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Is Canonization a Perk of Papal Election?

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Recently the Vatican announced that the causes for canonization of Pius XII and John Paul II are moving along at a brisk pace. While John Paul II remains quite popular, the opposite is true for Pius XII. Many feel he did not do enough to stand up to the Nazis during World War II. And while Benedict XVI said in a visit to the Rome Synagogue today that Pius helped Jews “often in a hidden and discreet way,” many, including a rabbi who spoke before the pope today, do not feel that was sufficient.

Now I think there are certainly two sides to the Pius XII issue. I can see merits on both sides, and we probably don’t know the full story (and won’t until the Vatican Archives on his pontificate are opened—so why the hurry?). But it does seem to me that the proponents of the canonization of Pius XII want him declared a saint as a way of scoring a win against his detractors, to put a stamp of approval on everything he did during the war. And that’s not what canonization should be about. (more…)

Our First and Only Elected Bishop

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

I was surprised on browsing through Wikipedia the other day to discover that the entry on Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore was so sparse. So in the spirit of Wikipedia, I decided to do something about that. I added a lot more information to give a better summary of the many contributions Carroll made to American Catholicism.

He came from a prominent Maryland family; his cousin was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and his brother signed the United States Constitution.

John Carroll was the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States—and in fact for some years the only one, with his jurisdiction covering the entire nation. He has the distinction of being the only bishop in the United States who was elected. At the time, the clergy thought this was the way to go in the new Republic, but no bishop after him was elected.

Carroll founded Georgetown University in part because he could not get the other Catholic educational institutions to admit women, and he was adamant that women be included in higher education. He was a tireless promoter of the reading of Scripture by clergy and laity. He was an early advocate of Christian Unity, and deplored the fact that Catholics were subjected to the use of Latin in the liturgy, a custom he referred to as “preposterous.” He included laity at all levels; when the official congratulations of the American Catholic community were sent to George Washington on his election as president, the letter was cosigned by Carroll and representatives of the laity.

A student of the Enlightenment, he hired Benjamin Henry Latrobe (whom Thomas Jefferson chose to design the U.S. Capitol)  to design the nation’s first cathedral in Baltimore in a modern style. It would be open and filled with light, with none of that stained glass of the old world. The recent renovation of the Baltimore Cathedral, still standing, brought it back to the original vision of Carroll and Latrobe. Later in life he became our first archbishop, back in the day when Baltimore had cities such as New York as suffragan sees under it.

It’s too bad we don’t talk more about Archbishop Carroll. He has a lot to teach us today. He was a revolutionary and a reformer. He had an optimistic vision for the American Church, one we sorely need today. John of Baltimore, pray for us!