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KEANE, John J.

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Archbishop John J. Keane

KEANE, John J. (Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland, Sept. 12, 1839-Dubuque, IA, June 22,1918). Second of Dubuque's ARCHBISHOPS. Keane was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 1866, and was appointed as an assistant at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Washington, DC. (1) While in Washington, D.C., Keane founded the Carroll Institute for Catholic young men and the Tabernacle Society that worked among poor churches throughout the United States.

In 1878 he was named Bishop of Richmond, Virginia. Appointed a member of the committee to organize a Catholic University for the United States in 1885, Keane was appointed the first Rector of the newly established Catholic University of America in September 1887. (2)

Keane used his skills in public speaking to promote the university on a national level. He also, however, used his position to support the "Americanist" faction of the Catholic hierarchy. His outspoken personality and defense of university faculty members, who wrote on sensitive topics, placed him in conflict with more conservative members of the hierarchy, particularly over the educational debate. This became a significant factor in his unexpected dismissal from the rectorship in 1896 by Pope Leo XIII. (3) Keane was removed from the Catholic University, elevated to the position of archbishop, and given charge of the see of Dubuque. (4)

Rev. Keane was named to succeed Archbishop John HENNESSY on July 24, 1900. The archbishop took little time getting involved in politics. While declaring himself to be a Democrat, he wished the party had held to its original beliefs. In December, 1900 Archbishop Keane met with the mayor and council on an informal basis. He informed them that he hoped the officials did not condone vice. He had heard that they did by accepting "petty fines" and it this was true "his voice will certainly be heard against them." When informed that statistics showed Dubuque was one of the most moral cities in Iowa, he replied that if they could reduce vice to a minimum they could go further and exterminate it. He was pleased to hear that the PACIFIC HOUSE, a place of "iniquity," was closed. (5)

Synods in 1902, 1905, and 1908 applied the Baltimore decrees to local conditions. Conferences of the clergy were held semi-annually in every deanery. Complete annual reports from every parish were made through the chancery. He encouraged postgraduate courses for priests; doubled the faculty and buildings of ST. JOSEPH COLLEGE, the preparatory seminary of the archdiocese; established a missionary band of diocesan priests; and welcomed the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the Sisters of the Order of St. Dominic and the Brothers of Mary. (6)

Keane was a zealot in the cause of temperance and took nearly every opportunity to speak out against the evils of liquor. On March 31, 1901 while speaking at ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL he stated:

         I have been told and I was ashamed to hear 
         it that the liquor traffic controls the city 
         government in Dubuque. If I thought the people 
         in Dubuque were in sympathy with the saloons 
         in their damnable business of destroying men's 
         souls I would send in my resignation to Rome 
         immediately and would leave Dubuque double quick. (7)

In launching his crusade against the sellers of liquor in Dubuque, Archbishop Keane announced that he wished to have all bars closed on Sunday. In March, 1907, a mass meeting against illegal saloons was held at the opera house. Archbishop Keane was the principal speaker. The saloons were violating the Sunday and night closing ordinance. (8) He also organized Happy Home, Veronica Leagues, and other abstinence organizations. (9) Showing his influence and that of the Law and Order League, the saloon keepers in 1907 agreed to: (10)

           a. Sunday closing
           b. opening not earlier than 5:00 a.m. to later than
              11:00 p.m. on weekdays
           c. no screens obstructing view of bar from the street
              during times when the bar should be closed
           d. no sales knowingly to those having taken the
              drink cure; minors or drunkards
           e. no sales to persons whose wife, husband, mother,
              father, guardian, ward or employer give notice
              forbidding the same
           f. no gambling with slot machines or other similar
           g. no obscene or immoral pictures
           h. no dancing or other like form of amusement or
           i. no females employed in the place
           j. no using of rear door when place should be closed
           k. no wine rooms
           l. no FREE LUNCH
           m. no music
           n. place to be conducted in a quiet, orderly manner

The Law and Order League considered the settlement, but then added the stipulation that all bars within three hundred feet of a school had to be closed within one year. This would have put many bar owners out of business and negotiations on June 9, 1907 did not look promising. (11)

On June 11, 1907 compromise was achieved. The saloon owners agreed that no bars would be opened within 300 feet of a school. (12) On June 16, 1907 every bar in the city or county of Dubuque was closed for the first time in fifty years. Violations meant a fine of no less than $200 or more than $1,000 and not less than three months in the county jail or more than six months. Both a fine and jail time could be given at the discretion of the Court. (13) For the first time in history not a saloon was open in Dubuque on Christmas day. (14)

Keane worked for the cause of education, increased the faculty and buildings of St. Joseph's College, established a band of diocesan missionary priests, and invited many religious congregations into his diocese. (15)

In 1902 the diocese of Sioux City was formed from the western part of the archdiocese, and in 1911 the diocese of Des Moines was established. (16)

Archbishop John J. Keane resigned due to poor health and was appointed to the Titular See of Ciana on April 28, 1911. He was succeeded by Rev. James J. KEANE. (17) Although the two men shared a common last name, they were not related or of the same disposition. The first Archbishop Keane, well liked in the community, was known as "Sugar" for his kind and generous nature. His successor was known as "Hickory" for his sternness. (18)



1. "Keane, John J." Social Networks and Archival Context, Online: http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/ark:/99166/w6jd691c

2. Ibid.

3. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives. "John Joseph Keane Collection" Online: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/Keane1896.cfm

4. "Keane Removed," Dubuque Daily Herald, October 6, 1896, p. 4

5. "Duty of Public Officials," The Dubuque Herald, Dec. 31, 1900, p. 7

6. "The Most Rev. John J. Keane," Catholic Answers to Explain & Defend the Faith, Online: http://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/archdiocese-of-dubuque

7. "Decried Saloons," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, April 1, 1901, p. 2

8. Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-23-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

9. Ibid.

10. "Saloons Close 1st Time in Fifty Years," Dubuque Herald, June 16, 1907, p. 1A

11. "Today Last 'Wet Sabbath,' Dubuque Herald, June 9, 1907, p. 1A

12. "Saloon Cases Are Settled," Dubuque Herald, June 11, 1907, p. 1A

13. "Saloons Close 1st Time in Fifty Years," Dubuque Herald, June 16, 1907, p. 1A

14. Oldt.

15. Heritage History, "Diocese of Dubuque," Online: http://www.heritage-history.com/?c=read&author=sisters&book=united&story=dubuque

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Catholic Mass Times. "Discover the Archdiocese of Dubuque," Online: http://catholic-mass-times.com/discover/iowa/dubuque.html