The role of the laity in the thought of John Ireland

Katherine A McLaughlin, Marquette University


John Ireland had an evolving vision of the Catholic laity's mission in the United States. Archbishop Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota, was an influential member of the United States hierarchy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His bold, colorful style and energetic spirit placed him at the center of issues that arose within the Catholic Church in the United States, many of which directly involved the laity's role. This historical-systematic study traces the shaping of Ireland's vision of the laity's role and evaluates his contribution. Its thesis is that Ireland's view of the laity's role evolved as his life progressed, and that he ultimately identified Catholic social doctrine as central to the Church's teaching and the laity as the Church's presence in the world. Five chapters detail the developmental character of Ireland's thought. Chapter 1 describes the origins of Ireland's vision, illustrated during the first years (1861-1869) of his ordained life. Chapter 2 deals with the evolving nature of Ireland's views, as evidenced by his activities and statements between 1869 and 1889. Chapters 3 and 4 chronicle tensions that emerged around Ireland's activities and speeches between 1889 and the turn of the century. Chapter 4 suggests that the laity's role was a central factor in the "Americanist" crisis and that Leo XIII's letter, Testem Benevolentiae, issued warnings that directly related to lay mission in the United States. Chapter 5 contends that the "Americanist" charges did not significantly alter Ireland's views, and that he spent his later years involved in activities intended to enhance the future of lay life in his local archdiocese. Chapter 6 uses Avery Dulles' models of the Church to contextualize Ireland's views of the laity's mission to society. It suggests that Ireland's contribution was inextricably tied to his conviction about the centrality of Catholic social teaching and to his experience of committed lay Catholics. It also contends that Ireland's vision was limited by the juridical character of his ecclesiology. A more sacramental understanding of the laity's mission would be identified later by others, adding an important dimension to the vision that Ireland had articulated.

Recommended Citation

McLaughlin, Katherine A, "The role of the laity in the thought of John Ireland" (1990). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9101418.