in the Church of Rome
by Charles Chiniquy
CHAPTER 1 Back to Contents
My father, Charles Chiniquy [pronounced, "Chi-ni-quay"], born in Quebec, had studied in the Theological Seminary of that city, to prepare himself for the priesthood. But a few days before making his vows, having been the witness of a great iniquity in the high quarters of the church, he changed his mind, studied law, and became a notary.
Married to Reine Perrault, daughter of Mitchel Perrault, in 1803 he settled at first in Kamoraska, where I was born on the 30th July, 1809.
About four or five years later my parents emigrated to Murray Bay. That place was then in its infancy, and no school had yet been established. My mother was, therefore, my first teacher.
Before leaving the Seminary of Quebec my father had received from one of the Superiors, as a token of his esteem, a beautiful French and Latin Bible. That Bible was the first book, after the A B C, in which I was taught to read. My mother selected the chapters which she considered the most interesting for me; and I read them every day with the greatest attention and pleasure. I was even so much pleased with several chapters, that I read them over and over again till I knew them by heart.
When eight or nine years of age, I had learned by heart the history of the creation and fall of man; the deluge; the sacrifice of Isaac; the history of Moses; the plagues of Egypt; the sublime hymn of Moses after crossing the Red Sea; the history of Samson; the most interesting events of the life of David; several Psalms; all the speeches and parables of Christ; and the whole history of the sufferings and death of our Saviour as narrated by John.
I had two brothers, Louis and Achille; the first about four, the second about eight years younger than myself. When they were sleeping or playing together, how many delicious hours I have spent by my mother's side, in reading to her the sublime pages of the divine book.
Sometimes she interrupted me to see if I understood what I read; and when my answers made her sure that I understood it, she used to kiss me and press me on her bosom as an expression of her joy.
One day, while I was reading the history of the sufferings of the Saviour, my young heart was so much impressed that I could hardly enunciate the words, and my voice trembled. My mother, perceiving my emotion, tried to say something on the love of Jesus for us, but she could not utter a word her voice was suffocated by her sobs. She leaned her head on my forehead, and I felt two streams of tears falling from her eyes on my cheeks. I could not contain myself any longer. I wept also; and my tears were mixed with hers. The holy book fell from my hands, and I threw myself into my dear mother's arms.
No human words can express what was felt in her soul and in mine in that most blessed hour! No! I will never forget that solemn hour, when my mother's heart was perfectly blended with mine at the feet of our dying Saviour. There was a real perfume from heaven in those my mother's tears which were flowing on me. It seemed then, as it does seem to me today, that there was a celestial harmony in the sound of her voice and in her sobs. Though more than half a century has passed since that solemn hour when Jesus, for the first time, revealed to me something of His suffering and of His love, my heart leaps with joy every time I think of it.
We were some distance from the church, and the roads, in the rainy days, were very bad. On the Sabbath days the neighbouring farmers, unable to go to church, were accustomed to gather at our house in the evening. Then my parents used to put me up on a large table in the midst of the assembly, and I delivered to those good people the most beautiful parts of the Old and New Testaments. The breathless attention, the applause of our guests, and may I tell it often the tears of joy which my mother tried in vain to conceal, supported my strength and gave me the courage I wanted, to speak when so young before so many people. When my parents saw that I was growing tired, my mother, who had a fine voice, sang some of the beautiful French hymns with which her memory was filled.
Several times, when the fine weather allowed me to go to church with my parents, the farmers would take me into their caleches (buggies) at the door of the temple, and request me to give them some chapter of the Gospel. With a most perfect attention they listened to the voice of the child, whom the Good Master had chosen to give them the bread which comes from heaven. More than once, I remember, that when the bell called us to the church, they expressed their regret that they could not hear more.
On one of the beautiful spring days of 1818 my father was writing in his office, and my mother was working with her needle, singing one of her favourite hymns, and I was at the door, playing and talking to a fine robin which I had so perfectly trained that he followed me wherever I went. All of a sudden I saw the priest coming near the gate. The sight of him sent a thrill of uneasiness through my whole frame. It was his first visit to our home.
The priest was a person below the common stature, and had an unpleasant appearance his shoulders were large and he was very corpulent; his hair was long and uncombed, and his double chin seemed to groan under the weight of his flabby cheeks.
I hastily ran to the door and whispered to my parents, "M. le Cur'e arrive ("Mr. Curate is coming"). The last sound was hardly out of my lips when the Rev. Mr. Courtois was at the door, and my father, shaking hands with him, gave him a welcome.
That priest was born in France, where he had a narrow escape, having been condemned to death under the bloody administration of Robespierre. He had found a refuge, with many other French priests, in England, whence he came to Quebec, and the bishop of that place had given him the charge of the parish of Murray Bay.
His conversation was animated and interesting for the first quarter of an hour. It was a real pleasure to hear him. But of a sudden his countenance changed as if a dark cloud had come over his mind, and he stopped talking. My parents had kept themselves on a respectful reserve with the priest. They seemed to have no other mind than to listen to him. The silence which followed was exceedingly unpleasant for all the parties. It looked like the heavy hour which precedes a storm. At length the priest, addressing my faith, said, "Mr. Chiniquy, is it true that you and your child read the Bible?"
"Yes, sir," was the quick reply, "my little boy and I read the Bible, and what is still better, he has learned by heart a great number of its most interesting chapters. If you will allow it, Mr. Curate, he will give you some of them."
"I did not come for that purpose," abruptly replied the priest; "but do you not know that you are forbidden by the holy Council of Trent to read the Bible in French."
"It makes very little difference to me whether I read the Bible in French, Greek, or Latin," answered my father, "for I understand these languages equally well."
"But are you ignorant of the fact that you cannot allow your child to read the Bible?" replied the priest.
"My wife directs her own child in the reading of the Bible, and I cannot see that we commit any sin by continuing to do in future what we have done till now in that matter."
"Mr. Chiniquy," rejoined the priest, "you have gone through a whole course of theology; you know the duties of a curate; you know it is my painful duty to come here, get the Bible from you and burn it."
My grandfather was a fearless Spanish sailor (our original name was Etchiniquia), and there was too much Spanish blood and pride in my father to hear such a sentence with patience in his own house. Quick as lightning he was on his feet. I pressed myself, trembling, near my mother, who trembled also.
At first I feared lest some very unfortunate and violent scene should occur; for my father's anger in that moment was really terrible.
But there was another thing which affected me. I feared lest the priest should lay his hands on my dear Bible, which was just before him on the table; for it was mine, as it had been given me the last year as a Christmas gift.
Fortunately, my father had subdued himself after the first moment of his anger. He was pacing the room with a double-quick step; his lips were pale and trembling, and he was muttering between his teeth words which were unintelligible to any one of us.
The priest was closely watching all my father's movements; his hands were convulsively pressing his heavy cane, and his face was giving the sure evidence of a too well-grounded terror. It was clear that the ambassador of Rome did not find himself infallibly sure of his position on the ground he had so foolishly chosen to take; since his last words he had remained as silent as a tomb.
At last, after having paced the room for a considerable time, my father suddenly stopped before the priest, and said, "Sir, is that all you have to say here."
"Yes, sir," said the trembling priest.
"Well, sir," added my father, "you know the door by which you entered my house: please take the same door and go away quickly."
The priest went out immediately. I felt an inexpressible joy when I saw that my Bible was safe. I ran to my father's neck, kissed and thanked him for his victory. And to pay him, in my childish way, I jumped upon the large table and recited, in my best style, the fight between David and Goliath. Of course, in my mind, my father was David and the priest of Rome was the giant whom the little stone from the brook had stricken down.
Thou knowest, O God, that it is to that Bible, read on my mother's knees, I owe, by thy infinite mercy, the knowledge of the truth to-day; that Bible had sent, to my young heart and intelligence, rays of light which all the sophisms and dark errors of Rome could never completely extinguish.
CHAPTER 2 Back to Contents
In the month of June, 1818, my parents sent me to an excellent school at St. Thomas. One of my mother's sisters resided there, who was the wife of an industrious miller called Stephen Eschenbach. They had no children, and they received me as their own son.
The beautiful village of St. Thomas had already, at that time, a considerable population. The tow fine rivers which unite their rapid waters in its very midst before they fall into the magnificent basin from which they flow into the St. Lawrence, supplied the water-power for several mills and factories.
There was in the village a considerable trade in grain, flour and lumber. The fisheries were very profitable, and the game was abundant. Life was really pleasant and easy.
The families Tachez, Cazeault, Fournier, Dubord, Frechette, Tetu, Dupuis, Couillard, Duberges, which were among the most ancient and notable of Canada, were at the head of the intellectual and material movement of the place, and they were a real honour to the French Canadian name.
I met there with one of my ancestors on my mother's side whose name was F. Amour des Plaines. He was an old and brave soldier, and would sometimes show us the numerous wounds he had received in the battles in which he had fought for his country. Though nearly eighty years old, he sang to us the songs of the good old times with all the vivacity of a young man.
The school of Mr. Allen Jones, to which I had been sent, was worthy of its wide-spread reputation. I had never known any teacher who deserved more, or who enjoyed in a higher degree the respect and confidence of his pupils.
