History of The Polish Catholic Church In America
Though not always successful in reaching their goal, the Polish clergy, nevertheless, occupy an important place in Polish immigration to the United States. They not only attracted other ecclesiastics but in addition acquainted laymen in Europe with America, thus giving stimulus to a movement that eventually grew into an avalanche.
Father Joseph Dabrowski, whose merits have hardly penetrated outside the Polish group, came to the United States in 1870.62 For twelve years he devoted himself to the care of several Polish colonies in Wisconsin. In 1882, he came to Detroit where he began his duties as pastor of St. Albertus. His horizon, however, stretched far beyond. From his knowledge of the racial characteristics of his countrymen in America, and his wide grasp of their religious and social needs, he was convinced that their future welfare lay in the building up of an American, born, American trained priesthood of their own nationality.
With the approval of Pope Leo XIII, Father Dabrowski began the building of SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Detroit. The cornerstone was laid July 27, 1885, and the completed structure was dedicated by Bishop Borgess on December 16, 1886.
Father Dabrowski died on February 15, 1903. During his years as rector of the institution, which he had founded, he touched many lives. He was an eloquent preacher, a warm friend and father to his students, and a wise counselor to priests and bishops. Often anguished, but always submissive, free of rancor and deeply devout, he was a noble character full of holy enthusiasms for the cause of God and his Church. Because Father Dabrowski was proud of his Polish heritage he never received recognition nor appointments in the Roman Catholic Church in America.63
Brother Augustine Zeyts, an exile from Russian occupied Poland, arrived in the United States on December 10, 1872.64 His mission soon became clear. The mining town Polish and Lithuanian immigrants in the Shenandoah Valley of Pennsylvania desperately needed spiritual help. They had been tinged with anticlericalism in Europe. In America, because of the lack of priests and religious, many had not received the sacraments or attended Mass for years. There was little or no religious instruction.
Brother Augustine Zeyts worked in the coalmines of Blossburg, Pennsylvania, to obtain sustenance for himself while striving to save the faith of Polish and Lithuanian immigrants in the United States. He also, aided by his educational training in philosophy, theology, and medicine, translated religious articles from German into Polish and Lithuanian. He likewise conducted religious services, instructed the children, encouraged the lapsed to return to the practice of their faith, and even provided what medical assistance he could.
Brother Zeyts returned to Europe in 1880 to propose to his superiors the foundation of a Franciscan monastery to provide for the spiritual welfare of Polish and Lithuanian immigrants. But it was six years before he could obtain the approval of the Franciscan Minister General in Rome. On his return to the United States, Brother Augustine announced his plan to the leading Polish newspapers and was offered several sites. He selected the 129 acre plot offered by John J. Hof of Milwaukee, in the marshy countryside 17 miles northwest of Green Bay, Wisconsin, near a tiny Polish community named Pulaski. On April 19, 1887, the Holy See approved the new foundation.
62 Rev. Joseph Dabrowski was born in Russian-Poland in 1842. As a university student he was prominently identified with Poland's struggle against Russian domination, and was forced to take refuge in Germany. He later continued his studies in Rome, where he was ordained in 1869.
63 The Polish Seminary, as it is familiarly called in Michigan, has been since its foundation the only institution of its kind in the United States. The need for expansion led to the purchase in 1909 of the site and buildings of the Michigan Military Academy at Orchard Lake, and in the following year the Seminary abandoned its original buildings for the new location. Under the rectorship of Monsignor Michael Grupa, beginning in 1917, the institution widened its scope by including a college department distinct from the Seminary, and not restricted to candidates for the priesthood.
64 After the unsuccessful Polish uprising in 18'63, Russia instituted fierce repressive measures. Monasteries were not allowed to accept new members and when the number of friars fell to seven the monastery was confiscated by the Russian government. This happened to Brother Zeyts' monastery.
