Fifty Years in the Church of Rome
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This page contains Chapters 16-20
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Table of Contents
Chapter 16 . . . The Priests of Rome and the Holy Fathers; or, how I Swore to give up the Word of God to follow the Word of Men Chapter 17 . . . The Roman Catholic Priesthood, or Ancient and Modern Idolatry Chapter 18 . . . Nine Consequences of the Dogma of Transubstantiation- The Old Paganism under a Christian Name Chapter 19 . . . Vicarage, and Life at St. Charles, Rivierre Boyer Chapter 20 . . . Papineau and the Patriots in 1833- The Burning of "Le Canadien" by the Curate of St. Charles
CHAPTER 16 - The Priests of Rome and the Holy Fathers;
or, how I Swore to give up the Word of God to follow the Word of Men
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There are several imposing ceremonies at the ordination of a priest; and I will never forget the joy I felt when the Roman Pontiff, presenting to me the Bible, ordered me, with a solemn voice, to study and preach it. That order passed through my soul as a beam of light. But, alas! those rays of light and life were soon to be followed, as a flash of lightning in a stormy night, by the most sudden and distressing darkness!
When holding the sacred volume, I accepted with unspeakable joy the command of studying and preaching its saving truth; but I felt as if a thunderbolt had fallen upon me when I pronounced the awful oath which is required from every priest: "I will never interpret the Holy Scriptures except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers."
Many times, with the other students in theology, I had discussed the nature of that strange oath; still more often, in the silence of my meditations, alone in the presence of God, I had tried to fathom the bottomless abyss which, it seemed to me, was dug under my feet by it, and every time my conscience had shrunk in terror from its consequences. But I was not the only one in the seminary who contemplated, with an anxious mind, its evidently blasphemous nature.
About six months before our ordination, Stephen Baillargeon, one of my fellow theological students, had said in my presence to our superior, the Rev. Mr. Raimbault: "Allow me to tell you that one of the things with which I cannot reconcile my conscience is the solemn oath we will have to take, `That we will never interpret the Scriptures except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers! We have not given a single hour yet to the serious study of the Holy Fathers. I know many priests, and not a single one of them has ever studied the Holy Fathers; they have not even got them in their libraries! We will probably walk in their footsteps. It may be that not a single volume of the Holy Fathers will ever fall into our hands! In the name of common sense, how can we swear that we will follow the sentiments of men of whom we know absolutely nothing, and about whom, it is more probable, we will never know anything, except by mere vague hearsay?"
Our superior gave evident signs of weakness in his answer to that unexpected difficulty. But his embarrassment grew much greater when I said: "Baillargeon cannot contemplate that oath without anxiety, and he has given you some of his reasons; but he has not said the last word on that strange oath. If you will allow me, Mr. Superior, I will present you some more formidable objections. It is not so much on account of our ignorance of the doctrines of the Holy Fathers that I tremble when I think I will have `to swear never to interpret the Scriptures, except according to their unanimous consent.' Would to God that I could say, with Baillargeon, `I know nothing of the Holy Fathers: how can I swear they will guide me in all my ways?' It is true that we know so little of them that it is supremely ridiculous, if it is not an insult to God and man, that we take them for our guides. But my regret is that we know already too much of the Holy Fathers to be exempt from perjuring ourselves, when we swear that we will not interpret the Holy Scriptures except according to their unanimous consent.
"Is it not a fact that the Holy Fathers' writings are so perfectly kept out of sight, that it is absolutely impossible to read and study them? But even if we had access to them, have we sufficient time at our disposal to study them so perfectly that we could conscientiously swear that we will follow them? How can we follow a thing we do not see, which we cannot hear, and about which we do not know more than the man in the moon? Our shameful ignorance of the Holy Fathers is a sufficient reason to make us fear at the approach of the solemn hour that we will swear to follow them. Yes! But we know enough of the Holy Fathers to chill the blood in our veins when swearing to interpret the Holy Scriptures only according to their unanimous consent. Please, Mr.Superior, tell us what are the texts of Scripture on which the Holy Fathers are unanimous. You respect yourself too much to try to answer a question which no honest man has, or will ever dare to answer. And if you, one of the most learned men of France, cannot put your finger on the texts of the Holy Bible and say, `The Holy Fathers are perfectly unanimous on these texts!' How can we, poor young ecclesiastics of the humble College of Nicolet, say, `The Holy Fathers are unanimously of the same mind on those texts?' But if we cannot distinguish today, and if we shall never be able to distinguish between the texts on which the Holy Fathers are unanimous and the ones on which they differ, how can we dare to swear before God and men to interpret every text of the Scriptures only according to the unanimous consent of those Holy Fathers?
"By that awful oath, will we not be absolutely bound to remain mute as dead men on every text on which the Holy Fathers have differed, under the evident penalty of becoming perjured? Will not every text on which the Holy Fathers have differed become as the dead carcass which the Israelites could not touch, except by defiling themselves? After that strange oath, to interpret the Scripture only according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers, will we not be absolutely deprived of the privilege of studying or preaching on a text on which they have differed?
"The consequences of that oath are legion, and every one of them seems to me the death of our ministry, the damnation of our souls! You have read the history of the Church, as we have it here, written by Henrion, Berrault, Bell, Costel, and Fleury. Well, what is the prominent fact in those reliable histories of the Church? Is it not that the Church has constantly been filled with the noise of the controversies of Holy Fathers with Holy Fathers? Do we not find, on every page, that the Holy Fathers of one century very often differed from the Holy Fathers of another century in very important matters? Is it not a public and undeniable fact, that the history of our Holy Church is almost nothing else than the history of the hard conflict, stern divisions, unflinching contradictions and oppositions of Holy Fathers to Holy Fathers?
"Here is a big volume of manuscript written by me, containing only extracts from our best Church historians, filled with the public disputes of Holy Fathers among themselves on almost every subject of Christianity.
"There are Holy Fathers who say, with our best modern theologians St. Thomas, Bellarmine and Liguori that we must kill heretics as we kill wild beasts; while many others say that we must tolerate them! You all know the name of the Holy Father who sends to hell all the widows who marry a second time, while other Holy Fathers are of a different mind. Some of them, you know well, had very different notions from ours about purgatory. Is it necessary for me to give you the names of the Holy Fathers, in Africa and Asia, who refused to accept the supreme jurisdiction we acknowledge in the Pope over all churches? Several Holy Fathers have denied the supreme authority of the Church of Rome you know it; they have laughed at the excommunications of the Popes! Some even have gladly died, when excommunicated by the Pope, without doing anything to reconcile themselves to him! What do we find in the six volumes of letters we have still from St. Jerome, if not the undeniable fact that he filled the Church with the noise of his harsh denunciations of the scriptural views of St. Augustine on many important points. You have read these letters? Well, have you not concluded that St. Jerome and St. Augustine agreed almost only on one thing, which was, to disagree on every subject they treated?
"Did not St. Jerome knock his head against nearly all the Holy Fathers of his time? And has he not received hard knocks from almost all the Holy Fathers with whom he was acquainted? Is it not a public fact that St. Jerome and several other Holy Fathers rejected the sacred books of the Maccaabees, Judith, Tobias, just as the heretics of our time reject them?
"And now we are gravely asked, in the name of the God of Truth, to swear that we will interpret the Holy Scriptures only according to the unanimous consent of those Holy Fathers, who have been unanimous but in one thing, which was never to agree with each other, and sometimes not even with themselves.
"For it is a well-known fact, though it is a very deplorable one, for instance, that St. Augustine did not always keep to the same correct views on the text "Thou art Peter, and upon that rock I will build My church.' After holding correct views on that fundamental truth he gave it up, at the end of his life, to say, with the Protestants of our day, that `upon that rock means only Christ, and not Peter.' Now, how can I be bound by an oath to follow the views of men who have themselves been wavering and changing, when the Word of God must stand as an unmoving rock to my heart? If you require from us an oath, why put into our hands the history of the Church, which has stuffed our memory with the undeniable facts of the endless fierce divisions of the Holy Fathers on almost every question which the Scriptures present to our faith?
Would to God that I could say, with Baillargeon, I know nothing of the Holy Fathers! Then I could perhaps be at peace with my conscience, after perjuring myself by promising a thing that I cannot do.
"I was lately told by the Rev. Leprohon, that it is absolutely necessary to go to the Holy Fathers in order to understand the Holy Scriptures! But I will respectfully repeat today what I then said on that subject.
"If I am too ignorant or too stupid to understand St. Mark, St. Luke and St. Paul, how can I be intelligent enough to understand Jerome, Augustine and Tertullian? And if St. Matthew, St. John and St. Peter have not got from God the grace of writing with a sufficient degree of light and clearness to be understood by men of good-will, how is it that Justin, Clemens and Cyprian have received from our God a favour of lucidity and clearness which He denied to His apostles and evangelists? If I cannot rely upon my private judgment when studying, with the help of God, the Holy Scriptures, how can I rely on my private judgment when studying the Holy Fathers? You constantly tell me I cannot rely on my private judgment to understand and interpret the Holy Scriptures; but will you please tell me with what judgment and intelligence I shall have to interpret and understand the writings of the Holy Fathers, if it be not with my own private judgment? Must I borrow the judgment and intelligence of some of my neighbours in order to understand and interpret, for instance, the writings of Origen? or shall I be allowed to go and hear what that Holy Father wants from me, with my own private intelligence? But again, if you are forced to confess that I have nothing else but my private judgment and intelligence to read, understand and follow the Holy Fathers, and that I not only can but must rely on my own private judgment, without any fear, in that case, how is it that I will be lost if I make use of that same private and personal judgment when at the feet of Jesus, listening to His eternal and life-giving words?
"Nothing distresses me so much in our holy religion as that want of confidence in God when we go to the feet of Jesus to hear or read His soul-saving words, and the abundance of self-confidence, when we go among sinful and fallible men, to know what they say.
"It is not to the Holy Scriptures that we are invited to go to know what the Lord saith: it is to the Holy Fathers!
