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John Gilmary Shea

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History of the Catholic Church in the United States (1886)
History of the Catholic Church in the United States (1886)

John Dawson Gilmary Shea (July 22, 1824 – February 22, 1892) was a writer, editor, and historian of American history in general and American Roman Catholic history specifically. He was also a leading authority on aboriginal native Americans in the United States. He is regarded as the “Father of American Catholic History”.[1]

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  • ✪ Reformation at 500: Rebel in the Ranks


>> From the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. >> Nick Brown: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Library of Congress. My name is Nicholas Brown, and I work in the Office of Special Events and Public Programs. On behalf of the librarians' office, thank you for being here. We are working tonight with our colleagues in the Law Library of Congress and also in the European division to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The Library has an ongoing display entitled Martin Luther as Priest, Heretic, and Outlaw: The Reformation at 500, which is on display in the Thomas Jefferson Building through January 1st, and today, we are very privileged to have Brad Gregory with us. He is a professor at the University of Notre Dame, and he is the author of Rebel in the Ranks, which is right here, and he's going to be lecturing and discussing Martin Luther's legacy and also the legacy of the Reformation on culture since this all took place 500 years ago. Professor Gregory is the author of multiple books, including Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe, and also The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. He's one of the leading scholars on the Reformation and also religion of that period in the United States, so it's a great honor to have him here with us at the Library of Congress tonight. A few housekeeping notes to share with you about the evening. The discussion will be about 45 minutes, plus Q and A in this room, at which point you'll be invited to view a very special treasures display from the Law Library of Congress, which my colleague Margaret Wood will discuss in a few moments. This was curated by Nathan Dorn, who is the rare books curator for the Law Library's collections. You can check out the Law Library's resources and collections online at We also invite you to live tweet at any time during this event in order to help us promote the fact that the Library is, one, having free lectures, which is really great, and also, to share your impressions of Professor Gregory's discussion, and we're using the hashtag Reformation500. Also, at the conclusion of the talk, you will have the opportunity to get a book signed if you so choose. The Library's gift shop has generously joined us this evening to offer books on sale at a discounted rate of 22 dollars, and Professor Gregory will be available to sign at the conclusion of the program, and then if you would like to see the display that is upstairs, the Martin Luther as Priest, Heretic, and Outlaw display, we'll gather as a group and go together whenever you're ready, because it's in a closed portion of the building, so we're going to have to go there en masse and be guided, so that's going to be exciting, and you can also see the oldest map of the United States printed in the United States and created by a United States citizen from 1784, which is kind of cool. Without further ado, I'm going to welcome up my colleague Margaret, who will give us a brief introduction to the rare books over here, and then we'll turn it over to Professor Gregory. Thank you. >> Margaret Wood: Thank you, Nicholas. I'm Margaret Wood, and I'm a public services library with the Law Library of Congress. >> Nick Brown: We need you on the microphone so we can hear. Sorry. >> Margaret Wood: Oh, sorry. Okay. >> Nick Brown: Thanks >> Margaret Wood: Good to meet you. All right, I hate not to be able to point to the books. I am a public services librarian with the Law Library of Congress. My colleague Nathan Dorn, who is the rare book curator, went ahead and put together the exhibit for this evening. It includes a number of beautiful items and also very interesting items from the Law Library's rare book collection. It begins in 1502 with Pope Leo's bull, which says to Martin Luther "recant," which apparently doesn't work out. In 1521, as I understand it, Martin Luther burned some of his canon law books as a symbolic protest, and we have a beautiful early 16th century collection of canon law in recognition of that event. Following that, there are several texts that were written by evangelicals, some who may or may not have had a legal background, but they were going ahead and reworking criminal law, family law, and municipal law. One of my favorites in that area is actually a lovely, very short 1534 religious law book that was put together for the Duke of Wartenburg. Then we've got Henry the 8th's 1534 "begone, pope." He gets rid of Peter's pence and therefore cuts off money, and the end of the exhibit are actually three items from the United States. The first is 1630. It's John Cotton's draft for the laws of Massachusetts Bay colony, based on the penitook. They were not adopted, but New Hampshire looks to them, and then we have William Penn's charter and a copy of the 1786 Virginia Thomas Jefferson Law and Religious Freedom. I invite you to look at these items. You may take photographs as long as there's no flash, and if you'd like me to turn the pages after, please feel free, and any questions about rare book material in the Law Library, you can just, as Nicholas said, go to our website, contact the library, and we can put you in touch with Nathan. Thank you. >> Nick Brown: Professor Greg, yeah. >> Brad Gregory: Okay. Thank you very much. Quite a difference in height between Margaret and myself, so they'll adjust the height here. Thanks very much, Nicholas, for the introduction before. Thanks to all of you for coming this evening. It's wonderful to see you here. It's a great honor for me to be in our nation's capital and at the Library of Congress delivering this lecture in honor of and commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation as part of the ongoing series of lectures and other events here at the Library of Congress under the rubric The Reformation at 500, and please, if you're going to live tweet, only positive comments, please, and thank you very much. Okay. My talk this evening is going to make an argument with two main components. First, the Reformation was not only important in the 16th century, but remained essential for understanding our world today, regardless of whether or not you're a Protestant or even a religious believer, and secondly, the Reformation's influence today is by and large indirect and the opposite of what any of the major reformers of the 16th century, including Martin Luther, wanted their reform of western Christendom to achieve, for the long-term, unintended, and yet undeniable overriding outcome of the Reformation has been the secularization of western society. Western modernity, in its dominant institutions, ideas, values, and practices, including in the United States, is not an outgrowth of the Reformation in any of its 16th century expressions. It's rather a reaction against the Reformation era and the way it's doctrinal disagreements and its concrete conflicts made Christianity into a problem to which modernity has been the response in ways that have fostered secularization. My talk this evening gives a glimpse of the book that's rather shamelessly displayed on and off here on both sides of me, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape our World. My argument concerns the historical consequences of the Reformation era, not which, if any, among the Christian traditions that emerged from it is true or mistaken, right or wrong, the criteria for assessing these issues, and so forth. I've structured my talk as a play, a play in four acts preceded by a prelude which parallel -- what a coincidence -- the four chapters of my book. My talk, like my book, starts small and expands outward in its subject matter, its time frames, and its geographical range. It moves from late medieval Christianity to one Augustinian friar, a German movement, a European era, and western modernity as a whole. So here we go. Prelude. Christianity as more than religion. Today, religion is your individual choice, including the option not to be religious at all. It's considered a distinct area of life among others, separate from your career, professional relationships, recreational activities, consumer behavior, and so on. Neither of these things was true in the early 16th century. Leaving aside Europe's tiny percentage of Jews, religion was not a matter of choice, nor was it separate from the rest of life. You became a Christian through the taken for granted, centuries-old ritual of infant baptism, and religion was not hived off from the rest of life. It didn't stand apart from exercising power or administering justice, but was meant to inform politics and law. Christianity wasn't segregated from buying and selling goods or pursuing profit. Its teachings sought to circumscribe economic transactions and to restrain greed. Education was imbued with Christian ideas, from teaching ABCs in humble primary schools through instruction in one of Europe's 60 or so universities. Social relationships and gender expectations as well as public and private morality were conceived in Christian terms. Faith was meant to influence not only how Christians worshipped and prayed, but also how they ruled and worked, bought and sold, taught and learned, -- -- and understood their lives. In short, religion was about much more than what we usually mean by religion. Now, none of this implies that many people behaved like saints. Far from it. The Reformation sought to address this problem, although it wasn't its leader's main concern. Conscientious Christians had been aware of the problems long before Martin Luther appeared on the scene. Sinful shortcomings in the church and the lives of its members, including its clerical leaders, affected everything else because religion was so intertwined with the rest of life. For centuries before the Reformation, the gap between Christian ideals and lived realities was lamented by men and women who were saintly