Bishop John Carroll’s life did much to show his Protestant neighbors that one could be a faithful Catholic as well as a patriotic republican, and by the dawn of the nineteenth century he had achieved the status of a leading citizen of the new republic. But Carroll’s optimism about America’s “extraordinary revolution” in religious toleration was perhaps premature.

In 1789, Bishop John Carroll—newly-elected by the priests of the United States—moved ahead  with his efforts to Americanize the Church. Carroll wanted to ensure that the Catholic Church in America would be sensitive to Protestant and republican sensibilities. “We must use extreme circumspection in order not to give pretexts to the enemies of Religion to deprive us of our actual rights,” Carroll had opined in 1784. “It is very important that the prejudices entertained for so long against Catholics be eradicated.”[1] Toward this end, Carroll sought to avoid giving needless offense to Protestants and to recast the Roman Catholic Church in America as more American than Roman. His narrow formulation of Papal authority in the realm of theory was one element of his strategy, but Carroll also took more concrete steps.

The consecration of his coadjutor, Leonard Neale, as bishop in 1800 provided Carroll with an opportunity to stake out symbolically a new position in Catholic-Protestant relations in America.[2] Knowing that the ceremony would be attended by Protestants, Carroll worried that the traditional bishop’s oath—in which the new bishop vowed to “seek out and oppose schismatics, heretics, and the enemies of our sovereign Lord”—would excite hostility. Carroll had reluctantly taken this same oath as part of his consecration in 1790, but, because that ceremony had taken place in England and was attended only by Catholics, reports of the wording of the oath were unlikely to reach American ears. Neale’s consecration, Carroll informed Cardinal Antonelli, would doubtlessly be witnessed by “non-Catholics in great numbers,” who would “weigh everything” and be “apt to interpret unfavorably” any whiff of anti-Protestant sentiment. Therefore, Carroll asked, could not the bishop’s oath used in Ireland—which omitted the offensive passage—be substituted? Rome granted the request.[3]

Carroll also tried to mitigate Protestant prejudice by making the Catholic liturgy appear less strange to American Protestants.[4] Though he sought to alter neither the structure nor the ornamentation of the liturgy, Carroll favored the substitution of English for Latin in the Mass. He wished that Rome would grant the American church “the same privilege, as is enjoyed by many churches of infinitely less extent, that of having the liturgy in their own language.”[5] Latin had been the predominant language of the Roman Catholic Church since the fourth century. The Protestant Reformers had dispensed with the ancient tongue upon their break with Rome, viewing it as a deliberate encumbrance to the laity’s direct access to Scripture and understanding of the sacraments. At the Council of Trent in 1547, the Catholic Church—while not proscribing the vernacular—had reaffirmed the use of Latin as a symbol of the Church’s universality, as intrinsic to the nature of the Mass as mystery, and as a security against theological error that translation into the vernacular might bring.

Carroll acknowledged that it might have been prudent to preserve the use of Latin during the Reformation era, “but to continue the practice of the Latin Liturgy in the present State of Things, must be owing either to chimerical Fears of Inovation [sic], or to Indolence & Inattention.”[6] Though the ancient language may have been a source of unity for the universal Church, Carroll viewed it as a detriment to the American Church’s progress. “The use of the Latin Tongue in the publick Liturgy” Carroll believed, was one of the “greatest Obstacles, with Christians of other Denominations, to a thorough union with us; or at least, to a much more general Diffusion of our Religion, particularly in N. America.”[7] Latin was also a provocation to the Reformed churches. “For I do indeed conceive,” he mused in a letter to Arthur O’Leary, “that one of the most popular prejudices agst. us is, that our public prayers are unintelligible to our hearers.”[8] In addition, Carroll made a very Protestant argument by claiming that because Latin was “an unknown Tongue” in America, its continued use in the liturgy alienated the laity from the Church. “Either for want of Books, or disability to read,” the bishop opined, “the greatest part of our Congregations must be utterly ignorant of the meaning and Sense of the publick Offices of the Church.”[9]

