in the Church of Rome
This page contains Chapters 51-60
Table of Contents
Chapter 51 . . . Intrigues, Impostures, and Criminal Life of the Priests in Bourbounais- Indignation of the Bishop- The People ignominiously turn out the Criminal Priest from their Parish- Frightful Scandal- Faith in the Church of Rome seriously shaken Chapter 52 . . . Correspondence with the Bishop Chapter 53 . . . The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary Chapter 54 . . . The Abominations of Auricular Confession Chapter 55 . . . The Ecclesiastical Retreat- Conduct of the Priests- The Bishop forbids me to distribute the Bible Chapter 56 . . . Public Acts of Simony- Thefts and Brigandage of Bishop O'Regan- General Cry of Indignation- I determine to Resist him to his Face- He employs Mr. Spink again to send me to Gaol, and he Fails- Drags me as a Prisoner to Urbana in the Spring of 1856, and Fails again- Abraham Lincoln defends me- My dear Bible becomes more than ever my Light and my Counsellor Chapter 57 . . . Bishop O'Regan sells the Parsonage of the French Canadians of Chicago, pockets the Money, and turns them out when they ocme to complain- He determines to turn me out of my Colony and send me to Kahokia- He forgets it the next day and publishes that he has interdicted me- My People send a Deputation to the Bishop- His Answers- The Sham Excommunication by Three Drunken Priests Chapter 58 . . . Address from my People, asking me to Remain- I am again dragged as a Prisoner by the Sheriff to Urbana- Abraham Lincoln's Anxiety about the issue of the Prosecution- My Distress- The Rescue- Miss Philomene Moffat sent by God to save me- Lebel's Confession and Distress- My Innocence acknowledged- Noble Words and Conduct of Abraham Lincoln- The Oath of Miss Philomene Moffat Chapter 59 . . . A Moment of Interruption in the Thread of my "Fifty Years in the Church of Rome," to see how my said Previsions about my defender, Abraham Lincoln, were to be realized- Rome the implacable Enemy of the United States Chapter 60 . . . The Fundamental Principles of the Constitution of the United States drawn from the Gospel of Christ- My First Visit to Abraham Lincoln to warn him of the Plots I knew against his Life- The Priests circulate the News that Lincoln was born in the Church of Rome- Letter of the Pope to Jeff Davis- My last Visit to the President- His admirable Reference to Moses- His willingness to die for his Nation's Sake
CHAPTER 51 Back to Table of Contents
"Please accompany me to Bourbonnais; I have to confer with you and the Rev. Mr. Courjeault, on important matters," said the bishop, half an hour before leaving St. Anne, after having blessed the chapel.
"I intended, my lord, to ask your lordship to grant me that honour, before you offered it," I answered.
Two hours of good driving took us to the parsonage of the Rev. Mr. Courjeault, who had prepared a sumptuous dinner, to which several of the principal citizens of Bourbonnais had been invited.
When all the guests had departed, and the bishop, Mr. Courjeault, and I, were alone, he drew from his trunk a bundle of weekly papers of Montreal, Canada, in which several letters, very insulting and compromising for the bishop, were published, signed R. L. C. Showing them to me, he said:
"Mr. Chiniquy, can I know the reasons you had for writing such insulting things against your bishop?"
"My lord," I answered, "I have no words to express my surprise and indignation, when I read those letters. But, thanks be to God, I am not the author of those infamous writings. I would rather have my right hand cut off, than allow it to pen such false and perfidious things against you or any one else."
"Do you assure me that you are not the writer of those letters? Are you positive in that denial; and do you know the contents of these lying communications?" replied the bishop.
"Yes, my lord, I know the contents of these communications. I have read them, several times, with supreme disgust and indignation; and I positively assert that I never wrote a single line of them."
"Then, can you tell me who did write them?" said the bishop.
I answered: "Please, my lord, put that question to the Rev. Mr. Courjeault; he is more able than anyone to satisfy your lordship on that matter."
I looked at Mr. Courjeault with an indignant air, which told him that he could not any longer wear the mask behind which he had concealed himself for the last three or four months. The eyes of the bishop were also turned, and firmly fixed on the wretched priest.
No! Never had I seen anything so strange as the countenance of that guilty man. His face, though usually ugly, suddenly took a cadaverous appearance; his eyes were fixed on the floor, as if unable to move.
The only signs of life left in him were given by his knees, which were shaking convulsively; and by the big drops of sweat rolling down his unwashed face; for, I must say here, en passant, that, with very few exceptions, that priest was the dirtiest man I ever saw.
The bishop, with unutterable expressions of indignation, exclaimed: "Mr. Courjeault; you are the writer of those infamous and slanderous letters! Three times you have written, and twice, you told me, verbally, that there were coming from Mr. Chiniquy! I do not ask you if you are the author of these slanders against me, I see it written in your face. Your malice against Mr. Chiniquy is really diabolical. You wanted to ruin him in my estimation, as well as in that of his countrymen. And to succeed the better in that plot, you publish the most egregious falsehoods against me in the Canadian press, to induce me to denounce Mr. Chiniquy as an impostor. How is it possible that a priest can so completely give himself to the Devil?"
Addressing me, the bishop said: "Mr. Chiniquy, I beg your pardon for having believed and repeated, that you were depraved enough to write those calumnies against your bishop: I was deceived by that deceitful man. I will immediately retract what I have written and said against you."
Then, addressing Mr. Courjeault he again said: "The least punishment I can give you is to turn you out of my diocese, and write to all the Bishops of America, that you are the vilest priest I ever saw, that they never give you any position on this Continent."
These last words had hardly fallen from the lips of the bishop, when Mr. Courjeault fell on his knees before me, and bathing with his tears my hands, which he was convulsively pressing in his, said: "Dear Mr. Chiniquy, I see the greatness of my iniquity against you and against our common bishop. For the dear Saviour, Jesus' sake, forgive me. I take God to witness that you will never have a more devoted friend than I will be. And you, my lord, allow me to tell you, that I thank God that my malice and my great sin against both you and Mr. Chiniquy is known and punished at once. However, in the name of our crucified Saviour, I ask you to forgive me. God knows that, hereafter, you will not have a more obedient and devoted priest than I."
It was a most touching spectacle to see the tears, and hear the sobs of that repentant sinner. I could not contain myself, nor refrain my tears. They were mingled with those of the returning penitent. I answered: "Yes, Mr. Courjeault, I forgive you with all my heart, as I wish my merciful God to forgive me my sins. May the God who sees your repentance forgive you also!"
Bishop Vandeveld, who was gifted with a most sensitive and kind nature, was also shedding tears, when I lifted up Mr. Courjeault to press him to my heart, and to tell him again, with my voice choked by sobs, "I forgive you most sincerely, as I want to be forgiven."
He asked me: "What do you advise me to do? Must I forgive also? and can I continue to keep him at the head of this important mission?"
"Yes, my lord. Please forgive and forget the errors of that dear brother, he has already done so much good to my countrymen of Bourbonnais. I pledge myself that he will hereafter be one of your best priests."
And the bishop forgave him, after some very appropriate and paternal advice, admirably mixed with mercy and firmness.
It was then about three o'clock in the afternoon. We separated to say our vespers and matins (prayers which took nearly an hour). I had just finished reciting them in the garden, when I saw the Rev. Mr. Courjeault walking from the church towards me, but his steps were uncertain as one distracted or half-drunk. I was puzzled at the sight, for he was a strong teetotaler, and I knew he had no strong drink in the church. He advanced three or four steps, then retreated. At last he came very near, but his face had such an expression of terror and sadness, that he was hardly recognizable. He muttered something that I could not understand. "Please repeat your sentence," I said to him, "I did not understand you." He, then, put his hands on his face, and again muttered something; his voice was drowned in his tears and sobs. Supposing that he was coming to ask me, again, to pardon his past malice and calumnies against me, I felt an unspeakable compassion for him. As there were a couple of seats near by, I said to him: "My dear Mr. Courjeault, come and sit here with me; and do not think any more of the past. I will never think any more of your momentary errors, you may look upon me as your most devoted friend."
"Dear Mr. Chiniquy," he answered, "I have to reveal to you another dark mystery of my miserable life. Since more than a year, I have lived with the beadle's daughter as if she were my wife!
"She has just told me, that she is to become a mother in a few days, and that I have to see to that, and give her five hundred dollars. She threatens to denounce me publicly to the bishop and people, if I do not support her and her offspring. Would it not be better for me to flee away, this night, and go back to France to live in my own family, and conceal my shame? Sometimes, I am even tempted to throw myself in the river, to put an end to my miserable and dishonoured existence. Do you think that the bishop would forgive this new crime, if I threw myself at his feet and asked pardon? Would he give me some other place in his vast diocese, where my misfortunes and my sins are not known? Please tell me what to do?"
I remained absolutely stupefied, and did not know what to answer. Though I had compassion for the unfortunate man, I must confess that this new development of his hypocrisy and rascality, filled me with an unspeakable horror and disgust. He had, till then, wrapped himself in such a thick mantle of deception, that many of his people looked upon him as an angel of purity. His infamies were so well concealed under an exterior of extreme moral rigidity, that several of his parishioners looked upon him as a saint, whose relics could perform miracles. Not long before, two young couples, of the best families of Bourbonnais, having danced in a respectable social gathering, had been condemned by him, and compelled to ask pardon, publicly in the church. This pharisaical rigidity caused the secret vices of that priest to be still more conspicuous and scandalous. I felt that the scandal which would follow the publication of this mystery of iniquity would be awful; that it would even cause many for ever to lose faith in our church. So many sad thoughts filled my mind, that I was confused and unable to give him any advice. I answered:
"Your misfortune is really great. If the bishop were not here, I might, perhaps, tell you my mind about the best thing to do, just now. But the bishop is here; he is the only man to whom you have to go to know how to come out of the bottomless abyss into which you have fallen. He is your proper counselor; go and tell him, frankly, everything, and follow his advice."
With staggering step, and in such deep emotions that his sobs and cries could be heard for quite a distance, he went to the bishop. I remained alone, half-petrified at what I had heard.
Half an hour later, the bishop came to me. He was pale and his eyes reddened with his tears: he said to me:
"Mr. Chiniquy, what an awful scandal! What a new disgrace for our holy church! That Mr. Courjeault, whom I thought, till today, to be one of my best priests, is an incarnate devil; what shall I do with him? Please help me by your advice; tell me what you consider the best way of preventing the scandal, and protecting the faith of the good people against the destructive storm which is coming upon them."
"My dear bishop," I answered, "the more I consider these scandals here, the less I see how we can save the church from becoming a dreadful wreck. I feel too much the responsibility of my advice to give it. Let your lordship, guided by the Spirit of God, do what you consider best for the honour of the church and the salvation of so many souls, which are in danger of perishing when this scandal becomes known. For me, the only thing I can do, is to conceal my face with shame, go back to my young colony, to pray, and weep and work."
The bishop replied: "Here is what I intend to do: Mr. Courjeault tells me that there is not the least suspicion, among the people, of his sin, and that it is an easy thing to send that girl to the house provided in Canada for priests' offenses, without awakening any suspicion. He seems so penitent, that I hope, hereafter, we have nothing to fear from him. He will now live the life of a good priest here, without giving any scandal. But if I remove him, then there will be some suspicious of his fall, and the awful scandal we want to avoid will come. Please lend me on hundred dollars, which will give to Mr. Courjeault, to send that girl to Canada as soon as possible; and he will continue here, to work with wisdom, after this terrible trial. What do you think of that plan?"
"If our lordship is sure of the conversion of Mr. Courjeault, and that there is no danger of his great iniquity being known by the people, evidently, the wisest thing you can do is to send that girl to Canada, and keep Mr. Courjeault here. Though I see great dangers even in that way of dealing in this sad affair. But, unfortunately, I have not a cent in hand today, and I cannot lend you the one hundred dollars you want."
"Then," said the bishop, "I will give a draft on a bank of Chicago, but you must endorse it."
"I have no objection, my lord, to endorse any draft signed by your lordship," I replied.
Though it was late in the day, and that I had, at first, proposed to spend the night, I came back to my dear colony of St. Anne. Bourbonnais appeared to me like a burning house, in the cellar of which there was a barrel of powder, from which one could not keep himself too far away.
Five days later, four of the principal citizens of that interesting, but sorely tried place, knocked at my door. They were sent as a deputation from the whole village, to ask me what to do about their curate, Mr. Courjeault. They told me that several of them had, long since, suspected what was going on between that priest and the beadle's daughter, but they had kept that secret. However, yesterday, they said the eyes of the parish had been opened to the awful scandal.
The disgusting demonstrations and attention of the curate, when the victim of his lust took the diligence, left no doubt in the minds of any one, that she is to have a child in Montreal.
"Now, Mr. Chiniquy, we are sent here to ask your advice. Please tell us what to do?"
"My dear friends," I answered, "it is not from me, but from our common bishop, that you must ask what is to be done, in such deplorable affairs."
But they replied, "Would you not be kind enough to come to Bourbonnais with us, and go to our unfortunate priest to tell him that his criminal conduct is known by the whole people, and that we cannot decently keep him a day longer as our Christian teacher. He has rendered us great services in the past, which we will never forget. We do not want to abuse or insult him in any way. Though guilty, he is still a priest. The only favour we ask from him now, is, that he quits the place without noise and scandal, in the night, to avoid any disagreeable demonstrations which might come from his personal enemies, whom his pharisaical rigidity has made pretty numerous and bitter."
"I do not see any reason to refuse you that favour," I answered.
Three hours later, in the presence of those four gentlemen, I was delivering my sad message to the unfortunate curate. He received it as his death warrant. But he was humble and submitted to his fate.
After spending four hours with us in setting his affairs, he fell on his knees, with torrents of tears, he asked pardon for the scandal he had given, and requested us to ask pardon from the whole parish, and at twelve o'clock at night he left for Chicago. That hour was a sad one, indeed, for us all. But my God had a still sadder hour in store for me. The people of Bourbonnais had requested me to give them some religious evening services the next week, and I was just at the end of one of them, the 7th of May, when, suddenly, the Rev. Mr. Courjeault entered the church, walked through the crowd, saluting this one, smiling on that one, and pressing the hands of many. His face bore the marks of impudence and debauchery.
From one end of the church to the other, a whisper of amazement and indignation was heard.
"Mr. Courjeault! Mr. Courjeault!! Great God! what does this mean?"
I observed that he was advancing towards me, probably with the intention of shaking hands, before the people, but I did not give him time to do it, I left by the back door, and went to the parsonage, which was only a few steps distant. He then went back to the door to have a talk with the people, but very few gave him that chance. Though he affected to be exceedingly gay, jocose, and talkative, he could not get many people to stop and hear him. Every one, particularly the women, were filled with disgust at his impudence. Seeing himself nearly deserted at the church door, he turned his steps towards the parsonage, which he entered, whistling. When he beheld me, he laughed, and said:
"Oh oh! our dear little Father Chiniquy here? How do you do?"
"I am quite unwell," I answered, "since I see that you are so miserably destroying yourself."
"I do not want to destroy myself," he answered; "but it is you who want to turn me out of my beautiful parish of Bourbonnais, to take my place. With the four blockheads who accompanied you, the other day, you have frightened and persuaded me that my misfortune with Mary was known by all the people: but our good bishop has understood that this was a trick of yours, and that it was one of your lying stories; I came back to take possession of my parish, and turn you out."
"If the bishop has sent you back here to turn me out, that I may go back to my dear colony, he has just done what I asked him to do; for he knows better than any man, for what great purpose I came to this country, and that I cannot do my work as long as he asks me to take care of Bourbonnais. I go, at once, and leave you in full possession of your parsonage. But I pity you, when I see the dark cloud which is on your horizon. Good-bye!"
"You are the only dark cloud on my horizon," he answered. "When you are begone, I will be in as perfect peace as I was before you set your feet in Illinois. Good-bye; and, please, never come back here, except I invite you."
I left, and ordered my servant man to drive me back to St. Anne. But when crossing the village, I saw that there was a terrible excitement among the people. Several times they stopped me, and requested me to remain in their midst to advise them what to do. But I refused, saying to them: "It would be an insult on my part to advise you anything, in a matter where your duty as men and Catholics is so clear. Consult the respect you owe to yourselves, to your families, and to your church, and you will know what to do."
It took me all night, which was very dark, to come back to St. Anne, where I arrived at dawn, the 9th of May, 1852. The next Sabbath day, I held a public service in my chapel, which was crowded, without making any allusion to that deplorable affair. On the Monday following, four citizens of Bourbonnais were deputed to tell me what they had done, and asked me not to desert them in that hour of trial, but to remember that I was their countryman, and that they had nobody else to whom they could look, to help to fulfill their religious duties. Here is the substance of their message:
"As soon as we saw that you had left our village, without telling us what to do, we called a public meeting, where we passed the following resolutions:
"1st. No personal insult shall be given to Mr. Courjeault.
"2d. We cannot consent to keep him a single hour as our pastor.
"3d. When, next Sabbath, he will begin his sermon, we will instantly leave the church, and go to the door, that he may remain absolutely alone, and understand our stern determination not to have him any more for our spiritual teacher.
"4th. We will send these resolutions to the bishop, and ask him to allow Mr. Chiniquy to divide his time and attention between his new colony and us, till we have a pastor able to instruct and edify us."
Strange to say, poor Mr. Courjeault shut up in his parsonage, during that night, knew nothing of that meeting. He had not found a single friend to warn him of what was to happen the next Sunday. That Sunday the weather was magnificent, and there never had been such a multitude of people at the church. The miserable priest, thinking by that unusual crowd, that everything was to be right with him that day, began his mass, and went to the pulpit to deliver his sermon. But he had hardly pronounced the first words, when, at a signal given by some one, the whole people, without a single exception, ran out of the church as if it had been on fire, and he remained alone. Of course, this fell upon him as a thunderbolt, and he came very near fainting. However, recovering himself, he went to the door, and having, with his tears and sobs, as with his words, persuaded the people to listen to what he had to tell them, he said: "I see that the hand of God is upon me, and I deserve it. I have sinned, and made a mistake by coming back. You do not want me any more to be your pastor. I cannot complain of that; this is your right, you will be satisfied. I will leave the place for ever to-night. I only ask you to forgive my past errors and pray for me."
This short address was followed by the most deadly silence; not a voice was heard to insult him. Many, on the contrary, were so much impressed with the sad solemnity of this occurrence that they could not refrain their tears. The whole people went back to their homes with broken hearts. Mr. Courjeault left Bourbonnais that very night, never to return again. But the awful scandal he had given did not disappear with him.
Our Great and Merciful God, who, many times, has made the very sins and errors of His people to work for good, caused that public iniquity of the priest to remove the scales from many eyes, and prepare them to receive the light, which was already dawning at the horizon. A voice from heaven was as if heard by many of us. "Do you not see that in your Church of Rome, you do not follow the Word of God, but the lying traditions of men? Is it not evident that your priests' celibacy is a snare and an institution of Satan?"
Many asked me to show them in the Gospel where Christ had established the law of celibacy. "I will do better," I added, "I will put the Gospel in your hands, and you will look for yourselves in that holy book, what is said on that matter." The very same day I ordered a merchant, from Montreal, to send me a large box filled with New Testaments, printed by the order of the Archbishop of Quebec; and on the 25th as many from New York. Very soon it was known by every one of my immigrants that not only had Jesus never forbidden His apostles and priests to marry, but he had left them free to have their wives, and live with them, according to the very testimony of Paul. "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? (1 Cor. ix. 5); they saw, by their Gospel, that the doctrine of celibacy of the priests was not brought from heaven by Christ, but had been forged in darkness, to add to the miseries of man. They read and read over again these words of Christ: "If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.... If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John viii. 31, 32, 36).
And those promises of liberty, which Christ gave to those who read and followed His Word, made their hearts leap with joy. They fell upon their minds as music from heaven. They also soon found, by themselves, that every time the disciples of Christ had asked Him who would be the first ruler, or the Pope, in His church, He had always solemnly and positively said that, in His church, no body would ever become the first, the ruler or the Pope. And they began, seriously, to suspect that the great powers of the Pope and his bishops were nothing but a sacrilegious usurpation. I was not long without seeing that the reading of the Holy Scriptures by my dear countrymen was changing them into other men. Their minds were evidently enlarged and raised to higher spheres of thought. They were beginning to suspect that the heavy chains which were woulding their shoulders were preventing them from making progress in wealth, intelligence, and liberty, as their more fortunate fellow-men, called Protestants.
This was not yet the bright light of the day, but it was the blessed dawn.
CHAPTER 52 Back to Table of Contents
On the 20th of May, 1852, I received the following letter from Bishop Vandeveld:-
"Rev. Mr. Chiniquy.
"My Dear Mr. Chiniquy, The Rev. Courjeault is just returned from Bourbonnais, where he ought never to have gone back; he has told me of his complete failure, and ignominious exit. I bitterly regret having allowed him to go there again. But he had so persuaded me that his criminal conduct with his servant girl was ignored by the people, that I had yielded to his request.
"I feel that this new attempt, on his part, to impose himself on that honest people, has added to the enormity of his first scandal. I advise him now to go back to France, where he can more easily conceal his shame than in America. But one of the darkest features of that disgusting affair is, that I am obliged to pay the five hundred dollars which the girl asked, in order to prevent Mr. Courjeault from being dragged before the civil tribunal, and sent to gaol.
"The malice of that priest against you has received its just reward. Buy my fear is that you have another implacable enemy here in Mr. Lebel, whose power to do evil is greater than Mr. Courjeault's.
"Before you began your great work of directing the flood of Roman Catholic immigration towards this country, to secure it to our holy church, he was in favour of that glorious scheme, but his jealousy against you has suddenly changed his mind.
"He has lately addressed a letter to the Canadian press, every word of which is an unmitigated falsehood. Of course, the Bishop of Montreal, who is more than ever opposed to our colonization plan, has published that lying letter in his journal; more than that, he has reproduced the testimony of a perjured man, who swears that many of the people of Illinois are bitten and killed by the rattlesnakes, and those who escape are taxed six cents for each pane of glass of their windows.
"Will you be discouraged by this opposition? I hope not. This opposition is the greatest evidence we could have that our scheme is from God, and that He will support you. I am tempted to interdict Mr. Lebel, and send him back to Canada, for writing things which he so well knows to be false. The want of a French-speaking priest for your countrymen of Chicago is the only thing which has prevented me from withdrawing his faculties. But I have warned him that, if he writes any more against the truth, I will punish him as he deserves.
"For you, my dear Sir, I will address to you the very words which God Himself addressed to His servant Joshua: 'Be strong, and of good courage; for unto this people shalt thou divide, for an inheritance, the land which I swear unto their fathers to give them' (Joshua i. 6).
"I agree with what you wrote in your last letter, that the charge I have given you of Bourbonnais, pro tempore, will seriously interfere with your other numberless duties towards your dear immigrants. But there is no help; the only thing I can promise is to relieve you as soon as possible. I have on other priest to whom I can trust the interesting mission of Bourbonnais. For Father Huick is too old and infirm for such a work; it is evidently the will of God that you should extend your labours over the first limits you had fixed. Be faithful to the end, and the Lord will be with you, and support you throughout all your labours and tribulations.
"Bishop of Chicago."
During the next six months, more than 500 families from France, Belgium, and Canada, came and gave to our colony a life, power, and prosperity, impossible for me to depict; the joy I felt at this unforeseen success was much diminished, however, by the sudden news that Mr. Courjeault had come back from France, where he spent only one month. Not daring to visit Bourbonnais again, he was lurking on the frontiers of Indiana, only a few miles distant, evidently with some sinister intention. Driven to a state of madness by his jealousy and hatred, that unfortunate man addressed to me, on the 23rd of January, 1853, the most abusive letter I ever received, and ended it by telling me that the fine (though unfinished) church of Bourbonnais, which he had built, was to be burned, and that my life would be in danger if I remained at the head of that mission.
I immediately sent that letter to the bishop, asking his advice. In his answer, he told me that he thought that Mr. Courjeault was wicked enough to fulfill his threats. He added: "Though I have not yet clear evidence of it, it is my fear that Mr. Lebel is united with Mr. Courjeault, in the diabolical plot of burning your church of Bourbonnais. Several people have reported to me that he says that your presence there will be the ruin of that people, and the destruction of their church. Oh! to what extremities bad priests can go, when once they have given themselves to their unbridled passions! The first thing I would advise you, my dear Mr. Chiniquy, in the presence of such a terrible calamity, is to insure that church without delay. I have tried to do it here, but they have refused, under the pretext that it is an unfinished, frame building, and that there are too many dangers of fire when people are still working at it. My impression is, that Mr. Lebel is on intimate terms with some insurance gentlemen, and has frightened them by speaking of that rumour of danger, of which he is probably the father, with that miserable Courjeault. Perhaps you may have a better chance, by addressing yourself to some insurance company which you might find at Joliet, or at Springfield."
After vain efforts to insure the church, I wrote to the bishop, "The only way to escape the impending danger, is to finish the church at once, and insure it after. I have just made a collection of four hundred dollars among the people of Bourbonnais, to which I added three hundred dollars from my own private resources and will go to work immediately if your lordship has no objections."
Having got the approbation of my superior, on the 1st of March, I began, to put the last hand to that building. We worked almost day and night, till the 1st of May, when it was all finished. I dare affirm, that for a country place, that church was unsurpassed in beauty. The inside framework was all made of the splendid black oak of Bourbonnais, polished and varnished by most skillful men, and they looked like a mirror. Very seldom have I seen anything more grand and beautiful than the altar, made also of that precious black oak. It was late as night, when, with my fellow-labourers, covered with dust and sweat, we could say with joy the solemn words, "It is finished!" Afterwards we sung the Te Deum. Had I had an opportunity, at that late hour, it was my thought and desire to insure it. But I was forced to postpone this till the next Monday.
The next day (the first Sabbath of May, 1853), the sun seemed to come out from the horizon and rise above our heads with more than usual magnificence. The air was calm and pure, and the numberless spring flowers of our gardens mingling their perfumes with the fragrant leaves of the splendid forest at the front of the village, the balmy atmosphere, the song of the birds, seemed to tell us that this Sabbath day was to be the most happy one for me and my dear people of Bourbonnais. The church had never been so crowded. The hymns we sung had never been so melodious, and the words of gratitude which I addressed to my God, when I thanked Him for the church He had given us, in which to adore and bless Him, had never been so sincere and earnest; never had our tears of joy flowed so profusely as on that splendid and never-to-be-forgotten Sabbath. Alas! who would suspect that, six hours later, that same people, gathered around the smoking ruins of their church, would rend the air with their cries of desolation! Such, however, was the case.
While taking my dinner, after the public service, two little boys, who had remained in the church to wait for the hour of the Catechism, ran to the parsonage, crying: "Fire! Fire!! Fire!!!" Bare headed, and halfparalyzed with the idea that my church was on fire, I went out to see the awful reality. A girdle of smoke and fire was already issuing from almost every part, between the top of the wooden walls and the roof. I had rushed to the church with a pail of water in my hand. But it was too late to make any use of it; the flames were already running and leaping with a fearful rapidity over the fresh varnish, like a long train of powder. In less than two hours all was finished again. No doubt could remain in our minds. This was the work of an incendiary, for there was no fire in the church after the service. Many strangers who had come from a distance had gone through the whole nave and the upper galleries, to have a better sight of the whole building, and two of them had been seen by the little boys, remaining ten or fifteen minutes alone; they had gone back to some of the houses of the village without being remarked by anybody, for it was dinner time, and there was nobody to watch them.
Though stunned by that awful calamity, the noble-hearted people of Bourbonnais did not lose their minds. Seeing that they were all gathered around the smoking ruins, at about six p.m. I addressed to them a few words to support their courage. I told them that it was only in the midst of great trials and difficulties that men could show their noblest qualities and their true manhood; that if we were true men, instead of losing our time in shedding tears and rending the air with our cries of desolation, we would immediately put our hands to the work, and begin the very next day, to raise up, not a frame building, which the flames could turn into ashes in a few minutes, and which the storm could blow down over our heads, but a stone church, which would stand before God and man as an imperishable monument of their faith, indomitable courage and liberality. We immediately started a subscription, to erect, without a delay, a stone church. In less than one hour, four thousand dollars in money, and more than five thousand dollars in time, timber and stone and other material, were subscribed, every cent of which has been faithfully given for the erection of that fine stone church of Bourbonnais.
The next Thursday, Bishop Vandeveld came from Chicago to confer with me about what could be done to repair that terrible loss, and to inquire confidentially of me as to the author of the fire. All the facts we gathered pointed to the same direction. It was evident that the miserable Courjeault, with Lebel, the French-Canadian priest of Chicago, had done that evil work through their emissaries. No doubt of this remained in my mind when I learned that soon after, Mr. Courjeault had thrown himself into one of those dark dungeons called a monastery of La Trappe, which Satan has built on earth as a preparation for the dark hereafter of the wicked.
The unexpected visit of my bishop had at first rejoiced me by the hope that he would bring me words of encouragement. But what was my disappointment when he said to me: "Mr. dear Mr. Chiniquy, I must reveal to you a thing that I have not yet made known to anyone. It is confidential, and I request you not to say a word before it is accomplished. I cannot remain any longer Bishop of Illinois! No! I cannot any longer resume the responsibilities of such a high position, because it is beyond my power to fulfill my duties and do what the church requires of me. The conduct of the priests of this diocese is such, that, should I follow the regulations of the canon, I would be forced to interdict all my priests with the exception of you and two or three others. They are all either notorious drunkards, or given to public or secret concubinage; several of them have children by their own nieces, and two by their own sisters. I do not think that ten of them believe in God. Religion is nothing to them but a well paying comedy. Where can I find a remedy to such a general evil? Can I punish one of them and leave the others free in their abominable doings, when they are almost all equally guilty? Would not the general interdiction of these priests be the death blow of our church in Illinois? Besides, how can I punish them, when I know that many of them are ready to poison me the very moment I raise a finger against them. I suppose that you do not ignore the fact that my poor predecessor was poisoned, by one of those priests who had seduced several nuns, when he was in the very act of investigating the matter. I intend to go to Rome, as soon as I receive my permit from the Pope, to renounce at his feet the Bishopric of Chicago, which I will not keep on any consideration. If the Pope does not give me another diocese, with a better set of priests, I prefer to spend the rest of my life at the head of a small congregation, where I shall not have, on my shoulders, the awful responsibility which is killing me here. The last horrible deeds of Courjeault and Lebel, of which you are the victim today, has filled the bitter cup which God has put to my lips to drink. It is overflowing. I cannot any longer endure it."
When speaking so, the bishop's face was bathed with tears. It was very late; too late, indeed, to make the remonstrances which came to my mind, in order to change his resolutions.
I determined to wait till the next morning, when I should have plenty of time, I hoped, to expel his dark thoughts, and give him more courage. Besides, I was myself so discouraged by those awful disclosures, that I was in need of mental as well as bodily rest. But, alas! the next day was to be one of the darkest of my priestly life! When the hour for breakfast came the next morning, I went to awaken the bishop. What was my dismay when I found him drunk? Before going to bed, he had secretly asked my housekeeper to give him the bottle of wine which I used to celebrate mass. It was a large bottle, containing nearly a quart of wine, which would last me, at least, six mouths the whole of which he had drunk during the night!
I had been told that Bishop Vandeveld was a drunkard, as well as the greater part of the bishops of the United States, but I had never believed it. He always drank very moderately before me, any time I sat at his table or he at mine. It appears that it was at night, when nobody could see him, that he gave himself up to that detestable habit. His room was filled with the odour of what he had vomited, after drinking such an enormous quantity of wine. He left the room, only at noon, after the fumes of the wine had almost entirely disappeared, and requested the housekeeper to cleanse it herself, without letting the servants know anything of the occurrence of the night. But words would fail to express my consternation, and the discouragement I felt. I had formed such a good and exalted opinion of that man! I had found in him such noble qualities! His intelligence was so bright, his learning so extensive, his heart so large, his plans so grand, his piety so sincere, his charity so worthy of a bishop of Christ! It was so pleasant for me to know, till then, that I was honoured with the full confidence of a bishop who, it seemed to me, had not a superior in our church!
The destruction of my dear church by the hands of incendiaries, was surely a great calamity for me; but the fall of my bishop, from the high position he had in my heart and mind, was still greater. I had the means, in hand, to rebuild that Church; but my confidence in my bishop was irremediably and for ever lost! Never had a son loved his father more sincerely than I had loved him; and never had any priest felt a more sincere respect for his bishop than I for him! Oh! what a terrible wound was made in my heart that day! what tortures I felt! But how many times since I have blessed my God for these wounds! Without them, I should never have known that instead of being in the bosom of the Immaculate Church of Christ, I was slave of that great Babylon which poisons the nations with the wine of her abominations. My love and respect for Bishop Vandeveld were very strong chains, by which I was bound to the feet of the idols of Rome. I will eternally bless God for having Himself broken these chains, on that day of supreme desolation. The remaining part of the day, as well as the hour of the next morning which the bishop spent in my house, I remained almost mute in his presence. He was not less embarrassed when he asked me my views about his project of leaving the diocese. I answered him, in a few words, that I could not disapprove the purpose; for I would myself prefer to live in a dark forest, in the midst of wild animals, than among drunken, atheist priests and bishops.
