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Leonard Neale

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Leonard Neale

Archbishop of Baltimore
Portrait of Archbishop Leonard Neale
InstalledDecember 3, 1815
Term endedJune 18, 1817
PredecessorJohn Carroll
SuccessorAmbrose Maréchal
OrdinationJune 5, 1773
ConsecrationDecember 7, 1800
by John Carroll
Personal details
Born(1746-10-15)October 15, 1746
Port Tobacco, Province of Maryland, British America
DiedJune 18, 1817(1817-06-18) (aged 70)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
BuriedGeorgetown Visitation Monastery
Previous post
Alma materColleges of St Omer, Bruges and Liège
Styles of
Leonard Neale
Mitre plain 2.png
Reference styleThe Most Reverend
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleArchbishop

Leonard Neale, S.J. (October 15, 1746 – June 18, 1817) was an American Catholic prelate and Jesuit who became the Archbishop of Baltimore and the first Catholic bishop to be ordained in the United States. While president of Georgetown College, Neale became the coadjutor bishop to John Carroll and founded the Georgetown Visitation Monastery and Academy.

Neale was born in the British Province of Maryland to a prominent family that produced many Catholic leaders, including his brothers, Francis and Charles. He was educated in Europe, where he entered the Society of Jesus in 1767. Neale then volunteered to become a missionary to British Guiana in 1779. He spent four years there, before becoming discouraged by the resistance from both the British colonists and indigenous people to his proselytism. He returned to Maryland, where he rejoined the former Jesuits at St. Thomas Manor.

In 1793, Neale become the pastor of Old St. Joseph's and Old St. Mary's Churches in Philadelphia. Bishop Carroll also made him vicar general for Philadelphia and the northern states. During the yellow fever epidemic, Neale established the first Catholic orphanage in Philadelphia to care for the many orphaned children, and he contracted the disease.

Neale was the president of Georgetown College from 1799 to 1806, where his imposition of strict discipline caused declining student enrollment. Though he had been appointed in 1795, he was consecrated as the coadjutor bishop of Baltimore in 1800. Neale supported the restoration of the Jesuits in the United States, which occurred in 1805. He also established the Georgetown Visitation Monastery and Academy in 1799. Neale became the Archbishop of Baltimore in 1815, and was faced with several lay trustee conflicts, the most severe of which resulted in a temporary schism in Charleston, South Carolina.

Early life[edit]

Leonard Neale was born on October 15, 1746,[1] at Chandler's Hope, the Neale family estate near Port Tobacco, located in Charles County in the British Province of Maryland.[2] He was born into a prominent Maryland family; among his ancestors was Captain James Neale, one of the settlers of the Maryland Colony, who arrived in 1637 upon receiving a royal grant of 2,000 acres (810 ha) in what would become Port Tobacco.[3] Neale's parents, William Neale and Anne Neal née Brooke, had thirteen children.[4]

Facade of the Jesuit college's chapel
Chapel of the Jesuit college in Saint-Omer

Two of Neale's brothers died during their studies, while four of the surviving five became Catholic priests. One of them, Charles Neale, would become a prominent Jesuit in the United States,[4] while another, Francis Neale, would also became president of Georgetown College.[5] One sister, Anne, entered the Order of Poor Clares as a nun, in Aire-sur-la-Lys, France.[6] Through his sister, Mary, Neale's nephew was William Matthews, another future president of Georgetown.[4]

Neale first attended the Bohemia Manor School, near his home.[7] The widowed Anne Neale sought to enroll her sons in a Catholic college, but Catholic educational institutions were banned in the British colony.[8] Therefore, all seven of Neale's brothers were sent to the Colleges of St Omer, Bruges, or Liège,[4] and he left for Saint-Omer, France at the age of twelve,[9] where he proved to be a good student. Deciding that he would become a Jesuit,[10] he followed the college to Bruges,[11] where he entered the Society of Jesus on September 7, 1767.[12] He then continued when the school relocated to Liège,[1] where he completed his study of philosophy and theology,[10] and was ordained a priest on June 5, 1773.[12]