"Would it be possible that, in our Holy Church, the Word of God would be darkness, and the words of men light!
"This dogma, or article of our religion, by which we must go to the Holy Fathers in order to know what `The Lord saith,' and not to the Holy Scriptures, is to my soul what a handful of sand would be to my eyes it makes me perfectly blind.
"When our venerable bishop places the Holy Scriptures in my hands and commands me to study and peach them, I shall understand when he means, and he will know what he says. He will give me a most sublime work to perform; and, by the grace of God, I hope to do it. But when he orders me to swear that I will never interpret the Holy Scriptures except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers, will he not make a perjured man of me, and will he not say a thing to which he has not given sufficient attention? For to swear that we will never interpret anything of the Scriptures, except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers, is to swear to a thing as impossible and ridiculous as to take the moon with our hands. I say more, it is to swear that we ill never study nor interpret a single chapter of the Bible. For it is probable that there are very few chapters of that Holy Book which have not been a cause of serious differences between some of the Holy Fathers.
"As the writings of the Holy Fathers fill at least two hundred volumes in folio, it will not take us less than ten years of constant study to know on what question they are or are not unanimous! If, after that time of study, I find that they are unanimous on the question of orthodoxy which I must believe and preach, all will be right with me. I will walk with a fearless heart to the gates of eternity, with the certainty of following the true way of salvation. But if among fifty Holy Fathers there are forty-nine on one side and one only on the opposite side, in what awful state of distress will I be plunged! Shall I not be then as a ship in a stormy night, after she has lost her compass, her masts, and her helm. If I were allowed to follow the majority, there would always be a plank of safety to rescue me from the impending wreck. But the Pope has inexorably tied us to the unanimity. If my faith is not the faith of unanimity, I am for ever damned. I am out of the Church!
"What a frightful alternative is just before us! We must either perjure ourselves, by swearing to follow a unanimity which is a fable, in order to remain Roman Catholics, or we must plunge into the abyss of impiety and atheism by refusing to swear that we will adhere to a unanimity which never existed."
It was visible, at the end of that long and stormy conference, that the fears and anxieties of Baillargeon and mine were partaken of by every one of the students in theology. The boldness of our expressions brought upon us a real storm. But our Superior did not dare to face or answer a single one of our arguments; he was evidently embarrassed, and nothing could surpass his joy when the bell told him that the hour of the conference was over. He promised to answer us the next day; but the next day he did nothing but throw dust into our eyes, and abuse us to his heart's content. He began by forbidding me to read any more of the controversial books I had brought a few months before, among which was the celebrated Derry discussion between seven priests and seven Protestants. I had to give back the well known discussion between "Pope and Maguire," and between Gregg and the same Maguire. I had also to give up the numbers of the Avenir and other books of Lamenais, which I had got the liberty, as a privilege, to read. It was decided that my intelligence was not clear enough, and that my faith was not sufficiently strong to read those books. I had nothing to do but to bow my head under the yoke and obey, without a word or murmur. The darkest night was made around our understandings, and we had to believe that that awful darkness was the shining light of God! We rejected the bright truth which had so nearly conquered our mind in order to accept the most ridiculous sophisms as gospel truths! We did the most degrading action a man can do we silenced the voice of our conscience, and we consented to follow our superior's views, as a brute follows the order of his master; we consented to be in the hands of our superiors like a stick in the hands of the traveler.
During the months which elapsed between that hard fought, through lost battle, and the solemn hour of my priestly ordination, I did all I could to subdue and annihilate my thoughts on that subject. My hope was that I had entirely succeeded. But, to my dismay, that reason suddenly awoke, as from a long sleep, when I had perjured myself, as every priest has to do. A chill of horror and shame ran through all my frame in spite of myself. In my inmost soul a cry was heard from my wounded conscience, "You annihilate the Word of God! You rebel against the Holy Ghost! You deny the Holy Scriptures to follow the steps of sinful men! You reject the pure waters of eternal life, to drink the waters of death."
In order to choke again the voice of my conscience, I did what my Church advised me to do I cried to my wafer god and to the blessed Virgin Mary that they might come to my help, and silence the voices which were troubling my peace by shaking my faith.
With the utmost sincerity, the day of my ordination, I renewed the promise that I had already so often made, and said in the presence of God and His angels, "I promise that I will never believe anything except according to the teachings of my Holy and Apostolic Church of Rome."
And on that pillow of folly, ignorance, and fanaticism I laid my head to sleep the sleep of spiritual death, with the two hundred millions of slaves whom the Pope seem at his feet.
And I slept that sleep till the God of our salvation, in His great mercy, awoke me, by giving to my soul the light, the truth, and the life which are in Jesus Christ.
CHAPTER 17 - The Roman Catholic Priesthood, or Ancient and Modern Idolatry
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I was ordained a priest of Rome in the Cathedral of Quebec, on the 21st of September, 1833, by the Right Reverend Signaie, first Archbishop of Canada. No words can express the solemnity of my thoughts, the superhuman nature of my aspirations, when the delegate of the Pope, imposing his hands on my head, gave me the power of converting a real wafer into the real substantial body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ! The bright illusion of Eve, as the deceiver told her "Ye shall be as gods," was child's play compared with what I felt when, assured by the infallible voice of my Church that I was not only on equal terms with my Saviour and God, but I was in reality above Him! and that hereafter I would not only command, but create Him!!
The aspirations to power and glory which had been such a terrible temptation in Lucifer were becoming a reality in me! I had received the power of commanding God, not in a spiritual and mystical, but in a real, personal and most irresistible way.
With my heart full of an inexpressible joy and gratitude to God, and with all the faculties of my soul raised to exaltation, I withdrew from the feet of the pontiff to my oratory, where I passed the rest of the day in meditation on the great things which my God had wrought in me.
I had, at last, attained the top of that power and holiness which my Church had invited me to consider from my infancy as the most glorious gift which God had ever given to man! The dignity which I had just received was above all the dignities and the thrones of this world. The holy character of the PRIESTHOOD had been impressed on my soul, with the blood of Christ, as an imperishable and celestial glory. Nothing could ever take it away from me, in time or eternity. I was to be a priest of my God for ever and ever. Not only had Christ let His divine and priestly mantle fall on my shoulders, but He has so perfectly associated me with Himself as the great and eternal Sacrificer, that I was to renew, every day of my life, His atoning SACRIFICE! At my bidding, the only and eternally begotten Son of my God was now to come into my hands in Person! The same Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father was to come down every day into my breast, to unite His flesh to my flesh, His blood to my blood, His divine soul to my poor sinful soul, in order to walk, work and live in me and with me in the most perfect unity and intimacy!
I passed that whole day and the greater part of the night in contemplating the superhuman honours and dignities which my beloved Church had conferred on me. Many times I fell on my knees to thank God for His mercies towards me, and I could hardly speak to Him except with tears of joy and gratitude. I often repeated the words of the Holy Virgin Mary: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour."
The privileges granted to me were of a more substantial kind than those bestowed upon Mary. She had been obeyed by Christ only when He was a child. He had to obey me now, although He was in the full possession of His eternal glory!
In the presence of God and His angels, I promised to live a holy life as a token of my gratitude to Him. I said to my lips and my tongue, "Be holy now; for you will not only speak to your God: you will give Him a new birth every day!" I said to my heart, "Be holy and pure now; for you will bear every day the Holy of Holies!" To my soul I said, "Be holy now; for you will henceforth be most intimately and personally united to Christ Jesus. You will be fed with the body, blood, soul and divinity of Him before whom the angels do not find themselves pure enough!"
Looking on my table, where my pipe, filled with tobacco, and my snuffbox were lying, I said: "Impure and noxious weeds, you will no more defile me! I am the priest of the Almighty. It is beneath my dignity to touch you any more!" and opening the window I threw them into the street, never to make use of them again.
On the 21st of September, 1833, I had thus been raised to the priesthood; but I had not yet made use of the divine powers with which I had been invested. The next day I was to say my first Mass, and work that incomparable miracle which the Church of Rome calls TRANSUBSTANTIATION.
As I have already said, I had passed the greater part of the night between the 21st and 22nd in meditation and thanksgivings. On the morning of the 22nd, long before the dawn of day, I was dressed and on my knees. This was to be the most holy and glorious day of my life! Raised, the day before, to a dignity which was above the kingdoms and empires of the world, I was now, for the first time, to work a miracle at the altar which no angel or seraph could do.
At my bidding Christ was to receive a new existence! The miracle wrought by Joshua, when he commanded the sun and moon to stop, on the bloody plain of Gibeon, was nothing compared to the miracle that I was to perform that day. When the eternal Son of God would be in my hands, I was to present myself at the throne of mercy, with that expiatory victim of the sins of the world pay the debt, not only of my guilty soul, but of all those for whom I should speak! The ineffable sacrifice of Calvary was to be renewed by me that day with the utmost perfection!
When the bell rang to tell me that the hour was come to clothe myself with the golden priestly robes and go to the altar, my heart beat with such a rapidity that I came very near fainting. The holiness of the action I was to do, the infinite greatness of the sacrifice I was about to make, the divine victim I was to hold in my hands and present to God the Father! the wonderful miracle I was to perform, filled my soul and my heart with such sentiments of terror, joy and awe, that I was trembling from head to foot; and if very kind friends, among whom was the venerable secretary of the Archbishop of Quebec, now the Grand Vicar Cazault, had not been there to help and encourage me, I think I would not have dared to ascend the steps of the altar.
It is not an easy thing to go through all the ceremonies of a Mass. There are more than one hundred different ceremonies and positions of the body, which must be observed with the utmost perfection. To omit one of them willingly, or through a culpable neglect or ignorance, is eternal damnation. But thanks to a dozen exercises through which I had gone the previous week, and thanks be to the kind friends who helped and guided me, I went through the performances of that first Mass much more easily than I expected. It lasted about an hour. But when it was over, I was really exhausted by the effort made to keep my mind and heart in unison with the infinite greatness of the mysteries accomplished by me.