Carroll, however, soon realized that his views on the use of the vernacular in the liturgy constituted an extreme position in the English-speaking world. Even some reform-minded Catholics—such as Arthur O’Leary in England and Stephen Badin in America—took the opposing view on this issue, as did the majority of the American clergy.[10] Carroll was unwilling to lead a minority in opposition to the tradition of the Church. Indeed, the cautious Carroll had not meant for his position to be made public, but the English theologian Joseph Berington published Carroll’s statements in an attempt to buttress his own arguments in favor of the vernacular. Carroll was alarmed by the news that his ideas had encouraged English priests to call openly for the abolition of the Latin Mass and to advocate more radical ideas, such as an end to priestly celibacy. “Is it really true,” Carroll wondered, “that any are so bold, as to avow this latter sentiment; or even assert, that any single Bishop may alter the language of the liturgy, without the approbation of the Holy See, & a general concurrence of at least other national Bishops? I should be indeed sorry, if the few words of my letter to Berington should be tortured to such a meaning.”[11] If Rome consented to allow the use of the vernacular, Carroll told another correspondent, “I should feel a satisfaction in it: but till they alter that point of discipline, I should think any single Bishop or Ecclesiastical Superior to blame for making such an innovation.”[12]

Carroll evidently abandoned any thought of pressing the issue after he became bishop. In 1791, he presided over the first diocesan Synod of the American Clergy, whose final report retained Latin as the language of the Mass, though it allowed the Gospel to be read and certain hymns and prayers to be sung in the vernacular.[13] Nearly two decades later, the American bishops issued an even more conservative statement in an attempt to curb the unauthorized use of the vernacular by some priests. The Provincial Council of 1810—chaired by Archbishop Carroll—issued a resolution stipulating that all priests not only “celebrate the whole Mass” but also “administer Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, Penance, & Extreme Unction” in Latin. Though the council did permit the prayers that preceded and followed the sacraments proper to be said in the vernacular, the bishops made clear their intent that Latin would remain the official language of the Church in America.[14]

Though they were instructed to say Mass and administer the sacraments in a foreign tongue, priests in America preached in English and indeed were often evaluated by their congregations primarily on their speaking ability. This was true despite the fact that Catholic teaching downplayed the relevance of the character and personality of the priest to his performing of the sacraments.[15] But the influence of the Protestant service, which emphasized the spoken word, on the Catholic rank-and-file was considerable. A flamboyant Protestant preacher was a tempting alternative to a lackluster priest, regardless of the doctrinal content of his sermons. Carroll recognized this reality. During the Nugent controversy of 1785-1787, he commented that Father Whelan was “not indeed so learned or good a preacher, as I could wish, which mortifies his congregation as at N. York, & most other places in America, the different sectaries have scarce any other test of a Clergyman than his talents for preaching.”[16] When Carroll sent American students to Rome for training as priests, he expressed his wish that they “be thoroughly schooled in their vernacular” so that “they will be much better prepared for work in the land of their birth. For, as the heretics cultivate elegant diction and delivery, the pastors of souls must make an effort that men be drawn to truth and piety through the pleasure of hearing them.”[17] As bishop, Carroll was repeatedly beseeched by congregations who desired to have eloquent pastors.[18]

Though Carroll tried to oblige these congregations by sending them dynamic priests, he defied attempts by laymen to usurp his authority to select pastors. The leveling spirit of the Revolution, as well as contact with the democratic ecclesiology of the Protestant majority, had emboldened many American Catholics to take a larger role in the affairs of their local churches.[19] But it was not merely the republican ethos that prompted Catholic laymen to assert themselves in the governance of their church; American circumstances and American law also encouraged the boldness of trustees. In the eighteenth century America was a sparsely settled country having few urban centers, and Catholics lived under “diaspora conditions,” in which priests and churches were few and far between.[20] Until Carroll’s appointment as superior in 1784 no real central authority directed the Church, so most congregations took matters into their own hands by forming their own parishes. American law reinforced this practice, since it did not recognize the Catholic Church as an entity but as individual congregations upon their incorporation. Thus, the common pattern was for a congregation to elect a board of trustees, obtain legal recognition, build a church, and then seek a pastor. The hierarchy’s approval of the entire process—including the selection of a pastor—was considered a mere formality.

