in the Church of Rome
by Charles Chiniquy
CHAPTER 52 Back to Contents
On the 20th of May, 1852, I received the following letter from Bishop Vandeveld:-
"Rev. Mr. Chiniquy.
"My Dear Mr. Chiniquy, The Rev. Courjeault is just returned from Bourbonnais, where he ought never to have gone back; he has told me of his complete failure, and ignominious exit. I bitterly regret having allowed him to go there again. But he had so persuaded me that his criminal conduct with his servant girl was ignored by the people, that I had yielded to his request.
"I feel that this new attempt, on his part, to impose himself on that honest people, has added to the enormity of his first scandal. I advise him now to go back to France, where he can more easily conceal his shame than in America. But one of the darkest features of that disgusting affair is, that I am obliged to pay the five hundred dollars which the girl asked, in order to prevent Mr. Courjeault from being dragged before the civil tribunal, and sent to gaol.
"The malice of that priest against you has received its just reward. Buy my fear is that you have another implacable enemy here in Mr. Lebel, whose power to do evil is greater than Mr. Courjeault's.
"Before you began your great work of directing the flood of Roman Catholic immigration towards this country, to secure it to our holy church, he was in favour of that glorious scheme, but his jealousy against you has suddenly changed his mind.
"He has lately addressed a letter to the Canadian press, every word of which is an unmitigated falsehood. Of course, the Bishop of Montreal, who is more than ever opposed to our colonization plan, has published that lying letter in his journal; more than that, he has reproduced the testimony of a perjured man, who swears that many of the people of Illinois are bitten and killed by the rattlesnakes, and those who escape are taxed six cents for each pane of glass of their windows.
"Will you be discouraged by this opposition? I hope not. This opposition is the greatest evidence we could have that our scheme is from God, and that He will support you. I am tempted to interdict Mr. Lebel, and send him back to Canada, for writing things which he so well knows to be false. The want of a French-speaking priest for your countrymen of Chicago is the only thing which has prevented me from withdrawing his faculties. But I have warned him that, if he writes any more against the truth, I will punish him as he deserves.
"For you, my dear Sir, I will address to you the very words which God Himself addressed to His servant Joshua: 'Be strong, and of good courage; for unto this people shalt thou divide, for an inheritance, the land which I swear unto their fathers to give them' (Joshua i. 6).
"I agree with what you wrote in your last
letter, that the charge I have given you of Bourbonnais, pro
tempore, will seriously interfere with your other numberless
duties towards your dear immigrants. But there is no help; the
only thing I can promise is to relieve you as soon as possible. I
have on other priest to whom I can trust the interesting mission
of Bourbonnais. For Father Huick is too old and infirm for such a
work; it is evidently the will of God that you should extend your
labours over the first limits you had fixed. Be faithful to the
end, and the Lord will be with you, and support you throughout
all your labours and tribulations.
"Bishop of Chicago."
During the next six months, more than 500 families from France, Belgium, and Canada, came and gave to our colony a life, power, and prosperity, impossible for me to depict; the joy I felt at this unforeseen success was much diminished, however, by the sudden news that Mr. Courjeault had come back from France, where he spent only one month. Not daring to visit Bourbonnais again, he was lurking on the frontiers of Indiana, only a few miles distant, evidently with some sinister intention. Driven to a state of madness by his jealousy and hatred, that unfortunate man addressed to me, on the 23rd of January, 1853, the most abusive letter I ever received, and ended it by telling me that the fine (though unfinished) church of Bourbonnais, which he had built, was to be burned, and that my life would be in danger if I remained at the head of that mission.
I immediately sent that letter to the bishop, asking his advice. In his answer, he told me that he thought that Mr. Courjeault was wicked enough to fulfill his threats. He added: "Though I have not yet clear evidence of it, it is my fear that Mr. Lebel is united with Mr. Courjeault, in the diabolical plot of burning your church of Bourbonnais. Several people have reported to me that he says that your presence there will be the ruin of that people, and the destruction of their church. Oh! to what extremities bad priests can go, when once they have given themselves to their unbridled passions! The first thing I would advise you, my dear Mr. Chiniquy, in the presence of such a terrible calamity, is to insure that church without delay. I have tried to do it here, but they have refused, under the pretext that it is an unfinished, frame building, and that there are too many dangers of fire when people are still working at it. My impression is, that Mr. Lebel is on intimate terms with some insurance gentlemen, and has frightened them by speaking of that rumour of danger, of which he is probably the father, with that miserable Courjeault. Perhaps you may have a better chance, by addressing yourself to some insurance company which you might find at Joliet, or at Springfield."
After vain efforts to insure the church, I wrote to the bishop, "The only way to escape the impending danger, is to finish the church at once, and insure it after. I have just made a collection of four hundred dollars among the people of Bourbonnais, to which I added three hundred dollars from my own private resources and will go to work immediately if your lordship has no objections."
Having got the approbation of my superior, on the 1st of March, I began, to put the last hand to that building. We worked almost day and night, till the 1st of May, when it was all finished. I dare affirm, that for a country place, that church was unsurpassed in beauty. The inside framework was all made of the splendid black oak of Bourbonnais, polished and varnished by most skillful men, and they looked like a mirror. Very seldom have I seen anything more grand and beautiful than the altar, made also of that precious black oak. It was late as night, when, with my fellow-labourers, covered with dust and sweat, we could say with joy the solemn words, "It is finished!" Afterwards we sung the Te Deum. Had I had an opportunity, at that late hour, it was my thought and desire to insure it. But I was forced to postpone this till the next Monday.
The next day (the first Sabbath of May, 1853), the sun seemed to come out from the horizon and rise above our heads with more than usual magnificence. The air was calm and pure, and the numberless spring flowers of our gardens mingling their perfumes with the fragrant leaves of the splendid forest at the front of the village, the balmy atmosphere, the song of the birds, seemed to tell us that this Sabbath day was to be the most happy one for me and my dear people of Bourbonnais. The church had never been so crowded. The hymns we sung had never been so melodious, and the words of gratitude which I addressed to my God, when I thanked Him for the church He had given us, in which to adore and bless Him, had never been so sincere and earnest; never had our tears of joy flowed so profusely as on that splendid and never-to-be-forgotten Sabbath. Alas! who would suspect that, six hours later, that same people, gathered around the smoking ruins of their church, would rend the air with their cries of desolation! Such, however, was the case.
While taking my dinner, after the public service, two little boys, who had remained in the church to wait for the hour of the Catechism, ran to the parsonage, crying: "Fire! Fire!! Fire!!!" Bare headed, and halfparalyzed with the idea that my church was on fire, I went out to see the awful reality. A girdle of smoke and fire was already issuing from almost every part, between the top of the wooden walls and the roof. I had rushed to the church with a pail of water in my hand. But it was too late to make any use of it; the flames were already running and leaping with a fearful rapidity over the fresh varnish, like a long train of powder. In less than two hours all was finished again. No doubt could remain in our minds. This was the work of an incendiary, for there was no fire in the church after the service. Many strangers who had come from a distance had gone through the whole nave and the upper galleries, to have a better sight of the whole building, and two of them had been seen by the little boys, remaining ten or fifteen minutes alone; they had gone back to some of the houses of the village without being remarked by anybody, for it was dinner time, and there was nobody to watch them.
Though stunned by that awful calamity, the noble-hearted people of Bourbonnais did not lose their minds. Seeing that they were all gathered around the smoking ruins, at about six p.m. I addressed to them a few words to support their courage. I told them that it was only in the midst of great trials and difficulties that men could show their noblest qualities and their true manhood; that if we were true men, instead of losing our time in shedding tears and rending the air with our cries of desolation, we would immediately put our hands to the work, and begin the very next day, to raise up, not a frame building, which the flames could turn into ashes in a few minutes, and which the storm could blow down over our heads, but a stone church, which would stand before God and man as an imperishable monument of their faith, indomitable courage and liberality. We immediately started a subscription, to erect, without a delay, a stone church. In less than one hour, four thousand dollars in money, and more than five thousand dollars in time, timber and stone and other material, were subscribed, every cent of which has been faithfully given for the erection of that fine stone church of Bourbonnais.
The next Thursday, Bishop Vandeveld came from Chicago to confer with me about what could be done to repair that terrible loss, and to inquire confidentially of me as to the author of the fire. All the facts we gathered pointed to the same direction. It was evident that the miserable Courjeault, with Lebel, the French-Canadian priest of Chicago, had done that evil work through their emissaries. No doubt of this remained in my mind when I learned that soon after, Mr. Courjeault had thrown himself into one of those dark dungeons called a monastery of La Trappe, which Satan has built on earth as a preparation for the dark hereafter of the wicked.
The unexpected visit of my bishop had at first rejoiced me by the hope that he would bring me words of encouragement. But what was my disappointment when he said to me: "Mr. dear Mr. Chiniquy, I must reveal to you a thing that I have not yet made known to anyone. It is confidential, and I request you not to say a word before it is accomplished. I cannot remain any longer Bishop of Illinois! No! I cannot any longer resume the responsibilities of such a high position, because it is beyond my power to fulfill my duties and do what the church requires of me. The conduct of the priests of this diocese is such, that, should I follow the regulations of the canon, I would be forced to interdict all my priests with the exception of you and two or three others. They are all either notorious drunkards, or given to public or secret concubinage; several of them have children by their own nieces, and two by their own sisters. I do not think that ten of them believe in God. Religion is nothing to them but a well paying comedy. Where can I find a remedy to such a general evil? Can I punish one of them and leave the others free in their abominable doings, when they are almost all equally guilty? Would not the general interdiction of these priests be the death blow of our church in Illinois? Besides, how can I punish them, when I know that many of them are ready to poison me the very moment I raise a finger against them. I suppose that you do not ignore the fact that my poor predecessor was poisoned, by one of those priests who had seduced several nuns, when he was in the very act of investigating the matter. I intend to go to Rome, as soon as I receive my permit from the Pope, to renounce at his feet the Bishopric of Chicago, which I will not keep on any consideration. If the Pope does not give me another diocese, with a better set of priests, I prefer to spend the rest of my life at the head of a small congregation, where I shall not have, on my shoulders, the awful responsibility which is killing me here. The last horrible deeds of Courjeault and Lebel, of which you are the victim today, has filled the bitter cup which God has put to my lips to drink. It is overflowing. I cannot any longer endure it."