He was born in England, and belonged to one of the most respectable families there. He had received the best education which England could give to her sons. After having gone through a perfect course of study at home, he had gone to Paris, where he had also completed an academical course. He was perfectly master of the French and English languages. And it was not without good reasons that he was surrounded by a great number of scholars from every corner of Canada. The children of the best families of St. Thomas were, with me, attending the school of Mr. Jones. But as he was a Protestant, the priest was much opposed to him, and every effort was made by that priest to induce my relatives to take me away from that school and send me to the one under his care.
The name of the priest was Loranger. He had a swarthy countenance, and in person was lean and tall. His preaching had no attraction, and he was far from being popular among the intelligent part of the people of St. Thomas.
Dr. Tachez, whose high capacity afterwards brought him to the head of the Canadian Government, was the leading man of St. Thomas. Being united by the bonds of a sincere friendship with his nephew, L. Cazeault, who was afterwards placed at the head of the University of Laval, in Quebec, I had more opportunities of going to the house of Mr. Tachez, where my young friend was boarding.
In those days Dr. Tachez had no need of the influence of the priests, and he frequently gave vent to his supreme contempt for them. Once a week there was a meeting in his house of the principal citizens of St. Thomas, where the highest questions of history and religion were freely and warmly discussed; but the premises as well as the conclusions of these discussions were invariably adverse to the priests and religion of Rome, and too often to every form of Christianity.
Though these meetings had not entirely the character or exclusiveness of secret societies, they were secret to a great extent. My friend Cazeault was punctual in telling me the days and hours of the meetings, and I used to go with him to an adjoining room, from which we could hear everything without being suspected. From what I heard and saw in these meetings I most certainly would have been ruined, had not the Word of God, with which my mother had filled my young mind and heart, been my shield and strength. I was often struck with terror and filled with disgust at what I heard in those meetings. But what a strange and deplorable thing! My conscience was condemning me every time I listened to these impious discussions, while there was a strong craving in me to hear them that I could not resist.
There was then in St. Thomas a personage who was unique in his character. He never mixed with the society of the village, but was, nevertheless, the object of much respectful attention and inquiry from every one. He was one of the former monks of Canada, known under the name of Capucin or Recollets, whom the conquest of Canada by Great Britain had forced to leave their monastery. He was a clock-maker, and lived honourably by his trade. His little white house, in the very midst of the village, was the perfection of neatness.
Brother Mark, as he was called, was a remarkably well-built man; high stature, large and splendid shoulders, and the most beautiful hands I ever saw. His long black robe, tied around his waist by a white sash, was remarkable for its cleanliness. His life was really a solitary one, always alone with his sister, who kept his house.
Every day that the weather was propitious, Brother Mark spent a couple of hours in fishing, and I myself was exceedingly fond of that exercise, I used to meet him often along the banks of the beautiful rivers of St. Thomas.
His presence was always a good omen to me; for he was more expert than I in finding the best places for fishing. As soon as he found a place where the fish were abundant, he would make signs to me, or call me at the top of his voice, that I might share in his good luck. I appreciated his delicate attention to me, and repaid him with the marks of a sincere gratitude. The good monk had entirely conquered my young heart, and I cherished a sincere regard for him. He often invited me to his solitary but neat little home, and I never visited him without receiving some proofs of a sincere kindness. His good sister rivaled him in overwhelming me with such marks of attention and love as I could only expect from a dear mother.
There was a mixture of timidity and dignity in the manners of Brother Mark which I have found in on one else. He was fond of children; and nothing could be more graceful than his smile every time that he could see that I appreciated his kindness, and that I gave him any proof of my gratitude. But that smile, and any other expression of joy, were very transient. On a sudden he would change, and it was obvious that a mysterious cloud was passing over his heart.
The pope had released the monks of the monastery to which he belonged, from their vows of poverty and obedience. The consequence was that they could become independent, and even rich by their own industry. It was in their power to rise to a respectable position in the world by their honourable efforts. The pope had given them the permission they wanted, that they might earn an honest living. But what a strange and incredible folly to ask the permission of a pope to be allowed to live honourably on the fruits of one's own industry!
These poor monks, having been released from their vows of obedience, were no longer the slaves of a man; but were now permitted to go to heaven on the sole condition that they would obey the laws of God and the laws of their country! But into what a frightful abyss of degradation men must have fallen, to believe that they required a license from Rome for such a purpose. This is, nevertheless, the simple and naked truth. That excess of folly, and that supreme impiety and degradation are among the fundamental dogmas of Rome. The infallible pope assures the world that there is no possible salvation for any one who does not sincerely believe what he teaches in this matter.
But the pope who had so graciously relieved the Canadian monks from their vows of obedience and poverty, had been inflexible in reference to their vows of celibacy. From this there was no relief.
The honest desires of the good monk to live according to the laws of God, with a wife whom heaven might have given him, had become an impossibility the pope vetoed it.
The unfortunate monk was bound to believe that he would be for ever damned if he dared to accept as a gospel truth the Word of God which says:-
"Propter fornicationem autem, unusquisque uxorem suam habeat, unaquaque virum suum habeat. (Vulgate Bible of Rome.) Nevertheless to avoid fornication let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." (I Cor. vii. 2.) That shining light which the world contains and which gives life to man, was entirely shut out from Brother Mark. He was not allowed to know that God himself had said, "It is not good that man should be alone, I will make him an help-meet for him" (Gen. ii. 18.) Brother Mark was endowed with such a loving heart! He could not be known without being loved; and he must have suffered much in that celibacy which his faith in the pope had imposed upon him.
Far away from the regions of light, truth and life, that soul, tied to the feet of the implacable modern Divinity, which the Romanists worship under the same name of Sovereign Pontiff, was trying in vain to annihilate and destroy the instincts and affections which God himself had implanted in him.
One day, as I was amusing myself, with a few other young friends, near the house of Brother Mark, suddenly we saw something covered with blood thrown from a window, and falling at a short distance from us. At the same instant we heard loud cries, evidently coming from the monk's house: "O my God! Have mercy upon me! Save me! I am lost!"
The sister of Brother Mark rushed out of doors and cried to some men who were passing by: "Come to our help! My poor brother is dying! For God's sake make haste, he is losing all his blood!"
I ran to the door, but the lady shut it abruptly and turned me out, saying, "We do not want children here."
I had a sincere affection for the good brother. He had invariably been so kind to me! I insisted, and respectfully requested to be allowed to enter. Though young and weak, it seemed that my friendly feelings towards the suffering brother would add to my strength, and enable me to be of some service. But my request was sternly rejected, and I had to go back to the street, among the crowd which was fast gathering. The singular mystery in which they were trying to wrap the poor monk, filled me with trouble and anxiety.
But that trouble was soon changed into an unspeakable confusion when I heard the convulsive laughing of the low people, and the shameful jokes of the crowd, after the doctor had told the nature of the wound which was causing the unfortunate man to bleed almost to death. I was struck with such horror that I fled away; I did not want to know any more of that tragedy. I had already known too much!
Poor Brother Mark had ceased to be a man he had become an eunuch!
O cruel and godless church of Rome! How many souls hast thou deceived and tortured! How many hearts hast thou broken with that celibacy which Satan alone could invent! This unfortunate victim of a most degrading religion, did not, however, die from his rash action: he soon recovered his usual health.
Having, meanwhile, ceased to visit him; some months later I was fishing along the river in a very solitary place. The fish were abundant and I was completely absorbed in catching them, when, on a sudden, I felt on my shoulder the gentle pressure of a hand. It was Brother Mark's.
I thought I would faint through the opposite sentiments of surprise, of pain and joy, which at the same time crossed my mind.
With an affectionate and trembling voice he said to me, "My dear child, why do you not any more come to see me?"
I did not dare to look at him after he had addressed me those words. I liked him on account of his acts of kindness to me. But the fatal hour when, in the street before the door, I had suffered so much on his account that fatal hour was on my heart as a mountain which I could not put away I could not answer him.
He then asked me again with the tone of a criminal who sues for mercy: "Why is it, my dear child, that you do not come any longer to see me? you know that I love you."
"Dear Brother Mark," I answered, "I will never forget your kindness to me. I will for ever be grateful to you! I wish that it would be in my power to continue, as formerly, to go and see you. But I cannot, and you ought to know the reason why I cannot."
I had pronounced these words with downcast eyes. I was a child, with the timidity and happy ignorance of a child. But the action of that unfortunate man had struck me with such a horror that I could not entertain the idea of visiting him any more.
He spent two or three minutes without saying a word, and without moving. But I heard his sobs and his cries, and his cries were those of despair and anguish, the like of which I have never heard since.
I could not contain myself any longer, I was suffocating with suppressed emotion, and I would have fallen insensible to the ground if two streams of tears had not burst from my eyes. Those tears did me good they did him good also they told him that I was still his friend.
He took me in his arms and pressed me to his bosom his tears were mixed with mine. But I could not speak the emotions of my heart were too much for my age. I sat on a damp and cold stone in order not to faint. He fell on his knees by my side.
Ah! if I were a painter I would make a most striking tableau of that scene. His eyes, swollen and red with weeping, were raised to heaven, his hand lifted up in the attitude of supplication: he was crying out with an accent which seemed as though it would break my heart -
"Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! que je suis malheureux!"
My God! My God! what a wretched man am I!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The twenty-five years that I have been a priest of Rome, have revealed to me the fact that the cries of desolation I heard that day, were but the echo of the cries of desolation which go out from almost every nunnery, every parsonage and every house where human beings are bound by the ties of Romish Celibacy.
