Chapter 16 TWEAKING THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT
As THE FUROR over the Stamp Act was cooling down, the Jesuits of Maryland and Pennsylvania discovered that the director of Catholic operations in the British colonies, Bishop Richard Challoner, had asked Rome to ordain an American bishop.The American Jesuits disliked the idea. Father Ferdinand Steinmayer (alias Farmer) of New York cautioned Bishop Challoner, “It is incredible how hateful to non-Catholics in all parts of America is the very name of bishop.” Still, in Challoner’s view, an American bishop would establish better order in the colonies, restore discipline, and make it possible for colonial Catholics to be confirmed. Steinmayer and his American brethren strenuously opposed the idea on grounds that it would only make life among Protestants more difficult for Catholics. They collected lay support for their views
and asked Challoner himself to forward the protests to Rome, which he declined to do, leaving it to the Jesuits to state their own case.1
Rome never replied to Challoner’s petition for an American bishop. The bishop later discovered that the petition, made in a letter to Cardinal Spinelli and entered into the post in 1764, never left England. In Bishop Challoner’s words, “it was opened, and stopt on this side of the water.”2
Whoever opened Challoner’s letter must have passed its contents on to the Church of England. For no sooner had Challoner posted his letter than the Anglican Bishop of London, who had thus far been content to rule his American subjects from London, asked the British cabinet to permit the Church of England to create an American bishop to “attend the sheperdless flock in the colonies.” When word of this request reached the colonies, which were mostly Protestant but less than fifteen percent Anglican,3 the reaction must have elated Lorenzo Ricci. The sons and daughters of immigrants who had braved wild Indians and rattlesnakes to escape religious prelates took the Bishop’s petition to be the worst act of tyranny yet, the most pressing cause for alarm, the number one thing to revolt against.
The American bishop scare was whipped up in the non-Anglican Protestant church pulpit – the era’s most electrifying communications medium. Presbyterian and Congregationalist preachers, representing nearly fifty percent of the churched colonists, charged that an American bishop would be “an ecclesiastical Stamp Act” which would strip Americans of all their liberties, civil as well as religious, and “if submitted to will at length grind us to powder.”4 They warned that an American bishop would dominate the colonial governors and councils, strengthen the position of the colonial oligarchy, and drive dissenters from political life with a Test Act requiring officials to state their religious preference. Having brought the colonial governments under his control, the American bishop would then establish the Church of Rome in all the colonies and impose taxes for the support of its hierarchy. A letter in the New York Gazette or Weekly Post Boy for March 14, 1768 charged that an American bishop would “introduce a system of episcopal palaces, of pontifical revenues, of spiritual courts and all the pomp, grandeur, luxury, and regalia of an American Lambeth” – Lambeth Palace being the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of all England after the royal family. An American bishop would transform Americans into a people “compelled to fall upon their knees in the streets and adore the papal miter as the Apostolic Tyrant rides by in his gilded equipage.”
Rev. Jonathan Mayhew, Dudleian Lecturer at Harvard, inveighed against “Popish Idolatry” in a famous (and arguably prophetic) sermon by that title, saying,
Let the bishops get their foot in the stirrup, and their beast, the laity, will prance and flounce about to no purpose. Bishops will prove to be the Trojan horse by which Popery will subjugate North America.The American bishop scare did more to foment the colonists to revolt, and eventually raised more soldiery, than all the tyrannical writs and tax schemes combined. Immediately, it created permanent Committees of Correspondence, an intercolonial organization of churches, and a “Society of Dissenters” based in New York. These organizations brought all opposed to the Church of England into correspondence with one another, whether in America, Great Britain, or Ireland.5 The specter of an American bishop gave the colonial patriots an almost inexhaustible fund of propaganda to employ against any form of perceived tyranny at home and abroad. It served, in Jonathan Boucher’s words, “to keep the public mind in a state of ferment and effervescence; to make the people jealous and suspicious of all measures not brought forward by [popularly-approved leaders]; and above all, to train and habituate the people to opposition.”6
The fact that Americans were trained and habituated to oppose the British Crown and the Church of England not by Roman Catholics but by Protestant churchmen is, to my mind, proof of the Sun-Tzuan ingenuity of Lorenzo Ricci. Sun-Tzu said: “The General will know how to shape at will, not only the army he is commanding but also that of his enemies.” While Ricci’s own army was appearing in the world’s opinion markets to be a band of vicious dolts slipping down into their well-deserved oblivion, a small elite corps of indispensibles, some neither knowing nor caring who their true boss was, were facilitating English-speaking Protestant churchgoers in systematically annihilating one another! Lorenzo Ricci’s orchestration had reached such fullness that he could now soliloquize Iago’s boast in Othello: “Now, whether he kill Cassio or Cassio him, or each do kill the other, every way makes my gain.”
Back in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, Central American Jesuits designed posters to motivate campesinos to overthrow corrupt politicians. The posters for this Bellarminian liberation theology depicted an angry Jesus Christ in the image of Che Guevara, swathed in fatigues, draped in bullet-belts, holding a submachine gun at the ready, a Rambo Jesus, a Jesus whose Sacred Heart called for social action that included killing. The American bishop scare aroused the same dynamic in the 1770’s. What was considered by many to be the most influential sermon on the subject was preached to Boston’s Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company by Rev. Jonathan Mayhew’s successor at Harvard, Rev. Simeon Howard. Simeon Howard received his early preaching experience in Nova Scotia – or Acadia, as the French settlers called it. He experienced first-hand the uprooting and expulsion, by British soldiers, of some three thousand French Catholic Acadians, along with their Jesuit priests. Cruelly, often violently, the Acadians were forced to emigrate to various American colonies, with no compensation for property or livestock. (Longfellow memorialized the event in Evangeline).
