James Cardinal Gibbons
|Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore|
|Installed||October 3, 1877|
|Term ended||March 24, 1921|
|Predecessor||James Roosevelt Bayley|
|Successor||Michael Joseph Curley|
|Other posts||Bishop of Richmond (1872-77)|
|Ordination||June 30, 1861|
|Consecration||August 15, 1868|
|Created Cardinal||June 7, 1886|
July 23, 1834|
|Died||March 24, 1921
|Coat of arms|
James Gibbons (July 23, 1834 – March 24, 1921) was an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Richmond from 1872 to 1877, and as ninth Archbishop of Baltimore from 1877 until his death in 1921. Gibbons was elevated to the cardinalate in 1886, the second American to receive that distinction, after John McCloskey.
Early life and education
The fourth of six children, James Gibbons was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Thomas and Bridget (née Walsh) Gibbons. His parents were from Tourmackeady, County Mayo, Ireland, and settled in the United States after moving to Canada. After falling ill with tuberculosis in 1839, his father moved the family to his native Ireland, where he believed the air would benefit him. There, Thomas operated a grocery store in Ballinrobe and young James received his early education. His father died in 1847, and his mother returned the family to the United States in 1853, settling in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Gibbons decided to pursue Holy Orders after attending a sermon given by Paulist co-founder, Clarence Walworth. In 1855, he entered St. Charles College in Ellicott City. After graduating from St. Charles, he entered St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore in 1857. He suffered a severe attack of malaria during his time at St. Mary's, leaving his state of health so poor that his superiors almost considered him unsuitable for ordination.
He then served as a curate at St. Patrick's Church in Fells Point for six weeks before becoming the first pastor of St. Brigid's Church in Canton. In addition to his duties at St. Brigid's, he assumed charge of St. Lawrence Church in Locust Point and was a chaplain for Fort McHenry in the Civil War, during which he supported the Union despite having been born and largely raised in the South.
In 1865, Gibbons was made private secretary to Archbishop Martin John Spalding. He helped prepare for the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore in October 1866. At Spalding's prompting, the Council fathers recommended both the creation of an apostolic vicariate for North Carolina and the nomination of Gibbons to head it.
In 1899, Pope Leo XIII sent Gibbons a letter, known by its first words in Latin Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae, concerning new opinions on virtue, nature and grace, religious life and other matters, with regard to so called "americanism".
On March 3, 1868, Gibbons was appointed Apostolic Vicar of North Carolina and Titular Bishop of Adramyttium by Pope Pius IX. He received his episcopal consecration on the following August 15 from Archbishop Spalding, with Bishops Patrick Neeson Lynch and Michael Domenec, CM, serving as co-consecrators. At age 34, he was one of the youngest Catholic bishops in the world and was known as "the boy bishop."
His vicariate, the entire state of North Carolina, had fewer than seven hundred Catholics. In his first four weeks alone in North Carolina, Gibbons traveled almost a thousand miles, visiting towns and mission stations and administering the sacraments. He also befriended many Protestants, who greatly outnumbered Catholics in the state, and preached at their churches. Gibbons made a number of converts, but finding the apologetical works available inadequate for their needs, he determined to write his own; Faith of Our Fathers would prove the most popular apologetical work written by an American Catholic.
Gibbons became a popular American religious figure, gathering crowds for his sermons on diverse topics that could apply to Christianity as a whole. He was an acquaintance of every president from Andrew Johnson to Warren G. Harding and an adviser to several of them.
From 1869 to 1870, Gibbons attended the First Vatican Council in Rome. Aged 35 years and 4 months when the Council opened, he was the youngest American bishop present by a mere six days (which he conceded to Jeremiah Francis Shanahan, Bishop of Harrisburg) and the second youngest in all (Basilio Nasser, Melkite Bishop of Baalbek, Lebanon, was more than five years his junior, aged just 30 years and 3 months at opening). Gibbons voted in favor of the doctrine of papal infallibility. He assumed the additional duties of Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, in January 1872.
Gibbons was later named the fourth Bishop of Richmond on July 30, 1872. He was installed as Bishop on October 20, and served there until May 1877, when he was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Baltimore. He succeeded as Archbishop that October on the death of Archbishop James Roosevelt Bayley.
In 1886, Gibbons was created a cardinal, becoming the second American, after John McCloskey, to attain that rank in the Catholic Church. Gibbons advocated the creation of The Catholic University of America and served as its first Chancellor upon its creation in 1887. He was the first American cardinal to participate in a papal conclave, in 1903. He would have participated again in the 1914 conclave but he arrived late.
Gibbons advocated for the protection of labor, an issue of particular concern because of the many Catholics who were being exploited by the industrial expansion of America's urban East coast at the turn of the century. He was once quoted as saying, "It is the right of laboring classes to protect themselves, and the duty of the whole people to find a remedy against avarice, oppression, and corruption." Gibbons had a key role in the granting of Papal permission for Catholics to join labor unions.
Gibbons successfully defended the Knights of Labor (a union which had a significant Catholic membership) from papal censure, thereby winning a reputation as labor's friend, though in fact he deplored class consciousness and condemned industrial violence.