The American trustee system had its roots in the European Catholic Church. Canon law permitted bishops to delegate responsibility for the administration of churches to clerics or laymen, and this practice had become widespread, especially in France and Germany, during the Middle Ages. In many areas it was common for laymen—whether kings, nobles, or local communities—to appoint priests. The Council of Trent in the sixteenth century recognized the concept of the jus patronus—the rights and duties of the laymen who built and supported a church—while restricting its application. But the Council failed to make clear whether lay appointment was valid, and this issue remained a matter of dispute.[21] Nevertheless, the practice of lay appointment continued in Europe and was brought by Catholic emigrants to America.[22]

Carroll accepted some features of trusteeism, but he opposed the ecclesiastical conclusions that many republican-minded congregations drew from the practice. In the Nugent controversy, Carroll had been compelled to rebut the belief that lay trustees possessed the power to appoint and remove their pastors. Carroll demanded that the parishioners adhere to “the principles of your holy faith, & the maxims of church government” by acknowledging “the just right & power of him who now speaks to you, to constitute & appoint Clergymen to the care of souls.” This power, Carroll asserted, which was derived from the apostles and ultimately from Christ Himself, constituted an essential element of the Church’s spiritual power, “and if it were possible for her to lose this prerogative, she would cease to hold any spiritual authority.” In the end, Nugent and his supporters were defeated, but Carroll’s victory did little to quell the democratic spirit of lay trusteeism.[23]

Shortly thereafter, Carroll faced a protracted battle with lay trustees in Philadelphia. In 1789, a group of German Catholics, unhappy at the Irish-dominated parish of St. Mary’s, formed Holy Trinity Church and nominated a pastor, Father John Heilbron, for Carroll’s approval.[24] The Germans, who had inherited the idea of lay control from their native land, based their right to nominate on the principle of the jus patronus. Carroll rejected the Germans’ claim because the funds for building the church were not supplied in their entirety by the congregation. Carroll believed that Protestants had given money to the project, thereby perhaps gaining influence over the selection of the pastor. Carroll feared that a system might be established by which Protestants could acquire power and reduce the American Catholic Church to “a state of vassalage.”[25] Carroll eventually suspended Heilbron’s priestly faculties and only after the recalcitrant priest had formally acknowledged Carroll’s authority over appointments did the bishop invest Heilbron as pastor of Holy Trinity.

But the trustees of Holy Trinity still refused to submit to Carroll’s authority. In 1796, Leonard Neale, Carroll’s coadjutor, brought a lawsuit against the trustees in an attempt to remove a new pastor, Father John Goetz, whom the congregation had installed against Carroll’s wishes. The case dragged on for years and became increasingly bitter. On one occasion Carroll as a witness in court was subjected to a harangue that questioned the bishop’s authority and mocked the laws of the Church. Carroll felt compelled to excommunicate Goetz and his assistant, Father William Elling. In 1802, Elling and the trustees relented and formally submitted to Carroll’s authority. Carroll then lifted the excommunication against Elling—Goetz had left Holy Trinity in the meantime—and appointed him as pastor.[26]

Carroll was willing to placate independent-minded lay trustees—he often invested their preferred pastors—if they would only recognize his episcopal power of appointment. Carroll jealously guarded this power, deeming it essential to the governance and character of the Church. A policy of lay investiture, he feared, “would reduce us to a level with other sects.”[27]  In another clash in 1805, Carroll again resorted to the civil authorities in an effort to remove an unauthorized pastor from his Baltimore parish. The Maryland judiciary sided with the bishop in this case, but Carroll was on the losing side of a legal decision the following year in a Louisiana court.[28]

The Louisiana decision was a rare defeat for the American Catholic hierarchy in its battles with upstart trustees, for state incorporation laws—which guaranteed trustees temporal rights—also generally stipulated that congregations had no right to interfere in the spiritual authority of their churches. The New York State Incorporation Act of 1784, for example, declared that trustees could not “alter or change the Religious Constitution” of their church in regard to “Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship.”[29] American courts, therefore, usually issued decisions that buttressed the authoritarianism of the Catholic Church against the leveling tendencies of lay trusteesim. In1798, the Pennsylvania state supreme court made a dramatic statement supporting the Catholic hierarchy by ruling the court declared that “the Bishop of Baltimore has . . . the sole Episcopal authority over the Catholic Church of the United States. Every Catholic congregation within the United States is subject to his inspection; and without authority from him no Catholic priest can exercise any pastoral function over any congregation.”[30] Carroll must have taken great satisfaction from a civil decision upholding not only his legal rights with respect to trustees but also his episcopal authority over insubordinate priests.