When speaking so, the bishop's face was bathed with tears. It was very late; too late, indeed, to make the remonstrances which came to my mind, in order to change his resolutions.
I determined to wait till the next morning, when I should have plenty of time, I hoped, to expel his dark thoughts, and give him more courage. Besides, I was myself so discouraged by those awful disclosures, that I was in need of mental as well as bodily rest. But, alas! the next day was to be one of the darkest of my priestly life! When the hour for breakfast came the next morning, I went to awaken the bishop. What was my dismay when I found him drunk? Before going to bed, he had secretly asked my housekeeper to give him the bottle of wine which I used to celebrate mass. It was a large bottle, containing nearly a quart of wine, which would last me, at least, six mouths the whole of which he had drunk during the night!
I had been told that Bishop Vandeveld was a drunkard, as well as the greater part of the bishops of the United States, but I had never believed it. He always drank very moderately before me, any time I sat at his table or he at mine. It appears that it was at night, when nobody could see him, that he gave himself up to that detestable habit. His room was filled with the odour of what he had vomited, after drinking such an enormous quantity of wine. He left the room, only at noon, after the fumes of the wine had almost entirely disappeared, and requested the housekeeper to cleanse it herself, without letting the servants know anything of the occurrence of the night. But words would fail to express my consternation, and the discouragement I felt. I had formed such a good and exalted opinion of that man! I had found in him such noble qualities! His intelligence was so bright, his learning so extensive, his heart so large, his plans so grand, his piety so sincere, his charity so worthy of a bishop of Christ! It was so pleasant for me to know, till then, that I was honoured with the full confidence of a bishop who, it seemed to me, had not a superior in our church!
The destruction of my dear church by the hands of incendiaries, was surely a great calamity for me; but the fall of my bishop, from the high position he had in my heart and mind, was still greater. I had the means, in hand, to rebuild that Church; but my confidence in my bishop was irremediably and for ever lost! Never had a son loved his father more sincerely than I had loved him; and never had any priest felt a more sincere respect for his bishop than I for him! Oh! what a terrible wound was made in my heart that day! what tortures I felt! But how many times since I have blessed my God for these wounds! Without them, I should never have known that instead of being in the bosom of the Immaculate Church of Christ, I was slave of that great Babylon which poisons the nations with the wine of her abominations. My love and respect for Bishop Vandeveld were very strong chains, by which I was bound to the feet of the idols of Rome. I will eternally bless God for having Himself broken these chains, on that day of supreme desolation. The remaining part of the day, as well as the hour of the next morning which the bishop spent in my house, I remained almost mute in his presence. He was not less embarrassed when he asked me my views about his project of leaving the diocese. I answered him, in a few words, that I could not disapprove the purpose; for I would myself prefer to live in a dark forest, in the midst of wild animals, than among drunken, atheist priests and bishops.
Some months later I learned, without regret, that the Pope had accepted his resignation of the Bishopric of Chicago, and appointed him Bishop of Natchez, in Louisiana. His successor to the Bishopric of Chicago, was Rev. O'Regan. One of the very first things which this new bishop did, was to bring Bishop Vandeveld before the criminal tribunals as a thief, accusing him of having stolen one hundred thousand dollars from the Bishopric of Chicago, and carrying them away with him. There is no need to say that this action caused a terrible scandal. Not only in Illinois, but through all the United States, both priests and laymen had to blush and cast down their eyes before the world. The two bishops, employing the best lawyers to fight each other, came very near proving to the world that both of them were equally swindlers and thieves; when the Pope forced them both to stop their contestation, and bring the affair before his tribunal at Rome. There it was decided that the one hundred thousand dollars which had really been taken from Chicago to the Natchez diocese, should be equally divided between the two bishops.
How many times did I feel my soul brought to the dust, in the midst of those horrible scandals! How many sleepless nights have I spent, when a voice, which I could not silence, seemed crying to me, louder than thunder: "What are you doing here, extending the power of a church which is a den of thieves, drunkards, and impure atheists? A church, governed by men whom you know to be godless, swindlers, and vile comedians? Do you not see that you do not follow the Word of God, but the lying traditions of men, when you consent to bow your knees before such men? Is it not blasphemy to call such men the ambassadors, and the disciples of the humble, pure, holy, peaceful, and divine Jesus? Come out of that Church! Break the fetters, by which you are bound as a vile slave to the feet of such men! Take the Gospel for thine only guide and Christ for thine only Ruler!"
I was in desolation at finding that my faith in my Church was, in spite of myself, shaken by these scandals. With burning tears rolling down my cheeks, and with a broken and humiliated heart, I fell, one night, on my knees, and asked my God to have mercy upon me, by strengthening my faith and preserving it from ruin. But it seemed that neither my tears nor my cries were of any avail, and I remained the whole night, as a ship stuck by a hurricane, drifting on an unknown sea, without a compass or a rudder. I was not aware of it then, but I learned it after, that the divine and sure Pilot was directing my course towards the port of salvation! The next day, I had a happy diversion, in the arrival of fifty new immigrants, who knocked at my door, asking my advice about the best place to select for their future home. It seemed to me, though pretty long after that, that my duty was to go and pay my respects to my new bishop, and open to Him my heart as to my best friend, and the guide whom God Himself had chosen to heal the wounds of my soul, by pouring the oil and wine of charity into them.
I will never forget the day (the 11th of December, 1854), when I saw Bishop O'Regan, for the first time, nor the painful impressions I received from that first interview. He was of medium stature, with a repugnant face, and his head always in motion: all its motions seemed the expression of insolence, contempt, tyranny, and pride; there was absolutely nothing pleasant, either in his words or in his manners. I fell on my knees to ask his benediction, when I had given him my name and kissed his hand, which seemed as cold as that of a corpse. "Ah! ah! you are Father Chiniquy," he said. "I am glad to see you, though you have deferred your visit a long time; please sit down. I want some explanation from you about a certain very strange document, which I have just read today;" and he went, at the double quick, to his room to get the document. There were two Irish priests in the room, who came a few minutes before me. When we were alone, one of them said: "We had hoped that we would gain by changing Bishop Vandeveld for this one. But my fear is that we have only passed from Charybdis into Scylla," and they laughed outright. But I could not laugh. I was more inclined to weep. After less than ten minutes of absence, the bishop returned, holding in his hand a paper, which I understood, at once, to be the deed of the eleven acres of land, which I had bought, and on which I had built my chapel of St. Anne.
"Do you know this paper?" he asked me in an angry manner.
"Yes, my lord, I know it," I answered.
"But, then," he quickly replied, "you must know that that title is a nullity a fraud, which you ought never to have signed."
"Your venerable and worthy predecessor has accepted it," I answered, "and what might have been incorrect has been made valid, I hope, by his acceptation."
"I do not care a straw about what my predecessor has done," he abruptly answered, "he is not here to defend himself; neither are we here to discuss his merits or demerits. We have not to deal with my lord Vandeveld, but with a document which is a nullity, a deception, which must be thrown into the fire; you must give me another title of that property!"
And saying this, he flung my deed on the floor. I calmly picked it up and said: "I exceedingly regret, my lord, that my first interview with your lordship should be the occasion of such an unexpected act. But I hope that this will not destroy the paternal sentiments which God must have put into the heart of my bishop, for the last and least of his priests. I see that your lordship is very busy; I do not want to trespass on your valuable time; I take this rejected document with me; to make another one, which I hope will be more agreeable to your views;" and then I took my departure.
I leave the reader to imagine the sentiments which filled my mind when coming back to my colony. I did not dare say a word to my people about our bishop. When questioned by them, I gave the most evasive answers I could. But I felt as the mariner feels when he hears the rumbling thunder approaching. Though the sea is calm as the oil of a lamp, he knows the storm is coming, he trims his sails, and prepares for the impending hurricane. It seemed that my most pressing duty, after my first interview, was to bring my heart nearer to my God than ever; to read and study my Bible with more attention, and to get my people to take more than ever the Word of God as their daily bread. I began, also, to speak more openly of our Christian rights, as well as of our duties, as these are set forth in the Gospel of Christ.
Some time, before this, feeling more than ever that I could not do justice to my colony, by keeping any longer the charge of Bourbonnais, I had respectfully sent my resignation to the bishop, which had been accepted. A priest had been called by him to take my place there. But he too, was, ere long, guilty of a public scandal with his servant girl. The principal citizens of Bourbonnais protested against his presence in their midst, and soon forced the bishop to dismiss him. His successor was the miserable priest, Lebel, who had been turned out of Chicago for a criminal offense with his own niece, and was now to be the curate of Bourbonnais. But his drunkenness and other public vices caused him to be interdicted, and expelled from that place in the month of September, 1855. About the same time, a priest who had been expelled from Belgium for a great scandal, was sent to Kankakee, as the curate of the French Canadians of that interesting young city. After his expulsion from Belgium he had come to Chicago, where, under another name, he had made a fortune, and for five or six years kept a house of prostitution. Becoming tired of that occupation, he offered five thousand dollars to the bishop, if he would accept him as one of his priests, and give him a parish. Bishop O'Regan being in need of money, accepted the gift, and fulfilled the condition by sending him as missionary to Kankakee.