God knows that I am a faithful witness of what my eyes have seen and my ears have heard, when I say to the multitudes which the Church of Rome has bewitched with her enchantments: Wherever there are nuns, monks and priests who live in forced violation of the ways which God had appointed for man to walk in, there are torrents of tears, there are desolated hearts, there are cries of anguish and despair which say in the words of brother Mark:
"Oh! que je suis malheureux!"
Oh! how miserable and wretched I am!
CHAPTER 3 Back to Contents
No words can express to those who have never had any experience in the matter, the consternation, anxiety and shame of a poor Romish child, when he hears, for the first time, his priest saying from the pulpit, in a grave and solemn tone, "This week, you will send your children to confession. Make them understand that this action is one of the most important of their lives, and that for every one of them, it will decide their eternal happiness or misery. Fathers and mothers, if, through your fault, or his own, your child is guilty of a bad confession if he conceals his sins and commences lying to the priest, who holds the place of God Himself, this sin is often irreparable. The devil will take possession of his heart: he will become accustomed to lie to his father confessor, or rather to Jesus Christ, of whom he is a representative. His life will be a series of sacrileges; his death and eternity those of the reprobate. Teach him, therefore, to examine thoroughly his actions, words and thoughts, in order to confess without disguise."
I was in the church of St. Thomas when these words fell upon me like a thunderbolt.
I had often heard my mother say, when at home and my aunt since I had come to St. Thomas, that upon the first confession depended my eternal happiness or misery. That week was, therefore, to decide about my eternity.
Pale and dismayed, I left the church, and returned to the house of my relatives. I took my place at the table, but could not eat, so much was I troubled. I went to my room for the purpose of commencing my examination of conscience and to recall all my sinful actions, words, and thoughts. Although I was scarcely over ten years of age, this task was really overwhelming for me. I knelt down to pray to the Virgin Mary for help; but I was so much taken up with the fear of forgetting something, and of making a bad confession, that I muttered my prayers without the least attention to what I said. It became still worse when I commenced counting my sins. My memory became confused, my head grew dizzy; my heart beat with a rapidity which exhausted me, and my brow was covered with perspiration. After a considerable length of time spent in those painful efforts, I felt bordering on despair, from the fear that it was impossible for me to remember everything. The night following was almost a sleepless one; and when sleep did come, it could scarcely be called a sleep, but a suffocating delirium. In a frightful dream, I felt as if I had been cast into hell, for not having confessed all my sins to the priest. In the morning, I awoke, fatigued and prostrated by the phantoms of that terrible night. In similar troubles of mind were passed the three days which preceded my first confession. I had constantly before me the countenance of that stern priest who had never smiled upon me. He was present in my thoughts during the day, and in my dreams during the night, as the minister of an angry God, justly irritated against me on account of my sins. Forgiveness had indeed been promised to me, on condition of a good confession; but my place had also been shown to me in hell, if any confession was not as near perfection as possible. Now, my troubled conscience told me that there were ninety-nine chances against one, that my confession would be bad, whether by my own fault I forgot some sins, or I was without that contrition of which I had heard so much, but the nature and effects of which were a perfect chaos in my mind.
Thus it was that the cruel and perfidious Church of Rome took away from my young heart the good and merciful Jesus, whose love and compassion had caused me to shed tears of joy when I was beside my mother. The Saviour whom that church made me to worship, through fear, was not the Saviour who called little children unto Him, to bless them and take them in His arms. Her impious hands were soon to torture and defile my childish heart, and place me at the feet of a pale and severe looking man worthy representative of a pitiless God. I was made to tremble with terror at the footstool of an implacable divinity, while the gospel asked from me only tears of love and joy, shed at the feet of the incomparable Friend of sinners. At length came the day of confession; or rather of judgment and condemnation. I presented myself to the priest.
Mr. Loranger was no longer priest of St. Thomas. He had been succeeded by Mr. Beaubien, who did not favour our school any more than his predecessor. He had even taken upon himself to preach a sermon against the heretical school, by which we had been excessively wounded. His want of love for us, however, I must say, was fully reciprocated.
Mr. Beaubien had, then, the defect of lisping and stammering. This we often turned into ridicule, and one of my favourite amusements was to imitate him, which brought bursts of laughter from us all.
It had been necessary for me to examine myself upon the number of times I had mocked him. This circumstance was not calculated to make my confession easier, or more agreeable.
At last the dreaded moment came. I knelt at the side of my confessor. My whole frame trembled. I repeated the prayer preparatory to confession, scarcely knowing what I said, so much was I troubled by fear.
By the instructions which had been given us before confession, we had been made to believe that the priest was the true representative yes, almost the personification of Jesus Christ. The consequence was, that I believed my greatest sin had been that of mocking the priest. Having always been told that it was best to confess the greatest sin first, I commenced thus: "Father, I accuse myself of having mocked a priest."
Scarcely had I uttered these words, "mocked a priest," when this pretended representative of the humble Saviour, turning towards me, and looking in my face in order to know me better, asked abruptly, "What priest did you mock, my boy?" I would rather have chosen to cut out my tongue than to tell him to his face who it was. I therefore kept silent for a while. By my silence made him very nervous and almost angry. With a haughty tone of voice he said, "What priest did you take the liberty of thus mocking?"
I saw that I had to answer. Happily his haughtiness had made me firmer and bolder. I said, "Sir, you are the priest whom I mocked."
"But how many times did you take upon you to mock me, my boy?"
"I tried to find out," I answered, "but I never could."
"You must tell me how many times; for to mock one's own priest is a great sin."
"It is impossible for me to give you the number of times," answered I.
"Well, my child, I will help your memory by asking you questions. Tell me the truth. Do you think you have mocked me ten times?"
"A great many times more, sir."
"Many more still."
"A hundred times?"
"Say five hundred times, and perhaps more," answered I.
"Why, my boy, do you spend all your time in mocking me?"
"Not all; but unfortunately I do it very often."
"Well may you say unfortunately; for so to mock your priest, who holds the place of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a great misfortune, and a great sin for you. But tell me, my little boy, what reason have you for mocking me thus?"
In my examinations of conscience I had not foreseen that I should be obliged to give the reasons for mocking the priest; and I was really thunderstruck by his questions. I dared not answer, and I remained for a long time dumb, from the shame that overpowered me. But with a harassing perseverance the priest insisted upon my telling why I had mocked him; telling me that I should be damned if I did not tell the whole truth. So I decided to speak, and said, "I mocked you for several things."
"What made you first mock me?" continued the priest.
"I laughed at you because you lisped. Among our pupils of our school, it often happens that we imitate your preaching to excite laughter."
"Have you often done that?"
"Almost every day,especially in our holidays, and since you preached against us."
"For what other reasons did you laugh at me, my little boy?"
For a long time I was silent. Every time I opened my mouth to speak courage failed me. However, the priest continuing to urge me, I said at last, "It is rumoured in town that you love girls; that you visit the Misses Richards every evening, and this often makes us laugh."
The poor priest was evidently overwhelmed by my answer, and ceased questioning me on this subject. Changing the conversation, he said:
"What are your other sins?"
I began to confess them in the order in which they came to my memory. But the feeling of shame which overpowered me in repeating all my sins to this man was a thousand times greater than that of having offended God. In reality this feeling of human shame which absorbed my thought nay, my whole being left no room for any religious feeling at all.
When I had confessed all the sins I could remember, the priest began to ask me the strangest questions on matters about which my pen must be silent. I replied, "Father, I do not understand what you ask me."
"I question you on the sixth commandment (seventh in the Bible). Confess all. You will go to hell, if through your fault you omit anything."
Thereupon he dragged my thoughts to regions which, thank God, had hitherto been unknown to me.
I answered him: "I do not understand you," or "I have never done these things."
Then, skillfully shifting to some secondary matter, he would soon slyly and cunningly come back to his favourite subject, namely, sins of licentiousness.
His questions were so unclean that I blushed, and felt sick with disgust and shame. More than once I had been, to my regret, in the company of bad boys; but not one of them had offended my moral nature so much as this priest had done. Not one of them had ever approached the shadow of the things from which that man tore the veil, and which he placed before the eye of my soul. In vain did I tell him that I was not guilty of such things; that I did not even understand what he asked me; he would not let me off. Like the vulture bent upon tearing the poor bird that falls into his claws, that cruel priest seemed determined to defile and ruin my heart.
At last he asked me a question in a form of expression so bad that I was really pained. I felt as if I had received a shock from an electric battery; a feeling of horror made me shudder. I was so filled with indignation that speaking loud enough to be heard by many, I told him: "Sir, I am very wicked; I have seen, heard and done many things which I regret; but I never was guilty of what you mention to me. My ears have never heard anything so wicked as what they have heard from your lips. Please do not ask me any more of those questions; do not teach me any more evil than I already know."
The remainder of my confession was short. The firmness of my voice had evidently frightened the priest, and made him blush. He stopped short and began to give me some good advice, which might have been useful to me if the deep wounds which his questions had inflicted upon my soul had not so absorbed my thoughts as to prevent me from giving attention to what he said.
He gave me a short penance and dismissed me.
I left the confessional irritated and confused. From the shame of what I had just heard from the mouth of that priest I dared not life my eyes from the ground. I went into a retired corner of the church to do my penance; that is, to recite the prayers he had indicated to me. I remained for a long time in church. I had need of a calm after the terrible trial through which I had just passed. But vainly sought I for rest. The shameful questions which had been asked me, the new world of iniquity into which I had been introduced, the impure phantoms by which my childish heart had been defiled, confused and troubled my mind so strangely that I began to weep bitterly.