Some months later I learned, without regret, that the Pope had accepted his resignation of the Bishopric of Chicago, and appointed him Bishop of Natchez, in Louisiana. His successor to the Bishopric of Chicago, was Rev. O'Regan. One of the very first things which this new bishop did, was to bring Bishop Vandeveld before the criminal tribunals as a thief, accusing him of having stolen one hundred thousand dollars from the Bishopric of Chicago, and carrying them away with him. There is no need to say that this action caused a terrible scandal. Not only in Illinois, but through all the United States, both priests and laymen had to blush and cast down their eyes before the world. The two bishops, employing the best lawyers to fight each other, came very near proving to the world that both of them were equally swindlers and thieves; when the Pope forced them both to stop their contestation, and bring the affair before his tribunal at Rome. There it was decided that the one hundred thousand dollars which had really been taken from Chicago to the Natchez diocese, should be equally divided between the two bishops.
How many times did I feel my soul brought to the dust, in the midst of those horrible scandals! How many sleepless nights have I spent, when a voice, which I could not silence, seemed crying to me, louder than thunder: "What are you doing here, extending the power of a church which is a den of thieves, drunkards, and impure atheists? A church, governed by men whom you know to be godless, swindlers, and vile comedians? Do you not see that you do not follow the Word of God, but the lying traditions of men, when you consent to bow your knees before such men? Is it not blasphemy to call such men the ambassadors, and the disciples of the humble, pure, holy, peaceful, and divine Jesus? Come out of that Church! Break the fetters, by which you are bound as a vile slave to the feet of such men! Take the Gospel for thine only guide and Christ for thine only Ruler!"
I was in desolation at finding that my faith in my Church was, in spite of myself, shaken by these scandals. With burning tears rolling down my cheeks, and with a broken and humiliated heart, I fell, one night, on my knees, and asked my God to have mercy upon me, by strengthening my faith and preserving it from ruin. But it seemed that neither my tears nor my cries were of any avail, and I remained the whole night, as a ship stuck by a hurricane, drifting on an unknown sea, without a compass or a rudder. I was not aware of it then, but I learned it after, that the divine and sure Pilot was directing my course towards the port of salvation! The next day, I had a happy diversion, in the arrival of fifty new immigrants, who knocked at my door, asking my advice about the best place to select for their future home. It seemed to me, though pretty long after that, that my duty was to go and pay my respects to my new bishop, and open to Him my heart as to my best friend, and the guide whom God Himself had chosen to heal the wounds of my soul, by pouring the oil and wine of charity into them.
I will never forget the day (the 11th of December, 1854), when I saw Bishop O'Regan, for the first time, nor the painful impressions I received from that first interview. He was of medium stature, with a repugnant face, and his head always in motion: all its motions seemed the expression of insolence, contempt, tyranny, and pride; there was absolutely nothing pleasant, either in his words or in his manners. I fell on my knees to ask his benediction, when I had given him my name and kissed his hand, which seemed as cold as that of a corpse. "Ah! ah! you are Father Chiniquy," he said. "I am glad to see you, though you have deferred your visit a long time; please sit down. I want some explanation from you about a certain very strange document, which I have just read today;" and he went, at the double quick, to his room to get the document. There were two Irish priests in the room, who came a few minutes before me. When we were alone, one of them said: "We had hoped that we would gain by changing Bishop Vandeveld for this one. But my fear is that we have only passed from Charybdis into Scylla," and they laughed outright. But I could not laugh. I was more inclined to weep. After less than ten minutes of absence, the bishop returned, holding in his hand a paper, which I understood, at once, to be the deed of the eleven acres of land, which I had bought, and on which I had built my chapel of St. Anne.
"Do you know this paper?" he asked me in an angry manner.
"Yes, my lord, I know it," I answered.
"But, then," he quickly replied, "you must know that that title is a nullity a fraud, which you ought never to have signed."
"Your venerable and worthy predecessor has accepted it," I answered, "and what might have been incorrect has been made valid, I hope, by his acceptation."
"I do not care a straw about what my predecessor has done," he abruptly answered, "he is not here to defend himself; neither are we here to discuss his merits or demerits. We have not to deal with my lord Vandeveld, but with a document which is a nullity, a deception, which must be thrown into the fire; you must give me another title of that property!"
And saying this, he flung my deed on the floor. I calmly picked it up and said: "I exceedingly regret, my lord, that my first interview with your lordship should be the occasion of such an unexpected act. But I hope that this will not destroy the paternal sentiments which God must have put into the heart of my bishop, for the last and least of his priests. I see that your lordship is very busy; I do not want to trespass on your valuable time; I take this rejected document with me; to make another one, which I hope will be more agreeable to your views;" and then I took my departure.
I leave the reader to imagine the sentiments which filled my mind when coming back to my colony. I did not dare say a word to my people about our bishop. When questioned by them, I gave the most evasive answers I could. But I felt as the mariner feels when he hears the rumbling thunder approaching. Though the sea is calm as the oil of a lamp, he knows the storm is coming, he trims his sails, and prepares for the impending hurricane. It seemed that my most pressing duty, after my first interview, was to bring my heart nearer to my God than ever; to read and study my Bible with more attention, and to get my people to take more than ever the Word of God as their daily bread. I began, also, to speak more openly of our Christian rights, as well as of our duties, as these are set forth in the Gospel of Christ.
Some time, before this, feeling more than ever that I could not do justice to my colony, by keeping any longer the charge of Bourbonnais, I had respectfully sent my resignation to the bishop, which had been accepted. A priest had been called by him to take my place there. But he too, was, ere long, guilty of a public scandal with his servant girl. The principal citizens of Bourbonnais protested against his presence in their midst, and soon forced the bishop to dismiss him. His successor was the miserable priest, Lebel, who had been turned out of Chicago for a criminal offense with his own niece, and was now to be the curate of Bourbonnais. But his drunkenness and other public vices caused him to be interdicted, and expelled from that place in the month of September, 1855. About the same time, a priest who had been expelled from Belgium for a great scandal, was sent to Kankakee, as the curate of the French Canadians of that interesting young city. After his expulsion from Belgium he had come to Chicago, where, under another name, he had made a fortune, and for five or six years kept a house of prostitution. Becoming tired of that occupation, he offered five thousand dollars to the bishop, if he would accept him as one of his priests, and give him a parish. Bishop O'Regan being in need of money, accepted the gift, and fulfilled the condition by sending him as missionary to Kankakee.
As soon as he had taken possession of that interesting mission, he came with Mr. Lebel to pay me a visit. I received them as politely as possible, thought they were both half drunk when they arrived. After dinner, they went to shoot prairie chickens, and got so drunk that one of them, Mr. Lebel, lost his boots in a slough, and came back to my house barefooted, without noticing his loss. I had to help them get their carriage and the next day I wrote them, forbidding them to ever set foot in my house again. But what was my surprise and sadness, not long before those two infamous priests were ignominiously turned out by their people, to receive a letter from my bishop, which ended in these words: "I am sorry to hear that you refuse to live on good terms with your two neighbouring brother priests. This ought not to be, and I hope to hear soon, that you have reconciled yourself with them, in a friendly way, as you ought to have done long ago."
I answered him: "It is my interest, as well as my duty, to obey my bishop. I know it. But as long as my bishop gives me for neighbours, priests, one of whom has lived publicly with his own niece, as his wife, and the other who has kept a house of prostitution in Chicago, I respectfully ask my bishop to be excused for not visiting them."
The bishop felt insulted by my letter, and was furious against me. It came to be a public fact that he had said before many people: "I would give anything to the one who would help me to get rid of that unmanageable Chiniquy." Among those who heard the bishop, was a land speculator, a real land-shark, against whom a bill for perjury had been found by the jury of Iroquois county, the 27th of April, 1854. That man was very angry against me for protecting my poor countrymen against his too sharp peculations. He said to the bishop, "If you pay the expense of the suit, I pledge myself to have Chiniquy put in gaol." The bishop had publicly answered him: "No sum of money will be too great to be delivered from a priest who alone gives me more trouble than the rest of my clergy." To comply with the desires of the bishop, this peculator dragged me before the criminal court of Kankakee, on the 16th day of May, 1855, but he lost his action, and was condemned to pay the cost.
It was my impression that the bishop, having so often expressed in public his bad feelings against me, would not visit my colony. But I was mistaken. On the 11th of June, taking the Rev. Mr. Lebel and Carthuval for his companions, he came to St. Anne to administer the sacrament of confirmation. As the infamous conduct of those two priests was known to every one of my people, I felt a supreme disgust at their arrival, and came very near forbidding them to sit at my table. Having, however, asked the bishop to give me half-an-hour of private interview, I respectfully, but energetically protested against the presence of these two degraded men in my house.
He coldly answered me: "Mr. Chiniquy, you forget that I am the Bishop of Illinois, and that you are a simple priest, whom I can interdict and remove from here when I like. I do not come here to receive your lessons, but to intimate to you my orders. You seem to forget that charity is above all others the virtue which must adorn the soul of a good priest. Your great zeal is nothing before God, and it is less than nothing before me, so long as you have not charity. It is my business, and not yours, to know what priests I must employ, or reject. Your business is to respect them, and forget their past errors, the very day I see fit to receive them among my priests."
"My lord," I answered "allow me respectfully to tell you, that though you are a bishop, and I am a simple priest, the Gospel of Christ, which we have to preach, tells us to avoid the company of publicly vicious and profligate men. My conscience tells me that through respect for myself and my people, and through respect for the Gospel I preach, I must avoid the company of men, one of whom has lived with his niece as his wife, and the other has, till very lately, been guilty of keeping a house of prostitution in Chicago. Your lordship may ignore these things, and, in consequence of that, may give your confidence to these men; but nothing is more apt to destroy the faith of our French Canadian people, than to see such men in your company when you come to administer the sacrament of confirmation. It is through respect for your lordship that I take the liberty of speaking thus."
He angrily answered me: "I see, now, the truthfulness of what people say about you. It is to the Gospel you constantly appeal on everything. The Gospel! The Gospel! is surely a holy book; but remember that it is the Church which must guide you. Christ has said, 'Hear My Church.' I am here the interpreter, ambassador the representative of the Church when you disobey me, it is the Church you disobey."
"Now, my lord, that I have fulfilled what I consider a conscientious duty, I promise, that through respect for your lordship, and to keep myself in the bonds of peace with my bishop, I, today, will deal with these two priests, as if they were worthy of the honourable position you give them."
"All right! all right!" replied the bishop. "But it must be near the hour for dinner."
"Yes, my lord, I have just heard the bell calling us to the diningroom."
After the blessing of the table by the bishop, he looked at the Rev. Carthuval, who was sitting just before him, and said:
"What is the matter with you, Mr. Carthuval, you do not look well?"
"No, my lord," he answered, "I am not well; I want to go to bed."
He was correct, he was not well, for he was drunk.
During the public services, he had left the chapel to come down and ask for a bottle of wine I kept to celebrate mass. The housekeeper, thinking he wanted the wine in the chapel, handed him the bottle, which he drank in her presence in less than five minutes. After which he went up to the chapel to help the bishop in administering the confirmation to the 150 people whom I had prepared for the reception of that rite.
As soon as dinner was finished, the bishop requested me to go and take a walk with him. After giving me some compliments on the beauty of the site I had chosen from my first village and chapel, he saw at a short distance a stone building, which was raised only a little above the windows, and directing his steps towards it, he stopped only twenty or thirty feet distant, and asked me:
"Whose house is this?"
"It is mine, my lord."
"It is yours!" he replied; "and to whom does that fine garden belong?"
"It is mine also, my lord."
"Well! well!" he rejoined; "where did you get the money to purchase that fine piece of land and build that house?"
"I got the money where every honest man gets what he possesses, in my hard labour, and in the sweat of my brow," I replied.
"I want that house and that piece of land!" rejoined the bishop, with an imperative voice. "So do I," I replied.
"You must give me that house, with the land on which it is built," said the bishop.
"I cannot give them as long as I am in need of them, my lord," I replied.
"I see that you are a bad priest, as I have often been told, since you disobey your bishop," he rejoined with an angry manner.
I replied: "I do not see why I am a bad priest, because I keep what my God has given me."
"Are you ignorant of the fact that you have no right to possess any property?" he answered.
"Yes! my lord, I am ignorant of any law in our holy church that deprives me of any such rights. If, however, your lordship can show me any such law, I will give you the title of that property just now."
"If there is not such a law," he replied, stamping on the ground with his feet, "I will get one passed."
"My lord," I replied, "you are a great bishop. You have great power in the church, but allow me to tell you that you are not great enough to have such a law passed in our holy church!"
"You are an insolent priest," he answered with an accent of terrible anger, "and I will make you repent for your insolence."
He then turned his face towards the chapel, without waiting for my answer, and ordered the horses to be put in the carriage, that he might leave in the shortest possible time. A quarter of an hour later he had left St. Anne, where he was never to come again. The visit of that mitred thief, with his two profligate priests, though very short, did much by the mercy of God, to prepare our minds to understand that Rome is the great harlot of the Bible, which seduces and intoxicates the nations with the wine of her prostitution. (Rev. xvii. 2.)
CHAPTER 53 Back to Table of Contents
The 8th December, 1854, Pope Pius IX. was sitting on his throne; a triple crown of gold and diamonds was on his head; silk and damask- red and white vestments on his shoulders; five hundred mitred prelates were surrounding him; and more than fifty thousand people were at his feet, in the incomparable St. Peter's Church of Rome. After a few minutes of most solemn silence, a cardinal, dressed with his purple robe, left his seat, and gravely walked towards the Pope, kneeled before him, and humbly prostrating himself at his feet, said:
"Holy Father, tell us if we can believe and teach that the Mother of God, the Holy Virgin Mary, was immaculate in her conception."
The Supreme Pontiff answered: "I do not know; let us ask the light of the Holy Ghost."
The cardinal withdrew; the Pope and the numberless multitude fell on their knees; and the harmonious choir sang the "Veni Creator Spiritus."
The last note of the sacred hymn had hardly rolled under the vaults of the temple, when the same cardinal left his place, and again advanced towards the throne of the Pontiff, prostrated himself at his feet, and said:
"Holy Father, tell us if the Holy Mother of God, the blessed Virgin Mary, was immaculate in her conception."
The Pope again answered: "I do not know; let us ask the light of the Holy Ghost."
And again the "Veni Creator Spiritus" was sung.
The most solemn silence had a second time succeeded to the melodious sacred song, when again the eyes of the multitude were following the grave steps of the purple-robed cardinal, advancing, for the third time, to the throne of the successor of St. Peter, to ask him:
"Holy Father, tell us if we can believe that the blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God was immaculate."
The Pope, as if he had just received a direct communication from God, answered with a solemn voice:
"Yes! we must believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, was immaculate in her conception. * * * There is no salvation to those who do not believe this dogma!"
And, with a loud voice, the Pope intoned the Te Deum; the bells of the three hundred churches of Rome rang; the cannons of the citadel were fired. The last act of the most ridiculous and sacrilegious comedy the world has ever seen, was over; the doors of heaven were for ever shut against those who would refuse to believe the anti-scriptural doctrine that there is a daughter of Eve who has not inherited the sinful nature of Adam, to whom the Lord said in His justice:
"Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return!" (Gen. iii. 19), and of the children of whom the God of Truth has said, "There is none righteous; no, not one: for all have sinned!" (Rom. iii. 10, 23).
We look in vain to the first centuries of the Church to find any traces of that human aberration. The first dark clouds which Satan had brought to mar the Gospel truth, on that subject, appeared only between the eighth and ninth centuries. But, in the beginning, that error made very slow progress; those who propagated it, at first, were a few ignorant fanatics, whose names are lost in the night of the dark ages. It is only in the twelfth century that it began to be openly preached by some brainless monks. But then it was opposed by the most learned men of the time. We have a very remarkable letter of St. Bernard to refute some monks of Lyons who were preaching this new doctrine. A little later, Peter Lombard adopted the views of the monks of Lyons, and wrote a book to support that opinion; but he was refuted by St. Thomas Aquinas, who is justly considered by the Church of Rome, as the best theologian of that time. After that, the celebrated order of the Franciscans used all their influence to persuade the world that "Mary was immaculate in her conception;" but they were vigorously opposed and refuted by the not less celebrated order of the Dominicans. These two learned and powerful bodies, during more than a century, attacked each other without mercy on that subject, and filled the world with the noise of their angry disputes, both parties calling their adversaries heretics. They succeeded in driving the Roman Catholics of Europe into two camps of fierce enemies. The "Immaculate Conception" became the subject of burning discussions, not only between the learned universities, between the bishops and the priests and the nuns of those days; but it divided the families into two fiercely contending parties. It was discussed, attacked and defended, not only in the chairs of universities, and the pulpits of the cathedrals, but also in the fields, and in the very streets of the cities. And when the two parties had exhausted the reasons which their ingenuity, their learning, or their ignorant fanaticism could suggest to prove or deny the "Immaculate Conception," they often had recourse to the stick and to the sword to sustain their arguments.
It will appear almost incredible today, but it is a fact, the greatest number of the large cities of Europe, particularly in Spain, were then reddened with the blood of the supporters and opponents of that doctrine. In order to put an end to these contests, which were troubling the peace of their subjects, the Kings of Europe sent deputation after deputation to the Popes to know, from their infallible authority, what to believe on the subject. Philip III. and Philip IV. made what we may call supreme efforts to force the Popes, Paul V., Gregory XV., and Alexander VII. to stop the shedding of blood, and disarm the combatants, by raising the opinion in favour of the Immaculate Conception to the dignity of a Catholic dogma. But they failed. The only answer they could get from the infallible head of the Church of Rome was, that "that dogma was not revealed in the Holy Scriptures, had never been taught by the Apostles, nor by the Fathers, and had never been believed or preached by the Church of Rome as an article of faith!"
The only thing the Popes could do to please the supplicant kings and bishops, and nations of Europe in those days, was to forbid both parties to call the other heretics; and to forbid to say that it was an article of faith which ought to be believed to be saved. At the Council of Trent, the Franciscans, and all the partisans of the "Immaculate Conception," gathered their strength to have a decree in favour of the new dogma; but the majority of the bishops were visibly against that sacrilegious innovation, and they failed. It was reserved to the unfortunate Pius IX. to drag the Church of Rome to that last limit of human folly. In the last century, a monk, called Father Leonard, had a dream, in which he heard the Virgin Mary telling him: "That there would be an end to the wars in the world, and to the heresies and schisms in the church, only after a Pope should have obliged, by a decree, all the faithful to believe that she was 'immaculate in her conception.'" That dream, under the name of a "celestial vision," had been extensively circulated by means of little tracts. Many believed it to be a genuine revelation from heaven; and, unfortunately, the good natured but weak-minded Pius IX. was among the number. When he was an exile in Gaeta, he had himself a dream, which he took for a vision, on the same subject. He saw the Virgin, who told him that he should come back to Rome, and get an eternal peace for the church, only after he should have promised to declare that the "Immaculate Conception" was a dogma, which every one had to believe to be saved. He awoke from his dream much impressed by it; and the first thing he did when up, was to make a vow to promulgate the new dogma as soon as he should be back to Rome, and the world has seen how he has fulfilled that vow.
But, by the promulgation of this new dogma, Pius IX., far from securing an eternal peace to his church, far from destroying what he is pleased to call the heresies which are attacking Rome on every side, had done more to shake the faith of the Roman Catholics than all their enemies.
By trying to force this new article of faith on the consciences of his people, in a time that so many can judge for themselves, and read the records of past generations, he has pulled down the strongest column which was supporting the whole fabric of his church; he for ever destroyed the best arguments which the priests had to offer to the ignorant, deluded multitudes which they keep so abjectly tied to their feet.
No words can sufficiently express the dignified and supreme contempt with which, before that epoch, the priests of Rome were speaking of the "new articles of faith, the novelties of the arch-heretics, Luther, Calvin, Knox, ect., ect!" How eloquent were the priests of Rome, before the 8th of December, 1854, when saying to their poor ignorant dupes: "In our holy Church of Rome there is no change, no innovations, no novelties, no new dogmas. We believe today just what our fathers believed, and what they have taught us; we belong to the apostolical church, which means we believe only what Apostles have believed and preached." And the ignorant multitudes were saying: "Amen!"
But, alas, for the poor priests of Rome today; those dignified nonsenses, those precious and dear illusions, are impossible! they have to confess that those high-sounding denunciations against what they call the new doctrines of the heretics, were nothing but big guns loaded to the mouth to destroy the Protestants, which are discharging their deadly missiles against the crumbling walls of their Church of Rome. They have to confess that their pretensions to an unchangeable creed is all mere humbug, shameful lies; they have to confess that the Church of Rome is forging new dogmas, new articles of faith; they do not any longer dare to say to the disciples of the Gospel: "Where was your religion before the days of Luther and Calvin?" for the secret voice of their conscience says today to the Roman Catholics: Where was your religion before the 8th of December, 1854?" and they cannot answer.
There is an inexorable and irresistible logic in the minds even of the most unlearned men, which defies, today, all the sophisms of the priests of Rome, if they dare to speak again on their pet subjects: "The novelties and new dogmas of the Protestants." There is a silent, but crushing voice, going today from the crowds to the priest, telling him: "Now, be quiet and silent on what you are used to call the novelties and new doctrines of the Protestants! for, are you not preaching to us an awful novelty? As you not damning us today for disbelieving a thing which the church, during eighteen hundred years has, a hundred times, solemnly declared, by the mouth of the Popes, had never been revealed in the Holy Scriptures, had never been taught by the Fathers, had never been heard by the church herself?"
I will never forget the sadness which overcame me when I received the order from Bishop O'Regan to proclaim that new dogma to my people (then all Roman Catholics). It was as if an earthquake had shaken and destroyed the ground on which my feet were resting. My most cherished illusions about the immutability and the infallibility of my church were crumbling down, in my intelligence, in spite of my efforts to keep them up. I have seen old priests, to whom I opened my mind on that subject, shed tears of sorrow on the injury this new dogma would do to their church.
The Archbishop of Paris, at the head of the most learned members of the clergy of France, had sent his protest to the Pope against this dogma before it was decreed; and he had eloquently foretold the deplorable consequences which would follow that innovation; but their warning voice failed to make any impression on the mind of the infatuated Pope.
And we, children of God, must we not acknowledge the hand of the Lord, in that blindness of "the man of sin" (2 Thess. ii. 3). The days are not far away that a cry of joy will be heard from one end of the world to the other: "Fear God, and give glory to Him! Babylon is fallen! Babylon is fallen! because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (Rev. xiv. 7; xviii. 2, 3). For, when we see that "wicked one," "who exalteth himself above all that is called God" (2 Thess. ii. 4), destroying himself by the excess of his own folly and impurities, we must bless the Lord.
The proclamation of this new dogma is one of those great moral iniquities which carry their punishment and their remedy in their own hands. When the Pope, in the morning of the 8th of December, 1854, answered twice: "I do not know," to the question put to him, "Is the Virgin Mary Immaculate in her Conception?" and then, a minute after, to the same question, he answered: "Yes! I know it: the Holy Virgin Mary was Immaculate in her Conception," he proved to his most credulous dupes that he was nothing but a sacrilegious comedian. How would a jury of honest men deal with a witness who, being interrogated about what he knows of a certain fact, would answer, "I know nothing about it," and a moment after would acknowledge that "he knows everything about it?" Would not such a witness be justly punished as a perjurer?
Such is the sad and unenviable position which the Pope made to himself and to his church, on the 8th of December, 1854. Interrogated by the nations of Europe about what was to be believed on the "Conception of the Virgin Mary," the Church of Rome, during ten centuries, had answered: "I do not know." And let everyone remember that she wants to be believed infallible when she says she "knows nothing about the Immaculate Conception." But, today, that same church assures us, through the infallible decree of Pius IX., that she knows, and that she has always known and believed the Virgin Mary was Immaculate! Has the world ever seen such a want of self-respect, such an unblushing impudence! What verdict will the Christian world give against that great mother of lies? What punishment will the God of truth administer to that great culprit who swears "yes" and "no" on the same question? It is a fact, that by the promulgation of this decree, Pius IX. has for ever destroyed his prestige in the minds of millions of his followers.
A few days after I had read to my congregation the decree of the Pope proclaiming the new dogma, and damning all those who would not believe it, one of my most intelligent and respectable farmers came to visit me, and put to me the following questions on the new articles of faith: "Mr. Chiniquy, please tell me, have I correctly understood the letter from the Pope you read us last Sabbath? Does the Pope tell us in that letter that we can find this new dogma of the 'Immaculate Conception' in the Holy Scriptures, that it has been taught by the Fathers, and that the church has constantly believed it from the days of the Apostles?"
I answered, "Yes, my friend, the Pope tells us all those things in his letter which I read in the church last Sabbath."
"But, sir, will you be so kind as to read me the verses of the Holy Scriptures which are in favour of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary?"
"My dear friend," I answered, "I am sorry to say that I have never found in the Holy Scriptures a single word to tell us that Mary is immaculate; but I have found many words, and very clear words, which says the very contrary thing. For instance, the Holy Ghost, in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, v. 18. 'By the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation.' This little, but inexorable 'all,' includes the Virgin Mary in the condemnation and in the guilt. In the same Epistle to the Romans (ch. iii. 22, 23), the Holy Ghost, speaking of the children of Adam Israelites and Gentiles says there is no difference, they have all sinned and come short of the glory of God! and in the 10th verse of the same chapter, the Holy Ghost, speaking of the Jews and Gentiles, says, 'There is none righteous no, not one!' And the Lord has never repealed in any part that I know of the Holy Scriptures, this awful 'no not one!'" "Now, please tell me the name of the Holy Fathers who have preached that we must believe in the Immaculate Conception, or be for ever damned, if we do not believe in it?"
I answered to my parishioner: "I would have preferred, my dear friend, that you should never come to put to me these questions; but as you ask me the truth, I must tell you the truth. I have studied the Fathers with a pretty good attention, but I have not yet found a single one of them who was of that opinion in any way."
"I hope," added the good farmer, "you will excuse me if I put to you another question on this subject. Perhaps you do not know it, but there is a great deal of feeling and talking about this new article of faith among us since last Sabbath; I want to know a little more about it. The Pope says in his letter that the Church of Rome has always believed and taught that dogma of Immaculate Conception. Is that correct?"
"Yes, my friend, the Pope says that in his Encyclical; but these last nine hundred years, more than one hundred Popes have declared that the church had never believed it. Even several Popes have forbidden to say 'that the Immaculate Conception was an article of faith' and they solemnly permitted us to believe and say what we please on that matter."
"If it be so with this new dogma, how can we know it is not so with the other dogmas of our church, as the confession, the purgatory, ect.?" added the farmer.
"My dear friend, do not allow the devil to shake your faith. We are living in bad days indeed. Let us pray God to enlighten us and save us. I would have given much had you never put to me these questions!"
My honest parishioner had left me; but his awful questions (they were really awful, as they are still awful for a priest of Rome), and the answers I had been forced to give were sounding in my soul as thunderclaps. There was in my poor trembling heart, as the awful noise of an irresistible storm, which was to destroy all that I had so dearly cherished and respected in my then so dear and venerated Church of Rome. My head was aching. I fell on my knees; but for a time I could not utter a word of prayer; big tears were rolling on my burning cheeks; ;new light was coming before the eyes of my soul; but I took it for the deceitful temptation of Satan; a voice was speaking to me; it was the voice of my God, telling me, "Come out from Babylon!" (Rev. xviii. 4). But I took that voice for the voice of Satan; I was trying to silence it. The Lord was then drawing me away from my perishing ways; but I did not know Him then; I was struggling against Him to remain in the dark dungeons of error. But God was to be the stronger. In His infinite mercy He was to overpower His unfaithful servant. He was to conquer me, and with me many others.
CHAPTER 54 Back to Table of Contents
There are two women who ought to be constant objects of the compassion of the disciples of Christ, and for whom daily prayers ought to be offered at the mercy-seat the Brahmin woman, who, deceived by her priests, burns herself on the corpse of her husband to appease the wrath of her wooden gods; and the Roman Catholic woman, who, not less deceived by her priests, suffers a torture far more cruel and ignominious in the confessional-box, to appease the wrath of her wafer-god.
For I do not exaggerate when I say, that for many noble-hearted, welleducated, high-minded women, to be forced to unveil their hearts before the eyes of a man, to open to him all the most secret recesses of their souls, all the most sacred mysteries of their single or married life, to allow him to put to them questions which the most depraved woman would never consent to hear from her vilest seducer, is often more horrible and intolerable than to be tied on burning coals.
More than once I have seen women fainting in the confessional-box, who told me afterwards that the necessity of speaking to an unmarried man on certain things, on which the most common laws of decency ought to have for ever sealed their lips, had almost killed them! Not hundreds, but thousands of times, I have heard from the lips of dying girls, as well as married women, the awful words: "I am for ever lost! All my past confessions and communions have been so many sacrileges! I have never dared to answer correctly the questions of my confessors! Shame has sealed my lips an damned my soul!"
How many times I remained as one petrified, by the side of a corpse, when these last words having hardly escaped the lips of one of my female penitents, who had been snatched out of my reach by the merciless hand of death, before I could give her pardon through the deceitful sacramental absolution? I then believed, as the dead sinner herself had believed, that she should not be forgiven except by that absolution.
For there are not only thousands, but millions of Roman Catholic girls and women, whose keen sense of modest and womanly dignity, are above all the sophisms and diabolical machinations of their priests. They can never be persuaded to answer "Yes" to certain questions of their confessors. They would prefer to be thrown into the flames, and burnt to ashes with the Brahmin widows, rather than allow the eyes of a man to pry into the sacred sanctuary of their souls. Though sometimes guilty before God, and under the impression that their sins will never be forgiven if not confessed, the laws of decency are stronger in their hearts than the laws of their perfidious Church. No consideration not even the fear of eternal damnation, can persuade them to declare to a sinful man, sins which God alone has the right to know, for He alone can blot them out with the blood of His Son, shed on the cross.
But what a wretched life must that be of those exceptional noble souls, which Rome keeps in the dark dungeons of her superstition? They read in all their books, and hear from all their pulpits, that if they conceal a single sin from their confessors, they are for ever lost! But, being absolutely able to trample under their feet the laws of self-respect an decency, which God Himself has impressed in their souls, they live in constant dread of eternal damnation. No human words can tell their desolation and distress, when at the feet of their confessors they find themselves under the horrible necessity of speaking of things on which they would prefer to suffer the most cruel death rather than to open their lips, or to be for ever damned if they do not degrade themselves for ever in their own eyes, by speaking on matters which a respectable woman will never reveal to her own mother much less t a man!
I have known only too many of these noble-hearted women, who, when alone with God, in a real agony of desolation and with burning tears, had asked Him to grant them what they considered the greatest favour, which was to lose so much of their self-respect as to be enabled to speak of those unmentionable things just as their confessors wanted them to speak; and, hoping that their petition had been granted, they went again to the confessional-box, determined to unveil their shame before the eyes of that inexorable man. But when the moment had come for the self-immolation, their courage failed, their knees trembled, their lips became pale as death, cold sweat poured from all their pores! The voice of modesty and womanly self-respect was speaking louder than the voice of their false religion. They had to go out of the confessional-box unpardoned nay, with the burden of a new sacrilege on their conscience.
Oh! how heavy is the yoke of Rome how bitter is human life how cheerless is the mystery of the cross to those deluded and perishing souls! How gladly they would rush into the blazing piles with the Brahmin women, if they could hope to see the end of their unspeakable miseries through the momentary tortures which would open to them a better life!
I do here publicly challenge the whole Roman Catholic priesthood to deny that the greater part of their female penitents remain a certain period of time some longer, some shorter under that most distressing state of mind.
Yes, by far the greater majority of women, at first, find it impossible to pull down the sacred barriers of self-respect, which God Himself has built around their hearts, intelligences, and souls, as the best safeguard against the snares of this polluted world. Those laws of self-respect, by which they cannot consent to speak an impure word into the ears of a man, and which shut all the avenues of the heart against his unchaste questions, even when speaking in the name of God those laws of self-respect are so clearly written in their conscience, and they are so well understood by them, to be a most Divine gift, that, as I have already said, many prefer to run the risk of being for ever lost by remaining silent.
It takes many years of the most ingenious (I do not hesitate to call it diabolical) efforts on the part of the priests to persuade the majority of their female penitents to speak on questions, which even pagan savages would blush to mention among themselves. Some persist in remaining silent on those matters during the greater part of their lives, and many of them prefer to throw themselves into the hands of their merciful God, and die without submitting to the defiling ordeal, even after they have felt the poisonous stings of the enemy, rather than receive their pardon from a man, who, as they feel, would surely have been scandalized by the recital of their human frailties. All the priests of Rome are aware of this natural disposition of their female penitents. There is not a single one no, not a single one of their moral theologians, who does not warn the confessors against that stern and general determination of the girls and married women never to speak in the confessional matters which may, more or less, deal with sins against the seventh commandment. Dens, Liguori, Debreyne, Baily, ect., in a word, all the theologians of Rome own that this is one of the greatest difficulties which the confessors have to contend with in the confessional-box.
Not a single Roman Catholic priest will dare to deny what I say on this matter; for they know that it would be easy for me to overwhelm them with such a crowd of testimonials that their grand imposture would for ever be unmasked.
