in the Church of Rome
by Charles Chiniquy
CHAPTER 24 Back to Contents
In the beginning of September, 1834, the Bishop Synaie gave me the enviable position of one of the vicars of St. Roch, Quebec, where the Rev. Mr. Tetu had been curate for about a year. He was one of the seventeen children of Mr. Francis Tetu, one of the most respectable and wealthy farmers of St. Thomas. Such was the amiability of character of my new curate, that I never saw him in bad humour a single time during the four years that it was my fortune to work under him in that parish. And although in my daily intercourse with him I sometimes unintentionally sorely tried his patience, I never heard an unkind word proceed from his lips.
He was a fine looking man, tall and well built, large forehead, blue eyes, a remarkably fine nose and rosy lips, only a little to feminine. His skin was very white for a man, but his fine short whiskers, which he knew so well how to trim, gave his whole mien a manly and pleasant appearance.
He was the finest penman I ever saw; and by far the most skilful skater of the country. Nothing could surpass the agility and perfection with which he used to write his name on the ice with his skates. He was also fond of fast horses, and knew, to perfection, how to handle the most unmanageable steeds of Quebec. He really looked like Phaeton when, in a light and beautiful buggy, he held the reins of the fiery coursers which the rich bourgeois of the city like to trust to him once or twice a week, that he might take a ride with one of his vicars to the surrounding country. Mr. Tetu was also fond of fine cigars and choice chewing tobacco. Like the late Pope Pius IX., he also constantly used the snuff box. He would have been a pretty good preacher, had he not been born with a natural horror of books. I very seldom saw in his hands any other books than his breviary, and some treatises on the catechism: a book in his hands had almost the effect of opium on one's brains, it put him to sleep. One day, when I had finished reading a volume of Tertullian, he felt much interested in what I said of the eloquence and learning of that celebrated Father of the Church, and expressed a desire to read it. I smilingly asked him if he were more than usual in need of sleep. He seriously answered me that he really wanted to read that work, and that he wished to begin its study just then. I lent him the volume, and he went immediately to his room in order to enrich his mind with the treasures of eloquence and wisdom of that celebrated writer of the primitive church. Half an hour after, suspecting what would occur, I went down to his room, and noiselessly opening the door, I found my dear Mr. Tetu sleeping on his soft sofa, and snoring to his heart's content, while Tertullian was lying on the floor! I ran to the rooms of the other vicars, and told them: "Come and see how our good curate is studying Tertullian!"
There is no need to say that we had a hearty laugh at his expense. Unfortunately, the noise we made awoke him, and we then asked him: "What do you think of Tertullian?"
He rubbed his eyes, and answered, "Well, well! what is the matter? Are you not four very wicked men to laugh at the human frailties of your curate?" We for a while called him Father Tertullian.
Another day he requested me to give him some English lessons. For, though my knowledge of English was then very limited, I was the only one of five priests who understood and could speak a few words in that language. I answered him that it would be as pleasant as it was easy for me to teach the little I knew of it, and I advised him to subscribe for the "Quebec Gazette," that I might profit by the interesting matter which that paper used to give to its readers; and at the same time I should teach him to read and understand its contents.
The third time that I went to his room to give him his lesson, he gravely asked me: "Have you ever seen `General Cargo?'"
I was at first puzzled by that question, and answered him: "I never heard that there was any military officer by the name of `General Cargo.' How do you know that there is such a general in the world?"
He quickly answered: "There is surely a `General Cargo' somewhere in England or America, and he must be very rich; for see the large number of ships which bear his name, and have entered the port of Quebec, these last few days!"
Seeing the strange mistake, and finding his ignorance so wonderful, I burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. I could not answer a word, but cried at the top of my voice: "General Cargo! General Cargo!"
The poor curate, stunned by my laughing, looked at me in amazement. But, unable to understand its cause, he asked me: "Why do you laugh?" But the more stupefied he was, the more I laughed, unable to say anything but "General Cargo! General Cargo!"
The three other vicars, hearing the noise, hastily came from their rooms to learn its cause, and get a good laugh also. But I was so completely beside myself with laughing, that I could not answer their questions in any other way than by crying, "General Cargo! General Cargo!"
The puzzled curate tried then to give them some explanation of that mystery, saying with the greatest naivete: "I cannot see why our little Father Chiniquy is laughing so convulsively. I put to him a very simple question, when he entered my room to give me my English lesson. I simply asked him if he had ever seen `General Cargo,' who has sent so many ships to our port these last few days, and added that that general must be very rich, since he has so many ships on he sea!" The three vicars saw the point, and without being able to answer him a word, they burst into such fits of laughter, that the poor curate felt more than ever puzzled.
"Are you crazy?" he said. "What makes you laugh so when I put to you such a simple question? Do you not know anything about that `General Cargo,' who surely must live somewhere, and be very rich, since he sends so many vessels to our port that they fill nearly two columns of the `Quebec Gazette'?"
These remarks of the poor curate brought such a new storm of irrepressible laughter from us all as we never experienced in our whole lives. It took us some time to sufficiently master our feelings to tell him that "General Cargo" was not the name of any individual, but only the technical words to say that the ships were laden with general goods.
The next morning, the young and jovial vicars gave the story to their friends, and the people of Quebec had a hearty laugh at the expense of our friend. From that time we called our good curate by the name of "General Cargo,' and he was so good-natured that he joined with us in joking at his own expense. It would require too much space were I to publish all the comic blunders of that good man, and so I shall give only one more.
On one of the coldest days of January, 1835, a merchant of seal skins came to the parsonage with some of the best specimens of his merchandise, that we might buy them to make overcoats, for in those days the overcoats of buffalo or raccoon skins were not yet thought of. Our richest men used to have beaver overcoats, but the rest of the people had to be contented with Canada seal skins; a beaver overcoat could not be had for less than 200 dollars.
Mr. Tetu was anxious to buy the skins; his only difficulty was the high price asked by the merchant. For nearly an hour he had turned over and over again the beautiful skins, and has spent all his eloquence on trying to bring down their price, when the sexton arrived, and told him, respectfully, "Mr. le Cure, there are a couple of people waiting for you with a child to be baptized."
"Very well," said the curate, "I will go immediately;" and addressed the merchant, he said,"Please wait a moment; I will not be long absent."
In two minutes after the curate had donned the surplice, and was going at full speed through the prayers and ceremonies of baptism. For, to be fair and true towards Mr. Tetu (and I might say the same thing of the greatest part of the priests I have known), it must be acknowledged that he was very exact in all his ministerial duties; yet he was, in this case, going through them by steam, if not by electricity. He was soon at the end. But, after the sacrament was administered, we were enjoined, then, to repeat an exhortation to the godfathers and godmothers, from the ritual which we all knew by heart, and which began with these words: "Godfathers and Godmothers: You have brought a sinner to the church, but you will take back a saint!"
As the vestry was full of people who had come to confess, Mr. Tetu thought that it was his duty to speak with more emphasis than usual, in order to have his instructions heard and felt by everyone, but instead of saying, "Godfather and Godmother, You have brought a sinner to the church, you will take back a saint!" he, with great force and unction said: "Godfather and Godmother, You have brought a sinner to the church, you will take back a seal skin!"
No words can describe the uncontrollable burst and roar of laughter among the crowd, when they heard that the baptized child was just changed into a "seal skin." Unable to contain themselves, or do any serious thing, they left the vestry to go home and laugh to their heart's content.
But the most comic part of this blunder was the sang froid and the calmness with which Mr. Tetu, turning towards me, asked: "Will you be kind enough to tell me the cause of that indecent and universal laughing in the midst of such a solemn action as the baptism of this child?"
I tried to tell him his blunder, but for some time it was impossible to express myself. My laughing propensities were so much excited, and the convulsive laughter of the whole multitude made such a noise, that he would not have heard me had I been able to answer him. It was only when the greatest part of the crowd had left that I could reveal to Mr. Tetu that he had changed the baptized baby into a "seal skin!" He heartily laughed at his own blunder, and calmly went back to buy his seal skins. The next day the story went from house to house in Quebec, and caused everywhere such a laugh as they had not had since the birth of "General Cargo."
That priest was a good type of the greatest part of the priests of Canada. Fine fellows social and jovial gentlemen as fond of smoking their cigars as of chewing their tobacco and using their snuff; fond of fast horses; repeating the prayers of their breviary and going through the performance of their ministerial duties with as much speed as possible. With a good number of books in their libraries, but knowing nothing of them but the titles. Possessing the Bible, but ignorant of its contents, believing that they had the light, when they were in awful darkness; preaching the most monstrous doctrines as the gospel of truth; considering themselves the only true Christians in the world, when they worshipped the most contemptible idols made with hands. Absolutely ignorant of the Word of God, while they proclaimed and believed themselves to be the lights of the world. Unfortunate, blind men, leading the blind into the ditch!
.CHAPTER 25 Back to Contents
In one of the pleasant hours which we used invariably to pass after dinner, in the comfortable parlour of our parsonage, one of the vicars, Mr. Louis Parent, said to the Rev. Mr. Tetu, "I have handed this morning more than one hundred dollars to the bishop, as the price of the masses which my pious penitents have requested me to celebrate, the greatest part of them for the souls in purgatory. Every week I have to do the same thing, just as each of you, and every one of the hundreds of priests in Canada have to do. Now I would like to know how the bishops can dispose of all these masses, and what they do with the large sums of money which go into their hands from every part of the country to have masses said. This question vexes me, and I would like to know your mind about it."
The good curate answered in a joking manner, as usual: "If the masses paid into our hands, which go to the bishop, are all celebrated, purgatory must be emptied twice a day. For I have calculated that the sums given for those masses in Canada cannot be less than 4,000 dollars every day, and, as there are three times as many Catholics in the United States as here, and as those Irish Catholics are more devoted to the souls in purgatory than the Canadians, there is no exaggeration in saying that they give as much as our people; 16,000 dollars at least will thus be given every day in these two countries to throw cold water on the burning flames of that fiery prison. Now these 16,000 dollars given every day, multiplied by the 365 days of the year, make the handsome sum of 5,840,000 dollars paid for that object in low masses every year. But, as we all know, that more than twice as much is paid for high masses than for the low, it is evident that more than 10,000,000 dollars are expended to help the souls of purgatory end their tortures every twelve months, in North America alone. If those millions of dollars do not benefit the good souls in purgatory, they at all events are of some benefit to our pious bishops and holy popes, in whose hands the greatest part must remain till the day of judgment. For there is not a sufficient number of priests in the world to say all the masses which are paid for by the people. I do not know any more than you do about what the bishops do with those millions of dollars; they keep that among their secret good works. But it is evident there is a serious mystery here. I do not mean to say that the Yankee and the Canadian bishops swallow those huge piles of dollars as sweet oranges; or that they are a band of big swindlers, who employ smaller ones, called Revs. Tetu, Bailargeon, Chiniquy, Parent, ect., to fill their treasures. But, if you want to know my mind on that delicate subject, I will tell you that the least we think and speak of it the better it is for us. Every time my thoughts turn to those streams of money which day and night flow from the small purses of our pious and unsuspecting people into our hands, and from ours into those of the bishops, I feel as if I were choking. If I am at the table I can neither eat nor drink, and if in my bed at night, I cannot sleep. But as I like to eat, drink, and sleep, I reject those thoughts as much as possible, and I advise you to do the same thing."
