William Henry Keeler

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For the American baseball player, see Willie Keeler.
His Eminence
William Henry Keeler
Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore
See Baltimore (emeritus)
Installed May 23, 1989
Term ended July 12, 2007
Predecessor William Donald Borders
Successor Edwin O'Brien
Other posts Bishop of Harrisburg (1984-89)
Ordination July 17, 1955
Consecration September 21, 1979
Created Cardinal November 26, 1994
Personal details
Born (1931-03-04) March 4, 1931 (age 83)
San Antonio, Texas
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}

William Henry Keeler (born March 4, 1931) is an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Baltimore from 1989 to 2007 and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1994.

Pope Benedict XVI accepted Cardinal Keeler's resignation on July 12, 2007 when it was announced that Edwin O'Brien had been appointed to succeed Keeler as Archbishop of Baltimore.[1]

Early life and ministry[edit]

Cardinal Keeler was born in San Antonio, Texas, to Thomas and Margaret (née Conway) Keeler. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania where Keeler attended St. Mary School and Lebanon Catholic High School.[2] He was a member of the Boy Scouts of America and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

Keeler received a BA from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, in 1952. While studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood on July 17, 1955 by Archbishop Luigi Traglia.

He received both a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (1956) and Doctorate of Canon Law (1961) from the Gregorian, and after doing pastoral and curial work in the Diocese of Harrisburg, he served as a peritus, or expert, and secretary to Bishop George Leech at the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).

Keeler was raised to the rank of Chaplain of His Holiness on November 9, 1965, and later Honorary Prelate of His Holiness on May 8, 1970.


On July 24, 1979, Keeler was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Harrisburg and Titular Bishop of Ulcinium. He received his episcopal consecration on the following September 21 from Bishop Joseph Daley, with Bishops Francis Gossman and Martin Lohmuller serving as co-consecrators. Keeler took as his episcopal motto: Opus Fac Evangeliste ("Do the Work of an Evangelist"). He was named the seventh Bishop of Harrisburg on November 10, 1983, and then the fourteenth Metropolitan Archbishop of Baltimore on April 11, 1989. As Archbishop of Baltimore, Keeler was head of America's oldest see and de facto Primate.

He was elected President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 1992. He had been elected as the organization's Vice President in November 1989, when hosting Baltimore's bicentennial celebration of the founding of the diocese. He also serves as Chairman of the Maryland Catholic Conference, Chair of the Board and Chancellor of St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, as well as of Mount Saint Mary's University.

While president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Archbishop Keeler chaired the 1993 World Youth Day held in Denver, Colorado.

Keeler developed a reputation for effectively building interfaith bonds, particularly for furthering Catholic-Jewish dialogue and serves as moderator of Catholic-Jewish Relations for the USCCB. As Chair of the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs from 1984 to 1987, he helped arrange the Pope's meetings with Jewish leaders in Miami and with Protestant leaders in Columbia, South Carolina.


Keeler was created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of November 26, 1994. He was appointed to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the summer of 1994 and to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in November 1994. From 1998 to 2001 and again since November 2003, he has served as Chair for the Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Keeler was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave. Cardinal Keeler reached age 80 on March 4, 2011, and lost the eligibility to participate in any future papal conclaves.

Styles of
William Henry Keeler
Coat of arms of William Henry Keeler.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Baltimore (emeritus)

One of Keeler's priorities was the strengthening of the Catholic school system. In 1992, he initiated the Lenten Appeal, a giving campaign that has raised over $44 million in support of Baltimore's Catholic schools, the needs of the less fortunate, and a variety of spiritual development efforts and the Cardinal's Partners in Excellence scholarship program has raised $16 million in tuition assistance for at-risk children.

The Cardinal was also responsible for the effort to restore Baltimore's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, America's first cathedral, the cost of which was financed entirely through private donations.

Keeler is the President of the American Division Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Chair of the Black and Native American Missions Board. He is Chairman of the Board of Catholic Charities, the largest non-governmental agency providing assistance to the needy of Maryland. He is president of the Cathedral Foundation and publisher of The Catholic Review.

Honors and awards[edit]

An Eagle Scout, Keeler is a recipient of the Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope, and Distinguished Eagle Scout Award of the Boy Scouts of America.[3]

He holds honorary degrees from Lebanon Valley College, Gettysburg College, Susquehanna University, and Gannon University.


Embryonic stem cell research[edit]

As chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Pro-life Activities, he criticized Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's announcement that he will support federally funded stem cell research that requires destroying human embryos.[4]


At the annual general assembly of the National Council of Churches, he reassured delegates that the Roman Catholic Church, and the Pope, were firmly ecumenical.[5]

Terri Schiavo[edit]

Cardinal Keeler mourned the death of Terri Schiavo, who had died after a controversial legal battle over the right for her relatives to remove her feeding tube.[6]

Episcopal succession[edit]

Episcopal lineage
Consecrated by: Joseph Thomas Daley
Consecrator of
Bishop Date of consecration
Gordon Dunlap Bennett March 3, 1998
William Francis Malooly March 1, 2001
Mitchell Thomas Rozanski August 21, 2004
Michael Joseph Bransfield February 22, 2005
Denis James Madden August 24, 2005
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Joseph Thomas Daley
Bishop of Harrisburg
10 November 1983 — 11 April 1989
Succeeded by
Nicholas C. Dattilo
Preceded by
William Donald Borders
Archbishop of Baltimore
11 April 1989 — 12 July 2007
Succeeded by
Edwin Frederick O'Brien


External links[edit]