and sought reforms, say Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century, or Catherine of Siena in the 14th. Without question, there were perceived problems in the late medieval church, including the western schism, conflicts over authority, worldly renaissance popes and cardinals, greedy members of the clergy, and ill-informed lay people, so no wonder there was a Reformation, the traditional explanation went, considering papal decadence, the church's corruption, and lay superstition. Luther saved the day by rediscovering the gospel. Yet decades of scholarship have corrected this picture with massive evidence about the vitality of late medieval Christianity, from lay bible reading in the vernacular to the voluntary lay support of parish churches and religious orders, to enthusiastic lay participation in confraternities, and much more. In fact, more 15th century Christians were probably more self-consciously devout than their predecessors in any proceeding century. The Reformation emerged as much out of religious commitment as a reaction against the church's shortcomings. Indeed, these two things went together. People tend to want to reform things that they care about. Yet the fact that religion wasn't something separate from other areas of life is more fundamental for explaining the long-term impact of the Reformation and how our present contrasts with its leaders most basic objectives. It wasn't something you could step away from or decide you didn't want to affect you. You didn't have to be devout, but you couldn't avoid living in a Christian society. Religion was never just about religion. It influenced everything else, for better or worse, so because religion was connected to everything else, changes in religion would affect everything else, and the Reformation brought changes in Latin Christianity unlike anything else in the Middle Ages in its geographical scope, its staying power, and its transformative influence. The Reformation affected not only religion but also everything related to religion in the 16th century -- in other words, just about every area of human life. The Reformation would be the reformation of everything. This gets us a step closer to why the Reformation still matters today. Changes in religion and disagreements about Christianity had consequences that went far beyond religion as we usually think about it, and those changes and those disagreements started with an Augustinian friar and university professor anxious about his own salvation. Act one, Martin Luther: Reluctant Rebel. Martin Luther is enormously interesting in his own right, and more has been written about him than any other single person except Jesus of Nazareth, but explaining why the Reformation still matters regardless of our own beliefs doesn't depend on whether we find Luther fascinating, like his theology, or agree with him. He matters historically because of what he set in motion, the basis on which he did so, and how transformative both have been. Now I assume that many of you are familiar with the basics of Luther's remarkable story, between the fall of 1517 and the spring of 1521, so I'm only going to say a few things about it this evening, and even if you aren't familiar with it, well, the remedy for that, of course, is to buy my book, Rebel in the Ranks, because chapter one is all about that. In October of 1517, almost no one had even heard of Martin Luther outside of a few towns and Augustinian friaries in central Germany. Three a half years later, he had condemned the papacy, defied the emperor, and become Europe's most famous man, as well as its most published author since the invention of the printing press in the 1450s. The Reformation is even more astonishing because no one in 1517 could have anticipated it. No one could have guessed it would start in a forgettable town of about 2,000 people in Saxony, and even less could anyone have imagined that the actions of an ultra-devout, ultra-conscientious university professor and friar would be behind it. If you'd asked those who knew Luther what his future might hold in the summer of 1517, they probably would have predicted a successful academic career in the church. Thousands of friars had pursued such careers since the 13th century, when universities first began to take hold. They continued to do so in the 1510s, and Luther had made an impressive start on the same. Luther's career as an Augustinian from 1506 to the summer of 1517 was marked by success, with no observable signs of opposition or rebellion. On the contrary, Luther was diligent and obedient to a fault. He was ordained a priest and celebrated his first mass in 1507. He showed himself eager for religious life, spiritually intense, intellectually gifted, and interested in scripture. As far as could be observed, he was a thriving Augustinian professor of theology in his early 30s, teaching at a new university in the provincial German town of Wittenberg, yet not all was as it seemed. What really mattered in early 1517 remained as invisible to almost everyone as it had been for years. Inside, Luther was wracked with anxiety. He was tormented nearly to the point of despair because of his life as an Augustinian and the exacting ways in which he sought to live up to its demands. Luther's interior torments were the religious roots of the Reformation. He wasn't a rebel seeking to undermine the church, nor did he aspire to start one of his own. The very notion would have seemed absurd to him. Luther's own anxiety, intense as it was, wouldn't in itself have produced the Reformation. It began because Luther acted on his anxiety in relationship to those who pushed back against him. Beginning in late 1517, those who objected to what Luther was saying and how he was saying it started a back and forth series of interactions through which Luther's ideas became bolder and clearer. Critically, those ideas became widely known through correspondence, oral communication, and especially through print. The beginning of the Reformation depended on publicity by and resistance to Martin Luther. Through his reactions to that resistance and his embrace of the fame that seemed to come out of nowhere, he became a reluctant rebel. I'm going to mention just a few major stages in that process. If the Ninety-Five Theses were actually posted on the door of Wittenberg's Castle Church 500 years ago, the event was about as thrilling as a professor today posting an announcement to the departmental bulletin board. Seriously deflating, but true. But the printing and the distribution of the Ninety-Five Theses was a difference maker, as was the fact that Luther sent them to Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz, the most powerful churchman in the Holy Roman Empire. Albrecht sent them on to Rome, and in early 1518, several fellow theologians saw a connection in the theses between Luther's criticism of indulgence preachers and papal authority. This was a crucial bridge that would lead through in-person confrontations and dozens of back and forth polemical pamphlets to mutual condemnations. Luther innovated by publicizing controversial religious matters in vernacular print, starting in March of 1518. He repeatedly said he would retract any views about which he could be shown to his satisfaction to be mistaken, and increasingly, this had to be demonstrated to him on the basis of scripture. This insistence on God's word gave Luther what he needed to reject papal authority. For reasons that will soon become clear, this was his most consequential move as a reformer, the insistence on scripture alone as the self-sufficient basis for Christian faith and life. By the summer of 1520, a papal bull of excommunication was being prepared against him, while he was writing and then published the three hugely influential treatises that appeared later than year, to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, right there. Oh, not now. That's my book, but in three seconds, it'll come up again, that treatise, the title page. There it is. And the Freedom of a Christian. He responded to the excommunication threat by publicly burning the papal bull and the church's canon law, was excommunicated in January of 1521, and in April, refused to recant his views in the iconic showdown with Charles the Fifth at the Diet of Worms. "Hier stehe ich." "Here I stand." Then Frederick of Saxony's men took him into protective hiding -- -- in the Wartburg Castle for the better part of a year, where among other things, he drafted his own translation of the New Testament into German. Amazing stuff. The story is all the more astonishing because it was so unlikely. There's no understanding the Reformation without it, but it is not the history of the Reformation. Luther started the Reformation without intending to, but it very quickly became a movement that escaped his control, and so we move on to act two, The Early German Reformation: A Fractious Movement. It would be more accurate to say that Luther never had control of the Reformation than to say he had it and then lost it. His insistence on scripture alone as the sole final authority for Christian faith and life cleared away long-standing obstacles to reform within the established church by creating a principle and a position outside it. Eventually, those Christians who rejected Rome would be called Protestants, a term coined first in 1529. As the 1520s would show, it was easier to denounce the church as corrupt and unbiblical than to agree on what God's word said and how it should be applied, and because Christianity shaped and was intended to influence every area of human life, the implications were enormous. What did proper Christian worship, sacraments, and ministry look like, and who had the authority to say so? What now was the right relationship between the church and political authorities? Did the freedom of a Christian extend to social, political, and economic concerns? How could you tell whether someone had the right understanding of the gospel or was really inspired by the Holy Spirt? Which prophecies about the world's end were trustworthy? The questions were nearly endless. So were the answers. Those who rejected Rome disagreed about what God's word said and so about what God's truth was, so they disagreed about what Christians should believe and do. By the time Luther returned from the Wartburg Castle in March of 1522, Andreas Karlstadt disputed his downgrading of the Book of James and his views about the Old Testament, Eucharistic practice, the oral confession of