The other vicars seemed inclined, with Mr. Parent, to accept that conclusion; but, as I had not said a single word, they requested me to give them my views on that vexatious subject, which I did in the following brief words:-
"There are many things in our holy church which look like dark spots; but I hope that this is due only to our ignorance. No doubt these very things would look as white as snow, were we to see and know them just as they are. Our holy bishops, with the majority of the Catholic priests of the United States and Canada, cannot be that band of thieves and swindlers whose phantoms chill the blood of our worthy curate. So long as we do not know what the bishops do with those numberless masses paid into their hands, I prefer to believe that they act as honest men."
I had hardly said these few words, when I was called to visit a sick parishioner, and the conversation was ended.
Eight days later, I was alone in my room, reading the "L'Ami de la Religion et du Roi," a paper which I received from Paris, edited by Picot. My curiosity was not a little excited, when I read, at the head of a page, in large letters: "Admirable Piety of the French Canadian People." The reading of that page made me shed tears of shame, and shook my faith to its foundation. Unable to contain myself, I ran to the rooms of the curate and the vicars, and said to them: "A few days ago we tried, but in vain, to find what becomes of the large sums of money which pass from the people, through our hands, into those of the bishop, to say masses; but here is the answer, I have the key to that mystery, which is worthy of the darkest ages of the Church. I wish I were dead, rather than see with my own eyes such abominations." We then read that long chapter, the substance of which was that the venerable bishops of Quebec had sent not less than one hundred thousand francs, at different times, to the priests of Paris, that they might say four hundred thousand masses at five cents each! Here we had the sad evidence that our bishops had taken four hundred thousand francs from our poor people, under the pretext of saving the souls from purgatory! That article fell upon us as a thunderbolt. For a long time we looked at each other without being able to utter a single word; our tongues were as paralyzed by our shame: we felt as vile criminals when detected on the spot.
At last, Baillargeon, addressing the curate, said: "Is it possible that our bishops are swindlers, and we, their tools to defraud our people? What would that people say, if they knew that not only we do not say the masses for which they constantly fill our hands with their hard-earned money, but that we send those masses to be said in Paris for five cents! What will our good people think of us all when they know that our bishop pockets twenty cents out of every mass they ask us to celebrate according to their wishes."
The curate answered: "it is very lucky that the people do not know that sharp operation of our bishops, for they would surely throw us all into the river. Let us keep that shameful trade as secret as possible. For what is the crime of simony if this be not an instance of it?"
I replied: "How can you hope to keep that traffic of the body and blood of Christ a secret, when not less than 40,000 copies of this paper are circulated in France, and more than 100 copies come to the Untied States and Canada! The danger is greater than you suspect; it is even at our doors. It is not on account of such public and undeniable crimes and vile tricks of the clergy of France, that the French people in general, not only have lost almost every vestige of religion, but, not half a century ago, condemned all the bishops and priests of France to death as public malefactors?
"But that sharp mercantile operation of our bishops takes a still darker colour, when we consider that those `five-cent masses' which are said in Paris are not worth a cent. For who among us is ignorant of the fact that the greatest part of the priests of Paris are infidels, and that many of them live publicly with concubines? Would our people put their money in our hands if we were honest enough to tell them that their masses would be said for five cents in Paris by such priests? Do we not deceive them when we accept their money, under the well understood condition that we shall offer the holy sacrifice according to their wishes? But, instead of that, we get it sent to France, to be disposed of in such a criminal way. But, if you allow me to speak a little more, I have another strange fact to consider with you, which is closely connected with this simoniacal operation?"
"Yes! speak, speak!" answered all four priests.
I then resumed: "Do you remember how you were enticed into the `Three Masses Society'? Who among us had the idea that the new obligations we were then assuming were such that the greatest part of the year would be spent in saying masses for the priests, and that it would thus become impossible to satisfy the pious demands of the people who support us? We already belonged to the societies of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of St. Michael, which raised to five the number of masses we had to celebrate for the dead priests. Dazzled by the idea that we would have two thousand masses said for us at our death, we bit at the bait presented to us by the bishop as hungry fishes, without suspecting the hook. The result is that we have had to say 165 masses for the 33 priests who died during the past year, which means that each of us has to pay forty-one dollars to the bishop for masses which he has had said in Paris for eight dollars. Each mass which we celebrate for a dead priest here, is a mass which the more priests he enrolls in his society of `Three Masses,' the more twenty cents he pockets from us and from our pious people. Hence his admirable zeal to enroll every one of us. It is not the value of the money which our bishop so skillfully got from our hands which I consider, but I feel desolate when I see that by these societies we become the accomplices of his simoniacal trade. For, being forced the greatest part of the year to celebrate the holy sacrifice for the benefit of the dead priests, we cannot celebrate the masses for which we are daily paid by the people, and are therefore forced to transfer them into the hands of the bishop, who sends them to Paris, after spiriting away twenty cents from each of them. However, why should we lament over the past? It is no more within our reach. There is no remedy for it. Let us then learn from the past errors how to be wise in the future."
Mr. Tetu answered: "You have shown us our error. Now, can you indicate any remedy?"
"I cannot say that the remedy we have in hand is one of those patented medicines which will cure all the diseases of our sickly church in Canada, but I hope it will help to bring a speedy convalescence. That remedy is to abolish the society of `Three Masses,' and to establish another of `One Mass,' which will be said at the death of every priest. In that way it is true that instead of 2,000 masses, we shall have only 1,200 at our death. But if 1,200 masses do not open to us the gates of heaven, it is because we shall be in hell. By that reduction we shall be enabled to say more masses at the request of our people, and shall diminish the number of five cent masses said by the priests of Paris at the request of our bishop. If you take my advice, we will immediately name the Rev. Mr. Tetu president of the new society, Mr. Parent will be its treasurer, and I consent to act as your secretary, if you like it. When our society is organized, we will send our resignations to the president of the other society, and we shall immediately address a circular to all the priests, to give them the reason for the change, and respectfully ask them to unite with us in this new society, in order to diminish the number of masses which are celebrated by the five cents priests of Paris."
Within two hours the new society was fully organized, the reasons of its formation written in a book, and our names were sent to the bishop, with a respectful letter informing him that we were no more members of the `Three Masses Society.' That letter was signed, C. Chiniquy, Secretary. Three hours later, I received the following note from the bishop's palace:
"My Lord Bishop of Quebec wants to see you immediately upon important affairs. Do not fail to come without delay.
"Charles F. Cazeault, Secy."
I showed the missive to the curate and the vicars, and told them: "A big storm is raging on the mountain; this is the first peal of thunder the atmosphere looks dark and heavy. Pray for me that I may speak and act as an honest and fearless priest, when in the presence of the bishop."
In the first parlour of the bishop I met my personal friend, Secretary Cazeault. He said to me: "My dear Chiniquy, you are sailing on a rough sea you must be a lucky mariner if you escape the wreck. The bishop is very angry at you; but be not discouraged, for the right is on your side." He then kindly opened the door of the bishop's parlour, and said:
"My lord, Mr. Chiniquy is here, waiting for your orders."
"Let him come, sir," answered the bishop.
I entered and threw myself at his feet, as it is the usage of the priests. But, stepping backward, he told me in a most excited manner: "I have no benediction for you till you give me a satisfactory explanation of your strange conduct."
I arose to my feet and said: "My lord, what do you want from me?"
"I want you, sir, to explain to me the meaning of this letter signed by you as secretary of a new-born society called, `One Mass Society.'" At the same time he showed me my letter.
I answered him: "My lord the letter is in good French your lordship must have understood it well. I cannot see how any explanation on my part could make it clearer."
"What I want to know from you, is what you mean, and what is your object in leaving the old and respectable `Three Mass Society'? Is it not composed of your bishops and of all the priests of Canada? Did you not find yourself in sufficiently good company? Do you object to the prayers said for the souls in purgatory?"
I replied: "My lord, I will answer by revealing to your lordship a fact which was not sufficiently attracted your attention. The great number of masses which we have to say for the souls of the dead priests makes it impossible for us to say the masses for which the people pay into our hands; and then instead of having these holy sacrifices offered by the good priests of Canada, your lordship has recourse to the priests of France, where you get them said for five cents. We see two great evils in this: First, our masses are said by priests in whom we have not the least confidence; and though the masses they say are very cheap, they are too dearly purchased; for between you and me, we can say that, with very few exceptions, the masses said by the priests of France, particularly of Paris, are not worth one cent. The second evil is still greater, for in our eyes, it is one of the greatest crimes which our holy church has always condemned, the crime of simony."
"Do you mean to say," indignantly replied the bishop, "that I am guilty of the crime of simony?"
"Yes! my lord; it is just what I mean to say, and I do not see how your lordship does not understand that the trade in masses by which you gain 400,000 francs on a spiritual merchandise, which you get for 100,000, is not simony."
"You insult me! You are the most impudent man I ever saw. If you do retract what you have said, I will suspend and excommunicate you!"
"My suspension and my excommunication will not make the position of your lordship much better. For the people will know that you have excommunicated me because I protested against your trade in masses. They will know that you pocket twenty cents on every mass, and that you get them said for five cents in Paris by priests, the greatest part of whom live with concubines, and you will see that there will be only one voice in Canada to bless me for my protest and to condemn you for your simoniacal trade on such a sacred thing as the holy and tremendous sacrifice of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ."
I uttered these words with such perfect calmness that the bishop saw that I had not the least fear of his thunders. He began to pace the room, and he heaped on my devoted head all the epithets by which I could learn that I was an insolent, rebellious and dangerous priest.
"It is evident to me," he said, "that you aim to be a reformer, a Luther, au petit pied, in Canada. But you will never be anything else than a monkey!"
I saw that my bishop was beside himself, and that my perfect calmness added to his irritation. I answered him: "If Luther had never done anything worse than I do today, he ought to be blessed by God and man. I respectfully request your lordship to be calm. The subject on which I speak to you is more serious than you think. Your lordship, by asking twenty-five cents for a mass which can be said for five cents, does a thing which you would condemn if it were done by another man. You are digging under your own feet, and under the feet of your priests the same abyss in which the Church of France nearly perished, not half a century ago. You are destroying with your own hands every vestige of religion in the hearts of the people, who will sooner or later know it. I am your best friend, your most respectful priest, when I fearlessly tell you this truth before it is too late. Your lordship knows that he has not a priest who loves and cherishes him more than I do God knows, it is because I love and respect you, as my own father, that I profoundly deplore the illusions which prevent you from seeing the terrible consequences that will follow, if our pious people learn that you abuse their ignorance and their good faith, by making them pay twenty-five cents for a thing which costs only five. Woe to your lordship! Woe to me, woe to our holy church, the day that our people know that in our holy religion the blood of Christ is turned into merchandise to fill the treasury of the bishops and popes!"
