On February 9, 1969, parishioners of St. Anthony’s Church in Baltimore picketed their own church, carrying homemade signs declaring: “We want Monsignor Manns, Send Martel far way,” and collecting signatures to petition Cardinal Shehan to halt the forced resignation of Manns, who was their pastor. A week earlier, the cardinal sent Monsignor Manns a personal letter explaining the reasons why he was requesting his resignation, including the monsignor’s clash with his associate Father Martel, and the cardinal gave him ten days to respond. The Friday night before the Sunday morning protest, Monsignor Manns informed the women of the sodality about his imminent removal, and they asked him what they could do for him. A handful of women then quickly organized the small protest. At the early Sunday morning Masses at 6:00 and 7:00AM, Monsignor Manns informed the congregation that he was being replaced. After Mass, members of the sodality collected signatures in support of their pastor.
The situation escalated after the 7:00 AM Mass when Father Martel approached Mrs. LeVeta Sakievich and attempted to seize her petition. When she refused, he pushed her to the ground, after which she was taken to the hospital to be treated for her injuries. Later, she pressed assault charges against Father Martel. Cardinal Shehan was informed about the unfolding situation, and he telephoned the monsignor. He instructed Monsignor Manns to stop the protests, and that any encouragement of the protests would be an “act of rebellion” under canon law. He also dispatched Auxiliary Bishop T. Austin Murphy to St. Anthony’s to ensure that the picketing and collection of signatures had ended. The women agreed to stop their protest, but they had already collected several hundred signatures in support of their pastor.
Five days later, Monsignor Manns met with the cardinal. The ten day period had expired, but the cardinal agreed to extend the deadline, allowing for a few more days for the monsignor to contemplate his decision. The cardinal had by that time received forty letters and fifteen telegrams in support of the pastor, but he was undeterred in his request for his resignation. By the end of the week, Monsignor Manns submitted his resignation, and it was made effective immediately, with the requirement that the beloved priest leave his former parish by March 1.
The official press release of the archdiocese, as published in The Catholic Review, read:
“[I]t became painfully clear that the monsignor found it impossible to carry out the Archdiocesan policy in keeping with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, particularly in the areas of liturgical renewal in the parish, lay responsibility and the proper role of associate pastors in the parish. Monsignor Manns has served the Archdiocese well in various capacities for over forty years. It is regrettable that his resignation was attended by so much distasteful publicity.”
Even Monsignor Manns’ detractors agreed that he was an effective administrator. In his twelve years as pastor of St. Anthony’s Church, he built a new rectory and convent, remodeled and built an addition to the elementary school, and increased the parish membership from 7,500 to 12,000. The parish boasted twelve Masses every Sunday. Today, the parish school is closed, and the school building is up for sale. The parish has merged with a neighboring parish, and only two Sunday masses are scheduled, which are reduced to only one Sunday Mass during the summer months.
Father Martel has left active ministry.
The decline of St. Anthony’s Church is symptomatic of the Catholic Church in the United States in the past fifty years. The shifting demographics of Baltimore augmented the decay of the parish, as a largely white and Catholic population fled the city in the 1970s. The numerous changes inspired by the Second Vatican Council played a significant role, but an immense generation gap was also responsible for the decline. This divide is particularly apparent in the chasm separating young priests from older priests. A Catholic revolution in the priesthood was afoot in the 1960s even without the impetus of the council.
The forced removal of older and more traditional priests was much more pervasive than the single case of Monsignor Manns. The senate of priests was created in 1967 as the representative body for Baltimore’s clergy, with four priests elected from each of the three peer groups based on age, but the agenda of the senate was driven by younger priests. The following year, the senate drew up a list of a dozen pastors who did not accept all the implications of the Second Vatican Council, in particular liturgical changes and lay involvement. According the The Premier See, Cardinal Shehan requested that these pastors resign based on the senate’s recommendation. When the senate agreed to make seventy the mandatory age for retirement and sixty-five the optional age, twenty percent of pastors in Baltimore were forced to retire between 1967 and 1969, representing a titanic shift in the leadership of the archdiocese. Cardinal Shehan, when reflecting on retired priests in his memoir, recalled that there were only three officially retired priests in 1965. The number had grown to forty by 1970. The old priests were out — especially those who expressed reservations about the changes occurring — and the young and more progressive priests were in.
