Russell McVinney

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The Most Reverend
Russell Joseph McVinney
Bishop of Providence
See Providence
Installed July 14, 1948
Term ended August 10, 1971
Predecessor Francis Patrick Keough
Successor Louis Edward Gelineau
Ordination July 18, 1924
Consecration July 14, 1948
Personal details
Born (1898-11-25)November 25, 1898
Warren, Rhode Island
Died August 10, 1971(1971-08-10) (aged 72)
Watch Hill, Rhode Island
Denomination Roman Catholic Church

Russell Joseph McVinney (November 25, 1898—August 10, 1971) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Providence from 1948 until his death in 1971.

Early life and education[edit]

Russell McVinney was born in Warren, Rhode Island, to Thomas and Catherine (née Blessington) McVinney.[1] He was baptized at St. Mary's of the Bay Church in Warren the following month.[2] Shortly after his birth, McVinney and his family moved to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Providence.[2] Since there was no parochial school at Blessed Sacrament Church, he attended Academy Avenue Grade School, the local public school.[1] He also attended Father Simmons' School of Religion, the religious education program at Blessed Sacrament.[2]

In 1912, McVinney enrolled at La Salle Academy in Providence, from where he graduated in 1916.[1] He attended St. Charles College in Catonsville, Maryland, from 1916 to 1918, and continued his studies at the Grand Seminary of Montreal in Quebec, Canada (1918–20) and at St. Bernard's Seminary in Rochester, New York (1920–21).[1] Following the conclusion of World War I, he was sent to complete his studies at the American College at Louvain in Belgium.[2]


McVinney was ordained to the priesthood at Louvain on July 13, 1924.[3] Following his return to Rhode Island, he briefly served on a temporary assignment at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul before becoming a curate at St. Patrick's Church in Harrisville.[2] From 1929 to 1936, he served as a curate at St. Edward's Church and a teacher at St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket.[4] In 1935, he studied journalism for a year at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.[4]

From 1936 to 1941, McVinney served as associate editor of the Providence Visitor and did pastoral work at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.[1] He directed the diocesan pilgrimage to the Eucharistic Congress at New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1938.[1] He served as the first rector of the newly opened Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick from 1941 to 1948.[4] During his tenure as rector, he also served as pro-synodal examiner and secretary of the body of examiners of junior clergy (1943–48).[1]


On May 29, 1948, McVinney was appointed the fifth Bishop of Providence by Pope Pius XII.[3] He received his episcopal consecration on the following July 14 from Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, with Bishops Henry Joseph O'Brien and James Louis Connolly serving as co-consecrators.[3] He was the first native of Rhode Island to serve as head of the Diocese of Providence.[4] During his 23-year tenure in Providence, McVinney established 28 new parishes, mostly in rapidly growing suburban and rural areas of the diocese.[2] He also established 40 new Catholic schools and oversaw the construction of new buildings for many preexisting schools.[2] In 1954, he opened Our Lady of Fatima Hospital, a hospital for the chronically ill, in North Providence.[2]

McVinney convoked the fourth synod of the diocese on October 8, 1952.[2] He founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Providence in 1955 and later the Brothers of Our Lady of Providence in 1959.[2] In 1957, in order to accommodate the increasing number of seminarians at Our Lady of Providence Seminary, he oversaw the construction of a complex of new buildings for the seminary.[2] Between 1962 and 1965, McVinney attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council in Rome.[3] Following the conclusion of the Council, he created a Diocesan Liturgical Commission in June 1964 and one of the first Diocesan Ecumenical Commissions in the United States in January 1965.[2] He also established the Catholic Inner City Apostolate in 1966 and the Diocesan Human Relations Commission in 1967.[2]

Reestablishment of the American College of Louvain[edit]

McVinney's alma mater, the American College in Belgium, closed on the eve of the Second World War. In 1949, the bishops of the United States began to talk of reestablishing the seminary. McVinney, along with Bishop Matthew Brady of the diocese of Manchester, became a forceful advocate of reestablishing the college.[5]

