John Carroll – Clergy


John Carroll, (January 8, 1735 – December 3, 1815) was the first Roman Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United States—serving as the ordinary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He is also known as the founder of Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the United States, and St. John the Evangelist Parish of Rock Creek (now Forest Glen), the first secular (diocesan) parish in the country.

==Early life and education==

John Carroll was born to Daniel Carroll, a native of Ireland, and Eleanor Darnall Carroll, of English descent, at the large plantation which Eleanor Darnall had inherited from her family. He spent his early years at the family home, sited on thousands of acres in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. (Several acres are now associated with the house museum known as Darnall’s Chance, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.) His older brother Daniel Carroll became one of only five men to sign both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States.

John Carroll was educated at the College of St. Omer in French Flanders. (This was established for the education of English Catholics after discrimination following the Protestant Reformation in England. During the upheavals following the French Revolution, the college migrated to Bruges, and then Liège before finally settling at Stonyhurst in England in 1794, where it remains.) Attending St. Omer with him was his cousin Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who was to become the only Catholic signatory of the Declaration of Independence and the first United States Senator from Maryland.


Carroll joined the Society of Jesus as a postulant at the age of 18 in 1753. In 1755, he began his studies of philosophy and theology at Liège. After fourteen years he was ordained to the priesthood in 1769. Carroll remained in Europe until he was almost 40, teaching at St-Omer and Liège, and acting as chaplain to a British aristocrat traveling on the continent. When the Pope suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773, Carroll made arrangements to return to Maryland. The suppression of the Society of Jesus was a painful experience for Carroll who suspected the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith of being responsible for this decision. As a result of laws discriminating against Catholics, there was then no public Catholic Church in Maryland, so Carroll worked as a missionary in Maryland and Virginia.

Carroll founded St. John the Evangelist Parish at Forest Glen (Silver Spring) in 1774. In 1776, the Continental Congress asked Carroll, his cousin Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase, and Benjamin Franklin to travel to Quebec and attempt to persuade the French Canadians to join the revolution. Although the group was unsuccessful, it made Carroll well known to the government of the new republic. It is said Carroll was excommunicated by the local Quebec bishop, Jean-Olivier Briand, for his political activities. Snubbed by the local clergy on the orders of the bishop of Quebec, Carroll took an early opportunity to accompany the ailing Franklin back to Philadelphia.

The Jesuit fathers, led by Carroll and five other priests, began a series of meetings at White Marsh beginning on 27 June 1783; through these General Chapters, they organized the Catholic Church in the United States on what is now the site of Sacred Heart Church in Maryland.

==Superior of the Missions==

The Roman Catholic clergy at the time of the new Republic were keenly aware that anti-British sentiment made their canonical allegiance to Bishop Richard Challoner, the vicar-apostolic of the London district, somewhat suspect. As a result, they explored various options, and when Bishop Challoner died in 1781, his successor, James Talbot, refused to exercise jurisdiction in the new nation. But the American clergy, then numbering some two dozen, did not feel the time was right for a bishop in the new nation.

The papal nuncio to France conferred with the American ambassador in Paris, Benjamin Franklin, as to how the issue might be resolved in a way that would be acceptable to the new nation. Franklin responded to the inquiry by stating that the separation of Church and State in the United States did not permit the government to have any official opinion on who should govern American Catholics, but suggested privately that perhaps a French bishop might be given oversight of the small but growing Roman Catholic community in the U.S.

It does not appear that Franklin’s suggestion of placing the American Church under the jurisdiction of a French bishop was seriously considered by the Vatican. The nuncio did, however, take into account remarks by Franklin of the high esteem he and others had for John Carroll. Carroll was appointed and confirmed by Pope Pius VI, 9 June 1784, as provisional Superior of the Missions in the thirteen United States of North America, with faculties to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation. Rome made this decision in part because it wanted to please Benjamin Franklin, who had warmly recommended John Carroll for the position.