To make one's self believe that he can convert a piece of bread into God requires such a supreme effort of the will, and complete annihilation of intelligence, that the state of the soul, after the effort is over, is more like death than life.
I had really persuaded myself that I had done the most holy and sublime action of my life, when, in fact, I had been guilty of the most outrageous act of idolatry! My eyes, my hands an lips, my mouth and tongue, and all my senses, as well as the faculties of my intelligence, were telling me that what I had seen, touched, eaten, was nothing but a wafer; but the voices of the Pope and his Church were telling me that it was the real body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. I had persuaded myself that the voices of my senses and intelligence were the voices of Satan, and that the deceitful voice of the Pope was the voice of the God of Truth! Every priest of Rome has come to that strange degree of folly and perversity, every day of his life, to remain a priest of Rome.
The great imposture taught under the modern word TRANSUBSTANTIATION, when divested of the glare which Rome, by her sorceries, throws around it, is soon seen to be what it is a most impious and idolatrous doctrine.
"I must carry the `good God' to-morrow to a sick man," says the priest to his servant girl. In plain French: "Je dois porter le `Bon Dieu' demain a un malade," dit le pretre a sa servante; "mais il n'y en a plus dans le tabernacle." "But there are no more particles in the tabernacle. Make some small cakes that I may consecrate them to-morrow." And the obedient domestic takes some wheat flour, for no other kind of flour is fit to make the god of the Pope. A mixture of any other kind would make the miracle of "transubstantiation" a great failure. The servant girl accordingly takes the dough, and bakes it between two heated irons, on which are graven the following figures, C.H.S. When the whole is well baked, she takes her scissors and cuts those wafers, which are about four or five inches large, into smaller ones of the size of an inch, and respectfully hands them over to the priest.
The next morning the priest takes the newly-baked wafers to the altar, and changes them into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. It was one of those wafers that I had taken to the altar in that solemn hour of my first Mass, and which I had turned into my Saviour by the five magical words HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM!
What was the difference between the incredible folly of Aaron, on the day of his apostasy in the wilderness, and the action I had done when I worshipped the god whom I made myself, and got my friends to worship? Where, I ask, is the difference between the adoration of the calf-god of Aaron and the wafer-god which I had made on the 22nd of September, 1833. The only difference was, that the idolatry of Aaron lasted but one day, while the idolatry in which I lived lasted a quarter of a century, and has been perpetuated in the Church of Rome for more than a thousand years.
What has the Church of Rome done by giving up the words of Christ, "Do this in remembrance of Me," and substituting her dogma of Transubstantiation? She has brought the world back to the old heathenism. The priest of Rome worships a Saviour called Christ. Yes; but that Christ is not the Christ of the gospel. It is a false and newly-invented Christ whom the Popes have smuggled from the Pantheon of Rome, and sacrilegiously called by the adorable name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
I have often been asked: "Was it possible that you sincerely believed that the wafer could be changed into God by you?" And, "Have you really worshipped that water as your Saviour?"
To my shame, and to the shame of poor humanity, I must say, "Yes." I believed as sincerely as every Roman Catholic priest is bound to believe it, that I was creating my own Saviour-God every morning by the assumed consecration of the wafer; and I was saying to the people, as I presented it to them, "Ecce Agnus Dei" "This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; let us adore Him;" and prostrating myself on my knees I was adoring the god made by myself, with the help of my servant; and all the people prostrated themselves to adore the newlymade god!
I must confess, further, that though I was bound to believe in the existence of Christ in heaven, and was invited by my Church to worship Him as my Saviour and my God, I had, as every Roman Catholic has, more confidence, faith, and love towards the Christ which I had created with a few words of my lips than towards the Christ of heaven.
My Church told me, every day of my life, and I had to believe and preach it, that though the Christ of heaven was my Saviour, He was angry against me on account of my sins; that He was constantly disposed to punish me, according to His terrible justice; that He was armed with lightning and thunder to crush me; and that, were it not for His mother, who day and night was interceding for me, I should be cast into that hell which my sins had so richly deserved. All the theologians, with St. Liguori at their head, whose writings I was earnestly studying, and which had received the approbation of infallible Popes, persuaded me that it was Mary whom I had to thank and bless, if I had not yet been punished as I deserved. Not only had I to believe this doctrine, but I had to peach it to the people. The result was for me, as it is for every Roman Catholic, that my heart was really chilled, and I was filled with terror every time I looked to the Christ of heaven through the lights and teachings of my Church. He could not, as I believed, look to me except with an angry face; He could not stretch out His hand towards me except to crush me, unless His merciful mother or some other mighty saint interposed their saving supplications to appease His just indignation. When I was praying to that Christ of the Church of Rome, my mind was constantly perplexed about the choice I should make of some powerful protector, whose influence could get me a favourable hearing from my irritated Saviour.
Besides this, I was told, and I had to believe it, that the Christ of heaven was a mighty monarch, a most glorious king, surrounded by innumerable hosts of servants, officers and friends, and that, as it would not do for a poor rebel to present himself before his irritated King to get His pardon, but he must address himself to some of His most influential courtiers, or to His beloved mother, to whom nothing can be refused, that they might plead his cause; so I sincerely believed that it was better for me not to speak myself to Jesus Christ, but to look for some one who would speak for me.
But there were no such terrors or fears in my heart when I approached the Saviour whom I had created myself! Such an humble and defenseless Saviour, surely, had no thunder in His hands to punish His enemies. He could have no angry looks for me. He was my friend, as well as the work of my hands. There was nothing in Him which could inspire me with any fear. Had I not brought Him down from heaven? And had He not come into my hands that He might hear, bless, and forgive me? that He might be nearer to me, and I nearer to Him?
When I was in His presence, in that solitary church, there was no need of officers, of courtiers, of mothers to speak to Him for me. He was no longer there a mighty monarch, an angry king, who could be approached only by the great officers of His court; He as now the rebuked of the world, the humble and defenseless Saviour of the manger, the forsaken Jesus of Calvary, the forgotten Christ of Gethsemane.
No words can give any idea of the pleasure I used to feel when alone, prostrated before the Christ whom I had made at the morning Mass, I poured out my heart at His feet. It is impossible for those who have not lived under those terrible illusions to understand with what confidence I spoke to the Christ who was then before me, bound by the ties of His love for me! How many times, in the colder days of winter, in churches which had never seen any fire, with an atmosphere 15 degrees below zero, had I passed whole hours alone, in adoration of the Saviour whom I had made only a few hours before! How often have I looked with silent admiration to the Divine Person who was there alone, passing the long hours of the day and night, rebuked and forsaken, that I might have an opportunity of approaching Him, and of speaking to Him as a friend to his friend, as a repenting sinner to his merciful Saviour. My faith I should rather say my awful delusion, was then so complete that I scarcely felt the biting of the cold! I may say with truth, that the happiest hours I ever had, during the long years of darkness into which the Church of Rome had plunged me, were the hours which I passed in adoring the Christ whom I had made with my own lips. And every priest of Rome would make the same declaration were they questioned on the subject.
It is a similar principle of monstrous faith that leads widows in India to leap with cries of joy into the fire which will burn them into ashes with the bodies of their deceased husbands. Their priests have assured them that such a sacrifice will secure eternal happiness to themselves and their departed husbands.
In fact, the Roman Catholics have no other Saviour to whom they can betake themselves than the one made by the consecration of the wafer. He is the only Saviour who is not angry with them, and who does not require the mediation of virgins and saints to appease His wrath. This is the reason why Roman Catholic churches are so well filled by the poor blind Roman Catholics. See how they rush to the foot of their altars at almost every hour of the day, sometimes long before the dawn! Go to some of their churches, even on a rainy and stormy morning, and you will see crowds of worshipers, of every age and from every grade of society, braving the storm and the rain, walking through the mud to pass an hour at the foot of their tabernacles!
How is it that the Roman Catholics, alone, offer such a spectacle to the civilized world? The reason is very simple and plain. Every soul yearns for a God to whom it can speak, and who will hear its supplications with a merciful heart, and who will wipe away her penitential tears. Just as the flowers of our gardens turn naturally towards the sun which gives them their colour, their fragrance and their life, so every soul wants a Saviour who is not angry but merciful towards those who come unto Him. A Saviour who will say to the weary and heavy laden: "Come unto Me and I will give you rest." A God, in fine, who is not armed with Thunder and Lightning, and does not require to be approached only by saints, virgins, and martyrs; but who, through his son Jesus, is the real, the true, and the only friend of Sinners.
When the people think there is such a God such a loving Saviour to be found in the tabernacle, it is but natural that they should brave the storms and the rains, to worship at His feet, to receive the pardon of their sins.
The children of light, the disciples of the gospel, who protest against the errors of Rome, know that their Heavenly Father is everywhere ready to hear, forgive, and help them. They know that it is no more at Jerusalem, nor on this or that mountain, or at Church that God wants to be worshipped (John iv. 21.) They know that their Saviour liveth, and is everywhere ready to hear those who invoke His name; that He is no more in that desert, or in that secret chamber (Matt. xxiv. 26). They know that He is everywhere that He is ever near to those who look to His bleeding wounds, and whose robes are washed in His blood. They find Jesus in their most secret closets when they enter them to pray; they meet Him and converse with Him when in the fields, behind the counter, traveling on railroads or steamers everywhere they meet with Him, and speak to Him as friend to friend.
It is not so with the followers of the Pope. They are told contrary to the gospel (Matt. xxiv. 23), that Christ is in this Church in that secret chamber or tabernacle! cruelly deceived by their priests, they run, they brave the storms to go as near as possible to that place where their merciful Christ lives. They go to the Christ who will give them a hearty welcome who will listen to their humble prayers, and be compassionate to their tears of repentance.
Let Protestants cease to admire poor deluded Roman Catholics who dare the storm and go to church even before the dawn of day. This devotion, which so dazzles them, should excite compassion, and not admiration; for it is the logical result of the most awful spiritual darkness. It is the offspring of the greatest imposture the world has ever seen; it is the natural consequence of the belief that the priest of Rome can create Christ and God by the consecration of a wafer, and keep Him in a secret chamber.