Brother Zeyts' constant flow of letters to Franciscan communities in Europe resulted in the arrival of three priests and a lay brother in April of 1888. The difficulties of the first few years were tremendous, and nearly resulted at times in the dissolution of the project. Brother Zeyts devoted a vast amount of time, energy, and emotion to the work of the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province in Pulaski, Wisconsin. The order played a vital role in the evolvement and improvement of Catholic life in the United States. On its 75th anniversary, observed in 1962, the order numbered 500 Friars in 12 states and the Philippines. The headquarters at Assumption Monastery, Pulaski, Wisconsin, has 211 priests, 185 brothers, and 105 major seminarians.65
Reverend Karol W. Strzelec, who was born in Russian Poland, on October I, 1869, reached the United States in June 1893. From the Polish Baptist Mission in Buffalo, New York, he was recommended to Rochester Theological Seminary in 1894. After five years of preparation, Rev. Strzelec was ordained by the First Polish Baptist Church of Buffalo, New York, to the ministry .66 The first five years of his active service in the Kingdom of Christ were spent in Detroit, Michigan and Pound, Wisconsin. In each of these two places, he organized congregations. During his career, he organized four congregations, accepted nearly 400 Polish converts and built three churches. He is the first Polish Protestant writer on religious, social, and patriotic topics in the United States. He also organized the Polish department of the National Baptist Seminary Theological School and has proved himself a successful teacher and writer. His poems and stories were well received by young people.
Although dispersed over a broad geographical area, the tendency toward ethnic concentration was apparent in the generation after the Civil War. In 1870, there were some 50,000 Poles and ten Catholic parishes in America. By 1875, the number had reached 100,000 Poles and fifty parishes in some three hundred communities. By 1889, there were approximately 800,000 Poles settled in the area east of the Mississippi River and north of the Ohio River and of the Mason and Dixon's line. Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, and Milwaukee, in addition to Chicago, had become important Polish centers as early as 1880. Wisconsin had the largest number of Polish settlements, but Chicago had the largest population.
In 1890, there were in this country 147,440 persons born in Poland; in 1900 there were 383,407. In 1890, the three Atlantic States of New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts had 34.6 per cent of the natives of Poland in the country; in 1900, they had 43.8 per cent. These three States, together with three interior States of Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, had 76.9 per cent in 1890, and 77.2 per cent in 1900. The three interior States had 42.1 per cent in 1890, and 33.4 per cent in 1900.67
In the South Polish settlements were never numerous. The clannishness, which produced the Polish communities, manifested itself also in the character of immigrant institutions. Polish churches, schools, and newspapers, as well as fraternal and benevolent associations were established. In developing their associative life the immigrants maintained their national identity, which strengthened their sense of belonging to a special community. They shared a common cultural background in Poland.
67 Prescott F. Hall, Immigration and Its Effects Upon the United States, (New York: 1913), p. 92.
65 Msgr. John B. Ebel. "Mined Coal to Found Order." The Register. (December 9, 1962), p. 7
66 During his school years, Rev. Strzelec was generously supported by George Parks of Buffalo, New York. Parks, who saw Rev. Strzelec in a dream gathering stones for a new building, explained to himself the vision symbolically. Inspired by this explanation of the dream Parks influenced Rev. Strzelec by his promise to support him. According to Rev. Strzelec, "Mr. Parks' living faith and Christ-like gentleness have been, and will be always the motive of my inspiration. Rev. Karol W. Strzelec, The Burning Bush-Trials and Hope of the Polish People, (Chicago: 1917), p. 34.
Even though the social stratification in Poland was rigid and uni-linear, in America there was a certain amount of intermingling among the Polish aristocrats and political exiles, who possessed considerable measure of general education and culture, with the underprivileged yeomen and landless peasants.
Homesickness and disappointment renewed tender feelings for, and sustained special interest in their old homeland. Most important, language barriers kept the immigrants isolated as an ethnic group. In relatively few cases did the peasants acquire sufficient command of English to feel at home in organizations outside their own American Polish community. Dissatisfied with existing leisure activities, they were also unwilling to depend upon others for corrective measures. The various mutual aid societies were at first organized on the basis of local or regional affiliation, but in time they federated along the lines of nationality. In this way there developed bodies like the Polish Roman Catholic Union (1873), the Polish National Alliance (1880), the Alliance of Poles (1895), the Polish Women's Alliance (1898) and the Association of the Sons of Poland (1903) .68
68 Joseph A. Wytrwal. America's Polish Heritage, pp. 148-190.
During the 1880's immigration accounted for an increase of 604,000 to the Catholic Church in America. In the decade of the 1890's this source was responsible for a further increase of 1,250,000 foreigners to the Catholic population. With the coming of the Poles, the Catholic Church had rapidly developed into the largest denomination in the United States, and by World War- I it accounted for about one third of the nation's church members.
While all of these foreign born foreigners shared a common: religious faith, their traits of similarity often ended there. The church in Poland embraced too many personal recollections and satisfied too many emotional wants to be abandoned by the Polish immigrants. From the very beginning of their residence in the United States the Catholic Poles held tenaciously to their mother tongue, whether it was in the rural areas such as Massachusetts where they formed solidly Catholic communities that were models of thrift and exemplary living, or in the crowded neighborhoods of the cities on the eastern seaboard and in the great Polish centers of the Middle West such as Chicago, Milwaukee, and Detroit.