Neale then returned to Bruges in 1773 as a member of the faculty.[7] Later that year, when Pope Clement XIV promulgated a brief, titled Dominus ac Redemptor, ordering the worldwide suppression of the Society of Jesus,[13] the Jesuit college was seized by the government of the Austrian Netherlands and all the Jesuits were expelled.[7] Therefore, Neale moved with the English Jesuits to England as a secular priest. He spent his first four years in England in charge of a small congregation,[13] in Hardwick, County Durham.[14] He spent the subsequent two years first in Liège, then in Brussels, then as a temporary chaplain at the convent of the English Canonesses in Bruges.[15]

Missionary in British Guiana[edit]

Before long, Neale petitioned to be assigned as a foreign missionary, and in 1779, he left England for Demerara,[16] in British Guiana. His first task was to convert the British colonists living there. However, they rejected his attempts and barred him from building a chapel. As a result, he turned his attention to the conversion of the indigenous people.[17]

Neale found his work of proselytizing the indigenous people difficult.[16] However, on one occasion, the tribal chief, who previously resisted the efforts to convert to Christianity, implored Neale to spiritually intervene to save his dying son. Neale baptized the son, who was then restored to health, and the chief and his family converted to Christianity; others also followed.[18] Nonetheless, Neale was unsuccessful in obtaining many conversions, and the people were largely opposed to him. They too barred him from building a church. Discouraged by the resistance of the people to his efforts, and experiencing deteriorating health, Neale left the mission in January 1783, setting sail for Maryland.[19] His voyage was delayed when his ship was seized by the British Royal Navy, during the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War.[17] Neale eventually arrived in Maryland in April.[20]

Return to the United States[edit]

St. Ignatius Church at St. Thomas Manor
St. Thomas Manor, where Neale was stationed for ten years

With his studies and ministry in Europe and South America, Neale had been absent from the United States for 25 years.[21] He rejoined his former Jesuit colleagues from Europe, including John Carroll, and was stationed at St. Thomas Manor. Neale attended the first meeting of the Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergymen of Maryland,[a] held at White Marsh in 1783,[20] and remained active in its subsequent deliberations throughout the years.[21] He was an outspoken leader of a group of former Jesuits who opposed Carroll's sale of land held by the corporation to finance the establishment of Georgetown College.[23]


Neale was stationed at St. Thomas Manor until volunteering to go to Philadelphia in 1793, following the outbreak of a yellow fever epidemic in the city.[24] The disease claimed 10% of Philadelphia's population, including the pastor, Dominic Lawrence Graessel, and two assistant priests at Old St. Joseph's Church, in addition to hundreds of its parishioners.[25] Despite the precarious state of his own health, Neale became pastor of both Old St. Joseph's and Old St. Mary's Church.[26] Neale himself eventually contracted yellow fever and recovered,[27] although never completely to his former health.[28] In addition to his two pastorates, he was made vicar general to Bishop John Carroll for Philadelphia and the northern states.[7]

When the epidemic returned in 1797 and 1798,[27] Neale established the first Catholic orphanage in Philadelphia to care for the children whose parents had died of the disease.[25] Though he found it difficult to raise sufficient funds to support the new institution, the orphanage would eventually be incorporated in 1807 as St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum. Neale's tenure as pastor of St. Joseph's and St. Mary's came to an end in March 1799, and he was succeeded by Matthew Carr.[26]

President of Georgetown[edit]

In 1799,[7] Bishop John Carroll recalled Neale from Philadelphia, to replace Louis William Valentine DuBourg as president of Georgetown College in Washington, D.C.[1] He officially assumed the office on March 30, 1799.[29] In addition to his duties as president, Neale acted as a tutor at the college for several years. He was the first president to comply with the requirement set by the college's board of director's that the president live at the college.[30] Authority over the college's finances rested with the vice president, Neale's brother, Francis.[31] The financial conditions of the still-nascent college were unsteady; as a result, Old North remained unfinished, money for food was not guaranteed, and Neale slept on a folding bed in the library.[32]

