in the Church of Rome
by Charles Chiniquy
CHAPTER 43 Back to Contents
The eleven months spent in the monastery of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, were among the greatest favours God has granted me. What I had read of the monastic orders, and what my honest, though deluded imagination, had painted of the holiness, purity, and happiness of the monastic life, could not be blotted out of my mind, except by a kind of miraculous interposition. No testimony whatever could have convinced me that the monastic institutions were not one of the most blessed of the Gospel. Their existence, in the bosom of the Church of Rome, was, for me, an infallible token of her divine institution, and miraculous preservation; and their absence among Protestants, one of the strongest proofs that these heretics were entirely separated from Christ. Without religious orders the Protestant denominations were to me, as dead and decayed branches cut from the true vine, which are doomed to perish.
But, just as the eyes of Thomas were opened, and his intelligence was convinced of the divinity of Christ, only after he had seen the wounds in his hands and side, so I could never have believed that the monastic institutions were of heathen and diabolical origin, if my God had not forced me to see with my own eyes, and to touch with my fingers, their unspeakable corruptions.
Though I remained, for some time longer, a sincere Catholic priest, I dare say that God Himself had just broken the strongest tie of my affections and respect for that Church.
It is true that several pillars remained, on which my robust faith in the holiness and apostolicity of the Church rested for a few years longer, but I must here confess to the glory of God, that the most solid of these pillars had for ever crumbled to pieces, when in the monastery of Longueuil.
Long before my leaving the Oblates, many influential priests of the district of Montreal had told me that my only chance of success, if I wanted to continue my crusade against the demon of drunkenness, was to work alone. "Those monks are pretty good speakers on temperance," they unanimously said, "but they are nothing else than a band of comedians. After delivering their eloquent tirades against the use of intoxicating drinks, to the people, the first thing they do is to ask for a bottle of wine, which soon disappears! What fruit can we expect from the preaching of men who do not believe a word of what they say, and who are the first, among themselves, to turn their own arguments into ridicule? It is very different with you; you believe what you say; you are consistent with yourself; your hearers feel it; your profound, scientific, and Christian convictions pass into them with an irresistible power. God visibly blesses your work with a marvelous success! Come to us," said the curates, "not as sent by the superior of the Oblates, but as sent, by God Himself, to regenerate Canada. Present yourself as a French
Canadian priest; a child of the people. That people will hear you with more pleasure, and follow your advice with more perseverance. Let them know and feel that Canadian blood runs in your veins; that a Canadian heart beats in your breast; continue to be, in the future, what you have been in the past. Let the sentiments of the true patriot be united with those of a Catholic priest; and when you address the people of Canada, the citadels of Satan will crumble everywhere before you in the district of Montreal, as they have done in that of Quebec."
At the head of the French Canadian curates, who thus spoke, was my venerable personal friend and benefactor, the Rev. Mr. Brassard, curate of Longueuil. He had not only been one of my most devoted friends and teachers, when I was studying in the college at Nicolet, but had helped me, with his own money, to go through the last four years of my studies, when I was too poor to meet my collegiate expenses. No one had thought more highly than he of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, when they first settled in Canada. But their monastery was too near his parsonage for their own benefit. His sharp eyes, high intelligence, and integrity of character, soon detected that there was more false varnish than pure gold, on their glittering escutcheon. Several love scrapes between some of the Oblates and the pretty young ladies of his parish, and the long hours of night spent by Father Allard with the nuns, established in his village, under the pretext of teaching them grammar and arithmetic, had filled him with disgust. But what had absolutely destroyed his confidence, was the discovery of a long-suspected iniquity, which at first seemed incredible to him. Father Guigues, the superior, after his nomination, but before his installation to the Bishopric of Ottawa, had been closely watched, and at last discovered when opening the letters of Mr. Brassard, which, many times, had passed from the post office, through his hands. That criminal action had come very near to being brought before the legal courts by Mr. Brassard; this was avoided only by Father Guigues acknowledging his guilt, asking pardon in the most humiliating way, before me and several other witnesses.
Long before I left the Oblates, Mr. Brassard had said to me: "The Oblates are not the men you think them to be. I have been sorely disappointed in them, and your disappointment will be no less than mine, when your eyes are opened. I know that you will not remain long in their midst. I offer you, in advance, the hospitality of my parsonage, when your conscience calls you out of their monastery!"
I availed myself of this kind invitation on the evening of the 1st of November, 1847.
The next week was spent in preparing the memoir which I intended to present to my Lord Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, as an explanation of my leaving the Oblates. I knew that he was disappointed and displeased with the step I had taken.
The curate of Chambly, Rev. Mr. Mignault, having gone to the bishop, to express his joy that I had left the monks, in order to serve again in the church, in the ranks of the secular clergy, had been very badly received. The bishop had answered him: "Mr. Chiniquy may leave the Oblates if he likes; but he will be disappointed if he expects to work in my diocese. I do not want his services."
This did not surprise me. I knew that those monks had been imported by him, from France, and that they were pets of his. When I entered their monastery, just eleven months before, he was just starting for Rome, and expressed to me the pleasure he felt that I was to join them. My reasons, however, were so good, and the memoir I was preparing was so full of undoubted facts and unanswerable arguments, that I was pretty sure, not only to appease the wrath of my bishop, but to gain his esteem more firmly than before. I was not disappointed in my expectation.
A few days later I called upon his lordship, and was received very coldly. He said: "I cannot conceal from you my surprise and pain at the rasp step you have taken. What a shame, for all your friends to see your want of consistency and perseverance! Had you remained among those good monks, your moral strength, could have been increased more than tenfold. But you have stultified yourself in the eyes of the people, as well as in mine; you have lost the confidence of your best friends, by leaving, without good reasons, the company of such holy men. Some bad rumours are already afloat against you, which give us to understand that you are an unmanageable man, a selfish priest, whom the superiors have been forced to turn out as a black sheep, whose presence could not be any longer tolerated inside the peaceful walls of that holy monastery."
Those words were uttered with an expression of bad feeling which told me that I had not heard the tenth part of what he had in his heart. However, as I came into his presence prepared to hear all kinds of bad reports, angry reproaches, and humiliating insinuations, I remained perfectly calm. I had, in advance, resolved to hear all his unfriendly, insulting remarks, just as if they were addressed to another person, a perfect stranger to me. The last three days had been spent in prayers to obtain that favour. My God had evidently head me; for the storm passed over me without exciting the least unpleasant feelings in my soul.
I answered: "My lord, allow me to tell you that, in taking the solemn step of leaving the monastery of Longueuil, I was not afraid of what the world would say, or think of me. My only desire is to save my soul, and give the rest of my life to my country and my God, in a more efficacious way than I have yet done. The rumours which seem to trouble your lordship about my supposed expulsion from the Oblates do not affect me in the least, for they are without the least foundation. From the first to the last day of my stay in that monastery, all the inmates, from the superior to the last one, have overwhelmed me with the most sincere marks of kindness, and even of respect. If you had seen the tears which were shed by the brothers, when I bade them adieu, you would have understood that I never had more devoted and sincere friends than the members of that religious community. Please read this important document, and you will see that I have kept my good name during my stay in that monastery." I handed him the following testimonial letter which the superior had given me when I left:
"I, the undersigned, Superior of the Noviciate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Longueuil, do certify that the conduct of Mr. Chiniquy, when in our monastery, has been worthy of the sacred character which he possesses, and after this year of solitude, he does not less deserve the confidence of his brethren in the holy ministry than before. We wish, moreover, to give our testimony of his preserving zeal in the cause of temperance. We think that nothing was more of a nature to give a character of stability to that admirable reform, and to secure its perfect success, than the profound reflections and studies of Mr. Chiniquy, when in the solitude of Longueuil, on the importance of that work.
"T. F. Allard,
"Superior of the Noviciate O.M.I."
It was really most pleasant for me to see that every line of that document read by the bishop was blotting out some of the stern and unfriendly lines which were on his face, when speaking to me. Nothing was more amiable than his manners, when he handed it back to me, saying: "I thank God to see that you are still as worthy of my esteem and confidence, as when you entered that monastery. But would you be kind enough to give me the real reasons why you have so abruptly separated from the Oblates?"
"Yes, my lord, I will give them to you; but your lordship knows that there are things of such a delicate nature, that the lips of man shiver and rebel when required to utter them. Such are some of the deplorable things which I have to mention to your lordship. I have put those reasons in these pages, which I respectfully request your lordship to read," and I handed him the Memoir, about thirty pages long, which I had prepared. The bishop read, very carefully five or six pages, and said: "Are you positive as to the exactness of what you write here?"
"Yes, my lord! They are as true and real as I am here."
The bishop turned pale and remained a few minutes silent, biting his lips, and after a deep sigh, said: "Is it your intention to reveal those sad mysteries to the world, or can we hope that you will keep that secret?"
"My lord," I answered, "if your lordship and the Oblates deal with me, as I hope they will do, as with an honourable Catholic priest; if I am kept in the position which an honest priest has a right to fill in the church, I consider myself bound, in conscience and honour, to keep those things secret. But, if from any abuse, persecutions emanating from the Oblates, or any other party, I am obliged to give to the world the true reasons of my leaving that monastic order, your lordship understands that, in self-defense, I will be forced to make these revelations!"
"But the Oblates cannot say a word, or do anything wrong against you," promptly answered the bishop, "after the honourable testimony they have given you."
"It is true, my lord, that I have no reason to fear anything from the Oblates!" I answered; "but those religious men are not the only ones who might force me to defend myself. You know another who has my future destinies in his hands. You know that my future course will be shaped by h is own toward me."
With an amiable smile the bishop answered:
"I understand you. But I pledge myself that you have nothing to fear from that quarter. Though I frankly tell you that I would have preferred seeing you work as a member of that monastic institution, it may be that it is more according to the will of God, that you should go among the people, as sent by God, rather than by a superior, who might be your inferior in the eyes of many, in that glorious temperance, of which you are evidently the blessed apostle in Canada. I am glad to tell you that I have spoken of you to his holiness, and he requested me to give you a precious medal, which bears his most perfect features, with a splendid crucifix. His holiness has graciously attached three hundred days' for indulgences to every one who will take the pledge of temperance in kissing the feet of that crucifix. Wait a moment," added the bishop, "I will go and get them and present them to you."