Confronted as they often were by hostile forces which resented their foreignism and their religion, the Polish Catholics quite naturally clung all the more closely to the Polish priests, schools, and press as the best media through which to preserve their faith. As soon as the growth of numbers supplied the means, the Polish immigrants, with their fierce national pride, their consciousness of their past glories, and the bitter humiliation they have suffered by partition, attempted to reconstitute in America the precise Polish form of their old religious life with their own liturgical language, discipline, and ceremonials.
The Polish priests, who followed the Polish immigrants everywhere, made a magnificent contribution to the development of the Catholic Church in the United States. Although they were poor in income, they were adept at turning sweat into gold. They transmuted the immigrant pennies into temples whose grandeur, beauty, and peace became the pride of the Polish piety and for ages to come would lift heavenward the thoughts of all whose eyes rested upon their majestic beauty. The building edifices, reaching outward into the air and the sky, were built amid the poverty and desolation, in the gravest and gloomiest wastes of the cities. Here they recited the beads and preached long sermons which their congregations absorbed in place of printed material. Their endeavors and their sermons were well received, and they succeeded in the preservation of their native language in the different aspects of their parochial life.
But their effort to create autonomous religious institutions, where the humblest and meanest would receive a cordial welcome and a psychic pleasure that was not found in Irish or German Catholic churches, was limited by the American Catholic hierarchy, many of whom were of Irish origin and did not always understand the new leaven which had been added to American Catholicism. The adherence to the Polish language for church services, school instruction, and the press appeared to them as an excessive fondness for old world customs, as well as a lack of appreciation for the language and customs of the country that had given Poles a haven and a better life. They regarded it as not only un-American but also un-Catholic.
The dominant Irish Catholic hierarchy, who monopolized the right to define the church, was opposed also to any attempt to organize national parishes.69 Even though they themselves were either born or only one generation removed from Ireland, they resented all variations from the American pattern, as out of harmony with the national trend. They believed that the exclusive use of the English language would give the Poles at least the appearance of belonging and free them from the charge of "foreignism." They were willing to sacrifice ethnic cohesion to the interests of religious expansion. In 1891, Archbishop Ireland in a letter to Cardinal Gibbons made the following comment: "We are American bishops, an effort is made to dethrone us, and to foreignize our country in the name of religion." In a lecture delivered in Cincinnati, on May 2, 1895, Archbishop Ireland made this explicit.
Immigration must be restricted so as to exclude criminals, paupers. Nor should immigrants in any state of the union be prematurely authorized to vote. A due respect for American citizenship guards against a reckless extension of it to men coming from other lands. No encouragement must be given to social or political organizations or methods, which perpetuate in this country foreign ideas or customs.71
69 In 1886 of the 69 bishops 35 were Irish-born or of Irish ancestry as against 15 for the Germans including Austrian and Swiss. The French had 11; the English 5; and the Dutch, Scotch, and Spanish 1 each. William V. Shannon, The American Irish, (New York: 1963), p. 136.
70 Ellis, The Life of James Cardinal Gibbons, I, p. 369.
71 Cincinnati Ohio Enquirer, May 2, 1895.
Toward the end of the century, there had been a slackening in the number of Irish immigrants to the United States. This disturbed Cardinal Gibbons. To stimulate Irish immigration to the United States, Gibbons published an article in Ireland on Irish immigration to the United States. After he reviewed the history of the movement from colonial times and assessed in a general way the contributions which the Irish had made to American life, he paid tribute to the "extraordinary" contributions of the Irish in spreading the Christian religion and in conclusion said:
I would not, therefore, discourage Irish immigration because there are at stake more than economic considerations. There are at stake the interests of the Catholic religion, which in this land and this age are largely bound up with the interests of the Irish people.
The New York Times, dated August 24, 1901, quoted Gibbons as having said: "The country, it seems to me, is overrun with immigrants, and a word of caution should be spoken to them."
Immigrants who were not ready to reject their Catholic national cultures were treated with paternal condescension like that shown to an immature child. Implied in this attitude was the thought that the best solution to the problem was to "Americanize the immigrants in order to Catholicize America." The Catholic Poles in America thus found themselves in a dire predicament: to become accepted Americans, they would have to reject their Polish heritage; to become accepted Catholics in America, they would have to reject their own Catholic Polish heritage and adopt an American version of English culture together with the equally unfamiliar form of English Catholicism. The educational requirements in the United States also presented the Poles with a double threat. -In the existing parochial schools, their children would forget the ancestral language; in the public schools they would have training in neither language nor religion.
