Fifty Years in the Church of Rome
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This page contains Chapters 6-10
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Table of Contents
Chapter 6 . . . Festivities in a Parsonage Chapter 7 . . . Preparation for the First Communion - Initiation to Idolatry Chapter 8 . . . The First Communion Chapter 9 Intellectual Education in the Roman Catholic College Chapter 10 . . . Moral and Religious Instruction in the Roman Catholic Colleges
CHAPTER 6 - Festivities in a Parsonage
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God had heard the poor widow's prayer. A few days after the priest had taken our cow she received a letter from each of her two sisters, Genevieve and Catherine.
The former, who was married to Etienne Eschenbach, of St. Thomas, told her to sell all she had and come, with her children, to live with her.
"We have no family," she said, "and God has given us the good things of this life in abundance. We shall be happy to share them with you and your children."
The latter, married in Kamouraska to the Hon. Amaable Dionne wrote: "We have learned the sad news of your husband's death. We have lately lost our only son. We wish to fill the vacant place with Charles, your eldest. Send him to us. We shall bring him up as our own child, and before long he will be your support. In the meantime, sell by auction all you have, and go to St. Thomas with your two younger children. There Genevieve and myself will supply your wants."
In a few days all our furniture was sold. Unfortunately, though I had carefully concealed my cherished Bible, it disappeared. I could never discover what became of it. Had mother herself, frightened by the threats of the priest, relinquished that treasure? or had some of our relatives, believing it to be their duty, destroyed it? I do not know. I deeply felt that loss, which was then irreparable to me.
On the following day, in the midst of bitter tears and sobs, I bade farewell to my poor mother and young brothers. They went to St. Thomas on board a schooner, and I crossed in a sloop to Kamouraska.
My uncle and aunt Dionne welcomed me with every mark of the most sincere affection. Having soon made known to them that I wished to become a priest, I begun to study Latin under the direction of Rev. Mr. Morin, vicar of Kamouraska. That priest was esteemed to be a learned man. He was about forty or fifty years old, and had been priest of a parish in the district of Montreal. But, as is the case with the majority of priests, his vows of celibacy had not proved a sufficient guarantee against the charms of one of his beautiful parishioners. This had caused a great scandal. He consequently lost his position, and the bishop had sent him to Kamouraska, where his past conduct was not so generally known. He was very good to me, and I soon loved him with sincere affection.
One day, about the beginning of the year 1882, he called me aside and said:
"Mr. Varin (the parish priest) is in the habit of giving a great festival on his birthday. Now, the principal citizens of the village wish on that occasion to present him with a bouquet. I am appointed to write an address, and to choose some one to deliver it before the priest. You are the one whom I have chosen. What do you think of it?"
"But I am very young," I replied.
"Your youth will only give more interest to what we wish to say and do," said the priest.
"Well, I have no objection to do so, provided the piece be not too long, and that I have it sufficiently soon to learn it well."
It was already prepared. The time of delivering it soon came. The best society of Kamouraska, composed of about fifteen gentlemen and as many ladies, were assembled in the beautiful parlours of the parsonage. Mr. Varin was in their midst. Suddenly Squire Paschal Tache, the seigneur of the parish, and his lady entered the room, holding me by each hand, and placed me in the midst of the guests. My head was crowned with flowers, for I was to represent the angel of the parish, whom the people had chosen to give to their pastor the expression of public admiration and gratitude. When the address was finished, I presented to the priest the beautiful bouquet of symbolical flowers prepared by the ladies for the occasion.
Mr. Varin was a small but well-built man. His thin lips were ever ready to smile graciously. The remarkable whiteness of his skin was still heightened by the red colour of his cheeks. Intelligence and goodness beamed from his expressive black eyes. Nothing could be more amiable and gracious than his conversation during the first quarter of an hour passed in his company. He was passionately fond of these little fetes, and the charm of his manners could not be surpassed as the host of the evening.
He was moved to tears before hearing half of the address, and the eyes of many were moistened when the pastor, with a voice trembling and full of emotion, expressed his joy and gratitude at being so highly appreciated by his parishioners.
As soon as the happy pastor had expressed his thanks, the ladies sang two or three beautiful songs. The door of the dining-room was then opened, and we could see a long table laden with the most delicious meats and wines that Canada could offer.
I had never before been present at a priest's dinner. The honourable position given me at that little fete permitted me to see it in all its details, and nothing could equal the curiosity with which I sought to hear and see all that was said and done by thuds guests.
Besides Mr. Varin and his vicar, there were three other priests, who were artistically placed in the midst of the most beautiful ladies of the company. The ladies, after honouring us with their presence for an hour or so, left the table and retired to the drawing-room. Scarcely had the last lady disappeared when Mr. Varin rose and said:
"Gentlemen, let us drink to the health of these amiable ladies, whose presence has thrown so many charms over the first part of our little fete."
Following the example of Mr. Varin each guest filled and emptied his long wine glass in honour of the ladies.
Squire Tache then proposed "The health of the most venerable and beloved priest of Canada, the Rev. Mr. Varin." Again the glasses were filled and emptied, except mine; for I had been placed at he side of my uncle Dionne, who, sternly looking at me as soon as I had emptied my first glass, said: "If you drink another I will send you from the table. A little boy like you should not drink, but only touch the glass with his lips."
It would have been difficult to count the healths which were drank after the ladies had left us. After each health a song or a story was called for, several of which were followed by applause, shouts of joy, and convulsive laughter.
When my turn to propose a health came, I wished to be excused, but they would not exempt me. So I had to say about whose health I was most interested. I rose, and turning to Mr. Varin, I said, "Let us drink to the health of our Holy Father, the Pope."
Nobody had yet thought of our Holy Father the Pope, and the name, mentioned under such circumstances by a child, appeared so droll to the priests and their merry guests that they burst into laughter, stamped their feet, and shouted, "Bravo! bravo! To the health of the Pope!" Everyone stood up, and at the invitation of Mr. Varin, the glasses were filled and emptied as usual.
So many healths could not be drunk without their natural effect intoxication. The first that was overcome was a priest, Noel by name. He was a tall man, and a great drinker. I had noticed more than once, that instead of taking his wine glass he drank from a large tumbler. The first symptoms of his intoxication, instead of drawing sympathy from his friends, only increased their noisy bursts of laughter. He endeavored to take a bottle to fill his glass, but his hand shook, and the bottle, falling on the floor, was broken to pieces. Wishing to keep up his merriment he began to sing a Bacchic song, but could not finish. He dropped his head on the table, quite overcome, and trying to rise, he fell heavily upon his chair. While all this took place the other priests and all the guests looked at him, laughing loudly. At last, making a desperate effort, he rose, but after taking two or three steps, fell headlong on the floor. His two neighbours went to help him, but they were not in a condition to help him. Twice they rolled with him under the table. At length another, less affected by the fumes of wine, took him by the feet and dragged him into an adjoining room, where they left him.