sins, and religious images. Luther and Philip Melanchthon disagreed with Huldrych Zwingli and the latter's allies about Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper, a dispute that inspired dozens of hostile pamphlets and culminated in the dramatic face-to-face non-resolution of the Marburg Colloquy in 1529. This became a crucial doctrinal and thus also ecclesial and social ground for the distinction between Lutheranism and Reform Protestantism. Zwingli disagreed also with his former colleagues, such as Balthasar Hubmaier and Conrad Grebel, over the scriptural basis for infant baptism, with its enormous ecclesiological implications. This led to the origins of Swiss Anabaptism by early 1525, by which time the German Peasants' War was raging, with leaders such as Thomas Muntzer completely rejecting Luther's distinction between the gospel on the one hand and social, economic, and political concerns on the other. Withdrawing from dreams of remaking society after the Peasants' War, Anabaptists disagreed among themselves in a host of doctrinally and therefore socially divisive ways, beginning already in the late 1520s, and all these disputes are in addition to the disagreements and the divisions between these Christians and those who remained in the Roman church. The Reformation began with the forceful figure of Luther, but regarding the Reformation as him and rival ideas ad movements as deviations is just really a way of saying one prefers Luther's position over the others. Many of his contemporaries disagreed, as do their respective religious heirs, Mennonites or Presbyterians, for example. Luther's stance was based on his principle about the authority of scripture, ratified by his persona experience. Many others embraced the principle, but rejected many of Luther's claims about God's word, just as Luther rejected many of the claims of the Roman church. If everyone who rejected Rome had agreed with Luther's claims about the Bible, not just the 1520s, but the entire Reformation era and, indeed, the last 500 years of western history would have played out very differently. That is not what happened, starting already in Wittenberg in 1521. This fact and its many unintended consequences, as they unfolded in the 1520s and during the rest of the 16th century and beyond, are critical for understanding the Reformation and why it still matters. Luther alone is a sure recipe for misunderstanding the Reformation, however personally inspiring the maxim might be for those Christians who love Luther's theology. Already in the 1520s, the Reformation radically exceeded Luther's control in ways that enraged him and that reinforced his apocalyptic expectations. So the Reformation involved disagreements among Protestants no less than it predisposed the reaction of the Roman Catholic Church. This started among evangelicals in the 1520s and never went away. Instead of becoming a shared basis for reforming the church, the Bible became a battleground among Protestants as well as between Protestants and Catholics. The church became the churches. This, too, has never gone away, despite all the ecumenical efforts and advances of the past half-century. The Reformation was not an initially coherent movement that only later fragmented. It prompted conflicting claims about God's word and God's will right from the start. It spread like wildfire in the early 1520s through printed pamphlets, and salacious woodcut images, and popular songs, and word of mouth in the Holy Roman Empire and Switzerland. In the mid-1520s, it inspired mass uprisings across much of central Europe in the so-called German Peasants' War. Princes and their mercenary armies put a swift end to that, whether they were supporters or enemies of Rome. Wherever the Reformation flourished after 1525, it would be contained by political authorities and controlled under their watchful eye. The decade after the edict of Worms in 1521 critically influenced the subsequent history of Protestantism. Basic patterns were established that would endure, and few were more important than the difference between forms of the Reformation that received sustained political support and forms that did not. A few words, then, about each of these. Two expressions of the Reformation, Lutheranism and reform Protestantism, were backed by civic or princely authorities. Despite condemnation from Charles the Fifth and other Catholic leaders, the patchwork character of the Holy Roman Empire enabled them to take root. Starting in the 1520s, these magisterial Protestants, a term that refers to Lutherans and reform Protestants taken together, began to create institutions, forms of worship, statements of faith, and new ways of being Christian. These measures were implemented by political authorities working together with clergy, many of them, at first, former Catholic priests from the new Protestant churches. They agreed with the medieval view that subjects had to share the same religious beliefs and practices, just many different ones from Catholics. To make religion a matter of individual choice invited conflict and loss of the shared basis for life as a social, political, and religious community. All the other expressions of the Reformation, of which there were many more than two, were outlawed. Their members were punished by political authorities, whether Lutheran, reform Protestant, or Catholic. Lacking political patronage, these radical Protestants, as they're collectively known, were often persecuted, so their numbers remained small until centuries later, yet from the start, they demonstrated that God's word could be and was understood in many different ways among those who rejected the Roman church, and they're essential to understanding the Reformation as a whole and its abiding importance down to the present. They make clear the Reformation cannot be reduced to Luther's or any other reformer's theology or biography. Think of Martin Luther and the unlikely events of 1517 to 1521 like a stone plunked in a pond. Then imagine the Reformation in the 1520s and beyond as ripples radiating outward in all directions, everywhere, disrupting the water's surface. Those disruptions were not restricted to the Holy Roman Empire or Switzerland, and so we move on to act three, but first, I need a real drink of water. Act three is entitled, "The Reformation Defines a Troubled Era." The spread of the Reformation throughout Europe made it the defining development of an entire historical era, not simply a German phenomenon of regional significance. Wherever it spread, rulers had to decide how to respond, like they had in Germany and Switzerland since the early 1520s, including regions where the Reformation was harshly suppressed and that remained strongly Catholic, like Spain. If all rulers had chosen for the Reformation -- -- and in the same form, the 16th century would have been very different. Instead, divergent decisions led to divisions, reflected disagreements, and contributed to conflicts that would prove important to developments that still influence us today. Understanding the Reformation and its long-term impact means understanding the Reformation era, including not only the Protestant traditions that formed but also the relationships between Protestants and Catholics as well as among Protestants. Political authorities that opted for the Reformation determined whose Protestantism got supported and whose got suppressed in the 1520s. The same was true throughout the 16th century and into the 17th. Lutheranism and reform Protestantism were the two forms that survived and flourished. Anglicanism -- I have heard of it, just FYI. Anglicanism is a particularly case, and the term is not used by scholars, at least responsible scholars, to describe the Protestantism of the Church of England until after 1660, so the period of the Restoration later on, but I just want to allay any concerns that, "Why isn't this Reformation expert mentioning Anglicanism? It's like dude, there is such a thing as Anglicanism." I know it. Okay. Moving on. Starting in the 1530s, magistrates in Geneva worked with the refugee reformer John Calvin to make their French-speaking Swiss city into a stronghold for his version of reformed Protestantism. It would have a major impact in France, England, Scotland, and the Netherlands as well as in parts of Germany and eastern Europe. All other expressions besides Lutheranism and reform Protestantism, including those espoused by all the different Anabaptist groups, spiritualist Protestants, and other radical Protestant, were usually outlawed. Mostly these Christians wanted just to be left alone, at least before the 1640s in England. Catholicism was no less dependent on the choices of rulers who decided to oppose the Reformation. They helped foster a major re-energizing of Catholicism in the 16th century, usually referred to as the Catholic Reformation or the Counter-Reformation. Reforming efforts underway in Christendom before 1517 were expanded and new ones were taken up. A major meeting of Catholic church leaders, the Council of Trent, convened on and off three times between 1545 and 1563. The Reformation era was thus marked by the renewal of Roman Catholicism no less than by the creation of magisterial and radical Protestant traditions. Magisterial Protestants and Catholics undertook some initiatives in parallel tracks. In other ways, they were locked in competitive opposition and mutual hostility. Both of these are key for understanding the Reformation era's influences down to the present, so I'll say a bit about each one. Whether Lutheran, reform Protestant, or Catholic, political authorities and clergy sought to channel constructive creative religious commitments into action. Well-trained clergy preached sermons and taught catechisms, reconciled feuds and encouraged devotion, praised piety and excoriated sin, consoled the grieving and comforted the dying. They were all trying to create well-informed communities of dedicated lay Lutherans, reform Protestants, or Catholics, respectively. This wasn't a smooth or uniform process, and they didn't succeed across the board or as well as they wanted to, yet the net result was that European countries forged the dominant state-supported religious identities of their subjects in the Reformation era and carried them into the modern world. Lutheran Denmark, Sweden, and much of Germany; reform Protestant Scotland, England, sort of, the Netherlands, and parts of Switzerland; Catholic Spain, Italy, France, Austria, Ireland, Poland, Belgium, and parts