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Michael Augustine Corrigan
Third Archbishop of New York, b. 13 August, 1839, at Newark, New Jersey, d. at New York, 5 May, 1900. His parents were natives of Ireland. After graduating at Mt. St. Mary's College, Emmittsburg, Md, in 1859, he entered the College of the Propaganda at Rome, and was one of the twelve students with whom the North American College was opened there, 8 December, 1859. He was ordained priest at Rome, 19 September, 1863, and received there the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1864. Returning to his native diocese in September, 1864, he was successively professor of dogmatic theology and of Scripture, vice-president and president of Seton Hall College and Seminary, and vicar-general of the diocese until 1873, when on 4 May he was consecrated Bishop of Newark. His administration, during the seven years of its continuance, was characterized by unceasing and successful efforts to bring the regulation of the spiritual and temporal affairs of the diocese into strict accordance with the prescriptions and recommendations of the plenary councils of the Church in the United States that had been held previous to his accession to the episcopacy.
The declining health of Cardinal McCloskey, Archbishop of New York, requiring the appointment of a coadjutor, the young Bishop of Newark was named, 1 October, 1880, titular Archbishop of Petra, with the right of succession for New York, and on the death of Cardinal McCloskey in October, 1885, he assumed charge. Having taken an active part in the proceedings of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884) as the representative of the cardinal, his first important act as archbishop was to convoke a synod of the diocese, in November, 1886, to carry into effect the decrees of the council. The considerable changes made by the council in the status of the clergy and its provisions for the administration of the dioceses of the United States as to their subordinate officials, were adopted. A new theological seminary, to replace that of St. Joseph's, Troy, was built at Dunwoodie, and opened September, 1896. The unfinished towers of St. Patrick's Cathedral were completed. The Orphan Asylums on Fifth and Madison Avenues were transferred to a new suburban location at Kingsbridge. The construction of the Lady Chapel of the cathedral, through funds donated by a generous Catholic family, was begun.
During the municipal election of 1886 Archbishop Corrigan deemed it his duty to disapprove the socialistic character of the writings and addresses of one of the candidates for the mayoralty. This brought about the most disturbing incident, perhaps, of the archbishop's administration, the difference between himself and a prominent member of his clergy, the Rev. Dr. Edward McGlynn, rector of St. Stephen's Church, New York city, occasioned by the latter's advocacy of opinions which the archbishop believed were not in accord with Catholic teaching on the subject of the rights of property. The controversy began in 1886 with the clergyman's appearance on the public platform, in behalf of one of the candidates for mayor, who stood for certain novel economic theories, and led to the privation of his pastoral office. Not complying afterwards with the order of the Pope, Leo XIII, to proceed to Rome, he incurred the sentence of excommunication.
There resulted some commotion in ecclesiastical and other circles, accentuated later (1892) by a new phase which the Catholic School question assumed in its relation to the State. A period of much public discussion and excitement followed which, however, began to subside rapidly when Dr. McGlynn was relieved of the censure by the Apostolic Delegate, then Archbishop Satolli, and obeyed the summons of the Holy Father. In 1894 Archbishop Corrigan appointed Dr. McGlynn pastor of St. Mary's Church, Newburgh, where he remained until his death in 1901.
On May 4th, 1898, Archbishop Corrigan celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of his episcopal consecration. Laymen, priests, and many prominent Catholics assembled to testify to his virtues as an ecclesiastic and as a citizen. He made his last ad limina Apostolorum in 1900. Two years afterwards, returning from a confirmation visit to the Bahamas, he contracted a cold, which, aggravated by an accident, caused his death on May 5th of the same year. The manifestation of sentiments of respect and affection on that event was not only local but national. From the beginning of his episcopate in New York, he was obliged to face the problem of the great influx of foreign, especially Italian, immigration and its religious requirements. He had to guide and direct the charitable and educational interests of his diocese which rapidly and widely expanded during his administration. Through the seventeen years of his rule he was instrumental in the increase of the churches, chapels, and stations of the archdiocese by one hundred and eighty-eight, of the clergy by two hundred and eighty-four, of schools by seventy-five. His scholarship was deep and wide extending to every branch of ecclesiastical learning; his piety marked but unobtrusive; his methods gentle but firm. His devotion, his zeal, and his unceasing labours in behalf of religion make him a conspicuous figure in the history of the American Church of the nineteenth century. The only literary production that his busy life as a priest and bishop permitted him to publish was a "Register of the Clergy laboring in the Archdiocese of New York from early missions to 1885", which he compiled for the "Historical Records and studies" of the United States Catholic History Society (Jan., 1889, sqq.).
Cathedral Library Association, Memorial of Most Rev. Archbishop Corrigan, Third Archbishop of New York (New York, 1902); Flynn, The Cath. Ch. In New Jersey (Morristown, 1904); Smith, The Cath. Ch. In New York (New York, 1908); Reuss, Biog. Cycl. Of the Cath. Hierarchy of U.S. (Milwaukee, 1898) Farley, The History of St. Patrick's Cathedral (New York, 1908).
Joseph F. Mooney.