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Life of Cardinal Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore (Volume 2) online

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sage in advance of that event. Preaching in the Cathedral
February 4, 1906, he declared his position and that of
the Church with regard to Socialism in a manner which
riveted the attention of the nation. Inequality of rank,
station and wealth, he said, were inevitable. The much-
discussed statement in the Declaration of Independence
that "all men are created equal," he interpreted to mean
that all men are subject to the same political and moral
laws; that all enjoy the same air and rain and sunshine
of heaven and that all are equal before the law. He ex-
claimed :

"The most mischievous and dangerous individual to be
met with in the community is the demagogue, who is
habitually sowing broadcast the seeds of discontent
among the people. He is disseminating the baneful doc-
trines of Socialism, which would bring all men down to
a dead level, would paralyze industry and destroy all
healthy competition. . . . He has not the capacity to
discern that after all due allowance is made for human


energy, this varied condition of society must result from
a law of life established by an overruling Providence."

In studying the material world, he said, he had been
deeply impressed to observe that all the works of God
were marked with the stamp of variety and inequality.
The Almighty never cast any two creatures in the same
mold. He continued :

"Ascending from the natural to the spiritual world,
from the order of nature to the order of grace, we know
there is not only variety, but that there are also grades
of distinction among the angels in heaven. The angelic
Hierarchy is composed of nine distinct choirs. There are
angels and archangels, thrones and dominations, princi-
palities and powers, virtues, cherubim and seraphim.
These angelic hosts ascend in rank, one above the other.
One order of angels excels in sublimity of intelligence, or
in intensity of love, or in the dignity of the mission as-
signed to them.

"And, in like manner, God is unequal in the distribu-
tion of his graces to mankind. He gives in large measure
to one and in less measure to another. To one He grants
five talents, to another He grants two, and to another He
gives one talent. When the Divine Husbandman hires
His laborers to work in His vineyard, He recompenses
those who labored but one hour as much as He does those
'who have borne the burden of the day and the heat.'
The reward is altogether disproportioned to the toil. If
you complain of God's discrimination, Christ will answer
you: 'My friend, I do thee no wrong. Take what is
thine and go thy way. Is it not lawful for me to do what
I will? Is thine eye evil because I am good? What
claim have you on my justice? Is not all that you pos-


sess of nature or of grace the gratuitous gift of my
bounty^' . . .

"Nevertheless, among God's elect there is no jealousy
or discontent. Those who enjoy a high grade of bliss do
not look with disdain on their inferiors; and those who
are in a lower grade of felicity do not envy those above
them. All are happy and contented, and praise the God
of bounty for his gratuitous mercies.

"There is a tendency in our nature to chafe under
authority. Thomas Paine published a well-known work
on The Rights of Man.' He had nothing to say on the
rights of God and the duties of man. A certain clergy-
man wrote a volume some years ago on 'The Rights of
the Clergy.' From the beginning to the end of the work
he said nothing on the duties and obligations of the
clergy. The majority of mankind are so intent on their
rights that they have no consideration for their responsi-
bilities. If all of us had a deep sense of our sacred duties,
we should not fail to come by our rights."

The surroundings under which this dominant note of
the Cathedral celebration was amplified at the event it-
self on Sunday, April 29, were such as to give it the ut-
most force as a declaration by the Catholic Church in
America. Archbishop Falconio, who had succeeded Mar-
tinelli as Papal Delegate, nine other Archbishops, fifty-
six Bishops, four Abbots and about eight hundred priests
assembled at the fountain head of the mother See. Arch-
bishop Glennon, the gifted head of the archdiocese of St.
Louis, preaching at the service of pontifical vespers on
that day, voiced the thoughts of all that gathering of
leaders when he said:

"The social fabric appears today to be in imminent
danger, because old principles are ignored and old founda-


tions are attacked. What was held as law, is regarded
now as injustice; what was held as government, is now
deemed tyranny. It were folly to deny that the shadow
of Socialism is hanging over the land, and, while learned
men are busy pointing out its unreasonableness, its injus-
tice, its lack of feasibility, the shadow deepens. And yet
we fear not. The Church has a message for these com-
ing years. Standing by that Cross, the Church would
teach an equality that mere forms of poverty and wealth
could not affect."

