Archbishop Corrigan’s Pastoral Letter of November 10, 1886
to be delivered at masses of November 21, 1886,
as published in the New York Freeman’s Journal and Catholic Register,
(motto: “Veritas Liberabit Vos! The Truth Will Make You Free!”)
for the week ending Saturday, November 27, 1886
available online at http://cuomeka.wrlc.org/items/show/106
The Pastoral Letter consists of four parts:
• Christian Education,
• Means of Promoting Piety,
• Ecclesiastical Discipline.
At least two, and arguably three, of these parts might have been responses to Henry George’s and Dr. Edward McGlynn’s positions. It was signed on November 10, 1886, eight days after the election.
The first section referred to Henry George’s ideas (without naming him), which Dr. McGlynn had supported, during George’s recent campaign for Mayor of New York City. The second, though, also was relevant to Dr. McGlynn as well; Dr. McGlynn, the pastor of New York City’s largest Roman Catholic parish, was a strong advocate of public schools, and had not established a parish school. The fourth section, on Ecclesiastical Discipline starts with a ruling that pew rents and other admission fees would no longer be collected, since attendance was an obligation.
See also Post & Leubuscher’s book, Henry George’s 1886 Campaign, online at http://henrygeorgethestandard.org, particularly Chapter IX, for more context on this. Henry George replied in detail to Archbishop Corrigan with a letter, dated December 7, which also appears in that chapter. (In September, 1891, Henry George wrote to Pope Leo XIII an open letter, published under the title The Condition of Labor, in response to his May encyclical, Rerum Novarum. The former is online at http://www.wealthandwant.com/HG/the_condition_of_labor.htm.)
This Pastoral letter is mentioned in Post & Leubuscher’s book, and in a number of issues of The Standard, but a transcription of the full letter is not widely available online.
ADDRESSED BY THE
ARCHBISHOP OF NEW YORK
Faithful of His Charge,
ON OCCASION OF THE
CELEBRATION OF THE FIFTH DIOCESAN SYNOD,
November 17th and 18th, 1886.
By the Grace of God and Favor of the Apostolic See,
Archbishop of New York,
to the Faithful of His Charge, Health and Benediction in the Lord:
Dearly Beloved Brethren:
The general laws of the Church prescribe that after a Provincial Council has been approved by the Holy See, Diocesan Synods shall be held throughout the Province, in order that the Decrees which the Bishops have enacted in common may be enforced by each, individually, within the limits of his own jurisdiction. The Fourth Provincial Council of New York having recently been returned from Rome with the sanction of the Sovereign Pontiff, a Synod of this Diocese became by the very fact necessary, apart from various other reasons which made its celebration desirable. Accordingly, on the 17th and 18th of November the Fifth Diocesan Synod of New York was held, in which the Decrees not only of the Provincial Council, but also of the late Plenary Council of Baltimore, were solemnly promulgated in the accustomed form of the Church. A digest of these laws, together with the Statutes adopted in preceding Synods and not subsequently recalled or modified, has been prepared for the convenience of the Rev. Clergy, and will be published in a few days. Meanwhile, as these Statutes, written in Latin, are not so accessible to the great body of the faithful, we have thought it advisable, dear Brethren and beloved children in Jesus Christ, to bring to your notice such portions of this legislation as it may be useful for you to know, in order that, knowing the law, you may labor all the more earnestly for its observance, and that the end proposed in convoking the Synod — the glory of God and the welfare of souls — may be more abundantly and efficaciously attained.
For the sake of clearness and convenience, the points to which attention is specially directed may be grouped under the following heads: Faith, Christian Education, Means of Promoting Piety, Ecclesiastical Discipline.
No virtue is more necessary, dear Brethren, than the virtue of divine Faith. “It is the foundation of all that is good,” writes St. Augustine; “the beginning of man’s salvation.” “It is the root of all virtues,” says St. Bonaventure, “without which the other virtues wither and die.” “Where it is found whole and entire,” continues St. Ambrose, “there our Saviour teacheth, keepeth watch and ward, exulteth; there is rest, and peace, and a universal remedy.” “Without faith,” says the Holy Spirit, “it is impossible to please God.”