It was evident that these last words, said with the most perfect self-possession, had not all been lost. The bishop had become calmer. He answered me: "You are young and without experience; your imagination is easily fed with phantoms; when you know a little more, you will change your mind and will have more respect for your superiors. I hope your present error is only a momentary one. I could punish you for this freedom with which you have dared to speak to your bishop, but I prefer to warn you to be more respectful and obedient in future. Though I deplore for your sake, that you have requested me to take away your name from the `Three Mass Society' you and the four simpletons who have committed the same act of folly, are the only losers in the matter. Instead of two thousand masses said for the deliverance of your souls from the flames of Purgatory, you will have only twelve hundred. But, be sure of it, there is too much wisdom and true piety in my clergy to follow your example. You will be left alone, and I fear, covered with ridicule. For they will call you the `little reformer.'"
I answered the bishop: "I am young, it is true, but the truths I have said to your lordship are as old as the Gospel. I have such confidence in the infinite merits of the holy sacrifice of the mass, that I sincerely believe, that twelve hundred masses said by good priests, are enough to cleanse my soul and extinguish the flames of purgatory. But, besides, I prefer twelve hundred masses said by one hundred sincere Canadian priests, to a million said by the five cent priests of Paris."
These last words, spoken with a tone half serious, half jocose, brought a change on the face of my bishop. I thought it was a good moment to get my benediction and take leave of him. I took my hat, knelt at his feet, obtained his blessing, and left.
CHAPTER 26 Back to Contents
The hour of my absence had been one of anxiety for the curate and the vicars. But my prompt return filled them with joy.
"What news?" they all exclaimed.
"Good news," I answered; "the battle has been fierce but short. We have gained the day;; and if we are only true to ourselves, another great victory is in store for us. The bishop is so sure that we are the only ones who think of that reform, that he will not move a finger to prevent the other priests from following us. This security will make our success infallible. But we must not lose a moment. Let us address our circular to every priest in Canada."
One hour later there were more than twenty writers at work, and before twenty-four hours, more than three hundred letters were carried to all the priests, giving them the reasons why we should try, by all fair means, to put an end to the shameful simoniacal trade in masses which was going on between Canada and France.
The week was scarcely ended, when letters came from almost all curates and vicars to the bishop, respectfully requesting him to withdraw his name from "The Society of the Three Masses." Only fifty refused to comply with our request.
Our victory was more complete than we had expected. But the Bishop of Quebec, hoping to regain his lost ground, immediately wrote to the Bishop of Montreal, my Lord Telemesse, to come to his help and show us the enormity of the crime we had committed, in rebelling against the will of our ecclesiastical superiors.
A few days later, to my great dismay, I received a short and very cold note from the bishop's secretary, telling me that their lordships, the Bishops of Montreal and Quebec, wanted to see me at the palace, without delay. I had never seen the Bishop of Montreal, and my surprise and disappointment were great in finding myself in the presence of a man, my idea of whom was of gigantic proportions, when in reality, he was very small. But I felt exceedingly well pleased by the admirable mixture of firmness, intelligence, and honesty of his whole demeanor. His eyes were piercing as the eagle's; but when fixed on me, I saw in them the marks of a noble and honest heart.
The motions of his head were rapid, his sentences short, and he seemed to know only one line, the straight one, when approaching a subject or dealing with a man. He had the merited reputation of being one of the most learned and eloquent men of Canada. The Bishop of Quebec had remained on his sofa, and left the Bishop of Montreal to receive me. I fell at his feet and asked his blessing, which he gave me in the most cordial way. Then, putting his hand upon my shoulder, he said, in a Quaker style: "Is it possible that thou art Chiniquy that young priest who makes so much noise? How can such a small man make so much noise?"
There being a smile on his countenance as he uttered these words, I saw at once that there was no anger or bad feeling in his heart; I replied: "My lord; do you not know that the most precious pearls and perfumes are put up in the smallest vases?"
The bishop saw that this was a compliment to his address; he smilingly replied: "Well, well, if thou art a noisy priest, thou art not a fool. But, tell me, why dost thou want to destroy our `Three Mass Society' and establish that new one on its ruins, in spite of thy superiors?"
"My lord, my answer will be as respectful, short, and plain as possible. I have left the `Three Mass Society' because it was my right to do it, without anybody's permission. I hope our venerable Canadian bishops do not wish to be served by slaves!"
"I do not say," replied the bishop, "that you wert bound in conscience to remain in the `Three Mass Society;' but, can I know why thou hast left such a respectable association, at the head of which thou seest thy bishops and the most venerable priests in Canada?"
"I will again be plain in my answer, my lord. If your lordship wants to go to hell with your venerable priests by spiriting away twenty cents from every one of our honest and pious penitents, for masses which you get said for five, by bad priests in Paris, I will not follow you. Moreover, if your lordship wants to be thrown into the river by the furious people, when they know how long and how cunningly we have cheated them, with our simoniacal trade in masses, I do not want to follow you into the cold stream."
"Well! well, answered the bishop, "let us drop that matter for ever."
He uttered this short sentence with such an evidence of sincerity and honesty, that I saw he really meant it. He had, at a glance, seen that his ground was untenable, in the presence of priests who knew their rights, and had a mind to stand by them.
My joy was great indeed at such a prompt and complete victory. I fell again at the bishop's feet, and asked his benediction before taking leave of him I then left to go and tell the curates and vicars the happy issue of our interview with the bishop of Montreal.
From that time till now, at the death of every priest, the Clerical Press never failed mentioning whether the deceased priest belonged to the "Three" or "One Mass Society."
We had, to some extent, diminished the simoniacal and infamous trade in masses; but unfortunately we had not destroyed it; and I know that today it has revived. Since I left the Church of Rome, the Bishops of Quebec have raised the "Three Mass Society" from its grave.
It is a public fact, that no priest will dare deny, that the trade in masses is still conducted on a large scale with France. There are in Paris and other large cities in that country, public agencies to carry on that shameful traffic. It is, generally, in the hands of booksellers or merchants of church ornaments. Every year their houses send a large number of prospectuses through France and Belgium and other catholic countries, in which they say that, in order to help the priests, who having received money for their masses, don't know where to have them said; they offer a premium of twenty-five or thirty per cent to those who will send them the surplus of the money they have in hand, to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The priests who have such surplus, tempted by that premium, which is usually paid with a watch or a chain, or a chalice, disgorge a part, or the whole of the large sums they possess, into the hands of the pious merchants, who take this money and use it as they please.
But they never pay the masses in money, they give only merchandise. For instance, that priest will receive a watch, if he promises to celebrate one or two hundred masses, or a chalice to celebrate three or four hundred masses. I have, here in my hand, several of the contracts or promissory notes sent by those merchants of masses to the priests. The public will, no doubt, read the following documents with interest. They were handed me by a priest lately converted from the Church of Rome:
RUE DE REIMES - PARIS
Ant. Levesques, editor of the works of Mr. Dufriche - Desgenettes.
Cure of Notre Dame des Victories.
Delivered to the Rev. Mr. Camerle, curate of Ansibeau (Basses Alpes). Paris, October 12, 1874.
10 metres of Satin Cloth at 22 francs.................... 220.
8" of Merino, all wool.................................. 123.
Month of May............................................. 2.
History of Mary Christina................................ 1.40
Life of St. Stanislas Koska.............................. 2.
Meditations of the Soul.................................. 4.
Jesus Christ, the Light of the World..................... 2.
Packing and Freight...................................... 9.30
Mr. Curate; We have the honour of informing you that the packages containing the articles you have ordered on the 4th of October, were shipped on the 12th of October, to Digne, where we respectfully request you to go and ask for them. For the payment of these articles, we request you to say the following masses:
58 ad intentionem of the giver, for the discharge of Rev. Mr. Montet.
58 ad intentionem of the givers, for the discharge of Rev. Mr. Hoeg.
100 - 188 for the dead, for the discharge of Rev. Mr. Wod.
Mr. Curate: Will you be kind enough to say or have said all those masses in the shortest time possible, and answer these Revd. gentlemen, if they make any inquiries about the acquittal of those masses.
(Signed) Ant. Levesques.
Paris, November 11th, 1874.
Rev. Mr. Camerle; We have the honour of addressing you the invoice of what we forwarded to you on the 12th of October. On account we have put to your credit 188 masses. We respectfully request you to get said the following intentions:
73 for the dead, to the acquittal of Rev. Mr. Watters,
70 pro defuncto, For the discharge of
20 ad intentionem donatis, Rev. Mr. C.
13 ad intentionem donatis, ____ 176
Mr. Curate; Be kind enough to say these masses,
or have them said as soon as possible, and answer the reverend
gentleman who may inquire from you about their acquittal. The 188
masses mentioned in our letter of the 3rd inst., added to the 176
here mentioned, make 364 francs, the value of the goods sent you.
We thought you would like to have the pamphlets of propaganda we
(signed) Ant. Levesques.
Hence, it is that priests, in France and elsewhere, have gold watches, rich house furniture, and interesting books, purchased with the money paid by our poor deluded Canadian Catholics to their priests, for masses which are turned into mercantile commodities in other places. It would be difficult to say who makes the best bargain between those merchants of masses, the priests to whom they are sold, or those from whom they are bought at a discount of twenty-five to thirty per cent.
The only evident thing is the cruel deception practiced on the credulity and ignorance of the Roman Catholics by their priests and bishops. Today, the houses of Dr. Anthony Levesques in Paris are the most accredied in France. In 1874, the house of Mesme was doing an immense business with its stock of masses, but in an evil day, the government suspected that the number of masses paid into their hands, exceeded the number of those celebrated through their hired priests. The suspicions soon turned into certainty when the books were examined. It was then found that an incredible number of masses, which were to empty the large room of purgatory, never reached their destination, but only filled the purse of the Parisian mass merchant; and so the unlucky Mesme was unceremoniously sent to the penitentiary to meditate on the infinite merits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which had been engulfed in his treasures.
But these facts are not known by the poor Roman Catholics of Canada, who are fleeced more and more by their priests, under the pretext of saving souls from purgatory.
A new element of success in the large swindling operations of the Canadian priests has lately been discovered. It is well known that in the greater part of the United States, the poor deluded Irish pay one dollar to their priest, instead of a shilling, for a low mass. Those priests whose conscience are sufficiently elastic (as is often the case), keep the money without ever thinking of having the masses said, and soon get rich. But there are some whose natural honesty shrinks from the idea of stealing; but unable to celebrate all the masses paid for and requested at their hands, they send the dollars to some of their clerical friends in Canada, who, of course, prefer these one dollar masses to the twentyfive cent ones paid by the French Canadians. However, they keep that secret and continue to fill their treasury.
There are, however, many priests in Canada who think it less evil to keep those large sums of money in their own hands, than to give them to the bishops to traffic with the merchants of Paris. At the end of one of the ecclesiastical retreats in the seminary of St. Sulpice in 1850, Bishop Bourget told us that one of the priests who had lately died, had requested him, in the name of Jesus Christ, to ask every priest to take a share in the four thousand dollars which he had received for masses he never said. We refused to grant him that favour, and those four thousand dollars received by that priest, like the millions put into the hands of other priests and the bishops, turned to be nothing less than an infamous swindling operation under the mask of religion.
