The Preachers of Brooklyn: No.3, The Roman Catholic Clergy

Nothing is to our mind stranger in this nineteenth century than the extraordinary extension and progress of the Roman Catholic Church. According to Dr. Ewer and other professedly Protestant divines, Protestantism is a failure, but no one, even of its bitterest enemies, has been found to assert that Catholicism is a failure. On the contrary, so universal is the impression among Protestants that the Roman Catholic system has been and is a success, that Dr. Cumming et id genus omns of ultra Calvinists have ransacked the arithmetically unfortunate prophet, Daniel, for mathematical proof and exhausted all the vials of the Apocalypse for corroborative evidence that this unquestionable success is the work of the Arch-Fiend, who has by a stroke of theological legerdemain hoodwinked, blindfolded and bewitched three-fourths of Christendom. The tableaux presented by Elliott's Horae Apocalyptices and the pseudo-prophetic sketches of Dr. Cumming are both picturesque and amusing. The cloven foot and phosphoric vision of Satan are clearly visible at the side slips as he enacts the role of prompter. The Holy Father, quite unconscious of the dignity thus generously conferred upon him by Apocalyptic Protestants, plays, of course, the principal part of Antichrist, while by all sorts of complex sums and multinomial theorems, it is proved to the tract-illumined intellect of Exeter Hall that he is (to say the least) a fiery dragon and the church a lady of more than doubtful virtue.

But, seriously speaking, there has of late been a remarkable reticence among the star-gazers of Patmos on the subject of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. Dr. Cumming's interpretations of prophecy are, to speak colloquially, played out. Whether the gentlemen who expound the vials have found the sums in Daniel too difficult; and, from want of algebraic skill, have been forced to let the Sovereign Pontiff remain an unknown quantity, or whether the kind face and Christian goodness of Pius IX, have staggered the credulity of those who looked in vain for some contagion of the brimstone lake, some gleam of diabolism, some strawberry mark corresponding to Daniel, or appropriate to the Apocalyptic Beast, certain it is that "No Popery" literature is now at a discount.

Account for it how we will the progress of Roman Catholicism both in Europe and America is an undeniable fact. At a time when the school-master is almost omnipresent, when the circle of human knowledge has widened to a circumference of which the preceding generation never dreamed, when the steam-engine and the electric telegraph are flashing thought over the earth, when the inductive sciences are in their noonday lustre, and liberty is something more than a cant phrase in men's mouths, the Church so long deemed the enemy of human freedom and intellectual progress, which imprisoned Galileo and tried to thwart Columbus, is putting the girdle of her ancient faith around the earth. There are we believe, within the Empire of Protestant England, including the Dominion of Canada and the other British provinces, more Roman Catholic Bishops than in any other country in the world. Among them is the Bishop of Clifton, heir to an English Earldom, and who may yet take his seat in the House of Lords, as a Peer of the realm. In China, among a people wedded to their own traditions, to the belief that theirs is the most ancient of empires, and theirs the primeval language, where, as was candidly confessed by Dr. George Smith, late English Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong, the Protestant teacher can make no headway, the Roman Catholic Missioner finds intelligent converts. At San Francisco there is a Chinese Catholic clergyman, who has abandoned pigtail and silk trousers for the cope, the chasuble and the maniple. To indulge in a Johnsonian couplet we may say: "Let observation with extensive view, Survey mankind from China to Peru," and we should be curious to know in what region east or west no trace of the presence of Catholicism could be found. "Wherever I go" said a Protestant Bishop from the Far West, at a public meeting of the Society for the Increase of the Episcopal Ministry held in Calvary church, New York, some three months since, "I find that the Roman Catholic priest has been before me both with his church and with his school."

There have been many DISTINGUISHED CONVERTS to Catholicism during the last quarter of a century. Let us turn to England to her National Church and her most ancient University. Since the secession of Dr. Newman in 1845 about 200 clergyman of high culture and character have resigned their preferment in the Established Church and gone over to the Catholics. It is true that some of these converts have returned, including Thomas Arnold (eldest son of the great Master of Rugby), who was one of the Professors of the Catholic University of Ireland during the Rectorship of Dr. Newman; but the great majority remain, many of them in the Priesthood, and one of them an Archbishop, well satisfied with their migration. Of the British aristocracy, the Marquis of Bute has just been received at Nice, while Peeresses and ladies of high birth and culture, from the Duchess of Argyle to the only daughter of the talented Bishop of Oxford, swell the list.