When the bishops voted in 1951 to reestablish the American College, McVinney was made chair of the American College's new board of bishops. He appointed a priest of his diocese, fellow American College alumnus Thomas Francis Maloney, as the new rector. Maloney arrived back in Leuven in spring of 1952, and the new crop of seminarians, including a number from Providence, arrived that autumn. By the celebration of the college's centennial in 1957, the American College had been significant renovated and, as a result of the 1950s vocations boom in the United States, over a hundred seminarians were living and studying at McVinney's alma mater. McVinney, present at the centennial celebrations, was granted an honorary doctorate from the Catholic University of Louvain, alongside his brother bishop and fellow Louvain alumnus, Fulton J. Sheen.[6]


Communion by hand[edit]

McVinney opposed the reception of Communion by hand, believing the practice violates the dignity of both the communicant and the consecrated Host.[7] When the issue came before the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1970, he called the proposal a "dangerous procedure leading to a precipitous decline" and an invitation to "weirdos."[7]


McVinney took a strict interpretation of canon law regarding divorce. In October 1952, he declared that Catholic lawyers were forbidden "under pain of mortal sin" to represent plaintiffs in suits for separation, divorce or annulment of a marriage performed by a Catholic priest, unless they obtain prior permission of their bishop; that Catholics may not be present at marriages "attempted" by a Catholic before a non-Catholic clergyman or a justice of the peace, and they must not show their approval (e.g., by attending a wedding party, giving a wedding gift); that Catholics who are themselves invalidly married may not act as witnesses, ushers, or bridesmaids at a Catholic wedding; and that all Catholics are forbidden to act as witnesses, ushers or bridesmaids at weddings which are not performed by a Catholic priest.[8][9]


In 1957, McVinney exhorted Catholics to follow the Legion of Decency's ban against the film Baby Doll even in its censored version.[10][11]


In 1952, at the commencement ceremony of Manhattan College, McVinney condemned contemporary morality that attempted to "ride on the coattails of democracy," and encouraged obedience to an "objective" ethical standard.[11]


During the 1970 U.S. Senate election, McVinney chastised Father John McLaughlin, a Jesuit priest, for running for the United States Senate without McVinney's permission, saying McLaughlin's candidacy "has caused a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding in this state."[12] McLaughlin claimed that he did not require McVinney's permission to run, and that his opponent, John O. Pastore, and McVinney were "lifelong friends."[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who. XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "History". Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Bishop Russell Joseph McVinney". [self-published source]
  4. ^ a b c d "RUSSELL J. M'VINNEY, PROVIDENCE BISHOP". The New York Times. 1971-08-11. 
  5. ^ Codd, Kevin, and Brian Dick: The American College of Louvain: America's Seminary in the Heart of Europe, page 67. Peeters, nv, 2007.
  6. ^ Codd, Kevin, and Brian Dick: The American College of Louvain: America's Seminary in the Heart of Europe, page 68-70.. Peeters, nv, 2007.
  7. ^ a b Dugan, George (1970-11-20). "U.S. Catholic Bishops Reject Receiving of Communion by Hand". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Marriage Bans". TIME Magazine. 1952-11-03. 
  9. ^ "DIVORCE CASE SNARL TIED TO CHURCH BAN". The New York Times. 1952-10-31. 
  10. ^ "The Trouble with Baby Doll". TIME Magazine. 1957-01-14. 
  11. ^ a b "'Baby Doll' Ordered Cut to Get License For Exhibition in Providence Theatre". The New York Times. 1957-01-05.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ethics" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  12. ^ a b "BISHOP CHASTISES JESUIT CANDIDATE; Priest Said to Be Running Without Diocese Consent". The New York Times. 1970-08-23. 

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Francis Patrick Keough
Bishop of Providence
Succeeded by
Louis Edward Gelineau