Response to P.J. O'Regan
on the Biography of Edward McGlynn

Stephen Bell

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, January-February 1940]

I want to express my appreciation of and thanks for P. J. O'Regan's comment on my book, Rebel, Priest and Prophet, which is most informing as well as interesting. I can find in it only one point on which he seriously dissents from my view of Father McGlynn, who, he insists, was not a "rebel." The word seems to carry in Mr. O'Regan's mind an odium it entirely lacks in mine. There are rebels and rebels, and judgment on them must hinge on one's judgment of the merits or demerits of their rebellion. That Father McGlynn was no rebel against the true Church or its doctrines I will admit at once, yet it is a historical fact that a misuse of ecclesiastical authority by his archbishop forced him into the attitude of a rebel against such misuse of authority. His subsequent complete vindication and restoration to the priesthood without being required to retract one word of the Georgean land doctrine which his archbishop had condemned so strongly, seems to me to have justified his rebellion against the "ecclesiastical machine" rather than altered the fact of his rebellion.

I want especially to thank Mr. O'Regan for his recital of former rebels against misuse of ecclesiastical authority who were later vindicated, much of which is news to me, and most informing. It would be well for the present "higher-archy" of the Church of Rome and the authorities of other Christian churches as well to ponder their mistakes of the past, re-examine their present attitudes on the issues which impel men, classes and nations to conflict, and see if and how far they have departed from "the law and the prophets" which Jesus of Nazareth so strongly endorsed in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. V, 17-18).

Especially do I regret knowing nothing of the letter of Archbishop Walsh of Dublin in which he said of Archbishop Corrigan's pastoral letter of 1886: "It is very plain, very painfully so indeed, that the Archbishop of New York whose pastoral condemns it ('Progress and Poverty') so strongly, cannot have read it at all," for I would have been pleased to quote so high an authority on that point.

In the recent Encyclical of Pope Pius XII I think I see the beginning of a fulfillment of Mr. O'Regan's confident prediction that "men will yet arise in the Church to pursue the path indicated by Bishop Nulty and Father McGlynn," for in the course of it he commented thus on St. Paul's declaration that "God hath made of one blood all mankind to dwell upon the whole face of the earth":

"A marvelous vision, which makes us see the human race in the unity of our common origin in God, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all, in the unity of nature, which in every man is equally composed of material body and spiritual immortal soul; in the unity of his immediate end and mission in the world; in the unity of the dwelling place, the earth, of whose resources all men can by natural right avail themselves to sustain and develop life."

Man has travelled far from the path of freedom and justice blazed by Moses and the prophets and confirmed by Jesus of Nazareth, and it will be long ere he regains that path, but that he will do so eventually there can be no doubt. He could regain it quickly if he but would.