At a press conference in the midst of the controversy, Monsignor P. Francis Murphy, the cardinal’s secretary, speculated that Monsignor Manns’ resignation was the first one that he could remember which did not occur at the same time as changes to priestly assignments throughout the whole archdiocese. That is, previous resignations coincided with other assignment announcements, thus saving face for the priest involved. Yet, Monsignor Manns’ transgressions were considered so egregious that he was only given ten days to respond to his requested resignation, and when it was submitted, it was effective immediately. One year prior, fifty-five archdiocesan priests from Baltimore signed the Statement of Dissent composed by Father Charles Curran, and the list of priests was printed in The Baltimore Sun. Without informing the cardinal, these priests publicly voiced their opposition to Humanae Vitae, yet none of them were forced to resign from their positions. Reflecting on this disparity, the 1960s marked a new era for the Catholic Church. Priests have always run afoul of the hierarchy, but perhaps for the first time, priests who upheld the traditional teachings of Catholicism were running into opposition from above and forced from their positions whereas priests who openly challenged church teachings were tolerated.
Monsignor Manns, unlike many older priests, fought back. He had a storied career, serving as secretary to Archbishop Curley, vice chancellor, chief judge of the marriage tribunal, and archdiocesan consulter. At a meeting of older priests with the cardinal, Monsignor Manns was given a standing ovation by his peers when he related his side of the story, and for the 1971 election for the senate of priests, he was elected to represent his peer group.
Monsignor Manns’ election to the very body that sought to remove older and more traditional priests was a personal vindication, but it was not enough. This period was a sad chapter in the American Catholic Church. Men who battled adversity their whole lives—anti-Catholicism, two world wars, and the Great Depression—were pushed out by the Church that they had served their whole life. Worse yet, they had to watch on the sidelines as they saw the parishes they built go down in flames.
One sometimes hears of “wreckovation” in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. While this most often refers to the destruction of sacred architecture, as churches constructed for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass were renovated and turned into anthropocentric “worship spaces,” there were untold lives and vocations that also came under the wrecking ball. Monsignor Manns’ story is just one among many. How different might the Church have been if these priests had been allowed to remain?
Dr. H. P. Bianchi is an associate professor of history at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland, where he teaches courses on Western Civilization and Asian history. He received his MA in modern German history from the University of Connecticut and his PhD from The Catholic University of America. His research focuses on the question of secularization in Britain and the United States.
Dr. Bianchi is the author of St. George’s Day: A Cultural History of England’s National Holiday. He blogs with The Catholic Review at the The Fertile Soil.
I wouldn’t say the first time. Certainly we saw similar problems during the 4th Century when the majority of bishops espoused the Arian heresy and would persecute, with the aid of the Imperial throne, orthodox Nicene clergy. Granted, it has been a long time since then.
Well, this is more like self-destruction. The Church is in need of good priests and faithful Catholics because the world is right outside her walls/gates with a huge army that wants to see the Church wiped out from the face of the earth. But the Church keeps pushing these good people away in a bid to impress that army waiting outside. That sort of stuff seems pretty new.
The Arians had many faults. But they weren’t really interested in making some dumb move to please those who hate the Church. But the Church hierarchy today seems to be investing in some really bizarre moves to please those who hate her. Anyone who likes the Church for who she really is (as evident from her existence on this earth for 2000 years) is the new enemy.
That is bizarre and frustrating!
It’s slightly di
Dr. Bianchi, I’m sorry to post so late to this article, but I am from Baltimore, and I am wondering if you can suggest the best places to begin a personal romp through Baltimore Catholic history (such as this story above). Where have you found your research? This is really quite enthralling stuff, and needs to be passed on before we are too many generations away.
I am working on a book on this time period, but it will be a couple years before it is done. The standard work on Baltimore is the The Premier See, which covers the entire history of the archdiocese.
Great, thank you! I look forward to your book on such a tumultuous period.
“…the agenda of the senate was driven by younger priests.”
Given this reality – and the fact that the “Baltimore 55” were also disproportionately younger – it raises some very hard questions about what kind of theological and spiritual formation those priests were receiving at St. Mary’s and Mount St. Mary’s in the late 50’s and 60’s.
Which goes back to an even greater question of leadership – and it was leadership that effectively took the side of the rebellious clergy in Baltimore (Shehan was a strong supporter of Fr. Curran), and was relentless in implementing new liturgy on a more radical interpretation.
“… it raises some very hard questions about what kind of theological and spiritual formation those priests were receiving at St. Mary’s and Mount St. Mary’s in the late 50’s and 60’s.”
It’s called “infiltration.”