While it is not the office of diocesan synods, not even of provincial councils, to make definitions of Faith, or decide authoritatively controverted questions on which the Holy See has not spoken, yet it is the right and duty of the bishop, under the supreme leadership of the Sovereign Pontiff, to guard the deposit of Faith, and especially when the Holy Father has pointed out the way, to lead his flock to wholesome pastures and guard them from poison. Like the sentinel on the ramparts of a city under siege, a highly important duty of a Bishop’s office is to be quick in discerning dangerous movements and prompt in sounding timely alarm. Therefore we commend you, Brethren, to be zealously on your guard against certain unsound principles and theories which assail the rights of property. They are loudly proclaimed in our day, and are espoused by many who would not wilfully advocate what is wrong. It is the fair-seeming of those theories which captivates the minds of many, inasmuch as they abound in promise of large benefit to those who are in sorest need. The distress of the poor is to be relieved, and the burden of the toiler lightened — results which the Church, with a true mother’s love, would most gladly see accomplished whenever and wherever just means are used to reach the desired end. But the Church is not the fickle creature of a day, apt to be caught by specious theories, or ready to change her course with capricious unsteadiness. She is the guardian of God’s unchanging truth, and the dispenser of the treasures of His wisdom; and her office, in her long and glorious march down the ages, has always been, in spite of fierce attack from without, or base treachery from within, to save the true from all alliance with the false — gathering the one to her loving embrace and smiting the other with her malediction. Hers is the noble task not only of directing the actions of mankind, but also of guiding their very thoughts; because she never is unmindful that thought is the parent of action, and that sound principles are the only solid foundation for pure morality. Hence, when any thought finds a welcome abode in the mind, and becomes so clear to him who harbors it as to shape itself into a principle, it is a duty to scan closely its character and its bearing, and to trace its possible course from the quiet haven of the mind to the open main of public fact. However fair or shapely or attractive it may seem to the unwary, it should not be accepted by the prudent unless it is formed of elements that are altogether sound and pure. A flaw in a foundation represents a proportionate insecurity in the building raised upon it.
Starting from these premises, which no sane man can deny, we invite you to consider in their light the principles about the rights of property against which we deem it our solemn duty to give you some words of warning.
First of all, you must understand in its true sense the statement that “all men are born equal.” It does not mean that one man may not ever surpass others in power of mind, or strength of body, or beauty of form; since it is a well established fact that no two men are exactly alike in all respects. All men are, indeed, equal in that they are all destined to the same ultimate end, have the same essence, endowed with the same faculties wherewith to attain that end. Each one has the faculties of sensation and understanding for the purposes of animal and intellectual life. Each one has the grand endowment of free-will, with the power to raise both animal and intellectual life to the dignity of the moral order, by directing the whole being and his deeds towards his supreme end — which is God. This power and freedom in directing his actions towards their last end are the essential rights of man.
Now, just as, by training, a man may bring the faculties of sense and understanding to higher stages of excellence, whilst in essence they remain the same, so, too, may a man, by care and industry, bring his moral faculties to a wider range and a fuller development of power and activity, without their ceasing to be his rights. For right may be defined as “the moral faculty which each one has for what is his or what is due to him.” And beyond all doubt every man has a perfect right to all the means necessary for him to reach his last end. Besides, as everything else in the world has for its end to subserve the uses of man, he is in consequence entitled to their use in pursuing his destiny. Wherefore, to prove that a man has a right to any particular object in God’s universe, we need only prove that such object is necessary to him in relation to his last end, or even useful provided the rights of others are respected. This truth once established, the rest of mankind must acknowledge that right, and are bound in conscience to pay it the duty of respect. Hence, although it is hotly debated nowadays whether or not man can have the right of property or ownership in land, you must not be led by abuses however flagrant, or by theories however specious, to run the risk of embracing falsehood for truth. Aim, first of all, at having a clear idea of what is meant by the right of property. It is, then, the moral faculty of claiming an object as one’s own, and of disposing both of the object and its utility according to one’s own will, without any rightful interference on the part of others. It is universally admitted that man has a right to the use of certain things, but that any man can acquire the right to possess a thing as his own, to the exclusion of others, is sometimes vehemently denied. And among the plausible reasons brought forward in support of this denial is the allegation that, all being equal, no man has a right to exclude others who have rights as strong as his; not from the free air of Heaven, not from the clear light of day, not (they add) from the earth and its farm lands.