of Germany and Switzerland. Not all the laity appreciated these efforts. Some complied, but resented conscientious clergy as obnoxious and intrusive. Others rolled their eyes, dragged their feet, and did as little as they could get away with, not that that has anything to do with anybody who sat through a bad Sunday school class in their life. Still others dissented and pursued radical Protestant alternatives. This resentment, as a byproduct of sometimes heavy-handed methods of indoctrination and attempts to control lay behavior, would have repercussions. It would eventually help inspire initiatives of liberation very different from those of Luther or other early evangelicals. These parallel efforts to create communities of well-informed Christians coexisted with disagreements about God's truth and concrete hostilities between rival Christian regimes. The Reformation made the religion at Christendom's heart into a series of major problems because religion was so interconnected with the rest of life. As in the Middle Ages, it was assumed that religion should shape politics and society no less than worship and piety. The period's doctrinal controversies began with Luther's first criticisms of many Catholic teachings. They also ripped apart the early evangelical movement. They continued and were institutionalized as the 16th century unfolded. Doctrinal controversy became an ongoing, permanent feature of the Reformation era. The leading protagonist of these controversies were mostly university-trained theologians, but similar views were also expressed in polemical propaganda, pamphlets, sermons, songs that denounced papists or heretics respectively. By the 1650s, theological experts were as far apart as in the 1520s, marshalling their often formidable learning to buttress their respective positions. Ditto for lay Catholics and Protestants, though in many parts of Europe, however grudgingly, they were starting to forge various means of day-to-day coexistence. Not wanting to compromise was understandable. Divisive disagreements about doctrine were deepened by the so-called Wars of Religion, which we really should call the wars of more than religion, because religion was about so much more than religion as we usually think of it. These conflicts included the German Peasants' War of the mid-1520s, the Schmalkaldic War in the Holy Roman Empire, 1546 to '47, the French Wars of Religion from 1562 to 1598, the Dutch revolt against Spain that started in 1566 and lasted until 1648, the Thirty Years' War from 1618 to 1648, and the English revolution of the 1640s and 50s. These religiopolitical conflicts were expensive, destructive, and inconclusive. They brought widespread death, disease, and dislocation. They caused suffering and bitterness. They created thousands of religious refugees. The Reformation era was both constructive and destructive. Distinct churches, religious traditions, and Christian identities were forged and carried forward into the modern era, and they were protected and promoted by political regimes whose mutual conflicts, like their doctrinal disagreements, made Christian truth into a civilizational bone of contention. The Reformation period was an area of extraordinary religious vitality. It extended and deepened the medieval assumption that Christianity should influence and infuse all areas of human life because it expressed God's will for human beings, so of course, religion should be about more than just beliefs, worship, and devotion. It should also inform the exercise of power, social relationships, economic transactions, and higher education, and in order to do this, it had to be shared. It had to be collective, not merely individual. Yet this widely shared assumption was precisely what made Christianity such a major problem in the Reformation era. When people agree that religion should be the foundation of their civilization but they can't agree about its content, they're in for trouble. That's why sustained disagreement is the most decisive basic fact about the Reformation era, painfully tragic as it is for ecumenically minded Christians today. Christendom's foundation had become its central problem, so it fractured violently. The disruptiveness of and resistance to the Reformation were evident already in the early 1520s. In many different, prolonged, and convoluted ways, they played out across the European continent for over a century. By the mid-17th century, a new sort of creativity was needed if an exhausted continent was to avoid a fratricidal future. What do you do when the source of your world view, values, and framework of meaning is also the source of recurrent, large-scale violence and an insuperable impasse of ideas. Maybe you try to find a different source of meaning and some new ideas, and you do what you can to restrain and redefine the source that created the problems. That's what those espousing new ideas and institutions started doing in the mid-17th century, and so we move on to act four, Modernity as a Response to the Reformation era. The Reformation -- -- was a religious revolution that led to the secularization of society. Major paradox. It's not what Luther or any other Protestant reformers wanted, but you're in a position now to understand how it happened. The Reformation made the religion of Latin Christendom into an unprecedented problem rooted in doctrinal disagreements and manifest in more than religious conflicts. The problem had to be addressed. How could Christians who believed contrary things about fundamental aspects of human life on which they believed eternal salvation depended coexist in relative peace and stability? It's often harder to discern history's gradual processes than its discrete events. This goes for the unintended processes of secularization that have followed from the Reformation era. We have to take a perspective on change over time across centuries in order to see them. They did not emerge quickly or win the day suddenly in the 17th century, or even in the 19th. Religious has been and remains, of course, a constant presence in Europe and North America throughout the modern era to our own day. Here, then, secularization does not mean the disappearance or the elimination of religion. It doesn't mean merely a decline in how many people attend worship, or pray, or say they believe in God. It refers rather to the declining influence of religion in shared public life, all those areas of human life that in the Middle Ages and the Reformation era Christianity was supposed to inform: politics, law, economics, education, social relationships, family life, morality, and culture. Western modernity has everything to do with the management and control of religion because in the Reformation era, Christianity itself became such a problem. The disagreements mattered so much because religion was about so much more than religion, with eternal ramifications to boot, so when the disagreements gained social and political traction and grew beyond a certain point, as they did in the Holy Roman Empire, France, England, and the low countries, the results were cataclysmic. The basic solution to the problem, then, and the core of the piecemeal processes of secularization central to western modernity meant finding ways to make whatever was disruptive and divisive about religion matter less for public life. Christian controversies and conflicts threatened coexistence. For centuries, Christianity had been embedded in and intended to influence everything, so its problematic features should be disembedded from everything. What would that entail? In order for it to be separated from politics, economics, and social relationships, religion had to be conceived as something separable from them. Seen the other way around, politics, economics, and social relationships had to be conceived as things that could and should operate apart from religion. So religion itself had to be redefined along the lines of what we usually mean by religion, your own interior beliefs, worship preferences, and chosen devotional practices. Those were fine, because they didn't aspire to influence anything that was supposed to apply to everyone. Note your beliefs, preferences, and choices. That is crucial. The modern redefinition of religion meant making it an individual choice. Individual religious freedom was made possible because religion was redefined and its scope restricted. Individuals, sometimes within the same families, disagreed about religion in the Reformation era, so religious freedom would have to be protected at the individual level. This was a dramatic change from sharing religious beliefs and practices that applied to everyone, a democratization of Luther's "here I stand" in a way he would have deplored, as is clear from his harsh polemics against those who disagreed with him. Whatever its content, religion could be tolerated so long as everyone who benefited from religious freedom agreed on limiting its scope in the same ways and agreed to obey the political authorities that extended and protected that freedom. The restriction and redefinition of religion opened the way to secularization through separation, although in practice, that detachment has been and remains a very complicated process that has been unfolding over centuries. Secularization as an ongoing process has also had a long-term intellectual dimension. It's no accident that the Enlightenment and modern philosophy started in the 17th century. Christian ideas about reality, human nature, and human life provided Christendom's intellectual backbone during the Middle Ages. During the Reformation era, that backbone was broken. Theological controversy that started in the 1520s remained unresolved in the 1650s, after the Thirty Years' War and the English revolution. How could entrenched religious opponents agree about human nature, morality, government, and other issues at once fundamental and divisive? They'd have to agree to disagree. They'd have to bracket their religious views when they embarked on common endeavors. Theology would have to be separated from philosophy and the investigation of the natural world, neither of which could depend on anything divisively religious. New ways of trying to ground morality, justify political authority, and conceive society were sought. Descriptions of and prescriptions for human life would have to avoid explicit reference to religion if they hoped to persuade people who disagreed about it. If you didn't want to just keep preaching to choir, you had to learn how to sing a different