Charles Constantine Pise

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Charles Constantine Pise

Charles Constantine Pise, SJ, (1801–1866)[1] was a Roman Catholic priest and writer.


Born in Annapolis, Maryland, on 22 November 1801, "the son of an Italian father and a mother who came from an old Philadelphia family,"[2] he was educated at Georgetown College in Washington, D.C., sent to Rome to continue studies, and entered the Society of Jesus as a novice.[1] He left the Jesuits when the death of his father caused him to return to the United States and was ordained a diocesan priest in 1825.[3]

From 1821-22 he attended Mount St. Mary's College and Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. During his stay there, his classmates included three future archbishops: John McCloskey, John Baptist Purcell, and John Hughes.[2]

He wrote several works in prose and verse, and was a distinguished lecturer and preacher.[1] Among his many literary works, he wrote three Catholic devotional novels and one semi-fictional work, Letters to Ada.[2]

Between 1827-30, he published a five-volume History of the Church from Its Establishment to the Present Century (although the work stopped at the 16th century). In honor of this effort, Pope Gregory XVI made him a knight of the Sacred Palace and Count Palatine, "the first time these honors had come to an American." At this point, he was also made a knight of the Holy Roman Empire and was granted a Doctor of Divinity degree by examination.[2]

During these years, Pise was an assistant at St. Patrick's Church in Washington, DC.[2] Henry Clay arranged for him to be appointed Chaplain of the Senate. Pise served as Chaplain from 1832-33.[2] Pise was the first (and, to date, only) Roman Catholic United States Senate Chaplain, coming into that office on December 11, 1832.[1]

Answering objections to the presence of a Catholic in such a prominent government role, and prefiguring a similar speech by John F. Kennedy more than 125 years later, on July 4, 1833, Pise made "an eloquent address" before the Maryland House of Delegates describing in what sense he felt an American Roman Catholic owed 'allegiance' to the Pope.[2]

In 1849, he was assigned as rector at Saint Charles Borromeo Church in Brooklyn, New York; he died in Brooklyn on May 26, 1866.[4]


Pise had a career of such prominence that it was unusual he was not made a bishop. One biographer suggests that his friendship with Catholic intellectual Orestes Brownson may have been the problem, at a time when the American Church was turning away from intellectualism as a result of growing Irish domination. Alternatively, the same biographer suggests that it may have been an anti-Irish, anti-Jesuit streak in Ambrose Maréchal, Bishop of Baltimore, which led him to suppress this logical cap to Pise's career.[2]

See also[edit]


Partial list:[2]

  • History of the Church from Its Establishment to the Present Century. (1827–1830)
  • Father Rowland: a North American Tale. Baltimore: Fielding Lucas, Jr. (1829, 1831) Dublin: (1837, 1846)

    (a response to the anti-Catholic novel Father Clement: A Roman Catholic Story by Grace Kennedy, published in 1823)

Both hymns are in the "Appendix" to the 1851 New York edition of Edward Caswall's Lyra Catholica, pp. 422, 427.


  1. ^ a b c d Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Charles Constantine Pise" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thorp, Willard. Catholic Novelists in Defense of Their Faith, 1829-1865. New York: Arno Press, A New York Times Company (1978) A single volume in the complete set The American Catholic Tradition; ISBN 0-405-10862-1.
  3. ^ The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X, (1914) New York: The Catholic Editing Company, Vol. III, pg. 549.
  4. ^ "Pise, Charles Constantine", in John Julian (1907), A Dictionary of Hymnology, reprint, New York: Dover, Vol. 2, p. 1687.

Further reading[edit]

  • Brann, Rev. Henry A. Rev. Charles Constantine Pise, The Only Chaplain in the Congress of the United States in Historical Records and Studies Vol. II: 354-357 (1901).
  • Julian, John (1907/1957), A Dictionary of Hymnology, reprint, New York: Dover.
  • Moffat, Sister M. Eulalia Teresa. Charles Constantine Pise, chapter in Historical Records and Studies, United States Catholic Historical Society Vol.XX:64-98 (1931).
  • Purcell, Richard J. DAB (Dictionary of American Biography, year and volume number unknown).
Religious titles
Preceded by
John Price Durbin
28th US Senate Chaplain
December 11, 1832 – December 10, 1833
Succeeded by
Frederick Winslow Hatch