I intend, at some future day, if God spares me and gives me time for it, to make known some of the innumerable things which the Roman Catholic theologians and moralists have written on this question. It will form one of the most curious books ever written; and it will give unanswerable evidence of the fact that, instinctively, without consulting each other, and with an unanimity which is almost marvelous, the Roman Catholic women, guided by the honest instincts which God has given them, shrink from the snares put before them in the confessional-box; and that everywhere they struggle to nerve themselves with a superhuman courage, against the torturer who is sent by the Pope, to finish their ruin, and to make shipwrecks of their souls. Everywhere woman feels that there are things which ought never to be told, as there are things which ought never to be done, in the presence of the God of holiness. She understands that, to recite the history of certain sins, even of thoughts, is not less shameful and criminal than to do them; she hears the voice of God whispering into her ears, "Is it not enough that thou hast been guilty once, when alone in My presence, without adding to thine iniquity by allowing that man to know what should never have been revealed to him? Do you not feel that you make that man your accomplice, the very moment that you throw into his heart and soul the mire of your iniquities? He is as weak as you are; he is not less a sinner than yourself; what has tempted you will tempt him; what has made you weak will make him weak; what has polluted you will pollute him; what has thrown you down into the dust will throw him into the dust. Is it not enough that My eyes had to look upon your iniquities? must My ears, today, listen to your impure conversation with that man? Were that man as holy as My prophet David, may he not fall before the unchaste unveiling of a new Bathsheba? Were he as strong as Samson, may he not find in you his tempting Delilah? Were he as generous as Peter, may he not become a traitor at the maid-servant's voice?"
Perhaps the world has never seen a more terrible, desperate, solemn struggle than the one which is going on in the soul of a poor trembling young woman, who, at the feet of that man, has to decide whether or not she will open her lips on those things which the infallible voice of God, united to the no less infallible voice of her womanly honour and self-respect, tell her never to reveal to any man!
The history of that secret, fierce, desperate struggle has never yet, so far as I know, been fully given. It would draw the tears of admiration and compassion of the whole world, if it could be written with its simple, sublime, and terrible realities.
How many times have I wept as a child when some noble-hearted and intelligent young girl, or some respectable married woman, yielding to the sophisms with which I, or some other confessor, had persuaded them to give up their self-respect and their womanly dignity, to speak with me on matters on which a decent woman should never say a word with a man. They have told me of their invincible repugnance, their horror of such questions and answers, and they have asked me to have pity on them. Yes! I have often wept bitterly on my degradation, when a priest of Rome! I have realized all the strength, the grandeur, and the holiness of their motives for being silent on these defiling matters, and I could not but admire them. It seemed at times that they were speaking the language of angels of light; that I ought to fall at their feet, and ask their pardon for having spoken to them of questions, on which a man of honour ought never to converse with a woman whom he respects.
But alas! I had soon to reproach myself, and regret those short instances of my wavering faith in the infallible voice of my Church; I had soon to silence the voice of my conscience, which was telling me, "Is it not a shame that you, an unmarried man, dare to speak on these matters with a woman? Do you not blush to put such questions to a young girl? Where is your self-respect? Where is your fear of God? Do you not promote the ruin of that girl by forcing her to speak on these matters?"
How many times my God has spoken to me as He speaks to all the priests of Rome, and said with a thundering voice: "What would that young man do, could he hear the questions you put to his wife? Would he not blow out your brains? And that father, would he not thrust a dagger through your breast, if he could know what you ask from his poor trembling daughter? Would not the brother of that young girl put an end to your miserable life if he could hear the unmentionable subjects on which you speak with her in the confessional?"
I was compelled by all the Popes, the moral theologians, and the Councils of Rome, to believe that this warning voice of my merciful God was the voice of Satan; I had to believe in spite of my own conscience and intelligence, that it was good, nay, necessary, to put those polluting, damning questions. My infallible Church was mercilessly forcing me to oblige those poor, trembling, weeping, desolate girls and women, to swim with me and all her priests in those waters of Sodom and Gomorrah, under the pretext that their self-will would be broken down, their fear of sin and humility increased, and that they would be purified by our absolutions.
With what supreme distress, disgust, and surprise, we see, today, a great part of the noble Episcopal Church of England struck by a plague which seems incurable, under the name of Puseyism, or Ritualism, bringing again more or less openly in many places the diabolical and filthy auricular confession among the Protestants of England, Australia and America. The Episcopal Church is doomed to perish in that dark and stinking pool of Popery auricular confession, if she does not find a prompt remedy to stop the plague brought by the disguised Jesuits, who are at work everywhere, to poison and enslave her too unsuspecting daughters and sons.
In the beginning of my priesthood, when I was in Quebec, I was not a little surprised and embarrassed to see a very accomplished and beautiful young lady, whom I used to meet almost every week at her father's house, entering the box of my confessional. She had been used to confess to another young priest of my acquaintance, and she was always looked upon as one of the most pious girls of the city. Though she had disguised herself as much as possible, in order that I might not know her, I felt sure that I was not mistaken she was the amiable Mary * * *
Not being absolutely certain of the correctness of my impressions, I left her entirely under the hope that she was a perfect stranger to me. At the beginning she could hardly speak; her voice was suffocated by her sobs; and through the little apertures of the thin partition between her and me, I saw two streams of big tears trickling down her cheeks. After much effort, she said: "Dear Father, I hope you do not know me, and that you will never try to know me. I am a desperately great sinner. Oh! I fear that I am lost! But if there is still a hope for me to be saved, for God's sake do not rebuke me. Before I begin my confession, allow me to ask you not to pollute my ears by questions which our confessors are in the habit of putting to their female penitents; I have already been destroyed by those questions. Before I was seventeen years old, God knows that His angels are not more pure than I was; but the chaplain of the nunnery where my parents had sent me for my education, though approaching old age, put to me, in the confessional, a question which, at first, I did not understand, but, unfortunately, he had put the same question to one of my young class-mates, who made fun of them in my presence, and explained them to me, for she understood them too well. This first unchaste conversation of my life plunged my thoughts into a sea of iniquity till then absolutely unknown to me; temptations of the most humiliating character assailed me for a week, day and night; after which, sins which I would blot out with my blood, if it were possible, overwhelmed my soul as with a deluge. But the joys of the sinner are short. Struck with terror at the thought of the judgments of God, after a few weeks of the most deplorable life, I determined to give up my sins and reconcile myself to God. Covered with shame, and trembling from head to foot, I went to confess to my old confessor, whom I respected as a saint and cherished as a father. It seems to me that, with sincere tears of repentance, I confessed to him the greatest part of my sins, though I concealed one of them, through shame and respect for my spiritual guide. But I did not conceal from him that the strange questions he had put to me at my last confession, were, with the natural corruption of my heart, the principal cause of my destruction.
"He spoke to me very kindly, encouraged me to fight against my bad inclinations, and at first gave me very kind and good advice. But when I thought he had finished speaking, and as I was preparing to leave the confessional-box, he put to me two new questions of such a polluting character that I fear neither the blood of Christ, nor all the fires of hell will ever be able to blot them out from my memory. Those questions have achieved my ruin; they have stuck to my mind like two deadly arrows; they are day and night before my imagination; they fill my very arteries and veins with a deadly poison.
"It is true that, at first, they filled me with horror and disgust; but alas! I soon got so accustomed to them that they seemed to be incorporated with me, and as if becoming a second nature. Those thoughts have become a new source of innumerable criminal thoughts, desires, and actions.
"A month later, we were obliged by the rules of our convent to go and confess; but by this time I was so completely lost that I no longer blushed at the idea of confessing my shameful sins to a man; it was the very contrary. I had a real, diabolical pleasure in the thought that I should have a long conversation with my confessor on those matters, and that he would ask me more of his strange questions. In face, when I had told him everything without a blush, he began to interrogate me, and God knows what corrupting things fell from his lips into my poor criminal heart! Every one of his questions was thrilling my nerves and filling me with the most shameful sensations! After an hour of this criminal tete-a-tete with my old confessor (for it was nothing else but a criminal tete-a-tete), I perceived that he was as depraved as I was myself. With some half-covered words he made a criminal proposition, which I accepted with covered words also; and during more than a year we have lived together on the most sinful intimacy. Though he was much older than I, I loved him in the most foolish way. When the course of my convent instruction was finished, my parents called me back to their home. I was really glad of that change of residence, for I was beginning to be tired of my criminal life. My hope was that, under the direction of a better confessor, I should reconcile myself to God and begin a Christian life.
"Unfortunately for me, my new confessor, who was very young, began also his interrogations. He soon fell in love with me, and I loved him in a most criminal way. I have done with him things which I hope you will never request me to reveal to you, for they are too monstrous to be repeated, even in the confessional, by a woman to a man.
"I do not say these things to take away the responsibility of my iniquities with this young confessor from my shoulders, for I think I have been more criminal than he was. It is my firm conviction that he was a good and holy priest before he knew me; but the questions he put to me, and the answers I had to give him, melted his heart I know it just as boiling lead would melt the ice on which it flows.
"I know this is not such a detailed confession as our holy Church requires me to make, but I have thought it necessary for me to give you this short history of the life of the greatest and most miserable sinner who ever asked you to help her to come out from the tomb of her iniquities. This is the way I have lived these last few years. But last Sabbath, God, in His infinite mercy, looked down upon me. He inspired you to give us the Prodigal Son as a model of true conversion, and as the most marvelous proof of the infinite compassion of the dear Saviour for the sinner. I have wept day and night since that happy day, when I threw myself into the arms of my loving, merciful Father. Even now I can hardly speak, because my regret for my past iniquities, and my joy that I am allowed to bathe the feet of the Saviour with tears, are so great that my voice is as choked.
"You understand that I have for ever given up my last confessor I come to ask you to do me the favour to receive me among your penitents. Oh! do not reject nor rebuke me, for the dear Saviour's sake! Be not afraid to have at your side such a monster of iniquity! But before going further, I have two favours to ask from you. The first is, that you will never do anything to ascertain my name; the second is, that you ill never put to me any of those questions by which so many penitents are lost and so many priests for ever destroyed. Twice I have been lost by those questions. We come to our confessors that they may throw upon guilty souls the pure waters which flow from heaven to purify us; but instead of that, with their unmentionable questions they pour oil on the burning fires which are already raging in our poor sinful hearts. Oh! dear father, let me become our penitent, that you may help me to go and weep with Magdalene at the Saviour's feet! Do respect me, as He respected that true model of all the sinful, but repenting women! Did our Saviour put to her any questions? did He extort from her the history of things which a sinful woman cannot say without forgetting the respect she owes to herself and to God! No! you told us not long ago, that the only thing our Saviour did was to look at her tears and her love. Well, please do that, and you will save me!"
I was then a very young priest, and never had any words so sublime come to my ears in the confessional-box. Her tears and her sobs, mingled with the frank declaration of the most humiliating actions, had made such a profound impression upon me that I was, for some time, unable to speak. It had come to my mind also that I might be mistaken about her identity, and that perhaps she was not the young lady that I had imagined. I could, then, easily grant her first request, which was to do nothing by which I could know her. The second part of her prayer was more embarrassing; for the theologians are very positive in ordering the confessors to question their penitents, particularly those of the female sex, in many circumstances.
I encouraged her in the best way I could, to persevere in her good resolutions, by invoking the blessed Virgin Mary and St. Philomene, who was then Sainte a la mode, just as Marie Alacoque is today among the blind slaves of Rome. I told her that I would pray and think over the subject of her second request; and I asked her to come back in a week for my answer.
The very same day I went to my own confessor, the Rev. Mr. Ballargeon, then curate of Quebec, and afterwards Archbishop of Canada. I told him the singular and unusual request she had made, that I should never put to her any of those questions suggested by the theologians, to ensure the integrity of the confession. I did not conceal from him that I was much inclined to grant her that favour; for I repeated what I have already several times told him, that I was supremely disgusted with the infamous and polluting questions which the theologians forced us to put to our female penitents. I told him frankly that several old and young priests had already come to confess to me; and that, with the exception of two, they had told me that they could not put those questions and hear the answers they elicited without falling into the most damnable sins.
My confessor seemed to be much perplexed about what he should answer. He asked me to come the next day, that he might review some theological books in the interval. The next day I took down in writing his answer, which I find in my old manuscripts, and I give it here in all its sad crudity:-
"Such cases of the destruction of female virtue by the questions of the confessors is an unavoidable evil. It cannot be helped; for such questions are absolutely necessary in the greater part of the cases with which we have to deal. Men generally confess their sins with so much sincerity that there is seldom any need for questioning them, except when they are very ignorant. But St. Liguori, as well as our personal observation, tells us that the greatest part of girls and women, through a false and criminal shame, very seldom confess the sins they commit against purity. It requires the utmost charity in the confessors to prevent those unfortunate slaves of their secret passions from making sacrilegious confessions and communions. With the greatest prudence and zeal he must question them on those matters, beginning with the smallest sins, and going, little by little, as much as possible by imperceptible degrees, to the most criminal actions. As it seems evident that the penitent referred to in your questions of yesterday is willing to make a full and detailed confession of all her iniquities, you cannot promise to absolve her without assuring yourself by wise and prudent questions that she has confessed everything.
"You must not be discouraged when, through the confessional or any other way, you learn the fall of priests into the common frailties of human nature with their penitents. Our Saviour knew very well that the occasions and the temptations we have to encounter in the confessions of girls and women, are so numerous and sometimes so irresistible, that many would fall. But He has given them the Holy Virgin Mary, who constantly asks and obtains their pardon; He has given them the sacrament of penance, where they can receive their pardon as often as they ask for it. The vow of perfect chastity is a great honour and privilege; but we cannot conceal from ourselves that it puts on our shoulders a burden which many cannot carry for ever. St. Liguori says that we must not rebuke the penitent priest who falls only once a month; and some other trustworthy theologians are still more charitable."
This answer was far from satisfying me. It seemed to me composed of soft soap principles. I went back with a heavy heart and an anxious mind; and God knows that I made many fervent prayers that this girl should never come again to give me her sad history. I was then hardly twenty-six years old, full of youth and life. It seemed to me that the strings of a thousand wasps to my ears could not do me so much harm as the words of that dear, beautiful, accomplished, but lost girl.
I do not mean to say that the revelations which she made had, in any way, diminished my esteem and my respect for her. It was just the contrary. Her tears and her sobs at my feet; her agonizing expressions of shame and regret; her noble words of protest against the disgusting and polluting interrogations of the confessors, had raised her very high in my mind. My sincere hope was that she would have a place in the kingdom of Christ with the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, and all the sinners who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
At the appointed day, I was in my confessional listening to the confession of a young man, when I saw Miss Mary entering the vestry, and coming directly to my confessional-box, where she knelt by me. Though she had, still more than at the first time, disguised herself behind a long, thick, black veil, I could not be mistaken; she was the very same amiable young lady in whose father's house I used to pass such pleasant and happy hours. I had often listened with breathless attention to her melodious voice, when she was giving us, accompanied by her piano, some of our beautiful church hymns. Who could then see and hear her without almost worshiping her? The dignity of her steps, and her whole mien, when she advanced towards my confessional, entirely betrayed her and destroyed her incognito.
Oh! I would have given every drop of my blood in that solemn hour, that I might have been free to deal with her just as she had so eloquently requested me to do to let her weep and cry at the feet of Jesus to her heart's content. Oh! if I had been free to take her by the hand and silently show her the dying Saviour, that she might have bathed His feet with her tears, and spread the oil of her love on His head, without my saying anything else but "Go in peace: thy sins are forgiven."
But, there, in that confessional-box, I was not the servant of Christ, to follow His Divine, saving words, and obey the dictates of my honest conscience. I was the slave of the Pope! I had to stifle the cry of my conscience, to ignore the inspirations of my God! There, my conscience had no right to speak; my intelligence was a dead thing! The theologians of the Pope alone had a right to be heard and obeyed! I was not there to save, but to destroy; for, under the pretext of purifying, the real mission of the confessor, often, if not always, in spite of himself, is to scandalize and damn the souls.
As soon as the young man who was making his confession at my left hand, had finished, I, without noise, turned myself towards her, and said, through the little aperture, "Are you ready to begin your confession?"
But she did not answer me. All that I could hear was: "Oh, my Jesus, have mercy upon me! I come to wash my soul in Thy blood; wilt Thou rebuke me?"
During several minutes she raised her hands and eyes to heaven, and wept and prayed. It was evident that she had not the least idea that I was observing her; she thought the door of the little partition between her and me was shut. But my eyes were fixed upon her; my tears were flowing with her tears, and my ardent prayers were going to the feet of Jesus with her prayers. I would not have interrupted her for any consideration, in this, her sublime communion with her merciful Saviour.
But after a pretty long time, I made a little noise with my hand, and putting my lips near the opening of the partition which was between us, I said in a low voice, "Dear sister, are you ready to begin your confession?"
She turned her face a little towards me, and said, with trembling voice, "Yes, dear father, I am ready."
But she then stopped again to weep and pray, though I could not hear what she said.
After some time in silent prayer, I said, "My dear sister, if you are ready, please begin your confession." She then said, "My dear father, do you remember the prayers which I made to you the other day? Can you allow me to confess my sins without forcing me to forget the respect that I owe myself, to you, and to God, who hears us? And can you promise that you will not put to me any of those questions which have already done me such irreparable injury? I frankly declare to you that there are sins in me that I cannot reveal to anyone, except to Christ, because He is my God, and that He already knows them all. Let me weep and cry at His feet: can you not forgive me without adding to my iniquities by forcing me to say things that the tongue of a Christian woman cannot reveal to a man?"
"My dear sister," I answered, "were I free to follow the voice of my own feelings I would be only too happy to grant your request; but I am here only as the minister of our holy church, and bound to obey the laws. Through her most holy Popes and theologians she tells me that I cannot forgive your sins if you do not confess them all, just as you have committed them. The church tells me also that you must give the details, which may add to the malice or change the nature of your sins. I am sorry to tell you that our most holy theologians make it a duty of the confessor to question the penitent on the sins which he has good reason to suspect have been voluntarily omitted."
With a piercing cry she exclaimed, "Then, O my God, I am lost for ever lost!"
This cry fell upon me like a thunderbolt; but I was still more terrorstricken when, looking through the aperture, I saw she was fainting; I heard the noise of her body falling upon the floor, and of her head striking against the sides of the confessional-box.
Quick as lightning I ran to help her, took her in my arms, and called a couple of men, who were at a little distance, to assist me in laying her on a bench. I washed her face with some cold water and vinegar. She was as pale as death, but her lips were moving, and she was saying something which nobody but I could understand -
"I am lost lost for ever!"
We took her home to her disconsolate family, where, during a month, she lingered between life and death. Her two first confessors came to visit her; but having asked every one to go out of the room, she politely, but absolutely, requested them to go away, and never come again. She asked me to visit her every day, "for," she said, "I have only a few more days to live. Help me to prepare myself for the solemn hour which will open to me the gates of eternity!"
Every day I visited her, and I prayed and I wept with her.
Many times, when alone, with tears I requested her to finish her confession; but, with a firmness which then seemed to be mysterious and inexplicable, she politely rebuked me.
One day, when alone with her, I was kneeling by the side of her bed to pray, I was unable to articulate a single word because of the inexpressible anguish of my soul on her account, she asked me, "Dear father, why do you weep?"
I answered, "How can you put such a question to your murderer! I weep because I have killed you, dear friend."
This answer seemed to trouble her exceedingly. She was very weak that day. After she had wept and prayed in silence, she said, "Do not weep for me, but weep for so many priests who destroy their penitents in the confessional. I believe in the holiness of the sacrament of penance, since our holy church has established it. But there is, somewhere, something exceedingly wrong in the confessional. Twice I have been destroyed, and I know many girls who have also been destroyed by the confessional. This is a secret, but will that secret be kept for ever? I pity the poor priests the day that our fathers will know what becomes of the purity of their daughters in the hands of their confessors. Father would surely kill my two last confessors, if he could only know they have destroyed his poor child."
I could not answer except by weeping.
We remained silent for a long time; then she said, "It is true that I was not prepared for the rebuke you have given me the other day in the confessional; but you acted conscientiously as a good and honest priest. I know you must be bound by certain laws."
She then pressed my hand with her cold hand and said, "Weep not, dear father, because that sudden storm has wrecked my too fragile bark. This storm was to take me out from the bottomless sea of my iniquities to the shore where Jesus was waiting to receive and pardon me. The night after you brought me, half dead, here to my father's house, I had a dream. Oh, no! it was not a dream, it was a reality. My Jesus came to me, He was bleeding; His crown of thorns was on His head, the heavy cross bruising His shoulders. He said to me, with a voice so sweet that no human tongue can imitate it, 'I have seen thy tears, I have heard thy cries, and I know thy love for Me: thy sins are forgiven; take courage, in a few days thou shalt be with Me!'"
She had hardly finished her last word when she fainted, and I feared lest she should die just then, when I was alone with her.
I called the family, who rushed into the room. The doctor was sent for. He found her so weak that he thought proper to allow only one or two persons to remain in the room with me. He requested us not to speak at all, "For," said he, "the least emotion may kill her instantly; her disease is, in all probability, an aneurism of the aorta, the big vein which brings the blood to the heart: when it breaks, she will go as quick as lightning."
It was nearly ten at night when I left the house to go and take some rest. But it was not necessary to say that I passed a sleepless night. My dear Mary was there, pale, dying from the deadly blow which I had given her in the confessional. She was there, on her bed of death, her heart pierced with the dagger which my church had put into my hands! and instead of rebuking, and cursing me for my savage, merciless fanaticism, she was blessing me! She was dying from a broken heart! and I was not allowed by my church to give her a single word of consolation and hope, for had she not made her confession? I had mercilessly bruised that tender plant, and there was nothing in my hands to heal the wounds I had made!
It was very probable that she would die the next day, and I was forbidden to show her the crown of glory which Jesus has prepared in His kingdom for the repenting sinner?
My desolation was really unspeakable, and I think I would have been suffocated and have died that night, if the stream of tears which constantly flowed from my eyes had not been as a balm to my distressed heart.
How dark and long the hours of that night seemed to me!
Before the dawn of day, I arose to read my theologians again, and see if I could not find someone who would allow me to forgive the sins of that dear child, without forcing her to tell me anything she had done. But they seemed to me, more than ever, unanimously inexorable, and I put them back on the shelves of my library with a broken heart.
At nine a.m. the next day, I was by the bed of our dear sick Mary. I cannot sufficiently tell the joy I felt, when the doctor and whole family said to me, "She is much better; the rest of last night has wrought a marvelous change, indeed."
With a really angelic smile she extended her hand towards me, and said, "I thought, last evening, that the dear Saviour would take me to Him, but He wants me, dear father, to give you a little more trouble; however, be patient, it cannot be long before the solemn hour of the appeal will strike. Will you please read me the history of the suffering and death of the beloved Saviour, which you read me the other day? It does me so much good to see how He has loved me, such a miserable sinner."
There was a calm and solemnity in her words which struck me singularly, as well as all those who were there.
After I had finished reading, she exclaimed, "He has loved me so much that He died for my sins!" And she shut her eyes as if to meditate in silence, but there was a stream of big tears rolling down her cheeks.
I knelt down by her bed, with her family, to pray; but I could not utter a single word. The idea that this dear child was there, dying from the cruel fanaticism of my theologians and my own cowardice in obeying them, was a millstone to my neck. It was killing me.
Oh! if by dying a thousand times, I could have added a single day to her life, with what pleasure I would have accepted those thousand deaths!
After we had silently prayed and wept by her bedside, she requested her mother to leave her alone with me.
When I saw myself alone, under the irresistible impression that this was her last day, I fell on my knees again, and with tears of the most sincere compassion for her soul, I requested her to shake off her shame and obey our holy church, which requires every one to confess their sins if they want to be forgiven.
She calmly, but with an air of dignity which no human words can express, said, "Is it true that, after the sins of Adam and Eve, God Himself made coats and skins and clothed them, that they might not see each other's nakedness?"
"Yes," I said, "this is what the Holy Scriptures tell us."
"Well, then, how is it possible that our confessors dare to take away from us that holy, divine coat of modesty and self-respect? Has not Almighty God Himself made, with His own hands, that coat of womanly modesty and self-respect that we might not be to you and to ourselves a cause of shame and sin?"
I was really stunned by the beauty, simplicity, and sublimity of that comparison. I remained absolutely mute and confounded. Though it was demolishing all the traditions and doctrines of my church, and pulverizing all my holy doctors and theologians, that noble answer found such an echo in my soul, that it seemed to me a sacrilege to try to touch it with my finger.
After a short time of silence, she continued, "Twice I have been destroyed by priests in the confessional. They took away from me that divine coat of modesty and self-respect which God gives to every human being who comes to this world, and twice I have become for those very priests a deep pit of perdition, into which they have fallen, and where I fear they are for ever lost! My merciful heavenly Father has given me back that coat of skins, that nuptial robe of modesty, self-respect, and holiness which had been taken away from me. He cannot allow you or any other man to tear again and spoil that vestment which is the work of His hands."
These words had exhausted her; it was evident to me that she wanted some rest. I left her alone, but I was absolutely beside myself. Filled with admiration for the sublime lessons which I had received from the lips of that regenerated daughter of eve, who, it was evident, my theologians shall I say it? yes, I felt in that solemn hour a supreme disgust for my church, which was cruelly defiling me and all her priests, in the confessional-box. I felt, in that hour, a supreme horror for that auricular confession, which is so often a pit of perdition and supreme misery for the confessor and penitent. I went out and walked two hours on the Plains of Abraham, to breathe the pure and refreshing air of the mountains. There, alone, I sat on a stone, on the very spot were Wolff and Montcalm fought and died; and I wept to my heart's content on my irreparable degradation, and the degradation of so many priests through the confessional.
At four o'clock in the afternoon I went back again to the house of dear dying Mary. The mother took me apart, and very politely said, "My dear Mr. Chiniquy, do you not think it is time that our dear child should receive the last sacraments? She seemed to be much better this morning, and we were full of hope; but she is now rapidly sinking. Please lose no time in giving her the holy viaticum and the extreme unction."
I said, "Yes, madam; let me pass a few minutes alone with our dear child, that I may prepare for the last sacraments."
When alone with her, I again fell on my knees, and, amidst torrents of tears, I said, "Dear sister, it is my desire to give you the holy viaticum and the extreme unction: but tell me, how can I dare to do a thing so solemn against all the prohibitions of our holy church? How can I give you the holy communion without first giving you absolution? and how can I give you absolution when you earnestly persist in telling me that you have so many sins which you will never declare to me or any other confessor?
"You know that I cherish and respect you as if you were an angel sent to me from heaven. You told me, the other day, that you blessed the day that you first saw and knew me. I say the same thing. I bless the day that I have known you; I bless every hour that I have spent by your bed of suffering; I bless every tear which I have shed with you on your sins and on my own; I bless every hour we have passed together in looking to the wounds of our beloved, dying Saviour; I bless you for having forgiven me your death! for I know it, and I confess it in the presence of God, I have killed you, dear sister. But now I prefer a thousand times to die than to say to you a word which would pain you in any way, or trouble the peace of your soul. Please, my dear sister, tell me what I can and must do for you in this solemn hour."
Calmly, and with a smile of joy such as I had never seen before, nor seen since, she said, "I thank and bless you, dear father, for the parable of the Prodigal Son, on which you preached a month ago. You have brought me to the feet of the dear Saviour; there I have found a peace and a joy surpassing anything that human heart can feel; I have thrown myself into the arms of my Heavenly Father, and I know He has mercifully accepted and forgiven His poor prodigal child! Oh, I see the angels with their golden harps around the throne of the Lamb! Do you not hear the celestial harmony of their songs? I go I go to join them in my Father's house. I SHALL NOT BE LOST!"
While she was thus speaking to me, my eyes were really turned into two fountains of tears; I was unable, as well as unwilling, to see anything, so entirely overcome was I by the sublime words which were flowing from the dying lips of that dear child, who was no more a sinner; but a real angel of Heaven to me. I was listening to her words; there was a celestial music in every one of them. But she had raised her voice in such a strange way, when she had begun to say, "I go to my Father's house," and she had made such a cry of joy when she had to let the last words, "not be lost," escape her lips, that I raised my head and opened my eyes to look at her. I suspected that something strange had occurred.
I got upon my feet, passed my handkerchief over my face to wipe away the tears which were preventing me from seeing with accuracy, and looked at her.
Her hands were crossed on her breast, and there was on her face the expression of a really superhuman joy; her beautiful eyes were fixed as if they were looking on some grand and sublime spectacle; it seemed to me, at first, that she was praying.
In that very instant the mother rushed into the room, crying, "My God! my God! what does that cry 'lost' mean?" For her last words, "not be lost," particularly the last one, had been pronounced with such a powerful voice, that they had been heard almost everywhere in the house.
I made a sign with my hand to prevent the distressed mother from making any noise and troubling her dying child in her prayer, for I really thought that she had stopped speaking, as she used so often to do, when alone with me, in order to pray. But I was mistaken. The redeemed soul had gone, on the golden wings of love, to join the multitude of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, to sing the eternal Alleluia.
The revelation of the unmentionable corruptions directly and unavoidably engendered by auricular confession, had come to me from the lips of that young lady, as the first rays of the sun which were to hurl back the dark clouds of night by which Rome had wrapped my intelligence on that subject.
So miserable by her fall and her sins, but so admirable by her conversion, that young lady was standing before me, for the rest of my priestly life, as the bright beacon raised on the solitary rock stands before the sailor whose ship is drifting through the shoals, in a dark and stormy night.
She was brought there by the merciful hand of God, to right my course.
Lost and degraded by auricular confession, only after having given it up, that precious soul was to find peace and life, when washed in the blood of the Lamb, as the only hope and refuge of sinners.
Her words, filled with a superhuman wisdom, and her burning tears, came to me, by the marvelous Providence of God, as the first beams of the Sun of Righteousness, to teach me that auricular confession was a Satanic invention.
Had this young person been the only one to tell me that, I might still have held some doubt about the diabolical origin of that institution. But thousands and thousands, before and after her, have been sent by my merciful God to tell me the same tale, till after twenty-five years of experience it became a certitude to me that that modern invention of Rome must, sooner or later, with a very few exceptions, drag both the confessor and his female penitents into a common and irreparable ruin.*
CHAPTER 55 Back to Table of Contents
On the first of August, 1855, I received the following letter:-
The College, Chicago, July 24th, 1855.
Rev. Mr. Chiniquy,
You will have the goodness to attend a spiritual retreat to be given next month at the college, in Chicago, for the clergy of the diocese of Chicago and Quincy.
The spiritual exercises, which will be conducted by the Rt. Rev. the Bishop of Louisville, are to commence on Tuesday, the 28th of August, and will terminate on the following Sunday. This arrangement will necessitate your absence from your church on Sunday the 14th, after Pentecost, which you will make known to your congregation. No clergyman is allowed to be absent from his retreat without the previous written consent of the bishop of the diocese, which consent will not be given except in cases which he will judge to be of urgent necessity.
By order of Rt. Rev. Bishop,
Wishing to study the personnel of that Irish clergy of which Bishop Vandeveld had told such frightful things, I went to St. Mary's University, two hours ahead of time.
Never did I see such a band of jolly fellows. Their dissipation and laughter. Their exchange of witty, and too often, unbecoming expressions, the tremendous noise they made in addressing each other, at a distance: Their "Hello, Patrick!" "hello, Murphy!" "hello, O'Brien! how do you do? How is Bridget? Is Marguerite still with you?" The answers: "Yes! yes! She will not leave me;" or "No! no! the crazy girl is gone," were invariably followed by outbursts of laughter.
Though nine-tenths of them were evidently under the influence of intoxicating drinks, not one could be said to be drunk. But the strong odour of alcohol, mixed with the smoke of cigars, soon poisoned the air and made it suffocating.
I had withdrawn in a corner, alone, in order to observe everything.
What stranger, in entering that large hall, would have suspected that those men were about to begin one of the most solemn and sacred actions of a priest! With the exception of five or six, they looked more like a band of carousing raftsmen than priests.
About an hour before the opening of the exercises, I saw one of the priests with hat in hand, accompanied by two of the fattest and most florid of the band, going to every one, collecting money and with the utmost hilarity and pleasure, each one threw his bank bills into the hat. I supposed that this collection was intended to pay for our board, during the retreat, and I prepared the fifteen dollars I wanted to give. When they came near me the big hat was literally filled with five and ten dollar bills. Before handing my money to them, I asked: "What is the object of that collection?"
"Ah! ah!" they answered with a hearty laugh. "Dear Father Chiniquy, is it possible that you do not know it yet? Don't you know that, when we are so crowded as we will be here, this week the rooms are apt to become too warm, and we get thirsty? Then a little drop to cool the throat and quench the thirst, is needed," and the collectors laughed outright.
I answered politely, but seriously: "Gentlemen, I came here to meditate and pray; and when I am thirsty, the fresh and pure water of Lake Michigan will quench my thirst. I have given up, long ago, the use of intoxicating drinks. Please excuse me, I am a teetotaler."
"So we are!" they answered, with a laugh; "we have all taken the pledge from Father Mathew; but this does not prevent us from taking a little drop to quench our thirst and keep up our health. Father Mathew is not so merciless as you are."
"I know Father Mathew well," I answered. "I have written to him and seen him many times. Allow me to tell you that we are of the same mind about the use of intoxicating drink."
"Is it possible! you know Father Mathew! and you are exchanging letters with him! What a holy man he is, and what good he has done in Ireland, and everywhere!" they answered.
"But the good he has done will not last long," I said, "if all his disciples keep their pledges as you do."
As we were talking, a good number of priests came around us to hear what was said; for it was evident to all that the bark of their collectors, not only had come to shallow waters, but had struck on a rock.
One of the priests said: "I thought we were to be preached to by Bishop Spaulding. I had no idea that it was Father Chiniquy who had that charge."
"Gentlemen," I answered, "I have as much right to preach to you in favour of temperance as you have to preach to me in favour of intemperance. You may do as you please about the use of strong drink, during the retreat; but I hope I also may have the right to think and do as I please in that matter."
