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Catholic Studies | United States History


"This chapter deals with a set of movements that Bishop Chatard, a religious, social, and political conservative, had to deal with. Born into comfort, rector of the American College in Rome, Chatard, so far as he was able, operated as a brakeman to some of and the salient developments of Gilded Age America, in particular, trade unionism, Irish nationalism, and the efforts of the Modernists to bring the Church up to date and escape from medieval scholasticism. Nor did he share the confidence of the Americanist bishops who reveled in the freedom found in the United States and believed that here the Church had nothing to fear from the state. In resisting such efforts in his lifetime Chatard was on the winning side, with the exception of trade unionism, whose legitimacy was accepted by the Church in the encyclical, Rerum Novarum.

In dealing with the laity Chatard’s habit was to lay down the law. Nothing unusual in that for a bishop of that era or later. As for the city’s Irish nationalists, however, with Ireland’s independence as their goal and by force, if need be, the clergy would get respect but not docility. The outstanding Irish revolutionary movement of the era in the United States was the Clan na Gael, chiefly, but not solely a money raising operation. In Indianapolis, the Clan included among its active members the leaders of the Irish community.

In 1899 Chatard suffered a stroke which affected his vision. Given an auxiliary bishop in 1900, Denis O’Donaghue, a decade of limited activity followed. In 1910, O’Donaghue named bishop of Louisville, Kentucky, Joseph Chartrand was named Chatard’s co-adjutor with the right of succession. Chatard’s health continued to worsen and he died in 1918. The chapter ends with a discussion of Chatard’s standing among his episcopal contemporaries."


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