Academic explodes Edmund Rice anti-Protestant myth
A Brisbane academic has provided evidence that discredits documentation accepted by the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, that suggests Edmund Rice founded the Christian Brothers specifically to combat Protestant proselytism of the poor.
The Australian Christian Brothers' Edmund Rice Online website reported yesterday on the content of a paper published in the current issue of the Australian EJournal of Theology.
Professor Denis McLaughlin notes that research undertaken for the canonisation processes of Blessed Edmund Rice indicate that his motivations in founding his relgious congregation was ignited by a Pastoral Letter of Bishop Thomas Hussey urging Catholics to combat Protestant proselytism of the poor.
He said Rice is widely believed to have responded by educating boys using a blueprint for girls pioneered by the founder of the Presentation Sisters, Nano Nagle.
This "myth", which was used in the promotion of the cause for canonisation of Blessed Edmund, was a dominant theme in homilies at masses in the Vatican before his beatification on 5 October 1996.
However Professor McLaughlin's paper argues that these motivations cannot be sustained from the historical evidence.
"It is more likely that Rice's choice to completely reorientate his life, and dedicate his extensive wealth to become "the first layman of the English-speaking world to found a body of apostolic religious dedicated exclusively to the apostolate of Christian education" was generated from a far more personal source," says Professor McLaughlin.
"The trauma experienced through the death of his wife and the loss of their uniquely deep love were the catalysts to catapult Rice along a psychological journey of painful self-discovery," he points out.
"Rice's foundational motivation for his Christian Brothers was ultimately generated from a deep compassion for the "dear little one's" in which he saw his incarnational Lord, than any desire to combat relatively insignificant Protestant proselytizing. Rice did not respond to any Episcopal or institutional church initiative."
Professor McLaughlin is an Associate Professor in the School of Educational Leadership, Australian Catholic University. He is currently in Rome and Ireland, completing a book scheduled for publication next year, on the educational philosophy of Blessed Edmund Rice.
Academic explodes Edmund anti-Protestant myth (Edmund Rice Online 22/9/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The founding of the Irish Christian Brothers: Navigating the realities through the myths (Australian EJournal of Theology Issue 5)
23 Sep 2005