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DISINTEGRATION IN THE CHURCH OF ROME
ORGANIZING AN INDEPENDENT CHURCH
A PROCLAMATION inviting the discontented Roman Catholics and Catholics other than Roman in the United States to unite has been issued in Cleveland. It is signed by Rev. A. F. Kolaszewski, president, and M. A. Chrostowski, secretary of the Polish National Church Committee. They headed the revolt from St. Stanislaus’ Roman Catholic church in that city, which led to the establishment of an independent church on Fremont street. They propose not to limit the movement to any nationality, but to bring together all who desire to enter the independent fold. Fifty thousand copies of the proclamation will be distributed through the country, and in a short time a convention of delegates representing Polish congregations throughout the country will be held. After this convention has organized a new denomination, discontents of other nationalities will be invited to join it. The proclamation reads:
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PROCLAMATION OF THE POLISH NATIONAL CHURCH COMMITTEE OF THE CATHOLICS IN THE UNITED STATES
Fellow citizens and co-religionists: The Poles of the United States, and all who have found out from years of bitter experience what a curse to their national interests, to their enlightenment and progress, their allegiance to the church of Rome is, have decided to throw away the hateful yoke covered with moss of ages of fanaticism and tyranny. Therefore, they have decided to establish the Polish Independent Catholic Church of America. Our religion, our faith, will remain essentially the same; but we want to be our own masters relative to the management of our worldly affairs. The principles laid down for the establishment of the Independent Catholic Church are as follows:—
First. All the church property belongs to the congregation, and not the bishops.
Second. The congregations will elect their own priests, or approve the ones sent by the bishop.
Third. The congregations will exercise perfect freedom in regard to the education of their children. There should be no compulsion in regard to the sending of their children to parochial schools. The parochial schools should be furnished with American textbooks and the American system of teaching.
Fourth. Perfect freedom of the press.
These are the principles laid down by us for the establishment of an Independent Catholic Church in this country. We have already, upon these principles, established one church in Cleveland, O. Others are being organized in Baltimore, Chicago, Buffalo, Nanticoke and Reading, Pa. In a few years hence we are sure of having an independent congregation in every Polish settlement in this country. But our aim is broader still. We do not want to confine this work of reform to our nationality alone. We want to spread it all over the country; we want to reach every catholic citizen of the United States whose heart beats for freedom and who is opposed to the tyranny and fanaticism on which the church of Rome is founded. For the purpose of carrying on the propaganda of religious freedom among the Poles, the Polish National Church Committee was elected. This committee was authorized to confer with the catholics in this country, composed of other nationalities. This committee, representing about 125,000 Poles who are worshiping already in the independent spirit, makes an appeal to you, fellow citizens and co-religionists, and invites you to join in the movement. We have not the least doubt that many thousands of American catholics—Bohemian, German, Irishmen, Frenchmen, and others—are dissatisfied with the arbitrary rulings of the church of Rome, which is represented in this country by the whimsical, despotic, and shallow-minded American bishops. We have not the least doubt that many of you are opposed to the church property being owned exclusively by the bishops. This is simply absurd. This only shows to what degree extends the greed for money of our high church officials.
We have no doubt, also, that you would be willing to have for your spiritual adviser a priest who would really care for his flock, and not for the bishop’s interests, as it is at present. We draw the example from the state of matters existing among us. In our Polish congregations we have had many examples where our priests were treated in most unjust, most cruel, most diabolical manner by their superiors, the bishops. And we know that the only reason for this was that the priest really cared for the good of his flock, and did not want to enrich the bishop at the expense of his congregation. We presume that more or less the same state of things exists among all the catholics in this country. Therefore, when we say that we want the election of the priest to be reserved for the congregation—if not exclusively, then partially, at least—we are sure we touch the keynote of the question. Then come the schools. The superiority in everything of the public schools formed on the American system of school teaching is so apparent to everybody that we will not dwell upon this subject at all.
So, fellow citizens and co-religionists, you can plainly see that we do not wish to change our faith—our denomination. We wish to remain as we are, catholics, but we want our church, just as all the institutions in this country are, to be governed by the spirit of freedom. We want it to be governed by the free and glorious Constitution of the United States. We will remain catholics, but the worldly affairs of our own church will be solely and exclusively in our own hands. We do not want to organize any other congregations but the catholic, but they must be self-governed, dictated to by the majority of the people, and not by the arbitrary bishop, despotic Satolli, or infallible pope of Rome.