====Financial Reform and Lay Involvement====

Because the U.S. government and state governments did not regulate churches, former British colonists and immigrants that made up the Roman Catholic Church in the new land were of varying ideas on how to structure their local parish communities in this new era. Some set up churches run entirely by laity without Carroll’s permission, and in other cases clergy exercised excessive control, with predictable financial crises. Carroll sought to navigate a new way of structuring the Church in a new country, taking into account the need for lay involvement and a reasonable degree of hierarchical control. In 1791, the formal message of congratulations from American Catholics to President George Washington on his election was co-signed by Carroll and lay Catholics.


In his role as the representative of Roman Catholics in the United States, Carroll often penned articles for publications defending the Catholic tradition against demagogues who furthered the popular cause of anti-Catholicism in the United States. He fought notions of state establishment of Protestantism as the official religion, but he always treated non-Catholics with respect, insisting that Catholics and Protestants should work together to build up the new nation. An early advocate of Christian Unity, Carroll put forward the idea that the chief obstacles to unity among Christians in the United States were the lack of clarity on the boundaries of Papal Primacy and the use of Latin in the liturgy.


The American clergy, originally reluctant to request the formation of a diocese due to fears of public misunderstanding and the possibility of a foreign bishop being imposed upon them, eventually recognized the need for a Roman Catholic bishop. The election of Samuel Seabury (1729–1796) in 1783 as the first Anglican bishop in the United States had already shown that Americans would not necessarily be hostile to the appointment of a Catholic bishop. The American clergy had also received the assurances of the Continental Congress that it would not object to election of a bishop whose allegiance was to Rome.

Seeing the need of a bishop, and that an American, Carroll, as Prefect Apostolic in February 1785, urged Cardinal Antonelli, that some method of appointing church authorities be adopted by Rome that would not make it appear as if they were receiving their appointment from a foreign power. A report of the status of Catholics in Maryland was appended to his letter, where he stated that despite there being then only nineteen priests in Maryland, some of the more prominent families were still Catholics in faith, though prone to dancing and novel-reading. The pope was so pleased with Father Carroll’s report that he granted his request “that the priests in Maryland be allowed to suggest two or three names from which the Pope would choose their bishop”.

The priests of Maryland petitioned Rome for a bishop for the United States. Cardinal Antonelli replied, allowing the priests on the mission to select the city and, for this case only, to name the candidate for presentation to the pope. Carroll was selected Bishop of Baltimore by the clergy of the new nation in April 1789 by a vote of 24 out of 26 and on November 6, 1789 Pope Pius VI approved the election, naming Carroll the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States. He was ordained a bishop by Bishop Charles Walmesley on August 15, 1790 (the Feast of the Assumption) in the chapel of Lulworth Castle in Dorset, England, without the oath which the Anglican bishop Seabury had encountered. He was invested at St. Thomas Manor, in Charles County, Maryland and on his arrival in Baltimore took his chair in the Church of St. Peter, which would serve as his pro-cathedral.

===Founding of Georgetown University===

Among the major educational concerns of Carroll were the education of the faithful, providing proper training for priests and the inclusion of women in higher education (something he had encountered resistance to). As a result, Carroll orchestrated the founding and early development of Georgetown University. Administration of the school was entrusted to the Jesuits. Instruction at the school began on November 22, 1791 under the direction of its first President, Robert Plunkett, with future Congressman William Gaston as its first student.

===First Diocesan Synod in the United States===

In 1791 Carroll convened the first diocesan synod in the United States. The twenty-two priests (of five nationalities) at the First Synod of Baltimore discussed baptism, confirmation, penance, the celebration of the liturgy, anointing of the sick, mixed marriages and supplemental legislation concerning things such as the rules of fast and abstinence. The decrees of this synod represent the first local canonical legislation in the new nation. Among the regulations were that parish income should be divided in thirds: one third for the support of the clergy, one third for the maintenance of church facilities, and one third for the support of the poor.

To train priests for his diocese of three million square miles, Bishop Carroll had asked the Fathers of the Company of Saint Sulpice to come to Baltimore, where they arrived in 1791 and started the nucleus of St. Mary’s College and Seminary. Carroll gave his approval to the founding of Visitation nuns, who in 1799, under the direction of Leonard Neale, his successor, would begin Visitation Academy in Georgetown. He was not successful, however, in inducing the Carmelites, who had come to Maryland in 1790, to take up the work of education. He took the lead in effecting a restoration of the Society of Jesus in Maryland in 1805, without informing Rome, by an affiliation with the Russian Jesuits, who had been protected from suppression by Catherine the Great. Thaat same year Carroll urged English Dominicans to begin a priory and college in Kentucky for the large number of Maryland Catholics migrating there. In 1809 the Sulpicians who invited Elizabeth Ann Seton to come to Emmitsburg to found a school. Carroll also had to contend with a “medley of clerical characters. One of the most notorious was Simon Felix Gallagher of Charleston, an eloquent alcoholic with a large following.