Confronted with such difficult choices, the Poles followed one of four different courses of action. One group chose the easiest path of the so-called Catholic "Americanizers." They severed relations with their Polish traditions and tried to think and act as if they were Catholics of English ancestry. Some even changed their names to disguise their Polish ancestry and to conceal their inherent, undeniable relations with the past. They became "root less and anonymous" Americans.
The second group simply fell away from the Church.
The third group openly denounced the prelates of Irish blood, who dominated the American Catholic Church, because they failed to display tolerance or understanding of the ethnic minorities in America. They took to task prelates like John Ireland, James Gibbons, John Spalding, and others of Irish stock who argued that all national differences among the Catholic membership should be ironed out by emphasizing Americanization and abandoning foreign customs.
In consequence many local controversies developed over the nationality of the priest, the language of worship, the nature of the religious festivals to be observed, and the question of whether Church property should be owned by the Church hierarchy or by the members. The demand for greater ecclesiastical autonomy in the American Church for foreign-language groups further com- pounded the problem. These disputes evoked widespread discontent thrusting the community churches into the fiercest ecclesiastical storm of their careers. On several occasions, appeals were carried to Rome to quiet the factionalism in the American Church. Sometimes the angry clouds gathered on the horizon and burst and schism developed after conflict and difficulties with the fickle and unstable Irish bishops who were noted for their belligerence, truculence and a quickness to take offense, and to hold grudges.
The Irish bishops showed little disposition to yield to the demands of the Polish Catholics who were aggrieved at their failure to win a proportion of posts in the hierarchy and to gain full parochial rights in the matter of their parishes. The Irish bishops were determined to deprive the Poles of their language and culture. In addition they were intent upon compelling the Poles to step into line with the increasing tempo of Americanization, and to accomplish their ends they did not scruple to resort on occasion to violent and abusive language which left behind it wounds that were long in healings.
The Irish clergy were extremely untactful in the way they handled the religious care for the immigrants. They did not realize how grave a responsibility was placed on the American hierarchy to have all the nationalities treated justly and have their desires satisfied. Wisdom, prudence, and experience were sadly lacking. When Father Ignatius Barszcz applied to the Holy See for a separate diocese to be erected for the Catholics of Slavic origin in the United States, Cardinal Gibbons labeled him a “crank”.
In the fall of 1887 Father Ignatius Barszcz, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Jersey City. appealed to the Holy See for a separate diocese to be erected for Catholics of Slavic origin in the United States. When the priest called on Gibbons in early January, 1888, with his request the cardinal told him that he was not in favor of the plan. The Polish pastor then carried his case to President Cleveland who was obviously puzzled by it. Cleveland decided to forward Barszcz's request to Gibbons for this advice, characterizing it ''as a specimen of the queer letters" he received. The cardinal composed an answer for the President to Barszcz in which he stated that the Church was opposed to placing bishops over people of different nationalities, al- though it provided ample services for them by supplying priests of their native country, or at least priests who spoke their language. Gibbons sympathized with Cleveland for the annoyance he had experienced and told the president that the priest was something of a crank and no further attention should be paid to him.
Gibbons, who reigned in Baltimore like a Czar, was annoyed with any nationality or individual if they differed from his point of view. Thus he had many difficulties with the Poles in Baltimore who did not share his views. In a letter to Bishop Keane, dated March 28, 1890, Gibbons made the following comment: "I have many things to annoy me just now, especially are the Poles giving me trouble." When the executive committee of the Polish Catholic Congress, in April, 1902, circulated Gibbons and other American prelates with a respectful request that there be named an auxiliary bishop in Cleveland of Polish descent, he was especially annoyed. In the settling of this just request, which the Polish numbers and strength in the American Church warranted, Gibbons sadly lacked wisdom, prudence, experience, and especially humility.
Three years later Archbishop Sebastian G. Messmer of Milwaukee informed Gibbons of the newspaper stories concerning the Polish effort to secure a bishop in his province, a move, which Messmer felt, would prove "a dangerous experiment" due to the fact that the Poles were not sufficiently Americanized. When a group of Poles in Rochester defied Bishop Mcquaid and the name of Gibbons was used ambiguously in the newspapers in connection with this episode, the cardinal hastily wrote to Mcquaid to tell him that two months before a delegation of Poles from Rochester had waited on him at Southampton, Long Island, but he had sent them word that under no circumstances would he even see them.
