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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Abraham Lincoln: Mackerel Snatcher

A Catholic Lincoln? That fascinating possibility is raised in an entertaining piece by Andrew Ferguson of First Things on how religious leaders of every stripe have, over the years, tried to lay claim to Abraham Lincoln; from Mary Baker Eddy to Swami Paramahansa Yogananda to Robert Ingersoll, the founder of Ethical Culture. Also among the claimants was one Nettie Colburn Maynard, a spiritualist, who averred Daniel Webster had proffered advice on the Emancipation Proclamation to the 16th president via her very own self, during a séance at the White House in 1862. To your Bloviator, however, the most jolting claim for Lincoln was made by George Cardinal Mundelein of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1926, wherein His Eminence insisted (as Ferguson writes)
Lincoln—who was reared by Baptists, married by an Episcopalian, and subjected in his adulthood to endless hours sitting in straight-backed pews being preached at by Presbyterians—was nevertheless a man of closeted Catholic faith, who delighted in laying out an altar for Mass whenever his Catholic aunt came to visit.

The mind boggles: Abe Lincoln, closeted sacristan? Ferguson doesn't pursue the matter but a little Googling turns up a period article from Time Magazine that sets the matter straight. In the grumpy protestant voice that was Time was in those days, we learn the Cardinal was mistaken.

Last week William Eleazar Barton, hoary custodian of Lincolnia, proclaimed that Father Cyr, who his Eminence declared celebrated the masses at Lincoln's stepmother's, had not yet been ordained when Lincoln left his father's home, that Sarah Bush Lincoln was not Catholic by birth and that she died in the communion of the Disciples Church, that Father St. Cyr never celebrated mass in the Lincoln abode...

At least, we learn later, the good Cardinal's mistake was an honest one, that "he had merely confused two Abrahams of the Lincoln clan, two first cousins."

One could hardly fault Cardinal Mundelein for holding up Abraham Lincoln to Catholics as an example of virtue. We should also note a Catholic claim to Lincoln, with his strong feelings for dignity and respect owed all individuals and the rights of the oppressed, is a lot more tenable than the nauseating spectacle of present-day celebrity lefties who fawn over the likes of Fidel Castro and such.

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