Portrait of Bishop Leonard Neale
Bishop Neale overseeing Georgetown College

Neale's overall leadership of the college was considered lacking. As his brother later would, Neale instituted strict discipline among the students, adopting a quasi-monastic regimen. He also segregated the seminary candidates from the lay students; the Catholic students were also segregated from the many non-Catholic students, who were housed off-campus. Neale's imposition of strict discipline drew the criticism of John Carroll, who believed that it was dissuading parents from sending their sons to the college, as the prevailing American spirit of liberty was unaccustomed to such strictures.[33] Nonetheless, while the overall number of enrolled students decreased, Georgetown produced a considerable number of Jesuit novices during his tenure.[32]

Neale phased out the lay faculty so that all the professors were either Jesuits, Sulpicians, secular priests, or seminarians. He also expanded the course of studies by adding philosophy, the final course in the full Jesuit curriculum.[33] This was done both to fulfill the college's earlier prospectus that claimed it would offer philosophy, and because DuBourg sought to expand St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore to include the comprehensive education of lay students; both Neale and Carroll feared that this would draw students away from Georgetown.[34] The college began teaching philosophy in 1801, making it a full college in the view of the Jesuit curriculum.[35] Neale's tenure as president of the college came to an end in 1806, and he was succeeded by Robert Molyneux.[5]

According to one historical legend among the Maryland Jesuits, President George Washington underwent a deathbed conversion while he was attended by Neale.[36] The story holds that Neale was summoned by Washington and taken by rowboat from St. Thomas Manor to Mount Vernon.[37] There, Neale heard Washington's confession andconditionally baptized him, receiving him into the Catholic Church.[38] One Catholic historian, Martin I. J. Griffin, concluded that this legend was likely untrue.[39]

Georgetown Visitation Monastery and Academy[edit]

While serving in Philadelphia, Neale had become acquainted with Alice Lalor, an Irish immigrant to whom Neale became her confessor. She sought to return to Kilkenny to establish a religious community, but Neale convinced her to remain in the United States, where he would assist her in founding a community.[40] Along with two other women, they established a small school for girls. However, these two women would die of yellow fever,[30] and the school was disbanded.[1]

When Neale relocated to Georgetown, he called Lalor and two associates of hers to the city in 1799,[41] where they took up residence with a community of Poor Clares in Georgetown, so that they could discern which religious order they should enter.[42] Eventually, Neale determined that the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary would be most suited to their mission, and in light of the growing Catholic population in the District of Columbia that sought to have a Catholic school for their daughters. Neale drew up the rules for their enclosed community.[43] Though the new community faced financial strain, Neale purchased the monastery of the Poor Clares, who were returning to Europe, and transferred ownership of it to the nuns on June 29, 1808.[1] There, they began operating a school, Georgetown Visitation Academy, which would become Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School.[41] Neale received the nuns' simple vows in 1813,[1] and would remain their spiritual director for the remainder of his life.[44]

Prelate of Baltimore[edit]

Coadjutor bishop[edit]

Chapel of the Georgetown Visitation Monastery
As bishop, Neale continued to reside near the Georgetown Visitation Monastery.

John Carroll, the Bishop of Baltimore, found it difficult to minister to his very large diocese, which encompassed the entire United States. Therefore, he requested that the Vatican appoint a coadjutor bishop to assist him.[45] Dominic Lawrence Graessel was selected by the Baltimore diocesan clergy to be the coadjutor, in 1795. However, before he could be installed as coadjutor, he died.[46] Therefore, Bishop Carroll requested that the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide appoint Neale as coadjutor. On March 23, 1795, the Propaganda Fide selected him and Pope Pius VI confirmed its selection on April 17.[21] Neale was also named as the Titular Bishop of Gortyna. However, due to the European political turmoil resulting from the French Revolution,[21] the bulls of appointment were twice lost before reaching Carroll; they were eventually forwarded in January 1800 by Cardinal Stefano Borgia via Venice, and reached Baltimore in the summer.[12] Neale was consecrated a bishop on December 7, 1800, at St. Peter's Pro-Cathedral in Baltimore,[47] with Bishop John Carroll serving as consecrator. With this ceremony, he became the first bishop to be consecrated inside the United States.[7] Neale continued to reside at Georgetown, where he was president.[48]

