On Jan. 22, 1899, Pope Leo XIII sent Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore, leader of the American hierarchy, a document in the form of a letter whose opening words in Latin were Testem Benevolentiae (In Witness to Good Will). “It is clear, our beloved son,” Pope Leo wrote, “that those opinions that, taken as a whole, some designate as ”˜Americanism’ cannot have our approval.”
Appalled, Cardinal Gibbons held up the document’s release in the United States for a week, until the publication of excerpts originating overseas forced his hand and moved him to give it to The Baltimore Sun. In a letter to a friend, the cardinal called it “very discouraging ”¦ that the American Church is not understood abroad.”
But the bishops of the Milwaukee province, a center of German-American Catholicism, said the errors condemned by Pope Leo were real.