in the Church of Rome
by Charles Chiniquy
CHAPTER 62 Back to Contents
When alone, on my knees, in the presence of God, on the 1st of January, 1855, I took the resolution of opposing the acts of simony and tyranny of Bishop O'Regan, I was far from understanding the logical consequences of my struggle with that high dignitary. My only object was to force him to be honest, just and Christian towards my people. That people, with me, had left their country and had bid an eternal adieu to all that was dear to them in Canada, in order to live in peace in Illinois, under what we then considered the holy authority of the Church of Christ. but we were absolutely unwilling to be slaves of any man in the land of Liberty.
If any one, at that hour, could have shown me that this struggle would lead to a complete separation from the Church of Rome, I would have shrank from the task. My only ambition was to purify my church from the abuses which, one after the other, had crept everywhere about her, as noxious weeds. I felt that those abuses were destroying the precious truths which Jesus Christ and His apostles had revealed to us. It seemed to me that was a duty imposed upon every priest to do all in our power to blot from the face of our church the scandals which were the fruits of the iniquities and tyranny of the bishops. I had most sincerely offered myself to God for his work.
From the beginning, however, I had a presentiment that the power of the bishops would be too much for me, and that, sooner or later, they would crush me. But my hope was that when I should have fallen, others would have taken my place and fight the battles of the Lord, till a final victory would bring the church back to the blessed days when she was the spotless spouse of the Lamb.
The great and providential victory I had gained at Urbana, had strengthened my conviction that God was on my side, and that He would protect me, so long as my only motives were in the interests of truth and righteousness. It seemed, in a word, that I could not fail so long as I should fight against the official lies, tyrannies, superstitions, and deceits which the bishops had everywhere in the United States and Canada, substituted in the place of the Gospel, the primitive laws of the church, and the teachings of the holy fathers.
In the autumn of 1856, our struggle against the Bishop of Chicago had taken proportions which could not have been anticipated either by me or by the Roman Catholic hierarchy of America. The whole press of the United States and Canada, both political and religious, were discussing the causes of the probable results of the contest.
At first, the bishops were indignant at the conduct of my lord O'Regan. They had seen with pleasure, that a priest from his own diocese would probably force him to be more cautious and less scandalous in his public and private dealings with the clergy and the people. But they also hoped that I should be paralyzed by the sentence of excommunication, and that the people, frightened by those fulminations, would withdraw the support they had, at first, given me. They were assured by Spink, that I would lose my suit at Urbana, and should, when lodged in the penitentiary, become powerless to do any mischief in the church.
But their confidence was soon changed into dismay when they saw that the people laughed at the excommunication; that I had gained my suit, and that I was triumphing on that very battle-field from which no priest, since Luther and Knox, had come out unscathed. Everywhere, the sound of alarm was heard, and I was denounced as a rebel and schismatic. The whole body of the bishops prepared to hurl their most terrible fulminations at my devoted head. But before taking their last measure to crush me, a supreme effort was made to show us what they considered our errors. The Rev. Messrs. Brassard, curate of Longueuil, and Rev. Isaac Desaulnier, President of St. Hyacinthe College, were sent by the people and bishops of Canada to show me what they called the scandal of my proceedings, and press me to submit to the will of the bishop, by respecting the so-called sentence of excommunication.
The choice of those two priests was very wise. They were certainly the most influential that could be sent. Mr. Brassard had not only been my teacher at the college of Nicolet, but my benefactor, as I have already said. When the want of means, in 1825, had forced me to leave the college and bid adieu to my mother and my young brothers, in order to get to a very distant land, in search of a position, he stopped me on the road to exile and brought me back to the college; and along with the Rev. Mr. Leprohon, he paid all my expenses to the end of my studies. He had loved me since, as his own child, and I cherished and respected him as my own father. The other, Rev. I. Desaulnier, had been my classmate in the college form 1822 to 1829, and we had been united during the whole of that period, as well as since, by the bonds of the sincerest esteem and friendship. They arrived at St. Anne on November 24th, 1856.
I heard of their coming only a few minutes before their arrival; and nothing can express the joy I felt at the news. The confidence I had in their honesty and friendship, gave me, at once, the hope that they would soon see the justice and holiness of our cause, and they would bravely take our side against our aggressor. But they had very different sentiments. Sincerely believing that I was an unmanageable schismatic, who was creating an awful scandal in the church, they had not only been forbidden by the bishops to sleep in my house, but also to have any friendly and Christian communication with me. With no hatred against me, they were yet filled with horror at the thought that I should be so scandalous a priest, and so daring, as to trouble the peace, and destroy the unity of the church.
On their way from Canada to St. Anne, they had often been told that I was not the same man as they knew me formerly to be, and that I had become sour and gloomy, abusive, insolent, and haughty; that also I would insult them, and perhaps advise the people to turn them away from my premises, as men who had no business to meddle in our affairs. They were pleasantly disappointed, however, when they saw me running to meet them, as far as I could see them, to press them to my heart, with the most sincere marks of affection and joy. I told them that all the treasures of California brought to my house would not make me half so happy as I was made by their presence.
I at once expressed my hope that they were the messengers sent by God to bring us peace and put an end to the deplorable state of things which was the cause of their long journey. Remarking that they were covered with mud, I invited them to go to their sleeping rooms, to wash and refresh themselves.
"Sleeping rooms! sleeping rooms!!" said Mr. Desaulnier, "but our written instructions from the bishops who sent us, forbid us to sleep here on account of your excommunication."
Mr. Brassard answered, "I must tell you, my dear Mr. Desaulnier, a thing which I have kept secret till now. After reading that prohibition of sleeping here, I said to the bishop that if he would put such a restraint upon me, he might choose another one to come here. I requested him to let us both act according to our conscience and common sense when we should be with Chiniquy, and today my conscience and common sense tell me that we cannot begin our mission of peace by insulting a man who gives us such a friendly and Christian reception. The people of Canada have chosen us as their deputies, because we are the most sincere friends of Chiniquy. It is by keeping that character that we will best fulfill our sacred and solemn duties. I accept, with pleasure, the sleeping room offered me."
Mr. Desaulnier rejoined: "I accept it also, for I did not come here to insult my best friend, but to save him." These kind words of my guests added to the joy I experienced at their coming. I told them: "If you are here to obey the voice of your conscience and the dictates of your common sense, there is a glorious task before you. You will soon find that the people and priest of St. Anne have also done nothing but listened to the voice of their honest conscience, and followed the laws of common sense in their conduct towards the bishop." But, I added, "this is not the time to explain my position, but the time to wash your dusty faces and refresh yourselves. Here are your rooms, make yourselves at home."
After supper, which had been spent in the most pleasant way, and without any allusion to our troubles, they handed me the letters addressed to me by the bishops of Montreal, London, and Toronto, to induce me to submit to my superior, and offer me the assurance of their most sincere friendship and devotedness if I would obey.
Mr. Desaulnier then said: "Now, my dear Chiniquy, we have been sent here by the people and bishops of Canada to take you away from the bottomless abyss into which you have fallen with your people. We have only one day and two nights to spend here, we must lose no time, but begin at once to fulfill our solemn mission."
I answered: "If I have fallen into a bottomless abyss as you say, and that you will draw me out of it, not only God and men will bless you, but I will also for ever bless you for your charity. The first thing, however, you have to do here, is to see if I am really fallen, with my people, into that bottomless abyss of which you speak."
"But are you not excommunicated," quickly rejoined Mr. Desaulnier, "and, notwithstanding that excommunication, have you not continued to say your mass, preach, and hear the confessions of your people? Are you not then fallen into that state of irregularity and schism which separate you entirely from the church, and to which the Pope alone can restore you?"
"No, my dear Desaulnier," I answered, "I am not more excommunicated than you are. For the simple reason that an act of excommunication which is not signed and certified, is a public nullity; unworthy of any attention. Here is the act of the so-called excommunication, which makes so much noise in the world! Examine it yourself; look if it is signed by the bishop, or any one else you know; consider with attention if it is certified by anybody." And I handed him the document.
After he had examined it, and turned it every way for more than half an hour, with Mr. Brassard, without saying a word, he at last broke his silence, and said: "If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I could never have believed that a bishop can play such a sacrilegious comedy in the face of the world. You have several times published it in the press, but I confess that your best friends, and I among the rest, did not believe you. It could not enter our minds that a bishop should be so devoid, I do not say of every principle of religion, but of the most common honesty, as to have proclaimed before the whole world that you were excommunicated, when he had to offer us only that ridiculous piece of rag to support his assertion. But, in the name of common sense, why is it that he has not signed his sentence of excommunication, or get it signed and countersigned by some authorized people, when it is so evident that he wanted to excommunicate you?"
"His reason for not putting his name, nor the name of any known person at the bottom of that so-called excommunication is very clear," I answered; "though our bishop is one of the most accomplished rogues of Illinois, he is still more a coward than a rogue. I had threatened to bring him before the civil court of the country if he dared to destroy my character by a sentence of interdict or excommunication; and he found that the only way to save himself in the same time that he was outraging me, was not to sign that paper; he thereby took away from me the power of prosecuting him. For, the first thing I would have to do in a prosecution in that case, would be to prove the signature of the bishop. Where could I find a witness who would swear that this is his signature? Would you swear it yourself, my dear Desaulnier?" "Oh! no, for surely it is not his signature, nor that of his grand vicar or secretary. But without going any further," added he, "we must confess to you that we have talked to the bishop, when passing through Chicago, asking him if he had made any public or private inquest against you, and if he had found you guilty of any crime. As he felt embarrassed by our questions, we told him that it was in our public character as deputies of the bishops and people of Canada towards you that we were putting to him those questions. That it was necessary for us to know all about your public and private character, when we were coming to press you to reconcile yourself to your bishop. He answered that he had never made any inquest about you, though you had requested him several times to do it, for the simple reason that he was persuaded that you were one of his best priests. Your only defect, he said, was a spirit of stubbornness and want of respect and obedience to your superior, and your meddling with his dealings with his diocesans, with which you had no business. He told us also that you refused to go to Kahokia. But his face became so red, and his tongue was so strangely lisping when he said that, that I suspected it was a falsehood; and we have now, before our eyes, that document, signed by four unimpeachable witnesses, that it was more than a falsehood it was a lie. He proffered another lie also, we see it now, when he said that he had signed himself the act of excommunication; for surely this is not his handwriting. Such conduct from a bishop is very strange. If you would appeal to the Pope, and go to Rome with such documents in hand against that bishop, you would have an easy victory over him. For, the canons of the church are clear and unanimous on that subject. A bishop who pronounces such grave sentences against a priest, and makes use of false signatures to certify his sentences, is himself suspended and excommunicated, ipso facto, for a whole year."