When the bishop returned, holding in his hands those two infallible tokens of the kind sentiments of the Pope towards me, I fell on my knees to receive them and press them both to my lips with the utmost respect. My feelings of joy and gratitude in that happy hour cannot be expressed. I remained mute, for some time, with surprise and admiration, when holding those precious things which were coming to me, as I then sincerely believed, from the very successor of Peter, and the true Vicar of Christ Himself. When handing me those sacred gifts, the bishop addressed me the kindest words which a bishop can utter to his priest, or a father to his beloved son. He granted me the power to preach and hear confessions all over his diocese, and he dismissed me only after having put his hand on my head and asked God to pour upon me His most abundant benedictions everywhere I should go to work in the holy cause of temperance in Canada.
CHAPTER 44 Back to Contents
Our adorable Saviour said: "What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? (Luke xiv. 31). To follow that advice, how often had I fallen on my knees before my God, to implore the necessary strength and wisdom to meet that terrible enemy which was marching against me and my brethren! Often I was so discouraged by the sense of my personal incapacity, that I came near fainting and flying away at the sight of the power and resources of the foe! But the dear Saviour's voice had as many times strengthened me, saying! "Fear not, I am with thee!" He seemed at every hour to whisper in my ears, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!" (John xvi. 33). Trusting, then, in my God, alone, for victory, I nevertheless understood that my duty was to arm myself with the weapons which the learned and the wise men of the past ages had prepared. I again studied the best works written on the subject of wine, from the learned naturalist, Pliny, to the celebrated Sir Astley Cooper. I not only compiled a multitude of scientific notes, arguments, and facts from these books, but prepared a "Manual of Temperance," which obtained so great a success, for such a small country as Canada, that it went through four editions of twenty-five thousand copies in less than four years. But my best source of information and wisdom was from letters received from Father Mathew, and my personal interviews with him, when he visited the United States.
The first time I met him, in Boston, he told me how he regretted his having, at first, too much relied on the excitement and enthusiasm of the multitudes. "Those fits," he said, "pass away as quickly as the clouds of the storm; and they, too often, leave no more traces of their passage. Persevere in the resolution you have taken in the beginning, never to give the pledge, except when you give a complete course of lectures on the damning effects of intoxicating drinks. How can we expect that the people will for ever give up beverages which they honestly, though ignorantly, believe to be beneficial and necessary to their body? The first thing we do we must demonstrate to them that these alcoholic drinks are absolutely destructive of their temporal, as well as of their eternal life. So long as the priest and the people believe, as they do today, that rum, brandy, wine, beer, and cider give strength to help man to keep up his health in the midst of his hard labours; that they warm his blood in winter and cool it in the summer; all our efforts, and even our successes, will be like the bundle of straw, which makes a bright light, attracts the attention for a moment, and leaves nothing but smoke and cinders.
"Hundreds of times I have seen my Irish countrymen honestly taking the pledge for life; but before a week had elapsed, they had obtained a release from their priests, under the impression that they were unable to earn their own living and support their families, without drinking those detestable drugs. Very few priests in Ireland have taken the pledge, and still fewer have kept it. In New York, only two Irish priests have given up their intoxicating glass, and the very next week I met both of them drunk! Archbishop Hughes turned my humble efforts into ridicule, before his priests, in my own presence, and drank a glass of brandy to my health with them at his own table to mock me. And here in Boston the drinking habits of the bishop and his priests are such, that I have been forced, through self-respect, to quietly withdraw from his palace and come to this hotel. This bad conduct paralyses and kills me."
In saying these last words, that good and noble man burst into a fit of convulsive sobs and tears; his breast was heaving under his vain efforts to suppress his sighs. He concealed his face in his hands, and for nearly ten minutes he could not utter a word. The spectacle of the desolation of a man whom God has raised so high, and so much blessed, and the tears of one who had himself dried so many tears, and brought so much joy, peace, and comfort, to so many desolate homes, has been one of the most solemn lessons my God ever gave me. I then learned more clearly than ever, that all the glory of the world is Vanity, and that one of the greatest acts of folly is to rely, for happiness, on the praises of men and the success of our own labours. For who had received more merited praises, and who had seen his own labours more blessed by God and man, than Father Mathew, whom all ages will call "The Apostle of Temperance of Ireland?"
My gratitude to Mr. Brassard caused me to choose his parish, near Montreal, for the first grand battlefield of the impending struggle against the enemy of my God and my country; and the first week of Advent determined upon for the opening of the campaign. But the nearer the day chosen to draw the sword against the modern Goliath, the more I felt the solemnity of my position, and the more I needed the help of Him on whom alone we can trust for light and strength.
I had determined never to lecture on temperance in any place, without having previously inquired, from the most reliable sources, about: (1) The number of deaths and accidents caused by drunkenness the last fifteen or twenty years. (2) The number of orphans and widows made by drunkenness. (3) The number of rich families ruined, and the number of poor families made poorer by the same cause. (4) The approximate sum of money expended by the people during the last twenty years.
As the result of my enquiries, I learned that during that short period, that 32 men had lost their lives when drunk; and through their drunkenness 25 widows and 73 orphans had been left in the lowest degree of poverty! 72 rich families had been entirely ruined and turned out of their once happy homes by the demon of intemperance, and 90 kept poor. More than three hundred thousand dollars (300,000 dollars) had been paid in cash, without counting the loss of time, for the intoxicating beverages drank by the people of Longueuil during the last twenty years.
For three days, I spoke twice a day to crowded houses. My first text was: "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup: when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder" (Prov. xxiii. 31,32).
The first day I showed how alcoholic beverages were biting like a serpent and stinging like an adder, by destroying the lungs, the brains, and the liver, the nerves and the muscles, the blood and the very life of man. The second day I proved that intoxicating drinks were the most implacable and cruel enemies of the fathers, the mothers, the children; of the young and the old; of the rich and the poor; of the farmers, the merchants, and the mechanics; the parish and the country. The third day I proved, clearly, that those intoxicating liquors were the enemy of the intelligence, and the soul of man; the gospel of Christ and of His holy Church; the enemy of all the rights of man and the laws of God. My conclusion was, that we were all bound to raise our hands against that gigantic and implacable foe, whose arm was raised against every one of us. I presented the thrilling tableau of our friends, near and dear relations, and neighbours, fallen and destroyed around us; the thousands of orphans and widows, whose fathers and husbands had been slaughtered by strong drink. I brought before their minds the true picture of the starving children, the destitute widows and mothers, whose life had to be spent in tears, ignominy, desolation and unspeakable miseries, from the daily use of strong drink. I was not half through my address when tears flowed from every eye. The cries and sobs so much drowned my voice, that I had several times to stop speaking for a few minutes.
Then holding the crucifix, blessed and given to me by the Pope, I showed what Christ had suffered on the cross for sins engendered by the use of intoxicating drinks. And I requested them to listen to the voices of the thousands of desolate orphans, widows, wives and mothers, coming from every corner of the land; the voices of their priests and their church; the voices of the angels, the Virgin Mary and the saints in heaven; the voice of Jesus Christ their Saviour, calling them to put an end to the deluge of evils and unspeakable iniquities caused by the use of those cursed drinks; "for," said I, "those liquors are cursed by millions of mothers and children, widows and orphans, who owe to them a life of shame, tears, and untold desolation. They are cursed by the Virgin Mary and the angels who are the daily witnesses of the iniquities with which they deluge the world. They are cursed by the millions of souls which they have plunged into eternal misery. They are cursed by Jesus Christ, from whose hands they have wrenched untold millions of souls, for whom He died on Calvary."
Every one of those truths, incontrovertible for Roman Catholics, were falling with irresistible power on that multitude of people. The distress and consternation were so profound and universal, that they reacted, at last, on the poor speaker, who several times could not express what he himself felt except with his tears and his sobs.
When I hoped that, by the great mercy of God, all resistances were subdued, the obstacles removed, the intelligence enlightened, the wills conquered, I closed the address, which had lasted more than two hours, by an ardent prayer to God to grant us the grace to give up for ever the use of those terrible poisons, and I requested everyone to repeat with me, in their hearts, the solemn pledge of temperance in the following words:
"Adorable and dear Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to take away my sins and save my guilty soul, for Thy glory, the good of my brethren and of my country, as well as for my own good, I promise, with Thy help, never to drink, not to give to anybody any intoxicating beverages, except when ordered by an honest physician."
Our merciful God had visibly blessed the work and His unprofitable servant. The success was above our sanguine expectations. Two thousand three hundred citizens of Longueuil enrolled under the pledge, I asked them to come to the foot of the altar and kiss the crucifix I was holding, as the public and solemn pledge of their engagement.
The first thing done by the majority of the intelligent farmers of Longueuil, on the return from the church, was to break their decanters and their barrels, and spill the last drop of the accursed drink on the ground. Seven days later, there were eighty requests in my hands to go and show the ravages of alcoholic liquors to man other parishes. Boucherville, Chambly, Varennes, St. Hyacinthe, ect., Three Rivers, the great city of Montreal, Three Rivers, and St. Hyacinthe, one after the other, raised the war cry against the usages of intoxicating drinks, with a unanimity and determination which seemed to be more miraculous than natural. During the four years, I gave 1,800 public addresses, in 200 parishes, with the same fruits, and enrolled more than 200,000 people under the banners of temperance. Everywhere, the taverns, the distilleries and breweries were shut, and their owners forced to take other trades to make a living; not on account of any stringent law, but by the simple fact that the whole people had ceased drinking their beverages, after having been fully persuaded that they were injurious to their bodies, opposed to their happiness, and ruinous to their souls.
The convictions were so unanimous and strong on that subject, that, in many places, the last evening I spent in their midst, the merchants used to take all their barrels or rum, beer, wine and brandy to the public squares, make a pyramid of them, to which I was invited to set fire. The whole population, attracted by the novelty and sublimity of that spectacle, would then fill the air with their cries and shouts of joy. When the husbands and wives, the parents and children of the redeemed drunkards rent the air with their cries of joy at the destruction of their enemy, and the fire was in full blaze, one of the merchants would give me an axe to stave in the last barrel of rum. After the last drop was emptied, I usually stood on it to address some parting words to the people.