* * * * *

The trustee battles took their toll on John Carroll. By the end of his life, he had come to oppose the system altogether.[31] The trustee controversy illustrates how central to Carroll’s identity—both as a priest and as a son of the Church—was the notion of obedience. His resistance to the trustees’ claims may appear to be somewhat ironic in that Carroll had once denied Rome’s authority to interfere in the American priests’ right to control their plantations. But Carroll had always been careful to acknowledge the spiritual authority of Rome even while he tried to maintain autonomy in temporal matters. The trustees, however, crossed this line and thereby entered into disobedience—and this was one thing John Carroll could not abide.

Holding that the hierarchical structure of the church was essential to its character, Carroll had little patience with defiant trustees and disobedient priests. At times, such insubordination induced Carroll to oppose policies for which he had once had sympathy. For example, the unauthorized substitution of the vernacular for Latin in the Mass by some priests led Carroll to abandon his support of such a change. Similarly, trusteesim’s democratic nature was acceptable to Carroll until the trustees went too far and challenged the spiritual authority of the church. Always, his decision was to obey church authority. This was true in spite of the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, which colored his view of Rome for many years. His life from 1773 on can be seen as a slow reconciliation with Rome, a process that was completed only with the restoration of the Society in 1814, the year before Carroll’s death.

Carroll’s obedience, however, was not unthinking submission; he showed the influence of Enlightenment thought by believing that such obedience “must be reasonable.”[32] Carroll’s initial promotion of the vernacular in the liturgy reflected his desire to make the faith intelligible to the Catholic layman, and though he retreated on this issue, he became an enthusiastic promoter of the Philadelphia Catholic publisher Matthew Carey’s first American edition of an English-language Bible.[33] But despite the influence of the Catholic Enlightenment, Carroll cannot be facilely described as a disciple of Cisalpinism, for he also admired the thought of John Milner, an English bishop and prominent Ultramontane thinker. Carroll once dubbed Milner “that meritorious champion of our Church.”[34] On several occasions during the trustee troubles, he voiced his agreement with Milner’s opposition to “ecclesiastical democracy,” even borrowing the bishop’s phraseology.[35] He had some of Milner’s writings reprinted in America.[36] Furthermore, Carroll’s confidante, Charles Plowden, was a friend and intellectual ally of Milner against the Enlightenment school.[37] Carroll himself did not hesitate to criticize the Cisalpines when he judged that they had gone too far; in particular, he became disenchanted with the theology of Bishop Joseph Berington, a man whose thought he had once admired. By 1796, Carroll had come to question Cisalpine ideas on toleration, and the next year he confided to Plowden that he believed some of Berington’s ideas to be “inconsistent with Catholicity” and his treatise on miracles to be “subversive of the credibility of the Gospel miracles; consequently of Christianity.”[38]

Carroll’s ultimate rejection of trusteeism was a manifestation of his increasing conservatism after his consecration as bishop. Students of Carroll have often drawn a sharp distinction between the daring priest of the 1770s and 1780s and the cautious bishop and archbishop of later years.[39] But Carroll at heart was always conservative; developments at home and abroad in the 1780s and 1790s made his drift rightward appear to some to be a drastic conversion.

Certainly, the French Revolution was one such event. Carroll feared the radical spirit that was spreading across Europe even before the fall of the Bastille. In 1782, he voiced concerns about the anti-authoritarian spirit sweeping Europe and denounced the French author of a newly-published history of the American Revolution for the work’s anti-religious prejudice and political radicalism. “When a person, especially a Frenchman, born under an absolute Government,” Carroll mused, “had got his head full of the sentiments of an English Whig, he is sure to extend them, & push them to an excess. Like a sprig, which being bent too much one way, recoils to the other with too great violence.”[40] Carroll expressed his admiration for Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1791, even before the Reign of Terror had revealed the truly radical nature of the Revolution and turned many Americans against it.[41]