As soon as he had taken possession of that interesting mission, he came with Mr. Lebel to pay me a visit. I received them as politely as possible, thought they were both half drunk when they arrived. After dinner, they went to shoot prairie chickens, and got so drunk that one of them, Mr. Lebel, lost his boots in a slough, and came back to my house barefooted, without noticing his loss. I had to help them get their carriage and the next day I wrote them, forbidding them to ever set foot in my house again. But what was my surprise and sadness, not long before those two infamous priests were ignominiously turned out by their people, to receive a letter from my bishop, which ended in these words: "I am sorry to hear that you refuse to live on good terms with your two neighbouring brother priests. This ought not to be, and I hope to hear soon, that you have reconciled yourself with them, in a friendly way, as you ought to have done long ago."
I answered him: "It is my interest, as well as my duty, to obey my bishop. I know it. But as long as my bishop gives me for neighbours, priests, one of whom has lived publicly with his own niece, as his wife, and the other who has kept a house of prostitution in Chicago, I respectfully ask my bishop to be excused for not visiting them."
The bishop felt insulted by my letter, and was furious against me. It came to be a public fact that he had said before many people: "I would give anything to the one who would help me to get rid of that unmanageable Chiniquy." Among those who heard the bishop, was a land speculator, a real land-shark, against whom a bill for perjury had been found by the jury of Iroquois county, the 27th of April, 1854. That man was very angry against me for protecting my poor countrymen against his too sharp peculations. He said to the bishop, "If you pay the expense of the suit, I pledge myself to have Chiniquy put in gaol." The bishop had publicly answered him: "No sum of money will be too great to be delivered from a priest who alone gives me more trouble than the rest of my clergy." To comply with the desires of the bishop, this peculator dragged me before the criminal court of Kankakee, on the 16th day of May, 1855, but he lost his action, and was condemned to pay the cost.
It was my impression that the bishop, having so often expressed in public his bad feelings against me, would not visit my colony. But I was mistaken. On the 11th of June, taking the Rev. Mr. Lebel and Carthuval for his companions, he came to St. Anne to administer the sacrament of confirmation. As the infamous conduct of those two priests was known to every one of my people, I felt a supreme disgust at their arrival, and came very near forbidding them to sit at my table. Having, however, asked the bishop to give me half-an-hour of private interview, I respectfully, but energetically protested against the presence of these two degraded men in my house.
He coldly answered me: "Mr. Chiniquy, you forget that I am the Bishop of Illinois, and that you are a simple priest, whom I can interdict and remove from here when I like. I do not come here to receive your lessons, but to intimate to you my orders. You seem to forget that charity is above all others the virtue which must adorn the soul of a good priest. Your great zeal is nothing before God, and it is less than nothing before me, so long as you have not charity. It is my business, and not yours, to know what priests I must employ, or reject. Your business is to respect them, and forget their past errors, the very day I see fit to receive them among my priests."
"My lord," I answered "allow me respectfully to tell you, that though you are a bishop, and I am a simple priest, the Gospel of Christ, which we have to preach, tells us to avoid the company of publicly vicious and profligate men. My conscience tells me that through respect for myself and my people, and through respect for the Gospel I preach, I must avoid the company of men, one of whom has lived with his niece as his wife, and the other has, till very lately, been guilty of keeping a house of prostitution in Chicago. Your lordship may ignore these things, and, in consequence of that, may give your confidence to these men; but nothing is more apt to destroy the faith of our French Canadian people, than to see such men in your company when you come to administer the sacrament of confirmation. It is through respect for your lordship that I take the liberty of speaking thus."
He angrily answered me: "I see, now, the truthfulness of what people say about you. It is to the Gospel you constantly appeal on everything. The Gospel! The Gospel! is surely a holy book; but remember that it is the Church which must guide you. Christ has said, 'Hear My Church.' I am here the interpreter, ambassador the representative of the Church when you disobey me, it is the Church you disobey."
"Now, my lord, that I have fulfilled what I consider a conscientious duty, I promise, that through respect for your lordship, and to keep myself in the bonds of peace with my bishop, I, today, will deal with these two priests, as if they were worthy of the honourable position you give them."
"All right! all right!" replied the bishop. "But it must be near the hour for dinner."
"Yes, my lord, I have just heard the bell calling us to the diningroom."
After the blessing of the table by the bishop, he looked at the Rev. Carthuval, who was sitting just before him, and said:
"What is the matter with you, Mr. Carthuval, you do not look well?"
"No, my lord," he answered, "I am not well; I want to go to bed."
He was correct, he was not well, for he was drunk.
During the public services, he had left the chapel to come down and ask for a bottle of wine I kept to celebrate mass. The housekeeper, thinking he wanted the wine in the chapel, handed him the bottle, which he drank in her presence in less than five minutes. After which he went up to the chapel to help the bishop in administering the confirmation to the 150 people whom I had prepared for the reception of that rite.
As soon as dinner was finished, the bishop requested me to go and take a walk with him. After giving me some compliments on the beauty of the site I had chosen from my first village and chapel, he saw at a short distance a stone building, which was raised only a little above the windows, and directing his steps towards it, he stopped only twenty or thirty feet distant, and asked me:
"Whose house is this?"
"It is mine, my lord."
"It is yours!" he replied; "and to whom does that fine garden belong?"
"It is mine also, my lord."
"Well! well!" he rejoined; "where did you get the money to purchase that fine piece of land and build that house?"
"I got the money where every honest man gets what he possesses, in my hard labour, and in the sweat of my brow," I replied.
"I want that house and that piece of land!" rejoined the bishop, with an imperative voice. "So do I," I replied.
"You must give me that house, with the land on which it is built," said the bishop.
"I cannot give them as long as I am in need of them, my lord," I replied.
"I see that you are a bad priest, as I have often been told, since you disobey your bishop," he rejoined with an angry manner.
I replied: "I do not see why I am a bad priest, because I keep what my God has given me."
"Are you ignorant of the fact that you have no right to possess any property?" he answered.
"Yes! my lord, I am ignorant of any law in our holy church that deprives me of any such rights. If, however, your lordship can show me any such law, I will give you the title of that property just now."
"If there is not such a law," he replied, stamping on the ground with his feet, "I will get one passed."
"My lord," I replied, "you are a great bishop. You have great power in the church, but allow me to tell you that you are not great enough to have such a law passed in our holy church!"
"You are an insolent priest," he answered with an accent of terrible anger, "and I will make you repent for your insolence."
He then turned his face towards the chapel, without waiting for my answer, and ordered the horses to be put in the carriage, that he might leave in the shortest possible time. A quarter of an hour later he had left St. Anne, where he was never to come again. The visit of that mitred thief, with his two profligate priests, though very short, did much by the mercy of God, to prepare our minds to understand that Rome is the great harlot of the Bible, which seduces and intoxicates the nations with the wine of her prostitution. (Rev. xvii. 2.)
CHAPTER 53 Back to Contents
The 8th December, 1854, Pope Pius IX. was sitting on his throne; a triple crown of gold and diamonds was on his head; silk and damask- red and white vestments on his shoulders; five hundred mitred prelates were surrounding him; and more than fifty thousand people were at his feet, in the incomparable St. Peter's Church of Rome. After a few minutes of most solemn silence, a cardinal, dressed with his purple robe, left his seat, and gravely walked towards the Pope, kneeled before him, and humbly prostrating himself at his feet, said:
"Holy Father, tell us if we can believe and teach that the Mother of God, the Holy Virgin Mary, was immaculate in her conception."
The Supreme Pontiff answered: "I do not know; let us ask the light of the Holy Ghost."
The cardinal withdrew; the Pope and the numberless multitude fell on their knees; and the harmonious choir sang the "Veni Creator Spiritus."
The last note of the sacred hymn had hardly rolled under the vaults of the temple, when the same cardinal left his place, and again advanced towards the throne of the Pontiff, prostrated himself at his feet, and said:
"Holy Father, tell us if the Holy Mother of God, the blessed Virgin Mary, was immaculate in her conception."
The Pope again answered: "I do not know; let us ask the light of the Holy Ghost."
And again the "Veni Creator Spiritus" was sung.
The most solemn silence had a second time succeeded to the melodious sacred song, when again the eyes of the multitude were following the grave steps of the purple-robed cardinal, advancing, for the third time, to the throne of the successor of St. Peter, to ask him:
"Holy Father, tell us if we can believe that the blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God was immaculate."
The Pope, as if he had just received a direct communication from God, answered with a solemn voice:
"Yes! we must believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, was immaculate in her conception. There is no salvation to those who do not believe this dogma!"
And, with a loud voice, the Pope intoned the Te Deum; the bells of the three hundred churches of Rome rang; the cannons of the citadel were fired. The last act of the most ridiculous and sacrilegious comedy the world has ever seen, was over; the doors of heaven were for ever shut against those who would refuse to believe the anti-scriptural doctrine that there is a daughter of Eve who has not inherited the sinful nature of Adam, to whom the Lord said in His justice:
"Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return!" (Gen. iii. 19), and of the children of whom the God of Truth has said, "There is none righteous; no, not one: for all have sinned!" (Rom. iii. 10, 23).