Such a spectacle baffles any description. The brilliant light of the pine and cedar trees, mixed with all kinds of inflammable materials which everyone had been invited to bring, changed the darkest hour of that night into the brightest of days. The flames, fed by the fiery liquid, shot forth their tongues of fire towards heaven, as if to praise their great God, whose merciful hand had brought the marvelous reformation we were celebrating. The thousand faces, illuminated by the blaze, beamed with joy. The noise of the cracking barrels, mixed with that of a raging fire; the cries and shouts of that multitude, with the singing of the Te Deum, formed a harmony which filled every soul with sentiments of unspeakable happiness. But where shall I find words to express my feelings, when I had finished speaking! The mothers and wives to whom our blessed temperance had given back a loving husband and some dear children, were crowding around me with their families and redeemed ones, to thank me, press my hands to their lips, and water them with their grateful tears.
The only thing which marred that joy were the exaggerated honours and unmerited praises with which I was really overwhelmed. I was, at first, forced to received an ovation from the curates and people of Longueuil and the surrounding parishes, when they presented to me my portrait, painted by the artist Hamel, which filled me with confusion, for I felt so keenly that I did not deserve such honours. But it was still worse at the end of May, 1849. Judge Mondelet was deputed by the bishop and the priests and the city of Montreal, accompanied by 15,000 people, to present me with a gold medal, and a gift of four hundred dollars.
But the greatest surprise my God had in store for me, was kept for the end of June, 1850. At that time, I was deputed by 40,000 tee-totalers, to present a petition to the Parliament of Toronto, in order to make the rum sellers responsible for the ravages caused to the families of the poor drunkards to whom they had sold their poisonous drugs. The House of Commons having kindly appointed a committee of ten members to help me to frame that bill, it was an easy matter to have it pass through the three branches. I was present when they discussed and accepted that bill. Napoleon was not more happy after he had won the battle of Austerlitz, than I was when I heard that my pet bill had become law, and that hereafter, the innocent victims of the drunken father or husband would receive an indemnity from the landsharks who were fattening on their poverty and unspeakable miseries.
But what was my surprise and consternation, when, immediately after the passing of that bill, the Hon. Dewitt rose and proposed that a public expression of gratitude should be given me by Parliament, under the form of a large pecuniary gift! His speech seemed to me filled with such exaggerated eulogiums, that I would have been tempted to think it was mockery, had I not known that the Protestant gentleman was one of my most sincere friends. He was followed by the Honourables Baldwin and Lafontaine, Ministers at that time, and half a dozen other members, who went still further into what I so justly consider the regions of exaggeration. It seemed to me bordering on blasphemy to attribute to Chiniquy a reformation which was so clearly the work of my merciful God. The speeches on that subject lasted two hours, and were followed by a unanimous vote to present me with $500, as a public testimony of the gratitude of the people for my labours in the temperance reform of Canada. Previous to that, the Bishops of Quebec and Montreal had given me tokens of their esteem which, though unmerited, had been better appreciated by me.
When in May, 1850, Archbishop Turgeon, of Quebec, sent the Rev. Charles Baillargeon, curate of Quebec, to Rome, to become his successor, he advised him to come to Longueuil, and get a letter from me, which he might present to the Pope, with a volume of my "Temperance Manual." I complied with his request, and wrote to the Pope. Some months later, I received the following lines:
Rome, Aug. 10th, 1850.
Rev. Mr. Chiniquy,
Sir and dear friend;Monday, the 12th was the first opportunity given me to have a private audience with the Sovereign Pontiff. I presented him your book, with your letter, which he received, I will not say with that goodness which is so eminently characteristic of him, but with all special marks of satisfaction and approbation, while charging me to state to you that he accords his apostolic benediction to you and to the holy work of temperance you preach. I consider myself happy to have had to offer on your behalf, to the Vicar of Jesus Christ, a book which, after it had done so much good to my countrymen, had been able to draw from his venerable lips, such solemn words of approbation of the temperance society and of blessings on those who are its apostles; and it is also, for my heart, a very sweet pleasure to transmit them to you.
A short time before I received that letter from Rome, Bishop Bourget, of Montreal, had officially given me the title of "Apostle of Temperance;" in the following document, which, on account of its importance, the readers will probably like to have in its original Latin:-
"IGNATIUS BOURGET, Miseratioine Divina et St e. Sedis Apostolic e Gratia, Episcopus Marianopolitanensis, Etc., Etc., Etc."
"Universis praesentes litteras inspecturis, notum facimus et attestamur Venerabilem Carolum Chiniquy, Temperantiae Apostolum, Nostrae Diocoecis Sacerdotem, Nobis optime notum esse, exploratumque habere illum vitam laudabilem et professione Ecclesiastica consonam agere, nullisque ecclesiasticis censuris, saltem quae ad nostram devenerunt Notitiam innodatum; qua propter, per viscera Misericordiae Dei Nostri, obsecramus omnes et Singulos Archiepiscopos, Episcopos, coeterasque Ecclesiae dignitates ad quos ipsum declinare contingerit, ut eum, pro Christi Amore, benigne tractare digentur, et quando cumque ab eo fuerint requisiti, Sacrum Missae Sacrificium ipsi celebrare, nec non alia munia Ecclesiastica, et pietatis opera exercere permittant, paratos nos ad similia et majora exhibentes: In quorum fidem, praesentes litteras signo sigilloque nostris, ac Secretarii Episcopatus nostri subscriptione communitas expediri mandavimus Marianopoli, in (Edibus Nostris Beati Jacobi, anno millesimo quinquagesimo. Die vero mensis Junii Sexta.
IG. EPIS. MARIANOPOLITANENSIS.
"J. O. Pare, Can, Secrius."
"IGNATIUS BOURGET, By the Divine Mercy and Grace of the Holy Apostolic See, Bishop of Montreal.
"To all who inspect the present letters, we make known and certify that the venerable Charles Chiniquy, 'Apostle of Temperance,' Priest of our Diocese, is very well known to us, and we regard him as proved, to lead a praiseworthy life, and one agreeable to his ecclesiastical profession. Through the tender mercies of our God, he is under no ecclesiastical censures, at least, which have come to our knowledge.
"We entreat each and all, Archbishop, Bishop, and other dignitaries of the Church, to whom it may happen that he may go, that they, for the love of Christ, entertain him kindly and courteously, and as often as they may be asked by him, permit him to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the mass, and exercise other ecclesiastical privileges of piety, being ourselves ready to grant him these and other greater privileges. In proof of this we have ordered the present letters and to be prepared under our sign and seal, and with subscription of our secretary, in our palace of the blessed James, in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty, on the sixth day of the month of June.
IGNATIUS, Bishop of Marianopolis.
"By order of the most illustrious and most
Reverend Bishop of Marianopolis, D.D.
"J. O. Pare, Canon, Secretary."
No words from my pen can give an idea of the distress and shame I felt when these unmerited praises and public honours began to flow upon me. For, when the siren voice of my natural pride was near to deceive me, there was the noise of a sudden storm in my conscience, crying with a louder voice: "Chiniquy, thou art a sinner, unworthy of such praises and honours."
This conflict made me very miserable. I said to myself, "Are those great successes due to my merits, my virtues and my eloquence? NO! Surely, No! They are due to the great mercy of God for my dear country. Shall I not for ever be put to shame if I consent to these flattering voices which come to me from morning till night, to make me forget that to my God alone, and not to me, must be given the praise and glory of that marvelous reform?"
These praises were coming every day, thinker and thicker, through the thousand trumpets of the press, as well as through the addresses daily presented me from the places which had been so thoroughly reformed. Those unmerited honours were bestowed on me by multitudes who came in carriages and on horseback, bearing flags, with bands of music, to receive me on the borders of their parishes where the last parishes had just brought me with the same kind of ovations. Sometimes, the roads were lined on both sides, by thousands and thousands of maple, pine or spruce trees, which they had carried from distant forests, in spite of all my protests.
How many times the curates, who were sitting by me in the best carriages, drawn by the most splendid horses, asked me: "Why do you look so sad, when you see all these faces beaming with joy?" I answered, "I am sad, because these unmerited honours these good people do me, seem to be the shortest way the devil has found to destroy me." "But the reform you have brought about is so admirable and so complete the good which is done to the individuals, as well as to the whole country, is so great and universal, that the people want to show you their gratitude." "Do you know, my dear friends," I answered, "that that marvelous change is too great to be the work of man? It is not evidently the work of God? To Him, and Him alone, then we ought to give the praise and the glory."
My constant habit, after these days of ovation, was to pass a part of the night in prayer to God, to the Virgin Mary, and to all the saints in heaven, to prevent me from being hurt by these worldly honours. It was my custom then to read the passion of Jesus Christ, from His triumphant entry into Jerusalem to His death on the cross, in order to prevent this shining dust from adhering to my soul. There was a verse of the Gospel which I used to repeat very often in the midst of these exhibitions of the vanities of this world: "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Matt. xvi. 26).
Another source of serious anxiety for me was then coming from the large sums of money constantly flowing from the hands of my too kind and grateful reformed countrymen into mine. It was very seldom that the public expression of gratitude presented me in their rhetorical addresses were not accompanied by a gift of from fifty dollars to two hundred dollars, according to the means and importance of the place. Those sums multiplies by the 365 days of the year would have soon made of me one of the richest men of Canada. Had I been able to trust in my own strength against the dangers of riches, I should have been able, easily, to accumulate a sum of at least seventy thousand dollars, with which I might have done a great amount of good.
But I confess that, when in the presence of God, I went to the bottom of my heart, to see if it were strong enough to carry such a glittering weight, I found it, by far, too weak. I knew so many who, though evidently stronger than I was, had fallen on the way and perished under too heavy burden of their treasures, that I feared for myself at the sight of such unexpected and immense fortune. Besides, when only eighteen years old, my venerable and dear benefactor, the Rev. Mr. Leprohon, director of the College of Nicolet, had told me a thing I never had forgotten: "Chiniquy," he said, "I am sure you will be what we call a successful man in the world. You will easily make your way among your contemporaries; and, consequently, it is probable that you will have many opportunities of becoming rich. But when the silver and gold flow into your hands, do not pile and keep it. For, if you set your affection on it, you will be miserable in this world and damned in the next. You must not do like the fattened hogs which give their grease only after their death. Give it while you are living. Then you will not be blessed only by God and man, but you will be blessed by your own conscience. You will live in peace and die in joy."