To understand what the priests of Rome are, let the readers note what is said in the Roman Catholic Bible, of the priest of Babylon: -
"And King Astyges was gathered to his fathers, and Cyrus, of Persia, received his kingdom, and Daniel conversed with the king, and was honoured above all his friends. Now the Babylonians had an idol, called Bel, and there were spent upon him, every day, twelve measures of fine flour, and forty sheep and six vessels of wine. And the king worshipped it and went daily to adore: but Daniel worshipped his own God, and the king said unto him: `Why dost thou not worship Bel?' who answered and said: `Because I may not worship idols made with hands, but the living God, who hath created the heavens and the earth, and hath sovereignty over all flesh.' Then the king said: `Thinkest thou not that Bel is a living God! Seest thou not how much he eateth and drinketh every day?'
"Then Daniel smiled and said: `Oh, king! be not deceived; for this is but clay within and brass without, and did never eat or drink anything.'
"So that king was wroth, and called for his priests and said: `If ye tell me not who this is that devoureth these expenses, ye shall die; but if ye can certify me that Bel devoureth them, then Daniel shall die, for he has spoken blasphemy against Bel.' And Daniel said unto the king; `Let it be according to thy word."
"Now the priests of Bel were three score and ten, besides their wives and children.
"And the king went with Daniel to the temple of Bel so Bel's priests said: `Lo! we got out, but thou, O king, set on the meat, and make ready the wine, and shut the door fast, and seal it with thine own signet; and to-morrow when thou comest in, if thou findest not that Bel had eaten up all, we will suffer death; or else, Daniel, that speaketh falsely against Bel, shall die and they little regarded it, for under the table they had made a privy entrance, whereby they entered continually and consumed those things.'
"So when they were gone forth, the king set meats before Bel.
"Now Daniel had commanded his servants to bring ashes, and those they strewed throughout all the temple, in the presence of the king alone: then went they out, and shut the door, and sealed it with the king's signet, and so departed.
"Now in the night came the priests, with their wives and children, as they were wont to do, and did eat and drink up all.
"In the morning betimes the king arose, and Daniel with him.
"And the king said, `Daniel, are the seals whole?' And he said, `Yea, O king, they be whole.' And as soon as they had opened the door, the king looked upon the table, and cried with a loud voice: `Great art thou, O Bel! and with thee there is no deceit at all.' Then laughed Daniel, and held the king that he should not go in, and said: `Behold now the pavement, and mark well whose footsteps are these.' And the king said: `I see the footprints of men, women, and children.' And then the king was angry, and took the priests, with their wives and children, who showed him the privy doors, where they came in and consumed such things as were on the tables.
"Therefore the king slew them, and delivered Bel into Daniel's power, who destroyed him and his temple."
Who does not pity the king of Babylon, who, when looking at his clay and brass god, exclaimed: "Great art thou, O Bel, and with thee there is no deceit!"
But, is the deception practiced by the priests of the Pope on their poor, deluded dupes, less cruel and infamous? Where is the difference between that Babylonian god, made with brass and baked clay, and the god of the Roman Catholics, made with a handful of wheat and flour, baked between two hot polished irons?
How skilful were the priests in keeping the secret of what became of the rich daily offerings brought to the hungry god! Who could suspect that there was a secret trap through which they came with their wives and children to eat the rich offerings?
So, today, among the simple and blind Roman Catholics, who could suppose that the immense sums of money given every day to the priests to glorify God, purify the souls of men, and bring all kinds of blessings upon the donors, were, on the contrary, turned into the most ignominious and swindling operation the world has ever seen?
Though the brass god of Babylon was a contemptible idol, is not the wafer god of Rome still more so? Though the priests of Bel were skilful deceivers, are they not surpassed in the art of deception by the priests of Rome! Do not these carry on their operations on a much larger scale than the former?
But, as there is always a day of retribution for the great iniquities of this world, when all things will be revealed; and just as the cunning of the priests of Babylon could not save them, when God sent His prophet to take away the mask, behind which they deceived their people, so let the priests of Rome know that God will, sooner or later, send His prophet, who will tear off the mask, behind which they deceive the world. Their big, awkward, and flat feet will be seen and exposed, and the very people whom they keep prostrated before their idols, crying: "O God! with Thee there is no deceit of all!" will become the instruments of the justice of God in the great day of retribution.
CHAPTER 27 Back to Contents
One of the first things done by the curate Tetu, after his new vicars had been chosen, was to divide, by casting lots, his large parish into four parts, that there might be more regularity in our ministerial labours, and my lot gave me the north-east of the parish, which contained the Quebec Marine Hospital.
The number of sick sailors I had to visit almost every day in that noble institution, was between twenty-five and a hundred. The Roman Catholic chapel, with its beautiful altar, was not yet completed. It was only in 1837 that I could persuade the hospital authorities to fix it as it is today. Having no place there to celebrate mass and keep the Holy Sacrament, I soon found myself in presence of a difficulty which, at first, seemed to me of a grave character. I had to administer the viaticum (holy communion) to a dying sailor. As every one knows, all Roman Catholics are bound to believe that by the consecration, the wafer is transformed into the body, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Hence, they call that ceremony: "Porter le bon dieu au malade" (carry the good god to the sick). Till then, when in Charlesbourgh or St. Charles, I, with the rest of Roman Catholic priests, always made use of pomp and exterior marks of supreme respect for the Almighty God I was carrying in my hands to the dying.
I had never carried the good God without being accompanied by several people, walking or riding on horseback. I then wore a white surplice over my long black robe (soutane) to strike the people with awe. There was also a man ringing a bell before me, all along the way, to announce to the people that the great God, who had not only created them, but had made Himself man to save them, by dying on Calvary, was passing by; that they had to fall on their knees in their houses, or along the public roads, or in their fields, and prostrate themselves and adore Him.
But could I do that in Quebec, where so many miserable heretics were more disposed to laugh at my god than to adore him?
In my zeal and sincere faith, I was, however, determined to dare the heretics of the whole world, and to expose myself to their insults, rather than give up the exterior marks of supreme respect and adoration which were due to my god everywhere; and twice I carried him to the hospital in the usual solemnity.
In vain, my curate tried to persuade me to change my mind. I closed my ears to his arguments. He then kindly invited me to go with him to the bishop's palace, in order to confer with him on that grave subject. How can I express my dismay when the bishop told me, with a levity which I had not yet observed in him, "that on account of the Protestants whom we had to meet everywhere, it was better to make our `god' travel incognito in the streets of Quebec." He added in a high and jocose tone: "Put him in your vest pocket, as do the rest of the city priests. Carry him to your dying patients without any scruples. Never aim at being a reformer and doing better than your venerable brethren in the priesthood. We must not forget that we are a conquered people. If we were masters, we would carry him to the dying with the public honours we used to give him before the conquest; but the Protestants are the stronger. Our governor is a Protestant, as well as our Queen. The garrison, which is inside the walls of their impregnable citadel, is composed chiefly of Protestants. According to the laws of our holy church, we have the right to punish, even by death, the miserable people who turn into ridicule the mysteries of our holy religion. But though we have that right, we are not strong enough to enforce it. We must, then, bear the yoke in silence. After all, it is our god himself, who in his inscrutable judgment, has deprived us of the power of honouring him as he deserves; and to tell you my whole mind as plainly as possible, it is not our fault, but his own doing, so to speak, if we are forced to make him travel incognito through our streets. It is one of the sad results of the victory which the God of battles gave to the heretics over us on the plains of Abraham. If, in his good providence, we could break our fetters, and become free to pass again the laws which regulated Canada before the conquest, to prevent the heretics from settling among us, then we would carry him as we used to do in those happy days."
"But," said I, "when I walk in the streets with my good god in my vest pocket, what will I do if I meet any friend who wants to shake hands and have a joke with me?"
The bishop laughed and answered: "Tell your friend you are in a hurry, and go your way as quickly as possible; but if there is no help, have your talk and your joke with him, without any scruple of conscience. The important point in this delicate matter is that the people should not know we are carrying our god through the streets incognito, for this knowledge would surely shake and weaken their faith. The common people are, more than we think, kept in our holy church, by the impressing ceremonies of our processions and public marks of respect we give to Jesus Christ, when we carry Him to the sick; for the people are more easily persuaded by what they see with their eyes and touch with their hands, than by what they hear with their ears."
I submitted to the order of my ecclesiastical superior; but I would not be honest, were I not to confess that I lost much of my spiritual joy for some time in the administration of the viaticum. I continued to believe as sincerely as I could, but the laughing words and light tone of my bishop had fallen upon my soul as an icy cloud. The jocose way in which he had spoken of what I had been taught to consider as the most awful and adorable mystery of the church, left the impression on my mind that he did not believe one iota of the dogma of transubstantiation. And in spite of all my honest efforts to get rid of that suspicion, it grew in my mind every time I met him to talk on any ministerial subject.
It took several years before I could accustom myself to carry my god in my vest pocket as the other priests did, without any more ceremony than with a piece of tobacco. So long as I was walking alone I felt happy. I could then silently converse with my Saviour, and give Him all the expression of my love and adoration. It was my custom, then, to repeat the 103rd or 50th Psalm of David, or the Te Deum, or some other beautiful hymn, or the Pange Lingua, which I knew by heart. But no words can express my sadness when, as it was very often the case, I met some friends forcing me to shake hands with them, and began one of those idle and commonplace talks, so common everywhere.
With the utmost efforts, I had then to put a smiling mask on my face, in order to conceal the expressions of faith which are infallibly seen, in spite of one's self, if one is in the very act of adoration.
How, then, I earnestly cursed the day when my country had fallen under the yoke of Protestants, whose presence in Quebec prevented me from following the dictates of my conscience! How many times did I pray my wafer god, whom I was personally pressing on my heart, to grant us an opportunity to break those fetters, and destroy for ever the power of Protestant England over us! Then we should be free again, to give our Saviour all the public honours which were due to His Majesty. Then we should put in force the laws by which no heretic had any right to settle and live in Canada.
Not long after that conversation with the bishop, I found myself in a circumstance which added much to my trouble and confusion of conscience on that matter.
There was then, in Quebec, a merchant who had honourably raised himself from a state of poverty, to the first rank among the wealthy merchants of Canada. Though, a few years after, he was ruined by a series of most terrible disasters, his name is still honoured in Canada, as one of the most industrious and honest merchants of our young country. His name was James Buteau. He had built a magnificent house, and furnished it in a princely style. In order to celebrate his "house warming" in a becoming style, he invited a hundred guests from the elite of the city, among whom were all the priests of the parishes. But in order not to frighten their prudery though that party was to be more of a nature of a ball than anything else Mr. Buteau had given it the modest name of an Oyster Soiree.
Just as the good curate, Tetu, with his cheerful vicars was starting, a messenger met us at the door, to say that Mr. Parent, the youngest vicar, had been called to carry the "good god" to a dying woman.
Mr. Parent was born, and has passed his whole life in Quebec, in whose seminary he had gone through a complete and brilliant course of study. I think there was scarcely a funny song in the French language which he could not sing. With a cheerful nature, he was the delight of the Quebec society, by almost every member of which he was personally known.