It takes only a few. They influence others. Once they get in power, they clamp down.
DJR…spot on. It was in fact the commie/homosexualist infiltration which entered the church during that time frame. Being an artist I am extremely sensitive to outside forces/signs. It was mid seventies that I decided to take my five children, in fact, the family out of the church. I could not abide what I was witnessing and the utter demonic feeling I had at the last couple masses. It was as if whatever had entered the church was attempting to weaken me physically. In fact, I almost fell down in the pews one Sunday. It was then after that sense of evil in the church that I pulled our family out. I would eventually learn from a dear priest friend, how they were taught to hate women. Not hard for me to see that only commies and homosexualists and other pervs would believe that about women. I had to cook from some priests in Michigan around that time, and was shocked to hear them talk the way that they did. The only decent priests I met that day were a couple of older priests. THe younger ones were arrogant as hell and thought they were superior to all else. Just like we see today with the progressive crowd. Reading that story above of how a woman was pushed to the ground by a priest, made me realize that she should have gotten right back up and slammed the hell out of the sob. If he thought that he was representing our Lord, she should have given him a taste of the Lord chasing out the money chargers in the temple….and when it gets down to it..what we see today with the church is all about money…look for the pope soon to push one of the largest scams ever when he comes to speak to congress on how and why we should be brought low in the US for our wealth. Face it, the Vatican has lost a couple billion bucks for their demonic sin of pedophilia and the equally bad sin of kids who committed suicide due to that very pedophilia.
And some of what happened was simple careerism. In the ’50’s, the line was still integrist, and so you toed that line. When the line became progressive a few years later, it became easy for many to toe that line instead.
In the case of Cardinal Shehan, however, he seems to have been a genuine progressive who managed to mask it sufficiently well enough until it was no longer necessary to do so, and a revolutionary temper was welcome.
I just do not under why the Church is fighting like this from within? It’s not like we don’t have enough enemies at the gates! Satan is having his moment..shame on that. If the priest wants to be a Saint, he should obey no matter what. That said, I’ll add that there should never be an issue with either Mass. BOTH should be allowed at all times!
Windsong, hate to break it to you, but you haven’t a clue as to what you say. Please for your own education do read Ann Barnhardt’s website to learn what is going on in the church and why the Novus Ordos mass is NOT the reality of acknowledging our Lord and his suffering. Today’s church all to often, has a hippie dipsht priest like father glad-hands who puts himself before the Lord hoping all worship him as they leave mass. No way are you right in declaring that both masses are correct. The commies took Christ out of the picture so that they could weaken the church and have people like yourself actually feel that nothing has changed. Real priests right now should NOT obey! Novus Ordos means New Order..not far removed from the NWO, otherwise known as the New World Order, the wetdream of psychopathic political elites.
The succession remains unbroken..just as Christ promised us. And may I say, such a sunny disposition you have there, sunshine 🙂 May God Bless you and make the sun shine on you.
seriously doubt that Christ had the NWO in mind…but for sure the commies that changed the mass to rid us of the seriousness of Christ’s offering did just that. Few folks have a clue anymore about the real efficacy of Christ’s message.
He knows and always knew what was coming- He’s omniscient. But I do agree with your last sentence.
What a sad commentary! All of this took place as I was coming into adulthood. The same sort of thing was also occurring in the archdiocese of Detroit, and of course across the whole US and Canada. Now, as I look back and try to reflect, I can actually see who the enemy was (is). Both the names and faces of his minions have changed, but the agenda to destroy the Church is the same. I have lost half of my children to the evil one and he is now beginning to claim my grandchildren.
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Thank you, Dr. Bianchi, for doing this research to make sure that we will not forget the heroes, the “dry martyrs,” of the liturgical and theological revolution of the 1960s and 70s. When a healthy body turns upon itself, I believe it’s called a cancer; and that is exactly what has played out before our eyes. I wonder if it is the sufferings of this unsung generation, offered up in silence and prayer, that have obtained for the Church today the grace of a traditionalist awakening. It is all too easy to imagine a world in which the Church was simply dying, with no signs of new life — but that is not what we see, thanks be to God.
For me this timely story would be enhanced by the inclusion if possible of facial photos of the players involved. It would make it easier for me to follow the story, as if in a mystery or detective story.
I agree. We tried to locate some, but sadly, we couldn’t find any.
There’s a photo of Cardinal Sheehan on Wikipedia:
“remodeled and built an addition to the elementary school, and increased the parish membership from 7,500 to 12,000.”
