Sunday, 29 July 2007

Bishop Challoner and the Colonial Church

A posting in honour of two priests from New York I met in the Piazza after Mass last evening. Although Westminster Cathedral receives very many American visitors, it has only one formal connexion with America, in the person of Bishop Richard Challoner, buried in St Gregory's chapel.

In the eighteenth century, before the restoration of the hierarchy and the dioceses of England and Wales, the Vicar Apostolic of the London region exercised jurisdiction in the British colonies in North America and the West Indies. In British North America, Catholics formed a tiny and persecuted minority – only about 1% of the population. They lived almost entirely in Maryland and Pennsylvania, with a few in Virginia and New Jersey.

Bishop Challoner give faculties and dispensations to the small number of English Jesuits who worked in the American colonies. Because of his responsibilities in England, he was never able to visit personally, but when in 1756 Rome suggested appointing a Vicar Apostolic resident in North America, Challoner warned that such a move ‘might give offence to the governing part there.’

He reported that the ‘Jesuits, holding faculties from us in Maryland and Pennsylvania, conduct the missions there in a very laudable manner.’ In 1771 again, he warned against moves to create a Bishop in North America, for fear of antagonising the authorities.

In 1784, following the American Revolution, the Vatican authorities removed the jurisdiction of the North American Church from the Vicar Apostolic of London, and established a hierarchy in the United States. In 1789 John Carroll, a former spiritual subject of Bishop Challoner, was appointed Bishop of Baltimore - the first Catholic Bishop of the United States. and Wales,


Anonymous said...

Just wanted you to know that, as I told you, I check this blog faithfully every day even while on vacation in London! Great post -- we had noticed Challoner's marker in the Cathedral yesterday. Thanks also for the great recommendation for dinner!

Lover of Futility said...

Explain 'and Wales', Monsignor...

Anonymous said...

We had a few in New York, and we even had a Catholic governor in the 1680s: Thomas Dongan, later 2nd Earl of Limerick. Sadly, the Revolution caused an exodus of some Catholics from New York (a Loyalist stronghold). In contrast to back in the British Isles, New York Catholics feared losing the protection of the Crown.

After all, the rebellious Continental Congress officially listed the King's gracious and sensible toleration of the Church in Quebec as one of the reasons for their rebellion.

New York even raised a loyalist militia regiment (mostly Irish) called the "Roman Catholic Volunteers" to fight the Revolutionaries.

Anonymous said...

A fascinating post on the history of the Church in America. I would add, though, that "North America" includes Canada, where the Archdiocese of Quebec was founded as an Apostolic Vicarate in 1658 and elevated to a Diocese in 1674. Despite the situation of Catholics in the Thirteen Colonies and the young United States, Catholics in Quebec and, after the British Conquest in 1759, the rest of what might historically be termed The Canadas, had the guidance of resident and, by 1772, native-born bishops.