The Egyptians worshipped God under the form of crocodiles and calves. The Greeks made their gods of marble or of gold. The Persian made the sun his god. The Hottentots make their gods with whalebone, and go far through the storms to adore them. The Church of Rome makes her god out of a piece of bread! Is this not Idolatry?
From the year 1833, the day that God in His mercy opened my eyes, my servant had used more than a bushel of wheat flour, to make the little cakes which I had to convert into the Christ of the Mass. Some of these I ate; others I carried about with me for the sick, and others I placed in the tabernacle for the adoration of the people.
I am often asked, "How is it that you could be guilty of such a gross act of idolatry?" My only answer is the answer of the blind man of the gospel: "I know not; one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." (John ix. 25).
CHAPTER 18 - Nine Consequences of the Dogma of Transubstantiation
- The Old Paganism under a Christian Name
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On the day of my ordination to the priesthood, I had to believe, with all the priests of Rome, that it was within the limits of my powers to go into all the bakeries of Quebec, and change all the loaves and biscuits in that old city, into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, by pronouncing over them the five words: Hoc est enim corpus meum. Nothing would have remained of these loaves and biscuits but the smell, the colour, the taste.
Every bishop and priest of the cities of New York and Boston, Chicago, Montreal, Paris, and London, ect., firmly believes and teaches that he has the power to turn all the loaves of their cities, of their dioceses, nay, of the whole world, into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. And, though they have never yet found it advisable to do that wonderful miracle, they consider, and say, that to entertain any doubt about the power to perform that marvel, is as criminal as to entertain any doubt about the existence of God.
When in the Seminary of Nicolet, I heard, several times, our Superior, the Rev. Mr. Raimbault, tell us that a French priest having been condemned to death in Paris, when dragged to the scaffold had, through revenge, consecrated and changed into Jesus Christ all the loaves of the bakeries which were along the streets through which he had to pass; and though our learned Superior condemned that action in the strongest terms, yet he told us that the consecration was valid, and that the loaves were really changed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Saviour of the world. And I was bound to believe it under pain of eternal damnation.
Before my ordination I had been obliged to learn by heart, in one of the most sacred books of the Church of Rome (Missale Romanum, p. 63) the following statement: "If the host after consecration disappear, either by any accident, as by the wind, or a miracle, or being taken and carried off by any animal; and if it cannot be recovered, then he shall consecrate another."
And at page 57 I had learned, "If after consecration a fly has fallen in, or anything of that sort, and a nausea be occasioned to the priest, he shall draw it out and wash it with wine, and when the mass is finished, burn it, and the ashes and lotion shall be thrown into the sacrarium. But if he have not a nausea, nor fear any danger, he shall drink them [ashes and lotion] with the blood."
In the month of January, 1834, I heard the following fact from the Rev. Mr. Paquette, curate of St. Gervais, at a grand dinner which he had given to the neighbouring priests:-
"When young, I was the vicar of a curate who could eat as much as two of us, and drink as much as four. He was tall and strong, and he has left the dark marks of his hard fists on the nose of more than one of his beloved sheep; for his anger was really terrible after he had drank his bottle of wine.
"One day, after a sumptuous dinner, he was called to carry the good god (Le Bon Dieu), to a dying man. It was in midwinter. The cold was intense. The wind was blowing hard. There were at least five or six feet of snow, and the roads were almost impassable. It was really a serious matter to travel nine miles on such a day, but there was no help. The messenger was one of the first marguilliers (elders) who was very pressing, and the dying man was one of the first citizens of the place. The curate, after a few grumblings, drank a tumbler of good Jamaica with his marguillier, as a preventive against the cold; went to church, took the good god (Le Bon Dieu), and threw himself into the sleigh, wrapped as well as possible in his large buffalo robes.
"Though there were two horses, one before the other, to drag the sleigh, the journey was a long and tedious one, which was made still worse by an unlucky circumstance. They were met half-way by another traveler coming from the opposite direction. The road was too narrow to allow the two sleighs and horses to remain easily on firm ground when passing by each other, and it would have required a good deal of skill and patience in driving the horses to prevent them from falling into the soft snow. It is well known that when once horses are sunk into five or six feet of snow, the more they struggle the deeper they sink.
"The marguillier, who was carrying the `good god,' with the curate, naturally hoped to have the privilege of keeping the middle of the road, and escaping the danger of getting his horses wounded and his sleigh broken. He cried to the other traveler in a high tone of authority, `Traveler! let me have the road. Turn your horses into the snow. Make haste, I am in a hurry. I carry the good god!'
"Unfortunately that traveler was a heretic, who cared much more for his horses than for the `good god.' He answered:
"`Le Diable emporte ton Bon Dieu avant que je ne casse le cou de mon cheval!' `The d take your "good god" before I break the neck of my horse. If your god has not taught you the rules of law and of common sense, I will give you a free lecture on that matter,' and jumping out of his sleigh he took the reins of the front horse of the marguillier to help him to walk on the side of the road, and keep the half of it for himself.
"But the marguillier, who was naturally a very impatient and fearless man, had drank too much with my curate, before he left the parsonage, to keep cool, as he ought to have done. He also jumped out of his sleigh, ran to the stranger, took his cravat in his left hand and raised his right to strike him in the face.
"Unfortunately for him, the heretic seemed to have foreseen all this. He had left his overcoat in the sleigh, and was more ready for the conflict than his assailant. He was also a real giant in size and strength. As quick as lightning his right and left fists fell like iron masses on the face of the poor marguillier, who was thrown upon his back in the soft snow, where he almost disappeared.
"Till then the curate had been a silent spectator; but the sight and cries of his friend, whom the stranger was pommeling without mercy, made him lose his patience. Taking the little silk bag which contained the `good god' from about his neck, where it was tied, he put it on the seat of the sleigh, and said, `Dear good god! Please remain neutral; I must help my marguillier. Take no part in this conflict, and I will punish that infamous Protestant as he deserves.'
"But the unfortunate marguillier was entirely put hors de combat before the curate could go to his help. His face was horribly cut three teeth were broken the lower jaw dislocated, and the eyes were so terribly damaged that it took several days before he could see anything.
"When the heretic saw the priest coming to renew the battle, he threw down his other coat, to be freer in his movements. The curate had not been so wise. Relying too much on his herculean strength, covered with his heavy overcoat, on which was his white surplice, he threw himself on the stranger, like a big rock with falls from the mountain and rolls upon the oak below.
"Both of these combatants were real giants, and the first blows must have been terrible on both sides. But the `infamous heretic' probably had not drank so much as my curate before leaving home, or perhaps he was more expert in the exchange of these savage jokes. The battle was long, and the blood flowed pretty freely on both sides. The cries of the combatants might have been heard at a long distance, were it not for the roaring noise of the wind which at that instant was blowing a hurricane.
"The storm, the cries, the blows, the blood, the surplice, and the overcoat of the priest torn to rags; the shirt of the stranger reddened with gore, made such a terrible spectacle, that in the end the horses of the marguillier, though well trained animals, took fright and threw themselves into the snow, turned their backs to the storm and made for home. They dragged the fragments of the upset sleigh a pretty long distance, and arrived at the door of their stable with only some diminutive parts of the harness.
"The `good god' had evidently heard the prayer of my curate, and he had remained neutral; at all events, he had not taken the part of his priest, for he lost the day, and the infamous Protestant remained master of the battle-field.
"The curate had to help his marguillier out of the snow in which he was buried, and where he had lain like a slaughtered ox. Both had to walk, or rather crawl, nearly half a mile in snow to the knees, before they could reach the nearest farmhouse, where they arrived when it was dark.
"But the worse is not told. You remember when my curate had put the box containing the `good god' on the seat of the sleigh, before going to fight. The horses had dragged the sleigh a certain distance, upset and smashed it. The little silk bag, with the silver box and its precious contents, was lost in the snow, and though several hundred people had looked for it, several days at different times, it could not be found. It was only late in the month of June, that a little boy, seeing some rags in the mud of the ditch, along the highway, lifted them and a little silver box fell out. Suspecting that it was what the people had looked for so many days during the last winter, he took it to the parsonage.
"I was there when it was opened; we had the hope that the `good god' would be found pretty intact, but we were doomed to be disappointed. The good god was entirely melted away. Le Bon Dieu etait fondu!"
During the recital of that spicy story, which was told in the most amusing and comical way, the priests had drunk freely and laughed heartily. But when the conclusion came: "Le Bon Dieu etait fondu!"
"The good god was melted away!" There was a burst of laughter such as I never heard the priests striking the floor with their feet, and the table with their hands, filled the house with the cries, "The good god melted away!"
Le Bon Dieu est fondu!' "Le Bon Kieu est fondu!" Yes, the god of Rome, dragged away by a drunken priest, had really melted away in the muddy ditch. This glorious fact was proclaimed by his own priests in the midst of convulsive laughter, and at tables covered with scores of bottles just emptied by them!
About the middle of March, 1839, I had one of the most unfortunate days of my Roman Catholic priestly life. At about two o'clock in the afternoon, a poor Irishman had come in haste from beyond the high mountains, between Lake Beauport and the River Morency, to ask me to go and anoint a dying woman. It took me ten minutes to run to the church, put the "good god" in the little silver box, shut the whole in my vest pocket and jump into the Irishman's rough sleigh. The roads were exceeding bad, and we had to go very slowly. At 7 p.m. we were yet more than three miles from the sick woman's house. It was very dark, and the horse was so exhausted that it was impossible to go any further through the gloomy forest. I determined to pass the night at a poor Irish cabin which was near the road. I knocked at the door, asked hospitality, and was welcomed with that warm-hearted demonstration of respect which the Roman Catholic Irishman knows, better than any other man, how to pay to his priests.