Archbishop Ryan, of Philadelphia, the preacher at the
Pontifical Mass with which the celebration was opened,
dealt with the general subject of social discontent from
another angle, by freely admitting the existence of seri-
ous evils in America which needed to be corrected, and
in the correction of which Catholics were ready to share
fully. He said :

"We justly laud the institutions and spirit of our coun-
try, but indiscriminate praise is no evidence of genuine,
rational patriotism. On the contrary, it is often danger-
ous and holds out false security. . . . Marvelous as has
been our progress in a single century, there is the greater
need to preserve what we have gained and to correct
where we have been deficient. Some have stated, and
with a show of reason, that our leading, radical fault has
been, and is, love of money, amounting to national ava-
rice, and our eagerness in both the natural and religious
order should be directed to neutralize or, at least, to mod-
erate this tendency.

"But I can not believe that love of money is the pre-
dominant fault of the American people. They are too
noble and generous a people to be a nation of misers.
They freely give what they freely get, and are often prod-
igal in their generosity. No, I believe that ambition,


pride and inordinate independence and self-reliance are
our most dangerous foes. Humility is becoming a name
for pious weakness, and ambition is no longer a sin. The
desire to be unknown is considered foolishness. . . .

"There are three great and increasing evils in our day —
one affecting the individual ; the second, the family, and
the third, the state. I mean suicide, divorce and com-
munism, leading to anarchy."

Gibbons confined his own part in the main celebration
to felicitations upon the progress of the Catholic faith
during the century which had elapsed since the corner-
stone of the Cathedral had been laid. The Pope had con-
veyed his share of these felicitations in a letter ^ sent for
the occasion, which read :

"To OUR Beloved Son, James Gibbons,

"Archbishop of Baltimore^ Cardinal Priest of the Title
of St. Mary, across the Tiber:

"Beloved son, health and Apostolic benediction.

"When the first Archbishop of Baltimore, one hundred
years ago, laid the corner-stone of the Cathedral, he laid,
we may truly say, the foundation upon which the Church
of America was to rise to its full and glorious height.
For, whether we consider the ever increasing number of
priests ordained within its walls, the Bishops there conse-
crated, the national councils there celebrated or the vari-
ous magnificent solemnities or ecclesiastical functions
which it has witnessed, all have happily found, as it were,
their home in the Cathedral of Baltimore.

"Happily, we say, and ever with the promise of better
things, as is proven by the extension of the Hierarchy ; by
the growth of the Catholic population; by the peaceful

* Cathedral Archives, Baltimore.


state of religion, your steadfast union with the See of
Rome and by the manifold consolations which our heart
has gathered from your achievements. Hence, we deem
it worthy of our highest approval that you propose to
commemorate with general rejoicing so signal an event.
We need not tell you with what sentiments of good will
and of heartfelt interest we share in this celebration.
You are all aware that we have always most ardently
adopted and are now equally eager to adopt whatsoever
may avail to enhance the honor of our religion among the
American people.

"Our eagerness herein is the greater because we are sure
that you will respond, with common accord and endeavor,
to the invitations which we, prompted by the memory of
what you have accomplished for religion, extend to you
on this timely and joyous occasion in urging the American
people to still greater efforts in behalf of our Catholic
faith. This exhortation we repeat in all earnestness,
knowing full well that our words must aim not only at
advancing the cause of religion, but also at furthering the
public weal. Intent, therefore, as you now are, upon ex-
tolling the sacred memories of your forefathers, and set-
ting forth the glories of your faith, we offer you our sin-
cere congratulations and bestow upon you the praise that
you fully deserve, both by your zeal in organizing this
public celebration and by the habitual attitude of mind
therein displayed. You manifest, indeed, a temper that
we ardently desire to see cultivated by all Catholics — a
temper, namely, which holds within itself, strong and full
of promise, the hope of the future.