These solemn warnings from one of the wisest and best friends God had ever given me, when young, has never gone out of my mind. I found them corroborated in every page of that Bible which I loved so much, and studied every day. I found them also written, by God, in my heart. I then, on my knees, took the resolution, without making an absolute vow to it, to keep only what I wanted for my daily support and give the rest to the poor, or some Christian or patriotic object. I kept that promise. The $500 given me by Parliament did not remain three weeks in my hands. I never put a cent in Canada in the vaults of any bank; and when I left for Illinois, in the fall of 1851, instead of taking with me 70,000 dollars, as it would have been very easy, had I been so minded, I had hardly 1,500 dollars in hand, the price of a part of my library, which was too heavy to be carried so far away.
CHAPTER 45 Back to Contents
The 15th of August, 1850, I preached in the Cathedral of Montreal, on the Blessed Virgin Mary's power in heaven, when interceding for sinners, I was sincerely devoted to the Virgin Mary. Nothing seemed to me more natural than to pray to her, and rely on her protection. The object of my sermon was to show that Jesus Christ cannot refuse any of the petitions presented to Him by His mother; that she has always obtained the favours she asked her Son, Jesus, to grant to her devotees. Of course, my address was more sentimental than scriptural, as it is the style among the priests of Rome. But I was honest; and I sincerely believed what I said.
"Who among you, my dear brethren," I said to the people, "will refuse any of the reasonable demands of a beloved mother? Who will break and sadden her loving heart when, with supplicating voice and tears, she presents to you a petition which it is in your power, nay, to your interest, to grant? For my own part, were my beloved mother still living, I would prefer to have my right hand crushed and burned into cinders, to have my tongue cut out, than to say, No! to my mother, asking me any favour which it was in my power to bestow. These are the sentiments which the God of Sinai wanted to engrave in the very hearts of humanity, when giving His laws to Moses, in the midst of lightning and thunders, and these are the sentiments which the God of the Gospel wanted to impress on our souls by the shedding of His blood on Calvary. The sentiments of filial respect and obedience to our mothers, Christ Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary, practiced to perfection. Although God and man, He was still in perfect submission to the will of His mother, of which He makes a law to each of us. The Gospel says, in reference to His parents, Joseph and Mary, He 'was subject unto them' (Luke ii. 51). What a grand and shining revelation we have in these few short words: Jesus was subject unto Mary! Is it not written, that Jesus is the same today, as He was yesterday, and will be for ever? (Heb. xiii. 8). He has not changed. He is still the Son of Mary, as He was when only twelve years old. In His divine humanity, He is still subject unto Mary, as He was then. This is why our holy Church, which is the pillar and fountain of Truth, invites you and me, today, to put an unbounded confidence in her intercession. Remembering that Jesus has always granted the petitions presented to Him by His divine mother, let us put our petitions in her hands, if we want to receive the favours we are in need of.
"The second reason why we must all go to Mary, for the favours we want from heaven, is that we are sinners rebels in the sight of God. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. Yes! but He is also our God, infinitely just, infinitely holy. He hates our sins with an infinite hatred. He abhors our rebellions with an infinite, a godly hatred. If we had loved and served Him faithfully we might go to Him, not only with the hope, but with the assurance of being welcomed. But we have forgotten and offended Him; we have trampled His blood under our feet; we have joined with those who nailed Him on the cross, pierced His heart with the lance, and shed His blood to the last drop. We belong to the crowd which mocked at His tortures, and insulted Him at His death. How can we dare to look at Him and meet His eyes? Must we not tremble in His presence? Must we not fear before that Lion of the tribe of Judah whom we have wounded and nailed to the cross? Where is the rebel who does not shiver, when he is dragged to the feet of the mighty Prince against whom he has drawn the sword? What will he do if he wants to obtain pardon? Will he go himself and speak to that offended Majesty? No! But he looks around the throne to see if he can find some of the great officers, and friends, or some powerful and influential person through whose intercession he can obtain pardon. If he finds any such, he goes immediately to him, puts his petitions into their hands, and they go to the foot of the throne to plead for the rebel, and the favour which would have been indignantly refused to the guilty subject, had he dared to speak himself, is granted, when it is asked by a faithful officer, a kind friend, a dear sister, or a beloved mother. This is why our holy church, speaking through her infallible supreme pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, Gregory XVI., has told us, in the most solemn manner, that 'Mary is the only hope of sinners.'"
Winding up my arguments, I added: "We are those insolent ungrateful rebels. Jesus is that King of kings against whom we have, a thousand times, risen in rebellion. He has a thousand good reasons to refuse our petitions, if we are impudent enough to speak to Him ourselves. But look at the right hand of the offended King, and behold His dear and divine mother. She is your mother also. For it is to every one of us, as well as to John, that Christ said on the cross, speaking of Mary, 'Behold thy mother' (John xix. 27). Jesus has never refused any favour asked by that Queen of Heaven. He cannot rebuke His mother. Let us go to her; let us ask her to be our advocate and plead our cause, and she will do it. Let us suppliantly request her to ask for our pardon, and she will get it."
I then sincerely took these glittering sophisms for the true religion of Christ, as all the priests and people of Rome are bound to take them today, and presented them with all the earnestness of an honest, though deluded mind.
My sermon had made a visible and deep impression. Bishop Prince, coadjutor of my Lord Bourget, who was among my hearers, thanked and congratulated me for the good effect it would have on the people, and I sincerely thought I had said what was true and right before God.
But when night came, before going to bed, I took my Bible as usual, knelt down before God, in the neat little room I occupied in the bishop's palace, and read the twelfth chapter of Matthew, with a praying heart and a sincere desire to understand it, and be benefited thereby. Strange to say! when I reached the 40th verse, I felt a mysterious awe, as if I had entered for the first time into a new and most holy land. Though I had read that verse and the following many times, they came to my mind with a freshness and newness as if I had never seen them before. There was a lull in my mind for some moments. Slowly, and with breathless attention, supreme veneration and respect, I read the history of that visit of Mary to the sacred spot where Jesus, my Saviour, was standing in the midst of the crowd feeding His happy hearers with the bread of life.
When I contemplated that blessed Mary, whom I loved, as so tenderly approaching the house where she was to meet her divine Son, who had been so long absent from her, my heart suddenly throbbed in sympathy with hers. I felt as if sharing her unspeakable joy at every step which brought her nearer to her adorable and beloved Son. What tears had she not shed when Jesus had left her alone, in her now, poor, and cheerless home, that He might preach the Gospel in the distant places, where His Father had sent Him! With Jesus in her humble home, was she not more happy then than the greatest queen on her throne! Did she not possess a treasure more precious than all the world! How sweet to her ears and heart were the words she had heard from His lips!
How lovely the face of the most beautiful among the sons of men! How happy she must have felt, when she heard that He was, now, near enough to allow her to go and see Him! How quick were her steps. How cheerful and interesting the meeting! How the beloved Saviour will repay by His respectful and divine love to His beloved mother, the trouble and the fatigue of her long journey! My heart beat with joy at the privilege of witnessing that interview, and of hearing the respectful words Jesus would address to His mother!
With heart and soul throbbing with these feelings, I slowly read "While He yet talked to the people, behold His mother and His brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him. Then one said unto Him: Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Thee. But He answered and said unto him that told Him: Who is My mother? and Who are My brethren? And He stretched forth His hands towards His disciples, and said: Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother."
I had hardly finished reading the last verse, when big drops of sweat began to flow from my face, my heart beat with a tremendous speed, and I came near fainting; I sat in my large arm-chair, expecting every minute to fall on the floor. Those alone who have stood several hours at the falls of the marvelous Niagara, heard the thundering noise of its waters, and felt the shaking of the rocks under their feet, can have any idea of what I felt in that hour of agony.
A voice, the voice of my conscience, whose thunders were like the voice of a thousand Niagaras was telling me: "Do you not see that you have preached a sacrilegious lie this morning, when, from the pulpit, you said to your ignorant and deluded people, that Jesus always granted the petitions of His mother, Mary? Are you not ashamed to deceive yourself, and deceive your poor countrymen with such silly falsehoods?"
"Read, read again these words! and understand that, far from granting all the petitions of Mary, Jesus has always, except when a child, said No! to her requests. He has always rebuked her, when she asked Him anything in public! Here she comes to ask Him a favour before the whole people. It is the easiest, the most natural favour that a mother ever asked of her son. It is a favour that a son has never refused to a mother. He answers by a rebuke, a public and solemn rebuke! It is through want of love and respect for Mary that He gave her that rebuke? No! Never a son loved and respected a mother as He did. But it was a solemn protest against the blasphemous worship of Mary as practiced in the Church of Rome."
I felt at once so bewildered and confounded, by the voice which was shaking my very bones, that I thought it was the devil's voice; and, for a moment, I feared less I was possessed of a demon. "My God," I cried, "have mercy on me! Come to my help! Save me from my enemy's hands!" As quick as lightning the answer came: "It is not Satan's voice you hear. It is I, thy Saviour and thy God, who speaks to thee. Read what Mark, Luke, and John tell you about the way I received her petitions, from the very day I began to work, and speak publicly as the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world."
These cries of my awakening intelligence were sounding in my ears for more than one hour, before I consented to obey them. At last, with a trembling hand, and a distressed mind, I took my Bible and read in St. Mark: "There came then His brethren and his mother, and standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him. And the multitude sat about Him and they said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren without, seek for Thee. And He answered them, saying, Who is My mother, or My brethren? And He looked around about on them which sat about Him, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother" (Mark iii. 31 35).
The reading of these words acted upon me as the shock of a sword going through and through the body of one who had already been mortally wounded. I felt absolutely confounded. The voice continued to sound in my ears: "Do you not see you have presented a blasphemous lie, every time you said that Jesus always granted the petitions of His mother?"