We look in vain to the first centuries of the Church to find any traces of that human aberration. The first dark clouds which Satan had brought to mar the Gospel truth, on that subject, appeared only between the eighth and ninth centuries. But, in the beginning, that error made very slow progress; those who propagated it, at first, were a few ignorant fanatics, whose names are lost in the night of the dark ages. It is only in the twelfth century that it began to be openly preached by some brainless monks. But then it was opposed by the most learned men of the time. We have a very remarkable letter of St. Bernard to refute some monks of Lyons who were preaching this new doctrine. A little later, Peter Lombard adopted the views of the monks of Lyons, and wrote a book to support that opinion; but he was refuted by St. Thomas Aquinas, who is justly considered by the Church of Rome, as the best theologian of that time. After that, the celebrated order of the Franciscans used all their influence to persuade the world that "Mary was immaculate in her conception;" but they were vigorously opposed and refuted by the not less celebrated order of the Dominicans. These two learned and powerful bodies, during more than a century, attacked each other without mercy on that subject, and filled the world with the noise of their angry disputes, both parties calling their adversaries heretics. They succeeded in driving the Roman Catholics of Europe into two camps of fierce enemies. The "Immaculate Conception" became the subject of burning discussions, not only between the learned universities, between the bishops and the priests and the nuns of those days; but it divided the families into two fiercely contending parties. It was discussed, attacked and defended, not only in the chairs of universities, and the pulpits of the cathedrals, but also in the fields, and in the very streets of the cities. And when the two parties had exhausted the reasons which their ingenuity, their learning, or their ignorant fanaticism could suggest to prove or deny the "Immaculate Conception," they often had recourse to the stick and to the sword to sustain their arguments.
It will appear almost incredible today, but it is a fact, the greatest number of the large cities of Europe, particularly in Spain, were then reddened with the blood of the supporters and opponents of that doctrine. In order to put an end to these contests, which were troubling the peace of their subjects, the Kings of Europe sent deputation after deputation to the Popes to know, from their infallible authority, what to believe on the subject. Philip III. and Philip IV. made what we may call supreme efforts to force the Popes, Paul V., Gregory XV., and Alexander VII. to stop the shedding of blood, and disarm the combatants, by raising the opinion in favour of the Immaculate Conception to the dignity of a Catholic dogma. But they failed. The only answer they could get from the infallible head of the Church of Rome was, that "that dogma was not revealed in the Holy Scriptures, had never been taught by the Apostles, nor by the Fathers, and had never been believed or preached by the Church of Rome as an article of faith!"
The only thing the Popes could do to please the supplicant kings and bishops, and nations of Europe in those days, was to forbid both parties to call the other heretics; and to forbid to say that it was an article of faith which ought to be believed to be saved. At the Council of Trent, the Franciscans, and all the partisans of the "Immaculate Conception," gathered their strength to have a decree in favour of the new dogma; but the majority of the bishops were visibly against that sacrilegious innovation, and they failed. It was reserved to the unfortunate Pius IX. to drag the Church of Rome to that last limit of human folly. In the last century, a monk, called Father Leonard, had a dream, in which he heard the Virgin Mary telling him: "That there would be an end to the wars in the world, and to the heresies and schisms in the church, only after a Pope should have obliged, by a decree, all the faithful to believe that she was 'immaculate in her conception.'" That dream, under the name of a "celestial vision," had been extensively circulated by means of little tracts. Many believed it to be a genuine revelation from heaven; and, unfortunately, the good natured but weak-minded Pius IX. was among the number. When he was an exile in Gaeta, he had himself a dream, which he took for a vision, on the same subject. He saw the Virgin, who told him that he should come back to Rome, and get an eternal peace for the church, only after he should have promised to declare that the "Immaculate Conception" was a dogma, which every one had to believe to be saved. He awoke from his dream much impressed by it; and the first thing he did when up, was to make a vow to promulgate the new dogma as soon as he should be back to Rome, and the world has seen how he has fulfilled that vow.
But, by the promulgation of this new dogma, Pius IX., far from securing an eternal peace to his church, far from destroying what he is pleased to call the heresies which are attacking Rome on every side, had done more to shake the faith of the Roman Catholics than all their enemies.
By trying to force this new article of faith on the consciences of his people, in a time that so many can judge for themselves, and read the records of past generations, he has pulled down the strongest column which was supporting the whole fabric of his church; he for ever destroyed the best arguments which the priests had to offer to the ignorant, deluded multitudes which they keep so abjectly tied to their feet.
No words can sufficiently express the dignified and supreme contempt with which, before that epoch, the priests of Rome were speaking of the "new articles of faith, the novelties of the arch-heretics, Luther, Calvin, Knox, ect., ect!" How eloquent were the priests of Rome, before the 8th of December, 1854, when saying to their poor ignorant dupes: "In our holy Church of Rome there is no change, no innovations, no novelties, no new dogmas. We believe today just what our fathers believed, and what they have taught us; we belong to the apostolical church, which means we believe only what Apostles have believed and preached." And the ignorant multitudes were saying: "Amen!"
But, alas, for the poor priests of Rome today; those dignified nonsenses, those precious and dear illusions, are impossible! they have to confess that those high-sounding denunciations against what they call the new doctrines of the heretics, were nothing but big guns loaded to the mouth to destroy the Protestants, which are discharging their deadly missiles against the crumbling walls of their Church of Rome. They have to confess that their pretensions to an unchangeable creed is all mere humbug, shameful lies; they have to confess that the Church of Rome is forging new dogmas, new articles of faith; they do not any longer dare to say to the disciples of the Gospel: "Where was your religion before the days of Luther and Calvin?" for the secret voice of their conscience says today to the Roman Catholics: Where was your religion before the 8th of December, 1854?" and they cannot answer.
There is an inexorable and irresistible logic in the minds even of the most unlearned men, which defies, today, all the sophisms of the priests of Rome, if they dare to speak again on their pet subjects: "The novelties and new dogmas of the Protestants." There is a silent, but crushing voice, going today from the crowds to the priest, telling him: "Now, be quiet and silent on what you are used to call the novelties and new doctrines of the Protestants! for, are you not preaching to us an awful novelty? As you not damning us today for disbelieving a thing which the church, during eighteen hundred years has, a hundred times, solemnly declared, by the mouth of the Popes, had never been revealed in the Holy Scriptures, had never been taught by the Fathers, had never been heard by the church herself?"
I will never forget the sadness which overcame me when I received the order from Bishop O'Regan to proclaim that new dogma to my people (then all Roman Catholics). It was as if an earthquake had shaken and destroyed the ground on which my feet were resting. My most cherished illusions about the immutability and the infallibility of my church were crumbling down, in my intelligence, in spite of my efforts to keep them up. I have seen old priests, to whom I opened my mind on that subject, shed tears of sorrow on the injury this new dogma would do to their church.
The Archbishop of Paris, at the head of the most learned members of the clergy of France, had sent his protest to the Pope against this dogma before it was decreed; and he had eloquently foretold the deplorable consequences which would follow that innovation; but their warning voice failed to make any impression on the mind of the infatuated Pope.
And we, children of God, must we not acknowledge the hand of the Lord, in that blindness of "the man of sin" (2 Thess. ii. 3). The days are not far away that a cry of joy will be heard from one end of the world to the other: "Fear God, and give glory to Him! Babylon is fallen! Babylon is fallen! because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (Rev. xiv. 7; xviii. 2, 3). For, when we see that "wicked one," "who exalteth himself above all that is called God" (2 Thess. ii. 4), destroying himself by the excess of his own folly and impurities, we must bless the Lord.
The proclamation of this new dogma is one of those great moral iniquities which carry their punishment and their remedy in their own hands. When the Pope, in the morning of the 8th of December, 1854, answered twice: "I do not know," to the question put to him, "Is the Virgin Mary Immaculate in her Conception?" and then, a minute after, to the same question, he answered: "Yes! I know it: the Holy Virgin Mary was Immaculate in her Conception," he proved to his most credulous dupes that he was nothing but a sacrilegious comedian. How would a jury of honest men deal with a witness who, being interrogated about what he knows of a certain fact, would answer, "I know nothing about it," and a moment after would acknowledge that "he knows everything about it?" Would not such a witness be justly punished as a perjurer?
Such is the sad and unenviable position which the Pope made to himself and to his church, on the 8th of December, 1854. Interrogated by the nations of Europe about what was to be believed on the "Conception of the Virgin Mary," the Church of Rome, during ten centuries, had answered: "I do not know." And let everyone remember that she wants to be believed infallible when she says she "knows nothing about the Immaculate Conception." But, today, that same church assures us, through the infallible decree of Pius IX., that she knows, and that she has always known and believed the Virgin Mary was Immaculate! Has the world ever seen such a want of self-respect, such an unblushing impudence! What verdict will the Christian world give against that great mother of lies? What punishment will the God of truth administer to that great culprit who swears "yes" and "no" on the same question? It is a fact, that by the promulgation of this decree, Pius IX. has for ever destroyed his prestige in the minds of millions of his followers.
A few days after I had read to my congregation the decree of the Pope proclaiming the new dogma, and damning all those who would not believe it, one of my most intelligent and respectable farmers came to visit me, and put to me the following questions on the new articles of faith: "Mr. Chiniquy, please tell me, have I correctly understood the letter from the Pope you read us last Sabbath? Does the Pope tell us in that letter that we can find this new dogma of the 'Immaculate Conception' in the Holy Scriptures, that it has been taught by the Fathers, and that the church has constantly believed it from the days of the Apostles?"
I answered, "Yes, my friend, the Pope tells us all those things in his letter which I read in the church last Sabbath."
"But, sir, will you be so kind as to read me the verses of the Holy Scriptures which are in favour of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary?"
"My dear friend," I answered, "I am sorry to say that I have never found in the Holy Scriptures a single word to tell us that Mary is immaculate; but I have found many words, and very clear words, which says the very contrary thing. For instance, the Holy Ghost, in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, v. 18. 'By the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation.' This little, but inexorable 'all,' includes the Virgin Mary in the condemnation and in the guilt. In the same Epistle to the Romans (ch. iii. 22, 23), the Holy Ghost, speaking of the children of Adam Israelites and Gentiles says there is no difference, they have all sinned and come short of the glory of God! and in the 10th verse of the same chapter, the Holy Ghost, speaking of the Jews and Gentiles, says, 'There is none righteous no, not one!' And the Lord has never repealed in any part that I know of the Holy Scriptures, this awful 'no not one!'" "Now, please tell me the name of the Holy Fathers who have preached that we must believe in the Immaculate Conception, or be for ever damned, if we do not believe in it?"