Undoubtedly God made the earth for the use of all mankind; but whether the possession thereof was to be in common, or by individual ownership, was left for reason to determine. Such determination, judging from the facts of history, the sanction of law, from the teaching of the wisest and the actions of the best and bravest of mankind, has been, and is, that man can, by lawful acts, become possessed of the right of ownership of property, and not merely in its use. The reason is because a man is strictly entitled to that of which he is the producing cause, to the improvement he brings about in it, and the enjoyment of both. But it is clear that in a farm, for instance, which one has, by patient toil improved in value; in a block of marble out of which one has chiselled a perfect statue, he cannot fully enjoy the improvement he has caused unless he have also the right to own the subject thus improved. He has a strict right — and evil are the laws and systems which ignore it — either to ownership and enjoyment or to a full compensation for the improvement which is his. To strive to base an argument against ownership in land by reasoning on the universal distribution of air and light is only a freak of the imagination. Human industry cannot scatter a cloud from before the face of the sun, nor lift a fog that might be freighted with damaging vapours; we take the air and the light as God gives them, and we owe Him thanks for His bounty. It was only the earth which fell under the primeval curse when man had sinned, and only the earth, not the air or light, which man’s industrious toil can coax back to something like its original fruitfulness. When he has done so, his just reward is to enjoy the results without hindrance from others. Even in such a necessary, abundant, and free commodity as water, if a man, by artificial means, congeals a portion of it into ice, is he not entitled to enjoy its exclusive ownership? Can he not demand for it with justice a compensation equivalent to his industry? Once deny the right of ownership and you sow the seed of stagnation in human enterprise. Who would burrow the earth to draw forth its buried treasures if the very mine he was working were at the mercy of the passer-by whom its riches might attract? Who would watch with eagerness the season when to sow and to reap, and to gather the harvest which is the very fruit of his labours, if he is told that those who stand by the wayside idle are equally entitled to its enjoyment?
True, indeed, in many painful instances the rights of the toiler are trampled on, and fruits of his labor snatched from his grasp. True, this is done too frequently with the concurrence, or at least the connivance, of law. This is the evil that needs redress, but such redress can never be brought about by denying a fundamental right or by perpetrating a radical wrong. Seek rather for redress of such irksome grievances by the wise methods which the Church of Christ is forever teaching, though her voice may pass unheeded by the great ones of the earth. How wisely does our Holy Father Pope Leo XIII. touch with a master hand the dangerous theories against which we warn you! In his Encyclical Quod apostolici muneris, the Vicar of Christ says of these whose errors he condemns:
“They assail the right of property, which is sanctioned by the natural law; and, by a stupendous crime, while they seem to provide for the wants of men and to satisfy their wishes, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired, either by lawful inheritance, or by labour of brain and hands, or by one’s own economy.
They do not, indeed, cease to repeat, as we have intimated, that all men are by nature equal one with another. According, on the contrary, to the teaching of the gospel, the equality of men is this: that, having all of them received the same nature, they are called to the same exalted dignity of the sons of God; as also that one and the same end being appointed to all, each is to be judged by the same law, receiving reward or punishment according to his desert. But inequality in authority and power flows from the very Author of nature, ‘of whom all paternity is named in heaven and on earth.’ . . . But Catholic wisdom, based on the precepts of natural and Divine law, provides most carefully for public and domestic tranquillity by the principles which she holds and teaches regarding the right of ownership and the division of goods required for the needs and uses of life. For while Socialists traduce the law of property as a human invention repugnant to the natural equality of men, and, desiring a community of goods, hold that poverty should not be endured with a contented mind, the Church, much better and usefully recognizes the inequality that exists among men, who differ by nature in strength of body and mind, as they do in worldly possessions, and commands that the right of property and ownership, derived from nature itself, be held intact by all and inviolate. . . . Yet not on that account does their loving Mother neglect the case of the poor, or cease to take thought for their necessities; nay, embracing them with maternal affection, and knowing well that they bear the likeness of Christ Himself, Who considers a kindness done to the least of His poor as done to Himself, holds them in great honor, assists them in every way she can, provides homes and hospitals in all parts of the earth for their reception, nourishment, and care, and takes them under her own loving guardianship. With the very strongest precepts she urges the rich to give of their superabundance to the poor, and holds over them the Divine judgment, that unless they succor the wants of the needy they shall be punished with everlasting tortures. Finally, she vehemently comforts and consoles the minds of the poor, whether by putting before them the example of Christ, Who, although He was rich, for our sake became poor; or by recalling His words in which He proclaimed the poor blessed, and bade them hope for the reward of eternal happiness.
