington at St. Matthew's Cathedral on Jan. 21, 1948. During his 25-year tenure, the archdiocese experienced tremendous growth. The size of its Catholic population more than doubled, reaching a total of 389,000 in 1973. The number of Catholic institutions also greatly increased, with the number of parishes growing by 50% (to 122) at the time of O'Boyle's retirement.
It was also under O'Boyle that events in the Archdiocese of Washington became the focus of media attention. The first of these events was the archdiocese's successful integration of its parishes and schools prior to the Supreme Court decision of 1954 striking down the legality of racial segregation. In recognition of his efforts as a progressive leader in the area of race relations, as well as of his other accomplishments, O'Boyle was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1967. The following year, the archdiocese became the focus of world-wide attention when Cardinal O'Boyle withdrew the ministerial faculties of numerous priests who publicly opposed Pope Paul VI's encyclical humane vitae (cf. entry on Cardinal O'Boyle). Cardinal O'Boyle retired in 1973 and died in 1987.
William W. Baum, bishop of the Diocese of Springfield–Cape Girardeau and a national voice on ecumenism, was consecrated the third archbishop of Washington in May of 1973 and created a cardinal in 1976. Six more parishes were established in the archdiocese during Baum's tenure in order to meet the needs of Washington's ever-expanding suburbs, and new organizations were established to minister to African American and Hispanic Catholics. One of the highlights of Cardinal Baum's service as the archbishop of Washington was the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to the nation's capital in the fall of 1979. The following year the same pope named Cardinal Baum prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. At the time of Cardinal Baum's departure for Rome, the Catholic population of the Archdiocese had reached 396,000. The fourth archbishop of Washington, James A. Hickey, formerly bishop of Cleveland, was installed on Aug. 5, 1980 and elected to the College of Cardinals in 1988. During Cardinal Hickey's 20-year tenure, the Archdiocese of Washington met new challenges posed by the changing demographics of the Washington region. The suburbanization of once rural areas necessitated the erection of new parishes in the Maryland counties, with the total number of parishes reaching 141 in the year 2000. Concurrently, the declining population of the city of Washington required a new commitment to and the consolidation of its Catholic elementary and secondary schools. The arrival of thousands of immigrant Catholics from the Caribbean, Asia, and most especially Latin America, since the 1980s, has brought a great racial and ethnic richness to the local Church as well as pastoral challenges.
On Jan. 3, 2001, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark was installed as the fifth archbishop of Washington. Shortly thereafter, on Feb. 21, 2001, he too was elevated to the College of Cardinals, at a time when the archdiocese had 141 parishes, 109 schools and some 320 priests serving over 500,000 Catholics.
The archdiocese of Washington has a unique place within the Catholic Church in America, being home to numerous national Catholic institutions. Among these are the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archdiocese of the Military Services, the catholic university of america (1887), Trinity College (1897), georgetown university (1789), Mt. St. Sepulchre (the Franciscan Monastery, 1899), and the Basilica of the national shrine of the immaculate conception. The archdiocese is also honored to be the residence of the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.
Bibliography: r. t. conley, The Truth in Charity: A History of the Archdiocese of Washington (Paris 2001). m. j. macgregor, A Parish for the Federal City: St. Patrick's in Washington, 1794–1994 (Washington, D.C. 1994). t. w. spalding, The Premier See: A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1789–1989 (Baltimore, Md. 1989). w. w. warner, At Peace with All Their Neighbors: Catholics and Catholicism in the National Capital 1787–1860 (Washington, D.C. 1994). An additional source of information on the archdiocese is The Catholic Historical Society of Washington, which was established in 1976.
[j. t. ellis/
r. t. conley]