When Gibbons discovered that Joseph Wierusz Kowalski, the Polish minister to the Holy See, had intervened at the Vatican in behalf of the appointment of bishops of Polish descent to the American hierarchy, his anger knew no bounds. In a letter to Archbishop Bonzano, the apostolic delegate to the United States, Gibbons claimed that he "always"" followed the practice of recommending to vacant sees the most suitable candidates without consideration of nationality.
In a letter to Pietro Cardinal Gasparri, Secretary of State, he strongly protested against the action of the Polish legation at the Holy See, and he condemned the interference of any foreign government in the affairs of the Church of the United States, as well as the conduct of any body of clergy who would appeal to laymen or a foreign government with the idea of coercing the episcopate in the selection of candidates for vacant sees. Speaking in the name of the entire hierarchy, Gibbons repudiated the charges of neglect of the Catholic Poles in the United States, and stated there was no disposition on the part of the bishops to "Americanize"" any of the existing Polish parishes. He also stigmatized the move for Polish bishops as a step toward isolating the Polish Catholics from the rest of their coreligionists, and he branded the attempt to preserve a distinct and separate Polish nationality in the United States as something that would be "absolutely injurious both to the Church and to the Country."
At the meeting of the American hierarchy Gibbons delivered a strong speech against recognition of any national groups within the American Church. "Ours is the American Church and not Irish, German, Italian or Polish-and we will keep it American." He was enthusiastically applauded by his fellow Irish bishops who were in unanimous agreement with him.
The deep resentment which the hierarchy felt toward this renewed attempt at what was termed "foreign intermeddling" in the affairs of the Church of the United States was shown when a committee consisting of Archbishops George W. Mundelein of Chicago and Dennis J. Dougherty of Philadelphia was appointed to draft a protest to the Holy See against the interference of the Polish minister to the Vatican. The two archbishops communicated their ideas to Gibbons along with the texts of the protest, and the cardinal incorporated their statements along with his own and affixed his signature to the document sent in the name of the entire hierarchy.
Schism developed many times before the storm had run its course. Between 1873 and 1878 the Polish settlement of Polonia, Wisconsin, witnessed the foundation of the first independent Polish parish in America. Reverend Frydrychowicz instigated the separation from the Irish dominated Catholic Church. In 1886, Reverend Dominic Kolasinski caused a second separation from Rome, at Detroit, Michigan.8O A new Apostle of independence appeared in 1894 in the person of Rev. Francis Kolaszewski of Cleveland, Ohio. When Father Kolaszewski established his church in Cleveland, the Independent Poles had churches in Freeland, Pennsylvania, in Chicago, and in Omaha. In 1894, Father Borszcz attempted to create an independent church movement in Baltimore. By the following year Buffalo and Chicago had become centers of independent agitation. In 1895, Father Klawiter of Buffalo rebelled against Irish Episcopal authority and formed his supporters into an independent congregation. In 1895, Father Anthony Kozlowski gathered his followers in Chicago into a separate independent Polish congregation.
Scranton, Pennsylvania attracted attention in 1897 in connection with the Polish Independent Movement. Here Reverend Francis Hodur organized an independent congregation, which still followed the Roman rite but adopted Polish as the language of worship. The church also adopted a charter that provided for the sharing in its management by the laity together with the clergy. Soon other congregations followed the example initiated by Father Hodur. In September 1904, twenty-four parishes claiming 20,000 adherents in five states formally united to form a new denomination. At the first synod, Father Hodur was elected Bishop.
The Polish National Catholic Church, which had been maturing in silence, sprang into existence without the slow process of growth. Disillusioned Irish and German bishops had brought everlasting censure upon themselves for being responsible for the first and greatest Catholic defeat in the United States. The ban of excommunication, with its attendant horrors, had no effect on Bishop Hodur who dared to stand up and denounce the gross discrimination in the American Catholic Church practiced by the Irish bishops who were annoyed with any nationality that differed from their point of view. Bishop Hodur stood his ground for he had ample support from his people.
Until the defection of Bishop Hodur, Rome was completely indifferent to the griefs, longings, and aspirations of the Polish immigrants in America. The success of the Polish National Catholic Church under Bishop Hodur had a deeply disquieting effect on Rome and forced the Pope to realize that the Irish and Germans were not the only national groups included in the Roman Catholic Church in America. Also the loss of twenty thousand Catholics finally made Rome aware of the numbers, strength, and contribution of the Polish Catholics in the United States. As the clouds grew larger and darker Rome no longer sat and watched complacently.