Why those tears? Why that desolation? Wept I over my sins? Alas! I confess it was shame, my sins did not call forth these tears. And yet how many sins had I already committed, for which Jesus shed His precious blood. But I confess my sins were not the cause of my desolation. I was rather thinking of my mother, who had taken such good care of me, and who had so well succeeded in keeping away from my thoughts those impure forms of sin, the thoughts of which had just now defiled my heart. I said to myself, "Ah! if my mother had heard those questions; if she could see the evil thoughts which overwhelm me at this moment if she knew to what school she sent me when she advised me in her last letter to go to confession, how her tears would mingle with mine!" It seemed to me that my mother would love me not more that she would see written upon my brow the pollution with which that priest had profaned my soul.
Perhaps the feeling of pride was what made me weep. Or perhaps I wept because of a remnant of that feeling of original dignity whose traces had still been left in me. I felt so downcast by the disappointment of being removed farther from the Saviour by that confessional which had promised to bring me nearer to Him. God only knows what was the depth of my sorrow at feeling myself more defiled and more guilty after than before my confession.
I left the church only when forced to do so by the shades of night, and came to my uncle's house with that feeling of uneasiness caused by the consciousness of having done a bad action, and by the fear of being discovered.
Though this uncle, as well as most of the principal citizens of the village of St. Thomas, had the name of being a Roman Catholic, he yet did not believe a word of the doctrines of the Roman Church. He laughed at the priests, their masses, their purgatory, and especially their confession. He did not conceal that, when young, he had been scandalized by the words and actions of a priest in the confessional. He spoke to me jestingly. This increased my trouble and my grief. "Now," said he, "you will be a good boy. But if you have heard as many new things as I did the first time I went to confess, you are a very learned boy;" and he burst into laughter.
I blushed and remained silent. My aunt, who was a devoted Roman Catholic, said to me, "Your heart is relieved, is it not, since you confessed all your sins?" I gave her an evasive answer, but I could not conceal the sadness that overcame me. I thought I was the only one from whom the priest had asked those polluting questions. But great was my surprise, on the following day, when going to school I learned that my fellow pupils had not been happier than I had been. The only difference was, that instead of being grieved, they laughed at it. "Did the priest ask you such and such questions?" they would demand, laughing boisterously. I refused to reply, and said, "Are you not ashamed to speak of these things?"
"Ah! ah! how very scrupulous you are," continued they. "If it is not a sin for the priest to speak to us on these matters, how can it be a sin for us?" I stopped, confounded, not knowing what to say.
I soon perceived that even the young schoolgirls had not been less polluted and scandalized by the questions of the priest than the boys. Although keeping at a distance, such as to prevent us from hearing all they said, I could understand enough to convince me that they had been asked about the same questions. Some of them appeared indignant, while others laughed heartily.
I should be misunderstood where it supposed that I mean to convey the idea that this priest was more to blame than others, or that he did more than fulfill the duties of his ministry in asking these questions. Such, however, was my opinion at the time, and I detested that man with all my heart until I knew better. I had been unjust towards him, for this priest had only done his duty. He was only obeying the pope and his theologians. His being a priest of Rome was, therefore, less in crime than his misfortune. He was, as I have been myself, bound hand and foot at the feet of the greatest enemy that the holiness and truth of God have ever had on earth the pope.
The misfortune of Mr. Beaubien, like that of all the priests of Rome, was that of having bound himself by terrible oaths not to think for himself, or to use the light of his own reason.
Many Roman Catholics, even many Protestants, refuse to believe this. It is, notwithstanding, a sad truth. The priest of Rome is an automaton a machine which acts, thinks and speaks in matters of morals and of faith, only according to the order and the will of the pope and of his theologians.
Had Mr. Beaubien been left to himself, he was naturally too much of a gentleman to ask such questions. But no doubt he had read Liguori, Dens, Debreyne, authors approved by the pope, and he was obliged to take darkness for light, and vice for virtue.
CHAPTER 4 Back to Contents
Shortly after the trial of auricular confession, my young friend, Louis Cazeault, accosted me on a beautiful morning and said, "Do you know what happened last night?"
"No," I answered. "What was the wonder?"
"You know that our priest spends almost all his evenings at Mr. Richard's house. Everybody thinks that he goes there for the sake of the two daughters. Well, in order to cure him of that disease, my uncle, Dr. Tache, and six others, masked, whipped him without mercy and he was coming back at eleven o'clock at night. It is already known by everyone in the village, and they split their sides with laughing."
My first feeling on hearing that news was one of joy. Ever since my first confession I felt angry every time I thought of that priest. His questions had so wounded me that I could not forgive him. I had enough self-control, however, to conceal my pleasure, and I answered my friend:
"You are telling me a wicked story; I can't believe a word of it."
"Well," said young Cazeault, "come at eight o'clock this evening to my uncle's. A secret meeting is to take place then. No doubt they will speak of the pill given to the priest last night. We shall place ourselves in our little room as usual and shall hear everything, our presence not being suspected. You may be sure that it will be interesting."
"I will go," I answered, "but I do not believe a word of that story."
I went to school at the usual hour. Most of the pupils had preceded me. Divided into groups of eight or ten, they were engaged in a most lively conversation. Bursts of convulsive laughter were heard from every corner. I could very well see that something uncommon had taken place in the village.
I approached several of these groups, and all received me with the question:
"Do you know that the priest was whipped last night as he was coming from the Misses Richards'?"
"That is a story invented for fun," said I. "You were not there to see him, were you? You therefore know nothing about it; for it anybody had whipped the priest he would not surely boast of it."
"But we heard his screams," answered many voices.
"What! was he then screaming out?" I asked.
"He shouted out at the top of his voice, `Help, help! Murder!'"
"But you were surely mistaken about the voice," said I. "It was not the priest who shouted, it was somebody else. I could never believe that anybody would whip a priest in such a crowded village."
"But," said several, "we ran to his help and we recognized the priest's voice. He is the only one who lisps in the village."
"And we saw him with our own eyes," said several.
The school bell put an end to this conversation. As soon as school was out I returned to the house of my relatives, not wishing to learn any more about this matter. Although I did not like this priest, yet I was much mortified by some remarks which the older pupils made about him.
But it was difficult not to hear any more. On my arrival home I found my uncle and aunt engaged in a very warm debate on the subject. My uncle wished to conceal the fact that he was among those who had whipped him. But he gave the details so precisely, he was so merry over the adventure, that it was easy to see that he had a hand in the plot. My aunt was indignant, and used the most energetic expressions to show her disapprobation.
That bitter debate annoyed me so that I did not stay long to hear it all. I withdrew to my study.
During the remainder of the day I changed my resolution many times about my going to the secret meeting in the evening. At one moment I would decide firmly not to go. My conscience told me that, as usual, things would be uttered which it was not good for me to her. I had refused to go to the two last meetings, and a silent voice, as it were, told me I had done well. Then a moment after I was tormented by the desire to know precisely what had taken place the evening before. The flagellation of a priest in the midst of a large village was a fact too worthy of note to fail to excite the curiosity of a child. Besides, my aversion to the priest, though I concealed it as well as I could, made me wish to know whether everything was true on the subject of the chastisement. But in the struggle between good and evil which took place in my mind during that day, the evil was finally to triumph. A quarter of an hour before the meeting my friend came to me and said:
"Make haste, the members of the association are coming."
At this call all my good resolutions vanished. I hushed the voice of my conscience, and a few minutes later I was placed in an angle of that little room, where for more than two hours I learned so many strange and scandalous things about the lives of the priests of Canada.
Dr. Tache presided. He opened the meeting in a low tone of voice. At the beginning of his discourse I had some difficulty to understand what he said. He spoke as one who feared to be overheard when disclosing a secret to a friend. But after a few preliminary sentences he forgot the rule of prudence which he had imposed upon himself, and spoke with energy and power.
Mr. Etienne Tache was naturally eloquent. He seemed to speak on no question except under the influence of the deepest conviction of its truth. His speech was passionate, and the tone of his voice clear and agreeable. His short and cutting sentences did not reach the ear only: they penetrated even the secret folds of the soul. He spoke in substance as follows:
"Gentlemen, I am happy to see you here more numerously than ever. The grave events of last night have, no doubt, decided many of you to attend debates which some began to forsake, but the importance of which, it seems to me, increases day by day.
"The question debated in our last meeting `The Priests' is one of life and death, not only for our young and beautiful Canada, but in a moral point of view it is a question of life and death for our families, and for every one of us in particular.
"There is, I know, only one opinion among us on the subject of priests; and I am glad that this opinion is not only that of all educated men in Canada, but also of learned France nay, of the whole world. The reign of the priest is the reign of ignorance, of corruption, and of the most barefaced immorality, under the mask of the most refined hypocrisy. The reign of the priest is the death of our schools; it is the degradation of our wives, the prostitution of our daughters; it is the reign of tyranny the loss of liberty.
"We have only one good school, I will not say in St. Thomas, but in all our county. This school in our midst is a great honour to our village. Now see the energy with which all the priests who come here work for the closing of that school. They use every means to destroy that focus of light which we have started with so much difficulty, and which we support by so many sacrifices.