This first scene seemed strange enough to me, for I had never before seen a priest intoxicated. But what astonished me most was the laughter of the other priests over that spectacle. Another scene, however, soon followed, which made me sadder. My young companion and friend, Achilles Tache, had not been warned, as I had, only to touch the wine with his lips. More than once he had emptied his glass. He also rolled upon the floor before the eyes of his father, who was too full of wine to help him. He cried aloud, "I am choking!" I tried to lift him up, but was not strong enough. I ran for his mother. She came, accompanied by another lady, but the vicar had carried him into another room, where he fell asleep after having thrown off the wine he had taken.
Poor Achilles! he was learning, in the house of his own priest, to take the first step of that life of debauchery and drunkenness which twelve or fifteen years later was to rob him of his manor, take from him his wife and children, and to make him fall a victim to the bloody hand of a murderer upon the solitary shores of Kamouraska!
This first and sad experience which I made of the real and intimate life of the Roman Catholic priest was so deeply engraved on my memory that I still remember with shame the bacchic song which that priest Morin had taught me, and which I sang on that occasion. It commenced with these Latin words: -
Ego, in arte Bacchi,
Decies pintum vini
I also remember one sung by Mr. Varin. Here it is: -
Savez-vous pourquoi, mes amis, (bis)
Nous sommes tous si rejouis? (bis)
Amis n'endoutez pas,
C'est qu'un repas
Qu' apprete sans facon,
Mangeons a la gamelle.
Vive le son, vive le son,
Mangeons a la gamelle,
Vive le son du flacon!
When the priests and their friends had sung, laughed, and drank for more than an hour, Mr. Vain rose and said, "The ladies must not be left along all the evening. Will not our joy and happiness be doubled if they are pleased to share them with us."
This proposition was received with applause, and we passed into the drawing-room, where the ladies awaited us.
Several pieces of music, well executed, gave new life to this part of the entertainment. This resource, however, was soon exhausted. Besides, some of the ladies could well see that their husbands were half drunk, and they felt ashamed. Madam Tache could not conceal the grief she felt, caused by what had happened to her dear Achilles. Had she some presentiment, as may persons have, of the tears which she was to shed one day on his account? Was the vision of a mutilated and bloody corpse the corpse of her own drunken son fallen dead, under the blow of an assassin's dagger, before her eyes?
Mr. Varin feared nothing more than an interruption in those hours of lively pleasure, of which his life was full, and which took place in his parsonage.
"Well, well, ladies and gentlemen, let us entertain no dark thoughts of this evening, the happiest of my life. Let us play blind man's bluff."
"Let us play blind man's bluff!" was repeated by everybody.
On hearing this noise, the gentlemen who were half asleep by the fumes of wine seemed to awaken as if from a long dream. Young gentlemen clapped their hands; ladies, young and old, congratulated one another on the happy idea.
"But whose eyes shall be covered first?" asked the priest.
"Yours, Mr. Varin," cried all the ladies. "We look to you for the good example, and we shall follow it."
"The power and unanimity of the jury by which I am condemned cannot be resisted. I feel that there is no appeal. I must submit."
Immediately one of the ladies placed her nicely-perfumed handkerchief over the eyes of her priest, took him by the hand, led him to an angle of the room, and having pushed him gently with her delicate hand, said, "Mr. Blindman! Let everyone flee! Woe to him who is caught!"
There is nothing more curious and comical than to see a man walk when he is under the influence of wine, especially if he wishes nobody to notice it. How stiff and straight he keeps his legs! How varied and complicated, in order to keep his equilibrium, are his motions to right and left! Such was the position of priest Varin. He was not very drunk. Though he had taken a large quantity of wine he did not fall. He carried with wonderful courage the weight with which he was laden. The wine which he had drank would have intoxicated three ordinary men; but such was his capacity for drinking that he could still walk without falling. However, his condition was sadly betrayed by each step he took and by each word he spoke. Nothing, therefore, was more comical than the first steps of the poor priest in his efforts to lay hold of somebody in order to pass his band to him.
He would take one forward and two backward steps, and would then stagger to the right and to the left. Everybody laughed to tears. One after another they would all either pinch him or touch him gently on his hand, arm, or shoulder, and, passing rapidly off, would exclaim, "Run away!" The priest went to the right and then to the left, threw his arms suddenly now here and then there. His legs evidently bent under their burden; he panted, perspired, coughed, and everyone began to fear that the trial might be carried too far, and beyond propriety. But suddenly, by a happy turn he caught the arm of a lady who in teasing him had come too near. In vain the lady tries to escape. She struggles, turns round, but the priest's hand holds her firmly.
While holding his victim with his right hand he wishes to touch her head with his left, in order to know and name the pretty bird he has caught. But at that moment his legs gave way. He falls, and drags with him his beautiful parishioner. She turns upon him in order to escape, but he soon turns on her in order to hold her better.
All this, though the affair of a moment, was long enough to cause the ladies to blush and cover their faces. Never in all my life did I see anything so shameful as that scene. This ended the game.
Everyone felt ashamed. I make a mistake when I say everyone, because the men were almost all too intoxicated to blush. The priests also were either too drunk or too much accustomed to see such scenes to be ashamed.
On the following day every one of those priests celebrated mass, and ate what they called the body and blood, the soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, just as if they had spent the previous evening in prayer and meditation on the laws of God! Mr. Varin was the arch-priest of the important part of the diocese of Quebec from La Riviere Ouelle to Gaspe.
Thus, O perfidious Church of Rome, thou deceivest the nations who follow thee, and ruinest even the priests whom thou makest thy slaves.
CHAPTER 7 - Preparation for the First Communion - Initiation to Idolatry
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Nothing can exceed the care with which Roman Catholic priests prepare children for their first communion. Two and three months are set apart every year for that purpose. All that time the children between ten and twelve years of age are obliged to go to Church almost every day, not only to learn by heart their catechism, but to hear the explanations of all its teachings.
The priest who instructed us was the Rev. Mr. Morin, whom I have already mentioned. He was exceedingly kind to children, and we respected and loved him sincerely. His instructions to us were somewhat long; but we liked to hear him, for he always had some new and interesting stories to give us.
The catechism taught as a preparation for our first communion was the foundation of the idolatries and superstitions which the Church of Rome gives as the religion of Christ. It is by means of that catechetical instruction that she obtains for the Pope and his representatives that profound respect, I might say adoration, which is the secret of her power and influence. With this catechism Rome corrupts the most sacred truths of the Gospel. It is there that Jesus is removed from the hearts for which He paid so great a price, and that Mary is put in His place. But the great iniquity of substituting Mary for Jesus is so skilfully concealed, it is given with colours so poetic and beautiful, and so well adapted to captivate human nature, that it is almost impossible for a poor child to escape the snare.
One day the priest said to me, "Stand up, my child, in order to answer the many important questions which I have to ask you."
I stood up.
"My child," he said, "when you had been guilty of some fault at home who was the first to punish you your father or your mother?"
After a few moments of hesitation I answered, "My father."
"You have answered correctly, my child," said the priest. "As a matter of fact, the father is almost always more impatient with his children, and more ready to punish them, than the mother."
"Now, my child, tell us who punished you most severely your father or your mother?"
"My father," I said, without hesitation.
