Publication of Encyclical Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae
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Pope Leo XIII
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In 1899, Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae, which was addressed to Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore and condemned the heresy of Americanism. The immediate cause of the encyclical was a French translation of a biography of American priest Isaac Hecker. Tensions between American and European church leaders, however, reached back further. Pope Leo criticized the supposed Americanist notions that the church should adapt to the times and that individual conscience should be the sole guide of people’s actions. The encyclical argued that Catholicism in the United States was not unique and that the church was changeless. Although not mentioned by name, it is evident that the theological and social thought of modernist-leaning clerics such as Isaac Hecker and John Ireland was being questioned by the Vatican. These modernists were quick to disclaim any of the condemned ideas, while their conservative opponents in the church praised the encyclical.
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Gibbons, James
Hecker, Isaac
Ireland, John

Pope Leo XIII portrait- Hathi Trust

Pope Leo XIII portrait- Internet Archive

James Gibbons portrait- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-63469
Dolan, Jay P., 2002. In Search of an American Catholicism: A History of Religion and Culture in Tension. New York: Oxford University Press.
Fogarty, Gerald P., S.J., 1999. Reflections on the Centennial of Testem Benevolentiae. U.S. Catholic Historian 17, no. 1.Notes: Pages 1-12)
Gleason, Philip, 1993. The New Americanism in Catholic Historiography. U.S. Catholic Historian 11, no. 3.Notes: Pages 1-18)
Web Source(s)
Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae Concerning New Opinions, Virtue, Nature and Grace, with Regard to Americanism Encyclical promulgated on January 22, 1899
Web Page Contributor
William S. Cossen
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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