We have, indeed, but to look at that one family, the Wilberforces, as an example. First of all, the Bishop's younger brother, Henry William resigned the rich benefice of $East Farleigh, Kent, and became editor of a London weekly Catholic newspaper. Then the Bishop's elder brother, the venerable Robert Isaac Wilberforce, Archdeacon of the East Riding and Vicar of Burton Agnes, Yorkshire, resigned all his preferment's and followed him. Within the last few weeks the Bishop's daughter and her husband, the Rev. John Pye, Vicar of Clifton Campville, Gloucestershire, have taken the same step. So that of the family of the great anti-slave-trade Calvinist but one solitary man-Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford and Lord High Almoner to the Queen, remains a Protestant. Dr. Manning, the Bishop of Oxford and Henry William Wilberforce married three sister, daughters of the Rev. John Sargent, an Evangelical clergyman, who wrote the Life of Henry Martyn. The Bishop's wife died when he was Dean of Westminster, and Bishop Manning's within a year or two of their marriage. Since his conversion he has put up anonymously, by permission of the Dean and Chapter, a beautiful stained glass window to her memory in Chichester Cathedral.

Nor has this Church been less successful in her converting influence in America than in Europe. A large number of Episcopal and other Protestant ministers have embraced the Roman faith; among whom we may mention the late Dr. Levi Silliman Ives, Protestant Bishop for twenty years, of North Carolina, who was received in 1853, and proceeded to Rome to lay at the feet of the Pope the insignia of his Episcopal rank, the Rev. James Roosevelt Bayley, sometime Episcopal clergyman of Harlem, now Bishop of Newark; the Rev. I. M. Forbes, the Rev. William Everett, Rev. Donald McLeod, Rev. Thomas Preston, Rev. J. V. Huntington, Rev. Mr. Wadhams, Rev. Mr. Wheaton, all in New York; and Rev. Mr. Major, of Philadelphia. A large number of the laity have also submitted to Catholicism. The Rev. Father I.T. Hecker, Rev. A. Hewit, Rev. Father Walworth, son of the late Chancellor of the State of new York, Rev. Father Deshon, formerly a Captain in the United States Army, are also converts from Protestantism, and were students, we believe, of the General Theological Seminary, though they did not take Orders in the Episcopal Church.

Status of the Roman Catholic Church In Brooklyn

In ancient maps we find Long island marked by the name of "Insula sanctorum apostolorum"__the Island of the Holy Apostles. It was thus that the piety of early Catholic discoverers was wont to christen new regions of the earth, seeming thereby to symbolize the enduring stability of a faith which has borrowed the perpetuity of the everlasting hills. In the name thus given to Long Island we seem to behold an unconscious prophecy that it would become the great theatre for missionary and evangelical labors. The shadow of Paul and Peter seems to fall upon the Island of the Holy Apostles with kindly and healing power, as it did of old in the first Gospel times. The eastern part of the island was peopled by descendants of the Puritans from New England; the western part mainly by the Dutch. There were at first very few Catholics on the island, where there are now probably between one hundred and one hundred and fifty thousand. Year by year the number is increased by immigration, especially from Ireland. In 1822 there was not a Catholic church on the whole island; there are now twenty-six in the city of Brooklyn, and more are imperatively needed.

The Bishop and Clergy

When the See of Rome resolved to erect Long island into a separate diocese from New York, it called to the Episcopate, as Bishop of Brooklyn the very Rev. John Loughlin, D.D. for many years Vicar-general of the diocese of New York, and well known in that city as the zealous and indefatigable pastor of an extensive parish. The Bishop was educated at the Seminary of Mount St. Mary, and had been a priest in New York since 1841.He was consecrated by the most Rev. Cajetan Bedini, Papal Nuncio and Archbishop of Thebes, at St. Patrick's Cathedral, on the 30th of October 1853, at the same time as the Right Rev. D. Bayley, Bishop of Newark, and the Right Rev. Louis de Goesbriand, Bishop of Burlington. The new prelate immediately took possession of his diocese which then contained, in Brooklyn and Williamsburgh united, ten churches, and in the rest of the island eleven, with seven stations, the whole being administered to by a body of twenty-three priests. The Bishop has now a staff of sixty-one clergy, among whom are to be found men of cultivated minds and popular talents.

The first Catholic church erected in Brooklyn was St. James's, now the Bishop's Cathedral, situated on Jay street. It was erected in 1823, and was built under the auspices of the Right Rev. Dr. Connelly, then Bishop of New York, to which diocese Long island belonged. Here, in September, 1823, the Rev. Father John Shanahan said his first mass on a few boards clumsily put together for an altar. The first pastor was the Rev. John Walsh, who may be considered the founder of the mission. In 1837 the Rev. Dr. Bradley visited Flushing and Williamsburgh, which, with Staten Island, formed his parish. The next year a second church was erected in Brooklyn; and three years after, the Rev. James O'Donnell erected St. Mary's, at Williamsburgh, a small frame edifice, which has since been replaced by the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, through the exertions of Rev. S. Malone. Meanwhile, the zealous Father Raffeiner reared the Church of the Holy Trinity for his German fellow countrymen. In the following year the Rev. D.W. Bacon, now Bishop of Portland, purchased a building which a priest had erected as an Independent Catholic Church, a title as singular as the theory it was meant to represent. This when dedicated became the Church of the Assumption.