These are our principles, and they sooner or later will be recognized as a religious standard by all the noble, thinking catholics of America.
On the road to the great religious freedom and deliverance, however, we will find many hard obstacles. The church of Rome is great and powerful even in this country. While the centuries passed away it remained the same, unchanged and unmoved, and now it is even more
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grim, fanatical and arbitrary than centuries ago.
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Its power, as hundreds of years ago, is founded upon ignorance, superstition and fanaticism, and there is small wonder that even in this country it is so great. This church of Rome will do its utmost to stop our work of reform. It will beg, it will pray, or it will curse and excommunicate, or it will strain every nerve in its gigantic body to stop or crush us to the dust.
Fellow citizens and brother catholics! United we would stand—withstand all the onslaughts of this mighty enemy of freedom—divided, separated, we would fall, accomplish nothing, or very little, at the end. We invite, therefore, most earnestly, every one of you who thinks more or less the same as we do, to join in this grand stride for religious liberty. Instead of having a committee composed of one nationality for the carrying on of this propaganda, we must have a national American church committee, composed of all nationalities, with different branches—that is, Polish, Bohemian, German, Irish, and others. To bring about this we must first have a convention, where all the plans for the future work of reform will be discussed and the above committee organized. Therefore, we invite all who will take interest in this proclamation to come to a convention which we propose to hold in Cleveland for the purpose of discussing all the matters pertaining to the establishment of the independent catholic church in America. We propose the city of Cleveland for the place of convention, because in this city the great movement was first begun a year ago. In this city, too, we have already established an independent catholic congregation, known as the congregation of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This congregation, in spite of the excommunication by the bishop of the Cleveland diocese, in spite of the repeated appeals by Satolli, whose despotical and whimsical inclinations are best shown by his order expelling all the saloonkeepers from the catholic societies, grows larger every day, gaining new members. We beg of all of you who are willing to take part in this great convention to notify of your intention one of the following officers of our committee, who, after the list of those ready to participate will be more or less completed, will name the clerk of the convention.
All the newspapers in the country desirous of helping this good work along, we beg to copy this proclamation.
In the name of the Polish National Church Committee,
Rev. A. F. Kolaszewski, Pres.,
M. A. Chrostowski, Secretary.
THE REVOLT SPREADING
A large Catholic congregation in Baltimore, Md., known as The Church of the Holy Rosary, and numbering about three thousand members, has decided to follow the example set at Detroit and Cleveland;—organize an Independent Church, place its affairs in the hands of a committee, engage its own pastor, etc. Two of its members were sent as a committee to Cleveland to investigate the conduct of affairs there, and made a glowing report of the success of the movement. They report that about thirty priests are ready to accept positions as soon as they are offered. It was to prevent just such a movement and keep peace in the Roman Catholic family that Satolli was sent here as the representative of the pope. His mission was only partially successful in the healing of the McGlynn schism. A similar Independent Catholic movement is on foot in Europe.
A NATIONAL ORGANIZATION EFFECTED
In harmony with the foregoing a general Convention met at Cleveland on Aug. 20, at which were delegates from congregations of Polish Catholic secessionists in fourteen cities of the U.S.—those of Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis and Buffalo being the largest. The latter was reported by its delegates as 8000 strong.
Archbishop Vilatte was chosen the head of the new church; and while some favored a name indicating the Polish origin of the new denomination, it was finally decided that as Catholics of all nationalities would be invited to join it the name should be, The American Catholic Church.
A resolution renouncing forever allegiance to the Pope of Rome was voted down,—the Archbishop declaring, “We will always recognize the primacy of the pope. That does not imply that we believe in his infallibility or supremacy. The pope is nothing, but we respect him for his primacy.”
Archbishop Vilatte in a speech said, “We are met together to exclaim, ‘Great is the truth, and it shall prevail.’ We are met to proclaim all over the land, ‘Beware of despotism, if you love liberty.’ The American Catholic Church will be composed of different nationalities.”
— September 1, 1894 —