When Pope Pius VII issued a bull in 1801, at the request of Emperor Paul I of Russia, lifting the order of suppression of the Jesuits within the Russian Empire (where they had never ceased operating),[49] Neale and his brothers, Francis and Charles, were among the most ardent supporters of the American Jesuits affiliating with the Russian province so as to resume official operations in the United States. Though Carroll was initially resistant to such a precarious arrangement, he eventually consented, and he and Neale requested permission from Gabriel Gruber, the Jesuit Superior General. In 1805, the Society of Jesus was restored in the United States, and the Jesuit novitiate opened at Georgetown College.[50] With the order newly re-established, it relied on foreign support, and Carroll succeeded in recruiting several European Jesuits, such as Anthony Kohlmann, to Georgetown.[32]

Archbishop of Baltimore[edit]

When John Carroll died, Neale succeeded him as the second Archbishop of Baltimore on December 3, 1815, and he received the pallium from Pope Pius VII the following year. He ascended to the position at the age of 70, and his health had begun to deteriorate.[44] Rather than moving to Baltimore, Neale continued to reside in Georgetown, near the Visitation nuns. One of his first acts was to request that Pope Pius VII formally recognize the Visitation nuns' community. With the pope's approval, Neale officially recognized the community as the Georgetown Visitation Monastery.[51] For this, he was recognized as the founder of the institution.[7]

Portrait of Archbishop Leonard Neale
Neale as Archbishop of Baltimore

The most significant challenge that Neale faced during his time as archbishop was the growing phenomenon of lay trusteeism in the United States, whereby the states vested the ownership of church property and management of its affairs, including the selection of the church's priests, in a board of lay trustees elected by parishioners.[52] While facially compliant with the Catholic canon law of jus patronatus, this arrangement often resulted in the trustees defying the orders of bishops in managing the churches.[53] Neale inherited much of this conflict that arose during his predecessor's tenure.[52] His first conflicts were with boards of trustees in Philadelphia in 1796, and in Norfolk, Virginia.[54]

A much larger controversy would be found in Charleston, South Carolina, which came to be known as the Charleston Schism of 1815 to 1818. In 1815, Carroll assigned the French priest Pierre-Joseph de Clorivière [fr] as the pastor of St. Mary of the Annunciation Church, where Carroll had previously stationed him as an assistant priest. Clorivière would take the place of the interim pastor, Robert Browne, who was to return to his congregation in Augusta, Georgia.[55] The trustees of the church, which was predominantly Irish and harbored anti-French sentiment, opposed Clorivière.[53]

The Leonard Neale House in Dupont Circle in 2009

Browne defied Neale's order to return to Augusta, and Browne's predecessor at St. Mary's, Felix Simon Gallagher, asserted that Neale had no authority to appoint a new pastor without his ascent, and that to do so would be schismatic. Neale responded by withdrawing the priestly faculties of Gallagher and Browne on February 21, 1816. However, Browne ignored Neale's order, resuming the pastorate on March 28 and dismissing Clorivière.[56] With the congregation siding with Browne, Neale placed the church under an interdict.[57] Browne then argued his case in Rome, where he obtained an order from Cardinal Lorenzo Litta, the prefect of the Propaganda Fide, allowing him to return as pastor. Neale appealed this decision to Pope Pius VII, who reversed Litta on July 6, 1817.[58]

Due to his declining health, Neale requested that the authorities in Rome appoint Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus, the Bishop of Boston, as his coadjutor to assist him, but Cheverus objected. Instead, Ambrose Maréchal was appointed on July 24, 1817, but before he could receive notification of this, Neale died on June 18, 1817; Maréchal succeeded him as archbishop.[1] He was buried in the crypt of the chapel at the Visitation Monastery.[48]