But to our mind no Catholic Church in Brooklyn has a deeper interest attached to it than THE CHURCH OF ST. CHARLES BORROMEO which was formerly the Protestant Episcopal Church of Emmanual and was transferred to the Catholics about the time that Bishop Ives seceded. It was here (we refer of course to the former edifice which was burnt down March 8th, 1868,) that Bishop Ives had ordained the Rev. Donald McLeod, now a Priest in New York, to the Protestant Episcopal Ministry. The church was originally built for the Rev. Kingston Goddard, a clergyman of very low church views and pugnacious theological temperament. He was succeeded by the Rev. Francis Vinton, D.D., who was for time the Pastor. Father Everett and other Priests who were then Episcopal clergymen, officiated in this church occasionally for Dr. Vinton. Within six months of the destruction of the church by fire a new edifice, accommodating 1,300 persons, and built in the English gothic style, was erected, which was opened for divine service on the 1st of November. it is a handsome structure and has a much more ecclesiastical appearance than its predecessor. Its present Pastor is the Rev. Dr. Friel, and the Assistant Pastor is the Rev. Thomas McGivern. The musical talent which formed so great an attraction in the services at the former church still continue to draw a refined and numerous congregation to the new church of St. Charles Borromeo.'

We conclude the present paper with some explanatory remarks on PREACHING IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.

The ordinance of preaching is regarded very differently by Catholics and by Protestants. The Catholic goes to church to be present at the celebration of Mass, in which, as he believes, the Holy Sacrifice of Christ's actual Body is offered to God the Father. The Protestant goes to church to hear a sermon, and as it is awakening, or heart-stirring, or comforting, or eloquent and beautiful, so and to such extent is the object of his church-going fulfilled. To the one, therefore, it is quite a subordinate and immaterial part of divine worship; tot he other it is the great end and purpose for which churches are built and worship instituted. A Catholic Church has as large and sometimes a larger congregation when there is no sermon at all; a Protestant church would be empty if the sermon were discontinued. The Protestant divine would accordingly as soon think of omitting his dinner from his daily programme of life as of curtailing a simple head of his stereotyped discourse. The Catholic preacher will address his people for ten minutes and think he has said enough; the Protestant requires at least an hour to expound the simplest truth of the gospel. It is sometimes to be wished that this were otherwise, for except in the case of very eloquent and original preachers, the ordinary mortal is apt to feel drowsy, and we must remember that Eutychus found even the eloquence of St. Paul acted on him toward midnight as a perilous narcotic. This indifference in estimate of the importance of preaching is one of the causes why oratorical success is seldom aimed at by the Catholic clergymen. Indeed, personal popularity and individual prominence are not the prizes at which he aims. Another cause for this apparent indifference to pulpit oratory among Catholics lies in this, that the Priest adapts his sermon to the intelligence and cultivation of the poorest and humblest members of his flock.

In this country especially, he feels it a solemn duty to do so, knowing that among his hearers are poor emigrants with scarcely any education to  whom eagle flights of thought and rhetorical flourishes of language would be so much Greek. He probably therefore betakes himself, as Dr. Newman does, to the Catechism of the Council of Trent for the subject of his pulpit exposition and finds therein, as that great preacher tells us in the "Apologia" that he never fails to find, a perfect compendium of Christian faith and practice. His great object is to make good Catholics which to him is synonymous with good Christians of his flock. it would, however, be a great mistake to suppose that there is anything in Catholicism inimical to eloquence. On the contrary we have but to recall the grand array of preachers which the church in France has produced, to be convinced that a dogmatic faith is compatible with the highest flights of genius. Will the sermons of Fenelon and Bossnet, of Bourdalone and Massillon ever perish? Not so long as a French literature exists. In our own day we have had Pere Lacordaire, who, like St. Alphonsus Liguori, quitted the legal profession for the priesthood. When has Paris  roduced a greater orator, unless we except Pere Hyacinthe, a monk who is now shaking the dry bones of the Parisian beau monde by an eloquence more astounding than that of any other living orator in Europe. Ireland and Spain had each a generic share in the late Cardinal Wiseman, who was (albeit the London Times called his eloquence "bloated" because somewhat more flowery than English ears were accustomed to) one of the finest preachers in London. Archbishop Manning, his successor, is a powerful and impassioned pulpit orator. But as a rule it is true that the Altar and the Sacrifice in Catholic worship leave the pulpit in the shade.

Website: The History
Article Name: The Preachers of Brooklyn: No.3, The Roman Catholic Clergy
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle  January 23, 1869
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