Now who does not know that this is the best way of settling this struggle of long standing between the poor and the rich? For, as the very evidence of thought and fact proves to demonstration, if this basis of settlement be set aside or rejected, one of two things must happen: either the greater part of the human race will fall back into the basest condition of slavery which long prevailed among the Pagans, or human society is to be shaken by continual disturbances, afflicted by thefts and robberies, such as we grieve to have occurred even in our own days.”
These luminous words of the Holy Father need no comment. Accept his supreme teaching, dear Brethren, with the loving docility that becomes dutiful children, and give no ear to those, whoever they may be, who preach a different Gospel.
The question of Christian Education is one which may be said to have reached a new stage of existence, and to present itself under a new aspect. After listening to the emphatic declarations of the Sovereign Pontiffs, and the repeated and earnest warnings of the entire Catholic Episcopate, after becoming familiar with the convincing and exhaustive arguments so often made on the subject, and noting the plain teachings of dally experience, we can no longer ask ourselves: SHALL we provide Catholic schools for our children? But the only question is: How can this be most efficiently accomplished?
The Plenary Council has mapped out definite rules for our guidance on this subject, as follows:
First. Wherever there is a Catholic church and resident pastor, there also, within two years from the promulgation of the Council, except only in cases of extreme difficulty, of which the Bishop shall be the judge, a Catholic school shall be erected, if one is not already established.
Secondly. These schools must be made as efficient as possible. Competent teachers, consequently, shall be provided. To their competency a Board of Examiners, duly formed and appointed. will bear witness, by awarding diplomas, to hold good for a longer or shorter term of years, according, to merit. For the future no new teacher may be employed in any of our parish or church schools without previously passing a satisfactory examination before the Board, and obtaining the prescribed certificate of ability.
Thirdly. As mere knowledge on the part of the teacher is not sufficient to guarantee proficiency on the part of the pupil, the rector of the mission is required to visit and inspect all the departments of his school at least once a week. Moreover, a Board of Visitors will also make a tour of inspection, once or twice a year, in order to test thoroughly the standing and efficiency of every school in the Diocese, and to submit to the Bishop an official report of its condition.