“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” or us!!
VATICAN II PLUS TWO =
And where are the schools
The daily Mass
Lines to confess
A uniformed lass?
And where are the schools
The Latin class
Candles in brass?
And where are the schools
To strengthen souls
Shape their wills
Set the goals?
And where are the schools
The altar boy
Like Christ, their joy?
And where are the schools
Oh, time you lied
Has gone and died.
And where are the schools
Which don’t derive
That two plus two
Are sometimes five?
The Society –
They’re found in large
Where struggling families
Let priest take charge
For the good of the whole
Priests’ lives are laid
So many may come
Not be afraid
And win the Faith
From Christ-like hand…
St. Pie the Tenth
Two and two are grand!!
I feel I wanna cry like a typhoon after reading this story.
I am young, but now I can feel the blade in the heart of the older faithfuls when witnessing these tragedies shortly after Second Vatican Council.
A tragic story indeed. One of thousands I would guess. This was the devil’s doing and he is doing his job all too well. Some of biggest disasters (success to the devil) of Vatican II was the emptying out of the churches, the loss of faith among the clergy and laity, the failures to stop the world wide cultural decline, etc. Where is God when we need Him? Well, He knows what He is about and when He acts it’s not going to be pretty. Let us keep praying and keep the Faith.
How anyone can continue to believe, or argue, that this dismantling was done with only heartfelt good intentions is beyond me … yet the vast majority of Catholics continue to believe exactly that, as we can see in the propagandist exertions of the credulous careerists at Patheticos.
Indeed, this generational battle took place in other parishes as well, including the parish in Ohio where I grew up. It would have been at the same time as the Baltimore account, with a slightly different ending. I duplicated it at my blog in 2008, as it appeared in the parish bulletin in 1970.
“A parable about the unsearchableness of God’s ways. Once there were two priests, an older and younger one; they lived together in a beautiful house; they said Mass, and preached, and administered the sacraments in a beautiful Church; they had two beautiful schools where they both taught the children about Jesus and His Church; the younger one did a little more talking in the schools than the older one.
“And yet, he hardly ever talked to the older one in their home or anywhere else …”<
Ugh, whenever I hear the words “spirit of Vatican II” it’s always a sign of mischief and advocating something not actuall found in the texts of Vatican II! If only people were aware in the immediate aftermath of the Council what was going on.
I’ve been reading some of those texts and they are so open-ended (read; not Catholic) that they could be interpreted any which way –which, of course, was the POINT of the entire exercise. Ordo Ab Chaos
how different would the Church have been if these older priests had embraced wholeheartedly Vatican II and submitted humbly to their bishops and cardinals?
Nonsense. You’re nothing more than a trolling shill for progressivism corruption of the Church. You keep popping up but your claims are risable.
It’s impossible. It’s like those who were sent to the Gulag for not clapping long enough during Stalin’s many speeches. Not “embracing Vatican II wholeheartedly” is a thought crime, how do you even prove it? Especially when it was not a doctrinal council. But rejecting Humane Vitae by signing a letter of dissent was an actual act of rebellion, and most of those priests were promoted.
Probably She would have been totally indistinguishable from western pop culture Buddhism by now.
was the pastor’s resignation requested because he publicly supported Humanae Vitae? I believe the answer to that is no. it was requested because he rebelled against the cardinal and the cardinal’s support for Vatican II.
Go back and reread. This senate of priests was a progressive vehicle to replace conservative pastors who opposed, in faithfulness to Church Tradition, changes in liteurgy NOT AUTHORIZED AND IN SOME CASES PROSCRIBED by the Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium.
Please note the author specifically described Cardinal Shehan as behind the progressive agenda to which you obviously subscribe.
There is nothing more hilarious than a progressive preaching to other Catholics about their failure to obey prelates who disobey council documents and stray from authentic Catholic Tradition in pursuit of their personal agenda to transform the Church into a tool of Satan.
He was pegged as not being “progressive” enough, an accusation he can hardly defend himself from and one that consists of no actual crime. While those who openly dissented against the Pope and his teachings in Humane Vitae were promoted. You are not concerned with obedience, you are concerned with your “team,” the progressives, moving the ball down the field, even if that means destroying the careers of beloved and successful pastors simply because they aren’t also progressive.
…..the ‘new sprintime’, the ‘aggiornamento’ which lead us to today’s ‘punk priest’, Bob Lubic in Pennsylvania.
This is nothing short of tragic. But God cannot be deceived, so we should not lose our peace…