But it was not merely the political radicalism of the French Revolution that frightened Carroll. He worried that its anti-clericalism held a potentially dangerous lesson for Americans. As he told Charles Plowden in 1791, “the enemies of religion there have had the art to connect pretended political liberty with the subversion of the Catholic faith; and thus the giddy multitude are deluded.”[42] Fearing that Americans “are threatened here with the dissemination of the French political errors,” Carroll sought to disabuse his fellow citizens of the notion that the Catholic faith was incompatible with religious liberty.[43] He could not let go unanswered the dangerous charge that because Protestantism was the only creed compatible with civil liberty, a reformed national church ought to established in America. Writing as “Pacificus,” Carroll denied the notion that “the Protestant religion is the important bulwark of our Constitution.” Instead, Carroll proposed, “the establishment of the American empire was not the work of this or that religion, but arose from a generous exertion of all her citizens to redress their wrongs, to assert their rights, and lay its foundations on the soundest principles of justice and equal liberty.”[44]

In rejecting the idea that Catholicism was inconsistent with republican government, Carroll came close to articulating the modern notion of the secular state. Carroll suggested that America ought to “rest the preservation of her liberalities and her government on the attachment of mankind to their political happiness, to the security of their persons and their property, which is independent of religious doctrines, and not restrained by any.”[45] Carroll’s position, however, must be placed in context. He was not intending to justify a secular society; rather, he was trying to dissuade his Protestant compatriots from setting up a national religious establishment.[46] Having experienced anti-Catholic discrimination, Carroll was pushed to make an argument that seemed on the surface to imply a call for the removal of religious doctrines as the foundation of society. But this was clearly not Carroll’s stance. To the contrary, he supported Maryland’s promotion of Christianity and believed that Christianity was salutary to the health of the republic. Indeed, he credited the spirit of Christianity as being responsible for the spread of religious toleration throughout the United States in the days after the Revolution.[47]

In the end, it is difficult—and perhaps unrewarding—to try to classify Carroll as either a liberal or a conservative. He was, at heart and throughout his life, an obedient son of the Church. His life did much to show his co-religionists and his Protestant neighbors that one could be a faithful Catholic as well as a patriotic republican, and by the dawn of the nineteenth century he had achieved the status of a leading citizen of the new republic. Carroll’s optimism about America’s “extraordinary revolution” in religious toleration was perhaps premature in 1783, but as the young American nation concluded its second war against England in 1815, the prospects for Catholics seemed bright. Four states—Vermont, Delaware, South Carolina, and Georgia—had removed anti-Catholic clauses from their constitutions, and in several other states, their movements to broaden religious liberty would reach fruition in a few years.[48] These legal changes were illustrative of the tolerant climate in America, as was the United States Congress’ request that Carroll speak at the dedication of the Washington Monument on July 4, 1815, an invitation that the aging bishop had to decline for health reasons. When John Carroll died peacefully five months later, just a few weeks shy of his eighty-first birthday, he had every reason to believe that he had lived to see the dawning of an era of religious equality for his co-religionists.

The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.


1. Carroll to Giuseppe Doria-Pamphili, November 26, 1784, Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 1:153.

2. Father Lawrence Graesll was the original choice to be coadjutor, but he died before he could be consecrated. Neale was chosen as Graesll’s replacement in 1795; for various reasons, his consecration did not occur until December of 1800. See Melville, John Carroll, 214-215.

3. The traditional oath is quoted by Agonito, Building of an American Catholic Church, 45; on Carroll’s reluctance to take this oath, see idem, footnote 14. For Rome’s granting of the request, see p. 46 and footnotes 17 and 18. The quotations are from Carroll to Antonelli, September 20, 1793, in Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 2:102. See also, “Oath for Episcopal Consecration,” August 1794; Carroll to Antonelli, October 15, 1794, ibid., 2:124-125, 2:129-130.

4. For just one example of Protestant reaction to the Catholic Mass, see John Adams to Abigail Adams, October 9, 1774, in John Tracy Ellis, ed., Documents of American Catholic History, 132-133. Adams describes “the poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood.”

