Religion & Liberty, a publication of the Acton Institute, recently published an interesting study by historian Mark Summers on the Catholic Church’s complex role in the United States Civil War (1861-65), a topic we’ve covered in previous posts.
Here’s what Summers had to say about the participation of Catholic priests and religious during the Civil War:
“Along with the thousands of soldiers that fought in the ranks were hundreds of priests who ministered to the troops and Catholic Sisters who assisted as nurses and sanitary workers. Catholic soldiers were at a religious disadvantage compared to the Protestant comrades, as the church lacked enough priests to both serve in the army and minister to the congregations at home. Nevertheless, Catholic priests heard confession, comforted the men, and celebrated Mass prior to battle. More than eight different orders of nuns served the soldiers during the war. Before the organization of the American Red Cross, nuns were among the most organized and experienced nurses available to serve the army. Catholic sisters were praised for their assistance to all soldiers, North and South, Catholic or Protestant. When observing this ministry, a Protestant doctor remarked to a Catholic bishop that ‘there must be some wonderful unity in Catholicity which nothing can destroy, not even the passions of war.'”