I answered to my parishioner: "I would have preferred, my dear friend, that you should never come to put to me these questions; but as you ask me the truth, I must tell you the truth. I have studied the Fathers with a pretty good attention, but I have not yet found a single one of them who was of that opinion in any way."
"I hope," added the good farmer, "you will excuse me if I put to you another question on this subject. Perhaps you do not know it, but there is a great deal of feeling and talking about this new article of faith among us since last Sabbath; I want to know a little more about it. The Pope says in his letter that the Church of Rome has always believed and taught that dogma of Immaculate Conception. Is that correct?"
"Yes, my friend, the Pope says that in his Encyclical; but these last nine hundred years, more than one hundred Popes have declared that the church had never believed it. Even several Popes have forbidden to say 'that the Immaculate Conception was an article of faith' and they solemnly permitted us to believe and say what we please on that matter."
"If it be so with this new dogma, how can we know it is not so with the other dogmas of our church, as the confession, the purgatory, ect.?" added the farmer.
"My dear friend, do not allow the devil to shake your faith. We are living in bad days indeed. Let us pray God to enlighten us and save us. I would have given much had you never put to me these questions!"
My honest parishioner had left me; but his awful questions (they were really awful, as they are still awful for a priest of Rome), and the answers I had been forced to give were sounding in my soul as thunderclaps. There was in my poor trembling heart, as the awful noise of an irresistible storm, which was to destroy all that I had so dearly cherished and respected in my then so dear and venerated Church of Rome. My head was aching. I fell on my knees; but for a time I could not utter a word of prayer; big tears were rolling on my burning cheeks; ;new light was coming before the eyes of my soul; but I took it for the deceitful temptation of Satan; a voice was speaking to me; it was the voice of my God, telling me, "Come out from Babylon!" (Rev. xviii. 4). But I took that voice for the voice of Satan; I was trying to silence it. The Lord was then drawing me away from my perishing ways; but I did not know Him then; I was struggling against Him to remain in the dark dungeons of error. But God was to be the stronger. In His infinite mercy He was to overpower His unfaithful servant. He was to conquer me, and with me many others.
CHAPTER 54 Back to Contents
There are two women who ought to be constant objects of the compassion of the disciples of Christ, and for whom daily prayers ought to be offered at the mercy-seat the Brahmin woman, who, deceived by her priests, burns herself on the corpse of her husband to appease the wrath of her wooden gods; and the Roman Catholic woman, who, not less deceived by her priests, suffers a torture far more cruel and ignominious in the confessional-box, to appease the wrath of her wafer-god.
For I do not exaggerate when I say, that for many noble-hearted, welleducated, high-minded women, to be forced to unveil their hearts before the eyes of a man, to open to him all the most secret recesses of their souls, all the most sacred mysteries of their single or married life, to allow him to put to them questions which the most depraved woman would never consent to hear from her vilest seducer, is often more horrible and intolerable than to be tied on burning coals.
More than once I have seen women fainting in the confessional-box, who told me afterwards that the necessity of speaking to an unmarried man on certain things, on which the most common laws of decency ought to have for ever sealed their lips, had almost killed them! Not hundreds, but thousands of times, I have heard from the lips of dying girls, as well as married women, the awful words: "I am for ever lost! All my past confessions and communions have been so many sacrileges! I have never dared to answer correctly the questions of my confessors! Shame has sealed my lips an damned my soul!"
How many times I remained as one petrified, by the side of a corpse, when these last words having hardly escaped the lips of one of my female penitents, who had been snatched out of my reach by the merciless hand of death, before I could give her pardon through the deceitful sacramental absolution? I then believed, as the dead sinner herself had believed, that she should not be forgiven except by that absolution.
For there are not only thousands, but millions of Roman Catholic girls and women, whose keen sense of modest and womanly dignity, are above all the sophisms and diabolical machinations of their priests. They can never be persuaded to answer "Yes" to certain questions of their confessors. They would prefer to be thrown into the flames, and burnt to ashes with the Brahmin widows, rather than allow the eyes of a man to pry into the sacred sanctuary of their souls. Though sometimes guilty before God, and under the impression that their sins will never be forgiven if not confessed, the laws of decency are stronger in their hearts than the laws of their perfidious Church. No consideration not even the fear of eternal damnation, can persuade them to declare to a sinful man, sins which God alone has the right to know, for He alone can blot them out with the blood of His Son, shed on the cross.
But what a wretched life must that be of those exceptional noble souls, which Rome keeps in the dark dungeons of her superstition? They read in all their books, and hear from all their pulpits, that if they conceal a single sin from their confessors, they are for ever lost! But, being absolutely able to trample under their feet the laws of self-respect an decency, which God Himself has impressed in their souls, they live in constant dread of eternal damnation. No human words can tell their desolation and distress, when at the feet of their confessors they find themselves under the horrible necessity of speaking of things on which they would prefer to suffer the most cruel death rather than to open their lips, or to be for ever damned if they do not degrade themselves for ever in their own eyes, by speaking on matters which a respectable woman will never reveal to her own mother much less t a man!
I have known only too many of these noble-hearted women, who, when alone with God, in a real agony of desolation and with burning tears, had asked Him to grant them what they considered the greatest favour, which was to lose so much of their self-respect as to be enabled to speak of those unmentionable things just as their confessors wanted them to speak; and, hoping that their petition had been granted, they went again to the confessional-box, determined to unveil their shame before the eyes of that inexorable man. But when the moment had come for the self-immolation, their courage failed, their knees trembled, their lips became pale as death, cold sweat poured from all their pores! The voice of modesty and womanly self-respect was speaking louder than the voice of their false religion. They had to go out of the confessional-box unpardoned nay, with the burden of a new sacrilege on their conscience.
Oh! how heavy is the yoke of Rome how bitter is human life how cheerless is the mystery of the cross to those deluded and perishing souls! How gladly they would rush into the blazing piles with the Brahmin women, if they could hope to see the end of their unspeakable miseries through the momentary tortures which would open to them a better life!
I do here publicly challenge the whole Roman Catholic priesthood to deny that the greater part of their female penitents remain a certain period of time some longer, some shorter under that most distressing state of mind.
Yes, by far the greater majority of women, at first, find it impossible to pull down the sacred barriers of self-respect, which God Himself has built around their hearts, intelligences, and souls, as the best safeguard against the snares of this polluted world. Those laws of self-respect, by which they cannot consent to speak an impure word into the ears of a man, and which shut all the avenues of the heart against his unchaste questions, even when speaking in the name of God those laws of self-respect are so clearly written in their conscience, and they are so well understood by them, to be a most Divine gift, that, as I have already said, many prefer to run the risk of being for ever lost by remaining silent.
It takes many years of the most ingenious (I do not hesitate to call it diabolical) efforts on the part of the priests to persuade the majority of their female penitents to speak on questions, which even pagan savages would blush to mention among themselves. Some persist in remaining silent on those matters during the greater part of their lives, and many of them prefer to throw themselves into the hands of their merciful God, and die without submitting to the defiling ordeal, even after they have felt the poisonous stings of the enemy, rather than receive their pardon from a man, who, as they feel, would surely have been scandalized by the recital of their human frailties. All the priests of Rome are aware of this natural disposition of their female penitents. There is not a single one no, not a single one of their moral theologians, who does not warn the confessors against that stern and general determination of the girls and married women never to speak in the confessional matters which may, more or less, deal with sins against the seventh commandment. Dens, Liguori, Debreyne, Baily, ect., in a word, all the theologians of Rome own that this is one of the greatest difficulties which the confessors have to contend with in the confessional-box.
Not a single Roman Catholic priest will dare to deny what I say on this matter; for they know that it would be easy for me to overwhelm them with such a crowd of testimonials that their grand imposture would for ever be unmasked.
I intend, at some future day, if God spares me and gives me time for it, to make known some of the innumerable things which the Roman Catholic theologians and moralists have written on this question. It will form one of the most curious books ever written; and it will give unanswerable evidence of the fact that, instinctively, without consulting each other, and with an unanimity which is almost marvelous, the Roman Catholic women, guided by the honest instincts which God has given them, shrink from the snares put before them in the confessional-box; and that everywhere they struggle to nerve themselves with a superhuman courage, against the torturer who is sent by the Pope, to finish their ruin, and to make shipwrecks of their souls. Everywhere woman feels that there are things which ought never to be told, as there are things which ought never to be done, in the presence of the God of holiness. She understands that, to recite the history of certain sins, even of thoughts, is not less shameful and criminal than to do them; she hears the voice of God whispering into her ears, "Is it not enough that thou hast been guilty once, when alone in My presence, without adding to thine iniquity by allowing that man to know what should never have been revealed to him? Do you not feel that you make that man your accomplice, the very moment that you throw into his heart and soul the mire of your iniquities? He is as weak as you are; he is not less a sinner than yourself; what has tempted you will tempt him; what has made you weak will make him weak; what has polluted you will pollute him; what has thrown you down into the dust will throw him into the dust. Is it not enough that My eyes had to look upon your iniquities? must My ears, today, listen to your impure conversation with that man? Were that man as holy as My prophet David, may he not fall before the unchaste unveiling of a new Bathsheba? Were he as strong as Samson, may he not find in you his tempting Delilah? Were he as generous as Peter, may he not become a traitor at the maid-servant's voice?"
Perhaps the world has never seen a more terrible, desperate, solemn struggle than the one which is going on in the soul of a poor trembling young woman, who, at the feet of that man, has to decide whether or not she will open her lips on those things which the infallible voice of God, united to the no less infallible voice of her womanly honour and self-respect, tell her never to reveal to any man!