"With the priest of Rome our children do not belong to us: he is their master. Let me explain. The priest honours us with the belief that the bodies, the flesh and bones of our children, are ours, and that our duty in consequence is to clothe and feed them. But the nobler and more sacred part, namely, the intellect, the heart, the soul, the priest claims as his own patrimony, his own property. The priest has the audacity to tell us that to him alone it belongs to enlighten those intelligences, to form those hearts, to fashion those souls as it may best suit him. He has the impudence to tell us that we are too silly or perverse to know our duties in this respect. We have not the right of choosing our school teachers. We have not the right to send a single ray of light into those intellects, or to give to those souls who hunger and thirst after truth a single crumb of that food prepared with so much wisdom and success by enlightened men of all ages.
"By the confessional the priests poison the springs of life in our children. They initiate them into such mysteries of iniquity as would terrify old galley slaves. By their questions they reveal to them secrets of a corruption such as carries its germs of death into the very marrow of their bones, and that from the earliest years of their infancy. Before I was fifteen years old I had learned more real blackguardism from the mouth of my confessor than I have learned ever since, in my studies and in my life as a physician for twenty years.
"A few days ago I questioned my little nephew, Louis Cazeault, upon what he had learned in his confession. He answered me ingenuously, and repeated things to me which I would be ashamed to utter in your presence, and which you, fathers of families, could not listen to without blushing. And just think, that not only of little boys are those questions asked, but also of our dear little girls. Are we not the most degraded of men if we do not set ourselves to work in order to break the iron yoke under which the priest keeps our dear country, and by means of which he keeps us, with our wives and children, at his feet like vile slaves.
"While speaking to you of the deleterious effects of the confessional upon our children, shall I forget its effects upon our wives and upon ourselves? Need I tell you that, for most women, the confessional is a rendezvous of coquetry and of love? Do you not feel as I do myself, that by means of the confessional the priest is more the master of the hearts of our wives than ourselves? Is not the priest the private and public confidant of our wives? Do not our wives go invariably to the feet of the priest, opening to him what is most sacred and intimate in the secrets of our lives as husbands and as fathers? The husband belongs no more to his wife as her guide through the dark and difficult paths of life: it is the priest! We are no more their friends and natural advisers. Their anxieties and their cares they do not confide to us. They do not expect from us the remedies for the miseries of this life. Towards the priest they turn their thoughts and desires. He has their entire and exclusive confidence. In a word, it is the priest who is the real husband of our wives! It is he who has the possession of their respect and of their hearts to a degree to which no one of us need ever aspire!
"Were the priest an angel, were he not made of flesh and bones just as we are, were not his organization absolutely the same as our own, then might we be indifferent to what might take place between him and our wives, whom he has at his feet, in his hands even more, in his heart. But what does my experience tell me, not only as a physician, but also as a citizen of St. Thomas? What does yours tell you? Our experience tells us that the priest, instead of being stronger, is weaker than we generally are with respect to women.
His sham vows of perfect chastity, far from rendering him more invulnerable to the arrows of Cupid, expose him to be made more easily the victim of that god, so small in form, but so dreadful a giant by the irresistible power of his weapons and the extent of his conquests.
"As a matter of fact, of the last four priest who came to St. Thomas, have not three seduced many of the wives and daughters of our most respectable families? And what security have we that the priest who is now with us does not walk in the same path? Is not the whole parish filled with indignation at the long nightly visits made by him to two girls whose dissolute morals are a secret to nobody? And when the priest does not respect himself, would we not be silly in continuing to give him that respect of which he himself knows he is unworthy?
"At out last meeting the opinions were divided at the beginning of the discussion. Many thought it would be well to speak to the bishop about the scandal caused by those nightly visits. But the majority judged that such steps would be useless, since the bishop would do one of two things, namely, he would either pay no attention to our just complaints, as has often been the case, or he would remove this priest, filling his place with one who would do no better. That majority, which became a unanimity, acceded to my thought of taking justice into our own hands. The priest is our servant. We pay him a large tithe. We have therefore claims upon him. He has abused us, and does so every day by his public neglect of the most elementary laws of morality. In visiting every night that house whose degradation is known to everybody, he gives to youth an example of perversity the effects of which no one can estimate.
"It had been unanimously decided that he should be whipped. Without my telling you by whom it was done, you may be assured that Mr. Beaubien's flagellation of last night will never be forgotten by him!
"Heaven grant that this brotherly correction be a lesson to teach all the priests of Canada that their golden reign is over, that the eyes of the people are opened, and that their domination is drawing to an end!"
This discourse was listened to with deep silence, and Dr. Tache saw by the applause that followed that his speech had been the expression of every one.
Next followed a gentleman named Dubord, who in substance spoke as follows:
"Mr. President, I was not among those who gave the priest the expression of public feeling with the energetic tongue of the whip. I wish I had been, however; I would heartily have co-operated in giving that lesson to the priest of Canada. Let me give my reason.
"My daughter who is twelve years old, went to confession as did the others a few weeks ago. It was against my will. I know by my own experience that of all actions confession is the most degrading in a person's life. I can imagine nothing so well calculated to destroy for every one's self-respect as the modern invention of the confessional. Now, what is a person without self-respect especially a woman? Without this all is lost to her for ever.
"In the confessional everything is corruption of the lowest grade.
"In the confessional, a girl's thoughts are polluted, her tongue is polluted, her heart is polluted yes, and forever polluted! Do I need to tell you this? You know it as well as I do. Though you are now all too intelligent to degrade yourselves at the feet of a priest, though it is long since you have been guilty of that meanness, not one of you have forgotten the lessons of corruption received, when young, in the confessional. Those lessons were engraved on your memory, your thoughts, your heart, and your souls like the scar left by the red-hot iron upon the brow of the slave, to remain a perpetual witness of his shame and servitude. The confessional is a place where one gets accustomed to hear, and repeat without a scruple, things which would cause even a prostitute to blush!
"Why are Roman Catholic nations inferior to nations belonging to Protestantism? Only in the confessional can the solution of that problem be found. And why are Roman Catholic nations degraded in proportion to their submission to the priest? It is because the oftener the individuals composing those nations go to confession, the more rapidly they sink in the scale of intelligence and morality. A terrible example of this I had in my own house.
"As I said a moment ago, I was against my daughter going to confession; but her poor mother, who is under the control of the priest, earnestly wanted her to go. Not to have a disagreeable scene in my house, I had to yield to the tears of my wife.
"On the day following that of her confession they believed I was absent; but I was in my office, with the door sufficiently open to allow me to hear what was said. My wife and daughter had the following conversation:
"`What makes you so thoughtful and sad, my dear Lucy, since you went to confession? It seems to me you should feel happier since you had the privilege of confession your sins.'
"Lucy made no answer.
"After a silence of two or three minutes her mother said:
"`Why do you weep, dear child? Are you ill?'
"Still no answer from the child.
"You may well suppose that I was all attention. I had my suspicions about the dreadful ordeal which had taken place. My heart throbbed with uneasiness and anger.
"After a short time my wife spoke to her child with sufficient firmness to force her to answer. In a trembling voice and half suppressed with sobs my dear little daughter answered:
"`Ah! mamma, if you knew what the priest asked me, and what he said to me in the confessional, you would be as sad as I am.'
"`But what did he say to you? He is a holy man. You surely did not understand him if you think he said anything to pain you.'
"`Dear mother,' as she threw herself into her mother's arms, `do not ask me to confess what the priest said! He told to me things so shameful that I cannot repeat them. But that which pains me most is the impossibility of banishing from my thoughts the hateful things which he has taught me. His impure words are like the leeches put upon the chest of my friend Louise they could not be removed without tearing the flesh. What must have been his opinion of me to ask such questions!'
"My child said no more, and began to sob again.
"After a short silence my wife rejoined:
"`I'll go to the priest. I'll tell him to beware how he speaks in the confessional. I have noticed myself that he goes too far with his questions. I, however thought that he was more prudent with children. After the lesson that I'll give him, be sure that you will have only to tell your sins, and that you will be no more troubled by his endless questions. I ask of you, however, never to speak of this to anybody, especially never let your poor father know anything about it; for he has little enough religion already, and this would leave him without any at all.'
"I could contain myself no longer. I rose and abruptly entered the parlour. My daughter threw herself, weeping, into my arms. My wife screamed with terror, and almost fell into a swoon. I said to my child:
"If you love me, put your hand on my heart and promise me that you'll never go to confession again. Fear God, my child; walk in His presence, for His eye seeth you everywhere. Remember that day and night He is ready to forgive us. Never place yourself again at the feet of a priest to be defiled and degraded by him!
"This my daughter promised me.
"When my wife had recovered from her surprise I said to her:
"Madam, for a long time the priest has been everything, and your husband nothing to you. There is a hidden and terrible power that governs your thoughts and affections as it governs your deeds-- it is the power of the priest. This you have often denied; but providence has decided to-day that this power should be for ever broken for you and for me. I want to be the ruler in my own house; and from this moment the power of the priest over you must cease, unless you prefer to leave my house for ever. The priest has reigned here too long! But now that I know he has stained and defiled the soul of my daughter, his empire must fall! Whenever you go and take your heart and secrets to the feet of the priest, be so kind as not to come back to the same house with me."