Gibbons' close support of King Leopold II of Belgium and the atrocities committed in the Congo Free State has come under scrutiny in recent times. Gibbons defended King Leopold II and his treatment of the local Congolese people, going as far as to claim that the Congolese quality of life was being improved by Leopold II's humane influence. Gibbons repeatedly told Americans that Leopold II's Congo was humane and peaceful. Gibbons defended Leopold II's policies, even though Gibbons himself neglected to carry out any type of investigation into the treatment of the locals in the Congo Free State.
Part of Gibbons' popularity derived from the works he authored. The Faith of Our Fathers (1876) remains the most enduringly popular. Also widely read were Our Christian Heritage (1889), The Ambassador of Christ (1896), Discourses and Sermons (1908), and A Retrospect of Fifty Years (1916). He contributed a number of essays to much-read journals such as the North American Review and Putnams' Monthly. His style was simple but compelling. Protestant Americans looked often to Gibbons for an explanation of the Catholic position on contentious issues.
Sabbath Day / Sunday Commentary
James Cardinal Gibbons stated “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify." Sunday is implicit only in that it is the day of the Lord's resurrection, and was quickly honored as such by the earliest Christians, as it was never made explicit in the pages of Scripture: "For example, nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christ or the Apostles ordered that the Sabbath be changed from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given to Moses to keep holy the Sabbath day, that is the 7th day of the week, Saturday. Today most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the Church outside the Bible." As it was the first day of the week and the day of the Resurrection, it symbolized the New Life in Christ. According to the Catholic Church and virtually all other Christian denominations - Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic - the ritual elements of the Mosaic law, such as observance of Sabbath or dietary laws, were abrogated by the coming of Christ and the New Covenant; St Thomas Aquinas went so far as to say practicing ritual elements of the Mosaic law was a mortal sin, as it was tantamount to denying that the Messiah had come.
President William Taft honored Gibbons for his contributions at his 1911 golden jubilee celebration. In 1917, President Theodore Roosevelt hailed Gibbons as the most venerated, respected, and useful citizen in America.
In his later years he was seen as the public face of Roman Catholicism in the United States, and on his death was widely mourned. He is famous for his support of the labor movement in the United States, and for the numerous schools named after him. Mencken, who reserved his harshest criticism for Christian ministers, wrote, in 1921 after the Gibbons' death, "More presidents than one sought the counsel of Cardinal Gibbons: he was a man of the highest sagacity, a politician in the best sense, and there is no record that he ever led the Church into a bog or up a blind alley. He had Rome against him often, but he always won in the end, for he was always right."
- James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers (1917 edition), p. 72-73 (16th Edition, p 111; 88th Edition, p. 89).
- Pliny's Epistle to Trajan
- Catholic Virginian, October 3, 1947, p. 9, article “To Tell You the Truth.”
- Aquinas, St Thomas (1981). Summa Theologiae. Christian Classics. p. 3020.
- John T. Ellis, The Life of James Cardinal Gibbons Archbishop of Baltimore, 1834-1921 (1952)
- Allen S. Will, Life of Cardinal Gibbons (1922).
- James Cardinal Gibbons (1876). The Faith of Our Fathers: A Plain Exposition and Vindication of the Church Founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ. John Murphy Company. via Google Books
- James Cardinal Gibbons (1889). Our Christian Heritage. J. Murphy and company. via Google Books
- James Cardinal Gibbons (1896). The Ambassador of Christ. John Murphy Company.
- James Cardinal Gibbons (1908). Discourses and Sermons. John Murphy Company.
- James Cardinal Gibbons (1916). A Retrospect of 50 Years. John Murphy Company. via Google Books
- Pastoral Letter of 1919
- Ellis, John Tracy (1963). Life of James Cardinal Gibbons. The Bruce Publishing Company. (in the one‑volume abridgment by Francis L. Broderick)
- "1911 Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica".
- "Library of Congress Biography".
- Will, Allen Sinclair (1911). Life of James, Cardinal Gibbons. J. Murphy Company.
- "His vocational timeline at Catholic Hierarchy".
- "Catholic Home Study Service Biography".
- Conversation with Theodore Roosevelt at Liberty Loan Drive (MPEG 8 mb.)
- Another angle on the same event at Sagamore Hill (QuickTime 3mb)
- James Cardinal Gibbons (Catholic University Archives)
- Cardinal Gibbons (Maryland Historical Society)
- Cardinal Gibbons Day October 16, 1911 (MHS)
- Cardinal Gibbons & Theodore Roosevelt (MHS)
- Golden Jubilee Celebration at Basilica of the Assumption (MHS)
- Service in progress at Basilica (MHS)
- Cardinal Gibbons' Cortege passes Washington Monument (MHS)
Schools named after him
- Cardinal Gibbons High School, Raleigh, North Carolina
- Cardinal Gibbons School, Baltimore, MD
- Cardinal Gibbons High School, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- James Gibbons Elementary School, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
|Catholic Church titles|
|Vicar Apostolic of North Carolina
March 3, 1868 – May 20, 1877
Stanislao Marco Gross
|Titular Bishop of Adramyttium
March 3, 1868 – July 30, 1872
Louis-Taurin Cahagne, O.F.M.Cap.
|Bishop of Richmond
July 30, 1872 – May 20, 1877
John Joseph Keane
|Titular Bishop of Ionopolis
May 29 – October 3, 1877
Francis Xavier Leray
James Roosevelt Bayley
|Archbishop of Baltimore
October 3, 1877 – March 24, 1921
Michael Joseph Curley
|Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere
March 17, 1887 – March 24, 1921
Giovanni Tacci Porcelli