===Construction of the First Cathedral in the United States===

In 1806, Carroll oversaw the construction of the first cathedral in the 13 United States, the Cathedral of the Assumption (today called the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in Baltimore, Maryland, which was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the United States Capitol. The cornerstone of the cathedral was laid on July 7, 1806, by Carroll, but he did not live to see its completion.

===Elevation to Archbishop===

In 1804 Carroll was given administration of the Danish West Indies and other nearby islands that were under no ecclesiastical jurisdiction and in 1805 the Louisiana Territory. In April 1808, Pope Pius VII made Baltimore the first archdiocese in the United States, with suffragan bishops in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Bardstown, Kentucky. Three of the four new bishops were ordained by Archbishop Carroll in the fall of 1810, after which followed two weeks of meetings in what was an unofficial provincial council.


Carroll died in Baltimore on December 3, 1815. His remains are interred in the crypt of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which can be visited by the public.

==Early support for a vernacular liturgy==

Carroll was dedicated to the wider readership of Scripture among the Catholics of the United States. He insisted that the readings of the liturgy be read in the vernacular, and was a tireless promoter of “The Carey Bible,” an edition of the English-language Douay-Rheims translation that was published in sections. He encouraged clergy and laity to purchase subscriptions so that they could read the Scriptures.

As both superior of the missions and bishop, Carroll instituted a series of broad reforms in the Church, especially regarding the conduct of the clergy. He promoted the use of vernacular languages in the liturgy, but was unable to gain the support for such reform by the church hierarchy. In 1787 he wrote, “Can there be anything more preposterous than an unknown tongue; and in this country either for want of books or inability to read, the great part of our congregations must be utterly ignorant of the meaning and sense of the public office of the Church. It may have been prudent, for aught I know, to impose a compliance in this matter with the insulting and reproachful demands of the first reformers; but to continue the practice of the Latin liturgy in the present state of things must be owing either to chimerical fears of innovation or to indolence and inattention in the first pastors of the national Churches in not joining to solicit or indeed ordain this necessary alteration.” It would be nearly 200 years until Carroll’s wish would be realized in the United States as a result of the Second Vatican Council.

==Attitudes toward slavery==

Carroll tolerated slavery, and had two black servants – one free and one a slave (the latter of which was released from slavery in his will with a generous inheritance). While calling for the humane treatment and religious education of slaves, he never agitated for the abolition of slavery.

Over the course of his life, Carroll’s attitude toward slavery evolved from advocating for humane treatment and religious instruction of slaves to a policy of gradual emancipation (albeit through manumission rather than law). His view was that gradual emancipation of a plantation’s slaves allowed for families to be kept together and for elderly slaves to be provided for. He addressed critics of his approach as follows: “Since the great stir raised in England about Slavery, my Brethren being anxious to suppress censure, which some are always glad to affix to the priesthood, have begun some years ago, and are gradually proceeding to emancipate the old population on their estates. To proceed at once to make it a general measure, would not be either humanity toward the Individuals, nor doing justice to the trust, under which the estates have been transmitted and received.”


* John Carroll University, a Jesuit University in University Heights, Ohio
* Archbishop Carroll High School (Radnor, Pennsylvania)
* Archbishop Carroll High School (Washington, DC)
* Carroll High School (Dayton, Ohio)
* John Carroll Catholic High School (Fort Pierce, Florida)
* The John Carroll School, in Bel Air, Maryland.
* John Carroll Society, an organization for Catholic professional laypersons in the service of the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington
* Carroll Square, an trophy class office building located at 975 F Street NW in Washington DC. The building is situated on land owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and is next door to the historic St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
* Bishop John Carroll School, an elementary school in Oklahoma City