The Leonard Neale House in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. was the home of a Jesuit community from the 1960s until its merger with the Jesuit community at Gonzaga College High School in 2016.[59][60]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The corporation was created in 1792 in response to the suppression of the Society of Jesus. Its purpose was to preserve the property of the former Jesuits with the hope that the Society would be one day restored and the property returned under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Jesuit superior in America.[22]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g McNeal 1911
  2. ^ Chandler's Hope: Architectural Survey File 2003, pp. 2, 15
  3. ^ Warner 1994, p. 18
  4. ^ a b c d Warner 1994, p. 19
  5. ^ a b Curran 1993, p. 404
  6. ^ Currier 1890, p. 53
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Most Rev. Leonard Neale". Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archived from the original on May 23, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  8. ^ Clarke 1872, pp. 117–118
  9. ^ Clarke 1872, p. 118
  10. ^ a b Clarke 1872, p. 119
  11. ^ Guilday 1924, p. 2
  12. ^ a b c Corrigan 1916, p. 373
  13. ^ a b Clarke 1872, p. 120
  14. ^ Miscellanea · IV 1907, p. 248
  15. ^ Guilday 1924, pp. 2–3
  16. ^ a b Clarke 1872, p. 121
  17. ^ a b Guilday 1924, p. 3
  18. ^ Clarke 1872, pp. 121–122
  19. ^ Clarke 1872, p. 122
  20. ^ a b Clarke 1872, p. 123
  21. ^ a b c d Guilday 1924, p. 4
  22. ^ Curran 2012, pp. 14–16
  23. ^ Curran 1993, p. 14
  24. ^ Clarke 1872, p. 124
  25. ^ a b "Old St. Joseph's In The 18th Century". Old St. Joseph's Church. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  26. ^ a b Griffin 1882, p. 6
  27. ^ a b Clarke 1872, p. 125
  28. ^ Curran 1993, p. 53
  29. ^ Shea 1891, p. 26
  30. ^ a b Clarke 1872, p. 129
  31. ^ Curran 1993, p. 65
  32. ^ a b c Curran 1993, p. 59
  33. ^ a b Curran 1993, p. 54
  34. ^ Curran 1993, p. 55
  35. ^ Shea 1891, p. 29
  36. ^ Griffin 1900, p. 123
  37. ^ Griffin 1900, p. 127
  38. ^ Griffin 1900, p. 128
  39. ^ Griffin 1900, p. 129
  40. ^ Clarke 1872, p. 128
  41. ^ a b "History of Georgetown Visitation". Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School. Archived from the original on April 30, 2020. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  42. ^ Clarke 1872, p. 131
  43. ^ Clarke 1872, p. 132
  44. ^ a b Clarke 1872, p. 134
  45. ^ Clarke 1872, p. 130
  46. ^ "Rt. Rev. Dominic Laurence Graessel". Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  47. ^ The Catholic Church in the United States of America 1914, p. 59
  48. ^ a b Guilday 1924, p. 5
  49. ^ Shea 1891, p. 516
  50. ^ Curran 1993, p. 58
  51. ^ Clarke 1872, p. 135
  52. ^ a b Guilday 1924, pp. 6–7
  53. ^ a b Guilday 1924, p. 8
  54. ^ Guilday 1924, p. 7
  55. ^ Furey 1887, p. 185
  56. ^ Furey 1887, p. 186
  57. ^ "Our History". St. Mary of the Annunciation Catholic Church. Archived from the original on October 23, 2019. Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  58. ^ Furey 1887, p. 187
  59. ^ Reese, Thomas (March 24, 2016). "How many Jesuits does it take to change a light bulb?". National Catholic Reporter. Archived from the original on August 11, 2020. Retrieved November 1, 2020.
  60. ^ LoBiondo 2017, p. 18


Further reading[edit]

  • Hennesey, James (June 1972). "First American Foreign Missionary: Leonard Neale in Guyana". Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia. 83 (2): 82–86. JSTOR 44210793.
  • "Memoir of the Most Rev. Archbishop Neale". The Metropolitan. Vol. 5 no. 1. February 1857. pp. 18–25. Retrieved May 26, 2020 – via Internet Archive.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Dominic Lawrence Graessel
6th Pastor of Old St. Joseph's Church
Succeeded by
Matthew Carr
Pastor of Old St. Mary's Church
Preceded by
Vicar General of the Diocese of Baltimore for Philadelphia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Dominic Lawrence Graessel
Coadjutor Bishop of Baltimore
Title next held by
James Whitfield
Preceded by
Jacques-Benjamin Longer
Bishop of Gortyna
Succeeded by
Franciszek Zglenicki
Preceded by
John Carroll
2nd Archbishop of Baltimore
Succeeded by
Ambrose Maréchal
Academic offices
Preceded by
Louis Guillaume Valentin DuBourg
4th President of Georgetown College
Succeeded by
Robert Molyneux