The shanty, twenty-four feet long by sixteen wide, was built with round logs, between which a liberal supply of clay, instead of mortar, had been thrown, to prevent the wind and cold from entering. Six fat, though not absolutely well-washed, healthy boys and girls, half-naked, presented themselves around their good parents, as the living witnesses that this cabin, in spite of its ugly appearance, was really a happy home for its dwellers.
Besides the eight human beings sheltered beneath that hospitable roof, I saw, at one end, a magnificent cow, with her new-born calf, and two fine pigs. These last two boarders were separated from the rest of the family only by a branch partition two or three feet high.
"Please your reverence," said the good woman, after she had prepared her supper, "excuse our poverty, but be sure that we feel happy and much honoured to have you in our humble dwelling for the night. My only regret is that we have only potatoes, milk and butter to give you for your supper. In these backwoods, tea, sugar, and wheat flour are unknown luxuries."
I thanked that good woman for her hospitality, and caused her to rejoice not a little by assuring her that good potatoes, fresh butter and milk, were the best delicacies which could be offered to me in any place. I sat at the table, and ate one of the most delicious suppers of my life. The potatoes were exceedingly well-cooked the butter, cream and milk of the best quality, and my appetite was not a little sharpened by the long journey over the steep mountains.
I had not told these good people, nor even my driver, that I had "Le Bon Dieu," the good god, with me in my vest pocket. It would have made them too uneasy, and would have added too much to my other difficulties. When the time of sleeping arrived I went to bed with all my clothing, and I slept well; for I was very tired by the tedious and broken roads from Beauport to these distant mountains.
Next morning, before breakfast and the dawn of day, I was up, and as soon as we had a glimpse of light to see our way, I left for the house of the sick woman after offering a silent prayer.
I had not traveled a quarter of a mile when I put my hand into my vest pocket, and to my indescribable dismay I found that the little silver box, containing the "good god," was missing. A cold sweat ran through my frame. I told my driver to stop and turn back immediately, that I had lost something which might be found in the bed where I had slept. It did not take five minutes to retrace our way.
On opening the door I found the poor woman and her husband almost beside themselves, and distressed beyond measure. They were pale and trembling as criminals who expected to be condemned.
"Did you not find a little silver box after I left," I said.
"O my God!" answered the desolate woman; "yes, I have found it, but would to God I had never seen it. There it is."
"But why do you regret finding it, when I am so happy to find it here, safe in your hands!" I replied.
"Ah; your reverence, you do not know what a terrible misfortune has just happened to me, not more than half a minute before you knocked at the door."
"What misfortune can have fallen upon you in so short a time," I answered.
"Well, please your reverence, open the little box and you will understand me."
I opened it, but the "good god" was not in it!! Looking in the face of the poor distressed woman, I asked her, "What does this mean? It is empty!"
"It means," answered she, "that I am the most unfortunate of women! Not more than five minutes after you had left the house, I went to your bed and found that little box. Not knowing what it was I showed it to my children and to my husband. I asked him to open it, but he refused to do it. I then turned it on every side, trying to guess what it could contain; till the devil tempted me so much that I determined to open it. I came to this corner, where this pale lamp is used to remain on that little shelf, and I opened it. But, oh my God! I do not dare to tell the rest."
At these words she fell on the floor in a fit of nervous excitement her cries were piercing, her mouth was foaming. She was cruelly tearing her hair with her own hands. The shrieks and lamentations of the children were so distressing that I could hardly prevent myself from crying also.
After a few moments of the most agonizing anxiety, seeing that the poor woman was becoming calm, I addressed myself to the husband, and said: "Please give me the explanation to these strange things?" He could hardly speak at first, but as I was very pressing he told me with a trembling voice: "Please your reverence; look into that vessel which the children use, and you will perhaps understand our desolation! When my wife opened the little silver box she did not observe the vessel was there, just beneath her hands. In the opening, what was in the silver box fell into that vase, and sank! We were all filled with consternation when you knocked at the door and entered."
I felt struck with such unspeakable horror at the thought that the body, blood, soul and divinity of my Saviour, Jesus Christ, was there, sunk into that vase, that I remained speechless, and for a long time did not know what to do. At first it came into my mind to plunge my hands into the vase and try to get my Saviour out of that sepulchre of ignominy. But I could not muster courage to do so.
At last I requested the poor desolated family to dig a hole three feet deep in the ground, and deposit it, with its contents, and I left the house, after I had forbidden them from ever saying a word about that awful calamity.
In one of the most sacred books of the laws and regulations of the Church of Rome (Missale Romanum), we read, page 58, "If the priest vomit the Eucharist, if the species appear entire, let them be reverently swallowed, unless sickness arise; for then let the consecrated species be cautiously separated and laid up in some sacred place till they are corrupted; and afterwards let them be cast into the sacrarium. But if the species do not appear, let the vomit be burned, and the ashes cast into the sacarium."
When a priest of Rome, I was bound, with all the Roman Catholics, to believe that Christ had taken His own body, with His own hand, to His mouth; and that He had eaten Himself, not in a spiritual, but in a substantial material way! After eating Himself, He had given it to each of His apostles, who then ate Him also!!
Before closing this chapter, let the reader allow me to ask him, if the world, in its darkest ages of paganism, has ever witnessed such a system of idolatry, so debasing, impious, ridiculous, and diabolical in its consequences as the Church of Rome teaches in the dogma of transubstantiation!
When, with the light of the gospel in hand, the Christian goes into those horrible recesses of superstition, folly, and impiety, he can hardly believe what his eyes see and his ears hear. It seems impossible that men can consent to worship a god whom the rats can eat! A god who can be dragged away and lost in a muddy ditch by a drunken priest! A god who can be eaten, vomited, and eaten again by those who are courageous enough to eat again what they have vomited!!
The religion of Rome is not a religion: it is the mockery, the destruction, the ignominies caricature of religion. The Church of Rome, as a public fact, is nothing but the accomplishment of the awful prophecy: "Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." (2 Thess. ii. 10, 11.)
CHAPTER 19 - Vicarage, and Life at St. Charles, Rivierre Boyer
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On the 24th September, 1833, the Rev. Mr. Casault, secretary of the Bishop of Quebec, presented tome the official letters which named me the vicar of the Rev. Mr. Perras, arch-priest, and curate of St. Charles, Rivierre Boyer, and I was soon on my way, with a cheerful heart, to fill the post assigned to me by my Superior.
The parish of St. Charles is beautifully situated about twenty miles south-west of Quebec, on the banks of a river, which flows in its very midst, from north to south. Its large farm-houses and barns, neatly white-washed with lime, were the symbols of peace and comfort. The vandal axe had not yet destroyed the centenary forests which covered the country. On almost every farm a splendid grove of maples had been reserved as the witness of the intelligence and tastes of the people.
I had often heard of the Rev. Mr. Perras as one of the most learned, pious, and venerable priest of Canada. I had even been told that several of the governors of Quebec had chosen him for the French teacher of their children. When I arrived, he was absent on a sick call, but his sister received me with every mark of refined politeness. Under the burden of her five-and-fifty years she had kept all the freshness and amiability of youth. After a few words of welcome, she showed me my study and sleeping room. They were both perfumed with the fragrance of two magnificent bouquets of the choicest flowers, on the top of one of which were written the words: "Welcome to the angel whom the Lord sends to us as His messenger." The two rooms were the perfection of neatness and comfort. I shut the doors and fell on my knees to thank God and the blessed Virgin for having given me such a home. Ten minutes later I came back to the large parlour, where I found Miss Perras waiting for me, to offer me a glass of wine and some excellent "pain de savoie," as it was the universal custom, then, to do in every respectable house. She then told me how her brother, the curate, and herself were happy when they heard that I was to come and live with them. She had known my mother before her marriage, and she told me how she had passed several happy days in her company.
She could not speak to me of any subject more interesting than my mother; for, though she had died a few years before, she had never ceased to be present to my mind, and near and dear to my heart.
Miss Perras had not spoken long when the curate arrived. I rose to meet him, but it is impossible to adequately express what I felt at that moment. The Israelites were hardly struck with more awe when they saw Moses coming down from Mount Sinai, than I was at the first sight I had of that venerable man.
Rev. Mr. Perras was then about sixty-five years old. He was a tall man almost a giant. No army officer, no king ever bore his head with more dignity. But his beautiful blue eyes, which were the embodiment of kindness, tempered the dignity of his mien. His hair, which was beginning to whiten, had not yet lost its golden lustre. It seemed as if silver and gold were mixed on his head to adorn and beautify it. There was on his face an expression of peace, calm, piety and kindness, which entirely won my heart and my respect. When, with a smile on his lips, he extended his hands towards me, I felt beside myself, I fell on my knees and said: "Mr. Perras, God sends me to you that you may be my teacher and my father. You will have to guide my first and inexperienced steps in the holy ministry. Do bless me, and pray that I may be a good priest as you are yourself."
That unpremeditated and earnest act of mine so touched the good old priest, that he could hardly speak. Leaning towards me he raised me up and pressed me to his bosom, and with a voice trembling with emotion he said: "May God bless you, my dear sir, and may He also be blessed for having chosen you to help me to carry the burden of the holy ministry in my old age." After half-an-hour of the most interesting conversation, he showed me his library, which was very large, and composed of the best books which a priest of Rome is allowed to read; and he very kindly put it at my service.
Next morning, after breakfast, he handed me a large and neat sheet of paper, headed by these Latin words:
"ORDO DUCIT AD DEUM."
It was the rule of life which he had imposed upon himself, to guide all the hours of the day in such a way that not a moment could be given to idleness or vain pastime.
"Would you be kind enough," he said, "to read this and tell me if it suits your views? I have found great spiritual and temporal benefits in following these rules of life, and would be very happy if my dear young coadjutor would unite with me in walking in the ways of an orderly, Christian and priestly life.
I read this document with interest and pleasure, and handed it back to him saying: "I will be very happy, with the help of God, to follow, with you, the wise rules set down here for a holy and priestly life."
