The Pope Condemns
a “Phantom Heresy”: January 22, 1899
This text comes from our book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America (now available in hard cover). It continues a discussion of the struggle between “conservatives” and “progressives” in the Catholic Church in America in the late 19th century. To peruse sample chapters of our books, please go here. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.
But what brought the controversy between progressives and their opponents to a head was Abbé Felix Klein’s publication of a French translation of The Life of Father Hecker. A Paulist priest and close associate of Father Isaac Hecker, Walter Elliott, wrote the original English version of this work that first ran in installments in the Paulist periodical, The Catholic World, beginning in April 1890. The subject of the book, Isaac Hecker, had lived at Brook Farm and Fruitlands; but, having become disillusioned with Transcendentalism, he had converted to the Catholic Church. Ordained a Redemptorist priest, Hecker eventually founded his own religious congregation, the Paulists, dedicated to converting America to the Catholic faith. Paulists took no vows and engaged in the active apostolate, especially printing. Isaac Hecker died in 1888.
An inspiration to such men as [Archbishop John] Ireland and [Bishop John] Keane, Hecker loved America’s institutions and believed that his country had a quasi-messianic destiny to spread free government to the world. He thought that by permitting its citizens a large degree of freedom, the United States was ushering in a new era where the Holy Spirit would inspire and strengthen individuals as never before. The original English version of Elliott’s biography quoted the Paulist founder as saying that “the increased action of the Holy Spirit, with a more vigorous co-operation on the part of the faithful, which is in process of realization, will elevate the human personality to an intensity of force and grandeur productive of a new era to the Church and to society — an era difficult for the imagination to grasp, and still more difficult to describe in words, unless we have recourse to the prophetic language of the inspired Scriptures.” According to the Life, Hecker had said: (more…)