I remained again, a considerable time, bewildered, not knowing how to fight down thoughts which were so mercilessly shaking my faith, and demolishing the respect I had kept, till then, for my Church. After more than half an hour of vain struggle to silence these thoughts, it came to my mind that St. Luke had narrated this interview of Mary and Jesus in a very different way. I opened the holy book again to read the eighth chapter. But how shall I find words to express my distress when I saw that the rebuke of Jesus Christ was expressed in a still sterner way by St. Luke than by the two other evangelists! "Then came to Him His mother and His brethren, and could not come at Him for the press. And it was told Him by certain which said, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to see Thee. And He answered and said unto them, My mother and My brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it" (Luke viii. 19-21).
It then seemed to me as if those three evangelists said to me: "How dare you preach with your apostate and lying Church, that Jesus has always granted all the petitions of Mary, when we were ordered by God to write and proclaim that all the public petitions she had presented to Him, when working as the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, had been answered by a public rebuke?"
What could I answer? How could I stand the rebuke of these three evangelists? Trembling from head to foot, I fell upon my knees, crying to the Virgin Mary to come to my help and pray that I might not succumb to this temptation, and lose my faith and confidence in her. But the more I prayed, the louder the voice seemed to say: "How dare you preach that Jesus has always granted the petitions of Mary, when we tell you the contrary by the order of God Himself?"
My desolation became such, that a cold sweat covered my whole frame again; my head was aching, and I think I would have fainted had I not been released by a torrent of tears. In my distress, I cried: "Oh! my God! my God! look down upon me in Thy mercy; strengthen my faith in Thy Holy Church! Grant me to follow her voice and obey her commands with more and more fidelity; she is Thy beloved Church. She cannot err. She cannot be an apostate Church." But in vain I wept and cried for help. My whole being was filled with dismay and terror from the voices of the three witnesses, who were crying louder and louder:
"How dare you preach that Christ has always granted the petitions of Mary, when the gospels, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, tell you so clearly the contrary?"
When I had, in vain, wept, prayed, cried, and struggled from ten at night till three in the morning, the miraculous change of water into wine, by Christ, at the request of his mother, suddenly came to my mind. I felt a momentary relief from my terrible distress, by the hope that I could prove to myself that in this case the Saviour had obeyed he demands of His holy mother. I eagerly opened my Bible again and read:
"And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it" (John ii. 1-5).
Till that hour I had always accepted that text in the sense given in the Church of Rome, as proving that the very first miracle of Jesus Christ was wrought at the request of His mother. And I was preparing myself to answer the three mysterious witnesses: "Here is the proof that you are three devils, and not three evangelists, when you tell me that Jesus has never granted the petitions of His mother, except when a child. Here is the glorious title of Mary to my confidence in her intercession; here is the seal of her irresistible superhuman power over her divine Son; here is the undeniable evidence that Jesus cannot refuse anything asked by His divine mother!" But when, armed with these explanations of the church, I was preparing to meet what Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke had just told me, a sudden distressing thought came to my mind; and this thought was as if I heard the three witnesses saying: "How can you be so blind as not to see that instead of being a favour granted to Mary, this first miracle is the first opportunity chosen by Christ to protest against her intercession. It is a solemn warning to Mary never to ask anything from Him, and to us, never to put any confidence in her requests. Here, Mary, evidently full of compassion for those poor people, who had not the means to provide the wine for the guests who had come with Jesus, wants her Son to give them the wine they wanted. How does Christ answer her requests? He answers it by a rebuke, a most solemn rebuke. Instead of saying, "Yes, mother, I will do as you wish," He says, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" which clearly means, "Woman, thou hast nothing to do in this matter. I do not want you to speak to me of the bridegroom's distress. It was My desire to come to their help and show My divine power. I do not want you to put yourself between the wants of humanity and Me. I do not want the world to believe that you had any right, any power or influence over me, or more compassion on the miseries of man than I have. Is it not to Me and Me alone, the lost children of Adam must look to be saved? Woman, what have I to do with thee in My great work of saving this perishing world? Nothing, absolutely nothing. I know what I have to do to fulfill, not our will, but My Father's will!"
This is what Jesus meant by the solemn rebuke given to Mary. He wanted to banish all idea of her ever becoming an intercessor between man and Christ. He wanted to protest against the doctrine of the Church of Rome, that it is through Mary that He will bestow His favour to His disciples, and Mary understood it well when she said, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." Never come to me, but got to Him. "For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts iv. 12).
Every one of these thoughts passed over my distressed soul like a hurricane. Every sentence was like a flash of lightning in a dark night. I was like the poor dismantled ship suddenly overtaken by the tempest in the midst of the ocean.
Till the dawn of day, I felt powerless against the efforts of God to pull down and demolish the huge fortress of sophisms, falsehoods, idolatries, which Rome had built around my soul. What a fearful thing it is to fight against the Lord!
During the long hours of that night, my God was contending with me, and I was struggling against Him. But though brought down to the dust, I was not conquered. My understanding was very nearly convinced. My rebellious and proud will was not yet ready to yield.
The chains by which I was tied to the feet of the idols of Rome, though rudely shaken, were not yet broken. However, to say the truth, my views about the worship of Mary had received a severe shock, and were much modified. That night had been sleepless; and in the morning my eyes were red, and my face swollen with my tears. When at breakfast, Bishop Prince, who was sitting by me, asked: "Are you sick? Your eyes are as if you had wept all night?" "Your lordship is not mistaken, I have wept the whole night!" I answered. "Wept all the night!" replied the bishop. "Might I know the cause of your sorrow?" "Yes, my lord. You can, you must know it. But please come to your room. What I have to say is of such a private and delicate nature, that I want to be alone with your lordship, when opening my mind to the cause of my tears."
Bishop Prince, then coadjutor of Bishop Bourget and late bishop of St. Hyacinthe, where he became insane in 1858 and died in 1860, had been my personal friend from the time I entered the college at Nicolet, where he was professor of Rhetoric. He very often came to confession to me, and had taken a lively interest in my labours on temperance.
When alone with him, I said: "My lord, I thank you for your kindness in allowing me to unburden my heart to you. I have passed the most horrible night of my life. Temptations against our holy religion such as I never had before, have assailed me all night. Your lordship remembers the kind words you addressed to me yesterday about the sermon I preached. But, last night, very different things came to my mind, which have changed the joys of yesterday into the most unspeakable desolation. You congratulated me yesterday on the manner I had proved that Jesus had always granted the requests of His mother, and that He cannot refuse any of her petitions. The whole night it has been told me that this was a blasphemous lie, and from the Holy Scriptures themselves, I have been nearly convinced that you and I, nay, that our holy church, are preaching a blasphemous falsehood every time we proclaim the doctrines of the worship of Mary as the Gospel truth."
The poor bishop, thunderstruck by this simple and honest declaration, quickly answered: "I hope you have not yielded to these temptations, and that you will not become a Protestant as so many of your enemies whisper to each other."
"It is my hope, my lord, that our merciful God will keep me, to the end of my life, a dutiful and faithful priest of our holy church. However, I cannot conceal from your lordship that my faith was terribly shaken last night.
"As a bishop, your portion of light and wisdom must be greater than mine. I hope you will grant me some of the lights which will brightly shine before your eyes: I have never been so much in need of the counsels of your piety and the help of your scriptural knowledge as today. Please help me to come out from the intellectual slough in which I spent the night.
"Your lordship has congratulated me for having said that Jesus Christ has always granted the petitions of Mary. Please tell me how you reconcile that proposition with the text;" and I handed him the Gospel of Matthew, pointing to the last five verses of the twelfth chapter, I requested him to read them aloud.
He read them and said: "Now, what do you want from me?"
"My lord, I want respectfully to ask you how we can say that Jesus has always granted the requests of His mother, when this evangelist tells us that He never granted her petitions, when acting in His capacity of Saviour of the world.
"Must we not fear that we proclaim a blasphemous falsehood when we support a proposition directly opposed to the Gospel?"
The poor bishop seemed absolutely confounded by this simple and honest question. I also felt confused and sorry for his humiliation. Beginning a phrase, he would give it up; trying arguments, he could not push to their conclusion. It seemed to me that he had never read that text, of if he had read it, he, like myself and the rest of the priests of Rome, had never noted that they entirely demolish the stupendous impostures of the church, in reference to the worship of Mary.
In order to help him out of the inextricable difficulties into which I had at once pushed him, I said: "My lord, will you allow me to put a few more questions to you?"
"With pleasure," he answered.
"Well! my lord, who came to this world to save you and me? Is it Jesus or Mary?"
"It is Jesus," answered the bishop.
"Now, please allow me a few more questions."
"When Jesus and Mary were on earth, whose heart was most devoted to sinners? Who loved them with a more efficacious and saving love; was it Jesus or Mary?"
"Jesus, being God, His love was evidently more efficacious and saving than Mary's," answered the bishop.
"In the days of Jesus and Mary, to whom did Jesus invite sinners to go for their salvation; was it to Himself or Mary?" I asked again.
The bishop answered: "Jesus has said to all sinners, 'Come unto Me.' He never said, come or go to Mary."
"Have we any examples, in the Scriptures, of sinners, who, fearing to be rebuked by Jesus, have gone to Mary and obtained access to Him through her, and been saved through her intercessions?"
"I do not remember of any such cases," replied the bishop.
I then asked: "To whom did the penitent thief on the cross address himself to be saved; was it to Jesus or Mary?"
"It was to Jesus," replied the bishop.
"Did that penitent thief do well to address himself to Jesus on the cross, rather than to Mary who was at his feet?" said I.
"Surely he did better," answered the bishop.
"Now, my lord, allow me only one question more. You told me that Jesus loved sinners, when on earth, infinitely more than Mary; that He was infinitely more their true friend than she was; that He infinitely took more interest in their salvation than Mary; that it was infinitely better for sinners to go to Jesus than to Mary, to be saved; will you please tell me if you think that Jesus has lost, in heaven, since He is sitting at the right hand of His Father, any of His divine and infinite superiority of love and mercy over Mary for sinners; and can you show me that what Jesus has lost has been gained by Mary?"
"I do not think that Christ has lost any of His love and power to save us now that He is in heaven," answered the bishop.