song. Ideas and institutions central to modern liberal democracies are interrelated aspects of the ways that western modernity has addressed problems inherited from the Reformation era as a reaction, not as an outgrowth. These include individual freedom and autonomy, freedom of religion, religious toleration, the separation of church and state, secular public discourse, the secularization of knowledge, and the pursuit of human fulfilment through material well-being. Just like the beginning of the Reformation in Wittenberg, the process of addressing the Reformation era's problems in a new way started in an unlikely place, in a strange little republic at war with Europe's most powerful monarchy, from which it had just declared its independence. In the 1580s, no one in their right mind would have bet on the Dutch republic in revolt against mighty Spain and its empire, yet the magistrates and the merchants, especially of Holland's cities, hit on something important. They decided to de-emphasize religious uniformity and to go shopping instead, and that's what we're still doing, for real. Holland's urban leaders combined limited religious toleration with a seaborne trading empire in what turned out to be the wave of the future. They hit on a new relationship among religion, politics, and economics that would eventually change the world, sowing secularizing seeds of modernity in the tough soil of the Reformation era. Much else would fertilize it, including Enlightenment ideas, but they got the process started. Europeans in other countries noticed. The British in particular imitated the Dutch and integrated what they learned into their own much more powerful empire in the later 17th and 18th centuries. It turned out that religious toleration was good for business so long as the scope of religion was restricted and didn't, heaven forbid, seek to inhibit entrepreneurial initiative or to curtail expansionist political ambition. What the Dutch started was extended and first institutionalized in other odd republic at war with that British empire, the United States of America. It combined the federal disestablishment of churches with individual religious freedom and no proscriptions about how citizens should act on their newly protected rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A narrow Dutch notion of religion persisted. American citizens could believe as they pleased and worship as they wished. At the same place, whether rich or poor, Americans exercised their religious freedom as they pursued more and better material possessions, just like the Dutch and the British before them. The advent of the Industrial Revolution that coincided with the creation of the new nation enabled many more people to acquire many more possessions much more cheaply. Industrialization in the 19th century solidified this trend in the US as well as in western European countries, some sooner than others. It gave everyone something besides religion to care about and to devote themselves to. The most recent expressions of secularization borne of the relationship among religion, politics, and economics, have been visible in the last several decades on both sides of the north Atlantic. Religion's influence has diminished as material affluence has soared. Religion has ceased to have much, if any, capacity to influence society in shared public ways. Religious pluralism enabled by religious freedom means that when religious citizens -- -- do enter the public arena, their participation mirrors a secularized and, in the US, deeply divided public political culture. One could hardly ask for a more spectacular expression of this than what emerged starting with our most recent election cycle. Christianity has little capacity to influence the wider society in any collective way because Christians themselves are divided on every contentious political, social, and moral issue, including abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, immigration, international interventions abroad, and the current occupant of the White House. Democratic states today protect an ever-increasing diversity of beliefs, priorities, and practices. A nearly universal participation in consumerism capitalism plus political control by those states served to hold western societies together, or at least seemed to relatively well until Brexit and then the 2016 American election showed that there were political costs to four decades of economic neoliberalism, but these long-term outcomes of attempts to solve the problems inherited from the Reformation era have unintentionally created new problems of their own, for example, global climate change, a byproduct of the industrial processes that manufacture all that stuff that politically protected consumers want in exercising their rights. Long-term processes of secularization have been an attempt to control religion and to resolve the difficulties that followed in the wake of the Reformation. They're not an extension or fulfilment of the Lutheranism or the reform Protestantism of the Reformation era. Choosing your own beliefs and values, whether religious or not, and buying as much as you want of whatever you want are worlds away from the freedom of a Christian espoused by Luther, and when we see what modern freedom can mean in practice, in terms of choosing to believe and support whatever you prefer, as, for example, in our most recent presidential election, we get some sense of just how far-reaching have been the modern institutional and ideological endeavors to deal with the problems inherited from the Reformation era. So in brief and by way of conclusion, that's why the Reformation still matters, whether we like it or not. It unintentionally and indirectly created the world we inhabit, regardless of what we believe or care about, by making Christianity itself into an enduring problem that had to be addressed. The way it was addressed redefined religion and made it separable from the rest of life, and now increasingly, we see evidence of what that separation looks like, and we will, I'm sure, continue to see evidence of it facilitated by the combination of politically protected individual preferences, technological wizardry, and the power of money distributed with radical inequality, some expressions of which we probably can't imagine and which will probably be as unexpected as were the eventual consequences of the Reformation 500 years ago. So whatever one makes of our current situation, and thinks we ought to do, and whatever scale of engagement or action, it seems to me we're well advised to acknowledge the character of that situation and how we got to where we are. It presents challenges to all of us, regardless of what we believe and regardless of the specific geographical, institutional, and social locations we inhabit. Thank you. [ Applause ] So my understanding is now that there's time for some questions, so long as they're easy, softball questions and benign in every respect. I'm being facetious, of course. Sir in the front here. >> This is a question about the great man theorem of history. I mean there were popular reformers [inaudible] and 15th, 16th century, and there was, of course, Erasmus and [inaudible]. He was admired by Luther. Erasmus was an intellectual. I don't think he was -- I don't think he really had much popular appeal, but what about if there hadn't been some guy like Luther, as forceful, as charismatic, as belligerent in his viewpoints? Would the Reformation have occurred? >> Brad Gregory: Yeah, so this is one of those giant what historians call counterfactual questions. If it hadn't been for Luther, right, then what would have happened? One of the difficulties of trying to answer a question like this about a phenomenon that, if even half of what I've argued tonight is right, the Reformation was so dramatically transformative, it's hard to imagine if it hadn't happened, well, how might things have transpired differently. So that's the dodge aspect of my answer to your question. I think -- well, there's certainly -- there are all kinds of reform initiatives and so forth underway prior to Martin Luther. This has been one of the really important, I think, developments in scholarship on the late Middle Ages and the early 16th century in recent decades. You mention Erasmus, and I mean I think it's very interesting, because Erasmian humanism and Erasmus' vision for the gradual reform of Christendom is very different from Luther's. It's based primarily on patient education. Humanist scholars, no surprise, are the heroes. They're the ones who have the languages and are doing the philological and the scholarly research that's going to go back to the sources, as they say, ad fontes, and by producing reliable editions of the scriptures, as Erasmus himself did -- well, reliable. Not by the criteria of contemporary biblical scholars, but very much so at the time. His edition of the 1516 New Testament with facing text, Latin and Greek is incredibly important, but the question is: You know, what might Erasmian humanism have achieved had, you know, there not been someone, again, as sort of insistent and, as you said, belligerent as Martin Luther? There certainly are other reformers who reject Rome in the course of the 1520s who have personalities very different from Martin Luther. Huldrych Zwingli can be nasty, but nothing like Luther. And so I think, you know, in the end, we're left with sort of speculative, interesting discussion, fun discussion to talk about over a beer, but I think it's really impossible to resolve in any kind of compelling or kind of, you know, universally persuasive way what might have transpired instead without -- major historical counterfactuals, I think, simply have that character. Thanks. Yes, sir? >> I'm just curious. I would like to hear your thoughts about the second large religion, Islam, which has had this schism between the Sunni and the Shiite for centuries, for much, much longer than the Catholicism and Martin Luther, which after a couple of hundreds years of vicious wars, Thirty Years' War, other wars, came to an understanding and led to the religious freedom which you espoused here. What do you foresee, if anything, in speculations? Is there a possibility between the Sunni and the Shiite, which have been fighting each other for over a thousand years, well over a thousand years, that they would come to an accommodation at any time in the future like there has been development in the Christian world? >> Brad Gregory: Well, I have a dodge on this question, too. The