Mr. Brassard added: "Cannot we confess to Chiniquy that the opinion of the bishops of Canada is, that Bishop O'Regan is a perfect rogue, and that if he (Chiniquy) would submit at once, under protest, to those unjust sentences, and appeal to the Pope, he would gain his cause, and soon be reinstated by a public decree of his Holiness."
Our discussion about the troubles I had had, and the best way to put an end to them, having kept us up till three o'clock in the morning without being able to come to any satisfactory issue, we adjourned to the next day, and went to take some rest after a short prayer.
The 25th of November, at 10 a.m., after breakfast and a short walk in our public square, to breathe the pure air and enjoy the fine scenery of our beautiful hill of St. Anne, we shut ourselves up in my study, and resumed the discussion of the best plans of putting an end to the existing difficulties.
To show them my sincere desire of stopping those noisy and scandalous struggles without compromising the sacred principles which had guided me from the beginning of our troubles, I consented to sacrifice my position as pastor of St. Anne, provided Mr. Brassard would be installed in my place. It was decided, however, that I should remain with him, as his vicar and help, in the management of the spiritual and temporal affairs of the colony. The promise was given me that on that condition the bishop would withdraw his so-called sentence, give back to the French Canadians of Chicago the church he had taken away from them, put a French-speaking priest at the head of the congregation, and forgive and forget what he might consider our irregular conduct towards him, after we should have signed the following document:
To His Lordship O'Regan, Bishop of Chicago.
My Lord:As my actions and writing in opposition to your orders have, since a few months, given some scandals, and caused some people to think that I would rather prefer to be separated from our holy church than to submit to your authority, I hasten to express the regret I feel for such acts and writings. And to show to the world and to you, my bishop, my firm desire to live and die a Catholic, I hasten to write to your lordship that I submit to your sentence, and that I promise hereafter to exercise the holy ministry only with your permission. In consequence, I respectfully request your lordship to withdraw the censures and interdicts you have pronounced against me and those who have had any spiritual communication with me. I am, my lord, your devoted son in Christ,
It was eleven o'clock at night when I consented to sign this document, which was to be handed to the bishop and have any value, only on the above conditions. The two deputies were beside themselves with joy at the success of their mission, and at my readiness to sacrifice myself for the sake of peace. Mons. Desaulnier said:
"Now we see, evidently, that Chiniquy has been right with his people from the beginning, that he never meant to create a schism and to put himself at the head of a rebellious party, to defy the authority of the church. If the bishop does not want to live in peace with the people and pastor of St. Anne after such a sacrifice, we will tell him that it is not Chiniquy, but Bishop O'Regan, who wants a schism we will appeal to the Pope I will go with Chiniquy, and we will easily get there the removal of that bishop from the diocese of Chicago."
Mr. Brassard confirmed that sentence, and added that he also would accompany me to Rome to be the witness of my innocence, and the bad conduct of the bishop. He added that it would not take him a week to raise twice the amount of money in Montreal we would require to go to Rome.
After thanking them for what they had done and said, I asked Mr. Desaulnier if he would be brave enough to repeat before my whole people what he had just said before me and Mr. Brassard in the presence of God.
"Surely, I would be most happy to repeat before your whole people that it is impossible to find fault with you in what you have done till now. But, you know very well, I will never have such an opportunity, for it is now eleven o'clock at night, your people are soundly sleeping, and I must start to-morrow morning, at six o'clock, to take the Chicago train at Kankakee at 8 a.m.
I answered: "All right!"
We knelt together to make a short prayer, and I led them to their rooms, wishing them refreshing sleep, after the hard work of the day.
Ten minutes later I was in the village, knocking at the door of six of my most respectable parishioners, and telling them:
"Please do not lose a moment; go with your fastest horse to such and such a part of the colony; knock at every door and tell the people to be at the church at five o'clock in the morning, to hear with their own ears what the deputies from Canada have to say about past struggles with the Bishop of Chicago. Tell them to be punctual at five o'clock in their pews, where the deputies will address them words which they must hear at any cost."
A little before five the next morning Mr. Desaulnier, full of surprise and anxiety, knocked at my door and said:
"Chiniquy, do you not hear the strange noise of buggies and carriages which seem to be coming from every quarter of the globe. What does it mean? Have your people become crazy to come to church at this dark hour, so long before the dawn of day?"
"What! what!" I answered, "I was sleeping so soundly that I have heard nothing yet. What do you mean by this noise of carriages and buggies around the chapel? Are you dreaming?" "No, I am not dreaming," he answered; "not only do I hear the noise of a great many carriages, wagons, and buggies; but, though it is pretty dark, I see several hundred of them around the chapel. I hear the voices of a great multitude of men, women, and even children, putting questions to each other, and giving answers which I cannot understand. They make such a noise by their laughing and jokes! Can you tell me what this means? I have never been so puzzled in my life."
I answered him: "Do you not see that you are dreaming. Let me dress myself that I may go and see something of that strange and awful dream!"
Mr. Brassard, though a little more calm than Desaulnier, was not, himself, without some anxiety at the strange noise of that multitude of carriages, horses, and people around my house and chapel at such an hour. Knocking at my door, he said: "Please, Chiniquy, explain that strange mystery. Do that people come to play us some bad trick, and punish us for our intruding in their affairs?"
"Be quiet," I answered, "my dear friends. You have nothing to fear from that good and intelligent people. Do you not remember that, last night, a few minutes before eleven o'clock, Desaulnier said that he would be honest and brave enough to repeat before my whole people what he had said before you and me, and in the presence of God. I suppose that some of the angels of heaven have heard those words, and have carried them this night to every family, inviting them to be here at the chapel, that they might hear from your own lips what you think of the grand and glorious battle they are fighting in this distant land for the principle of truth and justice, as the gospel secures them to every disciple of Christ."
"Well! well!" said Desaulnier, "there is only one Chiniquy in the world to take me in such a trap, and there is only one people under heaven to do what this people is doing here. I would never have given you that answer had I not been morally sure that I would never have had the opportunity to fulfill it. Who would think you would play me such a trick? But," he added, "though I know that this will terribly compromise me before certain parties, it is too late to retract, and I will fulfill my promise."
It is impossible to express my own joy and the joy of that noble people when they heard from the very lips of those deputies that, after spending a whole day and two nights in examining all that had been done by their pastor and by them in that solemn and fearful contest, they declared that they had not broken any law of God, nor of His holy church; and that they had kept themselves in the very way prescribed by the canons.
Tears of joy were rolling down every cheek when they heard Mr. Desaulnier telling them, which Mr. Brassard confirmed after, that the bishop had no possible right to interdict their pastor, since he had told them that he was one of his best priests; and that they had done well not to pay any attention to an act of excommunication which was a sham and sacrilegious comedy, not having been signed nor certified by any known person. Both deputies said:
"Mr. Brassard will be your pastor, and Mr. Chiniquy, as his vicar, will remain in your midst. He has signed an act of submission, which we have found sufficient, on the condition that the bishop will let you live in peace, and withdraw the sentence he says he has fulminated against you. If he does not accept those conditions we will tell him, it is not Mr. Chiniquy, but he, who wants a schism, and we will go with Mr. Chiniquy to Rome, to plead his cause and prove his innocence before his Holiness."
After this, we all knelt to thank and bless God; and never people went back to their homes with more cheerful hearts than the people of St. Anne on that morning of the 25th of November, 1856.
At six o'clock a.m., Mr. Desaulnier was on his way back to Chicago, to present my conditional act of submission to the bishop, and press him, in the name of the bishops of Canada, and in the name of all the most sacred interests of the church, to accept the sacrifice and the submission of the people of St. Anne, and to give them the peace they wanted and were purchasing at such a price. The Rev. Mr. Brassard had remained with me, waiting for a letter from the bishop to accompany me and put the last seal to our reconciliation.
The next day he received the following note from Mr. Desaulnier:
Bishopric of Chicago, Nov. 26th, 1856.
"The Rev. Mr. Brassard,
"Monsieur, It is advisable and indispensable that you should come here, with Mr. Chiniquy, as soon as possible. In consequence, I expect you both day after to-morrow, in order to settle that matter definitely.
After reading that letter with Mr. Brassard, I said:
"Do you not feel that these cold words mean nothing good? I regret that you have not gone with Desaulnier to the bishop. You know the levity and weakness of his character, always bold with his words, but soft as wax at the least pressure which he feels. My fear is that the bulldog tenacity of my lord O'Regan has frightened him, and all his courage and bravados have melted away before the fierce temper of the Bishop of Chicago. But let us go. Be sure, however, my dear Mr. Brassard, that if the bishop does not accept you to remain at the head of this colony, to protect and guide it, no consideration whatever will induce me to betray my people and let them become the prey of the wolves which want to devour them."
We arrived at the Illinois Central depot of Chicago, the 28th, at about ten a.m. Mr. Desaulnier was there, waiting for us. He was pale as a dead man. The marks of Cain and Judas were on his face. Having taken him at a short distance from the crowd, I asked him:
He answered: "The news is, that you and Mr. Brassard have nothing to do but to take your bags and go away from St. Anne, to Canada. The bishop is unwilling to make any arrangements with you. He wants me to be the pastor of St. Anne, pro tempore, and he wants you, with Mr. Brassard, to go back quietly to Canada, and tell the bishops to mind their own business."
"And what has become of the promise you have given me and to my people, to go with me and Mr. Brassard to Rome, if the bishop refused that proposed arrangements you have fixed yourselves?"
"Tat! tat! tat!" answered he. "The bishop does not care a straw about your going, or not going to Rome. He has put me as his grand vicar at the head of the colony of St. Anne, from which you must go in the shortest time possible."
"Now, Desaulnier," I answered, "you are a traitor, and a Judas, and if you want to have the pay of Judas, I advise you to go to St. Anne. There, you will receive what you deserve. The beauty and importance of that great colony have tempted you, and you have sold me to the bishop, in order to become a grand vicar and eat the fruits of the vine I have planted there. But, you will soon see your mistake. If you have any pity for yourself, I advise you never to put your feet into that place any more."