"Now, my lord, if Jesus is still my best friend, my most powerful, merciful, and loving friend, why should I not go directly to Him? Why should we, for a moment, go to any one who is infinitely inferior, in power, love, and mercy, for our salvation?"
The bishop was stunned by my question.
He stammered some unintelligible answer, excused himself for not being able to remain any longer, on account of some pressing business; and extending his hand to me before leaving, he said, "You will find an answer to your questions and difficulties in the Holy Fathers."
"Can you lend me the Holy Fathers, my lord?"
He replied, "No, sir, I have them not."
This last answer, from my bishop, shook my faith to its foundation, and left my mind in a state of great distress. With the sincere hope of finding in the Holy Fathers some explanations which would dispel my painful doubts, I immediately went to Mr. Fabre, the great bookseller of Montreal, who got me, from France, the splendid edition of the Holy Fathers, by Migne. I studied, with the utmost attention, every page where I might find what they taught of the worship of Mary, and the doctrines that Jesus Christ had never refused any of her prayers.
What was my desolation, my shame, and my surprise to find that the Holy Fathers of the first six centuries had never advocated the worship of Mary, and that the many eloquent pages on the power of Mary in heaven, and her love for sinners, found in every page of my theologians, and other ascetic books I had read till then, were but impudent lies; additions interpolated in their works, a hundred years after their death. When discovering these forgeries, under the name of the Holy Fathers, of which my church was guilty, how many times, in the silence of my long nights of study and prayerful meditations, did I hear a voice telling me: "Come out of Babylon!"
But where could I go? Out of the Church of Rome, where could I find that salvation which was to be found only within her walls? I said to myself, "Surely there are some errors in my dear church! The dust of ages may have fallen on the precious gold of her treasures, but will I not find still more damnable errors among those hundreds of Protestant churches, which, under the name of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, ect., ect., are divided and subdivided into scores of contemptible sects, anathematizing and denouncing each other before the world?"
My ideas of the great family of evangelical churches, comprised under the broad name of Protestantism, were so exaggerated then, that it was absolutely impossible for me to find in them that unity, which I considered the essentials of the church of Christ. The hour was not yet come, but it was coming fast, when my dear Saviour would make me understand His sublime words: "I am the vine, and ye are the branches."
It was some time later, when under the beautiful vine I had planted in my own garden, and which I had cultivated with mine own hands, I saw that there was not a single branch like another in that prolific vine. Some branches were very big, some very thin, some very long, some very short, some going up, some going down, some straight as an arrow, some crooked as a flash of lightning, some turning to the west, some to the east, some to the north, and others to the south. But, although the branches were so different from each other in so many things, they all gave me excellent fruit, so long as they remained united to the vine.
CHAPTER 46 Back to Contents
The most desolate work of a sincere Catholic priest is the study of the Holy Fathers. He does not make a step in the labyrinth of their discussions and controversies without seeing the dreams of his theological studies and religious views disappear as the thick morning mist, when the sun rises above the horizon. Bound as he is, by a solemn oath, to interpret the Holy Scriptures only according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers, the first thing which puzzles and distresses him is their absolute want of unanimity on the greater part of the subjects which they discuss. The fact is, that more than two-thirds of what one Father has written is to prove that what some other Holy Father has written is wrong and heretical.
The student of the Fathers not only detects that they do not agree with one another, but finds that many of them do not even agree with themselves. Very often they confess that they were mistaken when they said this or that; that they have lately changed their minds; that they now hold for saving truth what they formerly condemned as a damning error!
What becomes of the solemn oath of every priest in presence of this undeniable fact? How can he make an act of faith when he feels that its foundation is nothing but falsehood?
No words can give an idea of the mental tortures I felt when I saw positively that I could not, any longer, preach on the eternity of the suffering of the damned, nor believe in the real presence of the body, soul, and divinity of Christ in the sacrament of communion; nor in the supremacy of the sovereign Pontiff of Rome, nor in any of the other dogmas of my church, without perjuring myself! For there was not one of those dogmas which had not been flatly and directly denied by some Holy Fathers.
It is true, that in my Roman Catholic theological books I had long extracts of Holy Fathers, very clearly supporting and confirming my faith in those dogmas. For instance, I had the apostolic liturgies of St. Peter, St. Mark, and St. James, to prove that the sacrifice of the mass, purgatory, prayers for the dead, transubstantiation, were believed and taught from the very days of the apostles. But what was my dismay when I discovered that those liturgies were nothing else than vile and audacious forgeries presented to the world, by my Popes and my church, as gospel truths. I could not find words to express my sense of shame and consternation, when I became sure that the same church which had invented those apostolical liturgies, had accepted and circulated the false decretals of Isidore, and forged innumerable additions and interpolations to the writings of the Holy Fathers, in order to make them say the very contrary of what they intended.
How many times, when alone, studying the history of the shameless fabrications, I said to myself: "Does the man whose treasury is filled with pure gold, forge false coins, or spurious pieces of money? No! How, then, is it possible that my church possess the pure truth, when she has been at work during so many centuries, to forge such egregious lies, under the names of liturgies and decretals, about the holy mass, purgatory, the supremacy of the Pope, ect. If those dogmas could have been proved by the gospel and the true writings of the Fathers, where was the necessity of forging lying documents? Would the Popes and councils have treasuries with spurious bank bills, if they had had exhaustless mines of pure gold in hand? What right has my church to be called holy and infallible, when she is publicly guilty of such impostures."
From my infancy I had been taught, with all the Roman Catholics, that Mary is the mother of God, and many times, every day, when praying to her, I used to say, "Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me." But what was my distress when I read in the "Treatise on Faith and Creed," by Augustine, Chapter iv. 9, these very words: "When the Lord said, 'Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come' (John ii. 4), He rather admonishes us to understand that, in respect of His being God, there was no mother for Him."
This was so completely demolishing the teachings of my church, and telling me that it was blasphemy to call Mary mother of God, that I felt as if struck with a thunderbolt.
Several volumes might be written, if my plan were to give the story of my mental agonies, when reading the Holy Fathers. I found their furious battles against each other, and reviewed their fierce divisions on almost every subject. The horror of many of them, at the dogmas which my church had taught to make me believe from my infancy, as the most solemn and sacred revelations of God to man, such as transubstantiation, auricular confession, purgatory, the supremacy of Peter, the absolute supremacy of the Pope over the whole Church of Christ. Yes! what thrilling pages I would give to the world, were it my intention to portray, in their true colours, the dark clouds, the flashing lights and destructive storms which, during the long and silent hours of many nights I spent in comparing the Fathers with the Word of God and the teachings of my church. Their fierce and constant conflicts; their unexpected, though undeniable oppositions to many of the articles of the faith I had to believe and preach, were coming to me, day after day, as the barbed darts thrown at the doomed whale when coming out of the dark regions of the deep to see the light and breathe the pure air.
Thus, as the unexpected contradictions of the Holy Fathers to the tenets of my church, and their furious and uncharitable divisions among themselves, were striking me, I plunged deeper and deeper in the deep waters of the Fathers and the Word of God, with the hope of getting rid of the deadly darts which were piercing my Roman Catholic conscience. But, it was in vain. The deeper I went, the more the deadly weapons would stick to the flesh and bone of my soul. How deep was the wound I received from Gregory the Great, one of the most learned Popes of Rome, against the supremacy and universality of the power of the Pope of Rome as taught today, the following extracts from his writings will show: "I say confidently, Whosoever calls himself Universal Priest, or desires so to be called, is in his pride the forerunner of Antichrist, because, in his pride, he sets himself before the rest." [*]
These words wounded me very painfully. I showed them to Mr. Brassard, saying: "Do you not see here the incontrovertible proof of what I have told you many times, that, during the first six centuries of Christianity, we do not find the least proof that there was anything like our dogma of the supreme power and authority of the Bishop of Rome, or any other bishop, over the rest of the Christian world? If there is anything which comes to the mind with an irresistible force, when reading the Fathers of the first centuries, it is that, not one of them had any idea that there was, in the church, any man chosen by God, to be, in fact or name, the universal and supreme Pontiff. With such an undeniable fact before us, how can we believe and say that the religion we profess and teach is the same which was preached from the beginning of Christianity?"
"My dear Chiniquy," answered Mr. Brassard, "did I not tell you, when you bought the Holy Fathers, that you were doing a foolish and dangerous thing? In every age, the man who singularizes himself and walks out of the common tracks of life is subject to fall into ridicule. As you are the only priest in Canada who has the Holy Fathers, it is thought and said, in many quarters, that it is through pride you got them; that it is to raise yourself above the rest of the clergy, that you study them, not at home, but that you carry some wherever you go. I see, with regret, that you are fast losing ground in the mind, not only of the bishop, but of the priests in general, on account of your indomitable perseverance in giving all your spare time to their study. You are also too free and imprudent in speaking of what you call the contradictions of the Holy Fathers, and their want of harmony with some of our religious views. Many say that this too great application to study, without a moment of relaxation, will upset your intelligence and trouble your mind. They even whisper that there is danger ahead of your faith, which you do not suspect, and that they would not be surprised if the reading of the Bible and the Holy Fathers would drive you into the abyss of Protestantism. I know that they are mistaken, and I do all in my power to defend you. But, I thought, as your most devoted friend, that it was my duty to tell you those things, and warn you before it is too late."
I replied: "Bishop Prince told me the very same things, and I will give you the answer he got from me; 'When you ordain a priest, do you not make him swear that he will never interpret the Holy Scriptures except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers? Ought you not, then, to know what they teach? For, how can we know their unanimous consent without studying them? Is it not more than strange that, not only the priests do not study the Holy Fathers, but the only one in Canada who is trying to study them, is turned into ridicule and suspected of heresy? Is it my fault if that precious stone, called 'unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers,' which is the very foundation of our religious belief and teaching, is to be found nowhere in them? Is it my fault if Origen never believed in the eternal punishment of the damned; if St. Cyprian denied the supreme authority of the Bishop of Rome; if St. Augustine positively said that nobody was obliged to believe in purgatory; if St. John Chrysostom publicly denied the obligation of auricular confession, and the real presence of the body of Christ in the eucharist? Is it my fault if one of the most learned and holy Popes, Gregory the Great, has called by the name of Antichrist, all his successors, for taking the name of supreme Pontiff, and trying to persuade the world that they had, by divine authority, a supreme jurisdiction and power over the rest of the church?"
