5. Apex of the Union and Catholic Hierarchical Influence
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5 Apex of the Union and Catholic Hierarchical Influence Members of the PLSBS in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were primarily first- or second-generation Irish, many tracing their ancestry to County Galway, located on Ireland’s western Atlantic coast.1 There were bound to be strong ties between these laborers and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. This chapter will look at this ethnic union through the lens of the Catholic episcopal influence of three bishops in these years: James Augustine Healy, William Henry O’Connell, and Louis Sebastian Walsh, who served during the maritime strike of 1921. The Catholic Church, of course, would wish for the financial success of its members, but not at the price of radicalism or secularism. While many of the clergy largely ignored the issues of labor altogether, some of even the more liberal of the Catholic hierarchy, such as James Cardinal Gibbons, benignly urged their flocks to “foster habits of economy and self-denial [and shun] the slightest invasion of the rights and autonomy of employers.”2 Despite this seemingly proemployer position, Cardinal Gibbons and others within the liberal “Americanist” wing of the Catholic episcopal hierarchy would constantly worry about any possible estrangement between Catholic workers in America and their Church, as had occurred in Europe. Gibbons, as bishop and later cardinal of Baltimore (1877–1921), would later become strongly identified with the policy of assimilation sometimes referred to as “Americanization.” This policy would lead to strains within the Maine Catholic Church, especially between its largely Irish hierarchy and its significant and rapidly growing French-speaking congregations.3 Gibbons and others wished to avoid ethnic divisions and prevent the rift between labor and the Church that had become all too common in Europe. He would eventually argue successfully to Pope Leo XIII that “the working Seated by the Sea 114 class would be lost to the Church if the Pope did not take a strong moral stand in defense of them.”4 During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, however, the bishop of the Portland Diocese seemed to be headed in quite another direction regarding the rights of labor to organize, at least in what he claimed as “his” state. The second bishop of the diocese of Portland would remain, on labor and other questions within the last quarter of the nineteenth century , firmly within the more conservative and traditionalist “ultramontane” wing of the Catholic hierarchy in America. This wing looked directly to the Vatican for guidance on labor and other vexing questions. Bishop James A. Healy and Opposition to the Knights of Labor (KOL) 1875–1900 James Augustine Healy remains one of the more interesting and compelling characters in Portland’s rich social history. Born in Georgia on April 6, 1830, he was the son of an Irish father, Michael Morris Healy, and a black slave mother, Eliza Clark Healy. His father claimed his roots to be somewhere in the vicinity of the central Irish town of Athlone. James was the eldest of ten children born to these parents who married in the direst of conditions for any interracial couple in the Deep South in that era. They decided to send their children north for education, and for safety. The family as a whole is remarkable. One brother, Patrick, became an early president of Georgetown University. Another, Michael, became a pioneering Coast Guard captain in Alaska, serving much of his time above the Arctic Circle.5 James A. Healy, like many of his siblings, would be educated at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Located forty miles west of Boston, Holy Cross provided a quiet and secure place from which the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) could train the sons of Irish and other immigrant families into the priesthood, or in other religious or secular fields. He moved up rapidly in the priesthood and, like most of his siblings, successfully “passed for white” during the greater part of his life. By the relatively young age of forty-five, James A. Healy became America’s first African American Bishop, and his diocese would be that of Portland, Maine. Healy’s episcopal influence in the area of labor relations in Portland became historically significant. Just one year into his tenure, the new bishop of Portland, in a pastoral letter dated 1876, referred to secret societies and warned, “the ordinary subterfuge that the members are allowed to tell their 115 Apex of the Union and Catholic Hierarchical Influence confessor is...


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