Thinking that these rules might be interesting to the reader, I give them here in full:
2. Prayer and Meditation............6 to 6:30am.
3. Mass, hearing confessions and recitation of brevarium ..6:30 to 8am.
5. Visitation of the sick, and reading the lives of the saints......8:30 to 10am.
6. Study of philosophical, historical or theological books 11a.m. to 12.
7. Dinner.........................12 to 12:30.
8. Recreation and conversation.............12:30 to 1:30.
9. Recitation and vespers...................1:30 to 2pm.
10. Study of history, theology or philosophy........2 to 4 pm.
11. Visit to the holy sacrament and reading "Imitation of Jesus Christ" 4 to 4:30.
12. Hearing of confessions, or visit to the sick, or study..4:30 to 6pm.
13. Supper..................6 to 6:30pm.
14. Recreation..............6:30 to 8pm.
15. Chaplet reading of the Holy Scriptures and prayer.....8 to 9pm.
16. Going to bed............9pm.
Such was our daily life during the eight months which it was my privilege to remain with the venerable Mr. Perras, except that Thursdays were invariably given to visit some of the neighbouring curates, and the Sabbath days spent in hearing confessions, and performing the public services of the church.
The conversation of Mr. Perras was generally exceedingly interesting. I never heard from him any idle, frivolous talking, as is so much the habit among the priests. He was well versed in the literature, philosophy, history and theology of Rome. He had personally known almost all the bishops and priests of the last fifty years, and his memory was well stored with anecdotes and facts concerning the clergy, from almost the days of the conquest of Canada. I could write many interesting things, were I to publish what I heard from him, concerning the doings of the clergy. I will only give two or three of the facts of that interesting period of the church in Canada.
A couple of months before my arrival at St. Charles, the vicar who preceded me, called Lajus, had publicly eloped with one of his beautiful penitents, who, after three months of public scandal, had repented and come back to her heart broken parents. About the same time a neighbouring curate, in whom I had great confidence, compromised himself also, with one of his fair parishioners, in a most shameful, though less public way. These who scandals, which came to my knowledge almost at the same time, distressed me exceedingly, and for nearly a week I felt so overwhelmed with shame, that I dreaded to show my face in public, and I almost regretted that I ever became a priest. My nights were sleepless; the best viands of the table had lost their relish. I could hardly eat anything. My conversations with Mr. Perras had lost their charms. I even could hardly talk with him or anybody else.
"Are you sick, my young friend?" said he to me one day.
"No, sir, I am not sick, but I am sad."
He replied, "Can I know the cause of your sadness? You used to be so cheerful and happy since you came here. I must bring you back to your former happy frame of mind. Please tell me what is the matter with you? I am an old man, and I know many remedies for the soul as well as for the body. Open your heart to me, and I hope soon to see that dark cloud which is over you pass away."
"The two last awful scandals given by he priests," I answered, "are the cause of my sadness. The news of the fall of these two confreres, one of whom seemed to me so respectable, has fallen upon me like a thunderbolt. Though I had heard something of that nature when I was a simple ecclesiastic in the college, I had not the least idea that such was the life of so many priests. The fact of the human frailty of so many, is really distressing. How can one hope to stand up on one's feet when one sees such strong men fall by one's side? What will become of our holy church in Canada, and all over the world, if her most devoted priests are so weak and have so little self-respect, and so little fear of God?"
"My dear young friend," answered Mr. Perras. "Our holy church is infallible. The gates of hell can not prevail against her; but the assurance of her perpetuity and infallibility does not rest on any human foundation. It does not rest on the personal holiness of her priests; but it rests on the promises of Jesus Christ. Her perpetuity and infallibility are a perpetual miracle. It requires the constant working of Jesus Christ to keep her pure and holy, in spite of the sins and scandals of her priests. Even the clearest proof that our holy church has a promise of perpetuity and infallibility is drawn from the very sins and scandals of her priests; for those sins and scandals would have destroyed her long ago, if Christ was not in the midst to save and sustain her. Just as the ark of Noah was miraculously saved by the mighty hand of God, when the waters of the deluge would otherwise have wrecked it, so our holy church is miraculously prevented from perishing in the flood of iniquities by which too many priests have deluged the world. By the great mercy and power of God, the more the waters of the deluge were flowing on the earth, the more the ark was raised towards heaven by these very waters. So it is with our holy church. The very sins of the priests make that spotless spouse of Jesus Christ fly away higher and higher towards the regions of holiness, as it is in God. Let, therefore, your faith and confidence in our holy church, and your respect for her, remain firm and unshaken in the midst of all these scandals. Let your zeal be rekindled for her glory and extension, at the sight of the unfortunate confreres who yield to the attacks of the enemy. Just as the valiant soldier makes superhuman efforts to save the flag, when he sees those who carried it fall on the battlefield. Oh! you will see more of our flag bearers slaughtered before you reach my age. But be not disheartened or shaken by that sad spectacle; for once more our holy church will stand for ever, in spite of all those human miseries, for her strength and her infallibility do not lie in men, but in Jesus Christ, whose promises will stand in spite of all the efforts of hell.
"I am near the end of my course, and, thanks be to God, my faith in our holy church is stronger than ever, though I have seen and heard many things, compared with which, the facts which just now distress you are mere trifles. In order the better to inure you to the conflict, and to prepare you to hear and see more deplorable things than what is now troubling you, I think it is my duty to tell you a fact which I got from the late Lord Bishop Plessis. I have never revealed it to anybody, but my interest in you is so great that I will tell it to you, and my confidence in your wisdom is so absolute, that I am sure you will never abuse it. What I will reveal to you is of such a nature that we must keep it among ourselves, and never let it be known to the people, for it would diminish, if not destroy their respect and confidence in us, respect and confidence, without which, it would become almost impossible to lead them.
"I have already told you that the late venerable Bishop Plessis was my personal friend. Our intimacy had sprung up when we were studying under the same roof in the seminary of St. Sulpice, Montreal, and it had increased year after year till the last hour of his life. Every summer, when he had reached the end of the three months of episcopal visitation of his diocese, he used to come and spend eight or ten days of absolute rest and enjoyment of private and solitary life with me in this parsonage. The two rooms you occupy were his, and he told me many times that the happiest days of his episcopal life were those passed in this solitude.
"One day he had come from his three months' visit, more worn out than ever, and when I sat down with him in his parlour, I was almost frightened by the air of distress which covered his face. Instead of finding him the loquacious, amiable and cheerful guest I used to have in him, he was taciturn, cast down, distressed. I felt really uneasy, for the first time, in his presence, but as it was the last hour of the day, I supposed that this was due to his extreme fatigue, and I hoped that the rest of the night would bring about such a change in my venerable friend, that I would find him, the next morning, what he used to be, the most amiable and interesting of men.
"I was, myself, completely worn out. I had traveled nearly thirty miles that day, to go to receive him at St. Thomas. The heat was oppressive, the roads very bad, and the dust awful. I was in need of rest, and I was hardly in my bed when I fell into a profound sleep, and slept till three o'clock in the morning. I was then suddenly awakened by sobs and halfsuppressed lamentations and prayers, which were evidently coming from the bishop's room. Without losing a moment, I went and knocked at the door, inquiring about the cause of these sobs. Evidently the poor bishop had not suspected that I could hear him.
"`Sobs! sobs!' he answered, `What do you mean by that. Please go back to your room and sleep. Do not trouble yourself about me, I am well,' and he absolutely refused to open the door of his room. The remaining hours of the night, of course, were sleepless ones for me. The sobs of the bishop were more suppressed, but he could not sufficiently suppress them to prevent me from hearing them. The next morning his eyes were reddened with weeping, and his face was that of one who had suffered intensely all the night. After breakfast I said to him: `My lord, last night has been one of desolation to your lordship; for God's sake, and in the name of the sacred ties of friendship, which has united us during so many years, please tell me what is the cause of your sorrow. It will become less the very moment you share it with your friend.'
"The bishop answered me: `You are right when you think that I am under the burden of a great desolation; but its cause is of such a nature, that I cannot reveal it even to you, my dear friend. It is only at the feet of Jesus Christ and His holy mother, that I must go to unburden my heart. If God does not come to my help, I must certainly die from it. But I will carry with me into my grave, the awful mystery which kills me.'
"In vain, during the rest of the day, I did all that I could to persuade Monseigneur Plessis to reveal the cause of his grief. I failed. At last, through respect for him, I withdrew to my own room, and left him alone, knowing that solitude is sometimes the best friend of a desolated mind. His lordship, that evening withdrew to his sleeping room sooner than usual, and I retired to my room much later. But sleep was out of the question for me that night, for his desolation seemed to be so great, and his tears so abundant, that when he bade me `good-night,' I was in fear of finding my venerable, and more than ever dear friend, dead in his bed the next morning. I watched him, without closing my eyes, from the adjoining room, from ten o'clock till the next morning. Though it was evident that he was making great efforts to suppress his sobs, I could see that his sorrow was still more intense that night, than the last one, and my mental agony was not much less than his, during those distressing hours.
"But I formed an extreme resolution, which I put into effect the very moment that he came out of his room the next morning, to salute me.
"`My Lord,' said I, `I thought till the night before last, that you honored me with your friendship, but I see today that I was mistaken. You do not consider me as your friend, for if you would look upon me as a friend worthy of your confidence, you would unburden your heart into mine. A true friend has no secret from a true friend. What is the use of friendship if it be not to help each other to carry the burdens of life! I found myself honored by your presence in my house, so long as I considered myself as your own friend. But now, that I see I have lost your confidence, please allow me frankly to say to your lordship, that I do not feel the same at your presence here. Besides, it seems to me very probable that the terrible burden which you want to carry alone, will kill you, and that very soon. I do not at all like the idea of finding you suddenly dead in my parsonage, and having the coroner holding his inquest upon your body, and making the painful inquiries which are always made upon one suddenly taken by death, particularly when he belongs to the highest ranks of society. Then, my lord, be not offended if I respectfully request your lordship to find another lodging as soon as possible.'