The history of that secret, fierce, desperate struggle has never yet, so far as I know, been fully given. It would draw the tears of admiration and compassion of the whole world, if it could be written with its simple, sublime, and terrible realities.
How many times have I wept as a child when some noble-hearted and intelligent young girl, or some respectable married woman, yielding to the sophisms with which I, or some other confessor, had persuaded them to give up their self-respect and their womanly dignity, to speak with me on matters on which a decent woman should never say a word with a man. They have told me of their invincible repugnance, their horror of such questions and answers, and they have asked me to have pity on them. Yes! I have often wept bitterly on my degradation, when a priest of Rome! I have realized all the strength, the grandeur, and the holiness of their motives for being silent on these defiling matters, and I could not but admire them. It seemed at times that they were speaking the language of angels of light; that I ought to fall at their feet, and ask their pardon for having spoken to them of questions, on which a man of honour ought never to converse with a woman whom he respects.
But alas! I had soon to reproach myself, and regret those short instances of my wavering faith in the infallible voice of my Church; I had soon to silence the voice of my conscience, which was telling me, "Is it not a shame that you, an unmarried man, dare to speak on these matters with a woman? Do you not blush to put such questions to a young girl? Where is your self-respect? Where is your fear of God? Do you not promote the ruin of that girl by forcing her to speak on these matters?"
How many times my God has spoken to me as He speaks to all the priests of Rome, and said with a thundering voice: "What would that young man do, could he hear the questions you put to his wife? Would he not blow out your brains? And that father, would he not thrust a dagger through your breast, if he could know what you ask from his poor trembling daughter? Would not the brother of that young girl put an end to your miserable life if he could hear the unmentionable subjects on which you speak with her in the confessional?"
I was compelled by all the Popes, the moral theologians, and the Councils of Rome, to believe that this warning voice of my merciful God was the voice of Satan; I had to believe in spite of my own conscience and intelligence, that it was good, nay, necessary, to put those polluting, damning questions. My infallible Church was mercilessly forcing me to oblige those poor, trembling, weeping, desolate girls and women, to swim with me and all her priests in those waters of Sodom and Gomorrah, under the pretext that their self-will would be broken down, their fear of sin and humility increased, and that they would be purified by our absolutions.
With what supreme distress, disgust, and surprise, we see, today, a great part of the noble Episcopal Church of England struck by a plague which seems incurable, under the name of Puseyism, or Ritualism, bringing again more or less openly in many places the diabolical and filthy auricular confession among the Protestants of England, Australia and America. The Episcopal Church is doomed to perish in that dark and stinking pool of Popery auricular confession, if she does not find a prompt remedy to stop the plague brought by the disguised Jesuits, who are at work everywhere, to poison and enslave her too unsuspecting daughters and sons.
In the beginning of my priesthood, when I was in Quebec, I was not a little surprised and embarrassed to see a very accomplished and beautiful young lady, whom I used to meet almost every week at her father's house, entering the box of my confessional. She had been used to confess to another young priest of my acquaintance, and she was always looked upon as one of the most pious girls of the city. Though she had disguised herself as much as possible, in order that I might not know her, I felt sure that I was not mistaken she was the amiable Mary.
Not being absolutely certain of the correctness of my impressions, I left her entirely under the hope that she was a perfect stranger to me. At the beginning she could hardly speak; her voice was suffocated by her sobs; and through the little apertures of the thin partition between her and me, I saw two streams of big tears trickling down her cheeks. After much effort, she said: "Dear Father, I hope you do not know me, and that you will never try to know me. I am a desperately great sinner. Oh! I fear that I am lost! But if there is still a hope for me to be saved, for God's sake do not rebuke me. Before I begin my confession, allow me to ask you not to pollute my ears by questions which our confessors are in the habit of putting to their female penitents; I have already been destroyed by those questions. Before I was seventeen years old, God knows that His angels are not more pure than I was; but the chaplain of the nunnery where my parents had sent me for my education, though approaching old age, put to me, in the confessional, a question which, at first, I did not understand, but, unfortunately, he had put the same question to one of my young class-mates, who made fun of them in my presence, and explained them to me, for she understood them too well. This first unchaste conversation of my life plunged my thoughts into a sea of iniquity till then absolutely unknown to me; temptations of the most humiliating character assailed me for a week, day and night; after which, sins which I would blot out with my blood, if it were possible, overwhelmed my soul as with a deluge. But the joys of the sinner are short. Struck with terror at the thought of the judgments of God, after a few weeks of the most deplorable life, I determined to give up my sins and reconcile myself to God. Covered with shame, and trembling from head to foot, I went to confess to my old confessor, whom I respected as a saint and cherished as a father. It seems to me that, with sincere tears of repentance, I confessed to him the greatest part of my sins, though I concealed one of them, through shame and respect for my spiritual guide. But I did not conceal from him that the strange questions he had put to me at my last confession, were, with the natural corruption of my heart, the principal cause of my destruction.
"He spoke to me very kindly, encouraged me to fight against my bad inclinations, and at first gave me very kind and good advice. But when I thought he had finished speaking, and as I was preparing to leave the confessional-box, he put to me two new questions of such a polluting character that I fear neither the blood of Christ, nor all the fires of hell will ever be able to blot them out from my memory. Those questions have achieved my ruin; they have stuck to my mind like two deadly arrows; they are day and night before my imagination; they fill my very arteries and veins with a deadly poison.
"It is true that, at first, they filled me with horror and disgust; but alas! I soon got so accustomed to them that they seemed to be incorporated with me, and as if becoming a second nature. Those thoughts have become a new source of innumerable criminal thoughts, desires, and actions.
"A month later, we were obliged by the rules of our convent to go and confess; but by this time I was so completely lost that I no longer blushed at the idea of confessing my shameful sins to a man; it was the very contrary. I had a real, diabolical pleasure in the thought that I should have a long conversation with my confessor on those matters, and that he would ask me more of his strange questions. In face, when I had told him everything without a blush, he began to interrogate me, and God knows what corrupting things fell from his lips into my poor criminal heart! Every one of his questions was thrilling my nerves and filling me with the most shameful sensations! After an hour of this criminal tete-a-tete with my old confessor (for it was nothing else but a criminal tete-a-tete), I perceived that he was as depraved as I was myself. With some half-covered words he made a criminal proposition, which I accepted with covered words also; and during more than a year we have lived together on the most sinful intimacy. Though he was much older than I, I loved him in the most foolish way. When the course of my convent instruction was finished, my parents called me back to their home. I was really glad of that change of residence, for I was beginning to be tired of my criminal life. My hope was that, under the direction of a better confessor, I should reconcile myself to God and begin a Christian life.
"Unfortunately for me, my new confessor, who was very young, began also his interrogations. He soon fell in love with me, and I loved him in a most criminal way. I have done with him things which I hope you will never request me to reveal to you, for they are too monstrous to be repeated, even in the confessional, by a woman to a man.
"I do not say these things to take away the responsibility of my iniquities with this young confessor from my shoulders, for I think I have been more criminal than he was. It is my firm conviction that he was a good and holy priest before he knew me; but the questions he put to me, and the answers I had to give him, melted his heart I know it just as boiling lead would melt the ice on which it flows.
"I know this is not such a detailed confession as our holy Church requires me to make, but I have thought it necessary for me to give you this short history of the life of the greatest and most miserable sinner who ever asked you to help her to come out from the tomb of her iniquities. This is the way I have lived these last few years. But last Sabbath, God, in His infinite mercy, looked down upon me. He inspired you to give us the Prodigal Son as a model of true conversion, and as the most marvelous proof of the infinite compassion of the dear Saviour for the sinner. I have wept day and night since that happy day, when I threw myself into the arms of my loving, merciful Father. Even now I can hardly speak, because my regret for my past iniquities, and my joy that I am allowed to bathe the feet of the Saviour with tears, are so great that my voice is as choked.
"You understand that I have for ever given up my last confessor I come to ask you to do me the favour to receive me among your penitents. Oh! do not reject nor rebuke me, for the dear Saviour's sake! Be not afraid to have at your side such a monster of iniquity! But before going further, I have two favours to ask from you. The first is, that you will never do anything to ascertain my name; the second is, that you ill never put to me any of those questions by which so many penitents are lost and so many priests for ever destroyed. Twice I have been lost by those questions. We come to our confessors that they may throw upon guilty souls the pure waters which flow from heaven to purify us; but instead of that, with their unmentionable questions they pour oil on the burning fires which are already raging in our poor sinful hearts. Oh! dear father, let me become our penitent, that you may help me to go and weep with Magdalene at the Saviour's feet! Do respect me, as He respected that true model of all the sinful, but repenting women! Did our Saviour put to her any questions? did He extort from her the history of things which a sinful woman cannot say without forgetting the respect she owes to herself and to God! No! you told us not long ago, that the only thing our Saviour did was to look at her tears and her love. Well, please do that, and you will save me!"
I was then a very young priest, and never had any words so sublime come to my ears in the confessional-box. Her tears and her sobs, mingled with the frank declaration of the most humiliating actions, had made such a profound impression upon me that I was, for some time, unable to speak. It had come to my mind also that I might be mistaken about her identity, and that perhaps she was not the young lady that I had imagined. I could, then, easily grant her first request, which was to do nothing by which I could know her. The second part of her prayer was more embarrassing; for the theologians are very positive in ordering the confessors to question their penitents, particularly those of the female sex, in many circumstances.
I encouraged her in the best way I could, to persevere in her good resolutions, by invoking the blessed Virgin Mary and St. Philomene, who was then Sainte a la mode, just as Marie Alacoque is today among the blind slaves of Rome. I told her that I would pray and think over the subject of her second request; and I asked her to come back in a week for my answer.