question is prospects for the relationship between Sunni and Shia Muslims in terms of reconciliation in the future analogous to that, the kind of ways of accommodating coexistence that Protestants and Catholics have to large extent achieved in the modern world in the west. My dodge on this is I'm not a scholar of Islam. I really am not, so I'm not -- the other -- it's fascinating to me. One, I get a counterfactual question about if Luther hadn't come along, how might everything have been different in the past, and now I get a question about, you know, what do you foresee in the future about the relationship between -- you know, I'm just a humble historian. I try to study what actually happened and how it played out. That said, I mean, well, the relationship of different groups within Islam, including, most importantly, Sunni and Shia, but they're not the only ones, is, of course, one important dimension of the kinds of conflicts and unrest that we see in not only the Middle East, other parts of the world, and so forth. Another critically important part is the ways in which western powers intervened in the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and arbitrarily divided up, sliced and diced different countries, and so forth, and created problems because of the borders that they drew in ways that were not there before. So many of the problems that we see in the Islamic world today are at least difficult to extricate from the western interventions of the last, say, century and a half. Another crucially important question, and one I think that many westerners are at least as concerned with, is about -- -- the ways in which Muslims, whether Sunni, or Shia, or from some other group, are likely to, able to, or willing to make the sort of accommodation that most liberal westerners hope that they will make, and that, it seems to me, is maybe even a more pressing question than the one about the relationship between Sunni and Shia. I'll make just one sort of side comment on that. It seems to me, and I say this partly from my reading and also partly from talking to some Muslim friends, they look at certain aspects of western society and see it as a negative lesson in what they don't want to happen to their own societies and the ways in which -- when I talk about religion as more than religion here in the early 16th century, religion is more than religion in Muslim societies today, too, even ones that are relatively liberal, to say nothing of the ones that have the kind of tightest interwoven aspect of Islam with all dimensions of life, and when they look at the west, for example, and they say, "Yeah, you say it's awful what we do to our women, but look at the widespread pornography on every available, right, downloadable laptop everywhere in the western world. Which one of those is worse, you know?" I've had Muslim friends say things like that to me. So the only point being I don't think it's a simple problem, and I don't think that all the aces are held by the west. Yes, in the back. >> If religion and Christianity -- before the Reformation, I would say that it held us together. It was like a skeleton or a basis on which people were informed as to how to behave, how to live, how to do business, interact with each other, not just what to believe, right. >> Brad Gregory: Yeah, about practice as much -- in fact, practice even more, in some ways, than explicit beliefs. >> Well, now, recently, I spent 11 years living in India with Tibetan refugees, and they, too, live -- they live their religion. It informs everything -- >> Brad Gregory: Right. >> -- they do, and I see when they leave, because many are trying to leave, when they come to the west and they no longer live in that society, they, too, like us -- I mean it was the glue that held them together and held their culture together. Well, what you have just described is we are all drifting apart. We're drifting further and further away from anything that we can all recognize and value, and if that is the case -- and I have another example as a retired schoolteacher. I see that in our schools. Our schools no longer teach the basic, classical education. They just don't, and so now, I was just talking to an intern today, and he said, "Nowadays in school, kids just focus on what kind of job they want. That's what they're focused on." So let's say somebody wants to be a mathematician, so they study math. They don't know anything else, so who do they relate to? Who can they relate to? >> Brad Gregory: Yeah. >> Another mathematician, you know, but not the rest of the world, so even our own society, as you're suggesting, is drifting apart. There's nothing to hold us together anymore, and if there is, please tell us what it is. >> Brad Gregory: Hey, you know, you're preaching to the choir on that one. I mean that's very close to my analysis of the situation in which we find ourselves. I published a book several years ago -- Nicholas mentioned it in his introduction -- called The Unintended Reformation, in which I said some things about the kind of divisiveness and the dividedness of particularly Americans, but we can see it also in different guises in western European countries as well. That was published in 2012, and it was really interesting to me. During the course of the election, before November of 2016, I got a number of emails from readers of that book saying, "So I mean it's scary how spot-on you were, you know, about this," because there was an important debate among observers and analysts in the United States in recent years about, you know, "Is there really culture wars in the United States? Oh, it's just some small, vocal minorities. Really, most Americans agree and can get along with one another," and I think -- I mean now, we'd be hard pressed to find anybody, I think, who would defend the view that it's not really deeply divided. The question then, of course, is, you know, really, where do we turn? What are the, you know, possible alternatives for something that could, you know, function? What's deeply troubling to me and many others -- again, I'm not saying anything that probably all of you haven't heard ad nauseam in the last year in terms of analysis. What's particularly disturbing is what I would call a crisis of shared epistemology. By that I mean we don't even agree on what the sources of our information are to be able to have a shared discussion, so the determination of what is the case, the facts, are, well, you know, "No, I'll get mine from Breitbart. You get yours from MSNBC." You know, it's impossible to have a shared discussion if you don't agree substantially on what the [inaudible] are. I don't have an answer to that. Again, this is amazing. It's like how would you speculate that the past would have been utterly different without Luther, what do you think's going to happen to Muslims in the future, and please give us the answer to our incredibly divided problems. No problem. That's what historians are trained to do. So anyway, maybe we have time for one more question. Yeah, sir, in the back? >> It may be a question, may be more of a comment. You talked about basically how after the Thirty Years' War, things started to -- the church basically went to a very scholastic place, but I think there was still a cultural divide between the intellectual, philosophical part of the church and the pietistic movement in Europe that eventually came here in this country that brought us the two Great Awakenings a very conservative religious movement that continues, possibly through the Charismatic movement, to this day, where the church itself has divided again, in a certain way. Could you comment about that? >> Brad Gregory: Well, I mean there really never is a point from even the early decades of the Reformation in the 16th century when Protestantism seen as a whole doesn't encompass an enormous variety of different movements, churches, organizations, and so forth, so yes, of course, I mean in terms of whether we're talking about an anglophone context and, say, talking about Methodism and John Wesley in the 18th century as a kind of intra-Anglican pietistic movement, say, that's parallel to what's going on in German-speaking territories with respect to Lutheranism, because pietism, the usual meaning of pietism that starts in the early 17th century, with people like Arndt and others. Those are absolutely part of, would fit into what I was talking when I'm talking about the constructive aspects, right, of the religious traditions that come out of the Reformation era, not only the various Protestant traditions, but also Catholicism that will develop and continue to the present day as well. So yes, that is absolutely part of the story. It fits into the picture that I've described here, because once we get into the modern world, you can be a pietist, you can be a Unitarian, you can be a Quaker, you can be a Catholic, you can be a Charismatic, you can be whatever you want to be, you know. The point is you can be whatever you want to. Religious freedom is politically protected, but you know, we're not going to share any of that, right, in common. It's not going to be proscribed. You can believe whatever you want so long as you obey the laws. That's the basic way in which the problem of Christianity from the Reformation era is attempted to be solved. For most of US history, for a long time, certainly when Tocqueville visits in the early 1830s, he looks, and he sees, "Incredible. Look at this. All these different Protestant groups. Even got a smattering of Catholics and so forth, even a handful of Jews, right." He says, "All the Christian groups, right, they all worship God in different ways, yet they all share the same morality. They all share a sense of duty, and of public mindedness, and what it is that people owe to one another." That's what's gone. That's what dissipated, and I think in ways that are parallel to the decline of the so-called mainstream Protestant churches in the United States, because they were the cultural backbone of that phenomenon. So that's a situation in which it seems to me we find ourselves, but absolutely, those Protestant traditions that you're talking about, that originated in Europe, came across the Atlantic, have definitely had an influence here, as have the others. So anyway, I could stay here all night, but I probably shouldn't. So thanks again to everyone for coming. I really appreciated it. Great questions, and have a good evening. [ Applause ] >> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at