The faithful observance of these regulations will entail heavy expense and many personal sacrifices. In obedience to the law of the Council, it will be necessary, first of all, to build many Parish Schools in the immediate future, and this, too, in spite of the fact that many of our churches are still heavily laden with debt. But you will readily call to mind, dear Brethren, the noble example lately given by Catholic Belgium; and your own zeal for the faith and for the welfare of your children will never permit it to be said of you that you shrank back in dismay from the fulfillment of your duty. In 1879 a law was passed in Belgium which made it imperative for Catholics to build schools of their own. Within a year, wherever the Government had a school, there, side by side with it, was seen the new Parish school in full operation. A generous enthusiasm pervaded the whole country. Many wealthy citizens built and equipped schools from their private resources; in other cases the people collected from house to house, or poured in their contributions to pious associations expressly organized for this purpose, so that the new schools had everywhere from 75 to 95 percent of the school population; and Belgium, that long ago sent Godfrey de Bouillon and other noble leaders to the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre, showed that its children, “the sons of the Crusaders,” are still ready to make heroic sacrifices for the Preservation of the Faith. We doubt not, dear Brethren, that what was accomplished in Belgium may also, as far as circumstances require, be done in the United States. We doubt not that, under the inspiring exhortations of your Pastors, your zeal will urge you to fulfill your entire duty in this all-important matter. “Therefore,” says the Third Plenary Council, we not only affectionately exhort Catholic parents, but, with all our authority, we command them to impart a truly Christian and Catholic education to their beloved offspring — given to them by God, born again in baptism to Christ, and destined for the Kingdom of Heaven. . . . All Catholic parents are bound to send their children to the Parochial Schools, unless due provision is otherwise made for their Christian education, either at home or in other Catholic schools, or, again, unless, with the proper safeguards and cautions, there be a sufficient reason, approved by the Bishop, for sending them elsewhere.” Once more, after directing the clergy to regard their schools “as the apple of their eye,” the Council, turning to the laity, continues: “We exhort and prescribe that they be so instructed by the Bishop and their Pastors to look on the Parish School as an essential part of the Parish, without which the very existence of the Parish in future will be imperilled. Let them, therefore, be taught clearly and convincingly that the school is by no means a work of supererogation, taken up as an outlet for the overflowing zeal of the Priest, or as a pleasant and proper occupation, but a burden and a duty laid by the Church on the Priest, and by him to be faithfully taken up and carried, but not without the aid of the laity. And let no less zeal and prudence be employed to root out the false idea that interest in the school belongs only to those whose children attend it; but rather let the clergy show, as they easily may, that the benefits to fait and morals, flowing from the Parish Schools, redound to the good of the whole community. After the church, then, let the faithful assign the place of honor to the school as a most powerful factor in the preservation of faith and morals, and as the nursery of youth, destined to prove later to us all a source of joy and consolation.”
The duty of providing for Christian education, which devotes its first attention to Parish Schools, is appropriately carried on through the higher Schools, Academies, and Colleges, through the Preparatory and Theological Seminary until it culminates in the University. Wise rules, now in force in this Diocese, have been made, providing a longer and a better course of studies for our ecclesiastical students, in that, entering on the self sacrificing and life-long duties of the Mission, they may approach their great work more thoroughly prepared and instructed. Even after Ordination their sacred studies will not be intermitted; annual examinations will continue for a term of years; Theological Conferences, attended by them as by the rest of the Clergy, will keep alive the flame of learning, and competitive examinations will henceforth be enjoined as a condition for obtaining the more honorable and important Parishes.
MEANS OF PROMOTING PIETY.
In every well-planned system of education, the training of the head and the training of the heart go hand in hand. “Learning without piety,” wrote St. Isidore, of Seville, in the seventeenth century, “makes a man self-conceited; piety without learning makes him useless.” Hence ecclesiastical legislators in this country aim at obtaining for youth both knowledge and piety by providing competent and devoted teachers in the Brothers and Sisters who mainly direct our Parish Schools. Of their devotion to their work, and the silent but steady and efficacious influence which their lives produce on the hearts of their pupils, this is not the place to speak; nor is it necessary, dear Brethren, as your own observation leads you to appreciate their labors. St. John Chrysostom says, “Nobler than the work of the sculptor whose chisel brings forth beauty from the marble block, or the painter whose genius makes the canvas breathe, is the art of those who mould, and fashion, and gild with virtue the living soul.” Such is the work of our devoted teachers.
Our Religion, however, is not based on sentiment, but on dogmas contained in revealed truth, bound together in order and harmony, and forming a large but compact body of doctrine. Careful and patient instruction in Christian doctrine is consequently of prime importance, and hence the Reverend Clergy have the duty not merely of watching over the Sunday Schools of Christian doctrine, but also of frequenting the Parish Schools during the week, and superintending the Catechetical instructions. Next, for an entire year before admitting children to their First Communion, the Clergy will explain the Catechism to them once a week, and three times a week for at least a month and a half immediately preceding the First Communion. Again, for two years subsequent to that solemn event the children are required to attend the classes of Catechism, that early impressions may become lasting, and that the revealed truths already committed to memory may be more fully developed and more clearly understood. In the same spirit, and also bccause so many of the faithful, for various reasons, are unable to be present at the sermon during High Mass, the Synod, following the injunction of the Provincial and the Plenary Councils, orders that short instructions, not less than five nor more than fifteen minutes, even including the reading of the Gospel and the announcement be given at all the Masses on Sundays and Holydays.