"Of course," they all answered, "but you are the only one who will not give us a cent to get a little drop."
"So much the worse for you all, gentlemen, if I am the only one. But please excuse me, I cannot give you a cent for that object."
They then left me, saying something which I could not understand, but they were evidently disgusted with what they considered my stubbornness and want of good manners.
I must, however, say here, that two of them, Mr. Dunn, pastor of one of the best congregations of Chicago, and the other unknown to me, came to congratulate me on the stern rebuke I had given the collectors.
"I regret," said Mr. Dunn, "the five dollars I have thrown into the hat. If I had spoken to you before, and had known that you would be brave enough to rebuke them, I would have stood by you, and kept my money for better use. It is really a shame that we should be preparing ourselves for a retreat by wasting five hundred dollars for such a shameful object. They have just told me that they have raised that sum for the champagne, brandy, whisky and beer they will drink this week. Ah! what a disgrace! What a cry of indignation would be raised against us, if such a shameful thing should be known! I am sorry about the unkind words those priests have spoken to you; but you must excuse them, they are already full of bad whisky.
"Do not think, however, that you are friendless, here, in our midst. You have more friends than you think among the Irish priests; and I am one of them, though you do not know me. Bishop Vandeveld has often spoken to me of your grand colonization work among the French."
Mr. Dunn, then, pressed my hand in his, and taking me a short distance from the others, said: "Consider me, hereafter, as your friend: you have won my confidence by the fearless way in which you have just spoken, and the common sense of your arguments. You have lost a true friend in Bishop Vandeveld. I fear that our present bishop will not do you justice. Lebel and Carthuval have prejudiced him against you. But I will stand by you, if you are ever unjustly dealt with, as I fear you will, by the present administration of the diocese. I fear we are on the eve of great evils. The scandalous suit which Bishop O'Regan has brought against his predecessor is a disgrace. If he has gained fifty thousand dollars by it, he has for ever lost the respect and confidence of all his priests and diocesans.
"After the mild and paternal ruling of Bishop Vandeveld, neither the priests nor the people of Illinois will long bear the iron chains which the present bishop has in store for us all."
I thanked Mr. Dunn for his kind words, and told him that I had already tasted the paternal love of my bishop by being twice dragged by Spink before the criminal courts for having refused to live on good terms with the two most demoralized priests I have ever known. He, then, speaking with a more subdued voice, said: "I must tell you, confidentially, that one of those priests, Lebel, will be turned out ignominiously from the diocese during the retreat. Last week, a new fact, which surpasses all his other abominations, has been revealed and proved to the bishop, for which he will be interdicted."
At that moment, the bell called us to the chapel to hear the regulations of the bishop in reference to the retreat, after which we sang the matins. At 8 p.m. we had our first sermon by Bishop Spaulding, from Kentucky. He was fat fine-looking man, a giant in stature, and a good speaker. But the way in which he treated his subject, though very clever, left, in my mind, the impression that he did not believe a word of what he said. At certain times, there was much fire in his elocution, but it was a fire of straw. He delivered two sermons each day; and the Rev. Mr. Vanhulest, a Jesuit, gave us two meditations, each of them lasting from forty to fifty minutes. The rest of the time was spent in reading aloud the life of a saint, reciting the breviarum, examination of conscience, and going to confession. We had half-an-hour for meals, followed by one hour of recreation. Thus were the days spent. But the nights! the nights! what shall I say of them? What pen can describe the orgies I witnessed during those dark nights! and who can believe what I shall have to say about them! though I will not and cannot say the half of what I have seen and heard!
I got from the Rev. Mr. Dunn, then one of the bishop's counselors, and soon after Vicar General, the statement that the sum of five hundred dollars was expended in intoxicating drinks during the six days of the retreat. I ought to say during the five nights. My pen refuses to write what my eyes saw and my ears heard during the long hours of those nights, which I cannot forget though I should live a thousand years.
The drinking used to begin about nine o'clock, as soon as the lights were put out. Some were handing the bottles from bed to bed, while others were carrying them to those at a distance, at first, with the least noise possible; but half-an-hour had not elapsed before the alcohol was beginning to unloose the tongues, and upset the brain. Then the bons mots, the witty stories, at first, were soon followed by the most indecent and shameful recitals. Then the songs, followed by the barking of dogs, the croaking of frogs, the howling of wolves. In a word, the cries of all kinds of beasts, often mixed with the most lascivious songs, the most infamous anecdotes flying from bed to bed, from room to room, till one or two o'clock in the morning.
One night, three priests were taken with delirium tremens, almost at the same time. One cried out that he had a dozen rattle-snakes at his shirt; the second was fighting against thousands of bats, which were trying to tear his eyes from their sockets; and the third, with a stick, was repulsing millions of spiders, which, he said, were as big as wild turkeys, all at work to devour him. The cries and lamentations of those three priests were really pitiful! To those cries add the lamentations of some dozens of them whose overload stomachs were ejecting in the beds and all around, the enormous quantity of drink they had swallowed! The third day, I was so disgusted and indignant, that I determined to leave, without noise, under the pretest that I was sick. It was not a false pretext; for I was really sick. There was no possibility of sleeping before two or three o'clock. Besides, the stench in the dormitories was horrible.
There was, however, another thing which was still more overwhelming me. It was the terrible moral struggle in my soul from morning till night, and from night till morning, when the voice of my conscience, which I had to take for the voice of Satan, was crying in my ears: "Do you not clearly see that your church is the devil's church that those priests, instead of being the Lamb's priests, are the successors of the old Bacchus priests? Read your Bible a little more attentively, and see if this is not the reign of that great harlot, which is defiling the world with her abominations? How can you remain in such a church? how long will you remain in this sea of Sodom? Come out! come out of Babylon, if you do not want to perish with her! Can the tree which bears such fruits be the tree of life? Can the priests who surround you, be the priests, the ambassadors of the Saviour? Can the Son of God come down every morning in body, in soul, and divinity, into the hands and stomach of such men? Can the nations be led into the ways of God by them? Are you not guilty of an unpardonable crime when you are planting, with your own hands, over this magnificent country, a tree bearing such fruits? How dare you meet your God, after you have so deceived yourself and the people as to believe and say that these are the representatives, the leaders, the priests of the church out of which there is no salvation!"
Oh! what an awful thing it is to resist the voice of God! To take Him for the evil one, when, by His warnings, He seeks to save your soul! Although the horrible scandal I had seen distressed me more than human words can tell, those mental conflicts were still more distressing. Fearing lest I should entirely lose my faith in my religion, and become an absolute infidel, by remaining any longer in the midst of such profligacy, I determined to leave; but before doing so, I wanted to consult a new friend whom the providence of God had given me in Mr. Dunn. It seemed the unbearable burden which was on my shoulders would become lighter, by sharing it with such a sympathetic brother priest.
I went to him, after dinner, and taking him apart, I told him all about the orgies of last night, and asked his advice on my determination not to continue that retreat, which was evidently nothing else than a blind, and a sacrilegious comedy, to deceive the world.
He answered: "You teach me nothing, for I spent last night in the same dormitory were you were. One of the priests told me all about those orgies, yesterday; I could hardly believe what he said, and I determined to see and hear for myself what was going on. You do not exaggerate, you do not even mention half of the horrors of last night. It baffles any description. It is simply incredible for any one who has not himself witnessed them. However, I do not advise you to leave. It would for ever ruin you in the mind of the bishop, who is not already too well disposed in your favour. The best thing you can do is to go and say everything to Bishop Spaulding. I have done it this morning; but I felt that he did not believe the half of what I told him. When the same testimony comes from you, then he will believe it, and will probably take some measures, with our own bishop, to put an end to those horrors. I have something to tell you, confidentially, which surpasses, in a measure, anything you know of the abominations of these last three nights.
"A respectable policeman, who belongs to my congregation, came to me this morning, to tell me that the first night, six prostitutes, dressed as gentlemen, and last night twelve came to the University, after dark, entered the dormitory, and went, directed by signals, to those who had invited them, each being provided with the necessary key. I have just reported the thing to Bishop O'Regan; but instead of paying any attention to what I said, he became furious against me, and nearly turned me out of his room, saying, 'Do you think that I am going to come down from my dignity of bishop to hear the reports of degraded policemen, or of vile spies? Shall I become the spies of my priests? If they want to damn themselves, there is no help, let them go to hell! I am not more obliged or able than God Himself to stop them! Does God stop them? Does He punish them? No! Well! you cannot expect from me more zeal and power than in our common God!'
"With these fine words ringing in my ears," said good Mr. Dunn, "I had to leave his room at the double quick. It is of no use for us to speak to Bishop O'Regan on that matter. It will do no good. He wants to get a large subscription from those priests, at the end of the retreat, and he is rather inclined to pet than punish them, till he obtains the hundred thousand dollars he wants to build his white marble palace on the lake shore."
I replied: "Though you add to my desolation, instead of diminishing it, by what you say of the strange principles of our bishop, I will speak to my lord Spaulding as you advise me." Without a moment's delay, I went to his room. He received me very kindly, and did not at all seem surprised at what I said. It was as if he had been accustomed to see the same, or still worse abominations. However, when I told him the enormous quantity of liquor drank, and that the retreat would be only a ridiculous comedy, if no attempt at reform was tried, he agreed with me; "but it would be advisable to try it," he said. "Though this is not in our programme, we might give one or two sermons on the necessity of priests giving an example of temperance to their people. Will you please come with me to the room of my lord O'Regan, that we may confer on the matter, after you have told him what is going on?"
Although the Bishop of Chicago seemed puzzled at seeing me entering his room with my lord Spaulding, he was as polite as possible. He listened with more attention than I expected to the narrative I gave of what was going on among the priests. After telling him my sad story, Bishop Spaulding said: "My lord of Chicago, these facts are very grave, and there cannot be any doubt about the truth of what we have just heard. Two other gentlemen gave me the same testimony this morning."
"Yes!" said Bishop O'Regan, "it is very sad to see that our priests have so little self-respect, even during such solemn days as those of a public retreat. The Rev. Mr. Dunn has just told me the same sad story as Father Chiniquy. But what remedy can we find for such a state of things? Perhaps it might do well to give them a good sermon on temperance. Mr. Chiniquy, I am told that you are called 'the temperance apostle of Canada,' and that you are a powerful speaker on that subject; would you not like to give them one or two addresses on the injury they are doing to themselves and to our holy church, by their drunkenness?"
"If those priests could understand me in French," I replied, "I would accept the honour you offer me with pleasure; but to be understood by them, I would have to speak in English; and I am not sufficiently free in that language to attempt it. My broken English would only bring ridicule upon the holy cause of temperance. But my lord Spaulding has already preached on that subject in Kentucky, and an address from his lordship would be listened to with more attention and benefit from him than from me."
It was then agreed that he should change his programme, and give two addresses on temperance, which he did. But though these addresses were really eloquent, they were pearls thrown before swine. The drunken priests slept, as usual; and even snored, almost through the whole length of the delivery. It is true that we could notice a little improvement, and less noise the following nights; the change, however, was very little.
The fourth day of the retreat, the Rev. Mr. Lebel came to me with his bag in hand. He looked furious. He said: "Now, you must be satisfied, I am interdicted and turned out ignominiously from this diocese. It is your work! But mind what I tell you: you will, also, soon be turned out from your colony by the mitred tyrant who has just struck me down. He told me, several times, that he would, at any cost, break your plant of French colonization, by sending you to the south-west of Illinois, along the Mississippi, to an old French settlement, opposite St. Louis. He is enraged against you, for your refusing to give him your fine property at St. Anne."
I answered him: "You are mistaken when you think that I am the author of your misfortunes. You have disgraced yourself by your own acts. God has given you talents and qualities which, if cultivated, would have exalted you in the church, but you have preferred to destroy those great gifts, in order to follow the evil inclinations of your poor degraded human nature; you reap today what you have sown. Nobody is more sorry than I am for your misfortune, and my most sincere wish is that the past may be a lesson to guide your steps in the future. The desire of the bishop to turn me out of my colony does not trouble me. If it is the will of God to keep me at the head of that great work, the bishop of Chicago will go down from his episcopal throne before I go down the beautiful hill of St. Anne. Adieu!" He soon disappeared. But how the fall of this priest, whom I had so sincerely loved, saddened me!
The next Sabbath was the last day of the retreat. All the priests went in procession to the cathedral, to receive the holy communion, and every one of them ate, what we had to believe was the true body, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. This, however, did not prevent thirteen of them from spending the greater part of the next night in calabooses, to which they had been taken by the police, from houses of ill-fame, where they were rioting and fighting. The next morning they were discharged from the hands of the police by paying pretty round sums of money for the trouble of the night!
The next day, I went to Mr. Dunn's parsonage to ask him if he could give me any explanation of the rumour which was afloat, and to which Mr. Lebel had made allusion, that it was the intention of the bishop to remove me from my colony to some distant part of his diocese.
"It is unfortunately too true," said he. "Bishop O'Regan thinks that he has a mission from heaven to undo all his predecessor has done, and as a one of the best and grandest schemes of Bishop Vandeveld was to secure the possession of this magnificent State of Illinois to our church, by inducing all the Roman Catholic emigrants from France, Belgium and Canada, to settle here, our present bishop does not conceal that he will oppose that plan by removing you to such a distance, that your colonization plans will be at an end. He says that the French are, as a general thing, rebels and disobedient to their bishops. He prefers seeing the Irish coming, on account of their proverbial docility to their ecclesiastical superiors. I have, in vain, tried to change his mind. I told you before that he often asks my opinion on what I think the best thing to be done for the good of the diocese. But do not think that he intends to follow my advice; it is just the contrary. My impression now is, that he wants to know our views, only for the pleasure of acting diametrically in opposition to what we advise."
I must not omit to say that we have been requested to spend the forenoon of Monday in the University, for an important affair which the bishop had to propose to his clergy. We were all there, in the great hall, at the appointed hour. Even the thirteen priests who had spent the best part of the night at the police station, heard the voice of their bishop, and hey were there, as docile lambs.
We knew beforehand the proposition which was to be put before us. It was to build a palace for our bishop, worthy of the great Illinois State, the cost of which would be about one hundred thousand dollars.
Though every one of us felt that this was most extravagant in such a young and poor diocese, nobody dared to raise his voice against that act of pride and supreme folly. Every one promised to do all in his power to raise that sum, and to show our good-will, we raised among ourselves, at once, seven thousand dollars, which we gave in cash or in promissory notes. After this act of liberality, we were blessed and dismissed by our bishop. I was but a few steps from the University, when an Irish priest, unknown to me, ran after me to say, "My lord O'Regan wants to see you immediately." And, five minutes later, I was alone with my bishop, who, without any preface, told me, "Mr. Chiniquy, I hear very strange and damaging things about you, form every quarter. But the worst of all is that you are a secret Protestant emissary; that, instead of preaching the true doctrines of our holy church, about the immaculate conception, purgatory, the respect and obedience due to their superiors by the people, auricular confession, ect., ect., you spend a part of your time in distributing Bibles and New Testaments among your immigrants; I want to know from your own lips, if this be true or not."
I answered, "A part of what the people told you about the matter is not true, the other is true. It is not true that I neglect the preaching of the doctrines of our holy church, about purgatory, immaculate conception of Mary, auricular confession, or the respect due to our superiors. But it is true that I do distribute the Holy Bible and the Gospel of Christ, among my people."
"And instead of blushing at such unpriestly conduct, you seem to be proud of it," angrily replied the bishop.
"I do not understand, my lord, why a priest of Christ could blush for distributing the Word of God among his people; as I am bound to preach that Holy Word, it is not only my right but my duty to give it to them. I am fully persuaded that there is no preaching so efficacious and powerful as the preaching of our God Himself, when speaking to us in His Holy Book."
"This is sheer Protestantism, Mr. Chiniquy, this is sheer Protestantism," he answered me angrily.
"My dear bishop," I answered calmly, "if to give the Bible to the people and invite them to read and meditate on it is Protestantism, our holy Pope Pius VI. was a good Protestant, for in his letter to Martini, which is probably in the first pages of the beautiful Bible I see on your lordship's table, he not only blesses him for having translated that Holy Book into Italian, but invites the people to read it."
The bishop, assuming an air of supreme contempt, replied: "Your answer shows your complete ignorance on the subject on which you speak so boldly. If you were a little better informed on that grave subject, you would know that the translation by Martini, which the Pope advise the Italian people to read, formed a work of twenty-three big volumes in folio, which, of course, nobody, except very rich and idle people could read. Not one in ten thousand Italians have the means of purchasing such a voluminous work; and not one in twenty thousand have the time or the will to pursue such a mass of endless commentaries. The Pope would never have given such an advice to read a Bible, as the one you distribute so imprudently."
"Then, my lord, do you positively tell me that the Pope gave permission to read Martini's translation, because he knew that the people could never get it on account of its enormous size and price, and do you assure me that he would never have given such advice, had the same people been able to purchase and read that holy work."
"Yes, sir! It is what I mean," answered the bishop, with an air of triumph, "for I know positively that this is the fact."
I replied, calmly: "I hope your lordship is unwillingly mistaken; for if you were correct, the stern and unflinching principles of logic would force me to think and say that that Pope and all his followers were deceivers, and that encyclical a public fraud in his own hands; for we Catholic priests make use of it, all over the world, and reprint it at the head of our own Bibles, to make the people, both Protestants and Catholics believe that we approve of their reading our own versions of that Holy Book."
Had I thrown a spark of fire in a keg of powder, the explosion would not have been more prompt and terrible than the rage of that prelate. Pointing his finger to my face, he said: "Now, I see the truth of what I have been told, that you are a disguised Protestant, since the very day that you were ordained a priest. The Bible! The Bible is your motto! For you the Bible is everything, and the holy church, with her Popes and bishops is nothing! what an insolent, I dare say, what a blasphemous word, I have just heard from you? You dare call an encyclical letter of one of our most holy Popes, a fraud!"
In vain, I tried to explain, he would not listen; and he silenced me by saying: "If our holy church has, in an unfortunate day, appointed you one of her priests in my diocese, it was to preach the doctrines, and not to distribute the Bible! If you forget that, I will make you remember it!" And with that threat on my head as a Damocles' sword, I had to take the door which he had opened, without any au revoir. Thanks be to God, this first persecution and these outrages I received for my dear Bible's sake, did not diminish my love, my respect for God's Holy Word, nor my confidence in it. On the contrary, on reaching home, I took it, fell on my knees, and pressing it to my heart, I asked my heavenly Father to grant me the favour to love it more sincerely, and follow its divine teachings with more fidelity till the end of my life.
CHAPTER 56 Back to Table of Contents
A month had scarcely elapsed since the ecclesiastical retreat, when all the cities of Illinois were filled by the most strange and humiliating clamors against our bishop. From Chicago to Cairo, it would have been difficult to go to a single town without hearing, from the most respectable people, or reading in big letters, in some of the most influential papers, that Bishop O'Regan was a thief or a simoniac, a perjurer, or even something worse. The bitterest complaints were crossing each other over the breadth and length of Illinois, from almost every congregation: "He has stolen the beautiful and costly vestments we bought for our church," cried the French Canadians of Chicago. "He has swindled us out of a fine lot given us to build our church, sold it for 40,000 dollars, and pocketed the money, for his own private use, without giving us any notice," said the Germans. "His thirst for money is so great," said the whole Catholic people of Illinois, "that he is selling even the bones of the dead to fill his treasures!"
I had not forgotten the bold attempt of the bishop to wrench my little property from my hands, at his first visit to my colony. The highway thief, who puts his dagger at the breast of the traveler, threatening to take away his life if he does not give him his purse, does not appear more infamous to his victim than that bishop appeared to me that day. But my hope then was, that this act was an isolated and exceptional case in the life of my superior; and I did not whisper a word of it to anybody. I began to think differently, however, when I saw the numerous articles in the principal papers of the State, signed by the most respectable names, accusing him of theft, simony, and lies. My hope, at first, was that there were many exaggerations in those reports. But as they came thicker day after day, I thought my duty was to go to Chicago and see for myself to what extent those rumours were true. I went directly to the French Canadian church; and to my unspeakable dismay, I found that it was too true that the bishop had stolen the fine church vestments, which my countrymen had bought for their own priest for grand festivals, and he had transferred them to the cathedral of St. Mary for his own personal use. The indignation of my poor countrymen knew no bounds. It was really deplorable to hear with what supreme disgust and want of respect they were speaking of their bishop. Unfortunately, the Germans and Irish people were still ahead of them in their unguarded, disrespectful denunciations. Several spoke of prosecuting him before the civil courts, to force him to disgorge what he had stolen; and it was with the greatest difficulty that I succeeded in preventing some of them from mobbing and insulting him publicly in the streets, or even in his own palace. The only way I could find to appease them was to promise them that I would speak to his lordship, and tell him that it was the desire of my countrymen to have those vestments restored to them.
The second thing I did was to go to the cemetery, and see for myself to what extent it was true or not that our bishop was selling the very bones of his diocesans, in order to make money. On my way to the Roman Catholic graveyard, I met a great many cart loads of sand, which, I was told by the carters, had been taken from the cemetery; but I did not like to stop them till I was at the very door of the consecrated spot. There I found three carters, who were just leaving the grounds. I asked and obtained from them the permission to search the sand which they carried, to see if there were not some bones. I could not find any in the first cart; and my hope was that it would be the same in the two others. But, to my horror and shame, I found the lower jaw of a child in the second, and part of the bones of an arm, and almost the whole foot of a human being, in the third cart! I politely requested the carters to show me the very place where they had dug that sand, and they complied with my prayer. To my unspeakable regret and shame, I found that the bishop had told an unmitigated falsehood when, to appease the public indignation against his sacrilegious trade, he had published that he was selling only the sand which was outside of the fence, on the very border of the lake.
It is true that, to make his case good, he had ordered the old fence to be taken away, in order to make a new one, many feet inside the old one. But this miserable and shameful subterfuge rendered his crime still greater than it had at first appeared. What added to the gravity of that public iniquity, is that the Bishop of Chicago had received that piece of land from the city, for a burial ground, only after he had taken a solemn oath to use it only for buying the dead. Every load of that ground sold then, was not only an act of simony, but the breaking of a solemn oath! No words can express the shame I felt, after convincing myself of the correctness of what the press of Chicago, and of the whole State of Illinois had published against our bishop, about this sacrilegious traffic.
Slowly retracing my steps to the city from the cemetery, I went directly to the bishop, to fulfill the promise I had made to the French Canadians, to try to obtain the restoration of their fine vestments. But I was not long with him without seeing that I would gain nothing but his implacable enmity in pleading the cause of my poor countrymen. However, I thought my duty was to do all in my power to open the eyes of my bishop to the pit he was digging for himself and for all us Catholics, by his conduct. "My lord," I said, "I shall not surprise your lordship, when I tell you that all the true Catholics of Illinois are filled with sorrow by the articles they find, every day, in the press, against their bishop."
"Yes! yes!" he abruptly replied, "the good Catholics must be sad indeed to read such disgusting diatribes against their superior; and I presume that you are one of those that are sorry. But, then, why do you not prevent your insolent and infidel countrymen from writing those things! I see that a great part of those libels are signed by the French Canadians."
I answered, "It is to try, as much as it is in my power, to put an end to those scandals that I am in Chicago, today, my lord."
"Very well, very well," he replied, "as you have the reputation of having a great influence over your countrymen, make use of it to stop them in their rebellious conduct against me, and I will, then, believe that you are a good priest."
I answered, "I hope that I will succeed in what your lordship wants me to do. But there are two things to be done, in order to secure my success."
"What are they?" quickly asked the bishop.
"The first is, that your lordship give back the fine church vestments which you have taken from the French Canadian congregation of Chicago.
"The second is, that your lordship abstain, absolutely, from this day, to sell the sand of the burying ground, which covers the tombs of the dead."
Without answering a word, the bishop struck his fist violently upon the table, and crossed the room at a quick step, two or three times; then turning towards me, and pointing his finger to my face, he exclaimed in an indescribable accent of rage:
"Now, I see the truth of what Mr. Spink told me! you are not only my bitterest enemy, but you are the head of my enemies. You take sides with them against me. You approve of their libelous writings against me! I will never give back those church vestments. They are mine, as the French Canadian church is mine! Do you not know that the ground on which the churches are built, as well as the churches themselves, and all that belongs to the church, belongs to the bishop? Was it not a burning shame to use those fine vestments in a poor miserable church of Chicago, when the bishop of that important city was covered with rags! It was in the interest of the episcopal dignity, that I ordered those rich and splendid vestments, which were mine by law, to be transferred from that small and insignificant congregation, to my cathedral of St. Mary, and if you had an ounce of respect for your bishop, Mr. Chiniquy, you would immediately go to your countrymen and put a stop to their murmurs and slanders against me, by simply telling them that I have taken what was mine from that church, which is mine also, to the cathedral, which is altogether mine. Tell your countrymen to hold their tongues, and respect their bishop, when he is in the right, as I am today."
I had, many times, considered the infamy and injustice of the law which the bishops have had passed all over the United States, making every one of them a corporation, with the right of possessing personally all the church properties of the Roman Catholics. But I had never understood the infamy and tyranny of that law so clearly as in that hour. It is impossible to describe with ink and paper the air of pride and contempt with which the bishop really in substance, if not in words, told me: "All those things are mine. I do what I please with them, you must be mute and silent when I take them away from you. It is against God Himself that you rebel when you refuse me the right of dispossessing you of all those properties which you have purchased with your own money, and which have not cost me a cent!" In that moment I felt that the law which makes every bishop the only master and proprietor of all the religious goods, houses, churches, lands and money of their people as Catholics, is simply diabolical: and that the church which sanctions such a law, is antichristian. Though it was at the risk and peril of everything dear to me, that I should openly protest against that unjust law, there was no help; I felt constrained to do so with all the energy I possessed.
I answered: "My lord, I confess that this is the law in the United States; but this is a human law, directly opposed to the Gospel. I do not find a single word in the Gospel which gives this power to the bishop. Such a power is an abusive, not a divine power, which will sooner or later destroy our holy church in the United States, as it has already mortally wounded her in Great Britain, in France and in many other places. When Christ said, in the Holy Gospel, that He has not enough of ground whereon to lay His head, He condemned, in advance, the pretensions of the bishops who lay their hands on our church properties as their own. Such a claim is an usurpation and not a right, my lord. Our Saviour Jesus Christ protested against that usurpation, when asked by a young man to meddle in his temporal affairs with his brothers; He answered that 'He had not received such power.' The Gospel is a long protest against that usurpation, in every page, it tells us that the kingdom of Christ is not of this world. I have myself given fifty dollars to help my countrymen to buy those church vestments. They belong to them and not to you!"
My words, uttered with an expression of firmness which the bishop had never yet seen in any of his priests, fell upon him, at first, as a thunderbolt. They so puzzled him, that he looked at me, a moment, as if he wanted to see if it were a dream or a reality, that one of his priests had the audacity to use such language, in his presence. But! soon, recovering from his stupor, he interrupted me by striking his fist again on the table, and saying in anger: "You are half a Protestant! Your words smell of Protestantism! The Gospel! the Gospel! that is your great tower of strength against the laws and regulations of our holy church! If you think, Mr. Chiniquy, that you will frighten me with your big words of the Gospel, you will soon see your mistake, at your own expense. I will make you remember that it is the Church you must obey, and it is through your bishop that the church rules you!"
"My lord," I answered, "I want to obey the church. Yes! but it is a church founded on the Gospel; a church that respects and follows the Gospel, that I want to obey!"
These words threw him into a fit of rage, and he answered: "I am too busy to hear your impertinent babblings any longer. Please let me alone, and remember that you will soon hear from me again if you cannot teach your people to respect and obey their superiors!" The bishop kept his promise. I heard of him very soon after, when his agent, Peter Spink, dragged me, again a prisoner, before the Criminal Court of Kankakee, accusing me falsely of crimes which his malice alone could have invented. My lord O'Regan had determined to interdict me; but, not being able to find any cause in my private or public life as a priest to found such a sentence, he had pressed that land speculator, Spink, to prosecute me again; promising to base his interdict on the condemnation which, he had been told, would be passed against me by the Criminal Court of Kankakee. But the bishop and Peter Spink were again to be disappointed; for the verdict of the court, given on the 13th of November, 1855, was again in my favour.
My heart filled with joy at this new and great victory my God had given me against my merciless persecutors. I was blessing Him, when my two lawyers, Messrs. Osgood and Paddock, came to me and said: "Our victory, though great, is not so decisive as was expected; for Mr. Spink has just taken an oath that he has no confidence in this Kankakee Court, and he has appealed, by a change of venue, to the Court of Urbana, in Champaign County. We are sorry to have to tell you that you must remain a prisoner, under bail, in the hands of the sheriff, who is bound to deliver you to the sheriff of Urbana, the 19th of May, next spring."
I nearly fainted when I heard this. The ignominy of being again in the hands of the sheriff for so long a time; the enormous expenses, far beyond my means, to bring my fifteen to twenty witnesses such a long distance of nearly one hundred miles; the new ocean of insults, false accusations, and perjuries with which my enemies were to overwhelm me again; and the new risk of being condemned, though innocent, at that distant court; all those things crowded themselves in my mind to crush me. For a few minutes I was obliged to sit down; for I would surely have fallen down had I continued to stand on my feet. A kind friend had to bring me some cold water and bathe my forehead, to prevent me from fainting. It seemed that God had forsaken me for the time being, and that He was to let me fall powerless in the hand of my foes. But I was mistaken. That merciful God was near me, in the dark hour, to give me one of the marvellous proofs of His paternal and loving care.
The very moment I was leaving the court with a heavy heart, a gentleman, a stranger, came to me and said: "I have followed your suit from the beginning. It is more formidable than you suspect. Your prosecutor, Spink, is only an instrument in the hands of the bishop. The real prosecutor is the land shark who is at the head of the diocese, and who is destroying our holy religion by his private and public scandals. As you are the only one among his priests who dares to resist him, he is determined to get rid of you: he will spend all his treasures and use the almost irresistible influence of his position to crush you. The misfortune for you is that, when you fight a bishop, you fight all the bishops of the world. They will unite all their wealth and influence to Bishop O'Regan's to silence you, though they hate and despise him. There was no danger of any verdict against you in this part of Illinois, where you are too well known for the perjured witnesses they have brought to influence your judges. But when you are among strangers, mind what I tell you: the false oaths of your enemies may be accepted as gospel truths by the jury, and then, though innocent, you are lost. Though your two lawyers are expert men, you will want something better at Urbana. Try to secure the services of Abraham Lincoln, of Springfield. If that man defends you, you will surely come out victorious from that deadly conflict!"
I answered: "I am much obliged to you for your sympathetic words: but would you please allow me to ask your name?"
"Be kind enough to let me keep my incognito here," he answered. "The only thing I can say is, that I am a Catholic like you, and one who, like you, cannot bear any longer the tyranny of our American bishops. With many others, I took to you as our deliverer, and for that reason I advise you to engage the services of Abraham Lincoln."
"But," I replied, "who is that Abraham Lincoln? I never heard of that man before."
He replied: "Abraham Lincoln is the best lawyer and the most honest man we have in Illinois."
I went immediately, with that stranger, to my two lawyers, who were in consultation only a few steps from us, and asked them if they would have any objection that I should ask the services of Abraham Lincoln, to help them to defend me at Urbana.
They both answered: "Oh! if you can secure the services of Abraham Lincoln, by all means do it. We know him well; he is one of the best lawyers, and one of the most honest men we have in our State."
Without losing a minute, I went to the telegraph office with that stranger, and telegraphed to Abraham Lincoln to ask him if he would defend my honour and my life (though I was a stranger to him) at the next May term of the court at Urbana.
About twenty minutes later I received the answer:
"Yes, I will defend your honour and your life at the next May term at Urbana.
My unknown friend then paid the operator, pressed my hand, and said: "May God bless you and help you, Father Chiniquy. Continue to fight fearlessly for truth and righteousness against our mitred tyrants; and God will help you in the end." He then took a train for the north, and soon disappeared, as a vision from heaven. I have not seen him since, though I have not let a day pass without asking my God to bless him. A few minutes later, Spink came to the office to telegraph to Lincoln, asking his services at the next May term of the Court, at Urbana. But it was too late.
Before being dragged to Urbana, I had to renew, at Easter, 1856, the oil which is used for the sick, in the ceremony which the Church of Rome calls the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, and in the Baptism of Children. I sent my little silver box to the bishop by a respectable young merchant of my colony, called Dorion. But he brought it back without a drop of oil, with a most abusive letter from the bishop, because I had not sent five dollars to pay for the oil. It was just what I expected. I knew that it was his habit to make his priests pay five dollars for that oil, which was not worth more than two or three cents.
This act of my bishop was one of the many evident cases of simony of which he was guilty every day. I took his letter, with my small silver box, to the Archbishop of St. Louis, my lord Kenrick, before whom I brought my complaints against the Bishop of Chicago, on the 9th April, 1856. That high dignitary told me that many priests of the diocese of Chicago had already brought the same complaints before him, and exposed the infamous conduct of their bishop. He agreed with me that the rapacity of Bishop O'Regan, his thefts, his lies, his acts of simony were public and intolerable, but that he hand no remedy for them, and said: "The only thing I advise you to do is to write to the Pope directly. Prove your charges against that guilty bishop as clearly as possible. I will myself write to corroborate all you have told me; for I know it is true. My hope is that your complaints will attract the attention of the Pope. He will, probably, send some one from Rome to make an enquiry, and then that wicked man will be forced to offer his resignation. If you succeed, as I hope, in your praiseworthy efforts to put an end to such scandals, you will have well deserved the gratitude of the whole church. For that unprincipled dignitary is the cause that our holy religion is not only losing her prestige in the United States, but is becoming an object of contempt wherever those public crimes are known."
