In 1864 Lynch journeyed to Rome as Confederate commissioner to the States of the Church (the Holy See), seeking papal recognition of the Confederacy and to turn European opinion in the South’s favor.
Clergyman, diplomat. Lynch was born in Clones, county Monaghan, Ireland, on March 10, 1817, the eldest son of Conlaw Peter Lynch and his wife, Eleanor MacMahon Neison. The family immigrated to South Carolina in 1819, settling in Cheraw. Conlaw Lynch was a successful builder and businessman, and the Lynches became the leading Catholic family in Cheraw. As a boy Patrick Lynch manifested high intelligence and an interest in becoming a priest, and Bishop John England educated him in his boys’ academy and seminary in Charleston, then sent him to Rome to complete his studies. Lynch was ordained in 1840, received a doctorate of theology, and returned to Charleston. There he served as rector of St. Mary’s Church and the boys’ Classical Academy and edited The United States Catholic Miscellany. He was administrator of the Diocese of Charleston in 1855 and was consecrated its third bishop in 1858. When the Civil War broke out, Lynch supported the Confederacy. He and his priests and nuns labored to aid impoverished families and cared for sick and wounded servicemen and prisoners of war. In December 1861 the great Charleston fire destroyed the bishop’s residence, his cathedral, and Catholic homes and institutions.
In 1864 Lynch journeyed to Rome as Confederate commissioner to the States of the Church (the Holy See), seeking papal recognition of the Confederacy and to turn European opinion in the South’s favor. Despite his efforts, the Vatican never recognized the Confederacy. While in Europe, Lynch published a pamphlet defending slavery as a workable, benign institution. He was the legal owner of about ninety-five slaves, most or all of them diocesan property. Lynch received a presidential pardon before returning to Charleston in late1865. War devastated his diocese, and he lamented, “There are ruins on every side of me. . . . But I trust in God things will come straight.” He spent the remainder of his life engaged in raising money to rebuild and to aid his impoverished people. For black Catholics, he founded St. Peter’s Church in Charleston and other institutions. Lynch attended the First Vatican Council (1869–1870) and wrote articles about it for Catholic World.
Bishop Lynch was also prominent in Charleston’s intellectual life. He was an avid member of the Charleston Library Society. He wrote and helped raise funds for the Southern Quarterly Review, edited by his friend William Gilmore Simms, and was among the Charlestonians who started Russell’s Magazine. An enthusiastic proponent of modern science, which he believed to be perfectly compatible with Christian faith, Lynch belonged to the Elliott Natural History Society and was an early member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was especially interested in geology and was one of a committee of scientists who oversaw the drilling and operation of Charleston’s artesian wells. He frequently lectured and published on scientific topics, such as the 1874 transit of Venus and the Galileo case.
Following a long illness Bishop Lynch died in Charleston on February 26, 1882. He was buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston.
Buchanan, Scott. “Bishop Lynch and the Catholic Church Face the Civil War.” New Catholic Miscellany 27 (June 22, 1995): 8–10.
Heisser, David C. R. “Bishop Lynch’s Civil War Pamphlet on Slavery.” Catholic Historical Review 84 (October 1998): 681–96.
–––. “Bishop Lynch’s People: Slaveholding by a South Carolina Prelate.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 102 (July 2001): 82–106.