Desaulnier answered: "The bishop will not make any arrangements with you unless you retract publicly what you have written against him, on account of his taking possession of the church of the French Canadians of Chicago, and you must publish, in the press, that he was right and honest in what he did in that circumstance."
"My dear Mr. Brassard," I said, "can I make such a declaration conscientiously and honorably?" That venerable man answered me:
"You cannot consent to do such a thing."
"Desaulnier," I said, "do you hear? Mr. Brassard and your conscience, if you have any, tell you the same thing. If you take sides against me with a man whom you have yourself declared, yesterday, to be a sacrilegious thief, you are not better than he is. Go and work with him. As for me, I go back into the midst of my dear and noble people of St. Anne."
"What will you do there," answered Mr. Desaulnier, "when the bishop has forbidden you to remain?"
"What will I do?" I answered. "I will teach those true disciples of Jesus Christ to despise and shun the tyrants and the traitors, even though wearing a mitre, or a square bonnet (un bonnet carre). Go, traitor! and finish your Judas work! Adieu!"
I then threw myself into the arms of Mr. Brassard, who was almost speechless, suffocated in his sobs and tears. I pressed him to my heart and said! "Adieu! my dear Mr. Brassard. Go back to Canada and tell my friends, how the cowardice and ambition of that traitor has ruined the hope we had of putting an end to this deplorable state of affairs. I go back among my brethren of St. Anne, with more determination than ever to protect them against the tyranny and impiety of our despotic rulers. It will be more easy than ever to show them that the Son of God has not redeemed us, on the cross, that we might be slaves of those heartless traders in souls. I will more earnestly than ever teach my people to shun the modern gospel of the bishops, in order to follow the old Gospel of Jesus Christ, as the only hope and life of our poor fallen humanity."
Mr. Brassard wanted to say something; but his voice was suffocated by his sobs. The only words he could utter, when pressing me to his heart, were: "Adieu, dear friend, adieu!"
CHAPTER 63 Back to Contents
It was evident that the betrayal of Mr. Desaulnier would be followed by new efforts on the part of the bishop to crush us. Two new priests were sent from Canada, Mr. Mailloux, a vicar general, and Mr. Campo, to strengthen his hands, and press the people to submit. Mr. Brassard wrote me from Canada in December:
"All the bishops are preparing to hurl their thunders against you, and your people, on account of your heroic resistance to the tyranny of the Bishop of Chicago. I have told them the truth, but they don't want to know it. My lord Bourget told me positively that you must be forced, at any cost, to yield to the authority of your bishop; and he has threatened to excommunicate me if I tell the people what I know of the shameful conduct of Desaulnier. If I were alone I would not mind his excommunication, and would speak the truth, but such a sentence against me would kill my poor old mother. I hope you will not find fault with me if I remain absolutely mute. I pray you to consider this letter confidential. You know very well the trouble you would put me into by its publication."
The French Canadians of Chicago saw, at once, that their bishop, strengthened by the support of Desaulnier, would be more than ever obstinate in his determination to crush them. They thought that the best way to force him to do them justice, was to publish a manifesto of their grievances against him, and make a public appeal to all the bishops of the United States, and even to the Pope.
On the 22nd of January, 1857, The Chicago Tribune was requested by them to publish the following document:
At a public meeting of the French and Canadian Catholics of Chicago, held in the hall of Mr. Bodicar, on the 22nd of January, 1857, Mr. Rofinot being called to preside, and Mr. Franchere,[*] acting as a secretary, the following address and resolutions being read, have been unanimously approved:
"Editors of the 'Tribune.' Will you allow a thousand voices from the dead to speak to the public through your valuable paper?
"Everybody in Chicago knows that, a few years ago, there was a flourishing congregation of French people coming from France and Canada to this city. They had their priest, their church, their religious meeting. All that is now dispersed and destroyed. The present Bishop of Chicago has breathed his deadly breath upon us. Instead of coming to us as a father, he came as a savage enemy; instead of helping us as a friend, he has put us down as a revengeful foe. He has done the very contrary to which was commanded him by the Gospel. 'The bruised reed He shall not break, and the smoking flax He shall not quench.' Instead of guiding us with the cross of the meek Jesus, he has ruled over us with an iron rod.
"Every Sunday, the warm-hearted and generous Irish goes to his church to hear the voice of his priest in his English language. The intelligent Germans have their pastors to address them in their mother tongue.
"The French people are the only ones now who have no priest and no church. They are the only ones whose beautiful language is prohibited, and which is not heard from any pulpit in Chicago. And is it from lack of zeal and liberality? Ah! no, we take the whole city of Chicago as a witness of what we have done. There was not in Chicago a better looking little church than the French Canadian church called St. Louis. But, alas! we have been turned out of it by our very bishop. As he is now publishing many stories to contradict that fact, we owe to ourselves and to our children to raise from the tomb, where Bishop O'Regan has buried us, a voice to tell the truth.
"As soon as Bishop O'Regan came to Chicago, he was told that the French priest was too popular, that his church was attended not only by his French Canadian people, but that many Irish and Germans were going daily to him for their religious duties. It was whispered in the ears of his Rt. Reverence that, on account of this, many dollars and cents were going to the French priest which would be better stored in his Rt. Reverence's purse.
"Till that time the bishop was not, in appearance, taking much trouble about us. But as soon as he saw that there were dollars and cents at stake, we had the honour to occupy his thoughts day and night. Here are the facts, the undeniable public facts. He (the bishop) began by sending for our priest, and telling him that he had to prepare himself to be removed from Chicago to some other place. As soon as we knew that determination, a deputation was sent to his Rt. Reverence to get the promise that we would get another French priest, and we received from him the assurance that our just request would be granted. But the next Sunday an Irish priest having been sent to officiate instead of a French one, we sent a deputation to ask him where the French priest was that he had promised us? He answered, 'That we ought to take any priest we could get, and be satisfied.' This short and sharp answered raised our French blood, and we began speaking more boldly to his Reverence, who got up and walked through the room in a rage, saying some half a dozen times, 'You insult me!' But seeing that we were a fearless people, and determined to have no other priests but one whom we could understand, he at last promised again a French priest, if we were ready to pay the debt of our church and priest house. We said we would pay them, but our verbal promise was nothing to his Reverence. He immediately wrote an agreement, though it was Sunday, and we signed it. But to attain, sooner or later, his object, he imposed upon that unfortunate priest a condition that he knew no Christian would obey.
"This condition was that he should not receive in his church any one but the French. This was utterly impossible, as many Irish, Germans, and American Catholics had been in the habit, for years past, of coming to our church: it was impossible to turn them out at once.
"We did everything in our power to help our priest in the matter, by taking all the seats in the church, against the will of the respectable people of the different nations who had occupied them for years. Finding themselves turned out of the church, and unable to conceive the reason of so gross an insult from a fellow-Christian people, they said to us, 'Have we not paid for our seats in your church till this day? Double the rent if you like; we are ready to pay for it; but, for God's sake, permit us to come and pray with you at the foot of the same altars.'
"We explained to them the tyrannical orders of the bishop, and they, too, commenced cursing the bishop and the ship that brought him over.
"They continued, however, to come to our church, though they had no seat. They attended divine service in the aisles of the church, and we did not like to disturb them; but our feelings were too Christian for the bishop. He kept a watch over our priest, and, of course, found out that he was receiving many who were forbidden by him to attend our religious meetings.
"The bishop, then, thought once more of his dear French priest, so he came in person to his house, and asked him if he had kept his orders. The priest answered that it was quite impossible to obey such orders, and remain a Christian. He acknowledged that, in many instances, he had been obliged, by the laws of charity, to give religious help to some who were not French people.
"'Well, then,' answered the bishop, 'from this very moment, I silence you, and I forbid you the functions of priest in my diocese.'
"The poor trembling priest, thunderstruck, could not say a word.
"He went to some friends to relate what had just happened him; and he was advised by them to go back to the bishop immediately to beg the privilege of remaining at the head of his congregation till Lent was over. The bishop said:
"'I will consent to your request, if you pay me one hundred dollars.'
"'I will give you the sum as soon as I can collect it, and will give you my note for thirty days,' answered the priest.
"'I want the money, cash down,' said the bishop; 'go to some of your friends, you can easily collect that amount.'
"This poor priest went away in search of the almighty dollars; but he could not find them as soon as he wished, and did not return to his lordship that day. The bishop started that night for St. Louis, but he did not forget his dear French people in his long journey. As soon as he arrived in St. Louis, he wrote to his grand vicar, Rev. Mr. Dunn, that the French priest pay him one hundred dollars or remain suspended.
"This goodwill of the bishop for our spiritual welfare, and his paternal love for our purses, did not fail to strike us. Our priest made a new effort that very day; he went to see an old friend who had been absent from town for some time, and related to him his sad position. This old friend (P.F. Rofinot), seeing that he could redeem a priest for so little a sum (for the priest had collected part of it himself), immediately proceeded with the priest to the house of very Reverend Dunn, with the money in hand, to satisfy the bishop.
"But, alas! that bargain did not last very long; for as soon as the bishop returned, the watch that he had left behind him performed his duty well, and told him that the French priest was going on as before. So the poor priest had to go again to the bishop to explain his conduct. But this time he could not bear the idea of officiating any longer under such a tyrant. He left us to fight the hardest battles ourselves against the bishop.
"As the church and the house of our priest were on leased grounds, the lease had to be renewed or the buildings removed. We went to the bishop, who advised us to buy a lot and remove the church on it, and sell the house to help pay for the lot. Suspecting nothing wrong in that advice, we followed it. We bargained for a lot, agreed to sell the house, and went to report our progress.
"But we were going too fast. The bishop must stop us, or he would be frustrated in his calculations, for he had a lot himself to put the church on: he opposed our removing our church, by telling us that there was another lot adjoining the one we had bargained for; and that we must buy it also. We went immediately and bought the lot on ninety days' time. But he objected to this again, saying that he would not allow us to touch the church, unless we had the whole lot paid for, and put the deed in his hands, and that the deed should be made to himself personally.