I was, however, forced to postpone my writing to the Pope. For, a few days after my return from St. Louis to my colony, I had to deliver myself again into the hands of the Sheriff of Kankakee, who was obliged by Spink to take me prisoner, and deliver me as a criminal into the hands of the Sheriff of Champaign County, on the 19th of May, 1856.
It was then that I met Mr. Abraham Lincoln for the first time. He was a giant in stature; but I found him still more a giant in the noble qualities of his mind and heart. It was impossible to converse five minutes with him without loving him. There was such an expression of kindness and honesty in that face, and such an attractive magnetism in the man, that after a few moments' conversation one felt as tied to him by all noblest affections of the heart. When pressing my hand, he told me: "You were mistaken when you telegraphed that you were unknown to me. I know you, by reputation, as the stern opponent of the tyranny of your bishop, and the fearless protector of your countrymen in Illinois; I have heard much of you from two priests; and, last night, your lawyers, Messrs. Osgood and Paddock have acquainted me with the fact that your bishop is employing some of his tools to get rid of you. I hope it will be an easy thing to defeat his projects, and protect you against his machinations." He then asked me how I had been induced to desire his services. I answered by giving him the story of that unknown friend who had advised me to have Mr. Abraham Lincoln for one of my lawyers, for the reason that "he was the best lawyer and the most honest man in Illinois." He smiled at my answer with that inimitable and unique smile, which we may call the "Lincoln smile," and replied: "That unknown friend would surely have been more correct had he told you that Abraham Lincoln was the ugliest lawyer of the country!" and he laughed outright.
I spent six long days at Urbana as a criminal, in the hands of the sheriff, at the feet of my judges. During the greatest part of that time, all that human language can express of abuse and insult was heaped on my poor head. God only knows what I suffered in those days; but I was providentially surrounded, as by a strong wall. I had Abraham Lincoln for my defense "the best lawyer and the most honest man of Illinois," and the leaned and upright David Davis for my judge. The latter became Vice-president of the United States in 1882; and the former its most honoured President from 1861 to 1865.
I never heard anything like the eloquence of Abraham Lincoln when he demolished the testimonies of the two perjured priests, Lebel and Carthuval, who, with ten or twelve other false witnesses, had sworn against me. I would have surely been declared innocent after that eloquent address and the charge of the learned Judge Davis, had not my lawyers, by a sad blunder, left a Roman Catholic on the jury. Of course, that Irish Roman Catholic wanted to condemn me, when the eleven honest and intelligent Protestants were unanimous in voting "Not guilty." The court, having at last found that it was impossible to persuade the jury to give an unanimous verdict, discharged them. But Spink again forced the sheriff to keep me prisoner, by obtaining from the court the permission to begin the prosecution de novo at the term of the fall, the 19th of October, 1856. Humanly speaking, I would have been one of the most miserable men, had I not had my dear Bible, which I was mediating and studying day and night in those dark days of trial. But tough I was then still in the desolate wilderness, far away yet from the Promised Land, my heavenly Father never forsook me. He many times let the sweet manna fall from heaven to feed my desponding soul, and cheer my fainting heart. More than once, when I was panting with spiritual thirst, He brought me near the Rock, from the side of which the living waters were gushing to refresh and renew my strength and courage.
Though the world did not suspect it, I knew from the beginning, that all my tribulations were coming from my unconquerable attachment an my unfaltering love and respect for the Bible, as the root and source of every truth given by God to man; and I felt assured that my God knew it also; -- that assurance supported my courage in the conflict. Every day my Bible was becoming dearer to me. I was then constantly trying to walk in its marvellous light and divine teaching. I wanted to learn my duties and rights. I like to acknowledge that it was the Bible which gave me the power and wisdom I then so much needed, to face fearlessly so many foes. That power and wisdom I felt were not mine. On this very account my dear Bible enabled me to remain calm in the very lions' den; and it gave me, from the very beginning of that terrible conflict, the assurance of a final victory; for every time I bathed my sould in its Divine light, I heard my merciful heavenly Father's voice, saying, "Fear not, for I am with thee" (Isaiah 43:5).
CHAPTER 57 Back to Table of Contents
The Holy Scriptures say that an abyss* calls for another abyss (abyssus abyussum invocat). That axiom had its accomplishment in the conduct of Bishop O'Regan. When once on the declivity of iniquity, he descended to its lowest depths with more rapidity than a stone thrown into the sea. Not satisfied with the shameful theft of the rich vestments of the French Canadian Church of Chicago, he planned iniquity which was to bring upon him, more than ever, the execration of the Roman Catholics of Illinois. It was nothing less than the complete destruction of the thriving congregations of my French Canadian countrymen of Chicago from his people, as well as my removal from my colony, were determined.
Our churches were at first to be closed, and after some time sold to the Irish people, or to the highest bidder, for their own use. It was in Chicago that this great iniquity was to begin. Not long after Easter, 1856, the Rev. Mons. Lemaire was turned out, interdicted, and ignominiously driven from the diocese of Chicago, without even giving the shadow of a reason, and the French Canadians suddenly found themselves without a pastor. A few days after, the parsonage they had built for their priest in Clark Street was sold for 1,200 dollars to an American. The beautiful little church which they had built on the lot next to the parsonage, at the cost of so many sacrifices, was removed five or six blocks south-west, and rented by the bishop to the Irish Catholics for about 2,000 dollars per annum, and the whole money was pocketed, without even a notice to my countrymen.
Though accustomed to his acts of perfidy, I could not believe at first the rumours which reached me of those transactions! They seemed to be beyond the limits of infamy, and to be impossible. I went to Chicago, hoping to find that the public rumour had exaggerated the evil. But alas! nothing had been exaggerated!
The wolf had dispersed the sheep and destroyed the flock. The once thriving French congregation of Chicago was no more! Wherever I went, I saw tears of distress among my dear countrymen, and heard cries of indignation against the destroyer. Young and old, rich and poor among them, with one voice, denounced and cursed the heartless mitred brigand, who had dared to commit publicly such a series of iniquities, to satisfy his thirst for gold and his hatred of the French Canadians.
They asked me what they should do: but what could I answer! They requested me to go again to him and remonstrate. But I showed them that after my complete failure which I had tried to get back the sacerdotal vestments, there was no hope that he would disgorge the house and the church. The only thing I could advise them was to select five or six of the most influential members of their congregation to go and respectfully ask him by what right he had taken away, not only their priest, but the parsonage and the church they had built, and transferred them to another people. They followed my advice. Messrs. Franchere and Roffinot (who are still living) and six other respectable French Canadians, were sent by the whole people to put those questions to their bishop. He answered them:
"French Canadians! you do not know your religion! Were you a little better acquainted with it, you would know that I have the right to sell your churches and church properties, pocket the money, and go, eat and drink it where I please." After that answer they were ignominiously turned out from his presence into the street. Posterity will scarcely believe those things, though they are true.
The very next day, Aug. 19th, 1856, the bishop having heard that I was in Chicago, sent for me. I met him after his dinner. Though not absolutely drunk, I found him full of wine, and terribly excited. "Mr. Chiniquy," he said, "you had promised me to make use of your influence to put an end to the rebellious conduct of your countrymen against me. But I find that they are more insolent and unmanageable than ever; and my firm belief is that it is your fault. You, and that handful of French Canadians of Chicago, give me more trouble than all the rest of my priests and my people in Illinois. You are too near Chicago, sir, your influence is too much felt on your people here. I must remove you to a distant place, where you will have enough to do without meddling in my administration. I want your service to Kahokia, in my diocese of Quincy; and if you are not there by the 15th of Sept. next, I will interdict and excommunicate you, and for ever put an end to your intrigues."
These words fell upon me as a thunderbolt. The tyranny of the bishop of my church, and the absolute degradation of the priest whose honour, position and life are entirely in his hands, had never been revealed to me so vividly as in that hour. What could I say or do to appease that mitred despot? After some moments of silence, I tried to make some respectful remonstrances by telling him that my position was an exceptional one; that I had not come to Illinois as his other priests, to be at the head of any existing congregation, but that I had been invited by his predecessor to direct the tide of the emigration of the Frenchspeaking people of Europe and America. That I had come to a wilderness which, by the blessing of God, I had changed into a thriving country, covered with an industrious and religious people. I further told him, that I had left the most honourable position which a priest had ever held in Canada, with the promise from his predecessor that, as long as I lived the life of a good priest, I should not be disturbed in my work. As I soon perceived that he was too much under the influence of liquor to understand me, and speak with intelligence, I only added:
"My lord, you speak of interdict and excommunication! Allow me to respectfully tell you that if you can show me that I have done anything to deserve to be interdicted or excommunicated, I will submit in silence to your sentence. But before you pass that sentence, I ask you, in the name of God, to make a public inquest about me, and have my accusers confront me. I warn your lordship, that if you interdict or excommunicate me without holding an inquest, I will make use of all the means which our holy church puts in the hands of her priests to defend my honour and prove my innocence; I will also appeal to the laws of our great Republic, which protects the character of all her citizens against any one who slanders them. It will, then, be at your risk and peril that you will pass such a sentence against me."
My calm answer greatly excited his rage. He violently struck the table with his fist, and said: "I do not care a straw about your threats. I repeat it, Mr. Chiniquy, if you are not at Kahokia by the 15th of next month, I will interdict and excommunicate you."
Feeling that it was a folly on my part to argue with a man who was beside himself by passion and excess of wine, I replied "With the help of God, I will never bear the infamy of an interdict or excommunication. I will do all that religion and honour will allow me to prevent such a dark spot from defiling my name, and the man who does try it, will learn at his own expense that I am not only a priest of Christ, but also an American citizen. I respectfully tell your lordship that I neither smoke nor use intoxicating drinks. The time which your other priests give to those habits, I spend in the study of books, and especially of my Bible. I found in them, not only my duties, but my rights; and just as I am determined, with the help of God, to perform my duties, I will stand by my rights." I then immediately left the room to take the train to St. Anne.
Having spent a part of the night praying God to change the heart of my bishop, and keep me in the midst of my people, which were becoming dearer and dearer to me, in proportion to the efforts of the enemy to drive me away from them, I addressed the following letter to the bishop:
To the Rt. Rev. O'Regan, Bishop of Chicago.
My Lord. The more I consider your design to turn me out of the colony which I have founded, and of which I am the pastor, the more I believe it a duty which I owe to myself, my friends, and to my countrymen, to protest before God and man against what you intend to do.
Not a single one of your priests stands higher than I do in the public mind, neither is more loved and respected by his people than I am. I defy my bitterest enemies to prove the contrary. And that character which is my most precious treasure, you intend to despoil me of by ignominiously sending me away from among my people! Certainly, I have enemies, and I am proud of it. The chief ones are well known in this country as the most depraved of men. The cordial reception they say they have received from you, has not taken away the stains they have on their foreheads.
By this letter, I again request you to make a public and most minute inquest into my conduct. My conscience tells me that nothing can be found against me. Such a public and fair dealing with me would confound my accusers. But I speak of accusers, when I do not really know if I have any. Where are they? What are their names? Of what sin do they accuse me? All these questions which I put to you, last Tuesday, were left unanswered! and would to God that you would answer them today, by giving me their names. I am ready to meet them before any tribunal. Before you strike the last blow on the victim of this most hellish plot, I request you, in the name of God, to give a moment's attention to the following consequences of my removal from this place at present.
You know I have a suit with Mr. Spink at the Urbana Court, for the beginning of October. My lawyers and witnesses are all in Kankakee and Iroquois counties; and in the very time I want most to be here to prove my innocence and guard my honour, you order me to go to a place more than three hundred miles distant! Did you ever realize that by that strange conduct, you help Spink against your own priest? When at Kahokia, I will have to bear the heavy expenses of traveling more than three hundred miles, many times, to consult my friends, or be deprived of their valuable help! Is it possible that you thus try to tie my hands and feet, and deliver me into the hands of my remorseless enemies? Since the beginning of that suit, Mr. Spink proclaims that you help him, and that, with the perjured priests, you have promised to do all in your power to crush me down! For the sake of the scared character you bear, do not show so publicly that Mr. Spinks' boastings are true. For the sake of your high position in the church, do not so publicly lend a helping hand to the heartless land speculator of L'Erable. He has already betrayed his Protestant friends to get a wife; he will, ere long, betray you for less. Let me then live in peace here, till that suit is over.
By turning me away from my settlement, you destroy it. More than ninetenths of the emigrants come here to live near me; by striking me you strike them all.
Where will you find a priest who will love that people so much as to give them, every year, from one to two thousand dollars, as I have invariably done? It is at the price of those sacrifices that, with the poorest class of emigrants from Canada, I have founded, here, in four years, a settlement which cannot be surpassed, or even equaled, in the United States, for its progress. And now that I have spent my last cent to form this colony, you turn me out of it. Our college, where one hundred and fifty boys are receiving such a good education, will be closed the very day I leave. For, you know very well the teachers I got from Montreal will leave as soon as I will.
Ah! if you are merciless towards the priest of St. Anne, have pity on these poor children. I would rather be condemned to death than to see them destroy their intelligence by running in the streets. Let me then finish my work here, and give me time to strengthen these young institutions which would fall to the ground with me. If you turn me out or interdict me, as you say you will do, if I disobey your orders, my enemies will proclaim that you treat me with that rigour because you have found me guilty of some great iniquity; and this necessarily will prejudice my judges against me. They will consider me as a vile criminal. For who will suppose, in this free country, that there is a class of men who can judge a man and condemn him as our Bishop of Chicago is doing today, without giving him the names of his accusers, or telling him of what crimes he is accused?
In the name of God, I again ask you not to force me to leave my colony before I prove my innocence, and the iniquity of Spink, to the honest people of Urbana.
But, if you are deaf to my prayers, and if nothing can deter you from your resolution, I do not wish to be in the unenviable position of an interdicted priest among my countrymen; send me, by return mail, my letters of mission for the new places you intend trusting to my care. The sooner I get there the better for me and my people. I am ready! When on the road of exile, I will pray the God of Abraham to give me the fortitude and the faith He gave to Isaac, when laying his head on the altar, he willingly presented his throat to the sword. I will pray my Saviour, bearing His heavy cross to the top of Calvary, to direct and help my steps towards the land of exile you have prepared for your
This letter was not yet mailed when we heard that the drunkard priests around us were publishing that the bishop had interdicted me, and they had received orders from him to take charge of the colony of St. Anne. I immediately called a meeting of the whole people and told them: "The bishop has not interdicted me as the neighbouring priests publish; he has only threatened to do so, if I do not leave this place for Kahokia, by the 15th of next month. But though he has not interdicted me, it may be that he does today, falsely publish that he has done it. We can expect anything from the destroyer of the fine congregation of the French Canadians of Chicago. He wants to destroy me and you as he has destroyed them. But before he immolates us, I hope that, with the help of God, we will fight as Christian soldiers, for our life, and we will use all the means which the laws of our church, the Holy word of God, and the glorious Constitution of the Untied States allow us to employ against our merciless tyrant.
"I ask of you, as a favour, to send a deputation of four members of our colony, in whom you place the most implicit confidence, to carry this letter to the bishop. But before delivering it, they will put to him the following questions, the answers of which they will write down with great care in his presence, and deliver them to us faithfully. It is evident that we are now entering into a momentous struggle. We must act with prudence and firmness." Messrs. J. B. Lemoine, Leon Mailloux, Francis Bechard, and B. Allaire, having been unanimously chosen for that important mission, we gave them the following questions to put to the bishop:-
1st. "Have you interdicted Mr. Chiniquy?
2nd. "Why are you interdicted him? Is Mr. Chiniquy guilty of any crime to deserve to be interdicted? Have those crimes been proved against him in a canonical way?
3rd. "Why do you take Mr. Chiniquy away from us?
[Our deputies came back from Chicago with the following report and answers, which they swore to, some time after before the Kankakee court.]
1st. "I have suspended Mr. Chiniquy on the 19th inst. on account of his stubbornness and want of submission to my orders, when I ordered him to Kaholia.
2nd. "If Mr. Chiniquy has said mass since, as you say, he is irregular, and the Pope alone can restore him in his ecclesiastical and sacerdotal functions.
3rd. "I take him away from St. Anne. despite his prayers and yours, because he has not been willing to live in peace and friendship with the Rev. Messrs. Lebel and Carthuval.
[The bishop, being asked if those two priests had not been interdicted by him for public scandals, was forced to say: "Yes!"]
4th. "My second reason for taking Mr. Chiniquy from St. Anne, and sending him to his new mission, is to stop the law-suit Mr. Spink has instituted against him.
[The bishop being asked if he would promise that the suit would be stopped by the removal of Mr. Chiniquy, answered: "I cannot promise that."]
5th. "Mr. Chiniquy is one of the best priests in my diocese, and I do not want to deprive myself of his services, no accusation against his morality has been proved before me.
6th. "Mr. Chiniquy has demanded an inquest to prove his innocence against certain accusations made against him; he asked me the names of his accusers, to confound them; I have refused to grant his request.
[After the bishop had made those declarations, the deputation presented him the letter of Mr. Chiniquy; it evidently made a deep impression upon him. As soon as he read it, he said:]
7th. "Tell Mr. Chiniquy to come and meet me to prepare for his new mission, and I will give him the letters he wants, to go and labour there.
(Signed) J. B. Lemoine,
Basilique Allaire, Leon Mailloux."*
After the above had been read and delivered to the people, I showed them the evident falsehood and contradictions of the bishop when he said in his second answer:
"If Mr. Chiniquy said mass since I Interdicted him, he is irregular, and the Pope alone can restore him in his ecclesiastical functions," and then in the seventh, "tell Mr. Chiniquy to come and meet me to prepare for his new mission, and I will give him the letters he wants to go and labour there."
The last sentence, I said, proves that he knew he had not interdicted me as he said at first. For, had he done so, he could not give me letters to administer the sacraments and preach at Kahokia before my going before the Pope, who, alone, as he said himself, could give me such powers, after he (the bishop) knew that I had said mass since my return from Chicago. Now, my friends, here is the law of our holy church, not the saying, or the law of a publicly degraded man, as the Bishop of Chicago: "If a man had been unjustly condemned, let him pay no attention to the unjust sentence: let him even do nothing to have that unjust sentence removed."*
"If the bishop had interdicted me on the 19th, his sentence would be unjust, for, from his own lips, we have the confession, 'that no accusation has ever been proved before him; that I am one of his best priests; that he does not want to be deprived of my services.' Yes, such a sentence, if passed, would have been unjust, and our business, today, would be to treat it with the contempt it would deserve. But that unjust sentence has not even been pronounced, since, after saying mass every day since the 19th, the bishop himself wants to give me letters to go to Kahokia and work as one of his best priests! It strikes me, today, for the first time, that it is more your destruction, as a people, than mine, which the bishop wants to accomplish. It is my desire to remain in your midst to defend your rights as Catholics. If you are true to me, as I will be to you, in the impending struggle, we have nothing to fear; for our holy Catholic Church is for us; all her laws and canons are in our favour; the Gospel of Christ is for us. The God of the Gospel is for us. Even the Pope, to whom we will appeal, will be for us. For, I must tell you a thing, which, till to day I kept secret; viz.: The Archbishop of St. Louis, to whom I brought my complaint, in April last, advised me to write to the Pope and tell him, not all, for it would make too large a volume, but something of the criminal deeds of the roaring lion who wants to devour us. He is, today, selling the bones of the dead which are resting in the Roman Catholic cemetery of Chicago! But if you are true to yourselves as Catholics and Americans, that mitred tyrant will not sell the bones of our friends and relatives which rest here on our burying ground. He has sold the parsonage and the church which our dear countrymen had built in Chicago. Those properties are, today, in the hands of the Irish: but if you promise to stand by your rights as Christian men and American citizens, I will tell that avaricious bishop: "Come and sell our parsonage and our church here, if you dare!' As I told you before, we have a glorious battle to fight. It is the battle of freedom against the most cruel tyranny the world has ever seen: it is the battle of truth against falsehood: It is the battle of the old Gospel of Christ against the new gospel of Bishop O'Regan. Let us be true to ourselves to the end, and our holy church, which that bishop dishonours, will bless us. Our Saviour Jesus Christ, whose Gospel is despised by that adventurer, will be for us, and give us a glorious victory. Have you not read in your Bibles that Jesus wanted His disciples to be free, when He said: 'If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed' (John viii. 36). Does that mean that the Son of God wants us to be the slaves of Bishop O'Regan? 'No!' cried out the whole people. May God bless you for your understanding of your Christian rights. Let all those who want to be free, with me, raise their hands.
"Oh! blessed by the Lord," I said, "there are more than 3,000 hands raised towards heaven to say that you want to be free! Now, let those who do not want to defend their rights as Christians, and as American citizens, raise their hands. Thanks be to God," I again exclaimed, "there is not a traitor among us! You are all the true, brave and noble soldiers of liberty, truth and righteousness! May the Lord bless you all!"
It is impossible to describe the enthusiasm of the people. Before dismissing them, I said: "We will, no doubt, very soon, witness one of the most ludicrous comedies ever played on this continent: that comedy is generally called excommunication. Some drunkard priests, sent by the drunkard Bishop of Chicago, will come to excommunicate us. I expect their visit in a few days. That performance will be worth seeing; and I hope that you will see and hear the most amusing thing in your life."
I was not mistaken. The very next day, we heard that the 3rd of September had been chosen by the bishop to excommunicate us.
I said to the people: "When you see the flag of the free and the brave floating from the top of our steeple, come and rally around that emblem of liberty."
There were more than 3,000 people on our beautiful hill, when the priests made their appearance. A few moments before, I had said to that immense gathering:
"I bless God that you are so many to witness the last tyrannical act of Bishop O'Regan. But I have a favour to ask of you, it is, that no insult or opposition whatever will be made to the priests who come to play that comedy. Please do not say an angry word; do not move a finger against the performers. They are not responsible for what they will do, for two reasons. 1. They will probably be drunk. 2. They are bound to do that work, by their master and Lord Bishop O'Regan.
The priests arrived at about two o'clock p.m., and never such shouting and clapping of hands had been heard in our colony as on their appearance. Never had I seen my dear people so cheerful and good-humoured, as when one of the priests, trembling from head to foot with terror and drunkenness, tried to read the following sham act of excommunication; which he nailed on the door of the chapel:
The Reverend Monsieur Chiniquy, heretofore curate of St. Anne, Colonie of Beaver, in the Diocese of Chicago, has formally been interdicted by me for canonical causes.
The said Mr. Chiniquy, notwithstanding that interdict, has maliciously performed the functions of the holy ministry, in administering the holy sacraments and saying mass. This has caused him to be irregular, and in direct opposition to the authority of the church, consequently, he is a schismatic.
The said Mr. Chiniquy, thus named by my letters and verbal injunction, has absolutely persisted in violating the laws of the church, and disobeyed her authority, is by this present letter excommunicated.
I forbid any Catholic having any communication with him, in spiritual matters, under pain of excommunication. Every Catholic who goes against this suspense, is excommunicated.
Bishop of Chicago, and administrator of Quincy. Sept. 3rd., 1856.
As soon as the priests, who had nailed this document to the door of our chapel, had gone away at full speed, I went to see it, and found, what I had expected, that it was not signed by the bishop, neither by his grand vicar, nor any known person, and, consequently it was a complete nullity, according to the laws of the church. Fearing I would prosecute him, as I threatened, he shrank from the responsibility of his own act, and had not signed it. He was probably ignorant of the fact that he was himself excommunicated, ipso facto, for not having signed the document himself, or by his known deputies. I learned afterwards, that he got a boy twelve years old to write and sign it. In this way, it was impossible for me to bring that document before any court, on account of its want of legal and necessary forms. That act was also a nullity, for being brought by three priests who were not compos mentis, from their actual state of drunkenness. And again, it was a nullity from the evident falsehood which was its base.
It alleged that the bishop had interdicted and suspended me on the 19th of August, for canonical causes. But he had declared to the four deputies we had sent him: "That Mr. Chiniquy was one of my best priests, that nothing had been proved against him," consequently, no canonical cause could exist for the allegation. The people understood very well that the whole affair was a miserable farce, designed to separate them from their pastor. It had just, by the good providence of God, the contrary effect. They had never shown me such sincere respect and devotedness as since that never-to-be-forgotten day.
The three priests, after leaving, entered the house of one of our farmers, called Bellanger, a short distance from the chapel, and asked permission to rest awhile. But after sitting and smoking a few minutes they all went out to the stables. The farmer thinking this very strange, went after them to see what they would do in his stables; to his great surprise and disgust, he found them drinking the last of their whiskey. He exclaimed, "Is it not a shame to see three priests in a stable drinking spirits?"
They made no answer, but went immediately to their carriage and drove away as quickly as possible, singing with all their might, a bacchanalian song! Such was the last act of that excommunication, which has done more than anything else to prepare my people and myself to understand that the Church of Rome is a den of thieves, a school of infidelity and the very antipodes of the Church of Christ.
CHAPTER 58 Back to Table of Contents
The Sabbath afternoon after the three drunken priests nailed their signed, unsealed, untestified, and consequently null sentence of excommunication, to the door of our chapel, the people had gathered from every part of our colony into the large hall of the court-house of Kankakee City to hear several addresses of their duties of the day, and they unanimously passed the following resolutions:
"Resolved, That we, French Canadians of the County of Kankakee, do hereby decide to give our moral support to Rev. C. Chiniquy, in the persecution now exerted against him by the Bishop of Chicago, in violation of the laws of the church, expressed and sanctioned by the Councils."
After this resolution had been voted, Mr. Bechard, who is now one of the principal members of the Parliament of Canada, and who was then a merchant of Kankakee City, presented to me the following address, which had also been unanimously voted by the people:
"Dear and Beloved Pastor: For several years we have been witnesses of the persecution of which you are the subject, on the part of the bad priests, your neighbours, and on the part of the unworthy Bishop of Chicago; but we also have been the witnesses of your sacerdotal virtues of your forbearance of their calumnies and our respect and affection for your person has but increased at the sight of all those trials.
"We know that you are persecuted, not only because you are a Canadian priest, and that you like us, but also because you do us good in making a sacrifice of your own private fortune to build school-houses, and to feed our teachers at your own table. We know that the Bishop of Chicago, who resembles more an angry wolf than a pastor of the church, having destroyed the prosperous congregation of Chicago by taking away from them their splendid church, which they had built at the cost of many sacrifices, and giving it to the Irish population, and having discouraged the worthy population of Bourbonnais Grove in forcing on them drunken and scandalous priests, wants to take you away from among us, to please Spink, the greatest enemy of the French population. They even say that the bishop, carrying iniquity to its extreme bounds, wanted to interdict you. But as our church cannot, and is not willing to sanction evil and calumny, we know that all those interdicts, based on falsehoods and spite, are null and void.
"We, therefore, solicit you not to give way in presence of the perfidious plots of your enemies, and not to leave us. Stay among us as our pastor and our father, and we solemnly promise to sustain you in all your hardships to the end, and to defend you against our enemies. Stay among us, to instruct us in our duties by your eloquent speeches, and to enlighten us by your pious examples. Stay among us, to guard us against the perfidious designs of the Bishop of Chicago, who wants to discourage and destroy our prosperous colony, as he has already discouraged and destroyed other congregations of the French Canadians, by leaving them without a pastor, or by forcing on them unworthy priests."
The stern and unanimous determination of my countrymen to stand by me in the impending struggle is one of the greatest blessings which God has ever given me. It filled me with a courage which nothing could hereafter shake. But the people of St. Anne did not think that it was enough to show to the bishop that nothing could ever shake the resolution they had taken to live and die free men. They gathered in a public and immense meeting on the Sabbath after the sham excommunication, to adopt the following address to the Bishop of Chicago, a copy of which was sent to every bishop of the United States and Canada, and to Pope Pius IX.:
"To His Lordship, Anthony O'Regan of Chicago:We, the undersigned, inhabitants of the parish of St. Anne, Beaver settlement, seeing with sorrow that you have discarded our humble request, which we have sent you by the four delegates, and have persisted in trying to drive away our honest and worthy priest, who has edified us in all circumstances by his public and religious conduct, and having, contrary to the rules of our holy church and common sense, struck our worthy pastor, Mr. Chiniquy, with excommunication, having caused him to be announced as a schismatic priest, and having forbidden us to communicate with him in religious matters, are hereby protesting against the unjust and iniquitous manner in which you have struck him, refusing him the privilege of justifying himself and proving his innocence.
"Consequently, we declare that we are ready at all times as good Catholics, to obey all your orders and ordinances that are in accordance with the laws of the Gospel and the Church, but that we are not willing to follow you in all your errors of judgments, in your injustices and covetous caprices. Telling you, as St. Jerome wrote to his bishop, that as long as you will treat us as your children, we will obey you as a father; but as soon as you will treat us as our master, we shall cease to consider you as our father. Considering Mr. Chiniquy as a good and virtuous priest, worthy of the place he occupies, and possessing as yet all his sacerdotal powers, in spite of your null and ridiculous sentence, we have unanimously decided to keep him among us as our pastor; therefore praying your lordship not to put yourself to the trouble of seeking another priest for us. More yet; we have unanimously decided to sustain him and furnish him the means to go as far as Rome, if he cannot have justice in America.
"We further declare that it has been dishonourable and shameful for our bishop and for our holy religion to have seen, coming under the walls of our chapel, bringing the orders of the prince of the church, a representative of Christ, three men covered with their sacerdotal garments, having their tongues half paralyzed by the effects of whiskey, and who, turning their backs to the church, went to the house and barn of one of our settlers and thee emptied their bottles. And from there, taking their seats in the buggies, went toward the settlement of L'Erable, singing drunken songs and hallooing like wild Indians. Will your lordship be influenced by such a set of men, who seem to have for their mission to degrade the sacerdos and Catholicism?
"We conclude, in hoping that your lordship will not persist in your decision given in a moment of madness and spite; that you will reconsider your acts, and that you will retract your unjust, null and ridiculous excommunication, and by these means avoid the scandal of which your precipitation is the cause. We then hope that, changing your determination, you will work to the welfare of our holy religion, and not to its degradation, into which your intolerant conduct would lead us, and that you will not persist in trying to drive our worthy pastor, Rev. Charles Chiniquy, from the flourishing colony that he has founded at the cost of the abandonment of his native land, of the sacrifice of the high position he had in Canada; that you will bring peace between you and us, that we shall have in the Bishop of Chicago not a tyrant, but a father, and that you will have in us not rebels, but faithful children, by our virtues and our good example. Subscribing ourselves the obedient children of the church.
"Theopile Dorien, J.B. Lemoine, N.P.,
"Det. Vanier, Oliver Senechall,
"J.B. Belanger, Basilique Allair,
"Camile Betourney, Michel Allair,
"Stan'las Gagne, Joseph Grisi,
"Antoine Allain, Joseph Allard,
"And five hundred others."
This address, signed by more than five hundred men, all heads of families, and reproduced by almost the whole press in the United States, fell as a thunderclap on the head of the heartless destroyer of our people. But it did not change his destructive plans. It had just the contrary effect. As a tiger, mortally wounded by the sure shots of the hunters, he filled the country with his roaring, hoping to frighten us by his new denunciations. He published the most lying stories to explain his conduct, and to show the world that he had good reasons for destroying the French congregation of Chicago, and trying the same experiment on St. Anne.
In order to refute his false statements, and show more clearly to the whole world the reasons I had, as a Catholic priest, to resist him, I addressed the following letter to his lordship:
"St. Anne, Kankakee County, Ill.,
"Sept. 25, 1856.
"Rt. Rev'd O'Regan:You seen to be surprised that I have offered the holy sacrifice of mass since our last interview. Here are some of my reasons for so doing.
"1st. You have not suspended me; far from it, you have given me fifteen days to consider what I should do, threatening only to interdict me after that time, if I would not obey your orders.
"2nd. If you have been so ill-advised as to suspend me, for the crime of telling you that my intention was to live the life of a retired priest in my little colony, sooner than to be exiled at my age, your sentence is ridiculous and null; and if you were an expert in the jure Canonico as in the art of pocketing our money, you would know that you are yourself suspended ipso facto for a year, and that I have nothing to fear or expect from you now.
"3rd. When I bowed down before the altar of Jesus Christ, twenty-four years ago, to receive the priesthood, my intention was to be the minister of the Catholic Church, but not a slave of a lawless tyrant.
"4th. Remember the famous words of Tertullian, 'Nimia potestas, nulla potestas.' For the sake of peace, I have, with many others, tolerated your despotism till now; but my patience is at an end, and for the sake of our holy church, which you are destroying, I am determined with many to oppose an insurmountable wall to your tyranny.
"5th. I did not come here, you know well, as an ordinary missionary; but I got from your predecessor the permission to form a colony of my emigrating countrymen. I was not sent here in 1851 to take care of any congregation. It was a complete wilderness. In a great part, with my own money, I have built a chapel, a college and a female academy. I have called from everywhere my countrymen nine-tenths of them came here only to live with me, and because I had the pledged word of my bishop to do that work. And as long as I live the life of a good priest I deny you the right to forbid me to remain in my colony which wants my help and my presence.
"6th. You have never shown me your authority (but once) except in the most tyrannical way. But now, seeing that the more humble I am before you the more insolent you grow, I have taken the resolution to stand by my rights as a Catholic priest and as an American citizen.