The complaints were of such severity that in 1902 the Pope sent his personal representative, Archbishop A. Symons, to examine the situation. During his stay, the Archbishop visited 160 Polish parishes and delivered 350 speeches to remove the massive assault on the authority of the Irish Catholic bishops by a majority of the Polish practicing Catholics in America.
80 Peter A. Ostafin, 'The Polish Peasant in 'Transition: A Study of Group Integration as a Function of Symbiosis and Common Definitions. (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1948). See also George Pare, 'TM Catholic Church i1J patriot 1701,1888, (Detroit: 1951), pp. 556,558.
81 Quoted in Carl Wittke, 'The Irish in America, p. 92. See also Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Orestes A. Brownson, and Isaac Hecker, 'The Church and the Age.
82 Quoted in Wittke, 'The Irish in America, p. 92.
That more Polish Catholics did not defect from a church, which exploited, humiliated, and discriminated against them, is one of the greatest miracles in the American Catholic church during the nineteenth century. Despite manifold obstacles, the Polish immigrants professed the Catholic Faith in an exemplary manner. Blessed by a strong living faith and a vigorous Polish culture, they made an impressive contribution to the life of the American Catholic
Church. Monsignor H. Maino, on the occasion of Poland's 1,000 Years of Christianity, made this clear when he stated that "the American Catholic Church would never have attained its present size and vigor had the history of Poland taken a different course."
Orestes A. Brownson, Father Isaac Hecker, and Father Waclaw Kruszka looked with grave concern on the Irish invasion of the Church and stated frankly that the Roman Catholic Church could not become properly American until it ceased to be Irish. In a letter of 1849, Brownson, a New England intellectual who was a convert to Catholicism, had the temerity to write, "Nobody can deny that in external decorum and the ordinary moral and social virtues the Irish Catholics are the most deficient class of our community."81 Brownson also warned against the danger to the Church if Catholicity should become identified with "Irish hoodlumism, drunkenness and poverty."82 Father Isaac Hecker, who labored to convince Americans that the Catholic Church was not undemocratic, pleaded for a more liberal spirit within the Church itself. Father Waclaw Kruszka, another Joshua fighting in the valley, also denounced the Irish influence.
It is undeniable fact that although the Irish form only about one' third of the Catholic population, of the hundred Catholic bishops in the United States, almost all are of Irish nationality, a few German bishops being only a drop in the sea. This is a fact, and against a fact there is no argument. From this fact one can easily deduct the conclusion that the Irish want a certain priest for a bishop, just because he is Irish. What the Poles in their movement for a Polish bishop want, is this: to have bishops from any nationality, and not only from one exclusively, as it was practiced to this time. The Irish, as facts prove presented always and still present candidates of Irish extraction, to the exclusion of other nationalities, as if they alone had the monopoly of wisdom and sanctity and Episcopal dignity. But why do the Irish mostly succeed in Rome? Simply by persuading the Roman authorities that the Irish nationality is the only American nationality-all other are "foreign nationalities.
Since 1854, the Poles built every year churches, schools, asylums, colleges. . . paid always faithfully their church taxes, cathedraticum, seminaristicum . . . and during this long period never enjoyed any rights and privileges in the church, never had any representation in the hierarchy. This is evidently unjust and un-American! And now, when we make a just complaint, they say to us, that there was not as yet any Polish priest worthy to become a bishop but as soon as they will find one, they will make one. I need not say that this is a poor excuse, and an uncharitable one, not worthy of a true Christian. It is an open insult to the whole Polish clergy.
Were so long the Irish and the few Germans the only worthy, upon whom the Holy Ghost reigned to descend? One must be arrogant, to assert this. Indeed, to this privileging of one and disregarding of other nationalities we may safely ascribe the fact, that there was in the United States no gain, but a loss of millions of Catholics. The Independent Polish sect says: "If the Pope allows the organization in the United States of an Irish national hierarchy, why does he not allow the formation of a Polish national hierarchy?" An even pure Americans, I mean those of no denomination either religious or national, I have heard asking: "Where is the mark of catholicity in your church? Is it not pre- dominantly Irish Catholic? 83
President Theodore Roosevelt remarked to Father Kruszka on a certain occasion that he found his deductions logical and that he believed the Poles should have their own bishops. 84
