Quotes Suitable for Framing: John Ireland


Be ambitious, seek to elevate yourselves, to better your lot;  too often we are too easily satisfied.  When a man is poor, let him live in a hovel.  I esteem him;  at any moment I tend him the right hand of fellowship;  but if by labor, by energy, he can secure to his family comfort and respectability, and does not, then I despise him.

Father, later Archbishop, John Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day sermon, St. Paul, Minnesota 1865

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  1. Obviously, Bishop Ireland never belonged to the USCCB. If he were alive today, I’m quite sure his brother bishops would correct him in the error of his ways. In particular, his uncharitable, un-pastoral thoughts.

  2. Poverty: that by which all things, both the good and bad, are done in its name.

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit…..”

  3. When Judas complained (sell and give to the poor) about the woman anointing Jesus with expensive oil perfume, Jesus told us, “. . . .the poor will always be with you, but . . . ”
    Earlier when St. Peter verbally outburst against Jesus’ telling the Apostles he would suffer, “Get thee behind me , Satan. Thou savorest the things of the World not . . .”

  4. I think the last three words of that quote ruled out canonization. My car was ransacked of cash and a credit card last week which was the first time I ever left them in the car and first time leaving the car door unlocked. Now I consider the thief sent from God for me to pray monthly that God saves him from eternal damnation. I pray for many criminals I’ve encountered actually for decades now even if I almost killed two…and I would not pray for them if I despised them.

  5. A man with a family who could provide comfort (love/at least daily presence) but does not choose to try is the essential problem with the world going awry. John Ireland had good sense. One hundred fifty years have passed since that quote. So many fatherless children could benefit from hearing that sermon so that the emptiness would move to an understanding of what the problem is, rather than it moving to heartlessness. Despising what man does, does not preclude prayer for him. My guess is that some of our Lord’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane was just that.
    Such sermons would serve well if read these days during the Liturgy of the Word – rather than what is made up to be ‘relevant’.

  6. The Archbishop, like St. Paul, didn’t much cotton to slackers. St Paul=no work, no eat.
    John Ireland was a great social justice activist in a good way. He was able to move 4000 impoverished Irish families from New York by securing 400,000 of land for them in Minnesota according Wikipedia. He created opportunities for the poor to get out of poverty by helping them to help themselves. Compare that with Pope Francis ideas of income redistribution.

  7. Interesting. Ireland’s individualistic attitude is demonstrative of the Americanism of which he was a prime proponent. As Dr. Rao explains:

    Two distinct Catholic viewpoints regarding the best method of protecting the Church and Catholics in America were in obvious conflict by the latter half of the nineteenth century. One of these was convinced that the battle between Catholicism and American society was an unnecessary one. It has long been labeled the Americanist position. This title is a justifiable one, as shall become clear below, since supporters of the Americanist position gradually grew close to the Americanist faith…. Three names stand out among its more significant proponents: Bishop John Keane of Richmond, sometime Rector of Catholic University; Msgr. Denis O’Connell of the North American College in Rome; and Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul. The opposing viewpoint took a much more critical attitude towards the possibilities of an American-Catholic rapprochement. It may simply be called the anti-Americanist outlook. Anti-Americanism had a very flexible set of supporters. Leaders of German-speaking Catholics frequently espoused it. So did several foreign faculty members at Catholic University. Bishops such as Corrigan of New York and McQuaid of Rochester were more comfortable with its skepticism than with the optimism of the Americanist school.

    The Americanist camp clearly prevailed, and one can draw a straight philosophical/theological line from Irealand to John Courtney Murray. Murray, of course, was perhaps the most influential adherents of Americanism, managing to export Americanism into the heart of Vatican II, by authoring and advocating for “Dignitatis Humanae” which universalized the American notion of freedom of religion as a natural right of man and not simply a tolerated evil, and the unacceptability of the social Kingship of Christ being embodied in the laws and ethos of the state.

    Ireland also rigorously objected to “Uniate” Eastern rite priests being allowed to function in America, as they were not interested in his project of integrating into American society, or in his ideas about religious liberty. Consequently, many uniates ended up breaking communion with Rome and becoming schismatics.

    One small but sure sign of his Americanist, puritanical bent was his role as spokesman for the oxymoronically named “Catholic Total Abstinence Society.” One wonders how much fun GK Chesterton would have such an un-Catholic idea as “total abstinence.”

  8. Yes, John Ireland became known as “The Founder of the Orthodox Church in America” thanks to his persecution of Eastern Rite Catholics. About two million (!) of them left the Catholic Church for their Orthodox counterparts or created their own, the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA (which is under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople). All because, in violation of multiple Papal statements concerning the Eastern churches, he decided that ALL Catholic priests had to be celibate. It was too bad that he ultimately had his way with the Vatican.

    Pope Francis has done a few things that might be questioned, but reversing the Ireland-inspired ban of married Eastern Catholic priests in America is not one of them.