"Still true, my child. The superior goodness of a kind mother is perceived even in the act of correction. Her blows are lighter than those of the father. Further, when you had deserved to be chastised, did not one sometimes come between you and your father's rod, taking it away from him and pacifying him?"
"Yes," I said; "mother did that very often, and saved me from severe punishment more than once."
"That is so, my child, not only for you, but for all your companions here. Have not your good mothers, my children, often saved you from your father's corrections even when you deserved it? Answer me."
"Yes, sir," they all answered.
"One question more. When your father was coming to whip you, did you not throw yourself into the arms of some one to escape?"
"Yes, sir; when guilty of something, more than once, I threw myself into my mother's arms as soon as I saw my father coming to whip me. She begged pardon for me, and pleaded so well that I often escaped punishment."
"You have answered well," said the priest. Then turning to the children, he continued:
"You have a Father and a Mother in heaven, dear children. Your Father is Jesus, and your Mother is Mary. Do not forget that a mother's heart is always more tender and more prone to mercy than that of a father.
"Often you offend your Father by your sins; you make Him angry against you. What takes place in heaven then? Your Father in heaven takes His rod to punish you. He threatens to crush you down with His roaring thunder; He opens the gates of hell to cast you into it, and you would have been damned long ago had it not been for the loving Mother whom you have in heaven, who has disarmed your angry and irritated Father. When Jesus would punish you as you deserve, the good Virgin Mary hastens to Him and pacifies Him. She places herself between Him and you, and prevents Him from smiting you. She speaks in your favour, she asks for your pardon and she obtains it.
"Also, as young Chiniquy has told you, he often threw himself into the arms of his mother to escape punishment. She took his part, and pleaded so well that his father yielded and put away the rod. Thus, my children, when your conscience tells you that you are guilty, that Jesus is angry against you and that you have good reason to fear hell, hasten to Mary! Throw yourselves into the arms of that good mother; have recourse to her sovereign power over Jesus, and be assured that you will be saved through her!"
It is thus that the Pope and the priests of Rome have entirely disfigured and changed the holy religion of the Gospel! In the Church of Rome it is not Jesus, but Mary, who represents the infinite love and mercy of God for the sinner. The sinner is not advised or directed to place his hope in Jesus, but in Mary, for his escape from deserved chastisement! It is not Jesus, but Mary, who saves the sinner! Jesus is always bent on punishing sinners; Mary is always merciful to them!
The Church of Rome has thus fallen into idolatry: she rather trusts in Mary than in Jesus. She constantly invites sinners to turn their thoughts, their hopes, their affections, not to Jesus, but to Mary!
By means of that impious doctrine Rome deceives the intellects, seduces the hearts, and destroys the souls of the young for ever. Under the pretext of honouring the Virgin Mary, she insults her by outraging and misrepresenting her adorable Son.
Rome has brought back the idolatry of old paganism under a new name. She has replaced upon her altars the Jupiter Tonans of the Greeks and Romans, only she places upon his shoulders the mantle and she writes on the forehead of her idol the name of Jesus, in order the better to deceive the world!
CHAPTER 8 - The First Communion
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For the Roman Catholic child, how beautiful and yet how sad is the day of his first communion! How many joys and anxieties by turn rise in his soul when for the first time he is about to eat what he has been taught to believe to be his God! How many efforts has he to make, in order to destroy the manifest teachings of his own rational faculties! I confess with deep regret that I had almost destroyed my reason, in order to prepare myself for my first communion. Yes, I was almost exhausted when the day came that I had to eat what the priest has assured us was the true body, the true blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. I was about to eat Him, not in a symbolical or commemorative, but in a literal way. I was to eat His flesh, His bones, His hands, His feet, His head, His whole body! I had to believe this or be cast for ever into hell, while, all the time, my eyes, my hands, my mouth, my tongue, my reason told me that what I was eating was only bread!
Has there ever been, or will there ever be, a priest or a layman to believe what the Church of Rome teaches on this dreadful mystery of the Real Presence? Shall I say that I believed in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the communion? I believed in it as all those who are good Roman Catholics believe. I believed as a perfect idiot or a corpse believes. Whatever is essential to a reasonable act of faith had been destroyed in me on that point, as it is destroyed in every priest and layman in the Church of Rome. My reason as well as my external senses had been, as much as possible, sacrificed at the feet of that terrible modern god, the Pope! I had been guilty of the incredibility foolish act, of which all good Roman Catholics are guilty I had said to my intellectual faculties, and to all my senses, "Hush, you are liars! I had believed to this day that you had been given to me by God in order to enable me to walk in the dark paths of life, but, behold! the holy Pope teaches me that you are only instruments of the devil to deceive me!"
What is a man who resigns his intellectual liberty, and who cares not to believe in the testimony of his senses? Is he not acting the part of one who has no gift or power of intelligence? A good Roman Catholic must reach that point! That was my own condition on the day of my first communion.
When Jesus said, "If I had not come and spoken unto them they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin....If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father" (John 15:22, 24). He showed that the sin of the Jews consisted in not having believed in what their eyes had seen and their ears had heard. But behold, the Pope says to Roman Catholics that they must not believe in what their hands undoubtedly handle and their eyes most clearly see! The Pope sets aside the testimony most approved by Jesus. The very witnesses invoked by the Son of God are ignominiously turned out of court by the Pope as false witnesses!
As the moment of taking the communion drew near, two feelings were at war in my mind, each struggling for victory. I rejoiced in the thought that I would soon have full possession of Jesus Christ, but at the same time I was troubled and humbled by the absurdity which I had to believe before receiving that sacrament. Though scarcely twelve years old, I had sufficiently accustomed myself to reflect on the profound darkness which covered that dogma. I had been also greatly in the habit of trusting my eyes, and I thought that I could easily distinguish between a small piece of bread and a full-grown man!
Besides, I extremely abhorred the idea of eating human flesh and drinking human blood, even when they assured me that they were the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ Himself. But what troubled me most was the idea of that God, who was represented to me as being so great, so glorious, so holy, being eaten by me like a piece of common bread! Terrible then was the struggle in my young heart, were joy and dread, trust and fear, faith and unbelief by turns had the upper hand.
While that secret struggle, known only to God and to myself, was going on, I had often to wipe off the cold perspiration which came on my brow. With all the strength of my soul I prayed to God and the Holy Virgin to be merciful unto me, to help, and give me sufficient strength and light to pass over these hours of anguish.
The Church of Rome is evidently the most skillful human machine the world has ever seen. Those who guide her in the dark paths which she follows are often men of deep thought. They understand how difficult it would be to get calm, honest and thinking minds to receive that monstrous dogma of the real corporal presence of Jesus Christ in the communion. They well foresaw the struggle which would take place even in the minds of children at the supreme moment when they would have to sacrifice their reason on the altar of Rome. In order to prevent those struggles, always so dangerous to the Church, nothing has been neglected to distract the mind and draw the attention to other subjects than that of the communion itself.