Three other discourses followed that of Mr. Dubord, all of which were pregnant with details and facts going to prove that the confessional was the principal cause of the deplorable demoralisation of St. Thomas.
If, in addition to all that, I could have mentioned before that association what I already know of the corrupting influences of that institution given to the world by centuries of darkness, certainly the determination of its members to make use of every means to abolish the usage would have been strengthened.
CHAPTER 5 Back to Contents
The day following that of the meeting at which Mr. Tache had given his reasons for boasting that he had whipped the priest, I wrote to my mother: "For God's sake, come for me; I can stay here no longer. If you knew what my eyes have seen and my ears have heard for some time past, you would not delay your coming a single day."
Indeed, such was the impression left upon me by that flagellation, and by the speeches which I had heard, that had it not been for the crossing of the St. Lawrence, I would have started for Murray Bay on the day after the secret meeting at which I had heard things that so terribly frightened me. How I regretted the happy and peaceful days spent with my mother in reading the beautiful chapters of the Bible, so well chosen by her to instruct and interest me! What a difference there was between our conversations after these readings, and the conversations I heard at St. Thomas!
Happily my parents' desire to see me again was as great as mine to go back to them. So that a few weeks later my mother came for me. She pressed me to her heart, and brought me back to the arms of my father.
I arrived at home on the 17th of July, 1821, and spent the afternoon and evening till late by my father's side. With what pleasure did he see me working difficult problems in algebra, and even in geometry! for under my teacher, Mr. Jones, I had really made rapid progress in those branches. More than once I noticed tears of joy in my father's eyes when, taking my slate, he saw that my calculations were correct. He also examined me in grammar. "What an admirable teacher this Mr. Jones must be," he would say, "to have advanced a child so much in the short space of fourteen months!"
How sweet to me, but how short, were those hours of happiness passed between my good mother and my father! We had family worship. I read the fifteenth chapter of Luke, the return of the prodigal son. My mother then sang a hymn of joy and gratitude, and I went to bed with my heart full of happiness to take the sweetest sleep of my life. But, O God! what an awful awakening Thou hadst prepared for me!
About four o'clock in the morning heartrending screams fell upon my ear. I recognized my mother's voice.
"What is the matter, dear mother?"
"Oh, my dear child, you have no more a father! He is dead!"
In saying these words she lost consciousness and fell on the floor!
While a friend who had passed the night with us gave her proper care, I hastened to my father's bed. I pressed him to my heart, I kissed him, I covered him with my tears, I moved his head, I pressed his hands, I tried to lift him up on his pillow: I could not believe that he was dead! It seemed to me that even if dead he would come back to life that God could not thus take my father away from me at the very moment when I had come back to him after so long an absence! I knelt to pray to God for the life of my father. But my tears and cries were useless. He was dead! He was already cold as ice!
Two days after he was buried. My mother was so overwhelmed with grief that she could not follow the funeral procession. I remained with her as her only earthly support. Poor mother! How many tears thou hast shed! What sobs came from thine afflicted heart in those days of supreme grief!
Though I was very young, I could understand the greatness of our loss, and I mingled my tears with those of my mother.
What pen can portray what takes place in the heart of a woman when God takes suddenly her husband away in the prime of his life, and leaves her alone, plunged in misery, with three small children, two of whom are even too young to know their loss! How long are the hours of the day for the poor widow who is left alone, and without means, among strangers! How painful the sleepless night to the heart which has lost everything! How empty a house is left by the eternal absence of him who was its master, support, and father! Every object in the house and every step she takes remind her of her loss and sinks the sword deeper which pierces her heart. Oh, how bitter are the tears which flow from her eyes when her youngest child, who as yet does not understand the mystery of death, throws himself into her arms and says: "Mamma, where is papa? Why does he not come back? I am lonely!"
My poor mother passed through those heartrending trials. I heard her sobs during the long hours of the day, and also during the longer hours of the night. Many times I have seen her fall upon her knees to implore God to be merciful to her and to her three unhappy orphans. I could do nothing then to comfort her, but love her, pray and weep with her!
Only a few days had elapsed after the burial of my father when I saw Mr. Courtois, the parish priest, coming to our house (he who had tried to take away our Bible from us). He had the reputation of being rich, and as we were poor and unhappy since my father's death, my first thought was that he had come to comfort and to help us. I could see that my mother had the same hopes. She welcomed him as an angel from heaven. The least gleam of hope is so sweet to one who is unhappy!
From his very first words, however, I could see that our hopes were not to be realized. He tried to be sympathetic, and even said something about the confidence that we should have in God, especially in times of trial; but his words were cold and dry.
Turning to me, he said:
"Do you continue to read the Bible, my little boy?"
"Yes, sir," answered I, with a voice trembling with anxiety, for I feared that he would make another effort to take away that treasure, and I had no longer a father to defend it.
Then, addressing my mother, he said:
"Madam, I told you that it was not right for you or your child to read that book."
My mother cast down her eyes, and answered only by the tears which ran down her cheeks.
That question was followed by a long silence, and the priest then continued:
"Madam, there is something due for the prayers which have been sung, and the services which you requested to be offered for the repose of your husband's soul. I will be very much obliged to you if you pay me that little debt."
"Mr. Courtis," answered my mother, "my husband left me nothing but debts. I have only the work of my own hands to procure a living for my three children, the eldest of whom is before you. For these little orphans' sake, if not for mine, do not take from us the little that is left."
"But, madam, you do not reflect. Your husband died suddenly and without any preparation; he is therefore in the flames of purgatory. If you want him to be delivered, you must necessarily unite your personal sacrifices to the prayers of the Church and the masses which we offer."
"As I said, my husband has left me absolutely without means, and it is impossible for me to give you any money," replied my mother.
"But, madam, your husband was for a long time the only notary of Mal Bay. He surely must have made much money. I can scarcely think that he has left you without any means to help him now that his desolation and sufferings are far greater than yours."
"My husband did indeed coin much money, but he spent still more. Thanks to God, we have not been in want while he lived. But lately he got this house built, and what is still due on it makes me fear that I will lose it. He also bought a piece of land not long ago, only half of which is paid and I will, therefore, probably not be able to keep it. Hence I may soon, with my poor orphans, be deprived of everything that is left us. In the meantime I hope, sir, that you are not a man to take away from us our last piece of bread."
"But, madam, the masses offered for the rest of your husband's soul must be paid for," answered the priest.
My mother covered her face with her handkerchief and wept.
As for me, I did not mingle my tears with hers this time. My feelings were not those of grief, but of anger and unspeakable horror. My eyes were fixed on the face of that man who tortured my mother's heart. I looked with tearless eyes upon the man who added to my mother's anguish, and made her weep more bitterly than ever. My hands were clenched, as if ready to strike. All my muscles trembled; my teeth chattered as if from intense cold. My greatest sorrow was my weakness in the presence of that big man, and my not being able to send him away from our house, and driving him far away from my mother.
I felt inclined to say to him: "Are you not ashamed, you who are so rich, to come to take away the last piece of bread from our mouths?" But my physical and moral strength were not sufficient to accomplish the task before me, and I was filled with regret and disappointment.
After a long silence, my mother raised her eyes, reddened with tears, towards the priest and said:
"Sir, you see that cow in the meadow, not far from our house? Her milk and the butter made from it form the principal part of my children's food. I hope you will not take her away from us. If, however, such a sacrifice must be made to deliver my poor husband's soul from purgatory, take her as payment of the masses to be offered to extinguish those devouring flames."
The priest instantly arose, saying, "Very well, madam," and went out.
Our eyes anxiously followed him; but instead of walking towards the little gate which was in front of the house, he directed his steps towards the meadow, and drove the cow before him in the direction of his home.
At that sight I screamed with despair: "Oh, my mother! he is taking our cow away! What will become of us?"
Lord Nairn had given us that splendid cow when it was three months old. Her mother had been brought from Scotland, and belonged to one of the best breeds of that country. I fed her with my own hands, and had often shared my bread with her. I loved her as a child always loves an animal which he has brought up himself. She seemed to understand and love me also. From whatever distance she could see me, she would run to me to receive my caresses, and whatever else I might have to give her. My mother herself milked her; and her rich milk was such delicious and substantial food for us.
My mother also cried out with grief as she saw the priest taking away the only means heaven had left her to feed her children.
Throwing myself into her arms, I asked her: "Why have you given away our cow? What will become of us? We shall surely die of hunger?"
"Dear child," she answered. "I did not think the priest would be so cruel as to take away the last resource which God had left us. Ah! if I had believed him to be so unmerciful I would never have spoken to him as I did. As you say, my dear child, what will become of us? But have you not often read to me in your Bible that God is the Father of the widow and the orphan? We shall pray to that God who is willing to be your father and mine: He will listen to us, and see our tears. Let us kneel down and ask Him to be merciful to us, and to give us back the support which the priest deprived us."
We both knelt down. She took my right hand with her left, and, lifting the other hand towards heaven, she offered a prayer to the God of mercies for her poor children such as I have never since heard. Her words were often choked by her sobs. But when she could not speak with her voice, she spoke with her burning eyes raised to heaven, and with her hand uplifted. I also prayed to God with her, and repeated her words, which were broken by my sobs.