"This had the effect desired by the bishop. We had collected all the money that could be collected then, in our small congregation; it was impossible for us to do any more, so we concluded to give up the battle. The bishop then went on, took the money we had sold the house for (one thousand two hundred dollars). A Catholic lady, whose husband had bought the house, had subscribed one hundred dollars for removing the church, providing the bishop would promise that it would remain in the hands of the French, and attended by a French priest. The bishop proffered again to that lady the lie, which he so often uttered to us, everywhere, even from the altar, that upon his word of bishop, it should remain a French church, and that they should have a French priest. (This we shall call lie number one.) He then moved the church to another lot of his own, sent an Irish priest to officiate in it, put the money in his pocket, and made the congregation, which is now Irish, pay for the lot, the moving and repairing of the church, and he takes quarterly the revenues, which are no less than two thousand dollars a year.
"This is the way we have been swindled out of our church, of the house of our priest, and of our all, by the tyrant, Bishop O'Regan; and when a French priest visits our city, he forbids him to address us in our mother tongue. This is the way we French Catholics, as a society, have been blotted out of the book of the living!
"And when Rev. Father Chiniquy has publicly accused Bishop O'Regan to have deprived us most unjustly of our church, he has proffered a truth which has as many witnesses as there are Catholic and Protestants in Chicago.
"We know well that Bishop O'Regan is proclaiming that he has not deprived us of our church, that if it is in the hands of the Irish, it is because the Irish and not the French built it. 'This is lie number two, which can be proved by more than a thousand witnesses.'
"We would like to know if he has forgotten the agreement (mentioned above) which he made us sign in bargaining for a French priest. He has the receipts for every cent that was due up to the time he took possession of our church. He then proffered these words with the French gentlemen who brought him the receipts: "It takes the French to collect money quick these hard times,' (being in the winter).
"We must also add that we, French people, have paid for the very vestments that the bishop uses in his cathedral, which he has taken from our church. But he uses them only on some high feasts, thinking too much of stolen property, to use them on a common day.
"Will it be out of my place here, to say that the cathedral of Chicago was built by the French, and that the lot which it is built on was given by a Frenchman? It is very reluctantly that we expose all these facts before the eyes of the public; but having waited patiently, during two long years, and having used all the influence we could command in France and Canada, to no purpose, we must resort to the sympathy of the public for justice, through the free press of the United States.
"Resolved, 1st. That the Right Rev. O'Regan, Bishop of Chicago, has entirely lost the confidence of the French and Canadian population of Chicago since he has taken away from us our church.
"Resolved, 2nd. That the Right Rev. O'Regan has published a base slander against the French and Canadian population of Chicago, when he said he took our church from our hands on the pretense that we could not pay for it.
"Resolved, 3rd. That the Right Rev. O'Regan, having said to our deputies, who went to inquire from him by what right he was taking our church from us to give it to another congregation: 'I have the right to do what I like with your church, and your church properties; I can sell them and put the money in my pocket, and go where I please with it,' has assumed a power too tyrannical to be obeyed by a Christian and a free people.
"Resolved, 4th. That the nature of the different suits which the Right Rev. O'Regan has had before the civil courts of this state, and which he has almost invariably lost, have proved to the whole people of Illinois that he is quite unworthy of the position he holds in the Catholic Church.
"Resolved, 5th. That the Right Rev. O'Regan is here publicly accused of being guilty of simony for having extorted one hundred dollars from a priest to give him permission to officiate and administer the sacraments among us.
"Resolved, 6th. That the Right Rev. O'Regan, in forbidding the Irish and German Catholics to communicate with the French Catholic Church, and allowing the French and Canadians to communicate with the Irish and German Churches, has acted with a view to deprive the French Church of religious fees and other donations, which acts we consider unjust and against the spirit of the church, and more resembling a mercantile transaction than a Christian work.
"Resolved, 7th. That the French and Canadian people of Illinois have seen with feelings of grief and surprise that the Rev. Mr. Desaulnier has made himself the humble valet of the merciless and shameless persecutor of his countrymen.
"Resolved, 8th. That the Rev. Mr. Chiniquy, pastor of St. Anne, deserves the gratitude of every Catholic of Illinois, for having, at first, put a stop to the rapacious tyranny of the Bishop of Chicago.
"Resolved, 9th. That the French Catholics of Chicago are determined to give all support in their power to the Rev. Mr. Chiniquy, in his struggle against the Bishop of Chicago.
"Resolved, 10th. That a printed copy of these resolutions be sent to every bishop and archbishop of the United States and Canada, that they may see the necessity of giving to the church of Illinois a bishop more worthy of that high position.
"Resolved, 11th. That a copy of these resolutions be sent to His Holiness Pius IX., that he may be incited to make inquiries about the humiliated position of the church of Illinois, since the present bishop is among us.
"Resolved, 12th. That the independent and liberty-loving press of the United States be requested to publish the above address and resolutions all over the country.
"P.F. Rofinot, President,
"David Franchere, Secretary."
That cry of more than two thousand Roman Catholics of Chicago, which was reproduced by almost the whole press of Illinois, and the United States, fell as a thunderbolt upon the head of my lord O'Regan and Desaulnier; they wrote to all the bishops of America, to hasten to their rescue, and for several months the pulpits of the Roman Catholic Churches had no other mission than to repeat the echoes of the Episcopal Fulminations hurled against my devoted head. Many bishop's letters and mandements were published denouncing me and my people as infamous schismatics, whose pride and obstinacy were troubling the peace of the church. But the most bitter of all these was a letter from my lord Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, who thought the best, if not the only way to force the people to desert me, was by for ever destroying my honour. But he had the misfortune to fall into the pit he had dug for me in 1851.
The miserable girl he had associated with himself, to satisfy his implacable hatred, was dead. But, he had still in hand the lying accusations obtained from her against me. Having probably destroyed her sworn recantation written by the Jesuit Father Schnieder, and not having the least idea that I had kept three other sworn copies of her recantations he thought he could safely publish that I was a degraded man, who had been driven from Canada by him, after being convicted of some enormous crime, and interdicted.
This declaration was brought before the public, for the first time, by him, with an hypocritical air of compassion and mercy for me, which added much to the deadly effect he expected to produce by it. Here are his own words, addressed to the people of Bourbonnais, and through them, to the whole world:
"I must tell you that on the 27th of September, 1851, I withdrew all his powers, and interdicted him, for reasons which I gave him in my letter addressed to him; a letter which he had probably kept. Let him publish that letter, if he finds that I have persecuted him unjustly."
I could hardly believe my eyes when I read this ignominious act of perfidy on the part of that high dignitary: it seemed incredible, and surpassed anything I had ever seen, even in Bishop O'Regan. I cannot say, however, that it took me entirely by surprise, for I had anticipated it. When Father Schneider asked me why I had taken four sworn copies of the recantation of the unfortunate girl whose tears of regret were flowing before us, I told him that I knew so much of the meanness and perfidy of Bishop Bourget, that I thought he might destroy the copy we were sending him, in order to pierce me again with his poisonous arrows, whilst, if I kept three other copies, one for him, one for Mr. Brassard, and one for myself, I would have nothing to fear. I am convinced that my merciful God knew the malice of that bishop against me, and gave me that wisdom to save me.
I immediately sent him, through the press, the following answer:
To Monsignor Bourget:
St. Anne, April 18th, 1857.
My Lord: In your letter of the 19th of March, you assure the public that you have interdicted me, a few days before my leaving Canada for the United States, and you invite me to give the reasons of that sentence. I will satisfy you. On the 28th of September, 1851, I found a letter on my table from you, telling me that you had suspended me from my ecclesiastical offices, on account of a great crime that I had committed, and of which I was accused. But the name of the accuser was not given, nor the nature of the crime. I immediately went to see you, and protesting my innocence, I requested you to give me the name of my accusers, and allow me to be confronted by them, promising that I would prove my innocence. You refused to grant my request.
Then I fell on my knees, and with tears, in the name of God, I requested you again to allow me to meet my accusers and prove my innocence. You remained deaf to my prayer and unmoved by my tears; you repulsed me with a malice and air of tyranny which I had thought impossible in you.
During the twenty-four hours after this, sentiments of an inexpressible wrath crossed my mind. I tell it to you frankly, in that terrible hour I would have preferred to be at the feet of a heathen priest, whose knife would have slaughtered me on his altars, to appease his infernal gods, rather than be at the feet of a man who, in the name of Jesus Christ, and under the mask of the gospel, should dare to commit such a cruel act. You had taken away my honour you had destroyed me with the most infamous calumny and you had refused me every means of justification! You had taken under your protection the cowards who were stabbing me in the dark!
Though it is hard to repeat it, I must tell it here publicly, I cursed you on that horrible day.
With a broken heart I went to the Jesuit college, and I showed the wounds of my bleeding soul to the noble friend who was generally my confessor, the Rev. Father Schneider, the director of the college.
After three days, having providentially got some reasons to suspect who was the author of my destruction, I sent some one to ask her to come to the college, without mentioning my name.
When she was in the parlour, I said to Father Schneider:
"You know the horrible iniquity of the bishop against me; with the lying words of a prostitute, he has tried to destroy me; but please come and be the witness of my innocence."
When in the presence of that unfortunate female, I told her:
"You are in the presence of God Almighty, and two of His priests. They will be the witnesses of what you say! Speak the truth. Say in the presence of God and this venerable priest, if I have ever been guilty of what you have accused me to the bishop."
At these words, the unfortunate female burst into tears; she concealed her face in her hands, and with a voice half suffocated with her sobs, she answered:
"No sir; you are not guilty of that sin!"
"Confess here another truth," I said to her: "Is it not true that you came to confess to me with the desire to tempt me than to reconcile yourself to God?"
She said, "Yes, sir, that is the truth." Then I said again, "Continue to say the truth, and I will forgive you, and God also will forgive your iniquity. Is it not through revenge for having failed in your criminal designs, that you have tried to destroy me by that false accusation to the bishop?" "Yes, sir, it was the only reason which has induced me to accuse you falsely."
And all I say here, at least in substance, has been heard, written, and signed by the Right Rev. Schneider, one of your priests, and the present director of the Jesuit College. That venerable priest is still living in Montreal; let the people of Canada go and interrogate him. Let the people of Canada also go to the Rev. Mr. Brassard, who has in his hands an authentic copy of that declaration.
Your lordship gives the public to understand that I was disgraced by that sentence, some days before I left Canada for Illinois. Allow me to give you my reasons for differing from you in this matter.
