Bishop John Keane Letter, 1886


Bishop John Keane (1839-1918)

If it was true that many powerful Catholics disapproved of the goals of the Knights of Labor, it was equally true that the order had its prominent supporters. One of those supporters was Bishop of Richmond Virginia John Keane. When the Knights held their General Assembly in Richmond in 1886, Cardinal Taschereau of Quebec, Canada had by then secured a second condemnation of the Knights by authorities in Rome.

This did not stop some American church leaders, however, from expressing approval of the order, indeed, Taschereau's work against the Knights in Canada caused some church authorities in the United States to attempt to clarify that the condemnation did not necessarily apply outside of Canada.

One of these supporters was Bishop Keane. When asked by a reporter about the Knights shortly before they held their meeting in Richmond, Keane expressed optimism about their work. Powderly asked Keane to put his positive thoughts on the Knights into writing, and the letter reproduced here, a kind of "letter of recommendation" for the Knights was the result.


Letter to T.V. Powderly, Oct. 21, 1886


As you read the document, reflect on the following questions:

  • Why has Keane written the letter, and how does he tell Powderly that it can be used? Why might this be useful for Powderly?
  • Would you say that Keane sees the goals of the workingmen and American ideals as compatible? How?
  • How does Keane describe the attitude of the Catholic church toward the poor?
  • How would you compare Keane's view as expressed here to Corrigan's, as expressed in hisĀ pastoral letter?