First, at the request of the parish priest, helped by the vanity of the parents themselves, the children are dressed as elegantly as possible. They young communicant is clothed in every way best calculated to flatter his own vanity also. The church building is pompously decorated. The charms of choice vocal and instrumental music form a part of the fete. The most odorous incense burns around the altar and ascends in a sweetsmelling cloud towards heaven. The whole parish is invited, and people come from every direction to enjoy a most beautiful spectacle. Priests from the neighbouring churches are called, in order to add to the solemnity of the day. The officiating priest is dressed in the most costly attire. This is the day on which silver and gold altar cloths are displayed before the eyes of the wondering spectators. Often a lighted wax taper is placed in the hand of each young communicant, which itself would be sufficient to draw his whole attention; for a single false motion would be sufficient to set fire to the clothes of his neighbour, or his own, a misfortune which has happened more than once in my presence.
Now, in the midst of that new and wonderful spectacle of singing Latin Psalms, not a word of which he understands; in view of gold and silver ornaments, which glitter everywhere before his dazzled eyes; busy with the holding of the lighted taper, which keeps him constantly in fear of being burned alive can the young communicant think for a moment of what he is about to do?
Poor child! his mind, ears, eyes, nostrils are so much taken up with those new, striking and wonderful things that, while his imagination is wandering from one object to another, the moment of communion arrives, without leaving him time to think of what he is about to do! He opens his mouth, and the priest puts upon his tongue a flat thin cake of unleavened bread, which either firmly sticks to his palate or otherwise melts in his mouth, soon to go down into his stomach just like the food he takes three times a day!
The first feeling of the child, then, is that of surprise at the thought that the Creator of heaven and earth, the upholder of the universe, the Saviour of the world, could so easily pass down his throat!
Now, follow those children to their homes after that great and monstrous comedy. See their gait! Listen to their conversation and their bursts of laughter! Study their manners, their coming in, their going out, their glances of satisfaction on their fine clothes, and the vanity which they manifest in return for the congratulations they receive on their fine dresses. Notice the lightness of their actions and conversation immediately after their communion, and tell me if you find anything indicating that they believed in the terrible dogma they have been taught.
No, they have not believed in it, neither will they ever do so with the firmness of faith which is accomplished by intelligence. The poor child thinks he believes, and he sincerely tries to do so. He believes in it as much as it is possible to believe in a most monstrous and ridiculous story, opposed to the simplest notions of truth and common sense. He believes as Roman Catholics believe. He believes as an idiot believes!!
That first communion has made of him, for the rest of his life, a real machine in the hands of the Pope. It is the first but most powerful link of that long chain of slavery which the priest and the Church pass around his neck. The Pope holds the end of that chain, and with it he will make his victim go right or left at his pleasure, in the same way that we govern the lower animals. If those children have made a good first communion they will be submissive to the Pope, according to the energetic word of Loyola. They will be in the hands of the traveler they will have no will, no thought of their own!
And if God does not work a miracle to bring them out from that bondage which is a thousand times worse than the Egyptian, they will remain in that state during the rest of their lives.
My soul has known the weight of those chains. It has felt the ignominy of that slavery! But the great Conqueror of souls has cast down a merciful eye upon me. He has broken my chains, and with His holy Word He has made me free.
May His name be for ever blessed.
CHAPTER 9 - Intellectual Education in the Roman Catholic College
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I finished, at the College of Nicolet, in the month of August, 1829, my classical course of study which I had begun in 1822. I could easily have learned in three or four years what was taught in these seven years.
It took us three years to study the Latin grammar, when twelve months would have sufficed for all we learned of it. It is true that during that time we were taught some of the rudiments of the French grammar, with the elements of arithmetic and geography. But all this was so superficial, that our teachers often seemed more desirous to pass away our time than to enlarge our understandings.
I can say the same thing of the Belles Letters and of rhetoric, which we studied two years. A year of earnest study would have sufficed to learn what was taught us during these twenty-four months. As for the two years devoted to the study of logic, and of the subjects classed under the name of philosophy, it would not have been too long a time if those questions of philosophy had been honestly given us. But the student in the college of the Church of Rome is condemned to the torments of Tantalus. He has, indeed, the refreshing waters of Science put to his lips, but he is constantly prevented from tasting them. To enlarge and seriously cultivate the intelligence in a Roman Catholic college is a thing absolutely out of the question. More than that, all the efforts of the principals in their colleges and convents tend to prove to the pupil that his intelligence is his greatest and most dangerous enemy that it is like an untamable animal, which must constantly be kept in chains. Every day the scholar is told that his reason was not given him that he might be guided by it, but only that he may know the hand of the man by whom he must be guided. And that hand is none other than the Pope's. All the resources of language, all the most ingenious sophisms, all the passages of both the Fathers and the Holy Scriptures bearing on this question are arranged and perverted with inconceivable art to demonstrate to the pupil that his reason has no power to teach him anything else than that it must be subjected to the Supreme Pontiff of Rome, who is the only foundation of truth and light given by God to guide the intelligence and to enlighten and save the world.
Rome, in her colleges and convents, brings up, or raises up, the youth from their earliest years; but to what height does she permit the young man or woman to be raised? Never higher than the feet of the Pope!! As soon as his intelligence, guided by the Jesuit, has ascended to the feet of the Pope, it must remain there, prostrate itself and fall asleep.
The Pope! That is the great object towards which all the intelligence of the Roman Catholics must be converged. It is the sun of the world, the foundation and the only support of Christian knowledge and civilization.
What a privilege it is to be lazy, stupid, and sluggish in a college of Rome! How soon such an one gets to the summit of science, and becomes master of all knowledge. One needs only to kiss the feet of the Pope, and fall into a perfect slumber there! The Pope thinks for him! It is he (the Pope) who will tell him what he can and should think, and what he can and should believe!
I had arrived at that degree of perfection at the end of my studies, and J.B. Barthe, Esq., M.P.P., being editor of one of the principal papers of Montreal in 1844, could write in his paper when my "Manual of Temperance" was published: "Mr. Chiniquy has crowned his apostleship of temperance by that work, with that ardent and holy ambition of character of which he gave us so many tokens in his collegiate life, where we have been so many years the witness of his piety, when he was the model of his fellow-students, who had called him the Louis de Gonzague of Nicolet."
These words of the Montreal Member of Parliament mean only that, wishing to be saved as St. Louis de Gonzague, I had blindly tied myself to the feet of my superiors.
I had, as much as possible, extinguished all the enlightenments of my own mind to follow the reason and the will of my superiors. These compliments mean that I was walking like a blind man whom his guide holds by the hand.
Though my intelligence often revolted against the fables with which I was nurtured, I yet forced myself to accept them as gospel truths; and though I often rebelled against the ridiculous sophisms which were babbled to me as the only principles of truth and Christian philosophy, yet as often did I impose silence on my reason, and force it to submit to the falsehoods which I was obliged to take for God's truth! But, as I have just confessed it, notwithstanding my goodwill to submit to my superiors, there were times of terrible struggle in my soul, when all the powers of my mind seemed to revolt against the degrading fetters which I was forced to forge for myself.
I shall never forget the day when, in the following terms, I expressed to my Professor of Philosophy, the Rev. Charles Harper, doubts which I had conceived concerning the absolute necessity of the inferior to submit his reason to his superior. "When I shall have completely bound myself to obey my superior, if he abuses his authority over me to deceive me by false doctrines, or if he commands me to do things which I consider wrong and dishonest, shall I not be lost if I obey him?"
