Bishop Coleman Francis Carroll, Bishop of Miami


Coleman Carroll was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the second of three children of William and B. Margaret (née Hogan) Carroll.[1] His parents were both born in Ireland, and his father, who worked as a railroadbrakeman and clerk for Carnegie Steel Company, died in 1922.[2] His two brothers also joined the priesthood; his older brother, Howard Joseph Carroll, served as Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown, and his younger brother, Walter Sharp Carroll, worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State.[3] He attended Holy Rosary[4] elementary and high schools in Homewood, and later graduated from Duquesne University in 1926.[3] His theological studies were made at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe.[3]

On June 15, 1930, Carroll was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.[5] He then served as a curate at the Church of the Resurrection[6] in Brookline, St. Scholastica Church[7] in Aspinwall, St. Basil Church[8] in Carrick, and Holy Cross Church on the South Side.[3] In 1944, he earned a Doctor of Canon Law degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.[1] He organized St. Maurice Church[9] in Forest Hills in 1949, serving as its founding pastor.[3] He became pastor at Sacred Heart Church[10] in East Liberty in 1951, and was named diocesan vicar for religious in 1952.[3] He was raised to the rank of Domestic Prelate in September 1952.[1] He also headed the philosophy department at Duquesne University for four years, and taught at Mount Mercy College for ten years.[11]

On August 25, 1953, Carroll was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh and Titular Bishop of Pitanae by Pope Pius XII.[5] He received his episcopalconsecration on the following November 10 from Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, with Bishops John Francis Dearden and Michael Joseph Ready serving as co-consecrators, at the Cathedral of St. Paul.[5] His consecration was attended by over 2,000 people, including Pennsylvania’s first Catholic governor, David L. Lawrence.[3] As an auxiliary bishop, Carroll assisted Bishop Dearden with the administrative duties of the diocese, and continued to serve as pastor of Sacred Heart Church.

On August 13, 1958, Carroll was named the first Bishop of the newly erected Diocese of Miami in Florida.[5] His installation took place on the following October 7.[5] At the time of his arrival, the diocese comprised sixteen counties in southern Florida with a Catholic population of 185,000.[11] By the time of his death, the archdiocese was composed of eight counties, and included 700,000 Catholics, 127 parishes, 500 priests, and 750 nuns.[11] A little over a year following his installation, Carroll founded St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami.[12] He later opened St. Vincent de Paul Seminary at Boynton Beach in 1963.[12] He also established a weekly diocesan newspaper called The Voice.[12]

In response to the Cuban exile, Carroll welcomed over half a million Cuban refugees into the diocese.[11] In 1960, he used the four-story school building of Gesu Church to establish the Centro Hispano Catolico, a welfare agency that provided medical care, child care, legal aid, employment service, food, clothing and cash for Cuban refugees in the diocese. He also helped to coordinate Operation Peter Pan, and even scolded Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh, who headed the diocesan Catholic Charities program, for not agreeing to resettle more unaccompanied children.[13] However, Carroll was accused by some Hispanic Catholics, including a number of priests, of showing little interest in their community.[11] They also claimed he was trying to Anglicize the diocese by limiting Spanish-language education in parochial schools and Spanish-language Masses.[11] Carroll did, however, maintain amicable relationships with local African American and Jewish leaders.[11] He was a frequent visitor of Camillus House, established homes for the elderly and unwed mothers, and opened rehabilitation centers for drug addicts and alcoholics.[13]

Carroll was known for his firm control over his priests and parishioners, as well as for his outspoken conservative political views and progressive social outlook.[11] He was a vocal opponent of a local ordinance in Dade County that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, supporting the Save Our Children campaign led by Anita Bryant.[14] Despite his opposition to gay rights, he was an advocate for racial justice and strongly supported the civil rights movement.[15] On theological matters, he was described as a “hardline Roman Catholic traditionalist” known for his “vociferous opposition to liberalization of the church.”[15] He also opposed repealing the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays.[15]

When the Diocese of Miami was elevated to the rank of an archdiocese by Pope Paul VI on March 2, 1968, Carroll became its first Archbishop.[5] The Dioceses of Orlando and of St. Petersburg were erected from the Archdiocese of Miami, with Carroll holding the status of a metropolitan bishop over them.[16] Less than ten years later, Carroll took ill and Edward A. McCarthy was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Miami in 1976.