"And what did Bishop Prince answer you?" rejoined Mr. Brassard.
"Just as you did, by expressing his fears that my too great application to the study of the Bible and the Holy Fathers, would either send me to the lunatic asylum, or drive me into the bottomless abyss of Protestantism."
I answered him, in a jocose way: "That if the too great study of the Bible and the Holy Fathers were to open me the gates of the lunatic asylum, I feared I would be left alone there, for I know that they are keeping themselves at a respectable distance from those dangerous writings." I added seriously, "So long as God keeps my intelligence sound, I cannot join the Protestants, for the numberless and ridiculous sects of these heretics are a sure antidote against their poisonous errors. I will not remain a good Catholic on account of the unanimity of the Holy Fathers, which does not exist, but I will remain a Catholic on account of the grand and visible unanimity of the prophets, apostles, and the evangelists with Jesus Christ. My faith will not be founded upon the fallible, obscure, and wavering words of Origen, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Augustine, or Jerome; but on the infallible word of Jesus, the Son of God, and of His inspired writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, and Paul. It is Jesus, and not Origen, who will now guide me; for the second was a sinner, like myself, and the first is for ever my Saviour and my God. I know enough of the Holy Fathers to assure your lordship that the oath we take of accepting the Word of God according to their unanimous consent is a miserable blunder, if not a blasphemous perjury. It is evident that Pius IV., who imposed the obligation of that oath upon us all, never read a single volume of the Holy Fathers. He would not have been guilty of such an incredible blunder, if he had known that the Holy Fathers are unanimous in only one thing, which is to differ from each other on almost everything; except, we suppose, that, like the last Pope, he was too fond of good champagne, and that he wrote that ordinance after a luxurious dinner."
I spoke this last sentence in a half-serious and half-joking way.
The Bishop answered: "Who told you that about our last Pope?" "Your lordship," I answered, "told me that, when you complimented me on the apostolical benediction which the present Pope sent me through my Lord Baillargeon, 'that his predecessor would not have given me his benediction for preaching temperance, because he was too fond of wine!'"
"Oh yes! yes! I remember it now," answered the bishop. "But it was a bad joke on my part, which I regret."
"Good or bad joke," I replied, "it is not the less a fact that our last Pope was too fond of wine. There is not a single priest of Canada who has gone to Rome without bringing that back as a public fact from Italy."
"And what did my Lord Prince say to that," asked again Mr. Brassard.
"Just as when he was cornered by me, on the subject of the Virgin Mary, he abruptly put an end to the conversation by looking at his watch, and saying that he had a call to make at that very hour."
Not long after that painful conversation about the Holy Fathers, it was the will of God, that a new arrow should be thrust into my Roman Catholic conscience, which went through and through, in spite of myself.
I had been invited to give a course of three sermons at Vareness. The second day, at tea time, after preaching and hearing confessions for the whole afternoon, I was coming from the church with the curate, when, half-way to the parsonage, we were met by a poor man, who looked more like one coming out of the grave, than a living man; he was covered with rags, and his pale and trembling lips indicated that he was reduced to the last degree of human misery. Taking off his hat, through respect for us, he said to Rev. Primeau, with a trembling voice: "You know, Mr. le Cure, that my poor wife died, and was buried ten days ago, but I was too poor to have a funeral service sung the day she was buried, and I fear she is in purgatory, for almost every night I see her, in my dreams, wrapped up in burning flames. She cries to me for help, and asks me to have a high mass sung for the rest of her soul. I come to ask you to be so kind as to sing that high mass for her."
"Of course," answered the curate, "your wife is in the flames of purgatory, and suffers there the most unspeakable tortures, which can be relieved only by the offering of the holy sacrifice of mass. Give me five dollars and I will sing that mass to-morrow morning."
"You know very well, Mr. le Cure," answered the poor man, in a most supplicating tone, "that my wife has been sick, as well as myself, a good part of the year. I am too poor to give you five dollars!"
"If you cannot pay, you cannot have any mass sung. You know it is the rule. It is not in my power to change it."
These words were said by the curate with a high and unfeeling tone, which were in absolute contrast with the solemnity and distress of the poor sick man. They made a very painful impression upon me, for I felt for him. I know the curate was well-off, at the head of one of the richest parishes of Canada; that he had several thousand dollars in the bank. I hoped, at first, that he would kindly grant the petition presented to him without speaking of the pay, but I was disappointed. My first thought, after hearing this hard rebuke, was to put my hand in my pocket and take out one of the several five-dollar gold pieces I had, and give it to the poor man, that he might be relieved from his terrible anxiety about his wife. It came also to my mind to say to him: "I will sing you high mass for nothing to-morrow." But alas! I must confess, to my shame, I was too cowardly to do that noble deed. I had a sincere desire to do it, but was prevented by the fear of insulting that priest, who was older than myself, and for whom I had always entertained great respect. It was evident to me that he would have taken my action as a condemnation of his conduct. When I was feeling ashamed of my own cowardice, and still more indignant against myself than against the curate, he said to the disconcerted poor man: "That woman is your wife; not mine. It is your business, and not mine, to see how to get her out of purgatory."
Turning to me, he said, in the most amiable way: "Please, sir, come to tea."
We hardly started, when the poor man, raising his voice, said, in a most touching way: "I cannot leave my poor wife in the flames of purgatory; if you cannot sing a high mass, will you please say five low masses to rescue her soul from those burning flames?"
The priest turned towards him and said: "Yes, I can say five masses to take the soul of your wife out of purgatory, but give me five shillings; for you know the price of a low mass is one shilling."
The poor man answered: "I can no more give one dollar than I can five. I have not a cent; and my three poor little children are as naked and starving as myself."
"Well! well," answered the curate, "when I passed this morning before your house, I saw two beautiful sucking pigs. Give me one of them, and I will say your five low masses."
The poor man said: "These small pigs were given me by a charitable neighbour, that I might raise them to feed my poor children next winter. They will surely starve to death, if I give my pigs away."
But I could not listen any longer to that strange dialogue; every word of which fell upon my soul as a shower of burning coals. I was beside myself with shame and disgust. I abruptly left the merchant of souls finishing his bargains, went to my sleeping-room, locked the door, and fell upon my knees to weep to my heart's content.
A quarter of an hour later, the curate knocked at my door, and said, "Tea is ready; please come down!" I answered: "I am not well; I want some rest. Please excuse me if I do not take my tea to-night."
It would require a more eloquent pen than mine, to give the correct history of that sleepless night. The hours were dark and long.
"My God! my God!" I cried, a thousand times, "is it possible that, in my so dear Church of Rome, there can be such abominations as I have seen and heard today? Dear and adorable Saviour, if Thou wert still on earth, and should see the soul of a daughter of Israel fallen into a burning furnace, wouldst Thou ask a shilling to take it out? Wouldst Thou force the poor father, with his starving children, to give their last morsel of bread, to persuade Thee to extinguish the burning flames? Thou hast shed the last drop of Thy blood to save her. And how cruel, how merciless, we, Thy priests, are, for the same precious soul! But are we really Thy priests? Is it not blasphemous to call ourselves Thy priests, when not only we will not sacrifice anything to save that soul, but will starve the poor husband and his orphans? What right have we to extort such sums of money from Thy poor children to help them out of purgatory? Do not Thy apostles say that Thy blood alone can purify the soul?
"Is it possible that there is such a fiery prison for the sinners after death, and that neither Thyself nor any of Thy apostles has said a word about it? Several of the Fathers consider purgatory as of Pagan origin. Tertullian spoke of it only after he had joined the sect of the Montanists, and he confesses that it is not through the Holy Scriptures, but through the inspiration of the Paraclete of Montanus that he knows anything about purgatory. Augustine, the most learned and pious of the Holy Fathers, does not find purgatory in the Bible, and positively says that its existence is dubious; that every one may believe what he thinks proper about it. Is it possible that I am so mean as to have refused to extend a helping hand to that poor distressed man, for fear of offending the cruel priest? "We priests believe, and say that we can help souls out of the burning furnace of purgatory, by our prayers and masses: but instead of rushing to their rescue, we turn to the parents, friends, the children of those departed souls, and say: 'Give me five dollars; give me a shilling, and I will put an end to those tortures; but if you refuse us that money, we will let your father, husband, wife, child, or friend endure those tortures, hundreds of years more! Would not the people throw us into the river, if they could once understand the extent of our meanness and avarice? Ought we not to be ashamed to ask a shilling to take out of the fire a human being who calls us to the rescue? Who, except a priest, can descend so low in the regions of depravity?"
It would take too long to give the thoughts which tortured me during that terrible night. I literally bathed my pillow with my tears. Before saying my mass next morning, I went to confess my criminal cowardice and want of charity towards that poor man, and also the terrible temptation against my faith which tortured my conscience during the long hours of that night! And I repaired my cowardice by giving five dollars to that poor man.
I spent the morning in hearing confessions till ten o'clock, when I delivered a very exciting sermon on the malice of sin, proved by the sufferings of Christ on the cross. This address gave a happy diversion to my mind, and made me forget the sad story of the sucking pig. After the sermon, the curate took me by the hand to his dining-room, where he gave me, in spite of myself, the place of honour.
He had the reputation of having one of the best cooks of Canada, in the widow of one of the governors of Nova Scotia, whom he had as his housekeeper. The dishes before our eyes did not diminish his good reputation. The first dish was a sucking pig, roasted with an art and perfection as I had never seen; it looked like a piece of pure gold, and its smell would have brought water to the lips of the most penitent anchorite.
I had not tasted anything for the last twenty-four hours; had preached two exciting sermons, and spent six hours in hearing confessions. I felt hungry; and the sucking pig was the most tempting thing to me. It was a real epicurean pleasure to look at it and smell its fragrance. Besides, that was a favourite dish with me. I cannot conceal that it was with real pleasure that I saw the curate, after sharpening his long, glittering knife on the file, cutting a beautiful slice from the shoulder, and offering it to me. I was too hungry to be over patient. My knife and fork had soon done their work. I was carrying to my mouth the tempting and succulent mouthful when, suddenly, the remembrance of the poor man's sucking pig came to my mind. I laid the piece on my plate, and with painful anxiety, looked at the curate and said: "Will you allow me to put you a question about this dish?"