"Right joyously, then, we express our wishes for the
prosperity of your churches and the success of this cen-
tenary observance. At the same time, as a pledge of
heavenly graces and a token of our deep affection, we
impart most lovingly our Apostolic benediction to you,


the Bishops, the clergy and the whole American

"Given at St. Peter's, Rome, on the second day of
March, 1906, in the third year of our pontificate.

"Pius P. P. X."

Although the Cardinal had sought to efface himself
from the festivities, he was not able to do so altogether.
At a dinner which was given at St. Mary's Seminary in
honor of the visiting prelates, the Papal Delegate con-
veyed to him the warmest congratulations upon his silver
jubilee, expressing the hope that he might long be spared
to continue his work for humanity.

On the evening of the next day there was a reception
to the Hierarchy by Cardinal Gibbons and the clergy of
the archdiocese at a large public hall. Governor War-
field, of Maryland, and Mayor Timamus, of Baltimore,
friends and supporters of Gibbons, lent their presence to
the event. Bishop Donahue, of Wheeling, who had spent
years as a priest in Gibbons' household, spoke from inti-
mate and discriminating knowledge when in an address
at the meeting he said of the Cardinal :

"His life and achievements have shed undying luster
on the Church for all time. He is a Prince of the Church;
he is also one of the plainest and most democratic citi-
zens of the land. His mind can rise to and grasp mo-
mentous questions of Church and State, yet with children
he can be a child in playfulness and glee. With the wise,
he is wise; with the simple, simple; simple in his tastes
and habits of life, simple in demeanor, and a friend to
the poor and helpless. I doubt if ever churchman trod
the soil of America who has endeared himself to more


None knew better than that large gathering of Bishops
that Gibbons was wise with the wise and simple with the
simple. He had been to them leader and friend for
more than twenty-five years. The thoughts that rose in
their minds upon the centenary of the Cathedral, the
seat of the mother See, the St. Peter's of the United
States, were mingled with thoughts of the leader
without fear and without reproach who had given to the
Church a new aspect in the eyes of the American people,
who towered now among the great figures of the world,
statesman and churchman, exemplar of the religious vir-
tues and of the civic virtues, who had led the Church in
America out of the wilderness of distrust and even open
hostility in which she had wandered for so many years
and brought her at last into the promised land where she
stood revealed before all the people in her own light, the
light in which Gibbons had exhibited her when so many
others had failed to do so. Acknowledging what he had
done, they loved him even more for what he was ; and on
best no barrier interposed to prevent them from hailing
best no barrier interposed to prevent them from hailing
him with one voice as the preeminent and revered citizen.


The passage of the French Law of Associations, and
subsequent agitation and legislation which ended in the
rupture of the Concordat, excited deep feelings on the
part of Catholics in the United States. They could not,
as churchmen, forget the ardent and fruitful help of
France any more than as citizens they could forget La-
fayette and Rochambeau. In the early days of European
civilization on the American continent, Jesuits from the
banks of the Seine and the Loire had carried the Cross up
and down the new world ; and when the Cross, no longer
a wanderer, pointed to Heaven from the tops of thou-
sands of churches, Cheverus and Flaget and Dubois and
Dubourg and many other Bishops and clergy from France
had helped to lay the foundations of religion in the youth-
ful nation. Now the Church of France was in tears ; and
Americans who pondered on the bitter trials through
which she was passing could not avoid contrasting them
with the peaceful relations between religion and the
State in their own country, and deploring that contrast.