  9. Ah, Americanism, the phantom heresy!
    Gibbons was on good terms with both Pope Leo, who gave him his cardinal’s cap, and Pope Pius of whom he wrote a biography. Americanism was an imaginary heresy, largely the result of Pope Leo XIII being ill-informed about conditions in America and paying too much heed to idiots among American clerics who delighted in attempting to stir up trouble over nothing. Modernism was a real enough heresy, although Pope Pius tended to throw the baby out with the bath water and completely orthodox Catholic scholars suffered along with complete heretics.
    Cardinal Gibbons and the rest of the American heirarchy responded that no one among them taught these propositions that were condemned:
    1.undue insistence on interior initiative in the spiritual life, as leading to disobedience
    2.attacks on religious vows, and disparagement of the value of religious orders in the modern world
    3.minimizing Catholic doctrine
    4.minimizing the importance of spiritual direction
    They were really scratching their heads on this one and had a hard time figuring out why the Pope was concerned with a non-problem in this country.
    This tempest in a papal tea pot had more to do with the French Church. A biography of Father Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulists and now a Servant of God, was mistranslated into French and portrayed Father Hecker as some sort of flaming radical which he was not. This book became popular among liberal Catholics in France. As usual the relationship
    between the French Church and the Vatican was turbulent at this time. Pope Leo XIII’s concern about “Americanism” could have better been labeled a concern about “Frenchism”. Purportedly Leo XIII was reluctant to attack the Church in America, which he had often praised, and made his rebuke of “Americanism” as soft as possible.
    “We having thought it fitting, beloved son, in view of your high office, that this letter should be addressed specially to you. It will also be our care to see that copies are sent to the bishops of the United States, testifying again that love by which we embrace your whole country, a country which in past times has done so much for the cause of religion, and which will by the Divine assistance continue to do still greater things. To you, and to all the faithful of America, we grant most lovingly, as a pledge of Divine assistance, our apostolic benediction.”
    The statements of loyalty from the American heirarchy were sufficient for the Pope and “Americanism” vanished from history as quickly as it appeared.

  10. My favorite Archbishop Ireland quotes are “You’re not a real priest!” and “No Eastern Rite Liturgy!,” spoken to Father, now Saint, Alexis Toth, who thereupon led hundreds of thousands of Uniates back to the Orthodox faith (and became my parish‘s Patron Saint).

  11. Ah, the Orthodox,always willing to forgive and forget, in the true spirit of Christ! The problem for Eastern Rite Catholics in the U.S. was not a burst of ill-temper by Archbishop Ireland, but by the fact that their bishops in Europe failed to set up a structure of bishops for them in the U.S. or even stay in contact with their priests. The attitude of the Latin Rite bishops was not usually helpful, today the least, but the establishment of hierarchies in the U.S. for the Eastern Rite was the central issue.

  12. Don, I have to disagree. The establishment of hierarchies in the U.S. for the Eastern Rite was not the central issue, it was merely the resolution of the issue. The central issue was a lack of charity on the part of Latin rite bishops such as Ireland. To this day there are countries with Eastern rite parishes but without Eastern hierarchs, and Latin rite hierarchs substitute just fine for their Eastern brethren. For some reason Ireland did not see the Eastern rite bishops in Eastern Europe as brother bishops. The same can be said of Europe too, where the aftermath of the 1919-21 Polish-Soviet War saw Polish authorities arresting Ukrainian Catholic clergy because they wanted them to be Latinized. There seems to be no explanation other than xenophobia.

  13. “Ah, the Orthodox, always willing to forgive and forget, in the true spirit of Christ!”

    Now THAT I can agree with. I don’t blame the Orthodox for being angry about things like the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, but I hear crickets chirping when the subject of the Orthodox repression of the Copts in Egypt comes up, a persecution that led directly to the Islamic conquest. It turns out that demanding apologies are easier than issuing them.

  14. “The establishment of hierarchies in the U.S. for the Eastern Rite was not the central issue, it was merely the resolution of the issue.”

    Lack of charity there certainly was, but you have to understand the immense tasks that the Latin Rite Bishops had to perform. America was still very much of a mission territory where the Church overwhelmingly consisted of poor, immigrant populations. They had to build churches, schools and hospitals, often while confronting a hostile Protestant majority, while helping to lift ordinary Catholics out of poverty, and making sure they received the sacraments with a priest shortage that was always a pressing issue. Ethnic divisions within Latin Rite Catholics made the tasks no easier. Dealing with Eastern Rite Catholics, a task which should have fallen to their own bishops, was another headache they did not need. I blame the Vatican for not dealing with a situation where Eastern bishops were sorely needed.

  15. “Ethnic divisions within Latin Rite Catholics made the tasks no easier.”
    True enough. The conflicts between ethnic groups were very real, with nearly everyone resenting the Irish for their language advantage (i.e., most Irish did not need to learn English). Just recently an Eastern European in-law of mine described her neighbors from the same country but Eastern rite as “a bunch of drunks”. In the end it largely worked out, and that outcome seems to make the divisions and conflicts all the more unnecessary and painful.