His hair was constantly perfumed with the richest pomade, and the most precious eau de cologne surrounded him with an atmosphere of the sweetest odours. With all these qualities and privileges, it is no wonder that he was the confessor, a la mode, of the young ladies of Quebec.
The bright luminaries which hover around Jupiter are not more exact in converging toward that brilliant star than those pious young ladies were in gathering around the confessional box of Mr. Parent every week or fortnight.
The unexpected announcement of a call to the death-bed of one of his poorest penitents, was not quite the most desirable thing for our dear young friend, at such an hour. But he knew too well his duty to grumble. He said to us, "Go before me and tell Mr. Buteau that I will be in time to get my share of the oysters."
By chance, the sick house was on the way and not far from Mr. Buteau's splendid mansion. He left us to run to the altar and take the "good god" with him. We started for the soiree, but not sympathizing with our dear Mr. Parent, who would lose the most interesting part, for the administration of the viaticum. The extreme unction, with the giving of indulgences, in articulo moris, and the exhortations to the dying, and the people gathered from the neighbourhood to witness those solemn rites, could not take much less than three quarters, or even an hour of his time. But, to my great surprise, we had not yet been ten minutes in the magnificent parlour of our host, when I saw Mr. Parent, who like a newborn butterfly, flying from flower to flower, was running from lady to lady, joking, laughing, surpassing himself with his inimitable and refined manners. I said to myself, "How is it possible that he has so quickly got rid of his unpalatable task with his dying penitent?" and I wanted an opportunity of being alone with him, to satisfy my curiosity on that point; but it was pretty late in the evening when I found a chance to say to him: "We all feared lest your dying patient may deprive us of the pleasure of your company the greatest part of the soiree!"
"Oh! oh!" answered he, with a hearty laugh, "that intelligent woman had the good common sense to die just two minutes before I entered her house. I suppose that her guardian angel, knowing all about this incomparable party, had despatched the good soul to heaven a little sooner than she expected, in my behalf."
I could not but smile at his answer, which was given in a manner to make a stone laugh. "But," said I, "what have you done with the 'good god' you had carried with you?"
"Ah! ah! the 'good god,'" he replied, in a jocose and subdued tone. "Well, well; the 'good god!' He stands very still in my vest pocket; and if he enjoys this princely festivity as well as we all do, he will surely thank me for having brought him here, even en survenant. But do not say a word of his presence here; it would spoil everything."
That priest, who was only one year younger than myself, was one of my dearest friends. Though his words rather smelt of the unbeliever and blasphemer, I preferred to attribute them to the sweet champagne he had drank than to a real want of faith.
But I must confess that, though I had laughed very heartily at first, his last utterance pained me so much that, from that moment to the end of the soiree, I felt uneasy and confounded. My firm belief that my Saviour, Jesus Christ, was there in person, kept a prisoner in my young friend's vest pocket, going to and fro from one young lady to the other, witnessing the constant laughing, hearing the idle words, the light and funny songs, made my whole soul shudder, and my heart sunk within me. By times I wished I could fall on my knees to adore my Saviour, whom I believed to be there. However, a mysterious voice was whispering in my ear: "Are you not a fool to believe that you can make a God with a wafer; and that Jesus Christ, your Saviour and your God, can be kept a prisoner, in spite of himself, in the vest pocket of a man? Do you not see that your friend, Parent, who has much more brains and intelligence than you, does not believe a word of that dogma of transubstantiation? Have you forgotten the unbeliever's smile, which you saw on the lips of the bishop himself only a few days ago? Was not that laugh the infallible proof that he also does not believe a particle of that ridiculous dogma?"
With superhuman effort I tried, and succeeded partly, to stifle that voice. But that struggle could not last long within my soul, without leaving its exterior marks on my face. Evidently a sad cloud was over my eyes, for several of my most respectable friends, with Mr. and Mrs. Buteau, kindly asked if I were sick.
At last I felt so confused at the repetition of the same suggestion by so many, that I felt I was only making a fool of myself by remaining any longer in their midst. Angry with myself for any want of moral strength in this hour of trial, I respectfully asked pardon from my kind host for leaving their party before the end, on account of a sudden indisposition.
The next day there was only one voice in Quebec saying that young Parent had been the lion of that brilliant soiree, and that the poor young priest, Chiniquy, had been its fool.
CHAPTER 28 Back to Contents
God controls the greatest as well as the smallest of the events of this world. Our business during the few days of our pilgrimage, then, is to know His will and do it. Our happiness here, as in heaven, rests on this foundation, just as the success and failures of our lives come entirely from the practical knowledge or ignorance of this simplest and sublimest truth. I dare say that there is not a single fact of my long and eventful life which has not taught me that there is a special providence in our lives. Particularly was this apparent in the casting of the lots by which I became the first chaplain of the Quebec Marine Hospital. After the other vicars had congratulated each other for having escaped the heavy burden of work and responsibilities connected with that chaplaincy, they kindly gave me the assurance of their sympathies for what they called my bad luck. In thanking them for their friendly feeling, I confessed that this occurrence appeared to me in a very different light. I was sure that God had directed this for my good and His own glory, and I was right. In the beginning of November, 1834, a slight indisposition having kept me a few days at home, Mr. Glackmayer, the superintendent of the hospital, came to tell me that there was an unusually large number of sick, left by the Fall fleets, in danger of death, who were day and night calling for me. He added, in a secret way, that there were several cases of small-pox of the worst type; that several had already died, and many were dying from the terrible cholera morbus, which was still raging among the sailors.
This sad news came to me as an order from heaven to run to the rescue of my dear sick seamen. I left my room, despite my physician, and went to the hospital.
The first man I met was Dr. Douglas, who was waiting for me at Mr. C. Glackmayer's room. He confirmed what I had known before of the number of sick, and added that the prevailing diseases were of the most dangerous kind.
Dr. Douglas, who was one of the founders and governors of the hospital, had the well-merited reputation of being one of the ablest surgeons of Quebec. Though a staunch Protestant by birth and profession, he honoured me with his confidence and friendship from the first day we met. I may say I have never known a nobler heart, a larger mind and a truer philanthropist.
After thanking him for the useful though sad intelligence he had given me, I requested Mr. Glackmayer to give me a glass of brandy, which I immediately swallowed.
"What are you doing there?" said Dr. Douglas.
"You see," I answered; "I have drunk a glass of excellent brandy."
"But please tell me why you drank that brandy."
"Because it is a good preservative against the pestilential atmosphere I will breathe all day," I replied. "I will have to hear the confessions of all those people dying form small-pox or cholera, and breathe the putrid air which is around their pillows. Does not common sense warn me to take some precautions against the contagion?"
"Is it possible," rejoined he, "that a man for whom I have such a sincere esteem is so ignorant of the deadly workings of alcohol in the human frame? What you have just drank is nothing but poison; and, far from protecting yourself against the danger, you are now more exposed to it than before you drank that beverage."
"You poor Protestants," I answered, in a jocose way, "are a band of fanatics, with your extreme doctrines on temperance; you will never convert me to your views on that subject. Is it for the use of the dogs that God has created wine and brandy? No; it is for the use of men who drink them with moderation and intelligence."
"My dear Mr. Chiniquy, you are joking; but I am in earnest when I tell you that you have poisoned yourself with that glass of brandy," replied Dr. Douglas. "If good wine and brandy were poisons," I answered, "you would be long ago the only physician in Quebec, for you are the only one of the medical body whom I know to be an abstainer. But, though I am much pleased with your conversation, excuse me if I leave you to visit my dear sick sailors, whose cries for spiritual help ring in my ears."
"One word more," said Dr. Douglas, "and I have done. Tomorrow morning we will make the autopsy of a sailor who has just died suddenly here. Have you any objection to come and see with your eyes, in the body of that man, what your glass of brandy has done in your own body."
"No, sir; I have no objection to see that," I replied. "I have been anxious for a long time to make a special study of anatomy. It will be my first lesson; I cannot get it from a better master."
I then shook hands with him and went to my patients, with whom I passed the remainder of the day and the greater part of the night. Fifty of them wanted to make general confessions of all the sins of their whole lives; and I had to give the last sacraments to twenty-five who were dying from small-pox or cholera morbus. The next morning I was, at the appointed hour, by the corpse of the dead man, when Dr. Douglas kindly gave me a very powerful microscope, that I might more thoroughly follow the ravages of alcohol in every part of the human body.
"I have not the least doubt," said he, "that this man has been instantly killed by a glass of rum, which he drank one hour before he fell dead. That rum has caused the rupture of the aorta" (the big vein which carries the blood to the heart).
While talking thus the knife was doing its work so quickly that the horrible spectacle of the broken artery was before our eyes almost as the last word fell from his lips.
"Look here," said the doctor, "all along the artery, and you will see thousands, perhaps millions, of reddish spots, which are as many holes perforated through it by alcohol. Just as the musk rats of the Mississippi river, almost every spring, did little holes through the dams which keep that powerful river within its natural limits, and cause the waters to break through the little holes, and thus carry desolation and death along its shores, so alcohol every day causes the sudden death of thousands of victims by perforating the veins and opening small issues through which the blood rushes out of its natural limits. It is not only this big vein which alcohol perforates; it does the same deadly work in the veins of the lungs and the whole body. Look at the lungs with attention, and count, if you can, the thousands and thousands of reddish, dark and yellow spots, and little ulcers with which they are covered. Every one of them is the work of alcohol, which has torn and cut the veins and caused the blood to go out of its canals, to carry corruption and death all over these marvelous organs. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous poisons I dare say it is the most dangerous. It has killed more men than all the other poisons together. Alcohol I cannot be changed or assimilated to any part or tissue or our body, it cannot go to any part of the human frame without bringing disorder and death to it. For it cannot in any possible way unite with any part of our body. The water we drink, and the wholesome food and bread we eat, by the laws and will of God are transformed into different parts of the body, to which they are sent through the millions of small canals which take them from the stomach to every part of our frame. When the water has been drunk, or the bread we have eaten is, for instance, sent to the lungs, to the brain, the nerves, the muscles, the bones wherever it goes it receives, if I can so speak, letters of citizenship; it is allowed to remain there in peace and work for the public good. But it is not so with alcohol. The very moment it enters the stomach it more or less brings disorder, ruin and death, according to the quantity taken. The stomach refuses to take it, and makes a supreme effort to violently throw it out, either through the mouth, or by indignantly pushing it to the brain or into the numberless tubes by which it discharges its contents to the surface through all the tissues. But will alcohol be welcome in any of these tubes or marvelous canals, or in any part or tissue of the body it will visit on its passage to the surface? No! Look here with your microscope, and you will see with your own eyes that everywhere alcohol has gone in the body there has been a hand-to-hand struggle and a bloody battle fought to get rid of it. Yes! every place where King Alcohol has put his foot has been turned into a battlefield, spread with ruin and death, in order to ignominiously turn it out. By a most extraordinary working of nature, or rather by the order of God, every vein and artery through which alcohol has to pass suddenly contracts, as if to prevent its passage or choke it as a deadly foe. Every vein and artery has evidently heard the voice of God: "Wine is a mocker; it bites like a serpent and stings as an adder!" Every nerve and muscle which alcohol touched, trembled and shook as if in the presence of an implacable and unconquerable enemy. Yes, at the presence of alcohol every nerve and muscle loses its strength, just as the bravest man, in the presence of a horrible monster or demon, suddenly loses his natural strength, and shakes from head to foot."
