Feast of Edward McGlynn (September 28)   Leave a comment

Above:  Father Edward McGlynn

Image in the Public Domain

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EDWARD MCGLYNN (SEPTEMBER 27, 1837-JANUARY 7, 1900)

U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Social Reformer, and Alleged Heretic

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When I feed the poor, they call me saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.

Helder Camara (1909-1999), Roman Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife (1964-1985)

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Charity is a noble virtue, but to make the whole world an almshouse is carrying it to the absurd.  The noblest charity is to do justice–not only to procedure, at the sacrifice of self, in an unselfish spirit, some improvement in the condition of mankind, but to compel tyrants to do justice to the victims they have wronged.

The supreme moral law, the law of gravitation in the moral order, is justice.  Justice is the one think necessary to hold society together, to give each individual man the proper opportunity of exercising his God-given liberty.  Justice must be like Him in whose bosom it finds its eternal resting place, universal–it must prevail throughout the universe of God.

–Edward McGlynn, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber. A Year with American Saints (2006), 581

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He believed in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man,….

–from an obituary of Edward McGlynn, quoted in A Year with American Saints (2006), 581

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INTRODUCTION

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Father Edward McGlynn paid close attention to the Lord’s Prayer.  The line,

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,

dictated his radical social ethics and political positions.

The Kingdom of God is radical, of course.  It confronts those who build and maintain exploitative and otherwise unjust systems, and shows them what they should be doing instead.  The Kingdom of God tells them, to quote Daniel 5:27:

You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.

McGlynn comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via A Year with American Saints (2006).

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BIOGRAPHY

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Our saint, born in New York, New York, on September 27, 1837, came from Irish stock.  His parents were Peter (d. 1847) and Sarah McGlynn, who had left Donegal, Ireland, in 1824.  The McGlynn family had ten children.  Fortunately, Peter, a contractor, could afford to take care of his family properly.  Our saint studied first in New York City then in Rome (for nine years, in the Eternal City).  McGlynn, having received his doctorate in theology and philosophy, joined the ranks of priests (at the Church of St. John Lateran) on March 24, 1860.

McGlynn returned to New York City and began his ministry.  First he served as the assistant priest at St. Joseph’s Church.  Subsequent assignments through 1865 were:

  1. St. Brigid’s Church (as acting pastor),
  2. St. James’s Church (as pastor),
  3. St. Ann’s Church (as pastor), and
  4. St. Joseph’s Military Hospital (as chaplain).

Father Jeremiah Williams Cummings (1814-1866), McGlynn’s childhood priest, and the pastor of the Church of St. Stephen the Martyr since 1848, requested that John Hughes, the Archbishop of New York, assign our saint the assistant priest at St. Stephen’s Church.  McGlynn’s tenure as the assistant priest was brief; Cummings died on January 1866.  Then our saint succeeded him.  McGlynn served as the pastor of one of the largest Roman Catholic parishes in New York City until 1887.

At a time when the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the United States of America was obsessed with resisting the cultural assimilation of Roman Catholic immigrants, McGlynn had other priorities.  He supported public schools and defied orders to build a parochial school at St. Stephen’s Church.  He also befriended some Protestant clergymen.  Our saint caused plenty of scandal and outrage by doing all of the above.  Then he really got into trouble; he addressed economic inequality.

McGlynn looked into the heart of the problem and pondered structural changes to structural problems.  He dispensed many charitable handouts, of course.  Then he thought about why so many handouts were necessary.  He read Progress and Poverty (1879), by Henry George (1839-1897), and became a radical, like George.  George argued that all residents of a community should share equally in the economic value derived from the land.  He also favored municipal (public) utilities, free public transit, free trade, the secret ballot, greenbacks (as opposed to metal money), a universal pension, women’s suffrage, civil service reform, free bankruptcy protection, and the abolition of debtor’s prisons.  Much of George’s agenda has become policy in the United States of America, but parts of it have remained as radical in 2021 as they were in the late 1800s.

McGlynn got into hot water for aligning himself with George and George’s agenda, especially collective land ownership.  Our saint even participated in George’s failed campaign for Mayor of New York City in 1886.  Archbishops of New York John McCloskey (-1885) and Michael Corrigan (1885f) saw red, so to speak.  McCloskey ordered McGlynn to refrain from defending the alleged Socialistic opinions in public.  Corrigan forbade our saint from speaking at a campaign rally for George on October 1, 1886.  McGlynn refused. Corrigan published a pastoral letter defending property rights and condemning theories to the contrary.  McGlynn publicly criticized the document.  At the end of November 1886, Corrigan suspended our saint again.

Corrigan, citing alleged insubordination, removed McGlynn from St. Stephen’s Church in January 1887.  Our saint, summoned to Rome, on pain of excommunication, cited ill health and refused to make the trip.  His excommunication took effect on July 4, 1887.

Meanwhile, McGlynn and George had founded the Anti-Poverty Society in March 1887.  Our saint had become the first president of that organization.  He moved in with his widowed sister in Brooklyn.  McGlynn, having recovered his health, toured the West in his official capacity.  He also made clear that he rejected Papal Infallibility, which had emerged from the First Vatican Council (1869-1870).

Fortunately for McGlynn, his status in the church improved.  The lifting of his excommunication took effect on December 23, 1892, followed by his reinstatement to ministry the next day.  And, in 1893, Pope Leo XIII (reigned 1878-1903) gave McGlynn a sympathetic hearing in Rome.

McGlynn, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Newburgh, New York (1895-1900), died at the rectory on January 7, 1900.  He, 62 years old, had died of Bright’s Disease.

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CONCLUSION

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On April 4, 1967, at The Riverside Church, New York, New York, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968), delivered one of his most famous speeches; he unambiguously opposed the Vietnam War.  In that address, King also made other points, such as:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.  We must rapidly begin the shirt from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

At the risk of sounding like a very Low Church Protestant, can I get an “amen”?

King’s statement was radical in 1967.  It was radical in the late 1800s, too.

And it remains radical.  That fact speaks negatively, in moral terms, of societies, cultures, and nation-states.  That fact confirms that we–as societies, cultures, and nation-states–have, in the words of Daniel 5:27,

been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.

Uh-oh.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1586

THE FEAST OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES RENDEL HARRIS, ANGLO-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN QUAKER BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND ORIENTALIST; ROBERT LUBBOCK BENSLY, ENGLISH BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR AND ORIENTALIST; AGNES SMITH LEWIS AND MARGARET DUNLOP SMITH GIBSON, ENGLISH BIBLICAL SCHOLARS AND LINGUISTS; SAMUEL SAVAGE LEWIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND LIBRARIAN OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE; AND JAMES YOUNG GIBSON, SCOTTISH UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITERARY TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

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Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may

do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ, our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 736

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