"My words fell upon the bishop like a thunderbolt. He seemed to awaken from a profound sleep. With a deep sigh he looked in my face with his eyes rolling in tears, and said:
"`You are right, Perras, I ought never to have concealed my sorrow from such a friend as you have always been for more than half a century to me. But you are the only one to whom I can reveal it. No doubt your priestly and Christian heart will not be less broken than mine; but you will help me with your prayers and wise counsels to carry it. However, before I initiate you into such an awful mystery, we must pray.'
"We then knelt down, and we said together a chaplet to invoke the power of the Virgin Mary, after which we recited Psalm li.: `Miserere mihi.' Have mercy upon me, O Lord!
"Then, sitting by me on this sofa, the bishop said: `My dear Mr. Perras, you are the only one to whom I could reveal what you are about to hear, for I think you are the only one who can hear such a terrible secret without revealing it, and because, also, you are the only friend whose advice can guide me in this terrible affliction.
"`You know that I have just finished the visit of my immense diocese of Quebec. It has taken me several years of hard work and fatigue, to see by my own eyes, and know by myself, the gains and losses in a word, the strength and life of our holy church. I will not speak to you of the people. They are, as a general thing, truly religious and faithful to the church. But the priests. O Great God! will I tell you what they are? My dear Perras, I would almost die with joy, if God would tell me that I am mistaken. But, alas! I am not mistaken. The sad, the terrible truth is this' (putting his right hand on his forehead), `the priests! Ah! with the exception of you and three others, are infidels and atheists! O my God! my God! what will become of the church, in the hands of such wicked men!' and covering his face with his hands, the bishop burst into tears, and for one hour could not say a word. I myself remained mute.
"At first I regretted having pressed the bishop to reveal such an unexpected `mystery of iniquity.' But, taking counsel of our very fathomless humiliation and distress, after an hour of silence, spent in pacing the walks of the garden, almost unable to look each other in the face, I said; `My lord, what you have told me is surely the saddest thing that I ever heard; but allow me to tell you that your sorrows are out of the limits of your high intelligence and your profound science. If you read the history of our holy church, from the seventh to the fifteenth century, you will know that the spotless spouse of Christ has seen as dark days, if not darker, in Italy, France, Spain and Germany, as she does in Canada, and though the saints of those days deplored the errors and crimes of those dark ages, they have not killed themselves with their vain tears, as you are doing.'
"Taking the bishop by the hand, I led him to the library, and opened the pages of the history of the church, by Cardinals Baronius and Fieury, and I showed him the names of more than fifty Popes who had evidently been atheists and infidels. I read to him the lives of Borgia, Alexander VI., and a dozen others, who would surely and justly be hanged today by the executioner of Quebec, were they, in that city, committing one-half of the public crimes of adultery, murder, debauchery of every kind, which they committed in Rome, Avignon, Naples, ect., ect. I read to him some of the public and undeniable crimes of the successors of the apostles, and of the inferior clergy, and I easily and clearly proved to him that his priests, though infidels and atheists, were angels of pity, modesty, purity, and religion, when compared with a Borgia, who publicly lives as a married man with his own daughter, and had a child by her. He agreed with me that several of the Alexanders, the Johns, the Piuses, and the Leos were sunk much deeper in the abyss of every kind of iniquity than his priests.
"Five hours passed in so perusing the sad but irrefutable pages of the history of our holy church, wrought a marvelous and beneficial change in the mind of Monseigneur Plessis.
"My conclusion was, that if our holy church had been able to resist the deadly influence of such scandals during so many centuries in Europe, she would not be destroyed in Canada, even by the legion of atheists by whom she is served today.
"The bishop acknowledged that my conclusion was correct. He thanked me for the good I had done him, by preventing him from despairing of the future of our holy church in Canada, and the rest of the days which he spent with me, he was almost as cheerful and amiable as before.
"Now, my dear young friend," added Mr. Perras, "I hope you will be as reasonable and logical in your religion as bishop Plessis, who was probably the greatest man Canada has ever had. When Satan tries to shake your faith by the scandals you see, remember that Stephen, after having fought with his adversary, Pope Constantine II., put out his eyes and condemned him to die. Remember that other Pope, who through revenge against his predecessor, had him exhumed, brought his dead body before judges, then charged him with the most horrible crimes, which he proved by the testimony of scores of eye-witnesses, got him (the dead Pope), to be condemned to be beheaded and dragged with ropes through the muddy streets of Rome, and thrown into the river Tiber. Yes, when your mind is oppressed by the secret crimes of the priests, which you will know, either through the confessional or by public rumour, remember that more than twelve Popes have been raised to that high and holy dignity by the rich and influential prostitutes of Rome, with whom they were publicly living in the most scandalous way. Remember that young bastard, John XI., the son of Pope Sergius, who was consecrated Pope when only twelve years old by the influence of his prostitute mother, Marosia, but who was so horribly profligate that he was deposed by the people and the clergy of Rome.
"Well, if our holy church has been able to pass through such storms without perishing, is it not a living proof that Christ is her pilot, that she is imperishable and infallible because St. Peter is her foundation, `Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portae inferi non prevalebunt adversus eam.'"
Oh, my God! Shall I confess, to my confusion, what my thoughts were during that conversation, or rather that lecture of my curate, which lasted more than an hour! Yes, to thy eternal glory, and to my eternal shame, I must say the truth. When the priest was exhibiting to me the horrible unmentionable crimes of so many of our Popes, to calm my fears and strengthen my shaken faith, a mysterious voice was repeating to the ears of my soul the dear Saviour's words: "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. vii. 18 20), and in spite of myself the voice of my conscience cried in thundering tones that a church, whose head and members were so horribly corrupt, could not, by any means, be the Church of Christ.
But the most sacred and imperative law of my church, which I had promised by oaths, was that I would never obey the voice of my conscience, nor follow the dictates of my private judgment, when they were in opposition to the teachings of my church. Too honest to admit the conclusions of Mr. Perras, which were evidently the conclusions of my church, I was too cowardly and too mean to bravely express my own mind, and repeat the words of the Son of God: "By their fruits ye shall know them! A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit!"
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CHAPTER 20 - Papineau and the Patriots in 1833
- The Burning of "Le Canadien" by the Curate of St. Charles
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The name of Louis Joseph Papineau will be for ever dear to the French Canadians; for whatever may be the political party to which one belongs in Canada, he cannot deny that it is to the ardent patriotism, the indomitable energy, and the remarkable eloquence of that great patriot, that Canada is indebted for the greater part of the political reforms which promise in a near future to raise the country of my birth to the rank of a great and free nation.
It is not my intention to speak of the political parties which divided the people of Canada into two camps in 1833. The long and trying abuses under which our conquered race was groaning, and which at last brought about the bloody insurrections of 1837 and 1838, are matters of history, which do not pertain to the plea of this work. I will speak of Papineau, and the brilliant galaxy of talented young men by whom he was surrounded and supported, only in connection with their difficulties with the clergy and the Church of Rome.
Papineau, Lafontaine, Bedard, Cartier and others, though born in the Church of Rome, were only nominal Romanists. I have been personally acquainted with every one of them, and I know they were not in the habit of confessing. Several times I invited them to fulfill that duty, which I considered, then, of the utmost importance to be saved. They invariably answered me with jests which distressed me; for I could see that they did not believe in the efficacy of auricular confession. These men were honest and earnest in their efforts to raise their countrymen from the humiliating and inferior position which they occupied compared with the conquering race. They well understood that the first thing to be done, in order to put the French Canadians on a level with their British compatriots, was to give good schools to the people; and they bravely set themselves to show the necessity of having a good system of education, for the country as well as for the city. But at the very first attempt they found an insurmountable barrier to their patriotic views in the clergy. The priests had everywhere the good common sense to understand that their absolute power over the people was due to its complete ignorance. They felt that that power would decrease in the same proportion that light and education would spread among the masses. Hence the almost insurmountable obstacles put by the clergy before the patriots, to prevent them from reforming the system of education. The only source of education, then in Canada, with the exception of the colleges of Quebec, Montreal and Nicolet, consisted in one or two schools in the principal parishes, entirely under the control of the priests and kept by their most devoted servants, while the new parishes had none at all. The greater part of these teachers knew very little more, and required nothing more from their pupils, than the reading of the A, B, C, and their little catechism. When once admitted to their first communion the A, B, C, and the little catechism were soon forgotten, and 95 in 100 of the French Canadian people were not even able to sign their names! In many parishes, the curate, with his school teacher, the notary, and half-a-dozen others, were the only persons who could read or write a letter. Papineau and his patriotic friends understood that the French Canadian people were doomed to remain an inferior race in their own country, if they were left in that shameful state of ignorance. They did not conceal their indignation at the obstacles placed by the clergy to prevent them from amending the system of education. Several eloquent speeches were made by Papineau, who was their "Parliament Speaker," in answer to the clergy. The curates, in their pulpits, as well as by the press, tried to show that Canada had the best possible system of education that the people were happy that too much education would bring into Canada the bitter fruits which had grown in France infidelity, revolution, riots, bloodshed; that the people were too poor to pay the heavy taxes which would be imposed for the new system of education. In one of his addresses, Papineau answered this last argument, showing the immense sums of money foolishly given by those so-called poor people to gild the ceilings of the church (as was the usage then). He made a calculation of the tithes paid to the priests; of the costly images and statues of saints, which were to be seen then, around all the interior of the churches, and he boldly said that the priests would do better to induce the people to establish good schools, and pay respectable teachers, than to lavish their money on objects which were of so little benefit.
That address, which was reproduced by the only French paper of Quebec, "Le Canadien," fell upon the clergy like a hurricane upon a rotten house, shaking it to its foundation. Everywhere Papineau and his party were denounced as infidels, more dangerous than Protestants, and plans were immediately laid down to prevent the people from reading "Le Canadien," the only French paper they could receive. Not more than half-adozen were receiving it in St. Charles; but they used to read it to their neighbours, who gathered on Sabbath afternoons to hear its contents. We at first tried, through the confessional, to persuade the subscribers to reject it, under the pretext that it was a bad paper; that it spoke against the priests and would finally destroy our holy religion. But, to our great dismay, our efforts failed. The curates then had recourse to a more efficacious way of preserving the faith of their people.