83 Ks. Waclaw Kruska, Siedm Siedmioleci czyli Pol Wieku Zycia. (Poznan: 1924), pp. 152-153.
84 The apparent apathy in respect to the promotion of Polish priests to the rank of bishops was a substantial cause for complaint in the Polish settlements. Despite their size and weight of responsibility connected with their management, these Polish ships of faith were still captained by officers of junior rank who seemed to go unnoticed in the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy here in America. It was fifty-four years after the founding of the first parish in America that the Poles were to give the Catholic Church its first Polish bishop. Bishop Paul Rhode was consecrated bishop in 19.08 in Chicago. Bishop Edward Kozlowski followed him in the same rank in 1914. This alleged discrimination on the part of the Irish and German Catholics produced much discontent in Polish circles. As a matter of fact, it almost disrupted the unity of the Catholic Church among Polish Americans.
Up to 1908 not a single bishop was selected from the ranks of the Polish clergy. On the basis of an estimated twelve per cent of the Catholic population which they comprised in the United States at the turn of the century the Polish nationalists reasoned that they should have at least two archbishops and eleven bishops selected from their number, and yet the fifteen archbishops and the ninety-four bishops in the United States as of 1900 were all non-Polish. With fortified indignation they further compared their 900 parishes to the 456 German speaking parishes and found that for that number of parishes the Germans gave the Catholic Church in the United States fourteen bishops and three archbishops. The Poles gave it none. To the German hating Poles this was comparable to being led to heaven by the Sultan of Turkey.
The fourth group chose to retain the Catholic heritage and to foster its Polish culture as much as possible by creating a new pattern of education to which instruction in Polish was central. They realized that the genuine American, the typical American, is himself a hyphenated character. This does not mean that he is part American and that some foreign ingredient is added. It means that the American is international and interracial in his make-up. He is not American plus Pole or English. But the American is himself Pole-German-English-French-Spanish-Italian-Greek- Irish-Negro-Jew. The hyphen connects instead of separates.
The Polish nuns in the Polish Catholic schools made every effort to teach the children to respect other nationalities and took pains to enlighten them as to the great contributions of every strain in the American composite. In the teaching of American history they took into account the great waves of migration by which the United States was established and made every effort to make the students conscious of the rich breadth of this national make-up. They believed that only when every pupil recognizes all the factors, which have gone into the creation of America, would he continue to prize and reverence his own past. They insisted that he should claim his identity and enjoy the experience of living in two worlds at the same time.
The fourth group was instrumental in establishing in the United States the large number of Polish Roman Catholic parishes, schools, theological seminaries, religious congregations, publications, and church and civil organizations. The parishes, schools, and seminaries were staffed by Polish priests, teaching sisters, and writers, who staunchly defended Polish Catholic culture and assisted in keeping alive the Polish language and Polish traditions. In 1874 the Felician Sisters came to America at the invitation of Rev. Joseph Dabrowski. In 1885, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth laid their foundation in Chicago.
The work of the fourth group was facilitated by the Pope, who sided with the more conservative majority in his Testem Benevolentiae. Only Cardinal Gibbons' unusual skill prevented a blast from the Vatican, which would have damned Gibbons' type of "Americanism" as heresy. And indeed it was.
The work of Mieczyslaw Cardinal Ledochowski, Prefect of I Propaganda and an international figure of great influence, was not very effective.85 From 1892 to 1902 he stood at the head of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith, which then guided the affairs of the Church in the United States. Under Cardinal Ledochowski, many far-reaching decisions were made of concern to American Catholics, as, for example, those affecting the school question, the national parishes, or the policies of Cardinal Gibbons and Archbishop Ireland. It is unfortunate that in his concern for the spiritual welfare of the immigrants in the United States he did not remove the arrant discrimination practiced by the American Irish clergy.86 Instead he condemned the intrigues and agitation in the United States over appointing foreigners to Episcopal sees. In a letter, addressed to the American hierarchy, the Cardinal stated:
Whenever an Episcopal see is vacant in America, clergy and people become excited, different factions discuss possible candidates in meetings, and, through the public press, seek all means to advance their favorites. The chief cause of these divisions is that Catholics, dividing on national lines, demand bishops from the ranks of their several nationalities, instead of keeping solely in view the welfare of the Church. This welfare is the sole guide of the Holy See in naming bishops for all countries, and especially must the principle be followed in the case of the United States, whither populations go from various European countries, to the end that they build up there for themselves a new "patria," where they must coalesce into one people and form together one nation. This principle shall be kept steadily in view by the Holy See, which, in consequence, will, in the naming of bishops, adhere strictly to the rules of the Baltimore Councils 85
85 Cardinal Ledochowski became the Archbishop of Poznan in 1866. During his tenure he roused a storm of protest by forbidding the national hymn, itself a prayer, Boze Cos Polske.. to be sung in the churches. He was resolved to keep his office above national controversies-civis Romanus. subditus Borussiae.. For over two years his relations with the Polish clergy were strained. When he opposed the introduction of the German language into religious instruction during the Kultur Kampf waged by Bismarck, he was thrown into prison in 1874. In 1876 he was deposed, and allowed to retire to Rome, for twelve years his post was vacant.