The very same day I went to my own confessor, the Rev. Mr. Ballargeon, then curate of Quebec, and afterwards Archbishop of Canada. I told him the singular and unusual request she had made, that I should never put to her any of those questions suggested by the theologians, to ensure the integrity of the confession. I did not conceal from him that I was much inclined to grant her that favour; for I repeated what I have already several times told him, that I was supremely disgusted with the infamous and polluting questions which the theologians forced us to put to our female penitents. I told him frankly that several old and young priests had already come to confess to me; and that, with the exception of two, they had told me that they could not put those questions and hear the answers they elicited without falling into the most damnable sins.
My confessor seemed to be much perplexed about what he should answer. He asked me to come the next day, that he might review some theological books in the interval. The next day I took down in writing his answer, which I find in my old manuscripts, and I give it here in all its sad crudity:-
"Such cases of the destruction of female virtue by the questions of the confessors is an unavoidable evil. It cannot be helped; for such questions are absolutely necessary in the greater part of the cases with which we have to deal. Men generally confess their sins with so much sincerity that there is seldom any need for questioning them, except when they are very ignorant. But St. Liguori, as well as our personal observation, tells us that the greatest part of girls and women, through a false and criminal shame, very seldom confess the sins they commit against purity. It requires the utmost charity in the confessors to prevent those unfortunate slaves of their secret passions from making sacrilegious confessions and communions. With the greatest prudence and zeal he must question them on those matters, beginning with the smallest sins, and going, little by little, as much as possible by imperceptible degrees, to the most criminal actions. As it seems evident that the penitent referred to in your questions of yesterday is willing to make a full and detailed confession of all her iniquities, you cannot promise to absolve her without assuring yourself by wise and prudent questions that she has confessed everything.
"You must not be discouraged when, through the confessional or any other way, you learn the fall of priests into the common frailties of human nature with their penitents. Our Saviour knew very well that the occasions and the temptations we have to encounter in the confessions of girls and women, are so numerous and sometimes so irresistible, that many would fall. But He has given them the Holy Virgin Mary, who constantly asks and obtains their pardon; He has given them the sacrament of penance, where they can receive their pardon as often as they ask for it. The vow of perfect chastity is a great honour and privilege; but we cannot conceal from ourselves that it puts on our shoulders a burden which many cannot carry for ever. St. Liguori says that we must not rebuke the penitent priest who falls only once a month; and some other trustworthy theologians are still more charitable."
This answer was far from satisfying me. It seemed to me composed of soft soap principles. I went back with a heavy heart and an anxious mind; and God knows that I made many fervent prayers that this girl should never come again to give me her sad history. I was then hardly twenty-six years old, full of youth and life. It seemed to me that the strings of a thousand wasps to my ears could not do me so much harm as the words of that dear, beautiful, accomplished, but lost girl.
I do not mean to say that the revelations which she made had, in any way, diminished my esteem and my respect for her. It was just the contrary. Her tears and her sobs at my feet; her agonizing expressions of shame and regret; her noble words of protest against the disgusting and polluting interrogations of the confessors, had raised her very high in my mind. My sincere hope was that she would have a place in the kingdom of Christ with the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, and all the sinners who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
At the appointed day, I was in my confessional listening to the confession of a young man, when I saw Miss Mary entering the vestry, and coming directly to my confessional-box, where she knelt by me. Though she had, still more than at the first time, disguised herself behind a long, thick, black veil, I could not be mistaken; she was the very same amiable young lady in whose father's house I used to pass such pleasant and happy hours. I had often listened with breathless attention to her melodious voice, when she was giving us, accompanied by her piano, some of our beautiful church hymns. Who could then see and hear her without almost worshiping her? The dignity of her steps, and her whole mien, when she advanced towards my confessional, entirely betrayed her and destroyed her incognito.
Oh! I would have given every drop of my blood in that solemn hour, that I might have been free to deal with her just as she had so eloquently requested me to do to let her weep and cry at the feet of Jesus to her heart's content. Oh! if I had been free to take her by the hand and silently show her the dying Saviour, that she might have bathed His feet with her tears, and spread the oil of her love on His head, without my saying anything else but "Go in peace: thy sins are forgiven."
But, there, in that confessional-box, I was not the servant of Christ, to follow His Divine, saving words, and obey the dictates of my honest conscience. I was the slave of the Pope! I had to stifle the cry of my conscience, to ignore the inspirations of my God! There, my conscience had no right to speak; my intelligence was a dead thing! The theologians of the Pope alone had a right to be heard and obeyed! I was not there to save, but to destroy; for, under the pretext of purifying, the real mission of the confessor, often, if not always, in spite of himself, is to scandalize and damn the souls.
As soon as the young man who was making his confession at my left hand, had finished, I, without noise, turned myself towards her, and said, through the little aperture, "Are you ready to begin your confession?"
But she did not answer me. All that I could hear was: "Oh, my Jesus, have mercy upon me! I come to wash my soul in Thy blood; wilt Thou rebuke me?"
During several minutes she raised her hands and eyes to heaven, and wept and prayed. It was evident that she had not the least idea that I was observing her; she thought the door of the little partition between her and me was shut. But my eyes were fixed upon her; my tears were flowing with her tears, and my ardent prayers were going to the feet of Jesus with her prayers. I would not have interrupted her for any consideration, in this, her sublime communion with her merciful Saviour.
But after a pretty long time, I made a little noise with my hand, and putting my lips near the opening of the partition which was between us, I said in a low voice, "Dear sister, are you ready to begin your confession?"
She turned her face a little towards me, and said, with trembling voice, "Yes, dear father, I am ready."
But she then stopped again to weep and pray, though I could not hear what she said.
After some time in silent prayer, I said, "My dear sister, if you are ready, please begin your confession." She then said, "My dear father, do you remember the prayers which I made to you the other day? Can you allow me to confess my sins without forcing me to forget the respect that I owe myself, to you, and to God, who hears us? And can you promise that you will not put to me any of those questions which have already done me such irreparable injury? I frankly declare to you that there are sins in me that I cannot reveal to anyone, except to Christ, because He is my God, and that He already knows them all. Let me weep and cry at His feet: can you not forgive me without adding to my iniquities by forcing me to say things that the tongue of a Christian woman cannot reveal to a man?"
"My dear sister," I answered, "were I free to follow the voice of my own feelings I would be only too happy to grant your request; but I am here only as the minister of our holy church, and bound to obey the laws. Through her most holy Popes and theologians she tells me that I cannot forgive your sins if you do not confess them all, just as you have committed them. The church tells me also that you must give the details, which may add to the malice or change the nature of your sins. I am sorry to tell you that our most holy theologians make it a duty of the confessor to question the penitent on the sins which he has good reason to suspect have been voluntarily omitted."
With a piercing cry she exclaimed, "Then, O my God, I am lost for ever lost!"
This cry fell upon me like a thunderbolt; but I was still more terrorstricken when, looking through the aperture, I saw she was fainting; I heard the noise of her body falling upon the floor, and of her head striking against the sides of the confessional-box.
Quick as lightning I ran to help her, took her in my arms, and called a couple of men, who were at a little distance, to assist me in laying her on a bench. I washed her face with some cold water and vinegar. She was as pale as death, but her lips were moving, and she was saying something which nobody but I could understand -
"I am lost lost for ever!"
We took her home to her disconsolate family, where, during a month, she lingered between life and death. Her two first confessors came to visit her; but having asked every one to go out of the room, she politely, but absolutely, requested them to go away, and never come again. She asked me to visit her every day, "for," she said, "I have only a few more days to live. Help me to prepare myself for the solemn hour which will open to me the gates of eternity!"
Every day I visited her, and I prayed and I wept with her.
Many times, when alone, with tears I requested her to finish her confession; but, with a firmness which then seemed to be mysterious and inexplicable, she politely rebuked me.
One day, when alone with her, I was kneeling by the side of her bed to pray, I was unable to articulate a single word because of the inexpressible anguish of my soul on her account, she asked me, "Dear father, why do you weep?"
I answered, "How can you put such a question to your murderer! I weep because I have killed you, dear friend."
This answer seemed to trouble her exceedingly. She was very weak that day. After she had wept and prayed in silence, she said, "Do not weep for me, but weep for so many priests who destroy their penitents in the confessional. I believe in the holiness of the sacrament of penance, since our holy church has established it. But there is, somewhere, something exceedingly wrong in the confessional. Twice I have been destroyed, and I know many girls who have also been destroyed by the confessional. This is a secret, but will that secret be kept for ever? I pity the poor priests the day that our fathers will know what becomes of the purity of their daughters in the hands of their confessors. Father would surely kill my two last confessors, if he could only know they have destroyed his poor child."
I could not answer except by weeping.
We remained silent for a long time; then she said, "It is true that I was not prepared for the rebuke you have given me the other day in the confessional; but you acted conscientiously as a good and honest priest. I know you must be bound by certain laws."
She then pressed my hand with her cold hand and said, "Weep not, dear father, because that sudden storm has wrecked my too fragile bark. This storm was to take me out from the bottomless sea of my iniquities to the shore where Jesus was waiting to receive and pardon me. The night after you brought me, half dead, here to my father's house, I had a dream. Oh, no! it was not a dream, it was a reality. My Jesus came to me, He was bleeding; His crown of thorns was on His head, the heavy cross bruising His shoulders. He said to me, with a voice so sweet that no human tongue can imitate it, 'I have seen thy tears, I have heard thy cries, and I know thy love for Me: thy sins are forgiven; take courage, in a few days thou shalt be with Me!'"
She had hardly finished her last word when she fainted, and I feared lest she should die just then, when I was alone with her.