John Dawson Shea was born in New York City to James Shea, an Irish immigrant and school principal, and Mary Ann (Flannigan) Shea. His early studies were at the grammar school of Columbia College, where his father was principal. At an early age he became a clerk in a Spanish merchant's office, where he learned to read and write Spanish fluently.[2] Shea graduated from St. John's College (now Fordham University), and entered the Society of Jesus in 1844;[3] during this time he added his middle name of Gilmary ("servant of Mary").[4] He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1846,[2] and obtained the degree of LL.D. from St. John's College.

In 1852, he left the Jesuits. His comprehensive study of early Indian missions in America, the Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley with the original narratives of Marquette, Allouez, Membré, Hennepin and Anastase Douay, was published later that year.[3] In 1854 he married Sophie Savage.

Shea turned his attention to literature, and was connected in an editorial capacity with Frank Leslie's publishing house, and later edited the Catholic News, but for many years his attention was given to historical research in preparation of his History of the Catholic Church in the United States (1886–92), the fourth volume of which was in process of publication at the time of his death in Elizabeth, New Jersey. A major research interest was French colonization and Jesuit missions in America. He edited the Historical Magazine from 1859 until 1865. In 1889 he became an editor of the Catholic News which supported him until his death.[4]

Shea was connected with many historical societies in America and Europe, and was the first president of the Catholic Historical Society of the United States. He was the first person to be awarded the Laetare Medal by the University of Notre Dame in 1883.[5] Georgetown University conferred on him the degree of LL.D. in recognition of his work as a Catholic historian.[2] The John Gilmary Shea Papers, a collection of correspondence, manuscripts, and research materials, are preserved in the Georgetown University Library (Special Collections Division).[6]