So strongly were the American Bishops moved that, at
their meeting held in the spring of 1906 at the Catholic
University, a short time before the celebration of the
Baltimore Cathedral centenary, they had decided to ad-
dress a letter to the French Catholics, and requested Car-



dinal Gibbons, their presiding officer, to prepare it. He
drew it up while the greater assemblage of prelates was
in Baltimore, and sent it to Cardinal Richard, Arch-
bishop of Paris, as the principal representative of the
Church in France. He wrote :

"We would profit by the presence of so many distin-
guished prelates to offer to our brethren in France, not so
happily circumstanced as we, an unequivocal testimony
of our sympathy and our sincere wishes for the welfare
of the Church of France. . . . We are compelled to as-
sure you of the keen regret which we feel at sight of the
bitter persecution to which the Church of France is sub-
jected — a persecution which, particularly during the last
quarter of a century, has been marked by exceptional and
vexatious legislation. To crown these irritating enact-
ments, the agreement which for a century bound the eld-
est daughter of the Church to Rome, has been, contrary
to all the requirements of justice and honor, ruthlessly
dissolved. The bloody conflicts immediately consequent
upon the first application of this notorious law sanction-
ing the separation of Church and state, so recently and
peremptorily condemned by Pius X, do but forecast dis-
turbances of a more serious character. However, such
misfortunes are bound to enlist in your behalf the sym-
pathy and prayers of all true children of the Church. . . .

"It is difficult for minds accustomed to the complete
liberty which we enjoy in this country to understand how
a civilized government can, in the name of liberty, sub-
ject an entire Christian people to the yoke of official
atheism. Here, on the contrary, our rulers recognize that
religion is necessary for the prosperity of the nation.
While they arrogate to themselves no authority in re-
ligious matters, thanks to the kindly feeling which ani-
mates them, vexed questions are amicably settled. To
illustrate by a single example, far from enacting legis-


lation hostile to the Church, disputes involving ecclesias-
tical property are decided by the civil courts in conform-
ity with her recognized laws.

"If the Church has the right of protection because she
is the truth, her progress requires only liberty worthy of
the name. This we have fully and completely. We sin-
cerely hope the Church of France may soon enjoy the
same advantage." ^

Cardinal Richard expressed his profound gratitude in
a reply lamenting the ordeal through which the Church
was then passing in France, and expressing his reliance
upon God for a happy issue from her afflictions.

The elements in control of the French government at
that time were bent upon the execution of their program
by their own methods, and the wishes of American Cath-
olics were of no more avail than the wishes of those in
Europe. Gibbons, in a public statement,^ called attention
forcibly to some of the excesses which were being com-
mitted. He was particularly disturbed because, as he
declared, hatred of religion rather than love of the repub-
lic actuated the French anti-clerical leaders. He said :

"In France the Jacobin party is not dead. Its spirit
is as living today as it was in the last decade of the
eighteenth century. Its adherents hate God; they hate
Christ; they hate His religion as much as their fathers
hated them."

He quoted one of the French cabinet ministers as hav-
ing said in an address to teachers :

"The time has come to root up from the minds of
French children the ancient faith, which has served its

* Cathedral Archives, Baltimore.
'Baltimore Sun, December 14, 1906.


purpose, and replace it with the light of free thought. It
is time to get rid of the Christian idea. We have hunted
Jesus Christ out of the army, the navy, the schools, the
hospitals, the asylums for the insane and orphans, and
the law courts, and now we must hunt Him out of the
State altogether."

"What," asked the Cardinal, "would we Americans
say if a Cabinet ofBcer were to propose this as the great
aim of his administration*?"

Gibbons was at that particular juncture a close ob-
server of the manner in which the property rights of the
Catholic Church were being readjusted in the Philippines
and the other islands recently separated from the rule of
Spain. He pointed out in his statement the contrast
between the attitude of the French government at that
time toward ecclesiastical rights and that of the courts
of the United States, in which the legal claims of the
Church were fully respected, and a settlement was being
effected to the satisfaction of all.

The vigorous declaration of Gibbons soon became cir-
culated in France, where Premier Clemenceau felt its
influence to such an extent that he took occasion to deny
that a member of the cabinet had delivered the statement
attributed to him "as minister," although failing to deny
that the statement had been made. Gibbons promptly
cited the London Saturday Review ^ as his authority, and
saw no occasion to modify anything which he had said.
His declarations were the signal for many public pro-
tests in this country against the violent methods by which
the French government of that period carried out its plans
for the separation of Church and State.

* Review, August i8 and 25, 1906.