"7th. You remember, that in our second interview you forbade me to have the good preceptors we have now for our children, and you turned into ridicule the idea I had to call them from Canada. Was that the act of a bishop or of a mean despot?
"8th. A few days after your ordered me to live on good terms with R. R. Lebel and Carthuval, though you were well acquainted with their scandalous lives, and twice you threatened me with suspension for refusing to become a friend of those two rogues! And you have so much made a fool of yourself before the four gentlemen I sent to you to be witnesses of your iniquity and my innocence, that you have acknowledged before them that one of your principal reasons for turning me out of my colony was, that I had not been able to keep peace with two priests whom you acknowledge to be depraved and unworthy priests! Is not that surpassing wickedness and tyranny of anything recorded in the blackest pages of the most daring tyrants? You want to punish by exile a gentleman and a good priest, because he cannot agree to become the friend of two public rogues! I thank you, Bishop O'Regan, to have made that public confession in the presence of unimpeachable witnesses. I do not want to advise you to be hereafter very prudent in what you intend to do against the reputation and character of the priest of St. Anne. If you continue to denounce me as you have done since a few weeks, and to tell the people what you think fit against me, I have awful things to publish of your injustice and tyranny.
"As Judas sold our Saviour to His enemies, so you have sold me to my enemy of L'Erable. But be certain that you shall not deliver up your victim as you like.
"For withdrawing a suit which you have instituted against my honour, and which you shall certainly lose, you drag me out from my home and order me to the land of exile, and you cover that iniquity with the appearance of zeal for the public peace, just as Pilate delivered his victim into the hands their enemies to make peace with them.
"Shame on you, Bishop O'Regan! For the sake of God, do not oblige me to reveal to the world what I know against you. Do not oblige me, in self-defence, to strike you, my merciless persecutor. If you have no pity on me, have pity on yourself, and on the church which that coming struggle will so much injure.
"It is not enough for you to have so badly treated my poor countrymen of Chicago you hatred against the French Canadians cannot be satisfied except when you have taken away from them the only consolation they have in this land of exile to possess in their midst a priest of their own nation whom they love and respect as a father! My poor countrymen of Chicago, with many hard sacrifices, had built a fine church for themselves and a house for their priest. You have taken their church from their hands and given it to the Irish; you have sold the house of their priest, after turning him out; and what have you done with the one thousand five hundred dollars you got as its price? Public rumour says that you are employing that money to support the most unjust and infamous suit against one of their priests. Continue a little longer, and you may be sure that the cursing of my poor countrymen against you will be heard in heaven, and that the God of Justice will give them an avenger.
"You have, at three different times, threatened to interdict and excommunicate me if I would not give you my little personal properties; and as many times you have said in my teeth, that I was a bad priest, because I refused to act according to your rapacious tyranny!
"The impious Ahab, murdering Naboth to get his fields, is risen from the dead in your person. You cannot kill my body, since I am protected by the glorious flag of the United States; but you do worse, you try to destroy my honour and my character, which are dearer to me than my life. In a moral way you give my blood to be licked by your dogs. But remember the words of the prophet Ahab, 'In this place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine' (1 Kings xxi. 19). For every false witness you shall bring against me, I shall have a hundred unimpeachable ones against you. Thousands and thousands of religious Irish, and generous Germans, and liberty and fair-play-loving French Canadians, will help me in that struggle. I do not address you these words as a threat, but as a friendly warning.
"Keep quiet, my lord; do not let yourself be guided by your quick temper; do not be so free in the use of suspense and interdicts. These terrible arms are two-edged swords, which very often hurt more the imprudent who make use of them than those whom they intend to strike."
"I wish to live in peace with you. I take my God to witness, that to this day, I have done everything to keep peace with you. But the peace I want is the peace which St. Jerome speaks of when, writing to his bishop, he tells him:
"'It is no use to speak of peace with the lips, if we destroy it with our works. It is a very different way to work for peace, from trying to submit every one to an abject slavery. We also want peace. Not only we desire it, but we implore you instantly to give it. However, the peace we want is the peace of Christ a true peace, a peace without hatred, a peach which is not masked war, a peace which is not to crush enemies, but a peace which unites friends. How can we call that peach which is nothing but tyranny? Why should we not call everything by its proper name? Let us call hatred what is hatred; and let us say that peace reigns only when a true love exists. We are not the authors of the troubles and divisions which exist in the church. A father must love his children. A bishop, as well as a father, must wish to be loved, but not feared. The old proverb says, One hates whom he fears, and we naturally wish for the death of one we hate. If you do not try to crush the religious men under your power they will submit themselves to your authority. Offer them the kiss of love and peace and they will obey you. But liberty refuses to yield as soon as you try to crush it down. The best way to be obeyed by a free man is not to deal with him as with a slave. We know the laws of the church, and we do not ignore the rights which belong to every man. We have learned many things, not only from experience, but also from the study of books. The king who strikes his subjects with an iron rod, or who thinks that his fingers must be heavier than his father's hand, has soon destroyed the kingdom even of the peaceful and mild David. The people of Rome refused to bear the yoke of their proud king. We have left our country in order to live in peace. In this solitude our intention was to respect the authority of the pontiffs of Christ (we mean those who teach the true faith). We want to respect them not as our masters, but as our fathers. Our intention was to respect them as bishops, not as usurpers and tyrants who want to reduce us to slavery by the abuse of their power. We are not so vain as to ignore what is due to the priests of Christ, for to receive them is to receive the very one whose bishops they are. But let them be satisfied with the respect which is due to them. Let them remember that they are fathers, not masters of those who have given up everything in order to enjoy the privileges of a peaceful solitude. May Christ who is our mighty God grant that we should be united, not by a false peace, but by a true and loyal love, lest that by biting each other we destroy each other."
[Letter of St. Jerome to his bishop.]
"You have a great opinion of the episcopal power, and so have I. But St. Paul and all the Holy Fathers that I have read, have also told us many things of the dignity of the priest (alter Christus Sacerdos). I am your brother and equal in many things; do not forget it. I know my dignity as a man and a priest, and I shall sooner lose my life than to surrender them to any man, even a bishop. If you think you can deal with me as a carter with his horse, drawing him where he likes, you will very soon see your error.
"I neither drink strong wines nor smoke, and the many hours that others spent in emptying their bottles and smoking their pipes, I read my dear books I study the admirable laws of the church and the Gospel of Christ. I love my books and the holy laws of our church, because they teach me my rights as well as my duties. They tell me that many years ago a general council, which is something above you, has annulled your unjust sentence, and brought upon your head the very penalty you intended to impose upon me. They tell me that any sentence from you, coming (from your own profession) from bad and criminal motives, is null, and will fall powerless at my feet. "But I tell you again, that I desire to live in peace with you. The false reports of Lebel and Carthuval have disturbed that peace; but it is still in your power to have it for yourself and give it to me. I am sure that the sentence you say you have preferred against me comes from a misunderstanding, and your wisdom and charity, if you can hear their voice, can very easily set everything as it was two months ago. It is still in your power to have a warm friend, or an immovable adversary in Kankakee County. It would both be equitable and honourable in you to extinguish the fires of discord which you have so unfortunately enkindled, by drawing back a sentence which you would never have preferred if you had not been deceived. You would be blessed by the Church of Illinois, and particularly by the 10,000 French Canadians who surround me, and are ready to support me at all hazards.
"Do not be angry from the seeming harsh words which you find in this letter. Nobody, but I, could tell you these sad truths, though every one of your priests, and particularly those who flatter you the most, repeat them every day. By kind and honest proceedings you can get everything from me, even the last drop of my blood; but you will find me an immovable rock if you approach me as you have always done (but once) with insult and tyrannical threats.
"You have not been ordained a bishop to rule over us according to your fancy, but you have the eternal laws of justice and equity to guide you. You have the laws of the church to obey as well as her humblest child, and as soon as you do anything against these imperishable laws you are powerless to obtain your object. It is not only lawful, but a duty to resist you. When you strike without a legitimate or a canonical cause; when you try to take away my character to please some of your friends; when you order me to exile to stop a suit which you are inciting against me; when you punish me for the crime of refusing to obey the orders you gave me to be the friend of two public rouges; when you threatened me with excommunication, because I do not give you my little personal properties, I have nothing to fear from your interdicts and excommunication.
"What a sad lot for me, and what a shame for you, if by your continual attacks at the doors of our churches or in the public press, you oblige me to expose your injustice. It is yet time for you to avoid that. Instead of striking me like an outcast, come and give me the paternal hand of charity, instead of continuing that fratricidal combat, come and heal the wounds you have made and already received. Instead of insulting me by driving me away from my colony to the land of exile, come and bless the great work I have begun here for the glory of God and the good of my people. Instead of destroying the college and the female academy, for the erection of which I have expended my last cent, and whose teachers are fed at my table, come and bless the three hundred little children who are daily attending our schools. Instead of sacrificing me to the hatred of my enemies, come and strengthen my heart against their fury.
"I tell you again, that no consideration whatever will induce me to surrender my right as a Catholic priest and as an American citizen. By the first title you cannot interdict me, as long as I am a good priest, for the crime of wishing to live in my colony and among my people. By the second title, you cannot turn me out from my home.
It was the first time that a Roman Catholic priest, with his whole people, had dared to speak such language to a bishop of Rome on this continent. Never yet had the unbearable tyranny of those haughty men received such a public rebuke. Our fearless words fell as a bombshell in the camp of the Roman Catholic hierarchy of America.
With very few exceptions, the press of the State of Illinois, whose columns had so often echoed the cries of indignation raised everywhere against the tyranny of Bishop O'Regan, took sides with me. Hundreds of priests, not only from Illinois, but from every corner of the United States, addressed their warmest thanks to me for the stand I had taken, and asked me, in the name of God and for the honour of the church, not to yield an inch of my rights. Many promised to support us at the court of Rome, by writing themselves to the Pope, to denounce not only the Bishop of Illinois, but several others, who though not so openly bad, were yet trampling under their feet the most sacred rights of the priests and the people. Unfortunately those priests gave me a saddening knowledge of their cowardice by putting in their letters "absolutely confidential." They all promised to help me when I was storming the strong fortress of the enemy, provided I would go alone in the gap, and that they would keep themselves behind thick walls, far from shot and shell.
However, this did not disturb me, for my God knows it, my trust was not in my own strength, but in His protection. I was sure that I was in the right, that the Gospel of Christ was on my side, that all the canons and laws of the councils were in my favour.
My library was filled with the best books on the canons and laws passed in the great councils of my church. It was written in big letters in the celebrated work, "Histoire du Droit Canonique." There is no arbitrary power in the Church of Christ.*
The Council of Augsburg, held in 1548 (Can. 24), had declared that, "no sentence of excommunication will be passed, except for great crimes."
The Pope St. Gregory had said: "That censures are null when not inflicted for great sins or for faults which have not been clearly proved."
"An unjust excommunication does not bind before God those against whom it has been hurled. But it injures only the one who has proffered it." **
"If an unjust sentence is pronounced against any one, he must not pay any attention to it; for, before God and His Church, an unjust sentence cannot injure anybody. Let, then, that person do nothing to get such an unjust sentence repealed, for it cannot injure him."***
The canonists conclude, from all the laws of the church on that matter, "That if a priest is unjustly interdicted or excommunicated he may continue to officiate without any fear of becoming irregular."****
Protected by these laws, and hundreds of others too long to enumerate, which my church had passed in every age, strengthened by the voice of my conscience, which assured me that I had done nothing to deserve to be interdicted or excommunicated; sure, besides, of the testimony brought by our four delegates that the bishop himself had declared that I was one of his best priests, that he wanted to give me my letters to go and perform the functions of my ministry in Kahokia: above all, knowing the unanimous will of my people that I should remain with them and continue the great and good work so providentially entrusted to me in my colony, and regarding this as an indication of the Divine will, I determined to remain, in spite of the Bishop of Chicago. All the councils of my church were telling me that he had no power to injure me, and that all his official acts were null.
But if he were spiritually powerless against me, it was not so in temporal matters. His power and his desire to injure us had increased with his hatred, since he had read our letters and seen them in all the papers of Chicago. The first thing he did was to reconcile himself to the priest Lebel, whom he had turned out ignominiously from his diocese some time before. The priest had since that obtained a fine situation in the diocese of Michigan. He invited him to his palace, and petted him several days. I felt that the reconciliation of those two men meant nothing good for me. But my hope was, more than ever, that the merciful God who had protected me so many times against them, would save me again from their machinations. The air was, however, filled with the strangest rumours against me. It was said everywhere that Mr. Lebel was to bring such charges against my character that I would be sent to the penitentiary. What were the new iniquities to be laid to my charge? No one could tell. But the few partisans and friends of the bishop, Messrs. Label and Spink, were jubilant and sure that I was to be for ever destroyed.
At last the time arrived when the sheriff of Kankakee had to drag me again as a criminal and a prisoner to Urbana, and deliver me into the hands of the sheriff of that city. I arrived there on the 20th of October, with my lawyers, Messrs. Osgood and Paddock, and a dozen witnesses. Mr. Abraham Lincoln had preceded me only by a few minutes from Springfield. He was in the company of Judge David Davis, since Vice-President of the United States, when I met him.
The jury having been selected and sworn, the Rev. Mr. Lebel was the first witness called to testify and say what he knew against my character.
Mr. Lincoln objected to that kind of testimony, and tried to prove that Mr. Spink had no right to bring his new suit against me by attacking my character. But Judge Davis ruled that prosecution had the right in the case that was before him. Mr. Lebel had, then, full liberty to say anything he wanted, and he availed himself of his privilege. His testimony lasted nearly an hour, and was too long to be given here. I will only say that he began by declaring that "Chiniquy was one of the bilest men of the day that every kind of bad rumours were constantly circulating against him." He gave a good number of those rumours, though he could not positively swear if they were founded on truth or not, for he had not investigated them. But he said there was one of which he was sure, for he had authenticated it thoroughly. He expressed a great deal of apparent regret that he was forced to reveal to the world such things which were not only against the honour of Chiniquy, but, to some extent, involved the good name of a dear sister, Madame Bossey. But as he was to speak the truth before God, he could not help it the sad truth was to be told. "Mr. Chiniquy," he said, "had attempted to do the most infamous things with my own sister, Madame Bossey. She herself has told me the whole story under oath, and she would be here to unmask the wicked man today before the world, if she were not forced to silence at home from a severe illness."
Though every word of that story was a perjury, there was such a colour of truth and sincerity in my accuser, that his testimony fell upon me and my lawyers and all my friends as a thunderbolt. A man who has never heard such a calumny brought against him before a jury in a court-house packed with people, composed of friends and foes, will never understand what I felt in this the darkest hour of my life. My God only knows the weight and bitterness of the waves of desolation which then passed over my soul.
After that testimony was given, there was a lull, and a most profound silence in the court-room. All the eyes were turned upon me, and I heard many voices speaking of me, whispering, "The villain!" Those voices passed through my soul as poisoned arrows. Though innocent, I wished that the ground would open under my feet and bring me down to the darkest abysses, to conceal me from the eyes of my friends and the whole world.
However, Mr. Lincoln soon interrupted the silence by addressing to Lebel such cross-questions that his testimony, in the minds of many, soon lost much of its power. And he did still more destroy the effect of his (Lebel's) false oath, when he brought my twelve witnesses, who were among the most respectable citizens of Bourbonnais, formerly the parishioners of Mr. Lebel. Those twelve gentlemen swore that Mr. Lebel was such a drunkard and vicious man, that he was so publicly my enemy on account of the many rebukes I had given to his private and public vices, that they would not believe a word of what he said, even upon his oath.
At ten p.m. the court was adjourned, to meet again the next morning, and I went to the room of Mr. Lincoln, with my two other lawyers, to confer about the morning's work. My mind was unspeakable sad. Life had never been such a burden to me as in that hour. I was tempted, like Job, to curse the hour when I was born. I could see in the face of my lawyers, though they tried to conceal it, that they were also full of anxiety.
"My dear Mr. Chiniquy," said Mr. Lincoln, "though I hope, tomorrow, to destroy the testimony of Mr. Lebel against you, I must concede that I see great dangers ahead. There is not the least doubt in my mind that every word he has said is a sworn lie; by my fear is that the jury thinks differently. I am a pretty good judge in these matters. I feel that our jurymen think that you are guilty. There is only one way to perfectly destroy the power of a false witness it is by another direct testimony against what he has said, or by showing from his very lips that he has perjured himself. I failed to do that last night, though I have diminished, to a great extent, the force of his testimony. Can you not prove an alibi, or can you not bring witnesses who were there in the same house that day, who would flatly and directly contradict what your remorseless enemy has said against you?"
I answered him: "How can I try to do such a thing when they have been shrewd enough not to fix the very date of the alleged crime against me?"
"You are correct, you are perfectly correct, Mr. Chiniquy," answered Mr. Lincoln, "as they have refused to precise the date, we cannot try that. I have never seen two such skillful rogues as those two priests. There is really a diabolical skill in the plan they have concocted for your destruction. It is evident that the bishop is at the bottom of the plot. You remember how I have forced Lebel to confess that he was now on the most friendly terms with the Bishop of Chicago, since he has become the chief of your accusers. Though I do not give up the hope of rescuing you from the hands of your enemies, I do not like to conceal from you that I have several reasons to fear that you will be declared guilty, and condemned to a heavy penalty, or to the penitentiary, though I am sure you are perfectly innocent. It is very probable that we will have to confront that sister of Lebel to-morrow. Her sickness is probably a feint, in order not to appear here except after the brother will have prepared the public mind in her favour. At all events, if she does not come, they will send some justice of the peace to get her sworn testimony, which will be more difficult to rebut than her own verbal declarations. That woman is evidently in the hands of the bishop and her brother priest, ready to swear anything they order her, and I know nothing so difficult as to refute such female testimonies, particularly when they are absent from the court. The only way to be sure of a favourable verdict to-morrow is, that God Almighty would take our part and show your innocence! Go to Him and pray, for He alone can save you." Mr. Lincoln was exceedingly solemn when he addressed those words to me, and they went very deep into my soul.
I have often been asked if Abraham Lincoln had any religion? But I never had any doubt about his profound confidence in God, since I heard those words falling from his lips in that hour of anxiety. I had not been able to conceal my deep distress. Burning tears were rolling on my cheeks when he was speaking, and there was on his face the expression of friendly sympathy which I shall never forget. Without being able to say a word, I left him to go to my little room. It was nearly eleven o'clock. I locked the door and fell on my knees to pray, but I was unable to say a single word. The horrible sworn calumnies thrown at my face by a priest of my own church were ringing in my ears! my honour and my good name so cruelly and for ever destroyed! all my friends and my dear people covered with an eternal confusion! and more than that, the sentence of condemnation which was probably to be hurled against me the next day in the presence of the whole country, whose eyes were upon me! All those things were before me, not only as horrible phantoms, but as heavy mountains, under the burdens of which I could not breathe. At last the fountains of tears were opened, and it relieved me to weep; I could then speak and cry: "Oh, my God! have mercy upon me! Thou knowest my innocence! hast Thou not promised that those who trust in Thee cannot perish! Oh! do not let me perish, when Thou art the only One in whom I trust! Come to my help! Save me!"
From eleven p.m. to three in the morning I cried to God, and raised my supplicating hands to His throne of mercy. But I confess, to my confusion, it seemed to me in certain moments, that it was useless to pray and cry, for though innocent, I was doomed to perish. I was in the hands of my enemies. My God had forsaken me!
What an awful night I spent! I hope none of my readers will ever know by their own experience the agony of spirit I endured. I had no other expectation than to be for ever dishonoured, and sent to the penitentiary next morning! But God had not forsaken me! He had again heard my cries, and was once more to show me His infinite mercy!
At three o'clock a.m. I heard three knocks at my door, and I quickly went to open it. "Who was there?" Abraham Lincoln, with a face beaming with joy! I could hardly believe my eyes. But I was not mistaken. It was my noble-hearted friend, the most honest lawyer of Illinois! one of the noblest men Heaven had ever given to earth! it was Abraham Lincoln. On seeing me bathed in tears, he exclaimed, "Cheer up, Mr. Chiniquy, I have the perjured priests in my hands. Their diabolical plot is all known, and if they do not fly away before dawn of day, they will surely be lynched. Bless the Lord, you are saved!"
The sudden passage of extreme desolation to an extreme joy came near killing me. I felt as if suffocated, and unable to utter a single word. I took his hand, pressed it to my lips, and bathed it with tears of joy. I said: "May God for ever bless you, dear Mr. Lincoln. But please tell me how you can bring me such glorious news!"
Here is the simple but marvelous story, as told me by that great and good man, whom God had made the messenger of His mercies towards me: "As soon as Lebel had given his perjured testimony against you yesterday," said Mr. Lincoln, "one of the agents of the Chicago press telegraphed to some of the principal papers of Chicago: 'It is probable that Mr. Chiniquy will be condemned; for the testimony of the Rev. Mr Lebel seems to leave no doubt that he is guilty.' And the little Irish boys, to sell their papers, filled the streets with cries: 'Chiniquy will be hung! Chiniquy will be hung!' The Roman Catholics were so glad to hear that, that ten thousand extra copies have been sold. Among those who bought those papers was a friend of yours, called Terrien, who went to his wife and told her that you were to be condemned, and when the woman heard that, she said, 'It is too bad, for I know Mr. Chiniquy is not guilty.'
"'How do you know that?' said the husband. She answered: 'I was there when the priest Lebel made the plot, and promised to give his sister two eighties of good land if she would swear a false oath and accuse him of a crime which that woman said he had not even thought of with her.'
"'If it be so,' said Terrien, 'we cannot allow Mr. Chiniquy to be condemned. Come with me to Urbana.'
"But that woman being quite unwell, said to her husband, 'You know well I cannot go; but Miss Philomene Moffat was with me then. She knows every particular of that wicked plot as well as I do. She is well: go and take her to Urbana. There is no doubt that her testimony will prevent the condemnation of Mr. Chiniquy. Narcisse Terrien started immediately: and when you were praying God to come to your help, He was sending your deliverer at the full speed of the railroad cars. Miss Moffat has just given me the details of that diabolical plot. I have advised her not to show herself before the Court is opened. I will, then, send for her, and when she will have given, under oath, before the Court, the details she has just given me, I pity Spink with his perjured priests. As I told you, I would not be surprised if they were lynched: for there is a terrible excitement in town among many people, who from the beginning suspect that the priests have perjured themselves to destroy you. Now your suit is gained, and, to-morrow, you will have the greatest triumph a man ever got over his confounded foes. But you are in need of rest as well as myself. Good bye." After thanking God for that marvelous deliverance, I went to bed and took the needed rest.
But what was the priest Lebel doing in that very moment? Unable to sleep after the awful perjury he had just made, he had watched the arrival of the trains from Chicago with an anxious mind; for he was aware, through the confessions he had heard, that there were two persons in that city who knew his plot and his false oath; and though he had the promises from them that they would never reveal it to anybody, he was not without some fearful apprehension that I might, by some way or other, become acquainted with his abominable conspiracy. Not long after the arrival of the trains from Chicago, he came down from his room to see in the book where travelers register their names, if there were any new comers from Chicago, and what was his dismay when he saw the first name entered was "Philomene Moffat!" That very name, Philomene Moffat, who some time before, had gone to confess to him that she had heard the whole plot from his own lips, when he had promised 160 acres of land to persuade his sister to perjure herself in order to destroy me. A deadly presentiment chilled the blood in his veins! "Would it be possible that this girl is here to reveal and prove my perjury before the world?"
He immediately sent for her, when she was just coming from meeting Mr. Lincoln.
"Miss Philomene Moffat here!" he exclaimed, when he saw her. "What are you coming here for this night?" he said.
"You will know it, sir, to-morrow morning," she answered.
"Ah! wretched girl! you come to destroy me?" he exclaimed.
She replied: "I do not come to destroy you, for you are already destroyed. Mr. Lincoln knows everything."
"Oh! my God! my God!" he exclaimed, striking his forehead with his hands. Then taking a big bundle of bank-notes from his pocket-book, he said: "Here are one hundred dollars for you if you take the morning train and go back to Chicago."
"If you would offer me as much gold as this house could contain, I would not go," she replied.
He then left her abruptly, ran to the sleeping-room of Spink, and told him: "Withdraw your suit against Chiniquy; we are lost; he knows all." Without losing a moment, he went to the sleeping-room of his co-priest, and told him: "Make haste dress yourself and let us take the train; we have no business here: Chiniquy knows all our secrets."
When the hour of opening the court came, there was an immense crowd, not only inside, but outside its walls. Mr. Spink, pale as a man condemned to death, rose before the Judge and said: "Please the court, allow me to withdraw my prosecution against Mr. Chiniquy. I am now persuaded that he is not guilty of the faults brought against him before this tribunal."
Abraham Lincoln, having accepted that reparation in my name, made a short, but one of the most admirable speeches I have ever heard, on the cruel injustices I had suffered from my merciless persecutors, and denounced the rascality of the priests who had perjured themselves with such terrible colours, that it had been very wise on their part to fly away and disappear before the opening of the court, for the whole city was ransacked for them by hundreds, who blamed me for forgiving them and refusing to have my revenge for the wrong they had done me. But I really thought that my enemies were sufficiently punished by the awful public disclosures of their infernal plot. It seemed that the dear Saviour, who had so visibly protected me, was to be obeyed, when He was whispering in my soul, "Forgive them and love them as thyself."
Was not Spink sufficiently punished by the complete ruin which was brought upon him by the loss of the suit? For having gone to Bishop O'Regan to be indemnified for the enormous expenses of such a long prosecution, at such a distance, the bishop coldly answered him: "I had promised to indemnify if you would put Chiniquy down, as you promised me. But as it is Chiniquy who has put you down, I have not a cent to give you."
Abraham Lincoln had not only defended me with the zeal and talent of the ablest lawyer I have ever known, but as the most devoted and noblest friend I ever had. After giving more than a year of his precious time to my defense, when he had pleaded, during two long sessions of the Court of Urbana, without receiving a cent form me, I considered that I was owing him a great sum of money. My two other lawyers, who had not done the half of his work, asked me a thousand dollars each, and I had not thought that too much. After thanking him for the inappreciable services he had rendered me, I requested him to show me his bill, assuring him that, thought I would not be able to pay the whole cash, I would pay him to the last cent, if he had the kindness to wait a little for the balance.
He answered me with a smile and an air of inimitable kindness, which was peculiar to him: "My dear Mr. Chiniquy, I feel proud and honoured to have been called to defend you. But I have done it less as a lawyer than as a friend. The money I should receive from you would take away the pleasure I feel at having fought your battle. Your case is unique in my whole practice. I have never met a man so cruelly persecuted as you have been, and who deserves it so little. Your enemies are devils incarnate. The plot they had concocted against you is the most hellish one I ever knew. But the way you have been saved from their hands, the appearance of that young and intelligent Miss Moffat, who was really sent by God in the very hour of need, when, I confess it again, I thought everything was nearly lost, is one of the most extraordinary occurrences I ever saw. It makes me remember what I have too often forgotten, and what my mother often told me when young that our God is a prayer-hearing God. This good thought, sown into my young heart by that dear mother's hand, was just in my mind when I told you, 'Go and pray, God alone can save you.' But I confess to you that I had not faith enough to believe that your prayer would be so quickly and so marvelously answered by the sudden appearance of that interesting young lady, last night. Now let us speak of what you owe me. Well! Well! how much do you owe me? You owe me nothing! for I suppose you are quite ruined. The expenses of such a suit, I know, must be enormous. Your enemies want to ruin you. Will I help them to finish your ruin, when I hope I have the right to be put among the most sincere and devoted of your friends?"
"You are right," I answered him; "you are the most devoted and noblest friend God ever gave me, and I am nearly ruined by my enemies. But you are the father of a pretty large family; you must support them. Your traveling expenses in coming twice here for me from Springfield; your hotel bills during the two terms you have defended me, must be very considerable. It is not just that you should receive nothing in return for such work and expenses."
"Well! well!" he answered, "I will give you a promissory note which you will sign." Taking then a small piece of paper, he wrote:
Urbana, May 23, 1853
Due A. Lincoln fifty dollars, for value received.
[Above shown in handwriting]
He handed me the note, saying, "Can you sign that?"
After reading it, I said, "Dear Mr. Lincoln, this is a joke. It is not possible that you ask only fifty dollars for services which are worth at least two thousand dollars."
He then tapped me with the right hand on the shoulders and said: "Sign that, it is enough. I will pinch some rich men for that, and make them pay the rest of the bill," and he laughed outright.
When Abraham Lincoln was writing the due-bill, the relaxation of the great strain upon my mind, and the great kindness of my benefactor and defender in charging me so little for such a service, and the terrible presentiment that he would pay with his life what he had done for me caused me to break into sobs and tears.
As Mr. Lincoln had finished writing the due-bill, he turned round to me, and said, "Father Chiniquy, what are you crying for? Ought you not to be the most happy man alive? you have beaten your enemies and gained the most glorious victory, and you will come out of all your troubles in triumph."
"Dear Mr. Lincoln," I answered, "allow me to tell you that the joy I should naturally feel for such a victory is destroyed in my mind by the fear of what it may cost you. There were then in the crowd not less than ten or twelve Jesuits from Chicago and St. Louis, who came to hear my sentence of condemnation to the penitentiary. But it was on their heads that you have brought the thunders of heaven and earth! nothing can be compared to the expression of their rage against you, when you not only wrenched me from their cruel hands, but you were making the walls of the court-house tremble under the awful and superhumanly eloquent denunciation of their infamy, diabolical malice, and total want of Christian and human principle, in the plot they had formed for my destruction. What troubles my soul just now and draws my tears, is that it seems to me that I have read your sentence of death in their fiendish eyes. How many other noble victims have already fallen at their feet!
He tried to divert my mind, at first, with a joke, "Sign this," said he, "it will be my warrant of death."
But after I had signed, he became more solemn, and said, "I know that Jesuits never forget nor forsake. But man must not care how and where he dies, provided he dies at the post of honour and duty," and he left me.
Here is the sworn declaration of Miss Philomene Moffat, now Mrs. Philomene Schwartz.
"State of Illinois, Cook County, ss.
"Philomene Schwartz, being first duly sworn, deposes and says: That she is of the age of forty-three years, and resides at 484, Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago; that her maiden name was Philomene Moffat; that she knew Father Lebel, the Roman Catholic priest of the French Catholics of Chicago during his lifetime, and knows Rev. Father Chiniquy; that about the month of May, A.D. 1854, in company with Miss Eugenia Bossey, the housekeeper of her uncle, the Rev. Mr. Lebel, who was then living at the parsonage on Clark Street, Chicago, while we were sitting in the room of Miss Bossey, the Rev. Mr. Lebel was talking with his sister, Mrs. Bossey, in the adjoining room, not suspecting that we were there hearing his conversation, through the door, which was partly opened; though we could neither see him nor his sister, we heard every word of what they said together, the substance of which is as follows Rev. Mr. Lebel said in substance, to Mr. Bossey, his sister: "'You know that Mr. Chiniquy is a dangerous man, and he is my enemy, having already persuaded several of my congregation to settle in his colony. You must help me to put him down, by accusing him of having tried to do a criminal action with you.'
"Madame Bossey answered: 'I cannot say such a thing against Mr. Chiniquy, when I know it is absolutely false.'
"Rev. Mr. Lebel replied: 'If you refuse to comply with my request, I will not give you the one hundred and sixty acres of land I intended to give you; you will live and die poor.'
"Madame Bossey answered: 'I prefer never to have that land, and I like better to live and die poor, than to perjure myself to please you.'
"The Rev. Mr Lebel, several times, urged his sister, Mrs. Bossey, to comply with his desires, but she refused. At last, weeping and crying, she said: 'I prefer never to have an inch of land than to damn my soul for swearing to a falsehood.'
"The Rev. Mr. Lebel then said:
"'Mr. Chiniquy will destroy our holy religion and our people if we do not destroy him. If you think the swearing I ask you to do is a sin, you will come to confess to me, and I will pardon it in the absolution I will give you.'
"'Have you the power to forgive a false oath?' replied Mrs. Bossey to her brother, the priest.
"'Yes,' he answered, 'I have that power; for Christ has said to all His priests, "What you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."'
Mrs. Bossey then said: 'If you promise that you will forgive that false oath, and if you give me the one hundred and sixty acres of land you promised, I will do what you want.'
"The Rev. Mr. Lebel then said: 'All right!' I could not hear any more of that conversation, for in that instant Miss Eugenia Bossey, who had kept still and silent with us, made some noise and shut the door.
"Affiant further states: That, some time later, I went to confess to Rev. Mr. Lebel, and I told him that I had lost confidence in him. He asked me why? I answered: 'I lost my confidence in you since I heard your conversation with your sister, when you tried to persuade her to perjure herself in order to destroy Father Chiniquy.
"Affiant further says: That in the month of October, A.D. 1856, the Rev. Mr. Chiniquy had to defend himself, before the civil and criminal court of Urbana, Illinois, in an action brought against him by Peter Spink; some one wrote from Urbana to a paper of Chicago, that Father Chiniquy was probably to be condemned. The paper which published that letter was much read by the Roman Catholics, who were glad to hear that that priest was to be punished. Among those who read that paper was Narcisse Terrien. He had lately been married to Miss Sara Chaussey, who told him that Father Chiniquy was innocent; that she was present with me when Rev. Lebel prepared the plot with his sister, Mrs. Bossey, had promised her a large piece of land if she would swear falsely against Father Chiniquy. Mr. Narcisse Terrien wanted to go with his wife to the help of Father Chiniquy, but she was unwell and could not go. He came to ask me if I remembered well the conversation of Rev. Mr. Lebel, and if I would consent to go to Urbana to expose the whole plot before the court, and I consented.