I cannot repeat all I heard that day from the lips of Dr. Douglas, and what I saw with my own eyes of the horrible workings of alcohol through every part of that body. It would be too long. Suffice to say that I was struck with horror at my own folly, and at the folly of so many people who make use of intoxicating drinks.
What I learned that day was like the opening of a mysterious door, which allowed me to see the untold marvels of a new and most magnificent world. But though I was terror-stricken with the ravages of strong drink in that dead man, I was not yet convinced of the necessity of being a total abstainer from wine and beer, and a little brandy now and then, as a social habit. I did not like to expose myself to ridicule by the sacrifice of habits which seemed then, more than now, to be among the sweetest and most common links of society. But I determined to lose no opportunity of continuing the study of the working of alcohol in the human body. At the same time I resolved to avail myself of every opportunity of making a complete study of anatomy under the kind and learned Dr. Douglas.
It was from the lips and works of Dr. Douglas that I learned the following startling facts:
1st. The heart of man, which is only six inches long by four inches wide, beats seventy times in a minute, 4,200 in one hour, 100,300 in a day, 36,792,000 in a year. It ejects two ounces and a half of blood out of itself every time it beats, which makes 175 ounces every minute, 656 pounds every hour, seven tons and three-quarters of blood which goes out of the heart every day! The whole blood of a man runs through his heart in three minutes.
2nd. The skin is composed of three parts placed over each other, whose thickness varies from a quarter to an eighth of a line. Each square inch contains 3,500 pores, through which the sweat goes out. Every one of them is a pipe a quarter of an inch long. All those small pipes united together would form a canal 201,166 feet long equal to forty miles, or nearly thirteen leagues!
3rd. The weight of the blood in an ordinary man is between thirty and forty pounds. That blood runs through the body in 101 seconds, or one minute and forty-one seconds. Eleven thousand (11,000) pints of blood pass through the lungs in twenty-four hours.
4th. There are 246 bones in the human body; 63 of them are in the head, 24 in the sides, 16 in the wrist, 14 in the joints, and 108 in the hands and feet!
The heart of a man who drinks nothing but pure water beats about 100,300 a day, but will beat from 25,000 to 30,000 times more if he drinks alcoholic drinks. Those who have not learned anatomy know little of the infinite power, wisdom, love and mercy of God. No book except the Bible, and no science except the science of astronomy is like the body of man to tell us what our God is, and what we are. The body of man is a book written by the hand of God, to speak to us of Him as no man can speak. After studying the marvelous working of the heart, the lungs, the eyes and the brain of man, I could not speak; I remained mute, unable to say a single word to tell my admiration and awe. I wept as overwhelmed with my feelings. I should have like to speak of those things to the priests with whom I lived, but I saw at first they could not understand me; they thought I was exaggerating. How many times, when alone with God in my little closet, when thinking of those marvels, I fell on my knees and said: "Thou are great, O my God! The works of Thy hands are above the works of man! But the works of Thy love and mercy are above all Thy other works!"
During the four years I was chaplain of the Marine Hospital, more than one hundred corpses were opened before me, and almost as many outside the hospital. For when, by the order of the jury and the coroner, an autopsy was to be made, I seldom failed to attend. In that way I have had a providential opportunity of acquiring the knowledge of one of the most useful and admirable sciences as no priest or minister probably ever had on this continent. It is my conviction that the first thing a temperance orator ought to do is to study anatomy; get the bodies of drunkards, as well as those of so called temperate drinkers, opened before him, and study there the working of alcohol in the different organs of man. So long as the orators on temperance will not do that, they cannot understand the subject on which they speak. Though I have read the best books written by the most learned physicians of England, France, and United States on the ravages of rum, wines and beer of every kind and name in the body of men, I have never read anything which enlightened me so much, and brought such profound convictions to my intelligence, as the study I have made of the brain, the lungs, the heart, veins, arteries, nerves and muscles of a single man or woman. These bodies, opened before me, were books written by the hand of God Himself, and they spoke to me as no man could speak. By the mercy of God, to that study is due the irresistible power of my humble efforts in persuading my countrymen to give up the use of intoxicating drinks. But here is the time to tell how my merciful God forced me, His unprofitable and rebellious servant, almost in spite of myself, to give up the use of intoxicating drinks.
Among my penitents there was a young lady belonging to one of the most respectable families of Quebec. She had a child, a girl, almost a year old, who was a real beauty. Nothing this side of heaven could surpass the charms of that earthly angel. Of course that young mother idolized her; she could hardly consent to be without her sweet angel, even to go to church. She carried her everywhere, to kiss her at every moment and press her to her heart. Unfortunately that lady, as it was then and is till now often the case, even among the most refined, had learned in her father's house, and by the example of he own mother, to drink wine at the table, and when receiving the visits of her friends or when visiting them herself. Little by little she began to drink, when alone, a few drops of wine, at first by the advice of her physician, but soon only to satisfy the craving appetite, which grew stronger day by day. I was the only one, excepting her husband, who knew this fact. He was my intimate friend, and several times, with tears trickling down his cheeks, he had requested me, in the name of God, to persuade her to abstain from drinking. That young man was so happy with his accomplished wife and his incomparably beautiful child! He was rich, had a high position in the world, numberless friends, and a palace for his home! Every time I had spoken to that young lady, either when alone or in the presence of her husband, she had shed tears of regret; she had promised to reform, and take only the few glasses prescribed by her doctor. But, alas! that fatal prescription of the doctor was like the oil poured on burning coals; it was kindling a fire which nothing could quench. One day, which I will never forget, a messenger came in haste and said: "Mr. A. Wants you to come to his home immediately. A terrible misfortune has just happened his beautiful child has just been killed. His wife is half crazy; he fears lest she will kill herself."
I leaped into the elegant carriage drawn by two fine horses, and in a few minutes I was in the presence of the most distressing spectacle I ever saw. The young lady, tearing her robes into fragments, tearing her hair with her hands, and cutting her face with the nails of her fingers, was crying, "Oh! for God's sake, give me a knife that I may cut my throat? I have killed my child! My darling is dead! I am the murderess of my own dear Lucy! My hands are reddened with her blood. Oh! may I die with her!"
I was thunderstruck, and at first remained mute and motionless. The young husband, with two other gentlemen, Dr. Blanchet and Coroner Panet, were trying to hold the hands of his unfortunate wife. He did not dare to speak. At last the young wife, casting her eyes upon me, said: "Oh, dear Father Chiniquy, for God's sake give me a knife that I may cut my throat! When drunk, I took my precious darling in my arms to kiss her; but I fell her head struck the sharp corner of the stove. Her brain and blood are there spread on the floor! My child! my own child is dead! I have killed her! Cursed liquor! cursed wine! My child is dead! I am damned! Cursed drink!"
I could not speak, but I could weep and cry. I wept, and mingled my tears with those of that unfortunate mother. Then, with an expression of desolation which pierced my soul as with a sword, she said: "Go and see." I went to the next room, and there I saw that once beautiful child, dead, her face covered with her blood and brains! There was a large gap made in the right temple. The drunken mother, falling with her child in her arms, had caused the head to strike with such a terrible force on the stove that it upset on the floor. The burning coals were spread on every side, and the house had been very nearly on fire. But that very blow, with the awful death of her child, had suddenly brought her to her senses, and put an end to her intoxication. At a glance she saw the whole extent of her misfortune. Her first thought had been to run to the sideboard, seize a large, sharp knife, and cut her own throat. Providentially, her husband was on the spot. With great difficulty, and after a terrible struggle, he took the knife out of her hands, and threw into the street through the window. It was then about five o'clock in the afternoon. After an hour passed in indescribable agony of mind and heart, I attempted to leave and go back to the parsonage. But my unfortunate young friend requested me, in the name of God, to spend the night with him. "You are the only one," he said, "who can help us in this awful night. My misfortune is great enough, without destroying our good name by spreading it in public. I want to keep it as secret as possible. With our physician and coroner, you are the only many on earth whom I trust to help me. Please pass the night with us."
I remained, but tried in vain to calm the unfortunate mother. She was constantly breaking our hearts with her lamentations her convulsive efforts to take her own life. Every minute she was crying, "My child! my darling Lucy! Just when thy little arms were so gently caressing me, and thy angelic kisses were so sweet on my lips, I have slaughtered thee! When thou wert pressing me on thy loving heart and kissing me, I, thy drunken mother, gave thee the death-blow! My hands are reddened with thy blood! My breast is covered with thy brains! Oh! for God's sake, my dear husband, take my life. I cannot consent to live a day longer! Dear Father Chiniquy, give me a knife that I may mingle my blood with the blood of my child! Oh that I could be buried in the same grave with her!"
In vain I tried to speak to her of the mercies of God towards sinners; she would not listen to anything I could say; she was absolutely deaf to my voice. At about ten o'clock she had a most terrible fit of anguish and terror. Though we were four men to keep her quiet, she was stronger than we all. She was strong as a giant. She slipped from our hands and ran to the room where the dear child was lying in her cradle. Grasping the cold body in her hands, she tore the bands of white linen which had been put round the head to cover the horrible wound, and with cries of desolation she pressed her lips, her cheeks, her very eyes on the horrible gap from which the brain and blood were oozing, as if wanting to heal it and recall the poor dear one to life.
"My darling, my beloved, my own dear Lucy," she cried, "open they eyes look again at thy mother! Give me a kiss! Press me again to thy bosom! But thine eyes are shut! thy lips are cold! Thou dost not smile on me any longer! Thou art dead, and I, thy mother, have slaughtered thee! Canst thou forgive me thy death? Canst thou ask Jesus Christ, our Saviour, to forgive me? Canst thou ask the blessed Virgin Mary to pray for me? Will I never see thee again? Ah, no! I am lost I am damned! I am a drunken mother who has murdered her own darling Lucy! There is no mercy for the drunken mother, the murderess of her own child."
And when speaking thus to her child she was sometimes kneeling down, then running around the room as if flying before a phantom.
But even then she was constantly pressing the motionless body to her bosom or convulsively passing her lips and cheeks over the horrible wound, so that her lips, her whole face, her breast and hands were literally besmeared with the blood flowing from the wound. I will not say that we were all weeping and crying, for the words "weeping and crying" cannot express the desolation the horror we felt. At about eleven o'clock, when on her knees, clasping her child to her bosom, she lifted her eyes towards me, and said;
"Dear Father Chiniquy, why is it that I have not followed your charitable advice when, still more with your tears than with words, you tried so often to persuade me to give up the use of those cursed intoxicating wines? How many times you have given me the very words which come from heaven: 'Wine is a mocker; it bites as a serpent, and stings as an adder!' How many times, in the name of my dear child, in the name of my dear husband, in the name of God, you have asked me to give up the use of those cursed drinks! But listen now to my prayer. Go all over Canada; tell all the fathers never to put any intoxicating drink before the eyes of their children. It was at my father's table that I first learned to drink that wine which I will curse during all eternity! Tell all the mothers never to taste these abominable drinks. It was my mother who first taught me to drink that wine which I will curse as long as God is!