5. Carroll to Arthur O’Leary, [1787], in Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 1:225.

6. Carroll to Joseph Berington, July 10, 1784, ibid., 1:148.

7. Carroll to Berington, July 10, 1784, ibid., 1:148.

8. Carroll to O’Leary, [1787], ibid., 1:225.

9. Carroll to Berington, July 10, 1784, ibid., 1:148-149.

10. See Carroll to O’Leary, [1787], ibid., 1:225.

11. Carroll to Plowden, June 4, 1787, ibid., 1:253.

12. Carroll to [P.J. Coghlan], June 13, 1787, ibid., 1:255.

13. Synod Report, November 7-8, 1791, ibid., 1:531.

14. Provincial Council Resolutions, November 15, 1810, ibid., 3:133. Among the four American bishops present at the council, Bishop Michael Egan of Philadelphia, at least, was sympathetic to the use of the vernacular in the liturgy. See Agonito, Building of an American Catholic Church, 133.

15. The Council of Trent of 1547 declared that the Church’s sacraments were efficacious independent of the character of the priest performing them; i.e., the sacraments act ex opere operato, “by the very fact of the action’s being performed.” See Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1995), 319.

16. Carroll to Plowden, December 15, 1785, in Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 1:196.

17. Carroll to Antonelli, July 2, 1787, ibid., 1:255-256.

18. See Agonito, The Building of an American Church, 135-145, passim.

19. Carroll himself believed that both civil liberty and Protestantism had a pernicious effect on Catholic discipline. Of one group of rebellious trustees, he complained, “they seemed to think that by coming to America, besides attaining civil liberty, they could now, with impunity, oppose the pastors of souls.” He told Rome that he feared that unless the rebellious lay trustees were brought into line, “the laity will be flattered into believing that they too should claim the power of determining their pastor just as they see the sectarians do.” See Carroll to Antonelli, April 23, 1792, Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 2:32; Carroll to Antonelli, March 18, 1788, ibid.,, 1:285.

20. The term is Patrick Carey’s. See Carey, People, Priests, and Prelates, 57.

21. Ibid., 27-28. The dispute continued into the twentieth century.

22. The best, fullest, and most recent account of the trustee controversy is Carey, People, Priests, and Prelates. See also Dale B. Light, Rome and the New Republic: Conflict and Community in Philadelphia Catholicism Between the Revolution and the Civil War (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1996); Francis E. Tourscher, The Hogan Schism and Trustee Troubles in St. Mary’s Church Philadelphia, 1820-1829 (Philadelphia: Peter Reilly, 1930); Agonito, Building of an American Catholic Church, 74-123.

23. Carroll, “Sermon Suspending Andrew Nugent,” [October 1787], Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 1:262-263. Carroll intended to read this sermon to the congregation on the Sunday following the dramatic pre-Mass confrontation with Nugent but was prevented from doing so because of a ruckus raised in the church by Nugent’s followers. See Shea, John Carroll, 324-325.

24. Such ethnic tensions often played a role in inciting trustees to assert their rights. After 1789, many congregations complained about the imposition of “foreign” pastors by Bishop Carroll. Carroll was well aware of ethnic hostilities, but, because of the shortage of good priests, he often had little choice in the matter, frequently appointing French priests who had come to America in the wake of their country’s Revolution as pastors for Irish congregations. The French émigré priests indeed constituted one of the few abundant sources of clergymen on which Carroll could draw.

25. Carroll to John Heilbron, [November 1789], Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 1:391. See also John Carroll to the Trustees of Holy Trinity Church, Philadelphia, October 11, 1789, ibid., 1:386-388.

26. Shea, John Carroll, 418-421; Melville, John Carroll, 206-207.

27. Carroll quoted in Agonito, Building of an American Catholic Church, 96.

28. Ibid., 92-99.

29. New York State Incorporation Act of 1784, quoted ibid., 105.

30. Lessee of Executors of Theodore Browers v. Franciscus Fromm, quoted in Shea, John Carroll, 450.

31. At least this was the assertion of Archbishop Ambrose Marechal. See “Archbishop Marechal’s Report to Propaganda,” October 16, 1818, in Ellis, Documents, 216; Melville, John Carroll, 280-281. Marechal’s claim appears justified if one considers the tone of Carroll’s last statements on the trustee question. Less than a year before his death, for example, Carroll told the trustees of St. Mary’s Church in Philadelphia that “the Catholic Church will never admit the principle and practice [of the] Presbyterians.” See Carroll to the Trustees of St. Mary’s, Philadelphia, Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 3:290.