"We started that same evening for Urbana, where we arrived late at night. I immediately met Mr. Abraham Lincoln, one of the lawyers of Father Chiniquy, and told him all that I knew about the plot.
"That very same night the Rev. Mr. Lebel, having seen my name on the hotel register, came to me much excited and troubled, and said, 'Philomene, what are you here for?'
"I answered him: 'I cannot exactly tell you that; but you will probably know it to-morrow at the court-house?'
"'Oh, wretched girl!' he exclaimed, 'you have come to destroy me.'
"'I do not come to destroy you,' I replied 'for you are already destroyed!'
"Then drawing from his porte-mnnaie-book a big bundle of bank-notes, which he said was worth one hundred dollars, he said: 'I will give you all this money if you will leave by the morning train and go back to Chicago.'
"I answered him; 'Though you would offer me as much gold as this room can contain, I cannot do what you ask.'
"He then seemed exceedingly distressed, and he disappeared. The next morning Peter Spink requested the court to allow him to withdraw his accusations against Father Chiniquy, and stop his prosecutions, having, he said, found out that he, Father Chiniquy, was innocent of the things brought against him, and his request was granted. Then the innocence and honesty of Father Chiniquy was acknowledged by the court after it had been proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln, who was afterwards elected President of the United States.
"(Signed) Philomene Schwartz.
"I, Stephen R. Moore, a Notary Public in the County of Kankakee, in the State of Illinois, and duly authorized by law to administer oaths, do hereby certify that, on this 21st day of October, A.D. 1881, Philomene Schwartz personally appeared before me, and made oath that the above affidavit by her subscribed is true, as therein stated. In witness whereto, I have hereunto set my hand and notarial seal.
"STEPHEN R. MOORE,
CHAPTER 59 Back to Table of Contents
When it became evident, in 1851, that my plan of forming a grand colony of Roman Catholic French-speaking people on the prairies of Illinois was to be a success, D'Arcy McGee, then editor of The Freeman's Journal, official Journal of the Bishop of New York, wrote me to know my views, and immediately determined to put himself at the head of a similar enterprise in behalf of the Irish Roman Catholics. He published several able articles to show that the Irish people, with very few exceptions, were demoralized, degraded and kept poor, around their groggeries, and showed how they would thrive, become respectable and rich, if they could be induced to exchange their grog shops for the fertile lands of the west. Through his influence, a large assembly, principally composed of priests, to which I was invited, met at Buffalo, in the spring of 1852. But what was his disappointment, when he saw that the greatest part of those priests were sent by the Bishops of the United States to oppose and defeat his plans!
He vainly spoke with a burning eloquence for his pet scheme. The majority coldly answered him: "We are determined, like you, to take possession of the United States and rule them; but we cannot do that without acting secretly and with the utmost wisdom. If our plans are known, they will surely be defeated. What does a skillful general do when he wants to conquer a country? Does he scatter his soldiers over the farm lands, and spend their energy and power in ploughing the fields and sowing grain? No! he keeps them well united around his banners, and marches at their head, to the conquest of the strongholds, the rich and powerful cities. The farming countries then submit and become the price of his victory without moving a finger to subdue them. So it is with us. Silently and patiently, we must mass our Roman Catholics in the great cities of the United States, remembering that the vote of a poor journeyman, though he be covered with rags, has as much weight in the scale of power as the millionaire Astor, and that if we have two votes against his one, he will become as powerless as an oyster. Let us then multiply our votes;; let us call our poor but faithful Irish Catholics from every corner of the world, and gather them into the very hearts of those proud citadels which the Yankees are so rapidly building under the names of Washington, New York, Boston, Chicago, Buffalo, Albany, Troy, Cincinnati, ect. Under the shadows of those great cities, the Americans consider themselves a giant and unconquerable race. They look upon the poor Irish Catholic people with supreme contempt, as only fit to dig their canals, sweep their streets and work in their kitchens. Let no one awake those sleeping lions, today. Let up pray God that they may sleep and dream their sweet dreams, a few years more. How sad will their awakening be, when with our out-numbering votes, we will turn them for ever, from every position of honour, power and profit! What will those hypocritical and godless sons and daughters of the fanatical Pilgrim Fathers say, when not a single judge, not a single teacher, not a single policeman, will be elected if he be not a devoted Irish Roman Catholic? What will those so-called giants think of their matchless shrewdness and ability, when not a single Senator or member of congress will be chosen, if he be not submitted to our holy father the Pope! What a sad figure those Protestant Yankees will cut when we will not only elect the President, but fill and command the armies, man the navies and hold the keys of the public treasury? It will then be time for our faithful Irish people to give up their grog shops, in order to become the judges and governors of the land. Then, our poor and humble mechanics will leave their damp ditches and muddy streets, to rule the cities in all their departments, for the stately mansion of Mayor to the more humble, though not less noble position of teacher.
"Then, yes! then, we will rule the United States, and lay them at the feet of the Vicar of Jesus Christ, that he may put an end to their godless system of education, and impious laws of liberty of conscience which are an insult to God and man!"
D'Arcy McGee was left almost alone when the votes were taken. From that, the Catholic priests, with the most admirable ability and success, have gathered their Irish legions into the great cities of the United States, and the American people must be very blind indeed, if they do not see that if they do nothing to prevent it, the day is very near when the Jesuits will rule their country, from the magnificent White House at Washington to the humblest civil and military department of this vast Republic. They are already the masters of New York, Baltimore, Chicago, St. Paul, New Orleans, Mobile, Savannah, Cincinnati, Albany, Troy, Milwaukee, St. Louis, San Francisco, ect. Yes! San Francisco, the rich, the great queen of the Pacific, is in the hands of the Jesuits!
From the very first days of the discovery of the gold mines of California, the Jesuits had the hopes of becoming masters of those inexhaustible treasures, and they secretly laid their plans, with the most profound ability and success. They saw, at once, that the great majority of the lucky miners, of every creed and nation, were going back home as soon as they had enough to secure an honourable competence to their families. It became then evident, that of those multitudes which the thirst of gold had brought from every corner of the world, not one out of fifty would fix their homes in San Francisco. The Jesuits saw at a glance that if they could persuade the Irish Catholics to settle and remain there, they would soon be the masters and rulers of that golden city whose future is so bright and so great! And that scheme, worked day and night, with the utmost perseverance, has been crowned with perfect success.
The consequence is, that while you find only a few Americans, Germans, Scotch, and English millionaires in San Francisco, you find more than fifty Catholic Irish millionaires in that city. Its richest bank (Nevada Bank) is in their hands, and so are all the street railways. The principal offices of the city are filled with Irish Roman Catholics. Almost all the police are composed of the same class, as well as the volunteer military associations. Their compact unity, in the hands of the Jesuits, with their enormous wealth, make them almost supreme masters of the mines of California and Nevada.
When one knows the absolute, abject submission of the Irish Roman Catholics, rich or poor, to their priests, how the mind, the soul, the will, the conscience, are firmly and irrevocably tied to the feet of their priests, he can easily understand that the Jesuits of the United States form one of the richest and most powerful corporations the world ever saw. It is well known that those fifty Catholic millionaires, with their myriads of employees are, through their wives, and by themselves, continually at the feet of the Jesuits, who swim in a golden sea. No one, if he be not a Roman Catholic, or one of those so-called Protestants who give their daughters to the nuns, and their sons to the Jesuits to be educated, has much hopes, where the Jesuits rule, of having a lucrative office in the United States today.
The Americans, with few exceptions, do not pay any attention to the dark cloud which is rising at their horizon, from Rome. Though that cloud is filled with rivers of tears and blood, they let it grow and rise without even caring how they will escape from the impending hurricane.
It is to San Francisco that you must go to have an idea of the number of secret and powerful organizations with which the Church of Rome prepares herself for the impending conflict, through which she hopes to destroy the schools, and every vestige of human rights and liberties in the United States.
In order to more easily drill the Roman Catholics and prepare them for the irrepressible struggle, the Jesuits have organized them into a great number of secret societies, the principal of which are: Ancient Order of Hibernians, Irish American Society, Knights of St. Patrick, St. Patrick's Cadets, St. Patrick Mutual Alliance, Apostles of Liberty, Benevolent Sons of the Emerald Isle, Knights of St. Peter, Knights of the Red Branch, Knights of the Columskill, The Secret Heart, ect.,ect.
Almost all these secret associations are military ones. They have their headquarters at San Francisco, put their rank and file are scattered all over the United States. They number several hundred thousand soldiers, who, under the name of U.S. Volunteer Militia, are officered by some of the most skillful generals and officers of this Republic.
Another fact, to which the American Protestants do not sufficiently pay attention, is that the Jesuits have been shrewd enough to have a vast majority of Roman Catholic generals and officers to command the army and man the navy of the United States.
Rome is in constant conspiracy against the rights and liberties of man all over the world; but she is particularly so in the United States.
Long before I was ordained a priest, I knew that my church was the most implacable enemy of this Republic. My professors of philosophy, history, and theology had been unanimous in telling me that the principles and laws of the Church of Rome were absolutely antagonistic to the laws and principles which are the foundation-stones of the Constitution of the United States.
1st. The most sacred principle of the United States Constitution is the equality of every citizen before the law. But the fundamental principle of the Church of Rome is the denial of that equality.
2nd. Liberty of conscience is proclaimed by the United States, a most sacred principle which every citizen must uphold, even at the price of his blood. But liberty of conscience is declared by all the Popes and Councils of Rome, a most godless, unholy, and diabolical thing, which every good Catholic must abhor and destroy at any cost.
3rd. The American Constitution assures the absolute independence of the civil from the ecclesiastical or church power; but the Church of Rome declares, through all her Pontiffs and Councils, that such independence is an impiety and a revolt against God.
4th. The American Constitution leaves every man free to serve God according to the dictates of his conscience; but the Church of Rome declares that no man has ever had such a right, and that the Pope alone can know and say what man must believe and do.
5th. The Constitution of the United States denies the right in any body to punish any other for differing from him in religion. But the Church of Rome says that she has a right to punish with the confiscation of their goods, or the penalty of death, those who differ in faith from the Pope.
6th. The United States have established schools all over their immense territories, where they invite the people to send their children, that they may cultivate their intelligence and become good and useful citizens. But the Church of Rome has publicly cursed all those schools, and forbidden their children to attend them, under pain of excommunication in this world and damnation in the next.
7th. The Constitution of the United States is based on the principle that the people are the primary source of all civil power. But hundreds of times, the Church of Rome has proclaimed that this principle is impious and heretical. She says that "all government must rest upon the foundation of the Catholic faith; with the Pope alone as the legitimate and infallible source and interpreter of the law."
I could cite many other things, proving that the Church of Rome is an absolute and irreconcilable enemy of the United States; but it would be too long. These are sufficient to show to the American people that Rome is a viper, which they feed and press upon their bosom. Sooner or later that viper will bite to death and kill this Republic. This was foretold by Lafayette, and is now promulgated by the greatest thinkers of our time. The greatest inventor, or rather the immortal father of electric telegraphy, Samuel Morse, found it out when in Rome, and published it in 1834, in his remarkable work, "Conspiracies against the Liberties of the United States". The learned Dr. S. Ireneus Prime, in his life of Professor Morse, says, "When Mr. Morse was in Italy, he became acquainted with several ecclesiastics of the Church of Rome, and he was led to believe, from what he learned from them, that a political conspiracy, under the cloak of a religious mission, was formed against the United States. When he came to Paris and enjoyed the confidence and friendship of Lafayette, he stated his convictions to the General, who fully concurred with him in the reality of such a conspiracy."
That great statesman and patriot, the late Richard W. Thompson, Secretary of the Navy, in his admirable work, "The Papacy and the Civil Power," says, "Nothing is plainer than that, if the principles of the Church of Rome prevail here, our constitution would necessarily fall. The two cannot exist together. They are in open and direct antagonism with the fundamental theory of our government and of all popular government everywhere."
The eloquent Spanish orator, Castelar, speaking of his own Church of Rome, said, in 1869: "There is not a single progressive principle that has not been cursed by the Catholic Church. This is true of England and Germany, as well as all Catholic countries. The Church cursed the French Revolution, the Belgian Constitution, and the Italian Independence. Not a constitution has been born, not a step of progress made, not a solitary reform effected, which has not been under the terrific anathemas of the Church."
But why ask the testimony of Protestants or Liberals to warn the American people against that conspiracy, when we have the public testimony of all the bishops and priests to prove it? With the most daring impudence, the Church of Rome, through her leading men, is boasting of her stern determination to destroy all the rights and privileges which have cost so much blood to this American people. Let the Americans, who have eyes to see and intelligence to understand, read the following unimpeachable documents, and judge for themselves of what will become of this country, if Rome is allowed to grow strong enough to execute her threats.
"The church is of necessity intolerant. Heresy, she endures when and where she must, but she hates it, and directs all her energies to destroy it."
"If Catholics ever gain a sufficient numerical majority in this country, religious freedom is at an end. So our enemies say, so we believe."*
"No man has a right to choose his religion. Catholicism is the most intolerant of creeds. It is intolerance itself. We might as rationally maintain that two and two does not make four as the theory of Religious Liberty. Its impiety is only equaled by its absurdity."**
"The church is instituted, as every Catholic who understands his religion believes, to guard and defend the right of God against any and every enemy, at all times, in all places. She, therefore, does not, and cannot accept, or in any degree favour, liberty in Protestant sense of liberty."***
"The Catholic Church is the medium and channel through which the will of God is expressed. While the State has rights, she has them only in virtue and by permission of the Superior Authority, and that authority can be expressed only through the Church."****
"Protestantism has not, and never can have, any right where Catholicity has triumphed. Therefore we lose the breath we expend in declaiming against bigotry and intolerance and in favour of Religious Liberty, or the right of any man to be of any religion as best pleases him."*****
"Religious Liberty is merely endured until the opposite can be carried into effect without peril to the Catholic Church." Rt. Rev. O'Connor, Bishop of Pittsburgh.
"The Catholic Church numbers one-third the American population; and if its membership shall increase for the next thirty years as it has the thirty years past, in 1900 Rome will have a majority, and be bound to take this country and keep it. There is, ere long, to be a state religion in this country, and that state religion is to be the Roman Catholic.
"1st. The Roman Catholic is to wield his vote for the purpose of securing Catholic ascendancy in this country.
"2nd. All legislation must be governed by the will of God, unerringly indicated by the Pope.
"3rd. Education must be controlled by Catholic authorities, and under education the opinions of the individual and the utterances of the press are included, and many opinions are to be forbidden by the secular arm, under the authority of the Church, even to war and bloodshed."******
"It was proposed that all religious persuasions should be free and their worship publicly exercised. But we have rejected this article as contrary to the canons and councils of the Catholic Church."*
Every one knows that one of the first and most solemn acts of the present Pope, Leo XIII., was to order that the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas should be taught in all the colleges, seminaries, and universities of the Church of Rome throughout the whole world, as the most accurate teaching of the doctrines of his church. Well, on the 30th December, 1880, I forced the Rt. Rev. Foley, Bishop of Chicago, to translate from Latin into English, before the court of Kankakee, and to swear that the following law was among those promulgated by St. Thomas as one of the present and unchangeable laws of the Church of Rome:
"Though heretics must not be tolerated because they deserve it, we must bear with them, till, by a second admonition, they may be brought back to the faith of the church. But those who, after a second admonition, remain obstinate in their errors, must not only be excommunicated, but they must be delivered to the secular power to be exterminated."**
After the bishop had sworn that this was the true doctrine of the Church of Rome expressed by St. Thomas, and taught in all the colleges, seminaries, and universities of the Church of Rome, I forced him to declare, under oath, that he, and every priest of Rome, once a year, under pain of eternal damnation, is obliged to say, in the presence of God, in his Breviarum (his official prayer-book), that that doctrine was so good and holy, that every word of it has been inspired by the Holy Ghost to St. Thomas.
The same Bishop Foley was again forced by me, before the same court of Kankakee, to translate from Latin into English, the following decree of the Council of Lateran, and to acknowledge, under oath, that it was as much the law of the Church of Rome today as on the day it was passed in the year 1215.
"We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy that exalts itself against the holy orthodox and Catholic faith, condemning all heretics, by whatever name they may be known, for though their faces differ, they are tied together by their tails. Such as are condemned are to be delivered over to the existing secular powers to receive due punishment. If laymen, their goods must be confiscated. If priests, they shall be degraded from their respective orders, and their property applied to the church in which they officated. Secular powers of all ranks and degrees are to be warned, induced, and, if necessary, compelled by ecclesiastical censure, to swear that they will exert themselves to the utmost in the defense of the faith, and extirpate all heretics denounced by the church, who shall be found in their territories. And whenever any person shall assume government, whether it be spiritual or temporal, he shall be bound to abide by this decree.
"If any temporal lord, after having been admonished and required by the church, shall neglect to clear his territory of heretical depravity, the Metropolitan and Bishop of the Province, shall unite in excommunicating him. Should he remain contumacious a whole year, the fact shall be signified to the Supreme Pontiff, who will declare his vassals released from their allegiance from that time, and will bestow his territory on Catholics, to be occupied by them, on condition of exterminating the heretics and preserving the said territory in the faith.*
"Catholics who shall assume the cross for the extermination of heretics, shall enjoy the same indulgence, and be protected by the same privileges as are granted to those who go to the help of the Holy Land. We decree further that all those who have dealings with heretics, and especially such as receive, defend and encourage them, shall be excommunicated. He shall not be eligible to any public officer. He shall not be admitted as a witness. He shall neither have the power to bequeath his property by will, nor succeed to an inheritance. He shall not bring any action against any person, but any one can bring action against him. Should he be a judge, his decision shall have no force, nor shall any cause be brought before him. Should he be a lawyer, no instruments made by him shall be held valid, but shall be condemned with their authors."
Cardinal Manning, speaking in the name of the Pope, said: "I acknowledge no civil power; I am the subject of no prince; and I claim more than this. I claim to be the supreme judge and director of the conscience of men of the peasants that till the fields, and of the prince that sits upon the throne; of the household that lives in the shade of privacy, and the legislator that makes laws for kingdoms I am sole, last, supreme judge of what is right and wrong. Moreover, we declare, affirm, define, and pronounce it to be necessary to salvation to every human creature, to be subject to the Roman Pontiff!!"**
"Undoubtedly it is the intention of the Pope to possess this country. In this intention he is aided by the Jesuits, and all the Catholic prelates and priests."*
"For our own part, we take this opportunity to express our hearty delight at the suppression of the Protestant chapel in Rome. This may be thought intolerant; but when, we ask, did we profess to be tolerant of Protestantism, or to favour the question that Protestantism ought to be tolerated. On the contrary, we hate Protestantism. We detest it with our whole heart and soul, and we pray our aversion for it may never decrease."**
"No good government can exist without religion, and there can be no religion without an Inquisition, which is wisely designed for the promotion and protection of the true faith."***
"The Pope has the right to pronounce sentence of deposition against any sovereign when required by the good of the Spiritual Order."****
"The power of the church exercised over sovereigns in the middle ages was not a usurpation, was not derived from the concessions of princes or the consent of the people, but was and is held by divine right, and whoso resists it rebels against the King of kings and Lord of lords."*****
The Council of Constance, held in 1414, declared, "That any person who has promised security to heretics shall not be obliged to keep his promise, by whatever he may be engaged."
It is, in consequence of that principle that no faith must be kept with heretics, that John Huss was publicly burned on the scaffold, the 6th July, 1415, in the city of Constance, though he had a safe passport from the Emperor.
"Negroes have no rights which the white man is bound to respect."******
"If the liberties of the American people are ever destroyed, they will fall by the hands of the Catholic clergy." Lafayette.
"If your son or daughter is attending a State School, you are violating your duty as a Catholic parent, and conducing to the everlasting anguish and despair of your child. Take him away. Take him away if you do not wish your deathbed to be tormented with the spectre of a soul which God has given you as a secret trust, surrendered to the great enemy of mankind. Take him away, rather than incur the wrath of his God, and the loss of his soul."**
All the echoes of the United States, are still repeating the same denunciations against our public schools made by Mgr. Capel, a prelate attached to the household of the Pope. That Roman Catholic dignitary has not only passed again the sentence of death against the schools of the United States, but he has warned the Americans that the time is not far away when the Roman Catholics, at the order of the Pope, will refuse to pay their school tax, and will send bullets to the breasts of the government agents, rather than pay it. "The order can come any day from Rome," said the prelate. "It will come as quickly as the click of the trigger, and it will be obeyed, of course, as coming from God Almighty Himself!"
The Catholic Columbian, edited under the immediate supervision of the Right Rev. Bishop of Columbus, Ohio, says: "Secular (government) schools, are unfit for Catholic children. Catholic parents cannot be allowed the sacraments, who choose to send their children to them, when they could make use of the Catholic schools."
"The absurd and erroneous doctrines, or ravings, in defense of liberty of conscience, are a most pestilential error, a pest of all others, to be dreaded in the State."*
"You should do all in your power to carry out the intentions of his holiness the Pope. Where you have the electoral franchise, give your votes to none but those who assist you in so holy a struggle."**
"Catholic votes should be cast solidly for the democracy at the next election. It is the only possible hope to break down the school system."***
"It is of faith that the Pope has the right of deposing heretical and rebel kings. Monarchs so deposed by the Pope are converted into notorious tyrants, and may be killed by the first who can reach them.
"If the public cause cannot meet with its defense in the death of a tyrant, it is lawful for the first who arrives, to assassinate him."****
"See, sir, from this chamber, I govern, not only to Paris, but to China; not only to China, but to all the world, without anyone knowing how I do it."*****
"A man who has been excommunicated by the Pope may be killed anywhere, as Escobar and Deaux teach, because the Pope has an indirect jurisdiction over the whole world, even in temporal things, as all the Catholics maintain, and as Suarez proves against the King of England."******
The Roman Catholic historian of the Jesuits, Cretineau Joly, in his Vol. II., page 435, approvingly says: "Father Guivard, writing about Henry IV., King of France, says: 'If he cannot be deposed, let us make war; and if we cannot make war, let him be killed.'"
The great Roman Catholic theologian, Dens, puts to himself the question: "Are heretics justly punished with death?" He answers, "St. Thomas says: Yes! 2.2. Question 11, Art. 3. Because forgers of money, or other disturbers of the State, are justly punished with death; therefore, all heretics who are forgers of faith and, as experience testifies, grievously disturb the State. This is confirmed, because God, in the Old Testament, ordered the false prophets to be slain, and in Deuteronomy it is decreed that if any one will act proudly, and will not obey the commands of the priests, let him be put to death. The same is proved from the condemnation of the 14th Article of John Huss in the Council of Constance."*
"That we may in all things attain the truth. That we may not err in anything, we ought ever to hold, as a fixed principle, that what I see white, I believe to be black, if the superior authorities of the church define it to be so."**
"As for holy obedience, this virtue must be perfect in every point, in execution, in will, in intellect, doing which is enjoined with all celerity, spiritual joy, and perseverance; persuading ourselves that everything is just, suppressing every repugnant thought and judgment of one's own,in a certain obedience, should be moved and directed under Divine Providence, by his superior, just as if he were a corpse (Perinde acsi cadaver esset) which allows itself to be moved and led in every direction."***
"If the Holy Church so requires, let us sacrifice our own opinions, our knowledge, our intelligence, the splendid dreams of our imagination and the sublime attainments of human understanding."****
"No more cunning plot was ever devised against the intelligence, the freedom, the happiness and virtue of mankind than Romanism."*****
The principle and most efficacious means of practicing obedience due to superiors, and of rendering it meritorious before God, is to consider that, in obeying them, we obey God Himself, and that by despising their commands, we despise the authority of the Divine Master.
"When, thus, a Religious receives a precept from her prelate, superior, or confessor, she should immediately execute it, not only to please them, but principally to please God, whose will is known by their command.
"If, then, you receive a command from one who holds the place of God, you should observe it as if it came from God Himself. It may be added that there is more certainty of doing the will of God by obedience to our superiors than by obedience to Jesus Christ, should He appear in person and give His command.
"St. Philip used to say that the Religious shall be most certain of not having to render an account of the actions performed through obedience, for these, the superiors only, who command them, shall be accountable."*
"In the name and by the authority of Jesus Christ, the plentitude of which resides in His Vicar, the Pope, we declare that the earth is not the centre of the world, and that it moves with a diurnal motion, is absurd, philosophically false, and erroneous in faith."**
In consequence of that infallible decree of the infallible Pope, Galileo, in order to escape death, was obliged to fall on his knees and perjure himself, by signing the following declaration on the 22nd of June, 1663:
"I abjure, curse and detest the error and heresy of the motion of the earth around the sun."
In obedience to that decree, the two learned Jesuit astronomers, Lesueur and Jacquier, in Rome, only a few years ago, made the following declaration: "Newton assumes in his third book, the hypothesis of the earth moving round the sun. The proposition of that author could not be explained, except through the same hypothesis; we have, therefore, been forced to act a character not our own. But we declare our entire submission to the decrees of the supreme Pontiff of Rome against the motion of the earth."****
"A Catholic should never attach himself to any political party composed of heretics. No one who is truly, at heart, a thorough and complete Catholic, can give his entire adhesion to a Protestant leader; for in so doing, he divides his allegiance, which he owes entirely to the church."*****
"Would he (the priest) be warranted in withholding any sacrament of the church from a man by reason of his preferring one candidate to the other! Absolutely speaking, he would; because a priest is not only warranted, but bound to withhold, the sacraments from a man who is disposed to commit a mortal sin!!"*
"Our business is to contrive:
"1st. That the Catholics be imbued with hatred for the heretics, whoever they may be, and that this hatred shall constantly increase, and bind them closely to each other.
"2nd. That it be, nevertheless, dissembled, so as not to transpire until the day when it shall be appointed to break forth.
"3rd. That this secret hate be combined with great activity in endeavouring to detach the faithful from every government inimical to us, and employ them, when they shall form a detached body, to strike deadly blows at heresy."**
Henry IV., King of France, after being wounded by an assassin sent by the Jesuits, said: "I am compelled to do one of these two things: Either recall the Jesuits, free them from the infamy and disgrace with which they are covered, or to expel them in a more absolute manner, and prevent them from approaching either my person or my kingdom.
"But, then, we will drive them to despair and to the resolution of attempting my life again, which would render it so miserable to me, being always under the apprehension of being murdered or poisoned. For those people have correspondence everywhere, and are so very skillful in disposing the minds of men to whatever they wish, that I think it would be better that I should be already dead."***
"Let us bring all our skill to bear upon this part of our plan. Our chief concern must be to mould the people to our purposes. Doubtless, the first generation will not be wholly ours; but the second will nearly belong to us; and the third entirely."****
"The state, is, therefore, only an inferior court, bound to receive the law from the superior court (the church) and liable to have its decrees reversed on appeal."*****
"The Jesuits are a military organization, not a religious order. Their chief is a general of an army, not the mere father abbot of a monastery. And the aim of this organization is: Power. Power in its most despotic exercise. Absolute power, universal power, power to control the world by the volition of a single man. Jesuitism is the most absolute of despotisms; and at the same time the greatest and the most enormous of abuses."*
"The general of the Jesuits insists on being master, sovereign, over the sovereign. Wherever the Jesuits are admitted they will be masters, cost what it may. Their society is by nature dictatorial, and therefore it is the irreconcilable enemy of all constituted authority. Every act, every crime, however atrocious, is a meritorious work, if committed for the interest of the Society of the Jesuits, or by the order of its general."**
In the allocution of September, 1851, Pope Pius IX. said:
"That he had taken that principle for basis: That the Catholic religion, with all its votes, ought to be exclusively dominant in such sort that every other worship shall be banished and interdicted!
"You ask if the Pope were lord of this land and you were in a minority, what he would do to you? That, we say, would entirely depend on circumstances. If it would benefit the cause of Catholicism, he would tolerate you; if expedient, he would imprison, banish you, probably he might even hang you. But be assured of one thing, he would never tolerate you for the sake of your glorious principles of civil and religious liberty."***
Lord Acton, one of the Roman Catholic peers of England, reproaching her bloody and anti-social laws to his own church, wrote: "Pope Gregory VII. decided it was no murder to kill excommunicated persons. This rule was incorporated in the canon law. During the revision of the code, which took place in the 16th century, and which produced a whole volume of corrections, the passage was allowed to stand. It appears in every reprint of the Corpus Juris. It has been for 700 years, and continues to be, part of the ecclesiastical law. Far from being a dead letter, it obtained a new application in the days of the Inquisition; and one of the later Popes has declared that the murder of a Protestant is so good a deed that it atones, and more than atones, for the murder of a Catholic."**** In the last council of the Vatican, has the Church of Rome expressed any regret for having promulgated and executed such bloody laws? No! On the contrary, she has anathematized all those who think or say that she was wrong when she deluged the world with the blood of the millions she ordered to be slaughtered to quench her thirst for blood; she positively said that she had the right to punish those heretics by tortures and death.
Those bloody and anti-social laws, were written on the banners of the Roman Catholics, when slaughtering 100,000 Waldenses in the mountains of Piedmont, and more that 50,000 defenseless men, women and children in the city of Bezieres. It is under the inspiration of those diabolical laws of Rome, that 75,000 Protestants were massacred, the night and following week of St. Bartholomew.
It was to obey those bloody laws that Louis XIV. revoked the Edict of Nantes, caused the death of half a million of men, women and children, who perished in all the highways of France, and caused twice that number to die in the land of exile, where they had found a refuge.
Those anti-social laws, today, are written on her banners with the blood of ten millions of martyrs. It is under those bloody banners that 6,000 Roman Catholic priests, Jesuits and bishops, in the United States, are marching to the conquest of this Republic, backed by their seven millions of blind and obedient slaves.
Those laws, which are still the ruling laws of Rome, were the main cause of the last rebellion of the Southern States.
Yes! without Romanism, the last awful civil war would have been impossible. Jeff Davis would never have dared to attack the North, had he not had assurance from the Pope, that the Jesuits, the bishops, the priests and the whole people of the Church of Rome, under the name and mask of Democracy, would help him.
These diabolical and anti-social laws of Rome caused a Roman Catholic (Beauregard) to be the man chosen to fire the first gun at Fort Sumter, against the flag of Liberty, on the 12th of April, 1861. Those antichristian and anti-social laws caused the Pope of Rome to be the only crowned prince in the whole world, so depraved as to publicly shake hands with Jeff Davis, and proclaim him President of a legitimate government.
These are the laws which led the assassins of Abraham Lincoln to the house of a rabid Roman Catholic woman, Mary Surratt, which was not only the rendezvous of the priests of Washington, but the very dwelling-house of some of them.
That woman, gifted by God to be an angel of peace and mercy on earth, was changed by those laws into a bloodthirsty tigress; for she had smelt the blood which everywhere comes from the robe, the hands, and the lips of the priest of Rome.
Those bloody and infernal laws of Rome nerved the arm of the Roman Catholic, Booth, when he slaughtered one of the noblest men God has ever given to the world.
Those bloody and anti-social laws of Rome, after having covered Europe with ruins, tears, and blood for ten centuries, have crossed the oceans to continue their work of slavery and desolation, blood, and tears, ignorance and demoralization, on this continent. Under the mask and name of Democracy they have raised the standard of rebellion of the South against the North, and caused more than half a million of the most heroic sons of America to fall on the fields of carnage.
In a very near future, if God does not miraculously prevent it, those laws of dark deeds and blood will cause the prosperity, the rights, the education, and the liberties of this too confident nation to be buried under a mountain of smoking and bloody ruins. On the top of that mountain, Rome will raise her throne and plant her victorious banners.
Then she will sing her Te Deums and shout her shouts of joy, as she did when she heard the lamentations and cries of desolation of the millions of martyrs burning in the five thousand auto-da-fes she had raised in all the capitals and great cities of Europe.
CHAPTER 60 Back to Table of Contents
EQUALITY AND FRATERNITY OF MEN PROCLAIMED BY CHRIST.
"Be ye not called Rabbi. For one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matt. xxiii. 8).
"God is not respecter of persons; but in every nation, he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him" (Acts x. 34, 35).
"Jesus called them unto Him and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
"But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.
"Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give His life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 25, 28).
PRINCIPLES OF LIBERTY PROCLAIMED BY CHRIST.
"If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . . If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John viii. 31, 32, 36).
"The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke iv. 18).
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor. iii. 17).
TOLERANCE AND LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE PROCLAIMED BY CHRIST.
"And they did not receive Him (Christ), because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem. And when His disciples, James and John, saw this, they said, Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elias did?
"But He turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of:
"For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke ix. 53, 56).
"Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.
"Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath; the cup which my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it? For all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword" (John xviii. 10, 11; Matt. xxvi. 51, 52).
It is no wonder that the people of Judea, filled with admiration at these sublime doctrines of equality, fraternity, liberty and tolerance, should exclaim, "Never man spake like this man!"
Is it on those admirable principles that the Church of Rome is founded? No! for she has, thousands of times, proclaimed that her mission was to destroy them all, even if she had to wade in the blood of those who support them.
But just as the Romish Church is not only the very antipodes and the most implacable enemy of those admirable doctrines and principles, so the constitution of the United States is the ripe fruit of this divine seed, sown by the Son of God Himself in the bosom of humanity, eighteen hundred years ago.
Yes, in reference to those principles of fraternity, equality, liberty, and tolerance, the constitution of the United States is to the Gospel of Christ what the fruit is to the tree which has given it. And this is the verdict given by the whole world, the Church of Rome excepted.