He answered: "You will never have to give an account to God for the actions that you do by the order of your legitimate superiors. If they were to deceive you, being themselves deceived, they alone would be responsible for the error which you would have committed. Your sin would not be imputed to you as long as you follow the golden rule which is the base of all Christian philosophy and perfection humility and obedience!"
Little satisfied with that answer, when the lesson was over I expressed my reluctance to accept such principles to several of my fellow-students. Among them was Joseph Turcot, who died some years ago when, I think, he was Minister of Public Works in Canada.
He answered me: "The more I study what they call their principles of Christian philosophy and logic, the more I think that they intend to make asses of every one of us!"
On the following day I opened my heart to the venerable man who was our principal the Rev. Mr. Leprohon. I used to venerate him as a saint and to love him as a father. I frankly told him that I felt very reluctant in submitting myself to the crude principles which seemed to lead us into the most abject slavery, the slavery of our reason and intelligence. I wrote down his answer, which I give here:
"My dear Chiniquy, how did Adam and Eve lose themselves in the Garden of Eden, and how did they bring upon us all the deluge of evils by which we are overwhelmed? Is it not because they raised their miserable reason above that of God? They had the promise of eternal life if they had submitted their reason to that of their Supreme Master.They were lost on account of their rebelling against the authority, the reason of God. Thus it is today. All the evils, the errors, the crimes by which the world is over flooded come from the same revolt of the human will and reason against the will and reason of God. God reigns yet over a part of the world, the world of the elect, through the Pope, who controls the teachings of our infallible and holy Church. In submitting ourselves to God, who speaks to us through the Pope, we are saved. We walk in the paths of truth and holiness. But we would err, and infallibly perish, as soon as we put our reason above that of our superior, the Pope, speaking to us in person, or through some of our superiors who have received from him the authority to guide us."
"But," said I, "if my reason tells me that the Pope, or some of those other superiors who are put by him over me, are mistaken, and that they command me something wrong, would I not be guilty before God if I obey them?"
"You suppose a thing utterly impossible," answered Mr. Leprohon, "for the Pope and the bishops who are united to him have the promise of never failing in the faith. They cannot lead you into any errors, nor command you to believe or do something contrary to the teachings of the Gospel, God would not ask of you any account of an error committed when you are obeying your legitimate superior."
I had to content myself with that answer, which I put down word for word in my note-book. But in spite of my respectful silence, the Rev. Mr. Leprohon saw that I was yet uneasy and sad. In order to convince me of the orthodoxy of his doctrines, he instantly put into my hands the two works of De Maistre, "Le Pape" and "Les Soirees de St. Petersburgh," where I found the same doctrines supported. My superior was honest in his convictions. He sincerely believed in the sound philosophy and Christianity of his principles, for he had found them in these books approved by the "infallible Popes."
I will mention another occurrence to show the inconceivable intellectual degradation to which we had been dragged at the end of seven years of collegiate studies. About the year 1829 the curate of St. Anne de la Parade wrote to our principal, Rev. Mr. Leprohon, to ask the assistance of the prayers of all the students of the College of Nicolet in order to obtain the discontinuance of the following calamity: "For more than three weeks one of the most respectable farmers was in danger of losing all his horses from the effects of a sorcery! From morning, and during most of the night, repeated blows of whips and sticks were heard falling upon these poor horses, which were trembling, foaming and struggling! We can see nothing! The hand of the wizard remains invisible. Pray for us, that we may discover the monster, and that he may be punished as he deserves."
Such were the contents of the priest's letter; and as my superior sincerely believed in that fable I also believed it, as well as all the students of the college who had a true piety. On that shore of abject and degrading superstitions I had to land after sailing seven years in the bark called a college of the Church of Rome!
The intellectual part of the studies in a college of Rome, and it is the same in a convent, is therefore entirely worthless. Worse than that, the intelligence is dwarfed under the chains by which it is bound. If the intelligence does sometimes advance, it is in spite of the fetters placed upon it; it is only like some few noble ships which, through the extraordinary skill of their pilots, go ahead against wind and tide.
I know that the priests of Rome can show a certain number of intelligent men in every branch of science who have studied in their colleges. But these remarkable men had from the beginning secretly broken for themselves the chains with which their superiors had tried to bind them. For peace' sake they had outwardly followed the rules of the house, but they had secretly trampled under the feet of their noble souls the ignoble fetters which had been prepared for their understanding. True children of God and light, they had found the secret of remaining free even when in the dark cells of a dungeon!
Give me the names of the remarkable and intelligent men who have studied in a college of Rome, and have become real lights in the firmament of science, and I will prove that nine-tenths of them have been persecuted, excommunicated, tortured, some even put to death for having to think for themselves.
Galileo was a Roman Catholic, and he is surely one of the greatest men whom science claims as her most gifted sons. But was he not sent to a dungeon? Was he not publicly flogged by the hands of the executioner? Had he not to ask pardon from God and man for having dared to think differently from the Pope about the motion of the earth around the sun!
Copernicus was surely one of the greatest lights of his time, but was he not censured and excommunicated for his admirable scientific discoveries?
France does not know any greater genius among her most gifted sons than Pascal. He was a Catholic. But he lived and died excommunicated.
The Church of Rome boasts of Bossuet, the Bishop of Meaux, as one of the greatest men she ever had. Yes; but has not Veuillot, the editor of the Univers, who knows his man well, confessed and declared before the world that Bossuet was a disguised Protestant?
Where can we find a more amiable or learned writer than Montalembert, who has so faithfully and bravely fought the battle of the Church of Rome in France during more than a quarter of a century? But has he not publicly declared on his death-bed that that Church was an apostate and idolatrous Church from the day that she proclaimed the dogma of the Infallibility of the Pope? Has he not virtually died an excommunicated man for having said with his last breath that the Pope was nothing else than a false god?
Those pupils of Roman Catholic colleges of whom sometimes the priests so imprudently boast, have gone out from the hands of their Jesuit teachers to proclaim their supreme contempt for the Roman Catholic priesthood and Papacy. They have been near enough to the priest to know him. They have seen with their own eyes that the priest of Rome is the most dangerous, the most implacable enemy of intelligence, progress and liberty; and if their arm be not paralyzed by cowardice, selfishness, or hypocrisy, those pupils of the colleges of Rome will be the first to denounce the priesthood of Rome and demolish her citadels.
Voltaire studied in a Roman Catholic college, and it was probably when at their school he nerved himself for the terrible battle he has fought against Rome. That Church will never recover from the blow which Voltaire has struck at her in France.
Cavour, in Italy, had studied in a Roman Catholic college also, and under that very roof it is more than probable that his noble intelligence had sworn to break the ignominious fetters with which Rome had enslaved his fair country. The most eloquent of the orators of Spain, Castelar, studied in a Roman Catholic college; but hear with what eloquence he denounces the tyranny, hypocrisy, selfishness and ignorance of the priests.