When her prayer was ended she remained for a long time pale and trembling. Cold sweat was flowing on her face, and she fell on the floor. I thought she was going to die. I ran for cold water, which I gave her, saying: "Dear mother! Oh, do not leave me alone upon earth!" After drinking a few drops she felt better, and taking my hand, she put it to her trembling lips; then drawing me near her, and pressing me to her bosom, she said: "Dear child, if ever you become a priest, I ask of you never to be so hard-hearted towards poor widows as are the priests of today." When she said these words, I felt her burning tears falling upon my cheek.
The memory of these tears has never left me. I felt them constantly during the twenty-five years I spent in preaching the inconceivable superstitions of Rome.
I was not better, naturally, than many of the other priests. I believed, as they did, the impious fables of purgatory; and as well as they (I confess it to my shame), if I refused to take, or if I gave back the money of the poor, I accepted the money which the rich gave me for the masses I said to extinguish the flames of that fabulous place. But the remembrance of my mother's words and tears has kept me from being so cruel and unmerciful towards the poor widows as Romish priests are, for the most part, obliged to be.
When my heart, depraved by the false and impious doctrines of Rome, was tempted to take money from widows and orphans, under pretense of my long prayers, I then heard the voice of my mother, from the depth of her sepulchre, saying, "My dear child, do not be cruel towards poor widows and orphans, as are the priests of today." If, during the days of my priesthood at Quebec, at Beauport, and Kamarouska, I have given almost all that I had to feed and clothe the poor, especially the widows and orphans, it was not owing to my being better than others, but it was because my mother had spoken to me with words never to be forgotten. The Lord, I believe, had put into my mother's mouth those words, so simple but so full of eloquence and beauty, as one of His great mercies towards me. Those tears the hand of Rome has never been able to wipe off: those words of my mother the sophisms of Popery could not make me forget.
How long, O Lord, shall that insolent enemy of the gospel, the Church of Rome, be permitted to fatten herself upon the tears of the widow and of the orphan by means of that cruel and impious invention of paganism purgatory? Wilt Thou not be merciful unto so many nations which are still the victims of that great imposture? Oh, do remove the veil which covers the eyes of the priests and people of Rome, as Thou hast removed it from mine! Make them to understand that their hopes of purification must not rest on these fabulous fires, but only on the blood of the Lamb shed on Calvary to save the world.
CHAPTER 6 Back to Contents
God had heard the poor widow's prayer. A few days after the priest had taken our cow she received a letter from each of her two sisters, Genevieve and Catherine.
The former, who was married to Etienne Eschenbach, of St. Thomas, told her to sell all she had and come, with her children, to live with her.
"We have no family," she said, "and God has given us the good things of this life in abundance. We shall be happy to share them with you and your children."
The latter, married in Kamouraska to the Hon. Amaable Dionne wrote: "We have learned the sad news of your husband's death. We have lately lost our only son. We wish to fill the vacant place with Charles, your eldest. Send him to us. We shall bring him up as our own child, and before long he will be your support. In the meantime, sell by auction all you have, and go to St. Thomas with your two younger children. There Genevieve and myself will supply your wants."
In a few days all our furniture was sold. Unfortunately, though I had carefully concealed my cherished Bible, it disappeared. I could never discover what became of it. Had mother herself, frightened by the threats of the priest, relinquished that treasure? or had some of our relatives, believing it to be their duty, destroyed it? I do not know. I deeply felt that loss, which was then irreparable to me.
On the following day, in the midst of bitter tears and sobs, I bade farewell to my poor mother and young brothers. They went to St. Thomas on board a schooner, and I crossed in a sloop to Kamouraska.
My uncle and aunt Dionne welcomed me with every mark of the most sincere affection. Having soon made known to them that I wished to become a priest, I begun to study Latin under the direction of Rev. Mr. Morin, vicar of Kamouraska. That priest was esteemed to be a learned man. He was about forty or fifty years old, and had been priest of a parish in the district of Montreal. But, as is the case with the majority of priests, his vows of celibacy had not proved a sufficient guarantee against the charms of one of his beautiful parishioners. This had caused a great scandal. He consequently lost his position, and the bishop had sent him to Kamouraska, where his past conduct was not so generally known. He was very good to me, and I soon loved him with sincere affection.
One day, about the beginning of the year 1882, he called me aside and said:
"Mr. Varin (the parish priest) is in the habit of giving a great festival on his birthday. Now, the principal citizens of the village wish on that occasion to present him with a bouquet. I am appointed to write an address, and to choose some one to deliver it before the priest. You are the one whom I have chosen. What do you think of it?"
"But I am very young," I replied.
"Your youth will only give more interest to what we wish to say and do," said the priest.
"Well, I have no objection to do so, provided the piece be not too long, and that I have it sufficiently soon to learn it well."
It was already prepared. The time of delivering it soon came. The best society of Kamouraska, composed of about fifteen gentlemen and as many ladies, were assembled in the beautiful parlours of the parsonage. Mr. Varin was in their midst. Suddenly Squire Paschal Tache, the seigneur of the parish, and his lady entered the room, holding me by each hand, and placed me in the midst of the guests. My head was crowned with flowers, for I was to represent the angel of the parish, whom the people had chosen to give to their pastor the expression of public admiration and gratitude. When the address was finished, I presented to the priest the beautiful bouquet of symbolical flowers prepared by the ladies for the occasion.
Mr. Varin was a small but well-built man. His thin lips were ever ready to smile graciously. The remarkable whiteness of his skin was still heightened by the red colour of his cheeks. Intelligence and goodness beamed from his expressive black eyes. Nothing could be more amiable and gracious than his conversation during the first quarter of an hour passed in his company. He was passionately fond of these little fetes, and the charm of his manners could not be surpassed as the host of the evening.
He was moved to tears before hearing half of the address, and the eyes of many were moistened when the pastor, with a voice trembling and full of emotion, expressed his joy and gratitude at being so highly appreciated by his parishioners.
As soon as the happy pastor had expressed his thanks, the ladies sang two or three beautiful songs. The door of the dining-room was then opened, and we could see a long table laden with the most delicious meats and wines that Canada could offer.
I had never before been present at a priest's dinner. The honourable position given me at that little fete permitted me to see it in all its details, and nothing could equal the curiosity with which I sought to hear and see all that was said and done by thuds guests.
Besides Mr. Varin and his vicar, there were three other priests, who were artistically placed in the midst of the most beautiful ladies of the company. The ladies, after honouring us with their presence for an hour or so, left the table and retired to the drawing-room. Scarcely had the last lady disappeared when Mr. Varin rose and said:
"Gentlemen, let us drink to the health of these amiable ladies, whose presence has thrown so many charms over the first part of our little fete."
Following the example of Mr. Varin each guest filled and emptied his long wine glass in honour of the ladies.
Squire Tache then proposed "The health of the most venerable and beloved priest of Canada, the Rev. Mr. Varin." Again the glasses were filled and emptied, except mine; for I had been placed at he side of my uncle Dionne, who, sternly looking at me as soon as I had emptied my first glass, said: "If you drink another I will send you from the table. A little boy like you should not drink, but only touch the glass with his lips."
It would have been difficult to count the healths which were drank after the ladies had left us. After each health a song or a story was called for, several of which were followed by applause, shouts of joy, and convulsive laughter.
When my turn to propose a health came, I wished to be excused, but they would not exempt me. So I had to say about whose health I was most interested. I rose, and turning to Mr. Varin, I said, "Let us drink to the health of our Holy Father, the Pope."
Nobody had yet thought of our Holy Father the Pope, and the name, mentioned under such circumstances by a child, appeared so droll to the priests and their merry guests that they burst into laughter, stamped their feet, and shouted, "Bravo! bravo! To the health of the Pope!" Everyone stood up, and at the invitation of Mr. Varin, the glasses were filled and emptied as usual.
So many healths could not be drunk without their natural effect intoxication. The first that was overcome was a priest, Noel by name. He was a tall man, and a great drinker. I had noticed more than once, that instead of taking his wine glass he drank from a large tumbler. The first symptoms of his intoxication, instead of drawing sympathy from his friends, only increased their noisy bursts of laughter. He endeavored to take a bottle to fill his glass, but his hand shook, and the bottle, falling on the floor, was broken to pieces. Wishing to keep up his merriment he began to sing a Bacchic song, but could not finish. He dropped his head on the table, quite overcome, and trying to rise, he fell heavily upon his chair. While all this took place the other priests and all the guests looked at him, laughing loudly. At last, making a desperate effort, he rose, but after taking two or three steps, fell headlong on the floor. His two neighbours went to help him, but they were not in a condition to help him. Twice they rolled with him under the table. At length another, less affected by the fumes of wine, took him by the feet and dragged him into an adjoining room, where they left him.
This first scene seemed strange enough to me, for I had never before seen a priest intoxicated. But what astonished me most was the laughter of the other priests over that spectacle. Another scene, however, soon followed, which made me sadder. My young companion and friend, Achilles Tache, had not been warned, as I had, only to touch the wine with his lips. More than once he had emptied his glass. He also rolled upon the floor before the eyes of his father, who was too full of wine to help him. He cried aloud, "I am choking!" I tried to lift him up, but was not strong enough. I ran for his mother. She came, accompanied by another lady, but the vicar had carried him into another room, where he fell asleep after having thrown off the wine he had taken.
Poor Achilles! he was learning, in the house of his own priest, to take the first step of that life of debauchery and drunkenness which twelve or fifteen years later was to rob him of his manor, take from him his wife and children, and to make him fall a victim to the bloody hand of a murderer upon the solitary shores of Kamouraska!
