Bernard J. McQuaid (1823 ‑1909), Bishop of Rochester, New York, from 1868 to 1909.
In 1894 McQuaid, a long-time critic of the liberal views of bishops like Ireland and Spalding, used his pulpit to criticize Ireland for appearing in New York City to support the campaign for reform supported in that election year by New York Republicans.
You are well aware that, since I came to Rochester as bishop, I have most sedulously refrained from taking sides in politics, because I did not wish to throw the weight of my official position into the scales of either party, or to drag my episcopal robes in the mire of political partisanship. In my forty-seven years of priesthood, I have never put myself under obligation to any party, or to any official of national, state, or municipal government. No applicant for office has ever been helped by my personal solicitation, or by the signing of an application for office to the party in power. In other words, the sacredness of my office has never been a matter of barter in the mart of the political office‑seeker. In this city of Rochester, I have been more frequently classed as a Republican than as a Democrat. No one has ever had warrant to put me in either class, and for twenty‑seven years I have never cast a vote, out of anxiety not to put it in any man’s power to say that I had voted for one party or the other. While it may have been a duty to exercise the privilege of a citizen and vote, I have felt that a more sacred duty devolved on me of preserving unsullied the high and holy office of bishop by keeping clear of entanglements with any political party. It has been traditional in the Church of the United States for Bishops to hold aloof from politics. This tradition has been handed down to us by Bishops, whose greatness was real, and not mere newspaper greatness, pandering to the sensational popularity of the day. Although often accused, by our enemies, of actively participating in political plottings and partisanship, we have been able, until of late, to deny and repel the false accusation.
Having said this much by way of preface, I will now advert to the late scandal, which caused these remarks. Every Catholic, having respect for his bishops and priests and the honor and good name of his Church, must have been pained and mortified when he learned, during the late political campaign, that one of our bishops, the Archbishop of St. Paul [John Ireland], cast to one side the traditions of the past and entered the political arena like any layman. The newspapers were careful to keep the public daily informed of his arrival in New York weeks before the election, of his appearance on the platform of ratification meetings, surrounded by the leaders of the Republican party, of his views of political questions, strongly expressed through interviews carefully prepared for the press, and of his mingling in a crowd of excited politicians and partisans on the night of election.
I contend that this coming to New York of the Archbishop of St. Paul, to take part in a political contest, was undignified, disgraceful to his episcopal office, and a scandal in the eyes of all right‑minded Catholics of both parties. It was, furthermore, a piece of meddlesome interference on his part, to come from his State to another to break down all discipline among our priests and to justify the charge of those inimical to us, that priests are partisans and use their office and opportunities for political work. If Archbishop Ireland had made himself as conspicuous in favor of the Democratic party, he would be just as blameworthy in my estimation. If his conduct in the last political campaign were not censured and condemned, it would not be possible for me to restrain the priests of this diocese from imitating his example and descending from the pulpit to the political platform and marshalling their parishioners up to the polls on the day of election. Not one of them but has an equal right, with his Grace of St. Paul, to turn electioneering agent for one party or another and absent himself from his parish, as the Archbishop absented himself from his diocese. It is no excuse to say that the Archbishop was working in the interest of good government. Every other clerical aspirant to political distinction would say the same. New York is abundantly able to take care of itself, without extraneous help, as the last election showed. And if the newspapers report correctly, the legislature of Minnesota is itself sadly in need of purification, and his Grace might have found full scope for his political scheming and skill right at home, if politician he would be . . . .
These remarks will suffice for the present. If no other remedy can be found, then recourse to Rome will teach prelates that they would do well to stay at home and give their undivided attention to the field assigned them. I have made these remarks, because I want it understood that it is the policy of the Catholic Church in this country that her bishops and priests should take no active part in political campaigns and contests; that what bishops can do in political matters with impunity priests also can do; that neither have any right to become tools or agents of any party; that, when they do so, they descend from their high dignity, lay themselves open to censure and bitter remarks from those whom they oppose, remarks which recoil upon the sacred office they hold, and expose themselves and office to the vituperation so common in electioneering times.
I also wish it to be understood that this meddling in the political affairs of another state by Archbishop Ireland is altogether exceptional, ‑ as he is the only bishop who thus interfered with others, that this scandal deserved rebuke as public as the offense committed. I sincerely hope that the Church will be spared its repetition.