Papineau studied under the priests of Rome in their college at Montreal. From his earliest years that Eagle of Canada could see and know the priests of Rome as they are; he has weighed them in the balance; he has measured them; he has fathomed the dark recesses of their anti-social principles; he has felt his shoulders wounded and bleeding under the ignominious chains with which they dragged our dear Canada in the mire for nearly two centuries. Papineau was a pupil of the priests; and I have heard several priests boasting of that as a glorious thing. But the echoes of Canada are still repeating the thundering words with which Papineau denounced the priests as the most deadly enemies of the education and liberty of Canada! He was one of the first men of Canada to understand that there was no progress, no liberty possible for our beloved country so long as the priests would have the education of our people in their hands. The whole life of Papineau was a struggle to wrest Canada from their grasp. Everyone knows how he constantly branded them, without pity, during his life, and the whole world has been the witness of the supreme contempt with which he has refused their services, and turned them out at the solemn hour of his death!
When, in 1792, France wanted to be free, she understood that the priests of Rome were the greatest enemies of her liberties. She turned them out from her soil or hung them to her gibbets. If today that noble country of our ancestors is stumbling and struggling in her tears and her blood if she has fallen at the feet of her enemies if her valiant arm has been paralyzed, her sword broken, and her strong heart saddened above measure, is it not because she had most imprudently put herself again under the yoke of Rome?
Canada's children will continue to flee from the country of their birth so long as the priest of Rome holds the influence which is blasting everything that falls within his grasp, on this continent as well as in Europe; and the United States will soon see their most sacred institutions fall, one after the other, if the Americans continue to send their sons and daughters to the Jesuit colleges and nunneries.
When, in the warmest days of summer, you see a large swamp of stagnant and putrid water, you are sure that deadly miasma will spread around, that diseases of the most malignant character, poverty, sufferings of every kind, and death will soon devastate the unfortunate country; so, when you see Roman Catholic colleges and nunneries raising their haughty steeples over some commanding hills or in the midst of some beautiful valleys, you may confidently expect that the self-respect and the many virtues of the people will soon disappear intelligence, progress, prosperity will soon wane away, to be replaced by superstition, idleness, drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, ignorance, poverty and degradation of every kind. The colleges and nunneries are the high citadels from which the Pope darts his surest missiles against the rights and liberties of nations. The colleges and nunneries are the arsenals where the most deadly weapons are night and day prepared to fight and destroy the soldiers of liberty all over the world.
The colleges and nunneries of the priests are the secret places where the enemies of progress, equality and liberty are holding their councils and fomenting that great conspiracy the object of which is to enslave the world at the feet of the Pope.
The colleges and nunneries of Rome are the schools where the rising generations are taught that it is an impiety to follow the dictates of their own conscience, hear the voice of their intelligence, read the Word of God, and worship their Creator according to the rules laid down in the Gospel.
It is in the colleges and nunneries of Rome that men learn that they are created to obey the Pope in everything-- that the Bible must be burnt, and that liberty must be destroyed at any cost all over the world.
CHAPTER 10 - Moral and Religious Instruction in the Roman Catholic Colleges
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In order to understand what kind of moral education students in Roman Catholic colleges receive, one must only be told that from the beginning to the end they are surrounded by an atmosphere in which nothing but Paganism is breathed. The models of eloquence which we learned by heart were almost exclusively taken from Pagan literature. In the same manner Pagan models of wisdom, of honour, of chastity were offered to our admiration. Our minds were constantly fixed on the masterpieces which Paganism has left. The doors of our understanding were left open only to receive the rays of light which Paganism has shed on the world. Homer, Socrates, Lycurgus, Virgil, Horace, Cicero, Tacitus, Caesar, Xenophon, Demosthenes, Alexander, Lucretia, Regulus, Brutus, Jupiter, Venus, Minerva, Mars, Diana, ect., ect., crowded each other in our thoughts, to occupy them and be their models, examples and masters for ever.
It may be said that the same Pagan writers, orators and heroes are studied, read and admired in Protestant colleges. But there the infallible antidote, the Bible, is given to the students. Just as nothing remains of the darkness of night after the splendid morning sun has arisen on the horizon, so nothing of the fallacies, superstitions and sophisms of Paganism can trouble or obscure the mind on which that light from heaven, the Word of God, comes every day with its millions of shining rays. How insignificant is the Poetry of Homer when compared with the sublime songs of Moses! How pale is the eloquence of Demosthenes, Cicero, Virgil, ect., when read after Job, David or Solomon! How quickly crumble down the theories which those haughty heathens of old wanted to raise over the intelligence of men when the thundering voice from Sinai is heard; when the incomparable songs of David, Solomon, Isaiah or Jeremiah are ravishing the soul which is listening to their celestial strains! It is a fact that Pagan eloquence and philosophy can be but very tasteless to men accustomed to be fed with the bread which comes down from heaven, whose souls are filled with the eloquence of God, and whose intelligence is fed with the philosophy of heaven.
But, alas! for me and my fellow-students in the college of Rome! No sun ever appeared on the horizon to dispel the night in which our intelligence was wrapped. The dark clouds with which Paganism had surrounded us were suffocating us, and no breath from heaven was allowed to come and dispel them. Moses with his incomparable legislation, David and Solomon with their divine poems, Job with his celestial philosophy, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel with their sublime songs, Jesus Christ Himself with His soul-saving Gospel, as well as His apostles Peter, John, Jude, James and Paul these were all put in the Index! They had not the liberty to speak to us, and we were forbidden, absolutely forbidden, to read and hear them!
It is true that the Church of Rome, as an offset to that, gave us her principles, precepts, fables and legends that we might be attached to her, and that she might remain the mistress of our hearts. But these doctrines, practices, principles and fables seemed to us so evidently borrowed from Paganism they were so cold, so naked, so stripped of all true poetry, that if the Paganism of the ancients was not left absolute master of our affections, it still claimed a large part of our souls. To create in us a love for the Church of Rome our superiors depended greatly on the works of Chateaubriand. The "Genie du Christianisme" was the book of books to dispel all our doubts, and attach us to the Pope's religion. But this author, whose style is sometimes really beautiful, destroyed, by the weakness of his logic, the Christianity which he wanted to build up. We could easily see that Chateaubriand was not sincere, and his exaggerations were to many of us a sure indication that he did not believe in what he said. The works of De Maistre, the most important history-falsificator of France, were also put into our hands as a sure guide in philosophical and historical studies. The "Memoirs du Conte Valmont," with some authors of the same stamp, were much relied upon by our superiors to prove to us that the dogmas, precepts and practices of the Roman Catholic religion were brought from heaven.
It was certainly our desire as well as our interest to believe them. But how our faith was shaken, and how we felt troubled when Livy, Tacitus, Cicero, Virgil, Homer, ect., gave us the evidence that the greater part of these things had their root and their origin in Paganism.