32. Carroll, An Address to the Roman Catholics, 1784, Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 1:84.

33. See, for example, Carroll to Mathew Carey, April 8, 1789, ibid., 1:355.

34. Carroll to John Troy, April 12, 1813, in Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 3:222. On another occasion Carroll referred to Milner as “that most revered Prelate.” See Carroll to Plowden, [December 12, 1813], ibid., 3:246.

35. Carroll to Plowden, December [?] 22, [1791-1792]; to John Troy, July 12, 1794; to the Trustees of St. Mary’s Philadelphia, August 16, 1814; ibid., 1:548, 2:120-121; 3:290.

36. Carroll to to Plowden, December 5, 1808; to Plowden, February 21, 1809, ibid., 3:73, 3:82.

37. Chinnici, The English Catholic Enlightenment, 57-58.

38. Carroll to Plowden, May 23, 1796, Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 2:179; quotation is from Carroll to Plowden, July 7, 1797, ibid., 2:216. Certainly, Berington’s championing of the right of lay trustees to appoint their pastors annoyed Carroll, as did the Englishman’s unauthorized publication of his private letter of July 10, 1784. See Carroll to Plowden, May 26, 1788; June 4, 1787; to Berington, July 10, 1784, ibid., 1:311, 1:253, 1:147-149. Carroll’s souring may also have been on a personal level; he huffed to Plowden that he was irritated that Berington “was not polite enough to answer” his complimentary letter of July 10, 1784. See Carroll to Plowden, June 29, 1785, ibid., 1:192. Carroll also apparently came to believe that Berington was vain, telling Plowden in that “Berington has too much pride” and thinks “too loftily of himself.” See Carroll to Plowden, September 24, 1796; March 12, 1802, ibid., 1:187, 2:384. But at the root of Carroll’s disillusionment was his objection to Berington’s increasing theological radicalism. Carroll was jubilant when in 1802 Berington was compelled to publish a retraction of some of his views. “It cannot fail of producing very salutary effects on many,” Carroll told Plowden, “who thro’ personal attachment, or undue estimation of his judgment & dogmatical manner of expressing his opinions, were misled by him.” Carroll was obviously including himself in this group. See Carroll to Plowden, March 12, 1802, ibid., 2:384. For other examples of the deterioration of Carroll’s estimation of Berington, see Carroll to Plowden, September 24, 1796; to Plowden, September 3, 1800; to Robert Plowden, September 20, 1800, ibid., 2:188, 2:318, 2:322.

39. See, for example, Dolan, The American Catholic Experience, 117.

40. Carroll to Plowden, February 20, 1782, Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 1:67.

41. Carroll to Plowden, February 3, 1791, ibid., 1:492. Carroll indeed owned a copy of Burke’s Reflections.

42. Carroll to Plowden, October 12, 1791, ibid., 1:523.

43. Carroll to John Troy, July 12, 1794, ibid., 2:120-121.

44. Carroll to John Fenno of the Gazette of the United States, June 10, 1789, ibid., 1:367-368.

45. Carroll to John Fenno of the Gazette of the United States, June 10, 1789, ibid., 1:367-368.

46. The fear of a national Protestant establishment was largely chimerical due to the diversity of Protestant sects. See Marty, Righteous Empire, chap. 4.

47. Carroll to the Editor of The Columbian Magazine, September 1, 1787, in Hanley, John Carroll Papers, 1:259.

48. Connecticut abolished its state church in 1818; Massachusetts did so in 1833. New York removed its anti-Catholic naturalization oath in 1822. See Swindler, United States Constitutions; Billington, Protestant Crusade, 22-23.

The featured image is a portrait (c. 1806) of John Carroll by Gilbert Stuart and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation. Comments that are critical of an essay may be approved, but comments containing ad hominem criticism of the author will not be published. Also, comments containing web links or block quotations are unlikely to be approved. Keep in mind that essays represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Imaginative Conservative or its editor or publisher.

Leave a Comment
Print Friendly, PDF & Email