With the same view, the formation of Parochial Libraries is also earnestly recommended, that all may have within easy reach a number of good and solid books of instruction, to be used as occasion may require. Private or family reading of this kind, at suitable times, like the gentle shower which comes to refresh the parched surface of the earth, will be found to be of great benefit and advantage.
Piety is promoted, moreover, by the cultivation of home life and its duties. As the Pastoral Letter of the Plenary Council has dwelt at length on this topic, it will be sufficient at present to refer you to its earnest words of advice and exhortation. The love of home and making home the centre of innocent recreations and family reunions will have the effect of shielding or withdrawing many from the occasions of danger found too often in the saloon, the club, the gambling-table, or in questionable places of amusement. Under this head the Synod notes also the avoidance of theatres — not of all indiscriminately, but of such as violate the laws of Christian modesty — of drinking to excess, the profanation of the Sunday. As a check and safeguard against the last-mentioned evil, family attendance at High Mass, according to the time-honored practice of our parents, is earnestly recommended. Let the services begin promptly, be devout and attractive, and the faithful will not fail to attend in large numbers.
In speaking of family devotions, we cannot refrain from recommending once more the pious practice so earnestly insisted on by our Holy Father — the recitation, namely, in the family circle, of the Holy Rosary. It is a powerful means of fostering love to Our Blessed Lord, and His Virgin Mother; it is an efficacious help to the preservation of Divine Faith. Two hundred years ago, when the last Catholic missionaries disappeared from Japan, they left the Rosary as a precious legacy to their sorrowing disciples, with the trust and conviction that devotion to this compendium of the Gospel would keep alive attachment to the Christian religion. For two hundred years no Catholic priest was suffered to set foot in Japan, yet within our own memory, when our missionaries were again permitted to penetrate to Nagasaki, they found eight thousand Christians anxious to meet them, and still reciting the holy names of Jesus and Mary in the loving mysteries of the Rosary.
As in the natural order the atmosphere is purified at times even by the tempest, so in the spiritual order the Almighty, besides the ordinary course of His Providence, has other means, too, of awakening dull consciences and reanimating fervor. One of the means suggested by the Council and commended by the Synod is the course of special spiritual exercises commonly known as “Missions.” These exercises are recommended to be held every three or four years. Experience teaches their beneficial results in reviving piety and bringing back to the practice of their Christian duties those who have become careless and negligent. It is not merely gleaning after the ordinary reapers pass by, or gathering in what otherwise might be lost, but a good Mission inflames the piety of all and stimulates the whole parish to greater zeal and fidelity.
Missions, therefore, will be regularly given in future, at stated intervals according to circum- stances, and with the suggestions and precautions recommended by the Second Plenary Council, to make them more effective and their good results more lasting. Lastly, that no one may be overlooked, the visitation of the parish by the clergy is prescribed, and a census of souls is to be taken at least once in two years. By this means the zealous pastor will be enabled to ascertain the spiritual wants of his flock, to make suitable provision for them, verifying in his own case the words of the Supreme Shepherd of our souls: “I know mine, and mine know me.”
Under the head of Ecclesiastical Discipline attention is called to the fact that the Sovereign Pontiff desires that an abuse which has unfortunately existed, in some isolated cases, in this country, be utterly done away with — the practice, namely of charging for admittance to churches on Sundays or other days of obligation. It is true that where the practice prevailed the entrance fee also gave a right to a seat, and that it is not more unlawful, other things being equal, to pay for a seat Sunday after Sunday than to pay pew-rent by the quarter or by the year. But it is an incongruity, to say the least, to require attendance at Mass and the payment of money in order to fulfill that necessary duty. Hence, in obedience to the wishes of the Holy Father, it is provided that in every church of this diocese a certain free space be set apart for the convenience and accommodation of those who do not choose to occupy seats; and it is positively commanded that the objectionable custom in question, if it exist anywhere in this Diocese, be given up forthwith and entirely abolished.