For instance, our superiors had convinced us that scapulars, medals, holy water, ect., would be of great service to us in battling with the most dangerous temptations, as well as in avoiding the most common dangers of life. Consequently, we all had scapulars and medals, which we kept with the greatest respect, and even kissed morning and evening with affection, as if they were powerful instruments of the mercy of God to us. How great, then, was our confusion and disappointment when we discovered in the Greek and Latin historians that those scapulars and medals and statuettes were nothing but a remnant of Paganism, and that the worshipers of Jupiter, Minerva, Diana and Venus believed themselves also free, as we did, from all calamity when they carried them in honour of these divinities! The further we advanced in the study of Pagan antiquity, the more we were forced to believe that our religion, instead of being born at the foot of Calvary, was only a pale and awkward imitation of Paganism. The modern Pontifex Maximus (the Pope of Rome), who, as we were assured, was the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, resembled the "Pontifex Maximus" of the great republic and empire of Rome as much as two drops of water resemble each other. Had not our Pope preserved not only the name, but also the attributes, the pageantry, the pride, and even the garb of that high pagan priest? Was not the worship of the saints absolutely the same as the worship of the demigods of olden time? Was not our purgatory minutely described by Virgil? Were not our prayers to the Virgin and to the saints repeated, almost in the same words, by the worshipers who repeated them every day before the images which adorned our churches? Was not our holy water in use among the idolaters, and for the same purpose for which it was used among us?
We know by history the year in which the magnificent temple consecrated to all the gods, bearing the name of Pantheon, had been built at Rome. We were acquainted with the names of several of the sculptors who had carved the statues of the gods in that heathen temple, at whose feet the idolaters bowed respectfully, and words cannot express he shame we felt on learning that the Roman Catholics of our day, under the very eyes and with the sanction of the Pope, still prostrated themselves before the same idols, in the same temple, and to obtain the same favours!
When we asked each other the question, "What is the difference between the religion of heathen Rome and that of the Rome of today?" more than one student would answer: "The only difference is in the name. The idolatrous temples are the same: the idols have not left their places. Today, as formerly, the same incense burns in their honour? Nations are still prostrated at their feet to give them the same homage and to ask of them the same favours; but instead of calling this statue Jupiter, we call it Peter; and instead of calling that one Minerva or Venus, it is called St. Mary. It is the old idolatry coming to us under Christian names."
I earnestly desired to be an honest and sincere Roman Catholic. These impressions and thoughts distracted me greatly, inasmuch as I could find nothing in reason to diminish their force. Unfortunately many of the books placed in our hands by our superiors to confirm our faith, form our moral character, and sustain our piety and our confidence in the dogmas of the Church of Rome, had a frightful resemblance to the histories I had read of the gods and goddesses. The miracles attributed to the Virgin Mary often appeared to be only a reproduction of the tricks and deceits by which the priests of Jupiter, Venus, Minerva, ect., used to obtain their ends and grant the requests of their worshipers. Some of those miracles of the Virgin Mary equaled, if they did not surpass, in absurdity and immorality what mythology taught us among the most hideous accounts of the heathen gods and goddesses.
I could cite hundreds of such miracles which shocked my faith and caused me to blush in secret at the conclusion to which I was forced to come, in comparing the worship of ancient and modern Rome. I will only quote three of these modern miracles, which are found in one of the books the best approved by the Pope, entitled "The Glories of Mary."
First miracle. The great favour bestowed by the Holy Virgin upon a nun named Beatrix, of the Convent of Frontebraldo, show how merciful she is to sinners. This fact is related by Cesanus, and by Father Rho. This unfortunate nun, having been possessed by a criminal passion for a young man, determined to leave her convent and elope with him. She was the doorkeeper of the convent, and having placed the keys of the monastery at the feet of a statue of the Holy Virgin she boldly went out, and then led a life of prostitution during fifteen years in a far off place.
"One day, accidentally meeting the purveyor of her convent, and thinking she would not be recognized by him, she asked him news of Sister Beatrix.
"`I know her well,' answered this man; `she is a holy nun, and is mistress of the novices.'
"At these words Beatrix was confused; but to understand what it meant she changed her clothing, and going to the convent, enquired after Sister Beatrix.
"The Holy Virgin instantly appeared to her in the form of the statue at whose feet she had placed the keys at her departure. The Divine Mother spoke to her in this wise: `Know, Beatrix, that in order to preserve your honour I have taken your place and done your duty since you have left your convent. My daughter, return to God and be penitent, for my Son is still waiting for you. Try, by the holiness of your life, to preserve the good reputation which I have earned you.' Having thus spoken, the Holy Virgin disappeared. Beatrix reentered the monastery, donned her religious dress, and, grateful for the mercies of Mary, she led the life of a saint." ("Glories of Mary," chap. vi., sec. 2.)
Second miracle. Rev. Father Rierenberg relates that there existed in a city called Aragona a beautiful and noble girl by the name of Alexandra, whom two young men loved passionately. One day, maddened by the jealousy each one had of the other, they fought together, and both were killed. Their parents were so infuriated at the young girl, the author of these calamities, that they killed her, cut her head off, and threw her into a well. A few days after St. Dominic, passing by the place, was inspired to approach the well and to cry out, "Alexandra, come here!" The head of the deceased immediately placed itself upon the edge of the well, and entreated St. Dominic to hear its confession. Having heard it, the Saint gave her the communion in the presence of a great multitude of people, and then he commanded her to tell them why she had received so great a favour.
She answered that, though she was in a state of mortal sin when she was decapitated, yet as she had a habit of reciting the holy rosary, the Virgin had preserved her life.
The head, full of life, remained on the edge of the well two days before the eyes of a great many people, and then the soul went to purgatory. But fifteen days after this the soul of Alexandra appeared to St. Dominic, bright and beautiful as a star, and told him that one of the surest means of removing souls from purgatory was the recitation of the rosary in their favour. ("Glories of Mary," chap. viii., sec. 2)
Third miracle. "A servant of Mary one day went into one of her churches to pray, without telling her husband about it. Owing to a terrible storm she was prevented from returning home that night. Harassed by the fear that her husband would be angry, she implored Mary's help. But on returning home she found her husband full of kindness. After asking her husband a few questions on the subject she discovered that during that very night the Divine Mother had taken her form and features and had taken her place in all the affairs of the household! She informed her husband of the great miracle, and they both became very much devoted to the Holy Virgin." (Glories of Mary," Examples of Protection, 40.)
Persons who have never studied in a Roman Catholic college will hardly believe that such fables were told us as an appeal for us to become Christians. But, God knows, I tell the truth. Is not a profanation of a holy word to say that Christianity is the religion taught the students in Rome's colleges?
After reading the monstrous metamorphoses of the gods of Olympus, the student feels a profound pity for the nations who have lived so long in the darkness of Paganism. He cannot understand how so many millions of men were, for such a long time, deceived by such crude fables. With joy his thoughts are turned to the God of Calvary, there to receive light and life. He feels, as it were, a burning desire to nourish himself with the words of life, fallen from the lips of the "great victim." But here comes the priest of the college, who places himself between the student and Christ, and instead of allowing him to be nourished with the Bread of Life he offers him fables, husks with which to appease his hunger. Instead of allowing him to slake his thirst from the waters which flow from the fountains of eternal life, he offers him a corrupt beverage!