There is a canon law of the church which says:
"If a censure is unjust and unfounded, let the man against whom the sentence has been passed pay no attention to it. For, before God and His church, no unjust sentence can bring any injury against any one. Let the one against whom such unfounded and unjust judgment has been pronounced even take no step to annul it, for it is a nullity by itself."
You know very well that the sentence you had passed against me was null and void for many good reasons; that it was founded on a false testimony. Father Schneider is there, ready to prove it to you, if you have any doubt.
The second reason I have to believe that you had yourself considered your sentence a nullity, and that I was not suspended by it from my ecclesiastical dignity and honour, is founded on a good testimony, I hope the testimony of your lordship.
A few hours before my leaving Canada for the United States, I went to ask your benediction, which you gave me with every mark of kindness. I then asked your lordship to tell me frankly if I had to leave with the impression that I was disgraced in his mind? You gave me the assurance of the contrary.
Then I told you that I wanted to have a public and irrefutable testimony of your esteem, written with your own hand, and you gave me the following letter:
"Montreal, Canada, October 13, 1851.
"Sir, You ask me permission to leave my diocese to go and offer your services to the Bishop of Chicago. As you belong to the diocese of Quebec, I think it belongs to my lord the archbishop to give you the exact you wish. As for me, I can not but thank you for your labours among us, and I wish you in return the most abundant blessings from heaven. You shall ever be in my remembrance and in my heart, and I hope that Divine Providence will permit me, at a future time, to testify all the gratitude I owe you.
"Meanwhile, I remain your very humble and obedient servant,
"Ignatius, Bishop of Montreal.
I then asked you to give me some other tangible token of your esteem, which I might show everywhere I should go.
You answered that you would be happy to give me one, and you said: "What do you wish?"
"I wish," I said, "to have a chalice from your hands to offer the holy sacrifice of the mass the rest of my life."
You answered: "I will do that with pleasure;" and you gave an order to one of your priests to bring you a chalice that you might give it to me. But that priest had not the key of the box containing the sacred vases; that key was in the hands of another priest, who was absent for a few hours.
I had not the time to wait; the hour of the departure of the trains had come; I told you: "Please, my lord, send that chalice to the Rev. Mr. Brassard, of Longueuil, who will forward it to me in a few days to Chicago." And the next day one of your secretaries went to the Rev. Mr. Brassard, gave him the chalice you had promised me, which is still in my hands. And the Rev. Mr. Brassard is there still living, to be the witness of what I say, and to bring that fact to your memory if you have forgotten it.
Well, my lord, I do believe that a bishop will never give a chalice to a priest to say mass, when he knows that that priest is interdicted. And the best proof that you know very well that I was not interdicted by your rash and unjust sentence, is that you gave me that chalice as a token of your esteem, and of my honesty, ect.
Ten thousand copies of this exposure of the depravity of the bishop were published in Montreal. I asked the whole people of Canada to go to the Rev. Mr. Schneider and to the Rev. Mr. Brassard to know the truth, and many went. The bishop remained confounded. It was proved that he had committed against me a most outrageous act of tyranny and perfidy; and that I was perfectly innocent and honest, and that he knew it, in the very hour that he tried to destroy my character. Probably the Bishop of Montreal had destroyed the copy of the declaration of the poor girl he had employed, and thinking that this was the only copy of her declaration of my innocence and honesty, he thought he could speak of the socalled interdict after I was a Protestant. But in that he was cruelly mistaken, for as I have already said, by the great mercy of God, three other authenticated copies had been kept: one by the Rev. Mr. Schneider himself, another by the Rev. Mr. Brassard, another by one whom it is not necessary to mention, and then he had no suspicion that the revelation of his unchristian conduct, and of his determination to destroy me with the false oath of a prostitute, were in the hands of too many people to be denied.
The Bishop of Chicago, whom I met a few days after, told me what I was well aware of before. "That such a sentence was a perfect nullity in every way, and it was a disgrace only for those who were blind enough to trample under their feet the laws of God and men to satisfy their bad passions."
A few days after the publication of that letter in Canada, Mr. Brassard wrote me:
"Your last letter has completely unmasked our poor bishop, and revealed to the world his malice, injustice and hypocrisy. He felt so confounded by it, that he has been three days without being about to eat or drink anything, and three nights without sleeping. Everyone says that the chastisement you have given him is a terrible one, when it is in the face of the whole world; but he deserved it."
When I received that last friendly letter from Mr. Brassard on the 1st of April, 1857, I was far from suspecting that on the 15th of the same month, I should read in the press of Canada, the following lines from him:
St. Roch De L' Achigan, Le 9 Avril, 1857.
Messieurs:I request you to insert the following lines in your journal. As some people suspect that I am favouring the schism of Mr. Chiniquy, I think it is my duty to say that I have never encouraged him by my words or writings in that schism. I must say that, last November, when I went to St. Anne, accompanied by Mr. Desaulnier, Superior of St. Hyacinthe College, my only object was to persuade that old friend to leave the bad ways in which he was walking. And in Chicago I pressed him to put himself in a canonical way.
I, more than anyone else, deplore the fall of a man whom, I confess, I loved much, but for the sake of whom I will not sacrifice the sacred ties of Catholic unity. I hope that all the Canadians who were attached to Mr. Chiniquy when he was united to the church, will withdraw from him in horror of his schism. For before anything else, we must be truly and faithfully Catholic.
However, we have a duty to perform towards the man who has fulfilled such a holy mission in our midst, by establishing the society of temperance. It is to call back, with our prayers, that stray sheep who has left the true Pastor's fold.
I request all journals to reproduce this
declaration. Truly yours,
Moses Brassard, Pastor.
M.M., the Editors of the Courier du Canada.
I felt that there was not a line, not a sentiment of Mr. Brassard in that letter. It smelt Bishop Bourget's hand, from the beginning to the end. I thought, however, that it was my duty to address him the following answer:
St. Anne, Kakakee County, Illinois, April, 23, 1857.
My Dear Mr. Brassard: I have just received your letter of the 9th inst., but no! I will not call it a letter, it will be better named a bitter tear, and a sad wail of a heart as good as it is noble and generous.
You have been a witness how the people and missionary of St. Anne have been betrayed by Mr. Desaulnier. You were at my side as a friend and father, when this traitor said to me, as well as to my brethren, "Sign this act of submission to the Bishop of Chicago; this act alone is enough to make him withdraw the sentence which fills your Canadian friends with anxiety. If the bishop does not give you the place you want, and if he does not withdraw the excommunication after having been presented with this act, I will tell him, 'It is neither the pastor nor the people of St. Anne who wish a schism, they have done that which religion and honour commanded, to prove it; it is you who wishes it.'" Your tears were mingled with mine, and the incense of your prayer ascended with those of my brethren, when on the 26th of November Mr. Desaulnier said to the people of St. Anne, "You cannot be blamed for when you have done since the beginning of your difficulties with your bishop." You were a witness that our first condition to the signing of the act which you and Mr. Desaulnier presented to us, was that you should be the pastor of St. Anne, and that I should remain with you as long as you would find it to the interest of my colony. You know that he gave me his word of honour, in presence of all the people, that if the bishop would not give us peace after the signing of the act, he (Mr. Desaulnier) would go with us to St. Louis and even to Rome, to plead my cause and show the iniquity and unbearable tyranny of the Bishop of Chicago. Did he not assure us that, in case the Bishop should refuse to accept the act of submission we had signed, your mission to St. Anne was finished, and that you both would return to Canada, after your voyage to St. Louis? Is it not true that when in Chicago, in reply to our question, "What news?" Mr. Desaulnier said, "You have only to take your bags and both return to Canada at once." Mr. Desaulnier denies all those facts, with an impudence of which he alone is capable. You are my only witness before our Canada, which wishes and has a right to know the truth in this matter.
I took you as my witness, and you replied in many of your letters, that you could not say the truth without compromising yourself. Is not this an acknowledgment that we, priests of Jesus Christ, are groaning under the weight of the most frightful tyranny; and that we are in the power of men who threaten our honour and life, if we dare speak the truth in favour of an oppressed brother? And this is the system which proclaims itself as the divine and ineffable news which the Messiah brought to the world!! And this abominable oppression, this system of deceit, is the religion which the Son of the God of truth, justice, and mercy, has established to save the world? This is the foundation stone of the church of Christ!!! No! You do not believe that, my dear Mr. Brassard. Neither do I. I never did, and never will believe it.
They tell us it is for the greater good of the church that they act thus; that it is to preserve the respect which is due to the Holy Catholic Hierarchy, that they take those extreme measures against the people of St. Anne!
But I have carefully studied the laws of the church upon these great questions, and I see they say precisely the contrary. I see that the Catholic church said to us, 1. "In the church there is no arbitrary power." 2. "The censures are null when they have been pronounced against sins which have not been committed. 3. Never receive any accusation against a priest, which has not been proven by two or three witnesses. 4. If a sentence is visibly unjust, the condemned must not pay any attention to it; for before God and His Church, no unjust sentence can injure anyone. 5. The unjust excommunication is not binding neither before God nor the people, when that people know its injustice, because the Holy Ghost cannot abandon those who have not deserved it."
You wish me to act according to the canons of the church. I have already told you that if I had been interdicted on the 19th of August, I would have been able to appeal from that sentence, but I had not. I had fifteen days to consider. How could I have appealed from a sentence which had not been pronounced? What witness could I bring against a fact which, I knew, had never taken place? But you will say: "The excommunication? Should it not give you some anxiety?" "Not the least." St. Thomas said positively that an excommunication of which the injustice is known by the people, ought not to prevent a priest from exercising his ministry among them. They will perhaps say, "But where did the people get the right to judge in such things?" St. Thomas must have believed that the people had that right, since he said it. St. Thomas was neither a heretic nor schismatic for believing these things.
Why, then, should I be one for having thought, spoken, and acted, according to the doctrine of him whom the church has named the angel of the school? Besides that, you know that the excommunication was a nullity from want of being signed.
The reason of this surprise about the right which the people has to exercise its judgment upon this question, is that, lately, the bishops have not only stripped the priests, but also the people, of the holy and just rights which Jesus Christ had given them. Those who have carefully studied the history of the church in the first centuries know this as well as I do. But be it known, there are rights against which time does not prescribe. There are rights which the priests and people have never renounced, and which the Church of Christ will always like to see them enjoy. I do not say that the bishops are not appointed by the church to govern the flock according to their caprices, but according to the unchangeable rules of justice, equity, and truth of the gospel. In the primitive church, every time that a bishop forgets this, other bishops reminded him of it.