No American of his time received so many spontaneous
tributes of public honor as Gibbons; and it remained for
him at the age of seventy-seven years to receive one of
these which had no precedent. It was on the occasion
of his silver jubilee as Cardinal, and his golden jubilee
as priest. He had reached the time of life when he had
long since been inclined to deprecate the paying of per-
sonal honors to himself, and, indeed, he had interposed
an absolute veto upon several proposals of that kind;
but when he learned what was contemplated by those
who prepared to mark the greatest of all his jubilees in
1911 his objections were silenced, for, keen student of
the history of his country that he was, he knew that no
American churchman, perhaps no American even in pub-
lic life, had ever been made the object of such a testimo-
nial as was to be given to him.

It was decided to divide the honors into two parts,
for did not Gibbons have a dual character now in the
eyes of his fellow-countrymen? Was he not, by the ac-
knowledgment of all, the foremost churchman who stood
among them, and was he not also the foremost citizen
outside of those holding the highest executive office? He
had exhibited in his own person, as no other man had
done, the fact that the two roles supplemented each other


and blended harmoniously in one. Now that his career
had covered a period which spread out in a long perspec-
tive and was beginning to show at last the real propor-
tions of the man, it was felt that while his jubilee was
ecclesiastical, his work had been both ecclesiastical and

The record of those years so far as their fruits related
solely to the Church was wonderful enough, and the cele-
bration would have recalled a great story of battle and
victory if it had been confined to that aspect of Gibbons
alone ; but the story of the half century was one that went
far outside even the broad reach of the Catholic Church.
It was of struggles, sacrifices and great and lasting bene-
fits for men everywhere and especially for men in the
country for whose welfare Gibbons had been second to
none in solicitude and effective help.

So it was determined by common and even impulsive
assent, as it were, that there should be two celebrations,
one in honor of Gibbons the churchman, one in honor of
Gibbons the citizen. Men of importance throughout the
country whose preoccupations in other directions might
have been expected to preclude them from taking any
particular notice of the plans suddenly developed a vivid
interest in them and a desire to share in what was to be
done. The thought, the feeling, the desire swept through-
out the country. Magazines and newspapers began to
spread before their readers at length accounts of what
those years of Gibbons had meant to the world. Com-
mittees were formed ; a bustle of preparations, after the
American fashion on such occasions, was begun.

The civic celebration was held first. Its scene was the


greatest public hall in Baltimore,^ one of those built for
national political conventions and other events of high
importance. In that great auditorium 20,000 persons
assembled on June 6, 1911, and thousands more waited
outside, inspired by the same desire to show homage to the
Cardinal such as had been shown to no American church-
man before.

It was not the size of the multitude which was the
gauge of the real meaning of the demonstration. Mr.
Taft, President of the United States, escorted Gibbons —
a pale, red-robed figure — into the hall for the honors that
were to be heaped upon him. Surrounding them as they
sat upon the platform were the Vice-President, Mr.
Sherman; the only living ex-President, Mr. Roosevelt;
the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Mr. White ; the
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Clark ; the
ex-Speaker, Mr. Cannon; the British Ambassador, Mr.
Bryce; the Governor of Maryland, Mr. Crothers; the
Mayor of Baltimore, Mr. Preston; the United States
Senators from Maryland, Messrs. Rayner and Smith; the
members of the House of Representatives from the Car-
dinal's State, and a large number of the most prominent
figures in both houses of Congress, as well as leading men
of the State and city, without regard to religious belief.
Never had such an assemblage met for a purpose of that
kind; never had such a one met on any occasion, except
at the inauguration of a President of the United States,
where official duty rather than individual free will im-
pelled attendance.

No one could scan the representation of the nation's

*The Fifth Regiment Armory.


leaders, bound by a common desire to express the nation's
thanks to the object of such great attentions, without be-
lieving that Gibbons was "first in the hearts of his fel-
low-countrymen." His place was apart from the politi-
cal broils of that moment or any other; both political
parties and all elements of those parties were represented

Online LibraryAllen Sinclair WillLife of Cardinal Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore (Volume 2) → online text (page 8 of 43)