God alone knows what I have suffered during my studies to find myself absolutely deprived of the privilege of eating this bread of life His Holy Word!
During the last years of my studies my superiors often confided to me the charge of the library. Once it happened that, as the students were taking a holiday, I remained alone in the college, and shutting myself up in the library I began to examine all the books. I was not a little surprised to discover that the books which were the most proper to instruct us stood on the catalogue of the library marked among the forbidden books. I felt an inexpressible shame on seeing with my own eyes that none but the most indifferent books were placed in our hands that we were permitted to read authors of the third rank only (if this expression is suitable to such whose only merit consisted in flattering the Popes, and in concealing or excusing their crimes). Several students more advanced than myself, had already made the observation to me, but I did not believe them. Self-love gave me the hope that I was as well educated as one could be at my age. Until then I had spurned the idea that, with the rest of the students, I was the victim of an incredible system of moral and intellectual blindness.
Among the forbidden books of the college I found a splendid Bible. It seemed to be of the same edition as the one whose perusal had made the hours pass away so pleasantly when I was at home with my mother. I seized it with the transports of a miser finding a lost treasure. I lifted it to my lips, and kissed it respectfully. I pressed it against my heart, as one embraces a friend from whom he has long been separated. This Bible brought back to my memory the most delightful hours of my life. I read in its divine pages till the scholars returned.
The next day Rev. Mr. Leprohon, our director, called me to his room during the recreation, and said: "You seem to be troubled, and very sad today. I noticed that you remained alone while the other scholars were enjoying themselves so well. Have you any cause of grief? or are you sick?"
I could not sufficiently express my love and respect for this venerable man. He was at the same time my friend and benefactor. For four years he and Rev. Mr. Brassard had been paying my board; for, owing to a misunderstanding between myself and my uncle Dionne, he had ceased to maintain me at college. By reading the Bible the previous day I had disobeyed my benefactor, Mr. Leprohon; for when he entrusted me with the care of the library he made me promise not to read the books in the forbidden catalogue.
It was painful to me to sadden him by acknowledging that I had broken my word of honour, but it pained me far more to deceive him by concealing the truth. I therefore answered him: "You are right in supposing that I am uneasy and sad. I confess there is one thing which perplexes me greatly among the rules that govern us. I never dared to speak to you about it: but as you wish to know the cause of my sadness, I will tell you. You have placed in our hands, not only to read, but to learn by heart, books which are, as you know, partly inspired by hell, and you forbid us to read the only book whose every word is sent from heaven! You permit us to read books dictated by the spirit of darkness and sin, and you make it a crime for us to read the only book written under the dictation of the Spirit of light and holiness. This conduct on your part, and on the part of all the superiors of the college, disturbs and scandalizes me! Shall I tell you, your dread of the Bible shakes my faith, and causes me to fear that we are going astray in our Church."
Mr. Leprohon answered me: "I have been the director of this college for more than twenty years, and I have never heard from the lips of any of the students such remarks and complaints as you are making to me today. Have you no fear of being the victim of a deception of the devil, in meddling with a question so strange and so new for a scholar whose only aim should be to obey his superiors?"
"It may be" said I, "that I am the first to speak to you in this manner, for it is very probable that I am the only student in this college who has read the Holy Bible in his youthful days. I have already told you there was a Bible in my father's house, which disappeared only after his death, though I never could know what became of it. I can assure you that the perusal of that admirable book has done me a good that is still felt. It is, therefore, because I know by a personal experience that there is no book in the world so good, and so proper to read, that I am extremely grieved, and even scandalized, by the dread you have of it. I acknowledge to you I spent the afternoon of yesterday in the library reading the Bible. I found things in it which made me weep for joy and happiness things that did more good to my soul and heart than all you have given me to read for six years. And I am so sad today because you approve of me when I read the words of the devil, and condemn me when I read the Word of God."
My superior answered: "Since you have read the Bible, you must know that there are things in it on matters of such a delicate nature that it is improper for a young man, and more so for a young lady, to read them."
"I understand," answered I; "but these delicate matters, of which you do not want God to speak a word to us, you know very well that Satan speaks to us about them day and night. Now, when Satan speaks about and attracts our thoughts towards an evil and criminal thing, it is always in order that we may like it and be lost. But when the God of purity speaks to us of evil things (of which it is pretty much impossible for men to be ignorant), He does it that we may hate and abhor them, and He gives us grace to avoid them. Well, then, since you cannot prevent the devil from whispering to us things so delicate and dangerous to seduce us, how dare you hinder God from speaking of the same things to shield us from their allurements? Besides, when my God desires to speak to me Himself on any question whatever, where is your right to obstruct His word on its way to my heart?"
Though Mr Leprohon's intelligence was as much wrapped up in the darkness of the Church of Rome as it could be, his heart had remained honest and true; and while I respected and loved him as my father, though differing from him in opinion, I knew he loved me as if I had been his own child. He was thunderstruck by my answer. He turned pale, and I saw tears about to flow from his eyes. He sighed deeply, and looked at me some time reflectingly, without answering. At last he said: "My dear Chiniquy, your answer and your arguments have a force that frightens me, and if I had no other but my own personal ideas to disprove them, I acknowledge I do not know how I would do it. But I have something better than my own weak thoughts. I have the thoughts of the Church, and of our Holy father the Pope. They forbid us to put the Bible in the hands of our students. This should suffice to put an end to your troubles. To obey his legitimate superiors in all things and everywhere is the rule a Christian scholar like you should follow; and if you have broken it yesterday, I hope it will be the last time that the child whom I love better than myself will cause me such pain."
On saying this he threw his arms around me, clasped me to his heart, and bathed my face in tears. I wept also. Yes, I wept abundantly.
But God knoweth, that through the regret of having grieved my benefactor and father caused me to shed tears at that moment, yet I wept much more on perceiving that I would no more be permitted to read His Holy Word.
If, therefore, I am asked what moral and religious education we received at college, I will ask in return, What religious education can we receive in an institution where seven years are spent without once being permitted to read the Gospel of God? The gods of the heathen spoke to us daily by their apostles and disciples Homer, Virgil, Pindar, Horace! and the God of the Christians had not permission to say a single word to us in that college!
Our religion, therefore, could be nothing by Paganism disguised under a Christian name. Christianity in a college or convent of Rome is such a strange mixture of heathenism and superstition, both ridiculous and childish, and of shocking fables, that the majority of those who have not entirely smothered the voice of reason cannot accept it. A few do, as I did, all in their power, and succeed to a certain extent, in believing only what the superior tell them to believe. They close their eyes and permit themselves to be led exactly as if they were blind, and a friendly hand were offering to guide them. But the greater number of students in Roman Catholic colleges cannot accept the bastard Christianity which Rome presents to them. Of course, during the studies they follow its rules, for the sake of peace; but they have hardly left college before they proceed to join and increase the ranks of the army of skeptics and infidels which overruns France, Spain, Italy and Canada which overruns, in fact, all the countries where Rome has the education of the people in her hands.
I must say, though with a sad heart, that moral and religious education in Roman Catholic colleges is worse and void, for from them has been excluded the only true standard of morals and religion, The Word of God!
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