Dangers from within and without

John Francis Maguire

Dangers from within and without—The Lay Trustees—A Daring Hoax—Burning of the Charlestown Convent—A Grateful Ruffian—'Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk'—Protestant Verdict on Maria Monk

THERE were in those early days of the American Church dangers from within as well as dangers from without, and it may be said that the former were more perilous to the Church, and a more formidable obstacle to her influence and progress, than those which were purely external. These interior causes of difficulty arose mainly from the system of lay trusteeship, which in too many dioceses—notably Philadelphia, New York, and Charleston—were the occasion of long-standing feuds, and of grave public scandal. Certain members of the laity—generally men of little faith, much vanity, and strong self-conceit—braved and defied the authority of their Bishops, treated with contempt the discipline of the Church, and even ventured to appoint and dismiss pastors at their pleasure! The great body of the faithful had no sympathy whatever with the acts of those who, not only by their intrigues and turbulence, but by making their contentions the subject of constant proceedings in courts of law, brought much discredit on Catholicity. It required, on the part of the Bishop who found himself so painfully circumstanced, not merely the greatest prudence and wisdom, but firmness and determination. Occasionally, either through gentleness of nature or utter weariness of soul, or from a spirit of conciliation—in the hope of healing an ugly wound, and preventing further evil—a Bishop consented to surrender some portion of his legitimate authority; but there were others, and those the larger number, who, being of stronger and sterner nature, resolutely set their foot against all and every encroachment on the episcopal functions, and, by sheer force of character, vanquished the intriguers, and crushed schism wherever it showed its head. It would be a profitless task to refer further to events which may be left to merited oblivion, but which planted thorns in the mitre of many an American prelate. There is, however, a circumstance connected with the schism in Philadelphia to which allusion may be made with profit.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America