I called the family, who rushed into the room. The doctor was sent for. He found her so weak that he thought proper to allow only one or two persons to remain in the room with me. He requested us not to speak at all, "For," said he, "the least emotion may kill her instantly; her disease is, in all probability, an aneurism of the aorta, the big vein which brings the blood to the heart: when it breaks, she will go as quick as lightning."
It was nearly ten at night when I left the house to go and take some rest. But it was not necessary to say that I passed a sleepless night. My dear Mary was there, pale, dying from the deadly blow which I had given her in the confessional. She was there, on her bed of death, her heart pierced with the dagger which my church had put into my hands! and instead of rebuking, and cursing me for my savage, merciless fanaticism, she was blessing me! She was dying from a broken heart! and I was not allowed by my church to give her a single word of consolation and hope, for had she not made her confession? I had mercilessly bruised that tender plant, and there was nothing in my hands to heal the wounds I had made!
It was very probable that she would die the next day, and I was forbidden to show her the crown of glory which Jesus has prepared in His kingdom for the repenting sinner?
My desolation was really unspeakable, and I think I would have been suffocated and have died that night, if the stream of tears which constantly flowed from my eyes had not been as a balm to my distressed heart.
How dark and long the hours of that night seemed to me!
Before the dawn of day, I arose to read my theologians again, and see if I could not find someone who would allow me to forgive the sins of that dear child, without forcing her to tell me anything she had done. But they seemed to me, more than ever, unanimously inexorable, and I put them back on the shelves of my library with a broken heart.
At nine a.m. the next day, I was by the bed of our dear sick Mary. I cannot sufficiently tell the joy I felt, when the doctor and whole family said to me, "She is much better; the rest of last night has wrought a marvelous change, indeed."
With a really angelic smile she extended her hand towards me, and said, "I thought, last evening, that the dear Saviour would take me to Him, but He wants me, dear father, to give you a little more trouble; however, be patient, it cannot be long before the solemn hour of the appeal will strike. Will you please read me the history of the suffering and death of the beloved Saviour, which you read me the other day? It does me so much good to see how He has loved me, such a miserable sinner."
There was a calm and solemnity in her words which struck me singularly, as well as all those who were there.
After I had finished reading, she exclaimed, "He has loved me so much that He died for my sins!" And she shut her eyes as if to meditate in silence, but there was a stream of big tears rolling down her cheeks.
I knelt down by her bed, with her family, to pray; but I could not utter a single word. The idea that this dear child was there, dying from the cruel fanaticism of my theologians and my own cowardice in obeying them, was a millstone to my neck. It was killing me.
Oh! if by dying a thousand times, I could have added a single day to her life, with what pleasure I would have accepted those thousand deaths!
After we had silently prayed and wept by her bedside, she requested her mother to leave her alone with me.
When I saw myself alone, under the irresistible impression that this was her last day, I fell on my knees again, and with tears of the most sincere compassion for her soul, I requested her to shake off her shame and obey our holy church, which requires every one to confess their sins if they want to be forgiven.
She calmly, but with an air of dignity which no human words can express, said, "Is it true that, after the sins of Adam and Eve, God Himself made coats and skins and clothed them, that they might not see each other's nakedness?"
"Yes," I said, "this is what the Holy Scriptures tell us."
"Well, then, how is it possible that our confessors dare to take away from us that holy, divine coat of modesty and self-respect? Has not Almighty God Himself made, with His own hands, that coat of womanly modesty and self-respect that we might not be to you and to ourselves a cause of shame and sin?"
I was really stunned by the beauty, simplicity, and sublimity of that comparison. I remained absolutely mute and confounded. Though it was demolishing all the traditions and doctrines of my church, and pulverizing all my holy doctors and theologians, that noble answer found such an echo in my soul, that it seemed to me a sacrilege to try to touch it with my finger.
After a short time of silence, she continued, "Twice I have been destroyed by priests in the confessional. They took away from me that divine coat of modesty and self-respect which God gives to every human being who comes to this world, and twice I have become for those very priests a deep pit of perdition, into which they have fallen, and where I fear they are for ever lost! My merciful heavenly Father has given me back that coat of skins, that nuptial robe of modesty, self-respect, and holiness which had been taken away from me. He cannot allow you or any other man to tear again and spoil that vestment which is the work of His hands."
These words had exhausted her; it was evident to me that she wanted some rest. I left her alone, but I was absolutely beside myself. Filled with admiration for the sublime lessons which I had received from the lips of that regenerated daughter of eve, who, it was evident, my theologians shall I say it? yes, I felt in that solemn hour a supreme disgust for my church, which was cruelly defiling me and all her priests, in the confessional-box. I felt, in that hour, a supreme horror for that auricular confession, which is so often a pit of perdition and supreme misery for the confessor and penitent. I went out and walked two hours on the Plains of Abraham, to breathe the pure and refreshing air of the mountains. There, alone, I sat on a stone, on the very spot were Wolff and Montcalm fought and died; and I wept to my heart's content on my irreparable degradation, and the degradation of so many priests through the confessional.
At four o'clock in the afternoon I went back again to the house of dear dying Mary. The mother took me apart, and very politely said, "My dear Mr. Chiniquy, do you not think it is time that our dear child should receive the last sacraments? She seemed to be much better this morning, and we were full of hope; but she is now rapidly sinking. Please lose no time in giving her the holy viaticum and the extreme unction."
I said, "Yes, madam; let me pass a few minutes alone with our dear child, that I may prepare for the last sacraments."
When alone with her, I again fell on my knees, and, amidst torrents of tears, I said, "Dear sister, it is my desire to give you the holy viaticum and the extreme unction: but tell me, how can I dare to do a thing so solemn against all the prohibitions of our holy church? How can I give you the holy communion without first giving you absolution? and how can I give you absolution when you earnestly persist in telling me that you have so many sins which you will never declare to me or any other confessor?
"You know that I cherish and respect you as if you were an angel sent to me from heaven. You told me, the other day, that you blessed the day that you first saw and knew me. I say the same thing. I bless the day that I have known you; I bless every hour that I have spent by your bed of suffering; I bless every tear which I have shed with you on your sins and on my own; I bless every hour we have passed together in looking to the wounds of our beloved, dying Saviour; I bless you for having forgiven me your death! for I know it, and I confess it in the presence of God, I have killed you, dear sister. But now I prefer a thousand times to die than to say to you a word which would pain you in any way, or trouble the peace of your soul. Please, my dear sister, tell me what I can and must do for you in this solemn hour."
Calmly, and with a smile of joy such as I had never seen before, nor seen since, she said, "I thank and bless you, dear father, for the parable of the Prodigal Son, on which you preached a month ago. You have brought me to the feet of the dear Saviour; there I have found a peace and a joy surpassing anything that human heart can feel; I have thrown myself into the arms of my Heavenly Father, and I know He has mercifully accepted and forgiven His poor prodigal child! Oh, I see the angels with their golden harps around the throne of the Lamb! Do you not hear the celestial harmony of their songs? I go I go to join them in my Father's house. I SHALL NOT BE LOST!"
While she was thus speaking to me, my eyes were really turned into two fountains of tears; I was unable, as well as unwilling, to see anything, so entirely overcome was I by the sublime words which were flowing from the dying lips of that dear child, who was no more a sinner; but a real angel of Heaven to me. I was listening to her words; there was a celestial music in every one of them. But she had raised her voice in such a strange way, when she had begun to say, "I go to my Father's house," and she had made such a cry of joy when she had to let the last words, "not be lost," escape her lips, that I raised my head and opened my eyes to look at her. I suspected that something strange had occurred.
I got upon my feet, passed my handkerchief over my face to wipe away the tears which were preventing me from seeing with accuracy, and looked at her.
Her hands were crossed on her breast, and there was on her face the expression of a really superhuman joy; her beautiful eyes were fixed as if they were looking on some grand and sublime spectacle; it seemed to me, at first, that she was praying.
In that very instant the mother rushed into the room, crying, "My God! my God! what does that cry 'lost' mean?" For her last words, "not be lost," particularly the last one, had been pronounced with such a powerful voice, that they had been heard almost everywhere in the house.
I made a sign with my hand to prevent the distressed mother from making any noise and troubling her dying child in her prayer, for I really thought that she had stopped speaking, as she used so often to do, when alone with me, in order to pray. But I was mistaken. The redeemed soul had gone, on the golden wings of love, to join the multitude of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, to sing the eternal Alleluia.
The revelation of the unmentionable corruptions directly and unavoidably engendered by auricular confession, had come to me from the lips of that young lady, as the first rays of the sun which were to hurl back the dark clouds of night by which Rome had wrapped my intelligence on that subject.
So miserable by her fall and her sins, but so admirable by her conversion, that young lady was standing before me, for the rest of my priestly life, as the bright beacon raised on the solitary rock stands before the sailor whose ship is drifting through the shoals, in a dark and stormy night.
She was brought there by the merciful hand of God, to right my course.
Lost and degraded by auricular confession, only after having given it up, that precious soul was to find peace and life, when washed in the blood of the Lamb, as the only hope and refuge of sinners.
Her words, filled with a superhuman wisdom, and her burning tears, came to me, by the marvelous Providence of God, as the first beams of the Sun of Righteousness, to teach me that auricular confession was a Satanic invention.
Had this young person been the only one to tell me that, I might still have held some doubt about the diabolical origin of that institution. But thousands and thousands, before and after her, have been sent by my merciful God to tell me the same tale, till after twenty-five years of experience it became a certitude to me that that modern invention of Rome must, sooner or later, with a very few exceptions, drag both the confessor and his female penitents into a common and irreparable ruin.[*]
[*] Those who would like to know all about the abominations of auricular confession should have my volume "The Priest, the Woman and the Confessional." It is probably the only book ever written on that subject which completely unveils the mask of Rome, by telling the whole truth.
Continue to Chapter 55