At age 72, Carroll died from complications stemming from a vascular disease at his residence in Miami Beach.[3] He was buried three days later in the priests’ section of Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Miami.[2]      – WIKIPEDIA


On Wednesday, August 16, 1961, I went the the Chancery Office of the Diocese of Miami to meet Bishop Coleman Francis Carroll.  He received me and welcomed me warmly and for a brief while we reminisced about Saint Vincent, Pittsburgh, Houston and mutual friends.  Then he shocked me by telling me that he was that day appointing me Chairman of the Diocesan Building Commission which had the responsibility of overseeing all building projects in the Diocese, both diocesan and parochial.  I was speechless.  It was something I was totally unprepared for.  I immediately had visions of future conflict with him over building projects just as I had had at Saint Vincent.  Had the Lord transferrred me from the ‘frying pan’ into the ‘fire?’

After I regained my composure I told him that I would be happy to serve him in any way that I was able.  He quickly added that I would be a parochial vicar during the three year trial period leading to my incardination (permanent canonical relationship) in the Diocese, in addition to being Chairman of the Building Commission.  Then he took me down the hall and showed me my office as Chairman of the Building Commission.

Later in the day I began to wonder how the Bishop could give me a title and an office in the Chancery in view of the restrictions placed on me in the Indult of Dispensation of Vows that I had received and a copy of which had been sent to him.  Surely I thought, he is aware of the disability imposed on me by Canon 642 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law?  But then I remembered that he had earned a Doctorate in Canon Law at the Catholic University of America and I decided that it would be insulting for me to raise the question with him, so I kept my questions to myself.

I loved the pastoral ministry at Holy Family Church.  I did everything that a parish priest is expected to do.  Monsignor Robert Schiefen, the Pastor also held a degree in Canon Law.  He was a good pastor.  At first I found it rather daunting to preach homilies in the Church on Sundays.  The Church seated almost 1,000 people.  I had, up to then, only preached in the small parishes in the lower Monongahela Valley south of Pittsburgh to congregations of 100-150 people.  With smaller congregations the homilist has the advantage of feeling like he is speaking personally with each individual in the church.  In larger congregations the homilist looks out at a sea of faces and it is hard to speak heart to heart in such a setting.  However, my new experience at Holy Family prepared me for what was to come, in 1976 I preached to a congregation of 10,000 people in Philadelphia.

I learned something about marriage preparation that I had not learned in the seminary.  I instructed a young couple for a couple of months in preparation for their marriage.   In those days the banns (announcing the names couple and the impending date of the marriage) of marriage were still announced in the parish church for three Sundays prior to the wedding (I believe that banns should still be announced).  After the banns were announced for the couple I had instructed, a woman came to me after the Mass and told me that if the bridegroom was the same person she knew up north, he was already married.  I conducted an investigation and sure enough, he had already been married in the Church and his first marriage had never been annulled.  When confronted he admitted everything.  The bride-to-be was devastated.  Hopefully the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage in October, 2014, will restore the practice of announcing the banns of marriage.

I wrote in an earlier chapter that I tried to keep the spirit of my vows even though I had been dispensed from them.  The most difficult, obedience, I had eventually found it to be easy in although accepting it was the most difficult in my experience with Archabbot Denis.   But now, it was easier and during all the years I served Bishop Carroll I never resisted or questioned him about any of the orders he gave me, even though some later would prove to be almost as difficult for me as the problem I had at Saint Vincent.

The vow of stability was now to become a cross for me.  After a year at Holy Family Parish in North Miami Bishop Carroll transferred me to Saint Coleman Parish in Pompano Beach.  Then after a year in Saint Coleman he transferred me to Saint Matthew Parish in Hallandale, then after a year he transferred me to Saint Ambrose Parish in Deerfield Beach and made me the Administrator of the Parish, then after four months he demoted me and transferred me to the Church of the Visitation in North Miami as parochial vicar, then after a year he transferred me to Saint Ann Parish in Naples and made me its Pastor (by then he had incardinated me in the Diocese), then after two years he transferred me as Pastor to the Church of the Nativity in Hollywood, then after one year he transferred me to Saint Mary’s Cathedral and made me its Rector,  then after a year he transferred me and made me Pastor of Saint Patrick Parish on Miami Beach, then after a year he put me in residence in the Tower of Saint Patrick Parish and took away my assignment as its Pastor, then after less than a year he assigned me to live in Saint John Vianney Minor Seminary, then he appointed me Pastor of Saint Kieran Parish in Miami.  All of this took place between August 15, 1961 and November 5, 1975.  Most of the time I was living out of my suitcase.

It had soon become obvious to me that Bishop Carroll was both using me to solve some of his problems with problem priests and at the same time he was testing my promise (vow) of obedience.  Some of the pastors I was assigned to were real problem cases, some were alcoholics, some were full-time golfers.  Because I was both older in years and more mature it was easier for me to work with the Bishop in solving some of those pastoral problems than it would have been for him with younger priests as Parochial Vicar.  But for me, it was a ten-year-Novitiate.





About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas