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A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals


Selections From The Ark Number 203 - Summer 2006

A Great American
Cardinal James Gibbons (1834-1921)

It was 85 years ago when the ninth archbishop of Baltimore died, and 120 years ago since he was created a cardinal. With Washington D.C. within his diocese, and, from 1886 to 1911, being the only cardinal in the USA, Cardinal Gibbons was regarded by the government and people as the leading member of the American hierarchy. The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia says that ‘During his forty-three years in Baltimore, Gibbons acquired a prominence and influence equalled by no other Catholic bishop in American history.’

In 1897 he wrote to the President of the Anti-Vivisection Society of Maryland that he accepted ‘with pleasure your kind proposal to have me enrolled an honorary member’ of that society. He went on to lend his name as Honorary Vice-President of the American Anti-Vivisection Society of Philadelphia and the National Anti-Vivisection Society of England. He wrote to the latter body, ‘It affords me pleasure to invoke a blessing on the good cause – the cause of anti-vivisection’, adding, in memory of his distinguished friend, ‘which had the warm support of the late Cardinal Manning’.

Later, in 1958, the President of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, George R. Farnum, wrote of the Cardinal, that: ‘Just as it was once said of Gladstone, “You have so lived and wrought that you have kept the soul alive in England”, so the same could have been said to the great Churchman for what he did for America.’

Farnum noted that ‘Theodore Roosevelt once remarked that he knew of but one man in the country who had the nerve enough to get up and speak the truth no matter how much it hurt, and that man was Cardinal Gibbons.’

Farnum even said of him: ‘On such a man the gospel of the unity and sacredness of life was not lost. He saw that all the humble creatures of the earth were assigned a rightful place in that kingdom of universal love, the teaching of which was the chief burden of the mission of his divine Master and his indignation was aroused by the cruelties inflicted upon them and his heart moved with compassion.’

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