Why is it that the poor, the bruised, the wounded, and the oppressed from every land turn their eyes, their hearts, and their steps towards this country? It is because all the echoes of heaven and earth have told them that the Untied States Republic is, par excellence, the land of fraternity, fair play, equality, and liberty.
The Pope of Rome and his Jesuits know this better than any one. Hence their constant and supreme efforts to destroy this Republic. Believing and preaching that it is their duty to exterminate the individuals who differ from them in religion, they assume that it is their duty to destroy the governments and the nations who refuse to submit to their yoke, when they can do it safely.
The mission of Rome being to teach that the inferior, the people, must obey his superior, just as the corpse obeys the hand which moves it, or as the stick obeys the arm which directs it, she knows well that she cannot fulfill her mission and attain her object so long as this government of a free, sovereign people, stands; she is, then, bound to oppose, paralyze, and destroy that government when she finds her opportunity.
With lynx eye, she watched that opportunity: and with anxiety and rage she spied from her cradle the onward march of this young giant Republic. She knew that it was in the bosom of every true citizen of the United States to propagate those accursed (by her) principles of equality, fraternity, and liberty all over the world. She saw that the irresistible influence of those principles were felt on the most distant nations, as well as on the poor, miserable Irish people, she was keeping under her heavy and ignominious yoke; she understood that there was a real danger for her very existence, if those principles would continue to spread; that her slavery star would go down as the liberty star would rise on the horizon. In a word, Rome saw at once that the very existence of the United States was a formidable menace to her own life. Already she had seen the chains of two millions of her Irish slaves melted at the simple touch of the warm rays of liberty which had fallen from the stars and stripes banners. From the very beginning she perfidiously sowed the germs of division and hatred between the two great sections of this country, and she felt an unspeakable joy when she saw that she had succeeded in dividing its South from the North, on the burning question of slavery. She looked upon that division as her golden opportunity. To crush one party by the other, and reign over the bloody ruins of both, has invariably been her policy. She hoped that the hour of her supreme triumph over this continent was come. She ordered her elder son, the Emperor of France, to keep himself ready to help her to crush the North, by having an army in Mexico ready to support the South, and she bade all the Roman Catholic bishops, priests, and people to enroll themselves under the banners of slavery, by joining themselves to the party of the Democracy. And everybody knows how the Roman Catholic bishops and priests, almost to a man, obeyed that order. Only one bishop dared to disobey. Above everything, it was ordered to oppose the election of Lincoln at any cost. For, from the very first day that his eloquent voice had been heard, a thrill of terror had gone through the hearts of the partisans of slavery. The Democratic press, which was then, as it is still now, almost entirely under the control of the Roman Catholics, and the devoted tool of the Jesuits, deluged the country with the most fearful denunciations against him. They called him an ape, a stupid brute, a most dangerous lunatic, a bloody monster, a merciless tyrant, ect., ect. In a word, Rome exhausted all her resources of language, she ransacked the English dictionary to find the most suitable expressions to fill the people with contempt, hatred, and horror against him. But it was written in the decrees of God that honest Abraham Lincoln should be proclaimed President of the United States, the 4th of March 1861.
At the end of August, having known from a Roman Catholic priest, whom, by the mercy of God, I had persuaded to leave the errors of Popery, that there was a plot among them to assassinate the President, I thought it was my duty to go and tell him what I knew, at the same time giving him a new assurance of gratitude for what he had done for me.
Knowing that I was among those who were waiting in the ante-chamber, he sent immediately for me, and received me with greater cordiality and marks of kindness than I could expect.
"I am so glad to meet you again," he said: "you see that your friends, the Jesuits, have not yet killed me. But they would have surely done it when I passed through their most devoted city, Baltimore, had I not defeated their plans, by passing incognito a few hours before they expected me. We have the proof that the company which has been selected and organized to murder me was led by a rabid Roman Catholic, called Byrne; it was almost entirely composed of Roman Catholics; more than that, there were two disguised priests among them, to lead and encourage them. I am sorry to have so little time to see you: but I will not let you go before telling you that, a few days ago, I saw Mr. Morse, the learned inventor of electric telegraphy: he told me that when he was in Rome, not long ago, he found out the proofs of a most formidable conspiracy against this country and all its institutions. It is evident that it is to the intrigues and emissaries of the Pope that we owe, in great part, the horrible evil war which is threatening to cover the country with blood and ruins.
"I am sorry that Professor Morse had to leave Rome before he could know more about the secret plans of the Jesuits against the liberties and the very existence of this country. But do you know that I want you to take his place and continue that investigation? My plan is to attach you to my ambassador of France, as one of the secretaries. In that honourable position you would go from Paris to Rome, where you might find, through the directions of Mr. Morse, an opportunity of re-uniting the broken threads of his researches. 'It takes a Greek to fight a Greek.' As you have been twenty-five years a priest of Rome, I do not know any man in the United States so well acquainted as you are with the tricks of the Jesuits, and on the devotedness of whom I could better rely. And when, once on the staff of my ambassador, even as one of the secretaries, might you not soon yourself become the ambassador? I am in need of Christian men in every department of the public service, but more in those high positions. What do you think of that?"
"My dear President," I answered, "I feel overwhelmed by your kindness. Surely nothing could be more pleasant to me than to grant our request. The honour you want to confer upon me is much above my merit: but my conscience tells me that I cannot give up the preaching of the Gospel to my poor French Canadian countrymen, who are still in the errors of Popery. For I am about the only one who, by the Providence of God, has any real influence over them. I am, surely, the only one the bishops and priests seem to fear in that work. The many attempts they have made to take away my life are a proof of it. Besides that, though I consider the present President of the Unites States much above the Emperors of France, Russia, and Austria, much above the greatest kings of the world, I feel that I am the servant, the ambassador of One who is as much above even the good and great President of the United States as the heavens are above the earth. I appeal to your own Christian and honourable feelings to know if I can forsake the one for the other."
The President became very solemn, and replied: "You are right! you are right! There is nothing so great under heaven as to be the ambassador of Christ."
But then, coming back to himself, with one of his fine jokes, which he had always ready, he added: "Yes! yes! You are the ambassador of a greater Prince than I am: but He does not pay you with so good cash as I would do." He then added: "I am exceedingly pleased to see you. However, I am so pressed just now, by most important affairs, that you must excuse me if I ask you to give your place to one of my generals who is there, waiting for me. Please come again to-morrow at ten o'clock; I have a very important question to ask you on a matter which has been constantly before my mind these last few weeks."
The next day I was, at the appointed hour, with my noble friend, who said: "I could not give you more than ten minutes yesterday, but I will give you twenty today. I want your views about a thing which is exceedingly puzzling to me, and you are the only one to whom I like to speak on that subject. A great number of Democratic papers have been sent to me lately, evidently written by Roman Catholics, publishing that I was born a Roman Catholic, and baptized by a priest. They call me a renegade, an apostate, on account of that; and they heap upon my head mountains of abuses. At first I laughed at that, for it is a lie. Thanks be to God, I have never been a Roman Catholic. No priest of Rome has ever laid his hand on my head. But the persistency of the Romish press to present this falsehood to their readers as a gospel truth, must have a meaning. Please tell me, as briefly as possible, what you think about that."
"My dear President," I answered, "it was just this strange story published about you, which brought me here yesterday. I wanted to say a word about it; but you were too busy. Let me tell you that I wept as a child when I read that story for the first time. For, not only my impression is that it is your sentence of death; but I have from the lips of a converted priest, that it is in order to excite the fanaticism of the Roman Catholic murderers, whom they hope to find sooner or later, to strike you down; they have invented that false story of your being born in the Church of Rome, and of your being baptized by a priest. They want, by that, to brand your face with the ignominious mark of apostasy. Do not forget that, in the Church of Rome, an apostate is an outcast, who has no place in society, and who has no right to live.
"The Jesuits want the Roman Catholics to believe that you are a monster, an open enemy of God and of His Church, that you are an excommunicated man. For every apostate is, ipso facto (by that very fact) excommunicated. I have brought to you the theology of one of the most learned and approved of the Jesuits of his time, Busembaum, who, with many others, say that the man who will kill you will do a good and holy work. More than that, here is a copy of a decree of Gregory VII., proclaiming that the killing of an apostate, or an heretic and an excommunicated man, as you are declared to be, is not murder; nay, that it is a good, a Christian action. That decree is incorporated in the canon law, which every priest must study, and which every good Catholic must follow.
"My dear President, I must repeat to you here what I said when at Urbana in 1856. My fear is that you will fall under the blows of a Jesuit assassin if you do not pay more attention than you have done, till now, to protect yourself. Remember that because Coligny was an heretic, as you are, he was brutally murdered in the St. Bartholomew night; that Henry IV. was stabbed by the Jesuit assassin, Revaillac, the 14th of May, 1610, for having given liberty of conscience to his people; and that William the Taciturn was shot dead by another Jesuit murderer, called Girard, for having broken the yoke of the Pope. The Church of Rome is absolutely the same today as she was then; she does believe and teach today, as then, that she has the right and that it is her duty to punish by death any heretic who is in her way as an obstacle to her designs. The unanimity with which the Catholic hierarchy of the United States is on the side of the rebels is an incontrovertible evidence that Rome wants to destroy this republic, and as you are, by your personal virtues, your popularity, your love for liberty, your position, the greatest obstacle to the diabolical schemes, their hatred is concentrated upon you; you are the daily object of their maledictions; it is at your breast they will direct their blows. My blood chills in my veins when I contemplate the day which may come, sooner or later, when Rome will add to all her other iniquities the murder of Abraham Lincoln."
When saying these things to the President, I was exceedingly moved, my voice was as choked, and I could hardly retain my tears. But the President was perfectly calm. When I had finished speaking, he took the volume of Busembaum from my hand, read the lines which I had marked with red ink, and I helped him to translate them into English. He then gave me back the book, and said:
"I will repeat to you what I said at Urbana, when for the first time you told me your fears lest I would be assassinated by the Jesuits: 'Man must not care where and when he will die, provided he dies at the post of honour and duty.' But I may add, today, that I have a presentiment that God will call me to Him through the hand of an assassin. Let His will, and, not mine be done!" He then looked at his watch and said, "I am sorry, that the twenty minutes I had consecrated to our interview have almost passed away; I will be for ever grateful for the warning words you have addressed to me about the dangers ahead of my life, from Rome. I know that they are not imaginary dangers. If I were fighting against a Protestant South, as a nation, there would be no danger of assassination. The nations who read the Bible, fight bravely on the battle-fields, but they do not assassinate their enemies. The Pope and the Jesuits, with their infernal Inquisition, are the only organized powers in the world which have recourse to the dagger of the assassin to murder those whom they cannot convince with their arguments or conquer with the sword.
"Unfortunately, I feel more and more, every day, that it is not against the Americans of the South, alone, I am fighting, it is more against the Pope of Rome, his perfidious Jesuits and their blind and blood-thirsty slaves, than against the real American Protestants, that we have to defend ourselves. Here is the real danger of our position. So long as they will hope to conquer the North, they will spare me; but the day we will rout their armies (and that day will surely come, with the help of God), take their cities, and force them to submit, then, it is my impression that the Jesuits, who are the principal rulers of the South, will do what they have almost invariably done in the past. The dagger, or the pistol of one of their adepts, will do what the strong hands of the warriors could not achieve. This civil war seems to be nothing but a political affair to those who do not see, as I do, the secret springs of that terrible drama. But it is more a religious than a civil war. It is Rome who wants to rule and degrade the North, as she has ruled and degraded the South, from the very day of its discovery. There are only very few of the Southern leaders who are not more or less under the influence of the Jesuits, through their wives, family relations, and their friends. Several members of the family of Jeff Davis belong to the Church of Rome. Even the Protestant ministers are under the influence of the Jesuits without suspecting it. To keep her ascendancy in the North, as she does in the South, Rome is doing here what she has done in Mexico, and in all the South American Republics; she is paralyzing, by a civil war, the arms of the soldiers of Liberty. She divides our nation, in order to weaken, subdue and rule it.
"Surely we have some brave and reliable Roman Catholic officers and soldiers in our armies, but they form an insignificant minority when compared with the Roman Catholic traitors against whom we have to guard ourselves, day and night. The fact is, that the immense majority of Roman Catholic bishops, priests and laymen, are rebels in heart, when they cannot be in fact; with very few exceptions, they are publicly in favour of slavery. I understand, now, why the patriots of France, who determined to see the colours of Liberty floating over their great and beautiful country, were forced to hand or shoot almost all the priests and the monks as the irreconcilable enemies of Liberty. For it is a fact, which is now evident to me, that, with very few exceptions, every priest and every true Roman Catholic is a determined enemy of Liberty. Their extermination in France, was one of those terrible necessities which no human wisdom could avoid; it looks to me now as an order from heaven to save France. May God grant that the same terrible necessity be never felt in the United States! But there is a thing which is very certain; it is, that if the American people could learn what I know of the fierce hatred of the generality of the priests of Rome against our institutions, our schools, our most sacred rights, and our so dearly bought liberties, they would drive them away, to-morrow, from among us, or they would shoot them as traitors. But I keep those sad secrets in my heart; you are the only one to whom I reveal them, for I know that you learned them before me. The history of these last thousand years tells us that wherever the Church of Rome is not a dagger to pierce the bosom of a free nation, she is a stone to her neck, and a ball to her feet, to paralyze her, and prevent her advance in the ways of civilization, science, intelligence, happiness and liberty. But I forget that my twenty minutes are gone long ago.
"Please accept my sincere thanks for the new lights you have given me on the dangers of my position, and come again. I will always see you with a new pleasure."
My second visit to Abraham Lincoln was at the beginning of June, 1862. The grand victory of the "Monitor" over the "Merrimac," and the conquest of New Orleans, by the brave and Christian Farragut had filled every heart with joy; I wanted to unite my feeble voice to that of the whole country to tell him how I blessed God for that glorious success. But I found him so busy that I could only shake hands with him.
The third and last time I went to pay my respects to the doomed President, and warn him against the impending dangers which I knew were threatening him, was on the morning of June 8th, 1864, when he was absolutely besieged by people who wanted to see him. After a kind and warm shaking of hands, he said:
"I am much pleased to see you again. But it is impossible, today, to say anything more than this: To-morrow afternoon, I will receive the delegation of the deputies of all the loyal states, sent to officially announce the desire of the country that I should remain the President four years more. I invite you to be present with them at that interesting meeting. You will see some of the most prominent men of our Republic, and I will be glad to introduce you to them. You will not present yourself as a delegate of the people, but only as the guest of the President; and that there may be no trouble, I will give you this card, with a permit to enter with the delegation. But do not leave Washington before I see you again; I have some important matters on which I want to know your mind."
The next day, it was my privilege to have the greatest honour ever received by me. The good President wanted me to stand at his right hand, when he received the delegation, and hear the address presented by Governor Dennison, the President of the Convention, to which he replied in his own admirable simplicity and eloquence; finishing by one of his most witty anecdotes. "I am reminded in this convention of a story of an old Dutch farmer, who remarked to a companion, wisely, 'That it was not best to swap horses when crossing a stream.'"
The next day, he kindly took me with him in his carriage, when visiting the thirty thousand wounded soldiers picked up on the battle-fields of the seven days' battle of the Wilderness, and the thirty days' battle around Richmond, where Grant was just breaking the backbone of the rebellion. On the way to and from the hospitals, I could not talk much. The noise of the carriage rapidly drawn on the pavement was too great. Besides that, my soul was so much distressed, and my heart so much broken by the sight of the horrors of that fratricidal war, that my voice was as stifled. The only thought which seemed to occupy the mind of the President was the part which Rome had in that horrible struggle. Many times he repeated:
"This war would never have been possible without the sinister influence of the Jesuits. We owe it to Popery that we now see our land reddened with the blood of her noblest sons. Though there were great differences of opinion between the South and the North, on the question of slavery, neither Jeff Davis nor any one of the leading men of the Confederacy would have dared to attack the North, had they not relied on the promises of the Jesuits, that under the mask of Democracy, the money and the arms of the Roman Catholic, even the arms of France, were at their disposal, if they would attack us. I pity the priests, the bishops and the monks of Rome in the United States, when the people realize that they are, in great part, responsible for the tears and the blood shed in this war; the later the more terrible will the retribution be. I conceal what I know, on that subject, from the knowledge of the nation; for if the people knew the whole truth, this war would turn into a religious war, and it would, at once, take a tenfold more savage and bloody character, it would become merciless as all religious wars are. It would become a war of extermination on both sides. The Protestants of both the North and the South would surely unite to exterminate the priests and the Jesuits, if they could hear what Professor Morse has said to me of the plots made in the very city of Rome to destroy this Republic, and if they could learn how the priests, the nuns, and the monks, which daily land on our shores, under the pretext of preaching their religion, instructing the people in their schools, taking care of the sick in the hospitals, are nothing else but the emissaries of the Pope, of Napoleon, and the other despots of Europe, to undermine our institutions, alienate the hearts of our people from our constitution, and our laws, destroy our schools, and prepare a reign of anarchy here as they have done in Ireland, in Mexico, in Spain, and wherever there are any people who want to be free, ect."
When the President was speaking thus, we arrived at the door of his mansion. He invited me to go with him to his study, and said:
"Thought I am very busy, I must rest an hour with you. I am in need of that rest. My head is aching, I feel as crushed under the burden on affairs which are on my shoulders. There are many important things about the plots of the Jesuits that I can learn only from you. Please wait just a moment, I have just received some dispatches from General Grant, to which I must give an answer. My secretary is waiting for me. I go to him. Please amuse yourself with those books, during my short absence."
Twenty-five minutes later, the President had returned, with his face flushed with joy. "Glorious news! General Grant has again beaten Lee, and forced him to retreat towards Richmond, when he will have to surrender before long. Grant is a real hero. But let us come to the question I want to put to you. Have you read the letter of the Pope to Jeff Davis, and what do you think of it?"
"My dear President," I answered, "it is just that letter which brought me to your presence again, the day before yesterday. I wanted to come and see you, from the very day I read it. But I knew you were so overwhelmed with the affairs of your government, that I would not be able to see you. However, the anxieties of my mind were so, that I determined to go over every barrier to warn you again against the new dangers and plots which I knew would come out from that perfidious letter, against your life.
"That letter is a poisoned arrow thrown by the Pope, at you personally; and it will be more than a miracle if it be not your irrevocable warrant of death. Before reading it, it is true that every Catholic could see by the unanimity of the bishops siding with the rebel cause, that their church as a whole, was against this free Republican government. However, a good number of liberty-loving Irish, German and French Catholics, following more the instincts of their noble nature, than the degrading principles of their church, enrolled themselves under the banners of Liberty, and they have fought like heroes. To detach these men from the rank and file of the Northern armies, and force them to help the cause of the rebellion, because the object of the intrigues of the Jesuits. Secret and pressing letters were addressed from Rome to the bishops, ordering them to weaken your armies by detaching those men from you. The bishops answered, that they could not do that without exposing themselves to be shot. But they advised the Pope to acknowledge, at once, the legitimacy of the Southern Republic, and to take Jeff Davis under his supreme protection, by a letter, which would be read everywhere.
"That letter, then, tells logically the Roman Catholics that you are a blood-thirsty tyrant! a most execrable being when fighting against a government which the infallible and holy Pope of Rome recognizes as legitimate. The Pope, by this letter, tells his blind slaves that you are an infamous usurper, when considering yourself the President of the Southern States; that you are outraging the God of heaven and earth, by continuing such a sanguinary war to subdue a nation over whom God Almighty has declared, through His infallible pontiff, the Pope, that you have not the least right: that letter means that you will give an account to God and man for the blood and tears you cause to flow in order to satisfy your ambition.
"By this letter of the Pope to Jeff Davis you are not only an apostate, as you were thought before, whom every man had the right to kill, according to the canonical laws of Rome; but you are more vile, criminal and cruel than the horse thief, the public banditti, and the lawless brigand, robber and murderer, whom it is a duty to stop and kill, when we take them in their acts of blood, and that there is no other way to put an end to their plunders and murders.
"And, my dear President, the meaning I give you of this perfidious letter of the Pope to Jeff Davis, is not a fancy imagination on my part, it is the unanimous explanation given me by a great number of the priests of Rome, with whom I have had occasion to speak on that subject. In the name of God, and in the name of our dear country, which is in so much need of your services, I conjure you to pay more attention to protect your precious life, and not continue to expose it as you have done till now."
The President listened to my words with breathless attention. He replied;
"You confirm me in the views I had taken of the letter of the Pope. Professor Morse is of the same mind with you. It is, indeed, the most perfidious act which could occur under present circumstances. You are perfectly correct when you say that it was to detach the Roman Catholics who had enrolled themselves in our armies. Since the publication of that letter, a great number of them have deserted their banners and turned traitors; very few, comparatively, have remained true to their oath of fidelity. It is, however, very lucky that one of those few, Sheridan, is worth a whole army by his ability, his patriotism and his heroic courage. It is true, also, that Meade has remained with us, and gained the bloody battle of Gettysburg. But how could he lose it, when he was surrounded by such heroes as Howard, Reynolds, Buford, Wadsworth, Cutler, Slocum, Sickes, Hancock, Barnes, ect. But it is evident that his Romanism superseded his patriotism after the battle. He let the army of Lee escape, when it was so easy to cut his retreat and force him to surrender, after having lost nearly the half of his soldiers in the last three days' carnage.
"When Meade was to order the pursuit, after the battle, a stranger came, in haste, to the headquarters, and that stranger was a disguised Jesuit. After a ten minutes' conversation with him, Meade made such arrangements for the pursuit of the enemy, that he escaped almost untouched, with the loss of only two guns!
"You re right," continued the President, "when you say that this letter of the Pope has entirely changed the nature and the ground of the war. Before they read it, the Roman Catholics could see that I was fighting against Jeff Davis and his Southern Confederacy. But now, they must believe that it is against Christ and His holy vicar, the Pope, that I am raising my sacrilegious hands; we have the daily proofs that their indignation, their hatred, their malice, against me, are a hundredfold intensified. New projects of assassination are detected almost every day, accompanied with such savage circumstances, that they bring to my memory the massacre of the St. Bartholomew and the Gunpowder Plot. We feel, at their investigation, that they come from the same masters in the art of murder, the Jesuits.
"The New York riots were evidently a Romish plot from beginning to end. We have the proofs in hand that they were the work of Bishop Hughes and his emissaries. No doubt can remain in the minds of the most incredulous about the bloody attempts of Rome to destroy New York, when we know the easy way it was stopped. I wrote to Bishop Hughes, telling him that the whole country would hold him responsible for it if he would not stop it at once. He then gathered the rioters around his palace, called them his 'dear friends,' invited them to go back home peacefully, and all was finished! so Jupiter of old used to raise a storm and stop it with a nod of his head!
"From the beginning of our civil war, there has been, not a secret, but a public alliance, between the Pope of Rome and Jeff Davis, and that alliance has followed the common laws of this world affairs. The greater has led the smaller, the stronger has guided the weaker. The Pope and his Jesuits have advised, supported, and directed Jeff Davis on the land, from the first gun shot at Fort Sumter, by the rabid Roman Catholic Beauregard. They are helping him on the sea by guiding and supporting the other rabid Roman Catholic pirate, Semmes, on the ocean. And they will help the rebellion when firing their last gun to shed the blood of the last soldier of Liberty, who will fall in this fratricidal war. In my interview with Bishop Hughes, I told him, 'that every stranger who had sworn allegiance to our government by becoming a United States citizen, as himself, was liable to be shot or hung as a perjured traitor and an armed spy, as the sentence of the court-martial may direct. And he will be so shot and hanged accordingly, as there will be no exchange of such prisoners'. After I had put this flea in the ears of the Romish bishop, I requested him to go and report my words to the Pope. Seeing the dangerous position of his bishops and priests when siding with the rebels, my hope was that he would advise them, for their own interests, to become loyal and true to their allegiance and help us through the remaining part of the war. But he result has been the very contrary. The Pope has thrown away the mask, and shown himself the public partisan and the protector of the rebellion, by taking Jeff Davis by the hand, and impudently recognizing the Southern States as a legitimate government. Now, I have the proof in hand that that very Bishop Hughes, whom I had sent to Rome that he might induce the Pope to urge the Roman Catholics of the North at least, to be true to their oath of allegiance, and whom I thanked publicly, when, under the impression that he had acted honestly, according to the promise he had given me, is the very man who advised the Pope to recognize the legitimacy of the Southern Republic, and put the whole weight of his tiara in the balance against us in favour of our enemies! Such is the perfidy of those Jesuits. Two cankers are biting the very entrails of the United States today: the Romish and the Mormon priests. Both are equally at work to form a people of the most abject, ignorant and fanatical slaves, who will recognize no other authority but their supreme pontiffs. Both are aiming at the destruction of our schools, to raise themselves upon our ruins. Both shelter themselves under our grand and holy principles of liberty of conscience, to destroy that very liberty of conscience, and bind the world before their heavy and ignominious yoke. The Mormon and the Jesuit priests are equally the uncompromising enemies of our constitution and our laws; but the more dangerous of the two is the Jesuits the Romish priest, for he knows better now to conceal his hatred under the mask of friendship and public good: he is better trained to commit the most cruel and diabolical deeds for the glory of God. "Till lately, I was in favour of the unlimited liberty of conscience as our constitution gives it to the Roman Catholics. But now, it seems to me that, sooner or later, the people will be forced to put a restriction to that clause towards the Papists. Is it not an act of folly to give absolute liberty of conscience to a set of men who are publicly sworn to cut our throats the very day they have their opportunity for doing it? It is right to give the privilege of citizenship to men who are the sworn and public enemies of our constitution, our laws, our liberties, and our lives?
"The very moment that Popery assumed the right of life and death on a citizen of France, Spain, Germany, England, or the United States, it assumed to be the power, the government of France, Spain, England, Germany, and the United States. Those States then committed a suicidal act by allowing Popery to put a foot on their territory with the privilege of citizenship. The power of life and death is the supreme power, and two supreme powers cannot exist on the same territory without anarchy, riots, bloodshed, and civil wars without end. When Popery will give up the power of life and death which it proclaims on its own divine power, in all its theological books and canon laws, then, and then alone, it can be tolerated and can receive the privileges of citizenship in a free country.
"Is it not an absurdity to give to a man a thing which he is sworn to hate, curse, and destroy? And does not the Church of Rome hate, curse, and destroy liberty of conscience whenever she can do it safely? I am for liberty of conscience in its noblest, broadest, highest sense. But I cannot give liberty of conscience to the Pope and to his followers, the Papists, so long as they tell me, through all their councils, theologians, and canon laws, that their conscience orders them to burn my wife, strangle my children, and cut my throat when they find their opportunity! This does not seem to be understood by the people today. But sooner or later, the light of common sense will make it clear to every one that no liberty of conscience can be granted to men who are sworn to obey a Pope, who pretends to have the right to put to death those who differ from him religion.
"You are not the first to warn me against the dangers of assassination. My ambassadors in Italy, France, and England, as well as Professor Morse, have many times warned me against the plots of the murderers which they have detected in those different countries. But I see no other safeguard against those murderers but to be always ready to die, as Christ advises it. As we must all die sooner or later, it makes very little difference to me whether I die from a dagger plunged through the heart or from an inflammation of the lungs. Let me tell you that I have lately read a passage in the Old Testament which has made a profound, and, I hope, a salutary impression on me. Here is that passage."
The President took his Bible, opened it at the third chapter of Deuteronomy, and read from the 22nd to the 28th verse:-
"Ye shall not fear them: for the Lord your God He shall fight for you. And I besought the Lord at that time, saying, O Lord God, Thou hast begun to shew Thy servant Thy greatness and Thy mighty hand; for what God is there, in heaven or in earth, that can do according to Thy works, and according to Thy might! I pray Thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee: speak no more unto Me of this matter. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan."
After the President had read these words with great solemnity, he added: "My dear Father Chiniquy, let me tell you that I have read these strange and beautiful verses several times these last five or six weeks. The more I read them, the more it seems to me that God has written them for me as well as for Moses. Has He not taken me from my poor log cabin by the hand, as He did of Moses in the reeds of the Nile, to put me at the head of the greatest and the most blessed of modern nations, just as He put that prophet at the head of the most blessed nation of ancient times? Has not God granted me a privilege which was not granted to any living man, when I broke the fetters of 4,000,000 of men and made them free? Has not our God given me the most glorious victories over our enemies? Are not the armies of the Confederacy so reduced to a handful of men when compared to what they were two years ago, that the day is fast approaching when they will have to surrender?
"Now, I see the end of this terrible conflict, with the same joy of Moses, when, at the end of his trying forty years in the wilderness; and I pray my God to grant me to see the days of peace, and untold prosperity, which will follow this cruel war, as Moses asked God to see the other side of Jordan and enter the Promised Land. But do you know that I hear in my soul, as the voice of God, giving me the rebuke which was given to Moses?
"Yes! every time that my soul goes to God to ask the favour of seeing the other side of Jordan, and eating the fruits of that peace, after which I am longing with such an unspeakable desire, do you know that there is a still, but solemn voice, which tells me that I will see those things, only from a long distance, and that I will be among the dead, when the nation which God granted me to lead through those awful trials, will cross the Jordan, and dwell in that Land of Promise, where peace, industry, happiness, and liberty, will make every one happy; and why so? Because He has already given me favours which He never gave, I dare say, to any man, in these latter days.
"Why did God Almighty refuse to Moses the favour of crossing the Jordan, and entering the Promised Land? It was on account of his own nations's sins! That law of divine retribution and justice, by which one must suffer for another, is surely a terrible mystery. But it is a fact which no man who has any intelligence and knowledge can deny. Moses, who knew that law, though he probably did not understand it better than we do, calmly says to his people, 'God was wroth with me for your sakes.'
"But though we do not understand that mysterious and terrible law, we find it written in letters of tears and blood wherever we go. We do not read a single page of history, without finding undeniable traces of its existence.
"Where is the mother who has not shed tears and suffered real tortures, for her children's sake?
"Who is the good king, the worthy emperor, the gifted chieftain, who have not suffered unspeakable mental agonies, or even death, for their people's sake?
"Is not our Christian religion the highest expression of the wisdom, mercy, and love of God! But what is Christianity if not the very incarnation of that eternal law of divine justice in our humanity?
"When I look on Moses, alone, silently dying on the Mount Pisgah, I see that law, in one of its most sublime human manifestations, and I am filled with admiration and awe.
"But when I consider that law of justice, and expiation in the death of the Just, the divine Son of Mary, on the mountain of Calvary, I remain mute in my adoration. The spectacle of that crucified one which is before my eyes, is more than sublime, it is divine! Moses died for his people's sake, but Christ died for the whole world's sake! Both died to fulfill the same eternal law of the divine justice, though in a different measure.
"Now would it not be the greatest of honours and privileges bestowed upon me, if God, in His infinite love, mercy and wisdom, would put me between His faithful servant, Moses, and His eternal Son, Jesus, that I might die as they did, for my nation's sake!
"My God alone knows what I have already suffered for my dear country's sake. But my fear is that the justice of God is not yet paid. When I look upon the rivers of tears and blood drawn by the lashes of the merciless masters from the veins of the very heart of those millions of defenseless slaves, these two hundred years. When I remember the agonies, the cries, the unspeakable tortures of those unfortunate people, at which I have, to some extent, connived with so many others, a part of my life, I feel that we are still far from the complete expiation. For the judgments of God are true and righteous.
"It seems to me that the Lord wants, today, as He wanted in the days of Moses, another victim a victim which he has himself chosen, anointed and prepared for the sacrifice, by raising it above the rest of His people. I cannot conceal from you that my impression is that I am that victim. So many plots have already been made against my life, that it is a real miracle that they have all failed, when we consider that the great majority of them were in the hands of skillful Roman Catholic murderers, evidently trained by Jesuits. But can we expect that God will make a perpetual miracle to save my life? I believe not. The Jesuits are so expert in those deeds of blood, that Henry IV. said that it was impossible to escape them, and he became their victim, though he did all that could be done to protect himself. My escape from their hands, since the letter of the Pope to Jeff Davis has sharpened a million of daggers to pierce my breast, would be more than a miracle.
"But just as the Lord heard no murmur from the lips of Moses when He told him that he had to die, before crossing the Jordan, for the sins of his people; so I hope and pray that He will hear no murmur from me when I fall for my nations's sake.
"The only two favours I ask of the Lord are, first, that I may die for the sacred cause in which I am engaged, and when I am the standard bearer of the rights and liberties of my country.
"The second favour I ask of God is, that my dear son, Robert, when I am gone, will be one of those who lift us that flag of Liberty which will cover my tomb, and carry it with honour and fidelity, to the end of his life, as his father did, surrounded by the millions who will be called with him to fight and die for the defense and honour of our country."
Never had I heard such sublime words: Never had I seen a human face so solemn and so prophet-like as the face of the President, when uttering these things. Every sentence had come to me as a hymn from heaven, reverberated by the echoes of the mountains of Pisgah and Calvary. I was beside myself. Bathed in tears, I tried to say something, but I could not utter a word.
I knew the hour to leave had come, I asked from the President permission to fall on my knees, and pray with him that his life might be spared: and he knelt with me. But I prayed more with my tears and sobs, than with my words.
Then I pressed his hand on my lips and bathed it with my tears, and with a heart filled with an unspeakable desolation, I bade him Adieu! It was for the last time!
For the hour was fast approaching when he was to fall by the hands of a Jesuit assassin, for his nation's sake.
Back to Top