January 26, 1816
On January 26, 1816 the talk in St. John’s was all about the appointment of a Father Thomas Scallan, (also Scallon) who was given the nod to succeed as the new Catholic bishop in Newfoundland.
Scallan was very well educated; in his career he had been a lecturer in philosophy at the prestigious St Isidore’s College, Rome and a professor of classics at the Franciscan Academy at Wexford, Ireland, a preparatory seminary for candidates for the priesthood.
What is most telling about his tenure as Bishop of Newfoundland is the memorial or relief that was established in the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) to celebrate his work in Newfoundland.
Scallan in his relationship with the leaders of other denominations was considered to be far ahead of his time. His ecumenical spirit in fact stirred occasional and considerable controversy.
Indeed, Bishop Michael Francis Howley from St. John’s, attributed such ecumenism to a mental weakness. He stated flatly in his Ecclesiastical History of Newfoundland (1888) that Scallan was reprimanded by Rome for his ecumenical spirit. He did not identify the type of reprimand but the most severe censure or reprimand in the Catholic Church is excommunication.
Indeed, this story that he was reprimanded by Rome became generally accepted – and was compounded by the story that he was refused the last rites of the church. To quiet the rumors that he was on the verge of excommunication and or perhaps even excommunicated the local church authorities ordered the creation of an unusual monument of Scallan by the famous Irish sculptor John Hogan.
The monument depicts Scallan on his deathbed receiving the last sacraments (last rites) of the church. It was placed in the Basilica to show his reconciliation with the church.
Recommended Archival Collection : Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese
Recommended Reading: Michael Francis Howley’s Ecclesiastical history of Newfoundland . 1888: was reprinted atBelleville, Ont., in 1979.