Do we not see in the gospel, that the first Christians complained bitterly to the apostles themselves of the manner in which they had administered the goods entrusted to them? Were they excommunicated for that? Did they receive in answer the insolent reply that the people receive today? viz.: "You are but the laity, that does not concern you?" No! The apostles listened to the complaints of the people; they found them just, and the people were allowed to choose the administrators of their goods. The people, then, were looked upon as something worthy of attention and respect, and were not tied, as today, to the feet of a dignitary, and obliged to go right and left at the good pleasure of their pretended master. The people were not, then, bridled; were not mere machines to pay tithes, build palaces, raise proud cathedrals; nor were they degraded, demoralized, as today; obliged to believe they had minds, but had no right to make use of them; they were not, then, as now, poor beasts of burthen, whose only duty is to obey their master. But their wants and wishes were consulted, their voice was heard. They had not yet the idea that the Holy Ghost was to enlighten only a certain class of men, and that the rest of humanity were given up to ignorance, only to walk in the light of a few privileged luminaries.
But the spirit of wisdom, charity, and tolerance, this respect for the will and wishes of the people, where do you find them today? On the contrary, we find tyranny on the one side, and stern and necessary resistance on the other; resistances which are but the expression of the law of God. Let the tolerant conduct of the apostles, who listened with so much humility to the complaints of the first Christians, be compared to that of Bishop O'Regan when questioned by the French people of Chicago upon the right he had to deprive them of their church, to give it to another congregation, put them out of doors saying, "You do not know your religion; I have the right to sell your churches, and the grounds attached to them, put the money in my pocket, and eat and drink where I like."
This is what Bishop O'Regan has said and done; and this is what the Bishop of Canada approves and sanctions in the name of the gospel! They try to make you believe that it is the doctrine of Jesus Christ which these high dignitaries peach and practice. Let the poor people of Canada believe this if they wish; as for us in St. Anne, we do not, and never will believe it. Are not these men who cry the loudest to make us respect the canons of the church the very men who publicly trample the most holy laws of the people and of the church under their feet? How easy it would be to put to those powerful personages questions which they would call impertinent, but which would shed great light in the midst of the profound darkness in which a certain corner of the world is kept today? You who overwhelm us with curses and send us to hell if we are not ready to say amen to all you say, what have you done with the canon of the holy Council of Nice, which forbids you to change a priest's charge without his permission? Where is the canon of a general council which allows the bishops to add the words "usque ad revocationem" in the powers given to the priests! While one of the canons of the church says: "It is the authority of the canons and the examination of the conduct of the priests which ought to give or take away the ecclesiastical dignities, and not the will of the prelates."
History has preserved the names of certain tyrants who forced the trembling hand of a father to set fire to the pile which consumed his own child. Ah! why do these bishops of Canada remind us of that lamentable page of past centuries in commanding you to throw burning coals on the pile to which they have led me. You are more than a friend to me. I have the right to call you "Father." When still very young, domestic misfortunes forced me to leave for a strange country in search of a living; you stretched out to me a helping hand. Although poor yourself, you shared your bread with the poor orphan. You opened to me the doors of the college where I studied. And ever since, when a tempest threatened my fragile bark with shipwreck, in your arms I found a sure port. Every time I received a wound in the struggles of life, in your affection I found a remedy. When heaven chose your poor friend to change the face of our dear country, it was beneath your hospitable roof that I found rest. Your hand was the last one which pressed mine, when in 1851 I left Canada to consecrate myself to the service of the emigrants; and lastly, when the thunders of three deluded prelates fell upon my head, I said to myself: I have in Canada a friend, a father. I am so sure of his heart that I do not even need to call him to aid; there is a voice in his soul which cries to him: "Go, go to the aid of thy friend, of thy child!" I was not mistaken. On the 24th of November you pressed me to your heart; your words of peace and charity cheered my broken heart. For the love of God and for your sake also, my dear Mr. Brassard, I have consented to do all you require of me. Ah! why did you not come alone? How easily everything would have been safely settled! But without knowing it, you had with you a traitor, who came to give the people and pastor of St. Anne the kiss of Judas before delivering them into the hands of their enemies. Today you are commanded to add your efforts to those of this traitor, to strike me. They want you to add a new thorn to that crown of shame which the bishops have placed on my forehead. But how can I be guilty for having called you as a witness of the iniquities of my enemies? Have you forgotten with what sincerity and promptitude I signed, as well as my brethren of St. Anne, the act of submission to the Bishop O'Regan? Have you forgotten the desolation of your heart and mine when (on the conditions you well know) I declared to my people that I would no longer be their pastor?
Since the bishops of Canada command you to speak, in the name of the God of truth and justice, I also ask you to speak. Yes, state to the people of Canada how shamefully Mr. Desaulnier has deceived the generous people who surround me here. Yes! tell your surprise, your just indignation, your bitter sorrow when Mr. Desaulnier refused, in Chicago, to fulfill the sacred promise he had made! Tell the nature of the new document which he wanted me to sign at Chicago. Declare honestly that you said to me: "My poor friend, you cannot sign that act without lying and dishonouring yourself for ever."
Since the bishops of Canada command you to speak, raise your voice to say to the Canadian people what you wrote to Dr. Letourneaux and to myself: They do not wish to know the truth in Canada more than at Chicago about the shameful conduct of Mr. Desaulnier in this affair! Yes, speak! Give to my dear Canada the reply which the Bishop of Chicago made when you asked: "Have you any accusation in hand against the character of Mr. Chiniquy?" I need your testimony upon this question for the Bishop of Chicago, forgetting what he confessed to you is circulating, through my enemies, a thousand calumnies against me, which are reproduced today by the Bishop of Montreal. Say to Canada that the Bishop of Chicago assured you that he had interdicted me only because I disobeyed him in refusing to leave St. Anne, whilst, at the very time he held a letter brought by four witnesses, saying that I was ready to obey, and that I would prefer going to the end of the world rather than be interdicted.
If, having said all these things, you are still commanded to strike me, do so, dear friend. Though your blows go more directly to my heart than all the thunders of Bishop O'Regan, they will never shake my constancy, nor make me betray my brethren; they will neither make me change my convictions, nor force me any longer to bend the knee before men who wish us to submit to their caprices and impious commands rather than to the laws of the God of justice, truth and mercy, whose priest I have the honour to be. I have sworn at the foot of the altar to preach truth and justice, nothing will make me break my oath. Do you remember with what dignity you refused one day to bow before one of those modern divinities, who believe that everything is allowed them on earth. Do you not recollect that the Bishop of Ottawa had the audacity to take one of your letters out of the post office and read it, hoping the shameful act would never be known? I shall never forget the noble independence with which you protested against that abuse of power, and with what indignation you threatened to drag that haughty bishop before the courts of justice if he did not ask pardon for that outrage! Were you revolting against the church of Christ then? No! for you knew that her principles of truth and justice could not sanction such brigandage. So I did not revolt against the church of Christ when I resisted the insolence and outrages of the Bishop of Chicago.
Like St. Jerome, I know the rights of the bishops. I respect their authority. The Catholic Hierarchy is to me a holy and venerable institution. But when men, sheltering themselves behind those holy institutions, trample under their feet the principles of justice, truth, and holiness which the Gospel of Christ inculcates, I will fight to the end, with my poor emigrants, for the preservation of their Christian rights. You say that before all, we must be frankly and sincerely "Catholics." I answer, yes. But when one is wrongfully deprived of this glorious name before men because he opposes, as I have done, the brigandage of a bishop who believes all is allowed him, he can remain in peace, and be like St. Paul, who did not care what men said or thought of him. To be anathematized, because I have devoted myself to the welfare of my brethren, is not such a sad destiny as some people think. St. Paul said: "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according the flesh." The favour after which the apostle of the Gentiles signed has been accorded me. I cannot complain of it. Besides, does not Christ Himself say to those who labour to scatter seeds of justice and truth upon the earth, that they ought not expect to be treated better than He?
From every part of Canada and the United States men of distinction cease not to cry, Courage! It is true that several curse us, but it is because they are forced to do it. Many keep silent for fear of their masters, but their prayers and sympathies are for us. The bishops will see, sooner or later, that in order to retain their power on earth that power must be found, as in heaven, upon justice and truth.
When the priests of Canada, to please the bishops, contrary to their convictions, have degraded their own sacerdotal character in my person; when they have burned the effigy of the proscribed, having no more the glorious privilege of burning his body; when the father whom, by the grace of God, I have snatched from an abyss, cursed me; when this dear young man who has, so many times blessed me, because I have shown him the Gospel, the way of honour and virtue, by removing the stumbling block of intemperance offered to his weakness, has been forced to curse me; when that poor woman who, by the grace of God, owes me the bread she eats, and the few days of holy felicity she has enjoyed upon earth, has cursed me; when this fine little child, who has so many times blessed my name, because God made use of me to give him back a father, has cursed me, there will be a silence of sorrow in Canada around my proscribed name. Then a reaction will take place. A great prestige will be destroyed. A great power, holy and benevolent in its origin, but fallen by its excesses, will be destroyed. God grant that, in the midst of those ruins there may be no tears, no blood. This is not prophecy, it is history. Yes, let the Canadian clergy open the records of the past, and they will find where their blind and demoralizing obedience to the bishops leads them and their good and generous people, if not to infidelity and atheism.
You advise me, dear Mr. Brassard, to put myself in the canonical ways; but have I not already done so? Have not the bishops of Canada told you that the letter signed by me had already placed me in that position? Has not Mr. Desaulnier said, in your presence, to my people and myself at St. Anne: "Sign this act, and if the bishop does not take away his sentence of excommunication, I will say to him: 'It is not Mr. Chiniquy, neither his people, who wish a schism; they have done what religion and honour command them; it is the Bishop of Chicago who makes the schism.'" What have we gained by taking that public step? Nothing, but to be cruelly and shamefully betrayed. Was not Jesus Christ betrayed only once by Judas? Do not, then, expect that we will be stronger than the Son of God. The bishops of Canada, by their emissary, have already betrayed us, of which you have been witness. The people and missionary of St. Anne do not feel strong enough to present their cheek again to the smiter. In spite of the clamours which rise around us, we are convinced that we may be good Catholics without submitting to that degradation twice.