86 Until 1963 all but four of the 17 American cardinals have been Irish. Only recently had one American of Polish descent been appointed an archbishop. Although one out of every four Catholics in the United States is of Polish descent only one member of the clergy of Polish descent attained the rank of cardinal, and this was just within the last three years. The predominance of the Irish element in the leadership of Catholic Church in the United States has continued.
87 James H. Moynihan, 'The Life of Archbishop John Ireland. (New York: 1953), pp. 69-70.
This letter, which was known to express the personal views of the Pope, was issued in May, 1892. In order to provide a wide circulation for Cardinal Ledochowski's letter, Gibbons gave it to the Associated Press.
Two years after Gibbons' death, the Central-Verein met in St. Paul where Archbishop Messmer was present. Messmer was quoted as having said, in reference to the controversy of years before, "I know that Cardinal Gibbons and Archbishop Ireland positively understood that they had made a mistake. "
The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the heyday of another institution, the Polish language newspapers. By 1920 there were seventy-six newspapers published in the Polish language with staffs from one man to more than twenty, and the quality of their products ranged from promising to dreadful. These Polish newspapers were crusaders as well as chronicles of the Polish community. They kept abreast of the activities of their fellow countrymen in other parts of the United States and also presented news of developments in Poland.
At first the Polish language newspapers were simply the organs of religious, fraternal, and nationalists bodies, and in style and format they modeled themselves upon European patterns. But in the American environment significant modifications crept in. To make themselves understood to the simple, uneducated people who formed the mass of their readers, immigrant editors had to adopt a popular literary style and to substitute the vernacular for the formal, recondite language they initially employed. Gradually, too, immigrant journals became less doctrinaire and propagandist in tone, tending instead to conform to the prevailing type of American newspaper, namely, a commercial paper published entirely for profit and concerned less with opinion than with circulation. Hence lengthy editorial columns were replaced by sensational news stories; advertisements of all kinds began to appear; market reports, obituaries, sporting items, society and women's pages, and the inevitable classified ads were introduced. All these, of course, were features of the American press in general so that the exotic titles of dailies like the Ojczyzna (The Fatherland), Zgoda (Harmony), Pielgrzym Polski (The Polish Pilgrim), and Patryota (The Patriot) concealed the fact that they were essentially American newspapers, though published in the Polish language. 90
This period also showed varied attitudes toward immigrants. Opposition on economic grounds had not yet reached its full strength because organized labor had not come into full economic and political power. Manufacturers still sought cheap labor- and labor that they might pit against the unions. A great objection was voiced, however, to paupers, criminals, and other “undesirables" among the aliens, and to the increase of the Catholic element among a Protestant majority. The erection of Catholic churches and the establishment of convents were symbols of a culture the Protestant native had been taught to fear. The spectacle of the enfranchisement of the foreign 'born overnight to save" elections had appeared. The period was also that of state rather than the later federal control of immigration. This control was inadequate and half -hearted because of the competition for immigrants between states.
90 The first attempt to provide a periodical for the Polish Catholics of Detroit was made in 1874. John Barzynski, a Detroit printer and book seller, acquired the Pielgrzym (The Pilgrim), which had been published for some time in St. Louis, changed its name to the Gazeta Polska Katolicka (Polish Catholic Paper), and issued the first number on September 15. A few months later the Gazeta Polka Katolicka was transferred to Chicago. Following an interval of ten years a group of laymen headed by Father Paul Gutowski, pastor of St. Casimir Parish, brought out in 1885 the Pielgrzym Polski (The Polish Pilgrim). The weekly was discontinued in 1888. Pr4wda (Truth), edited by Dr. Laskowski, an instructor at the SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary and Joseph Slowiecki, a Detroit physician, made its appearance in 1888. The Prawda was removed to Bay City in 1893. The Gwiazda Detroicka (Star of Detroit) founded in Toledo in 1888 was brought to Detroit in 1889, and was published by A. Paryski. It ceased publication in 1897.