The postmaster of St. Charles was, then, a man whom Mr. Perras had got educated at his own expense in the seminary of Quebec. His name was Chabot. That man was a perfect machine in the hands of his benefactor. Mr. Perras forbade him to deliver any more of the numbers of that journal to the subscribers, when there would be anything unfavourable to the clergy in its columns. "Give them to me," said he, "that I may burn them, and when the people come to get them, give them such evasive answers, that they may believe that it is the editor's fault, or of some other post-offices, if they have not received it." From that day, every time there was any censure of the clergy, the poor paper was consigned to the flames. One evening, when Mr. Perras had, in my presence, thrown a bundle of these papers into the stove, I told him: "Please allow me to express to you my surprise at this act. Have we really the right to deprive the subscribers of that paper of their property! That paper is theirs, they have paid for it. How can we take upon ourselves to destroy it without their permission! Besides, you know the old proverb: Les pierres parlent. (Stones speak.) If it were known by our people that we destroy their papers, would not the consequences be very serious? Now, Mr. Perrs, you know my sincere respect for you, and I hope I do not go against that respect by asking you to tell me by what right or authority you do this? I would not put this question to you, if you were the only one who does it. But I know several others who do just the same thing. I will, probably, be obliged, when a curate, to act in the same manner, and I wish to know on what grounds I shall be justified in acting as you do."
"Are we not the spiritual fathers of our people?" answered Mr. Perras.
I replied, "Yes sir, we are surely the spiritual fathers of our people."
"Then," rejoined Mr. Perras, "we have in spiritual matters, all the rights and duties which temporal fathers have, in temporal things, towards their children. If a father sees a sharp knife in the hands of his beloved but inexperienced child, and if he has good reason to fear that the dear child may wound himself, nay, destroy his own life with that knife, is it not his duty, before God and man, to take it from his hands, and prevent him from touching it any more?"
"Yes," I answered, "but allow me to draw your attention to a little difference which I see between the corporal and the spiritual children of your comparison. In the case you bring forward, of a father who takes away the knife from the hands of a young and inexperienced child, that knife has, very probably, been bought by the father. It has been paid for with that father's money. It is, then, the father's knife. But the papers of your spiritual children, which you have thrown into your stove, have been paid for by them, and not by you. They are theirs, then, before the laws of God and man, and they are not yours."
I saw that my answer had cut the good old priest to the quick, and he became more nervous than I had ever seen him. "I see that you are young," answered he; "you have not yet had time to meditate on the great and broad principles of our holy church. I confess there is a difference in the rights of the two children to which I had not paid attention, and which, at first sight, may seem to diminish the strength of my argument. But I have here an argument which will satisfy you, I hope. Some weeks ago I wrote to our venerable Bishop Panet about my intention of burning that miserable and impious paper, `Le Canadien,' to prevent it from poisoning the minds of our people against us, and he has approved me, adding the advice, to be very prudent, and to act so secretly that there would be no danger in being detected. Here is the letter of the holy bishop; you may read it if you like."
"I thank you," I replied. "I believe that what you say in reference to that letter is correct. But suppose that our good bishop has made a mistake in advising you to burn those papers, would you not have some reasons to regret that burning, should you, sooner or later, detect that mistake?"
"A reason of regretting to follow the advice of my superiors! Never! Never! I fear, my dear young friend, that you do not sufficiently understand the duties of an inferior, and the sacred rights of superiors in the College of Nicolet, that there can be no sin in an inferior who obeys the orders or counsels of his legitimate superiors?"
"Yes, sir," I answered, "the Rev. Mr. Leprohon has told us that in the college of Nicolet."
"But," rejoined Mr. Perras, "your last question makes me fear that you have forgotten what you have learned there. My dear young friend, do not forget that it was the want of respect to their ecclesiastical superiors which caused the apostasy of Luther and Calvin, and damned so many millions of heretics who have followed them. But in order to bring your rebellious mind under the holy yoke of a perfect submission to your superiors, I will show you, by our greatest and most approved theologian, that I can burn these papers, without doing anything wrong before God."
He then went to his library, and brought me a volume of Liguori, from which he read to me the following Latin words: "Docet Sanchez, ect., parato aliquem occidere, licite posse suaderi, ut ab eo furetur, vel ut fornicetur." * With an air of triumph he said, "Do you see now that I am absolutely justifiable in destroying these pestilential papers. According to those principles of our holy church, you know well that even a woman is allowed to commit the sin of adultery with a man who threatens to kill her, or himself, if she rebukes him; because murder and suicide are greater crimes, and more irremediable than adultery. So the burning of those papers, though a sin, if done through malice, or without legitimate reasons, ceases to be a sin; it is a holy action the moment I do it, to prevent the destruction of our holy religion, and to save immortal souls."
I must confess, to my shame, that the degrading principles of absolute submission of the inferior to the superiors, which flattens everything to the ground in the Church of Rome, had so completely wrought their deadly work on me, that it was my wish to attain to that supreme perfection of the priest of the Church or Rome, to become like a stick in the hands of my superiors like a corpse in their presence. But my God was stronger than His unfaithful and blind servant, and He never allowed me to go down to the bottom of that abyss of folly and impiety. In spite of myself, I had left in me sufficient manhood to express my doubts about that awful doctrine of my Church.
"I do not want to revolt against my superiors," I answered, "and I hope God will prevent me from falling into the abyss where Luther and Calvin lost themselves. I only respectfully request you to tell me, if you would not regret the burning of these papers, in case you would know that Bishop Panet made a mistake in granting you the power of destroying a property which is neither yours or his a property over which neither of you has any control?"
It was the first time that I was not entirely of the same mind with Mr. Perras. Till then, I had not been brave, honest, or independent enough to oppose his views and his ipse dixit, though often tempted to do so. The desire of living in peace with him; the sincere respect which his many virtues and venerable age commanded in me; the natural timidity, not to say cowardice, of a young, inexperienced man, in the presence of a learned and experienced priest, had kept me, till then, in perfect submission to the views of my aged curate. But it seemed impossible to yield any longer, and to bow my conscience before principles, which seemed to me then, as I am sure they are now, subversive of everything which is good and holy among men. I took the big Bible, which was on the table, and I opened it at the history of Susanna, and I answered: "My dear Mr. Perras, God has chosen you to be my teacher, and I have learned many things since it has been my privilege to be with you. But I have much more to learn, before I know all that your books and your long experience have taught you. I hope you will not find fault with me, if I honestly tell you that in spite of myself, there is a doubt in my mind about this doctrine of our theologians," and I said, "is there anything more sublime, in the whole Bible, than that feeble woman, Susanna, in the hands of those two infamous men? With a diabolical impudence and malice, they threaten to destroy her, and to take her before a tribunal which will surely condemn her to the most ignoble death, if she does not consent to satisfy their criminal desires. She is just in the position alluded to by Liguori. What will she do? Will she be guided by the principles of our theologians? Will she consent to become an adulteress in order to prevent those two men from perjuring themselves, and becoming murderers, by causing her to be stoned to death, as was required by the law of the Jews? No! She raises her eyes and her soul towards the God whom she loves and fears more than anything in the world, and she says, `I am straitened on every side, for if I do this thing it is death unto me; and if I do it not, I cannot escape your hands. It is better for me to fall into your hands, and not to do it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord.' Has not God Almighty Himself shown that He approved of that heroic resolution of Susanna, to die rather than commit adultery. Does He not show that He himself planted, in that noble soul, the principle that it is better to die than break the laws of God, when He brought His prophet Daniel, and gave him a supernatural wisdom to save the life of Susanna? If that woman had been guided by the principles of Liguori, which, I confess to you with regret, are the principles accepted everywhere in our Church (principles which have guided you in the burning of `Le Canadien'), she would have consented to the desires of those infamous men. Nay, if she had been interrogated by her husband, or by the judges on that action, she would have been allowed to swear before God and men, that she was not guilty of it. Now, my dear Mr. Perras, do you not find that there is some clashing between the Word of God, as taught in the Holy Scriptures, and the teachings of our Church, through the theologians?"
Never have I seen such a sudden change in the face and manners of a man, as I saw in that hour. That Mr. Perras, who had, till then, spoken with so much kindness and dignity, completely lost his temper. Instead of answering me, he abruptly rose to his feet, and began to pace the room with a quick step. After some time he told me: "Mr. Chiniquy, you forget that when you were ordained a priest, you swore that you would never interpret the Holy Scriptures according to your own fallible private judgment; you solemnly promised that you would take them only according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers speaking to you through your superiors. Has not Liguori been approved by the Popes by all the bishops of the Church? We have then, here, the true doctrine which must guide us. But instead of submitting yourself with humility, as it becomes a young and inexperienced priest, you boldly appeal to the Scriptures, against the decisions of Popes and bishops against the voice of all your superiors, speaking to you through Liguori. Where will that boldness end? Ah! I tremble for you, if you do not speedily change: you are on the high road to heresy!"
These last words had hardly fallen from his lips, when the clock struck 9 p.m. He abruptly stopped speaking, and said, "This is the hour of prayer." We knelt and prayed.
I need not say that that night was a sleepless one to me. I wept and prayed all through its long dark hours. I felt that I had lost, and for ever, the high position I had in the heart of my old friend, and that I had probably compromised myself, for ever, in the eyes of my superiors, who were the absolute masters of my destinies. I condemned myself for that inopportune appeal to the Holy Scriptures, against the ipse dixit of my superiors. I asked God to destroy in me, that irresistible tendency, by which I was constantly going to the Word of God to know the truth, instead of remaining at the feet of my superiors, with the rest of the clergy, as the only fountain of knowledge and light.
But thanks be to God that blasphemous prayer was never to be granted.
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