The bishops of Canada want you to speak. Very well! my dear Mr. Brassard, I also implore you to speak. In the name of the friendship which has united us for forty years, I implore you to tell the truth. Did you not, after reading the document which the Bishop of Chicago commanded me to sign as the only condition of peace, say to me:
"My dear friend, you cannot sign such a writing without lying and dishonouring yourself for ever?" And behold! Today you cry to my brethren to destroy and abandon me, when you know that the position in which I stand is but the result of my refusal to sign a most infamous, lying, and degrading document. These things, and many others which you know, would serve wonderfully to open the eyes of the people upon the awful abuse of power, which certain bishops are, every day, guilty. This would aid to unmask certain modern divinities who pretend that we cannot go to heaven without their permission; who preach that it is not the blood of Jesus Christ, but a certain passport, of which they hold the patent, which assures us a place among the elect of God. A sentence founded upon a public lie, and which was resisted, cannot constitute a schism. Christian men who, like the Catholics of Chicago, Kankakee, and St. Anne, resist iniquity, may be condemned by men, but not by God.
I was not suspended on the 19th of August, and so I could exercise the holy functions of my ministry the following morning and after. It is the church which assures me of this, through her greatest theologians. As it is not enough to say, "My God! My God!" to be saved; so, it is not enough to cry, "You are lost! you are lost!" for one to be lost. The Son of God, who gave His life to save man, gave us a thousand proofs that the salvation of our soul has a foundation more certain than the capricious will of a sinful being. He has given to no one the power to save or condemn according to his pleasure. If some bishops and priests believe this, it is not the faith of the people of Chicago, Kankakee, and St. Anne.
I will tell you again, my dear Mr. Brassard, that if, in order to obey the Bishop of Montreal, you should strip me of the little honour which surrounds my name in Canada, I shall still never forget the good you have done me. Yes! command my friends to betray me, to trample me under their feet, to turn away from me in horror. Never will you be able to weaken my sentiments of respect and gratitude for you!
I will still love and bless you; for I know the hand which forced yours to do so. I will always know that your own heart was first struck and wounded by the blows they commanded you to give to your friend and son in Jesus Christ,
The effect of that letter upon Mr. Brassard was still more powerful than I had expected. It forced him to blush at his own cowardice, and to ask my pardon for the unjust sentence he had passed upon me to obey the bishop. Here are the parts of the letter bearing on that subject: -
St. Roch, 29 Mai, 1857
Mon cher Chiniquy, Je suis plus convaincu que jamais que tu n'as jamais ete interdit legalement, depuis que j'ai appris par Monseigneur de Montreal, que l'eveque de Chicago t'a interdit de vive voix, dans sa chambre; ce que ligoury dit etre nul et de nul effet."
I am more than ever convinced that you have been legally interdicted, since Bishop Bourget told me that Bishop O'Regan had interdicted you privately, viva voce in his private room. Ligouri says that it is a nullity, and that it can have no effect. I beg your pardon for what I wrote against you. I have been forced to do so. Because I had not yet sufficiently condemned you, and that my name, which you were citing in your writings, was giving you too much power, and a too clear condemnation of Bishop O'Regan, the Bishop of Montreal, abusing his authority over me, forced me to sign that document against you. I would not do it today if it were to be done again. Keep silence on what I tell you in this letter. It is all confidential. You understand it.
Your devoted friend,
No priest in Canada had more deservedly enjoyed the reputation of a man of honour than Mr. Brassard. Not one ever stood so high in my esteem and respect. His sudden and unexpected fall filled my heart with an unspeakable sadness. I may say that it snapped the last thread which held me to the Church of Rome. Till then, it was not only my hope, by my firm conviction, that there were many honest, upright priests in that church, and Mr. Brassard was, to me, the very personification of honesty. How can I describe the shock I felt when I saw him there, in the mud, a monument of the unspeakable corruption of my church! The perfidious Delilah had seduced and destroyed this modern Samson, enchained, as a trembling slave, at the feet of the new implacable Moloch, "The authority of the bishop!" He had not only lost the fear of God, and the respect he owed to himself, by publicly declaring that I was guilty, when he knew that I was innocent, but he had so completely lost every sentiment of honesty, that he wanted me to keep secret his declaration of my innocence, at the very moment he was inviting my whole country, through the press, to abhor and condemn me as a criminal!
I read again and again the strange letter. Every word of it was destroying the last illusions which had concealed from my mind the absolute and incurable perversity of the Church of Rome. I had no hard feelings against this last friend whom she had poisoned with the wine of her prostitutions. I felt only a profound compassion for him. I pitied and forgave him from the bottom of my heart. But every word of his letter sounded in my ears as the warning voice of the angel sent to save Lot from the doomed city of Sodom: "Escape for thy life. Look not behind thee; neither stay thou in all the plain. Escape to the mountain lest thou be consumed" (Gen. xix. 17).
CHAPTER 64 Back to Contents
I had not forgotten the advice given me by Archbishop Kenrick, of St. Louis, April 9th, 1856, to address my complaints to the Pope himself. But the terrible difficulties and trials which had constantly followed each other, had made it impossible to follow that advice. The betrayal of Mons. Desaulnier and the defection of Mons. Brassard, however, had so strangely complicated my position, that I felt the only way to escape the wreck which threatened myself and my colony, and to save the holy cause God had entrusted to me, was to strike such a blow to our haughty persecutor that he would not survive it. I determined to send to the Pope all the public accusations which had been legally proved and published against the bishop, with a copy of the numerous and infamous suits which he had sustained before the civil courts, and had almost invariably lost, with the sentences of the judges who had condemned him. This took nearly two months of the hardest labours of my life. I had gathered all those documents, which covered more than two hundred pages of foolscap. I mailed them to Pope Pius IX., accompanied by only the following words: "Holy Father, for the sake of your precious lambs which are slaughtered and devoured in this vast diocese by a ravening wolf, Bishop O'Regan, and in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ, I implore your Holiness to see if what is contained in these documents is correct or not. If everything is found correct, for the sake of the blood shed on Calvary, to save our immortal souls, please take away from our midst the unworthy bishop whose daily scandals cannot longer be tolerated by a Christian people."
In order to prevent the Pope's servants from throwing my letter with those documents into their waste-paper baskets, I sent a copy of them all to Napoleon III., Emperor of France, respectfully requesting him to see, through his ambassador at Washington, and his consul at Chicago, whether these papers contained the truth or not. I told him how his countrymen were trampled under the feet of Bishop O'Regan, and how they were ruined and spoiled to the benefit of the Irish people; how the churches built by the money of the French were openly stolen, and transferred to the emigrants from Ireland. Napoleon had just sent an army to punish the Emperor of China on account of some injustice done to a Frenchman. I told him "the injustice done to that Frenchman in the Chinese Empire is nothing to what is done here every day, not against one, but hundreds of your majesty's countrymen. A word from the Emperor of France to His Holiness will do here what your armies have done in China: force the unjust and merciless oppressor of the French of Illinois to do them justice."
I ended my letter by saying: "My grandfather, though born in Spain, married a French lady, and became, by choice and adoption, a French citizen. He became a captain in the French navy, and for gallant service, was awarded lands in Canada, which by the fate of war fell into the hands of Great Britain. Upon retiring from the service of France he settled upon his estates in Canada, where my father and myself were born. I am thus, with other Canadians who have come to this country, a British subject by birth, an American citizen by adoption, but French still in blood and Roman Catholic in religion. I, therefore, on the part of a noble French people, humbly ask your majesty to aid us by interceding with his Holiness, Pope Pius IX., to have these outrages and wrongs righted."
The success of this bold step was more prompt and complete than I had expected. The Emperor was, then, all powerful at Rome. He had not only brought the Pope from Civita Vecchia to Rome, after taking that city from the hands of the Italian Republicans, a few years before, but he was still the very guardian and protector of the Pope.
A few months later, when in Chicago, the Grand Vicar Dunn showed me a letter from Bishop O'Regan, who had been ordered to go to Rome and give an account of his administration, in which he had said: "One of the strangest things which has occurred to me in Rome, is that the influence of the Emperor Napoleon is against me here. I cannot understand what right he has to meddle in the affairs of my diocese."
I had learned since, that it was really through the advice of Napoleon that Cardinal Bidini, who had been previously sent to the United States to inquire about the scandal given by Bishop O'Regan, gave his opinion in our favour. The cardinals, having consulted the bishops of the United States, who unanimously denounced O'Regan as unfit and unworthy of such a high position, immediately ordered him to go to Rome, where the Pope unceremoniously transferred him from the bishopric of Chicago to a diocese extinct more than 1,200 years ago, called "Dora." This was as good as a bishopric in the moon. He consoled himself in his misfortune by drawing the hundreds of thousands of dollars of stolen money he had sent at different times, to be deposited in the banks of Paris, and went to Ireland, where he established a bank, and died in 1865.
On the 11th of March 1858, at about ten o'clock p.m., I was not a little pleased and surprised to hear the voice of my devoted friend, Rev. M. Dunn, grand vicar of Chicago, asking my hospitality for the night. His first words were: "My visit here must be absolutely incognito. In ordering me to come and see you, the Bishop of Dubuque, who is just named administrator of Chicago, advised me to come as secretly as possible." He said: "Your triumph at Rome is perfect. You have gained the greatest victory a priest ever won over his unjust bishop; but you must thank the Emperor Napoleon for it. It is to his advice, which, under the present circumstances, is equal to an order,that you owe the protection of the Cardinal Bidini. His report to the Pope is, that all the documents you sent to Rome were correct. The inquiry of the cardinal has brought facts to the knowledge of the Pope, still more compromising than what you have written against him. Several bishops of the United States have unanimously denounced Bishop O'Regan as a most depraved man, entirely unworthy of his position, and have advised the Pope to take him away and choose another bishop for Chicago. It is acknowledged, at Rome, that all the sentences pronounced by that bishop against you, are unjust and null. Our good administrator has been advised to put an end, at once, to all the troubles of your colony, by treating you as a good and faithful priest.
