Edward McGlynn was educated in the public schools of his native city. At the age of thirteen he was sent by Bishop Hughes to the Urban College of the Propaganda, Rome, and there he was ordained priest, March 24, 1860.
Immediately after ordination he became assistant to Rev. Thomas Farrell at St. Joseph's Church, Sixth Avenue, New York. Inasmuch as Father Farrell had been an ardent opponent of slavery and left five thousand dollars in his will for a colored Catholic church, he probably was in large measure responsible for the charitable and humanitarian views and practices for which his young assistant became and remained conspicuous. In 1866 McGlynn was appointed pastor of St. Stephen's parish, one of the most populous in New York. Here he worked with great energy and zeal, not only in the various fields of parochial activity, but on behalf of every worthy public cause. He thought that he had found the answer in the teachings of Henry George, 1839-1897. On January 14, 1887, Archbishop Corrigan removed McGlynn from the pastorate of St. Stephen's. Two days later a cablegram arrived from Cardinal Simeoni commanding McGlynn to retract publicly his land theory and to come immediately to Rome. On February 18 Cardinal Gibbons, who was then in Rome, sent word that McGlynn ought to go to Rome as soon as possible.
On March 11 Dr. Burtsell, as McGlynn's canonical advocate, cabled a reply that his client would do so on certain conditions. At the same time he wrote a long letter to Cardinal Gibbons explaining fully the canonical situation from McGlynn's viewpoint. For reasons which seemed good, Cardinal Gibbons did not present either the cablegram or the letter to the Roman authorities, contenting himself with an oral statement of their contents. Failing to receive any written reply from McGlynn, the Pope ordered him to come to Rome within forty days under penalty of excommunication. Holding that he had been guilty of no contumacy, and unaware that the reply made on his behalf by Dr. Burtsell had never reached the Holy Father, McGlynn, on the score of health, refused to obey the order, and the excommunication became effective July 4, 1887. For more than five years following this censure he defended the Single-Tax doctrine at the Sunday afternoon meetings of the Anti-Poverty Society, of which he was the first president. He lived at the home of his widowed sister in Brooklyn. In December 1892, upon the assurance of four professors at the Catholic University that McGlynn's Single-Tax views were not contrary to Catholic teaching, Msgr. Satolli, the Papal Ablegate in the United States reinstated him in the ministry. On Christmas Day 1892 McGlynn said mass for the first time since his excommunication in 1887. The following June he visited Rome and was cordially received in private audience by the Holy Father. In his description of this event shortly afterwards, McGlynn reported that the Pope had said to him, "But surely you admit the right of property, " and that he had answered in the affirmative as regards "the products of individual industry. " Apparently the Pope was satisfied with this answer. In January 1894, McGlynn became pastor of St. Mary's at Newburgh, N. Y. , where he died January 7, 1900. In the years following his restoration to his priestly functions he frequently spoke at Single-Tax meetings and made it quite clear that he had not been required by the Pope to retract his view on the land question. His funeral occasioned widespread expressions of sorrow and appreciation in all walks of life, both within and without the Catholic Church.
With his accustomed fervor, energy, and eloquence he expounded the Single-Tax doctrine as the universal and fundamental remedy for poverty. In the year 1886 he took an active part in the campaign of Henry George for the office of mayor of New York. This brought him into open conflict with Archbishop Corrigan. About four years previously, Cardinal Simeoni, prefect of the Congregation of the Propaganda, had directed the authorities of the Archdiocese to compel McGlynn to retract his views on the land question. Cardinal McCloskey, at that time the head of the Archdiocese, merely required McGlynn to refrain from defending these views in public. After the death of Cardinal McCloskey, McGlynn considered himself free again to advocate the Single-Tax doctrine. On September 29, 1886, Archbishop Corrigan forbade him to speak on behalf of Henry George's candidacy at a scheduled public meeting. McGlynn replied that to break this engagement would be imprudent, but promised to refrain from addressing any later meeting during the political campaign. The Archbishop immediately suspended him from the exercise of his priestly functions for a period of two weeks. Toward the end of November a second temporary suspension was imposed.