With a casuistry that would have delighted Cardinal Bellarmine, Rev. Howard’s famous Artillery Company sermon openly advocated the use of violence against a political tyrant. Our duty to defend personal liberty and property, he argued, is stated in Scripture at Galatians 5:1 – “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” True, Rev. Howard admitted, Christ requires us to “resist not evil – love your enemies, do good to them that hate you” (Matthew 5), and “recompense to no man evil for evil – avenge not yourselves” (Romans 12, 17, 19). But these precepts apply only to cases of “small injuries,” Howard said, not large ones, such as tyranny.
Nor, said Rev. Howard, should we fully accept Christ’s commandments on property. “Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world” (John 2:5), and “Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth” (Matthew 6:19), and “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:42) – such precepts as these, Rev. Howard said, are “indefinite expressions” which “we have a right to limit.”
Now, the defensive application of lethal force is reasonable, and noble, and patriotic. But it is not recommended by Jesus Christ. The Jesus of the Scriptures cautions that life by the sword means death by the sword. It is Rome, not Jesus, that commands the use of lethal force – Rome, whose natural-law society was built on the willingness of the individual to risk his own life in killing to preserve the Religious State. And it was Rome that Simeon Howard beseeched his audience to emulate: “Rome, who rose to be mistress of the world by an army composed of men of property and worth.”
A decade after the American bishop scare had broken out, thousands of American Protestant and Catholic churchgoers began killing and being killed to win The War That Would Keep Anglican Bishops Out of America. And they won this war. But the utterly stupefying outcome of their victory was that no bishops were kept out of America: two bishops were brought into America, an Anglican and a Roman Catholic!
The Roman Catholic, of course, was John Carroll. This Jesuit son of Maryland was consecrated Bishop of Baltimore on August 15, 1790, in the chapel of Lulworth, a castle set high on the Dorset coast of England owned by the Welds, a prominent Roman Catholic family. Lulworth’s upper “Red Room” looks to the east upon a commanding view of the estate’s long entrance meadow and to the south upon a famous smugglers’ cove in the distance. A frequent visitor to Lulworth Castle, and honored guest in its Red Room, I am told, was King George III.
Bishop Carroll became the Holy See’s direct representative not just in Baltimore but throughout the U.S. This fact was validated in 1798 by Judge Addison, President of the Court of Common Pleas of the Fifth Circuit of Pennsylvania in the case of Fromm vs. Carroll. Fromm was a recalcitrant German Franciscan who wanted to establish his own German-speaking, laity-owned parish. Addison ruled that “the Bishop of Baltimore has sole episcopal authority over the Catholic Church of the United States, and without authority from him no Catholic priest can exercise any pastoral function over any congregation within the United States.” Fromm was excommunicated and held up as an example of what happens to rebels against wholesome Church authority. Addison’s use of the term “Catholic Church of the United States” is an interesting judicial notice that Carroll’s ordination instituted, for all practical purposes, a secular church ruled by the black papacy. Eminent Catholic historian Thomas O’Gorman concurred in 1895, observing that American Catholicism was, “in its inception, wholly a Jesuit affair and [has] largely remained so.”7
America’s first Anglican bishop, ordained in 1784, was Rev. Samuel Seabury of Connecticut. Rev. Seabury was both a High Churchman and a Freemason.8 To avoid the political repercussions of swearing allegiance to the Church of England so soon after 1776, Seabury was consecrated in November 1784 at Aberdeen, Scotland. Of critical importance to Rome was that the three bishops consecrating Seabury were all “nonjuring” bishops. “Nonjuring” described the class of Catholic bishops that stood in the succession of “Jacobite” clergy who, remaining loyal to King James II after his abdication in 1689, had refused to take a loyalty oath to James’ successors – his daughter, Mary Stuart, and son-in-law, William of Orange, both Protestants.9 America’s first Protestant bishop, like his Roman Catholic counterpart, owed allegiance to Rome.
This obscure fact is commemorated in one of London’s most heavily-trafficked and world-famous locations. The spacious grassy lawns on either side of the great stairway leading up to the National Portrait Gallery facing Trafalgar Square are identical except for their bronze statuary, one piece alone placed at the center of each lawn. On the north lawn stands James II, crowned with imperial laurel, wearing the armor of Julius Caesar. (An elderly British Jesuit with a passion for offbeat historical detail confided to me that James loved to go in Caesarean drag.) On the south lawn stands the celebrated Houdon figure of… George Washington, garbed in period attire, leaning for support upon a huge bundle of rods from which projects the head of an axe – the fasces, ancient emblem of Roman legal authority! When Bishop Seabury united his episcopate with the other two Anglican communions in America in 1789, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States was born. George Washington was a member of this Church. The London statuary are explaining the little-known historical fact that James II’s Roman Catholic rulership of the English-speaking people was resumed in the First President of the Constitutional United States of America. It is a tribute to the phenomenal generalate of Lorenzo Ricci.
John Carroll spent his final years in Europe helping to develop Lorenzo Ricci’s vision of rebellion in America. He moved cautiously, and often incognito. What few traces he left behind are quite revealing.