"I come here, not only to congratulate you on your victory, but also to thank you, in my name, and in the name of the church, for having saved our diocese from such a plague; for Bishop O'Regan was a real plague. A few more years of such administration would have destroyed our holy religion in Illinois. However, as you handled the poor bishop pretty roughly, it is suspected, at a distance, that you and your people are more Protestants than Catholics. We know better here; for, from the beginning, it was evident that the act of excommunication, posted at the door of your chapel by three priests too drunk to know what they were about, is a nullity, having never been signed by the bishop. It was a shameful and sacrilegious comedy. But, in many distant places, that excommunication was accepted as valid, and you are considered by many as a real schismatic. Bishop Smith has thought it advisable to ask you to give him a written and canonical act of submission, which he will publish to show the world that you are still a good Roman Catholic priest."
I thanked the grand vicar for his kind words, and the good news he was giving me, and I asked him to help me to thank God for having so visibly protected and guided me through all these terrible difficulties. We both knelt and repeated the sublime words of gratitude and joy of the old prophet: "Bless the Lord, oh! my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name," ect. (Ps. ciii.) I then said I had no objection to give the renewed act of my faith and submission to the church, that it might be published. I took a piece of paper, and with emotion of joy and gratitude to God, which it would be impossible to express, I slowly prepared to write. But as I was considering what form I should give to that document, a sudden, strange thought struck my mind: "Is this not the golden opportunity to put an end to the terrible temptations which have shaken my faith and distressed me for so many years." I said to myself:
"Is not this a providential opportunity to silence those mysterious voices which are troubling me almost every hour, that, in the church of Rome, we do not follow the Word of God, but the lying traditions of men?"
I determined then to frame my act of submission in such a way that I would silence those voices, and be, more than ever, sure that my faith, the faith of my dear church, which had just given me such a glorious victory at Rome, was based upon the Holy Word of God, on the divine doctrines of the Gospel. I then wrote down, in my own name, and in the name of my people:
"My lord Bishop Smith, Bishop of Dubuque and administrator of the diocese of Chicago:We want to live and die in the holy Catholic, apostolic and Roman church, out of which there is no salvation, and to prove this to your lordship, we promise to obey the authority of the church according to the word and commandments of God as we find them expressed in the Gospel of Christ.
I handed this writing to Mr. Dunn, and said:
"What do you think of this act of submission?" He quickly read it, and answered:
"It is just what we want from you."
"All right," I rejoined. "But I fear the bishop will not accept it. Do you not see that I have put a condition to our submission? I say that we will submit ourselves to the bishop's authority, but only according to the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ."
"Is not that good?" quickly replied Mr. Dunn.
"Yes, my dear Mr. Dunn, this is good, very good indeed," I answered, "but my fear is that it is too good for the bishop and the Pope!"
"What do you mean?" he replied.
"I mean that though this act of submission is very good, I fear lest the Pope and the bishop reject it."
"Please explain yourself more clearly," answered the grand vicar. "I do not understand the reason for such a fear."
"My dear Mr. Dunn," I continued, "I must confess to you here a thing which is known only to God. I must show you a bleeding wound which is in my soul for many years. A wound which has never been healed by any of the remedies I have applied to it. It is a wound which I never dared to show to any man, except to my confessor, though it has often made me suffer almost the tortures of hell. You know well that there is not a living priest who has studied the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Fathers, with more attention and earnestness, these last few years than I have. It was not only to strengthen my own faith, but also the faith of our people, and to be able to fight the battles of our church against her enemies, that I spent so many hours of my days and nights in those studies. But, though I am confounded and ashamed to confess it to you, I must do it. The more I have studied and compared the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Fathers with the teachings of our church, the more my faith has been shaken, and the more I have been tempted to think, in spite of myself, that our church has, long ago, given up the Word of God and the Holy Fathers, in order to walk in the muddy and crooked ways of human and false traditions. Yes! the more I study, the more I am troubled by the strange and mysterious voices which haunt me day and night, saying: 'Do you not see that in your Church of Rome, you do not follow the Word of God, but only the lying traditions of men?' What is more strange and painful is, that the more I pray to God to silence these voices, the louder they repeat the same distressing things. It is to put an end to those awful temptations that I have written this conditional submission. I want to prove to myself that I will obey the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ in our church, and I shall be happy all the rest of my life, if the bishops accept this submission. But I fear it will be rejected."
Mr. Dunn promptly replied:
"You are mistaken, my dear Mr. Chiniquy. I am sure that our bishop will accept this document as canonical, and sufficient to show your orthodoxy to the world."
"If it be so," I replied, "I will be a most happy man." It was agreed that on the 25th of March I would go with him to Dubuque, to present my act of submission to the administrator of the diocese, after the people had signed it. Accordingly, at seven p.m. on that day, we both took the train at Chicago for Dubuque, where we arrived next morning. At eleven a.m. I went to the palace of the bishop, who received me with marks of the utmost cordiality and affection.
I presented him our written act of submission with a trembling hand, fearing he would reject it. He read it twice, and throwing his arms around me, he pressed me to his heart. I felt his tears of joy mixed with mine, rolling down my cheeks, as he said: "How happy I am to see that submission! How happy the Pope and all the bishops of the United States will be to hear of it, for I will not conceal it from you; we feared that both you and your people would separate from the church, by refusing to submit to her authority." I answered that I was not less happy to see the end of those painful difficulties, and I promised him that, with the help of God, our holy church would not have a more faithful priest than myself.
While engaged in that pleasant conversation, the dinner hour came. He gave me the place of honour on his right, before the two grand vicars, and nothing could be more pleasant than the time we spent around the table, which was served with a good and well prepared, though frugal meal. I was happy to see that the bishop, with his priests,were teetotalers. No wine nor beer to tempt the weak. Before the dinner was over, the bishop said to Mr. Dunn: "You will accompany Mr. Chiniquy to St. Anne in order to announce, in my name, to the people, the restoration of peace, next Sabbath. No doubt it will be joyful news to the colony of Father Chiniquy. After so many years of hard fighting, the pastor and the people of St. Anne will enjoy the days of peace and rest which are now secured to them."
Then, addressing himself to me, the bishop said: "The only condition of that peace is that you will spend fifteen days in retreat and meditation in one of the religious houses you will choose yourself. I think that, after so much noise and exciting controversies, it will do you good to pass those days in meditation and prayer, in some of our beautiful and peaceful solitudes." I answered him: "If your lordship had not offered me the favour of those days of perfect and Christian rest, I would have asked you to grant it. I consider it as a crowning of all your acts of kindness to offer me those few days of calm and meditation, after the terrible storms of those last three years. If your lordship has no objection to my choice, I will go to the beautiful solitude where M. Saurin has built the celebrated Monastery, College, and University of St. Joseph, Indiana. I hope that nothing will prevent my being there next Monday, after going next Sabbath in the company of Grand vicar Dunn, to proclaim the restoration of the blessed peace to my people of St. Anne." "You cannot make a better choice," answered the bishop. "But, my lord," I rejoined, "I hope your lordship will have no objection to give me a written assurance of the perfect restoration of that longsought peace. There are people who, I know, will not believe me, when I tell them how quickly and nobly your lordship has put an end to all those deplorable difficulties. I want to show them that I stand today in the same relation with my superiors and the church in which I stood previous to these unfortunate strifes." "Certainly," said the bishop, "you are in need of such a document from your bishop, and you shall have it. I will write it at once."
But he had not yet written two lines, when Mr. Dunn looked at his watch and said: "We have not a minute to lose, if we want to be in time for the Chicago train." I then said to the bishop: "Please, my lord, address me that important document to Chicago, where I will get it at the postoffice, on my way to the University of St. Joseph, next Monday; your lordship will have plenty of time to write it, this afternoon." The bishop having consented, I hastily took leave of him, with Mr. Dunn, after having received his benediction.
On our way back to St. Anne, the next day, we stopped at Bourbonnais to see the Grand Vicar Mailloux, one of the priests who had been sent by the Bishops of Canada to help my lord O'Regan to crush me. We found him as he was going to his dining-room to take his dinner. He was visibly humiliated by the complete defeat of Bishop O'Regan, at Rome.
After Mr. Dunn had told him that he was sent to proclaim peace to the people of St. Anne, he coldly asked the written proof of that strange news. Mr. Dunn answered him: "Do you think, sir, that I would be mean enough to tell you a lie?"
"I do not say that you are telling me a lie," replied Mr. Mallous, "I believe what you say. But, I want to know the condition of that unexpected peace. Has Mr. Chiniquy made his submission to the church?"
"Yes, sir," I replied, "here is a copy of my act of submission."
He read it, and coldly said: "This is not an act of submission to the church, but only to the authority of the Gospel, which is a very different thing. This document can be presented by a Protestant; but it cannot be offered by a Catholic priest to his bishop. I cannot understand how our bishop did not see that at once."
Mr. Dunn answered him: "My dear Grand Vicar Mailloux, I have always been told that it does not do to be more loyal than the king. My hope was that you would rejoice with us at the news of the peace. I am sorry to see that I was mistaken. However, I must tell you that if you want to fight, you will have nobody to fight against; for Father Chiniquy was yesterday accepted as a regular priest of our holy church by the administrator. This ought to satisfy you."
I listened to the unpleasant conversation of those two grand vicars, with painful feelings, without saying a word. For, I was troubled by those mysterious voices which were reiterating in my mind the cry: "Do you not see that in the Church of Rome, you do not follow the Word of God, but only the lying traditions of men?"
I felt much relieved, when I left the house of that so badly disposed confrere, to come to St. Anne, where the people had gathered on the public square, to receive us, and rend the air with their cries of joy at the happy news of peace.
The next day, 27th of March, was Palm Sunday, one of the grand festivities of the Church of Rome; there was an immense concourse of people, attracted not only by the religious solemnity of the feast; but also by the desire to see and hear the deputy sent by their bishop to proclaim peace. He did it in a most elegant English address, which I translated into French. He presented me with a blessed palm, and I offered him another loaded with beautiful flowers, in the presence of the people, as a public sign of the concord which was restored between my colony and the authorities of the church.
That my Christian readers may understand my blindness, and the mercies of God towards me, I must confess here, to my shame, that I was glad to have made my peace with those sinful men, which was not peace with my God. But, that great God had looked down upon me in mercy. He was soon to break that peace with the great apostate church, which is poisoning the world with the wine of her enchantments, that I might walk in the light of the Gospel and possess that peace and joy which passeth all understanding.
[*] These two gentlemen are still living in Chicago, 1885.
Continue to Chapter 65