Another important point ot discipline regards the celebration of Marriage. To us Catholics, Matrimony is one of the seven Sacraments of the New Law, a type of the indissoluble union between Christ and the Church, and, for those who receive it worthily, a channel of divine grace. Therefore, says the Apostle, arguing from this typical and sublime exemplar, “as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands; and let husbands love their wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it, that He might sanctivy it, and that it should be holy and without blemish.’’ Hence St. Paul imposes on all married Christians, without distinction, the burden of super-natural love, fidelity, and obedience; and consequently, as these duties are imposed on all from the very fact of their union in Christian Marriage, so also from the very fact ought the means be given to all to fulfill such obligations, as otherwise the precept would be unreasonable. The Church, consequently, knowing the mind of Christ from the beginning, has ever taught the sacramental dignity of Marriage.
Now, the proper place for receiving the Sacraments is undoubtedly the House of God, specially blessed and set apart for sacred uses. The injunction, therefore, of the last Synod is promulgated anew in the present — namely, that the celebration of Marriage between Catholics must not take place in private houses, but in church, before the altar. At the same time, the recommendation of the Nuptial Mass is renewed, as apart from Mass the Nuptial Blessing may not be given.
Regarding mixed marriages the case is different, and their celebration in church is not granted, because we are not permitted to hold communion in sacred rites with those not of our own faith. Neither, in such cases, is a second celebration of Marriage permissible, whether the Catholic ceremony precede or follow; and it is important that the motive of this prohibition be properly understood. According to the Catholic teaching, the contracting parties, by the words whereby they take each other for man and wife, not only make a contract but also become the ministers of a Sacrament. Even according to the civil law Marriage is a contract entered into by the contracting parties, and equally binding whether made in the presence of a minister of the Gospel or any authorized magistrate. As the religious ceremony is recognized as valid and effectual in law, no second ceremony can add to its force, any more than a second deed of property can render more effectual a deed already validly signed and delivered. A deed of confirmation may indeed be executed to cover any real or supposed defect in the original transfer, but in the cure under consideration, as the provision is already made in advance that the contract of Marriage is valid before any minister of the Gospel, no such flaw can be asserted. A second ceremony, therefore, is a mockery, or, to say the least, an unintentional act of irreverence. For the Catholic party it is a sacrilege, just as if a Christian already validly baptized would a second time demand the waters of baptism. For all it is an unnecessary repetition, as if a citizen, already naturalized and legally acknowledged as such, should a second time ask for his papers of naturalization.
More than this, Matrimony is not merely a contract and a sacrament, but a contract that may be broken only by death. “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” To guard, then, both in its inception, and in its duration, the sacredness of the marriage tie — which, as pertaining to the sacramental order, belongs properly to ecclesiastical jurisdiction — the Plenary Council has decreed, and the Diocesan Synod reaffirms, the sentence of excommunication, first, against any Catholic who shall contract Marriage before a non-Catholic clergyman; secondly, against those who, during the lifetime of their legitimate husband or wife respectively, even though the sentence of a civil divorce have been previously obtained, shall attempt a second Marriage. In order, furthermore, to prevent as far as possible any such crime while the first lawful husband or wife is still alive, the Synod orders all parties contemplating Marriage, particularly if not personally known to the officiating clergyman, to present proper certificates that they have not been previously married, or that their former partner is no longer alive.
As the Council recommends the celebration of Marriage with Mass, according to time-honored and most ancient custom, so also for the same reason it desires that after their mortal pilgrimage the faithful be laid to rest with the balm of pious prayers and the offering of the Holy Sacrifice. In the Ninth Book of his Confessions, St, Augustine touchingly describes the last illness of his sainted mother, and records her dying words: “Lay this body anywhere; let it not be a care to you; this only I ask of you, that you would remember me at God’s Altar wherever you be.” And then, after the end came, he describes the funeral, adding: “When the body was removed we returned tearless to our home; for I did not weep even during the prayers we prayed to Thee, as the Sacrifice of our redemption was offered for her, according to the usual custom.”