In 1945 the John Gilmary Shea Prize was established by the American Catholic Historical Association for the most original and distinguished contribution to the knowledge of the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Shea was inducted into the Fordham University Hall of Honor in 2008.[3]


Shea was author, editor or translator of more than 240 publications.[7]


  • Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley with the original narratives of Marquette, Allouez, Membré, Hennepin and Anastase Douay (New York, 1852) read online
  • History of the Catholic Missions among the Indian Tribes of the United States, 1529–1854 (1854; German translation, Würzburg, 1856) read online
  • Perils of the Ocean and Wilderness, or, Narratives of Shipwreck and Indian Captivity : gleaned from early missionary annals (1856) read online
  • A Bibliographical Account of American Catholic Bibles, Testaments, and Other Portions of Scripture (New York, 1859) read online
  • A French-Onondaga Dictionary from a manuscript of the seventeenth century (1860) read online
  • The Fallen Brave: A Biographical Memorial of The American Officers Who Have Given Their Lives for the Preservation of the Union (New York: Charles B. Richrdson, 1861) read online
  • Early Voyages Up and Down the Mississippi by Cavelier, St. Cosme, Le Sueur, Gravier, and Guignas (Albany, 1861) read online
  • The Operations of the French Fleet under the Count de Grasse in 1781–2 : as described in two contemporaneous journals (1864) read online
  • The Lincoln Memorial (1865) read online
  • The Commodities of the iland called Manati ore Long Ile which is in the continent of Virginia (1865) read online
  • A Child's History of the United States (1872) read online
  • The Life of Pope Pius IX and the Great Events in the History of the Church during his Pontificate (New York, 1875) read online
  • Address Delivered before the Missouri Historical Society, July 19, 1878 : The Anniversary of the Discovery of the Mississippi by Marquette and Joliet (New York: H.J. Hewitt, 1878) read online
  • The Bursting of Pierre Margry's La Salle Bubble : To refute Margry's claim that La Salle was the first French discoverer of the Mississippi, by critical examination of certain documents printed in "Découvertes et établissements des Français." (New York, 1879) read online
  • Bibliography of Hennepin's Works (New York, 1880) read online
  • The Expedition of Don Diégo Dionisio de Peñalosa, Governor of New Mexico, from Santa Fe to the river Mischipi and Quivira in 1662 (1882) read online
  • The Catholic Church in Colonial Days : The Thirteen Colonies - the Ottawa and Illinois country - Louisiana-Florida-Texas-New Mexico and Arizona, 1521–1763 (1886) read online
  • The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States : embracing sketches of all the archbishops and bishops from the establishment of the See of Baltimore to the present time : also, an account of the plenary councils of Baltimore, and brief history of the church in the United States (1886) read online
  • Life and Times of the Most Rev. John Carroll, bishop and first archbishop of Baltimore : embracing the history of the Catholic Church in the United States, 1763–1815 (1888) read online
  • History of the Catholic Church in the United States (4 vols., 1886–1892) read online
  • The Defenders of Our Faith : their devotion to the church, biographies and portraits of our cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, setting forth their zeal and labor in the development of faith and morals, including an explanation of the doctrines of the church, a full account of the Plenary Council of Baltimore, the church in its history, teachings, trials and triumphs in America, profusely illustrated (New York, 1892) read online
  • The cross and the flag, our church and country; heroic deeds ... (w/ Cardinal James Gibbons et al.) (1899) read online
  • Caughnawaga and the Rev. Joseph Marcoux, its late missionary (New York, 18??) read online


  • Cramoisy series of narratives and documents bearing on the early history of the French-American colonies (26 vols., 1857–1868)
  • Washington's Private Diary (1861)
  • Cadwallader Colden, History of the Five Indian Nations, edition of 1727 (1866)
  • George Alsop (b. 1638), A Character of the Province of Maryland : described in four distinct parts ; also a small treatise on the wild and naked Indians (or Susquehanokes) of Maryland ... together with a collection of historical letters (New York, 1869) read online
  • Dictionnaire françois-onontagué / édité d'après un manuscit du 17e siècle par Jean-Marie Shea read online
  • Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints : with reflections for every day in the year : compiled from "Butler's Lives" and other approved sources : to which are added lives of the American saints : placed on the calendar for the United States by special petition of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (New York, 1894) read online


  • L. C. Businger (1832–1910) Christ in His Church : a Catholic Church history from the original of Rev. L. C. Businger / by Richard Brennan, together with a sketch of the church in America (New York, 1881) read online
  • Pierre-Francois-Xavier de Charlevoix (1682–1761), History and General Description of New France (6 vols., 1866–1872) read online
  • Henry de Courcy, Catholic Church in the United States (1856) read online
  • Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta (d. 1842), A vocabulary or phrase book of the Mutsun language of Alta California read online
  • Nicholas de Freytas, The Expedition of Don Diego Dionisio de Penalosa in 1662 (New York, 1882) read online
  • Father Louis Hennepin, A Description of Louisiana, by Father Louis Hennepin, Recollect missionary. Tr. from the edition of 1683, and compared with the Nouvelle découverte, the La Salle documents and other contemporaneous papers (1880) read online
  • Isaac Jogues, Novum Belgium, An Account of the New Netherlands in 1643-4 (New York, 1862) read online
  • Father Christian Le Clercq, First Establishment of the Faith in New France, by Father Christian Le Clercq, Recollect missionary (New York, 1881) read online
  • Marie de Agustin de Tranchepain (d. 1733), Account of the Voyage of the Ursulines to New Orleans in 1727 (New York, 1859) read online

Shea published a series of grammars and dictionaries of the Indian languages (15 vols., 1860–1874), and revised Challoner's original Bible of 1750 (1871).[7]


  1. ^ "Wisdom and Learning", Fordham News, December 23, 2016
  2. ^ a b c
     One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSpillane, Edward Peter (1913). "John Dawson Gilmary Shea" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
  3. ^ a b c "John Gilmary Shea", Hall of Honor, Fordham University
  4. ^ a b Purcell, Richard J. (1935). "Shea, John Dawson Gilmary". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  5. ^ Hope, Arthur J., 1943, Notre Dame — 100 Years, Chapter XVI, University of Notre Dame Press.
  6. ^ "The Library of John Gilmary Shea", Georgetown University Library, January 31, 1993
  7. ^ a b Moore, Alexander (1984). "John Gilmary Shea". In Wilson, Clyde Norman (ed.). Dictionary of Literary Biography. Gale.


Further reading

  • Peter Guilday, John Gilmary Shea: Father of American Catholic History, 1824-1892 (New York: United States Catholic Historical Society, 1926).

External links

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