  16. For a “phantom heresy” Americanism sure as heck won the day in this country and at Vatican II with JC Murray’s magnum opus, Dignitatis Humanae, which is quintessential Americanism and would probably have been applauded by Ireland and his ilk. Unfortunately, it doesn’t square with Catholic orthodoxy, a problem widely noted, not just by “traditionalists.” But I guess to those who cheer on such things because, well, “America!”, it’s comforting to suppose that Leo XIII was just an idiot who didn’t know what he was talking about or was misled, yadda yadda. You know, same thing liberals always say when the Popes condemn their ideas. Cf, the Modernist movement, which similarly was “shocked, shocked” that Pius X thought anything amiss.

  17. Tom, what you call Americanism simply is not what Leo XIII was writing about. You conflate Dignitatis Humananae of Vatican II with the phantom heresy and that is an ahistorical juxtaposition. I would add that the Catholic Church being in favor of religious liberty certainly makes common sense in a world where there are virtually no states willing to enforce Catholic orthodoxy on recalcitrant populations, a policy that in any case was often a disaster for the Church. I am not a big fan of much that was done at Vatican II, but Dignitatis Humananae was simply a long overdue reflection of current reality. A very thought provoking look at Dignitatis Humananae in light of the history of the Church by Professor Thomas Pink is linked below:


  18. Archbishop Ireland was WRONG in his words and deeds to Fr. Alexis Toth. There is no getting around that.

    Nevertheless, Fr. Toth was WRONG to take his flock and go join what is, in effect, a schismatic organization. The Church of Constantinople NEVER held the primary see of the Universal Church and its Archbishop was NEVER in charge in any way of the Universal Church. As a result of the Great Schism, the Church of Constantinople left itself open to heresies (remarriage after divorce!) and Constantinople fell under the control of Islam. We all know what has happened since then – divisions in Orthodoxy according to national lines and the constant squabbling between the Moscow Patriarch and the Patriarch of Constantinople.

    It was the Catholic Pope of Rome who put an end to the iconoclasm heresy that befell the Christian East – now known as the Triumph of Orthodoxy (really!)

    Fr. Toth was not the first Catholic priest to be treated like garbage by a Catholic bishop and he wasn’t the last one, either. I see his actions as taking countless Catholics out of the Church as nothing praiseworthy, to say the least.

    Pittsburgh was at the epicenter of the ban on married Eastern Catholic priests that began in the 1920s. Parishes and families were split – and some remain so. The Pope was wrong to enact that edict and the Catholics who ran to Orthodoxy were wrong, too. When something goes wrong in the Church, you stay and you fight and you make things right. Running away is chicken ****.

    The Latin Church has done a terrible job of educating its young about the history and the traditions of the Eastern Catholic Churches, but then the Latin Church has done a terrible job of educating its young about the Latin Church, too.

    Poland’s long and bitter history with Ukraine, Orthodoxy and the Ukrainian Catholics and the Ruthenian Catholics cannot be summed up easily or quickly. Poland has ALWAYS seen itself as a Western nation and saw the East as a bunch of barbarians. Given the way the Czars ran Russia and that the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the largest empires in Europe, if not the world (at that time), it’s easy to understand that viewpoint.

    Dr Rao is one of the writers of the Remnant. Dr. Rao goes off abut things, like Christopher Ferrara does about others, that make me think they have too much time on their hands and are guilty in their own way of wanting to establish a Utopia on Earth (or thinking the Habsburg Empire was just that). Tirades about Thanksgiving I find annoying, just like whining about the American Revolution rebelling against a “so-called legitimate” King George.

  19. Don, what you or I think might be an appropriate position for the Church on religious liberty is irrelevant. The fact is that the Church has never taught that error has rights in the public forum. DH apparently altered that perennial teaching, allowing for teaching and proselytization even in public, and discouraging the very recognition of the Social Kingship of Christ that you point out is rare. One reason it’s rare is that Ireland’s ideas won the day, and post Vatican II, the Holy See actively *discouraged* Catholic governments from according special privileges and protections to the Faith. Ireland and DH both hold the same error, that Truth is entitled to no special place in society, which should simply become a free market of ideas. This appeals to Americans, but is antithetical to Catholic teaching.

  20. “The fact is that the Church has never taught that error has rights in the public forum. DH apparently altered that perennial teaching, allowing for teaching and proselytization even in public, and discouraging the very recognition of the Social Kingship of Christ that you point out is rare.”

    Well it certainly teaches that now. I am somewhat concerned whenever there is an about face on Church teaching even when I think the new teaching is much better than the old teaching. The about face in this case is not completely one hundred percent. The Jews for example always were given toleration by the Church although that tolerance was grudging. The Church until Constantine never had the power to impose civil or criminal penalties on other religions and therefore tolerance was the de facto policy, albeit once again grudging. In the Crusader States, Islam was granted de facto tolerance by most of the Christian rulers with the grudging approval of the Church.

    I find it interesting that the most anti-Catholic countries these days, and where the Church is weakest, are precisely those countries that used to use the secular power to uphold the Church. Getting in bed with Caesar has always been a bad deal for the Church, as demonstrated by the hostility such alliances generate and the desire of Caesar to control the Church he is upholding.

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