"Take the blood of my child, and go redden with it the top of the doors of every house in Canada, and say to all those who dwell in those houses that that blood was shed by the hand of a murderess mother when drunk. With that blood write on the walls of every house in Canada that 'wine is a mocker.' Tell the French Canadians how, on the dead body of my child, I have cursed that wine which has made me so wretchedly miserable and guilty."
She then stopped, as if to breathe a little for a few minutes. She added:
"In the name of God, tell me, can my child forgive me her death? Can she ask God to look upon me with mercy? Can she cause the blessed Virgin Mary to pray for me and obtain my pardon?"
Before I could answer, she horrified us by the cries, "I am lost! When drunk I killed my child! Cursed wine!"
And she fell a corpse on the floor. Torrents of blood were flowing from her mouth on her dead child, which she was pressing to her bosom even after her death!
That terrible drama was never revealed to the people of Quebec. The coroner's verdict was that the child's death was accidental, and that the distressed mother died from a broken heart six hours after. Two days later the unfortunate mother was buried, with the body of her child clasped in her arms.
After such a terrible storm I was in need of solitude and rest, but above everything I was in need of praying. I shut myself in my little room for two days, and there, alone, in the presence of God, I meditated on the terrible justice and retribution which He had called me to witness. That unfortunate woman had not only been my penitent: she had been, with her husband, among my dearest and most devoted friends. It was only lately that she had become a slave to drunkenness. Before that, her piety and sense of honour were of the most exalted kind known in the Church of Rome. Her last words were not the commonplace expressions which ordinary sinners proffer at the approach of death; her words had a solemnity for me which almost transformed them into oracles of God in my mind. Each of them sounded in my ears as if an angel of God had touched the thousand strings of my soul, to call my attention to a message from heaven. Sometimes they resembled the terrible voice of thunder; and again it seemed as if a seraph, with his golden harp, were singing them in my ears, that I might prepare to fight faithfully for the Lord against His gigantic enemy, alcohol.
In the middle of that memorable night, when the darkness was most profound and the stillness fearful, was I awake, was I sleeping? I do not know. But I saw a calm, beautiful, and cherished form of my dear mother standing by me, holding by the hand the late murderess, still covered with the blood of her child. Yes! my beloved mother was standing before me; and she said, with power and authority which engraved every one of her words on my soul, as if written with letters of tears, blood, and fire: "Go all over Canada; tell every father of a family never to put any intoxicating drink before his children. Tell all the mothers never to take a drop of those cursed wines and drinks. Tell the whole people of Canada never to touch nor look at the poisoned cup, filled with those cursed intoxicating drinks. And thou, my beloved son, give up for ever the use of those detestable beverages, which are cursed to hell, in heaven, and on earth. It bites like a serpent; it stings like an adder."
When the sound of that voice, so sweet and powerful, was hushed, and my soul had ceased seeing that strange vision of the night, I remained for some time exceedingly agitated and troubled. I said to myself, "Is it possible that the terrible things I have seen and heard these last few days will destroy my mind, and send me to the lunatic asylum?"
I had hardly been able to take any sleep or food for the last three days and nights, and I seriously feared lest the weakness of my body would cause me to lose my reason. I then threw myself on my knees to weep and pray. This did me good. I soon felt myself stronger and calmer.
Raising again my mind to God, I said: "O my God, let me know Thy holy will, and grant me the grace to do it. Do the voices I have just heard come from Thee? Hast Thou really sent one of the angels of Thy mercy, under the form of my beloved mother? or is all this nothing but the vain dreams of my distressed mind?
"Is it Thy will, O my God, that I should go and tell my country what Thou hast so providentially taught me of the horrible and unsuspected injuries which wine and strong drink cause to the bodies as well as the souls of men? Or is it Thy will that I should conceal from the eyes of the world the wonderful things Thou has made known to me, and that I might bury them with me in my grave?"
As quick as lightning the answer was suggested to me. "What I have taught thee in secret, go and tell it to the housetops!" Overwhelmed with an unspeakable emotion, and my heart filled with a power which was not mine, I raised my hands towards heaven and said to my God:
"For my dear Saviour Jesus' sake, and for the good of my country, O my God, I promise that I will never make any use of intoxicating drinks; I will, moreover, do all in my power to persuade the other priests and the people to make the same sacrifice?"
Fifty years have passed since I took that pledge, and, thanks be to God, I have kept it.
For the next two years I was the only priest in Canada who abstained from the use of wine and other intoxicating drinks; and God only knows what I had to suffer all that time what sneers, and rebukes and insults of every kind I had silently to bear! How many times the epithets of fanatic, hypocrite, reformer, half-heretic, have been whispered into my ear, not only by the priests, but also by the bishops. But I was sure that my God knew the motives of my actions, and by His grace I remained calm and patient. In His infinite mercy He has looked down upon His unprofitable servant and has taken his part. He had Himself chosen the day when I saw those same priests and bishops, at the head of their people, receiving the pledge and blessing of temperance from my hands. Those very bishops who had unanimously, at first, condemned me, soon invited the first citizens of their cities to present me with a golden medal, as a token of their esteem, after giving me, officially, the title of "Apostle of Temperance of Canada." The Governor and the two Chambers of Parliament of Canada voted me public thanks in 1851, and presented me $500 as a public testimony of their kind feeling for what had been done in the cause of temperance. It was the will of my God that I should see, with my own eyes, my dear Canada taking the pledge of temperance and giving up the use of intoxicating drinks. How many tears were dried in those days! Thousands and thousands of broken hearts were consoled and filled with joy. Happiness and abundance reigned in many once desolate homes, and the name of our merciful God was blessed everywhere in my beloved country. Surely this was not the work of poor Chiniquy!
It was the Lord's work, for the Lord, who is wonderful in all His doings, had once more chosen the weakest instrument to show His mercy towards the children of men. He has called the most unprofitable of His servants to do the greatest work of reform Canada has ever seen, that the praise and glory might be given to Him, and Him alone!
CHAPTER 29 Back to Contents
"Out of the Church of Rome there is no salvation," is one of the doctrines which the priests of Rome have to believe and teach to the people. That dogma, once accepted, caused me to devote all my energies to the conversion of Protestants. To prevent one of those immortal and precious souls from going into hell seemed to me more important and glorious than the conquest of a kingdom. In view of showing them their errors, I filled my library with the best controversial books which could be got in Quebec, and I studied the Holy Scriptures with the utmost attention. In the Marine Hospital, as well as in my intercourse with the people of the city, I had several occasions of meeting Protestants and talking to them; but I found at once that, with very few exceptions, they avoided speaking with me on religion. This distressed me. Having been told one day that the Rev. Mr. Anthony Parent, superior of the Seminary of Quebec, had converted several hundred Protestants during his long ministry, I went to ask him if this were true. For answer he showed me the list of his converts, which numbered more than two hundred, among whom were some of the most respectable English and Scotch families of the city. I looked upon that list with amazement; and from that day I considered him the most blessed priest of Canada. He was a perfect gentleman in his manners, and was considered our best champion on all points of controversy with Protestants. He could have been classed also among the handsomest men in his time, had he not been so fat. But, when the high classes called him by the respectable name of "Mr. Superior of the Seminary," the common people used to name him Pere Cocassier ("Cock-fighting Father"), on account of his long-cherished habit of having the bravest and strongest fighting-cocks of the country. In vain had the Rev. Mr. Renvoyze, curate of the "Good St. Anne," that greatest miracle-working saint of Canada, expended fabulous sums of money in ransacking the whole country to get a cock who would take away the palm of victory from the hands of the Superior of the Seminary of Quebec. He had almost invariably failed; with very few exception his cocks had fallen bruised, bleeding, and dead on the many battlefields chosen by those two priests. However, I feel happy in acknowledging that, since the terrible epidemic of cholera, that cruel and ignominious passe temps has been entirely given up by the Roman Catholic clergy of this country. Playing cards and checkers is now the most usual way the majority of curates and vicars have recourse to spend their long and many idle hours, both of the week and Sabbath days.
After reading over and over again that long list of converts, I said to Mr. Parent: "Please tell me how you have been able to persuade these Protestant converts to consent to speak with you on the errors of their religion. Many times I have tried to show the Protestants whom I met that they would be lost if they do not submit to our holy church, but, with few exceptions, they laughed at me as politely as possible, and turned the conversation to other matters. You must have some secret way of attracting their attention and winning their confidence. Would you not be kind enough to give me that secret, that I may be able also to prevent some of those precious souls from perishing?"
"You are right when you think that I have a secret to open the doors of the Protestants, and conquer and tame their haughty minds," answered Mr. Parent. "But that secret is of such a delicate nature, that I have never revealed it to anybody except my confessor. Nevertheless, I see that you are so in earnest for the conversion of Protestants, and I have such a confidence in your discretion and honour, that for the sake of our holy church I consent to give you my secret; only you must promise that you will never reveal it, during my lifetime, to anybody and even after my death you will not mention it, except when you are sure it is for the greatest glory of God. You know that I was the most intimate friend your father ever had; I had no secret from him, and he had none from me. But God knows that the friendly feelings and the confidence I had in him are now bestowed upon you, his worthy son. If you had not in my heart and esteem the same high position your father occupied, I would not trust you with my secret."
He then continued: "The majority of Protestants in Quebec have Irish Roman Catholic servant girls; these, particularly before the last few years, used to come to confess to me, as I was almost the only priest who spoke English. The first thing I used to ask them, when they were confessing, was if their masters and mistresses were truly devoted and pious Protestants, or if they were indifferent and cold in performing their duties. The second thing I wanted to know was if they were on good terms with their ministers? whether or not they were visited by them? From the answers of the girls I knew both the moral and immoral, the religious or irreligious habits of their masters as perfectly as if I had been an inmate of their households. It is thus that I learned that many Protestants have no more religion and faith than our dogs. They awake in the morning and go to bed at night without praying to God any more than the horses in their stables. Many of them go to church on the Sabbath day more to laugh at their ministers and criticize their sermons than for anything else. A part of the week is passed in turning them into ridicule; nay, through the confessions of these honest girls, I learned that many Protestants liked the fine ceremonies of our Church; that they often favourably contrasted them with the cold performances of their own, and expressed their views in glowing terms about the superiority of our educational institutions, nunneries, ect., over their own high schools or colleges. Besides, you know that a great number of our most respectable and wealthy Protestants trust their daughters to our good nuns for their education. I took notes of all these things, and formed my plans of battle against Protestantism, as a general who knows his ground and weak point of his adversaries, and I fought as a man who is sure of an easy victory. The glorious result you have under your eyes is the proof that I was correct in my plans. My first step with the Protestants whom I knew to be without any religion, or even already well disposed towards us, was to go to them with sometimes $5, or even $25, which I presented to them as being theirs. They, at first, looked at me with amazement, as a being coming from a superior world. The following conversation then almost invariable took place between them and me:
"'Are you positive, sir, that this money is mine?'
"'Yes, sir,' I answered, 'I am certain that this money is yours.'
"'But,' they replied, 'please tell me how you know that it belongs to me? It is the first time I have the honour of talking with you, and we are perfect strangers to each other.'