To keep up this venerable tradition, provision is made in the Synod for the offering of a Low Mass — in case the expense of a High Mass cannot easily be borne — on the day of interment, in the presence of the remains, on all days of the year except the most important festivals.
As death is the wages of sin, and none may stand at the dread tribunal of Christ save as suppliants for His great mercy, the Synod discountenances vain pomp and display at funerals, and therefore forbids the general use of flowers, the showing of the remains in the church, and also, in conformity with a recent Decree of the Holy See, the use of cremation. In concluding this subject a word may be added to state the actual legislation regarding cemeteries.
First, burial in consecrated ground is the wish and the custom of the Church.
Secondly, the remains of relatives and of kindred, even though not Catholics, may be interred in family vaults or plots in our cemeteries; as, on the other hand, in the case of converts, interment, with all the rites and last honors of the Church, is allowed in burial-places of the family.
Thirdly, plots purchased in non-Catholic cemeteries either before the year 1853, when the prohibitory law was enacted in the First Plenary Council, or since that time, if made in good faith, may be used by Catholics, with all the usual funeral rites and ceremonies. Apart from these exceptions, the general law of the Church is to be observed.
Finally, in accordance with the decrees of the Plenary Council, six clergyman have been named to assist the Archbishop in the administration of the Diocese by their advice and counsel — namely: Mgr. Quin, Mgr. Preston, Mgr. Farley, Very Rev. James Dougherty, Rev. Dr. McSweeny, and Rev. A. J. Donnelly.
Three Deans have also been appointed, namely: the Very Rev. Patrick Egan for the counties of Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess; the Very Rev. James Dougherty for the counties of Sullivan and Ulster; the Very Rev. Joseph F. Mooney for the counties of Orange and Rockland.
The following clergymen have been appointed Missionary Rectors — viz.: the Rector of St. Peter’s church, Barclay Street: St. Patrick’s, Mulberry street; St. Mary’s, Grand street, St. James, James street; St. Joseph’s, Sixth avenue; St. Teresa’s, Henry street; St. Bridget’s, Avenue B: the Immaculate Conception, East Fourteenth street; St. Michael’s, West Thirty-first street; St. Gabriel’s, East Thirty-seventh street; the Immaculate Conception, Yonkers; St. Patrick’s, Newburgh; and St. Peters, Poughkeepsie.
The Rev. Dr. Burtsell has been named Defender of the Matrimonial Bond in matrimonial cases; the Rev. James H. McGean, Official of the Diocese, or Promotor Fiscalis, in Ecclesiastical Trials; the Rev. Dr. Brann, Censor Librorum.
The following clergymen have been deputed to act as the Diocesan Board of Examiners: Rev. Doctors Gabriels, Burtsell, McSweeny; Rev. Messrs. McCready, Mooney, Schwenniger, Murphy, S. J., Searle, C. S. P., Kirner, P. S. M.; and the following as the Examiners of Teachers: Right Rev. Mgr. Preston, V. G., Rev. Messrs. Edwards, Kearney, McGean, Kesseler, and Tonner. The Board of Visitors will consist of Right Rev. Mgr. Farley, Rev. Messrs. J. J. Dougherty, G. Healy, P. McSweeny, N. Hughes, Rev. Fathers O’Connor, S. J., Colonel, C. SS. R., Vorwerk, O. M. Cap., for the city and Staten Island.
For the country: Very Rev. P. Egan, Rev. Messrs. Nilan, Lings, and Corkery. Very Rev. J. F. Mooney, Rev. Messrs, Prendergast, Baxter, and Penny. Very Rev. J. Dougherty, Rev. Messrs. O’Flynn, Edward McKenna, and Siegelack.
It only remains, dear Brethren, that we give thanks to Our Lord for His gracious aid in conducting the Synod to a happy conclusion, and that we earnestly beg His blessing on our future labors. And may the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be always with you.
Given in New York, this 10th day of November, and to be read at all the Masses on Sunday, November 21st, and the succeeding Sundays, according to convenience.
Archbishop of New York.
C. E. McDonnell,