This first and sad experience which I made of the real and intimate life of the Roman Catholic priest was so deeply engraved on my memory that I still remember with shame the bacchic song which that priest Morin had taught me, and which I sang on that occasion. It commenced with these Latin words: -
Ego, in arte Bacchi,
Decies pintum vini
I also remember one sung by Mr. Varin. Here it is: -
Savez-vous pourquoi, mes amis, (bis)
Nous sommes tous si rejouis? (bis)
Amis n'endoutez pas,
C'est qu'un repas
Qu' apprete sans facon,
Mangeons a la gamelle.
Vive le son, vive le son,
Mangeons a la gamelle,
Vive le son du flacon!
When the priests and their friends had sung, laughed, and drank for more than an hour, Mr. Vain rose and said, "The ladies must not be left along all the evening. Will not our joy and happiness be doubled if they are pleased to share them with us."
This proposition was received with applause, and we passed into the drawing-room, where the ladies awaited us.
Several pieces of music, well executed, gave new life to this part of the entertainment. This resource, however, was soon exhausted. Besides, some of the ladies could well see that their husbands were half drunk, and they felt ashamed. Madam Tache could not conceal the grief she felt, caused by what had happened to her dear Achilles. Had she some presentiment, as may persons have, of the tears which she was to shed one day on his account? Was the vision of a mutilated and bloody corpse the corpse of her own drunken son fallen dead, under the blow of an assassin's dagger, before her eyes?
Mr. Varin feared nothing more than an interruption in those hours of lively pleasure, of which his life was full, and which took place in his parsonage.
"Well, well, ladies and gentlemen, let us entertain no dark thoughts of this evening, the happiest of my life. Let us play blind man's bluff."
"Let us play blind man's bluff!" was repeated by everybody.
On hearing this noise, the gentlemen who were half asleep by the fumes of wine seemed to awaken as if from a long dream. Young gentlemen clapped their hands; ladies, young and old, congratulated one another on the happy idea.
"But whose eyes shall be covered first?" asked the priest.
"Yours, Mr. Varin," cried all the ladies. "We look to you for the good example, and we shall follow it."
"The power and unanimity of the jury by which I am condemned cannot be resisted. I feel that there is no appeal. I must submit."
Immediately one of the ladies placed her nicely-perfumed handkerchief over the eyes of her priest, took him by the hand, led him to an angle of the room, and having pushed him gently with her delicate hand, said, "Mr. Blindman! Let everyone flee! Woe to him who is caught!"
There is nothing more curious and comical than to see a man walk when he is under the influence of wine, especially if he wishes nobody to notice it. How stiff and straight he keeps his legs! How varied and complicated, in order to keep his equilibrium, are his motions to right and left! Such was the position of priest Varin. He was not very drunk. Though he had taken a large quantity of wine he did not fall. He carried with wonderful courage the weight with which he was laden. The wine which he had drank would have intoxicated three ordinary men; but such was his capacity for drinking that he could still walk without falling. However, his condition was sadly betrayed by each step he took and by each word he spoke. Nothing, therefore, was more comical than the first steps of the poor priest in his efforts to lay hold of somebody in order to pass his band to him.
He would take one forward and two backward steps, and would then stagger to the right and to the left. Everybody laughed to tears. One after another they would all either pinch him or touch him gently on his hand, arm, or shoulder, and, passing rapidly off, would exclaim, "Run away!" The priest went to the right and then to the left, threw his arms suddenly now here and then there. His legs evidently bent under their burden; he panted, perspired, coughed, and everyone began to fear that the trial might be carried too far, and beyond propriety. But suddenly, by a happy turn he caught the arm of a lady who in teasing him had come too near. In vain the lady tries to escape. She struggles, turns round, but the priest's hand holds her firmly.
While holding his victim with his right hand he wishes to touch her head with his left, in order to know and name the pretty bird he has caught. But at that moment his legs gave way. He falls, and drags with him his beautiful parishioner. She turns upon him in order to escape, but he soon turns on her in order to hold her better.
All this, though the affair of a moment, was long enough to cause the ladies to blush and cover their faces. Never in all my life did I see anything so shameful as that scene. This ended the game.
Everyone felt ashamed. I make a mistake when I say everyone, because the men were almost all too intoxicated to blush. The priests also were either too drunk or too much accustomed to see such scenes to be ashamed.
On the following day every one of those priests celebrated mass, and ate what they called the body and blood, the soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, just as if they had spent the previous evening in prayer and meditation on the laws of God! Mr. Varin was the arch-priest of the important part of the diocese of Quebec from La Riviere Ouelle to Gaspe.
Thus, O perfidious Church of Rome, thou deceivest the nations who follow thee, and ruinest even the priests whom thou makest thy slaves.
CHAPTER 7 Back to Contents
Nothing can exceed the care with which Roman Catholic priests prepare children for their first communion. Two and three months are set apart every year for that purpose. All that time the children between ten and twelve years of age are obliged to go to Church almost every day, not only to learn by heart their catechism, but to hear the explanations of all its teachings.
The priest who instructed us was the Rev. Mr. Morin, whom I have already mentioned. He was exceedingly kind to children, and we respected and loved him sincerely. His instructions to us were somewhat long; but we liked to hear him, for he always had some new and interesting stories to give us.
The catechism taught as a preparation for our first communion was the foundation of the idolatries and superstitions which the Church of Rome gives as the religion of Christ. It is by means of that catechetical instruction that she obtains for the Pope and his representatives that profound respect, I might say adoration, which is the secret of her power and influence. With this catechism Rome corrupts the most sacred truths of the Gospel. It is there that Jesus is removed from the hearts for which He paid so great a price, and that Mary is put in His place. But the great iniquity of substituting Mary for Jesus is so skilfully concealed, it is given with colours so poetic and beautiful, and so well adapted to captivate human nature, that it is almost impossible for a poor child to escape the snare.
One day the priest said to me, "Stand up, my child, in order to answer the many important questions which I have to ask you."
I stood up.
"My child," he said, "when you had been guilty of some fault at home who was the first to punish you your father or your mother?"
After a few moments of hesitation I answered, "My father."
"You have answered correctly, my child," said the priest. "As a matter of fact, the father is almost always more impatient with his children, and more ready to punish them, than the mother."
"Now, my child, tell us who punished you most severely your father or your mother?"
"My father," I said, without hesitation.
"Still true, my child. The superior goodness of a kind mother is perceived even in the act of correction. Her blows are lighter than those of the father. Further, when you had deserved to be chastised, did not one sometimes come between you and your father's rod, taking it away from him and pacifying him?"
"Yes," I said; "mother did that very often, and saved me from severe punishment more than once."
"That is so, my child, not only for you, but for all your companions here. Have not your good mothers, my children, often saved you from your father's corrections even when you deserved it? Answer me."
"Yes, sir," they all answered.
"One question more. When your father was coming to whip you, did you not throw yourself into the arms of some one to escape?" "Yes, sir; when guilty of something, more than once, I threw myself into my mother's arms as soon as I saw my father coming to whip me. She begged pardon for me, and pleaded so well that I often escaped punishment."
"You have answered well," said the priest. Then turning to the children, he continued:
"You have a Father and a Mother in heaven, dear children. Your Father is Jesus, and your Mother is Mary. Do not forget that a mother's heart is always more tender and more prone to mercy than that of a father.
"Often you offend your Father by your sins; you make Him angry against you. What takes place in heaven then? Your Father in heaven takes His rod to punish you. He threatens to crush you down with His roaring thunder; He opens the gates of hell to cast you into it, and you would have been damned long ago had it not been for the loving Mother whom you have in heaven, who has disarmed your angry and irritated Father. When Jesus would punish you as you deserve, the good Virgin Mary hastens to Him and pacifies Him. She places herself between Him and you, and prevents Him from smiting you. She speaks in your favour, she asks for your pardon and she obtains it.
"Also, as young Chiniquy has told you, he often threw himself into the arms of his mother to escape punishment. She took his part, and pleaded so well that his father yielded and put away the rod. Thus, my children, when your conscience tells you that you are guilty, that Jesus is angry against you and that you have good reason to fear hell, hasten to Mary! Throw yourselves into the arms of that good mother; have recourse to her sovereign power over Jesus, and be assured that you will be saved through her!"
It is thus that the Pope and the priests of Rome have entirely disfigured and changed the holy religion of the Gospel! In the Church of Rome it is not Jesus, but Mary, who represents the infinite love and mercy of God for the sinner. The sinner is not advised or directed to place his hope in Jesus, but in Mary, for his escape from deserved chastisement! It is not Jesus, but Mary, who saves the sinner! Jesus is always bent on punishing sinners; Mary is always merciful to them!
The Church of Rome has thus fallen into idolatry: she rather trusts in Mary than in Jesus. She constantly invites sinners to turn their thoughts, their hopes, their affections, not to Jesus, but to Mary!
By means of that impious doctrine Rome deceives the intellects, seduces the hearts, and destroys the souls of the young for ever. Under the pretext of honouring the Virgin Mary, she insults her by outraging and misrepresenting her adorable Son.
Rome has brought back the idolatry of old paganism under a new name. She has replaced upon her altars the Jupiter Tonans of the Greeks and Romans, only she places upon his shoulders the mantle and she writes on the forehead of her idol the name of Jesus, in order the better to deceive the world!
Continue to Chapter 8