"I answered: 'I cannot say, sir, how I know that this money is yours, except by telling you that the person who deposited it in my hands for you has given me your name and your address so correctly that there is no possibility of any mistake.'
"'But can I not know the name of the one who has put that money into your hands for me?' rejoined the Protestant.
"'No, sir; the secret of confession is inviolable,' I replied. 'We have no example that it has ever been broken; and I, with every priest in our Church, would prefer to die rather than betray our penitents and reveal their confession. We cannot even act from what we have learned through their confession, except at their own request.'
"'But this auricular confession must then be a most admirable thing,' added the Protestant; 'I had no idea of it before this day.'
"'Yes, sir, auricular confession is a most admirable thing,' I used to reply, 'because it is a divine institution. But, sir, please excuse me; my ministry calls me to another place. I must take leave of you, to go where my duty calls me.'
"'I am very sorry that you go so quickly,' generally answered the Protestant. 'Can I have another visit from you? Please do me the honour of coming again. I would be so happy to present you to my wife; and I know she would be happy also, and much honoured to make your acquaintance.'
"'Yes, sir, I accept with gratitude your invitation. I will feel much pleased and honoured to make the acquaintance of the family of a gentleman whose praises are in the mouth of everyone, and whose industry and honesty are an honour to our city. If you allow me, next week, at the same hour, I will have the honour of presenting my respectful homage to your lady.'
"The very next day all the papers reported that Mr. So-and-So had received $5, or $10, or even $25 as a restitution, through auricular confession, and even the staunch Protestant editors of those papers could not find words sufficiently eloquent to praise me and our sacrament of penance.
"Three or four days later I was sure that the faithful servant girls were in the confessional box, glowing with joy to tell me that now their masters and mistresses could not speak of anything else than the amiability and honesty of the priests of Rome. They raised them a thousand miles over the heads of their own ministers. From those pious girls they invariably learned that they had not been visited by a single friend without making the eulogium of auricular confession, and even sometimes expressing the regret that the reformers had swept away such a useful institution.
"Now, my dear young friend, you see how, by the blessing of God, the little sacrifice of a few pounds brought down and destroyed all the prejudices of those poor heretics against auricular confession and our holy church in general. You understand how the doors were opened to me, and how their hearts and intelligences were like fields prepared to receive the good seed. At the appointed hour I never failed from paying the requested visit, and I was invariably received like a Messiah. Not only the gentlemen, but the ladies overwhelmed me with marks of the most sincere gratitude and respect; even the dear little children petted me, and threw their arms around my neck to give their sweetly angelic kisses. The only topic on which we could speak, of course, was the great good done by auricular confession. I easily showed them how it words as a check to all the evil passions of the heart; how it is admirably adapted to all the wants of the poor sinners, who find a friend, a counselor, a guide, a father, a real saviour in their confessor.
"We had not talked half an hour in that way, when it was generally evident to me that they were more than half way out of their Protestant errors. I very seldom left those houses without being sure of a new, glorious victory for our holy religion over its enemies. It is very seldom that I do not succeed in bringing that family to our holy church before one or two years; and if I fail from gaining the father or mother, I am nearly sure to persuade them to send their daughters to our good nuns and their boys to our colleges, where they sooner or later become our most devoted Catholics. So you see that the few dollars I spend every year for that holy cause are the best investments ever made. They do more to catch the Protestants of Quebec than the baits of the fishermen do to secure the cod fishes of the Newfoundland banks."
In ending this last sentence, Mr. Parent filled his room with laughter.
I thanked him for these interesting details. But I told him: "Though I cannot but admire your perfect skill and shrewdness in breaking the barriers which prevent Protestants from understanding the divine institution of auricular confession, will you allow me to ask you if you do not fear to be guilty of an imposture and a gross imposition in the way you make them believe that the money you hand they has come to you through auricular confession?"
"I have not the least fear of that," promptly answered the old priest, "for the good reason, that if you had paid attention to what I have told you, you must acknowledge that I have not said positively that the money was coming from auricular confession. If those Protestants have been deceived, it is only due t their own want of a more perfect attention to what I said. I know that there were things that I kept in my mind which would have made them understand the matter in a very different way if I had said them. But Liguori and all our theologians, among the most approved of our holy church, tell us that these reservations of the mind (mentis reservationes) are allowed, when they are for the good of souls and the glory of God."
"Yes," answered I, "I know that such is the doctrine of Liguori, and it is approved by the popes. I must confess that this seems to me entirely opposed to what we read in the sublime gospel. The simple and sublime 'Yea, yea' and 'Nay, nay' of our Saviour seems to me in contradiction with the art of deceiving, even when not saying absolute and direct falsehoods; and if I submit myself to those doctrines, it is always with a secret protest in my inmost soul."
In an angry manner, Mr. Parent replied: "Now, my dear young friend, I understand the truth of what the Rev. Messrs. Perras and Bedard told me lately about you. Though these remarkable priests are full of esteem for you, they see a dark cloud on your horizon; they say that you spend too much time in reading the Bible, and not enough in studying the doctrines and holy traditions of the Church. You are too much inclined also to interpret the Word of God according to your own fallible intelligence, instead of going to the Church alone for that interpretation. This is the dangerous rock on which Luther and Calvin were wrecked. Take my advice. Do not try to be wiser than the Church. Obey her voice when she speaks to you through her holy theologians. This is your only safeguard. The bishop would suspend you at once were he aware of your want of faith in the Church."
These last words were said with such emphasis, that they seemed more like a sentence of condemnation from the lips of an irritated judge than anything else. I felt that I had again seriously compromised myself in his mind; and the only way of preventing him from denouncing me to the bishop as a heretic and a Protestant was to make an apology, and withdraw from the dangerous ground on which I had again so imprudently put myself. He accepted my explanation, but I saw that he bitterly regretted having trusted me with his secret. I withdrew from his presence, much humiliated by my want of prudence and wisdom. However, though I could not approve of all the modus operandi of the Superior of Quebec, I could not but admire then the glorious results of his efforts in converting Protestants; and I took the resolution of devoting myself more than ever to show them their errors and make them good Catholics. In this I was too successful; for during my twenty-five years of priesthood I have persuaded ninety-three Protestants to give up their gospel light and truth in order to follow the dark and lying traditions of Rome. I cannot enter into the details of their conversions, or rather perversions; suffice to say that I soon found that my only chance of success in that proselytizing work was among the Ritualists. I saw at first that Calvin and Knox had dug a really impassable abyss between the Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and the Church of Rome. If these Ritualists remain Protestants, and do not make the very short step which separates them from Rome, it is a most astonishing fact, when they are logical men. Some people are surprised that so many eminent and learned men, in Great Britain and America, give up their Protestantism to submit to the Church of Rome; but my wonder is that there are so few among them who fall into that bottomless abyss of idolatry and folly, when they are their whole life on the very brink of the chasm. Put millions of men on the very brink of the Falls of Niagara, force them to cross to and from in small canoes between both shores, and you will see that, every day, some of them will be dragged, in spite of themselves, into the yawning abyss. Nay, you will see that, sooner or later, those millions of people will be in danger of being dragged in a whole body, by the irresistible force of the dashing waters, into the fathomless gulf. Through a sublime effort the English people helped by the mighty and merciful hand of God, has come out from the abyss of folly, impurity, ignorance, slavery, and idolatry, called the Church of Rome. But many, alas! in the present day, instead of marching up to the high regions of unsullied Gospel truth and light instead of going up to the high mountains where true Christian simplicity and liberty have for ever planted their glorious banners have been induced to walk only a few steps out of the pestiferous regions of Popery. They have remained so near the pestilential atmosphere of the stagnant waters of death which flow from Rome, that the atmosphere they breathe is still filled with the deadly emanations of that modern Sodom. Who, without shedding tears of sorrow, can look at those misguided ministers of the Gospel who believe and teach in the Episcopal Church that they have the power to make their God with a wafer, and who bow down before that wafer God and adore him! Who can refrain from indignation at the sight of so many Episcopal ministers who consent to have their ears, minds, and souls polluted at the confessional by the stories of their penitents, whom in their turn they destroy by their infamous and unmentionable questions? When I was lecturing in England in 1860, the late Archbishop of Canterbury, then Bishop of London, invited me to his table, in company with Rev. Mr. Thomas, now Bishop of Goulburn, Australia, and put to me the following questions, in the presence of his numerous and noble guests:-
"Father Chiniquy, when you left the Church of Rome, why did you not join the Episcopalian rather than the Presbyterian Church?"
I answered: "Is it the desire of your lordship that I should speak my mind on that delicate subject?"
"Yes, yes," said the noble lord bishop.
"Then, my lord, I must tell you that my only reason is that I find in your Church several doctrines which I have to condemn in the Church of Rome."
"How is that?" replied his lordship.
"Please," I answered, "let me have one of your Common Prayer Books."
Taking the book, I read slowly the article on the visitation of the sick: "Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which confession the priest shall absolve him if he humbly and heartily desire it after this sort: 'Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to His Church to absolve all sinners who repent and believe in Him, of His great mercy forgive thee thine offenses: and, by His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.'" I then added: "Now, my Lord, where is the difference between the errors of Rome and your Church on this subject?"
"The difference is very great," he answered. "The Church of Rome is constantly pressing the sinners to come to her priests all their lifetime, when we subject the sinner to this humiliation only once in his life, when he is near his last hour."
"But, my lord, let me tell you that it seems to me the Church of Rome is much more logical and consistent in this than the Episcopal Church. Both churches believe and teach that they have received from Christ the power to forgive the sins of those who confess to their priests, and you think yourself wiser because you invite the sinner to confess and receive His pardon only when he is tied to a bed of suffering, at the last hour before his death. But will your lordship be kind enough to tell me when I am in danger of death? If I am constantly in danger of death, must you not, with the Church of Rome, induce me constantly to confess to your priests, and get my pardon and make my peace with God? Has our Saviour said anywhere that it was only for the dying, at the last extremity of life, that He gave the power to forgive my sins? Has He not warned me many times to be always ready; to have always our peace made with God, and not to wait till the last day, to the last hour?" The noble bishop did not think fit to give me any other answer than these very words: "We all agree that this doctrine ought never to have been put in our Common Prayer Book. But you know that we are at work to revise that book, and we hope that this clause, with several others, will be taken away."
"Then," I answered in a jocose way, "my lord, when this obnoxious clause has been removed from your Common Prayer Book it will be time for me to have the honour of belonging to your great and noble Church."
When the Church of England went out of the Church of Rome, she did as Rachel, the wife of Jacob, who left the house of her father Laban and took his gods with her. So the Episcopal Church of England, unfortunately, when she left Rome, concealed in the folds of her mantle some of the false gods of Rome; she kept to her bosom some vipers engendered in the marshes of the modern Sodom. Those vipers, if not soon destroyed, will kill her. They are already eating up her vitals. They are covering her with most ugly and mortal wounds. They are rapidly taking away her life. May the Holy Ghost rebaptize and purify that noble Church of England, that she may be worthy to march at the head of the armies of the Lord to the conquest of the world, under the banners of the great Captain of our Salvation.
Continue to Chapter 30