"Oh! yes: ask me not only one, but two questions, and I will be happy to answer you to the best of my ability," answered he, with his fine manners.
"Is this the sucking pig of the poor man of yesterday?" I asked.
With a convulsive fit of laughter, he replied: "Yes; it is just it. If we cannot take away the soul of the poor woman out of the flames of purgatory, we will, at all events, eat a fine sucking pig!" The other thirteen priests filled the room with laughter, to show their appreciation of their host's wit.
However, their laughter was not of long duration. With a feeling of shame and uncontrollable indignation, I pushed away my plate with such force, that it crossed the table and nearly fell on the floor; saying, with a sentiment of disgust which no pen can describe: "I would rather starve to death than eat of that execrable dish; I see in it the tears of the poor man; I see the blood of his starving children; it is the price of a soul. No! no, gentlemen; do not touch it. You know, Mr. Curate, how 30,000 priests and monks were slaughtered in France, in the bloody days 1792. It was for such iniquities as this that God Almighty visited the church in France. The same future awaits us here in Canada, the very day that people will awaken from their slumber and see that, instead of being ministers of Christ, we are the vile traders of souls, under the mask of religion."
The poor curate, stunned by the solemnity of my words, as well as by the consciousness of his guilt, lisped some excuse. The sucking pig remained untouched; and the rest of the dinner had more the appearance of a burial ceremony than of a convivial repast. By the mercy of God, I had redeemed my cowardice of the day before. But I had mortally wounded the feelings of that curate and his friends, and for ever lost their goodwill.
It is in such ways that God was directing the steps of His unprofitable servant through ways unknown to him. Furious storms were constantly blowing around my fragile bark, and tearing my sails into fragments. But every storm was pushing me, in spite of myself, towards the shores of eternal life, where I was to land safely, a few years later.
CHAPTER 47 Back to Contents
On the 15th of December, 1850, I received the following letter:
"Chicago, Ill., December 1st, 1850.
"Rev. Father Chiniquy:
"Apostle of Temperance of Canada.
"Dear Sir: When I was in Canada, last fall, I intended to confer with you on a very important subject, but you were then working in the diocese of Boston, and my limited time prevented me from going so far to meet you. You are aware that the lands of the State of Illinois and the whole valley of the Mississippi are among the richest and most fertile of the world. In a near future, those regions, which are now a comparative wilderness, will be the granary, not only of the United States, but of the whole world; and those who will possess them will not only possess the very heart and arteries of this young and already so great republic, but will become its rulers.
"It is our intention, without noise, to take possession of those vast and magnificent regions of the west in the name and for the benefit of our holy Church. Our plan to attain that object, is as sure as easy. There is, every year, an increasing tide of emigration from the Roman Catholic regions of Europe and Canada towards the United States. Unfortunately, till now, our emigrants have blindly scattered themselves among the Protestant populations, which too often absorb them and destroy their faith.
"Why should we not direct their steps to the same spot? Why should we not, for instance, induce them to come and take possession of these fertile states of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, ect. They can get those lands now, at a nominal price. If we succeed, as I hope we will, our holy Church will soon count her children here by ten and twenty millions, and through their numbers, their wealth and unity, they will have such a weight in the balance of power that they will rule everything.
"The Protestants, always divided among themselves, will never form any strong party without the help of the united vote of our Catholic people; and that party alone, which will ask and get our help by yielding to our just demands, will rule the country. Then, in reality, though not in appearance, our holy Church will rule the United States, as she is called by our Saviour Himself to rule the whole world. There is, today, a wave of emigrants from Canada towards the United States, which, if not stopped or well directed, is threatening to throw the good French Canadian people into the mire of Protestantism. Your countrymen, when once mixed with the numberless sects which try to attract them, are soon shaken in their faith. Their children sent to Protestant schools, will be unable to defend themselves against the wily and united efforts made to pervert them.
"But put yourself at the head of the emigrants from Canada, France and Belgium; prevent them from settling any longer among the Protestants, by inducing them to follow you to Illinois, and with them, you will soon see here, a Roman Catholic people, whose number, wealth and influence will amaze the world. God Almighty has wonderfully blessed your labours in Canada in that holy cause of temperance. But now the work is done, the same Great God presents to your Christian ambition a not less great and noble work for the rest of your life. Make use of your great influence over your countrymen to prevent them from scattering any longer among Protestants, by inducing them to come here, in Illinois. You will then lay the foundation of a Roman Catholic French people, whose piety, unity, wealth and number will soon renew and revive, on this continent, the past and fading glories of the Church of France.
"We have already, at Bourbonnais, a fine colony of French Canadians. They long to see and hear you. Come and help me to make that comparatively small, though thriving people, grow with the immigrants from the French-speaking countries of Europe and America, till it covers the whole territory of Illinois with its sturdy sons and pious daughters. I will ask the Pope to make you my coadjutor, and you will soon become my successor, for I already feel too weak and unhealthy to bear alone the burden of my too large diocese.
"Please consider what I propose to you before God, and answer me. But be kind enough to consider this overture as strictly confidential between you and me, till we have brought our plans into execution.
"Truly yours, Olvi Vandeveld,
"Bishop of Chicago."
I answered him that the Bishops of Boston, Buffalo and Detroit, had already advised me to put myself at the head of the French Canadian immigration, in order to direct its tide towards the vast and rich regions of the west. I wrote him that I felt as he did, that it was the best way to prevent my countrymen from falling into the snares laid before them by Protestants, among whom they were scattering themselves. I told him that I would consider it a great honour and privilege to spend the last part of my life in extending the power and influence of our holy Church over the Untied States, and that I would, in June next, pay my respects to him in Chicago, when on my way towards the colony of my countrymen at Bourbonnais Grove. I added that after I should have seen those territories of Illinois and the Mississippi valley, with my own eyes, it would be more easy to give him a definite answer. I ended my letter by saying: "But I respectfully request your lordship to give up the idea of selecting me for your coadjutor, or successor. I have already twice refused to become a bishop. That high dignity is too much above my merits and capacities to be ever accepted by me. I am happy and proud to fight the battles of our holy Church; but let my superiors allow me to continue to remain in her ranks as a simple soldier, to defend her honour and extend her power. I may, then, with the help of God, do some good. But I feel, and know that I would spoil everything, if raised to an elevated position, for which I am not fit."
Without speaking to anybody of the proposition of the Bishop of Chicago, I was preparing to go and see the new field where he wanted me to work, when, in the beginning of May, 1851, I received a very pressing invitation from my Lord Lefebre, Bishop of Detroit, to lecture on temperance to the French Canadians who were, then, forming the majority of the Roman Catholics of that city.
That bishop had taken the place of Bishop Rese, whose public scandals and infamies had covered the whole Catholic Church of America with shame. During the last years he had spent in his diocese, very few weeks had past without his being picked up beastly drunk in the lowest taverns, and even in the streets of Detroit, and dragged, unconscious to his place.
After long and vain efforts to reform him, the Pope and bishops of America had happily succeeded in persuading him to go to Rome, and pay his respects to the so-called vicar of Jesus Christ. This was a snare too skillfully laid to be suspected by the drunken bishop. He had hardly set his feet in Rome when the inquisitors threw him into one of their dungeons, where he remained till the republicans set him at liberty, in 1848, after Pope Pius IX. had fled to Civita Vecchia. In order to blot out from the face of his Church the black spots with which his predecessor had covered it, Bishop Lefebre made the greatest display of zeal for the cause of temperance. As soon as he was inducted, he invited his people to follow his example and enroll themselves under its banners, in a very powerful address on the evils caused by the use of intoxicating drinks. At the end of his eloquent sermon, laying his right hand on the altar, he made a solemn promise never to drink any alcoholic liquors.
His telling sermon on temperance, with his solemn and public promise, were published through almost all the papers of that time, and I read it many times to the people with good effect. When, on my way to Illinois, I reached the city of Detroit to give the course of lectures demanded by the bishop, in the first week of June. Though the bishop was absent, I immediately began to preach to an immense audience in the Cathedral. I had agreed to give five lectures, and it was only during the third one that Bishop Lefebre arrived. After paying me great compliments for my zeal and success in the temperance cause, he took me by the hand to his dining-room, and said: "Let us go and refresh ourselves."
I shall never forget my surprise and dismay when I perceived the long dining table, covered with bottles of brandy, wine, beer, ect., prepared for himself and his six or seven priests, who were already around it, joyfully emptying their glasses. My first thought was to express my surprise and indignation, and leave the room in disgust, but by a second and better thought I waited a little to see more of that unexpected spectacle. I accepted the seat offered me by the bishop at his right hand.
"Father Chiniquy," he said, "this is the sweetest claret you ever drank." And before I could utter a word, he had filled my large glass with the wine, and drank his own to my health.
Looking at the bishop in amazement, I said, "What does this mean, my lord?"
"It means that I want to drink with you the best claret you ever tasted."
"Do you take me for a comedian?" I replied, with lips trembling with indignation.
"I did not invite you to play a comedy," he answered. "I invited you to lecture on temperance to my people, and you have done it in a most admirable way, these last three days. Though you did not see me, I was present at this evening's address. I never heard anything so eloquent on that subject as what you said. But now that you have fulfilled your duty, I must do mine, which is to treat you as a gentleman, and drink that bottle of wine with you."
"But, my lord, allow me to tell you that I would not deserve to be called or treated as a gentleman, were I vile enough to drink wine after the address I gave this evening."
"I beg your pardon for differing from you," answered the bishop. "Those drunken people to whom you spoke so well against the evils on intemperance, are in need of the stringent and bitter remedies you offer them in your teetotalism. But here we are sober men and gentlemen, we do not want such remedies. I never thought that the physicians were absolutely bound to take the pills they administered to their patients."
"I hope your lordship will not deny me the right you claim for yourself, to differ with me in this matter. I entirely differ from you, when you say that men who drink as you do with your priests, have a right to be called sober men."
"I fear, Mr. Chiniquy, that you forget where you are, and to whom you speak just now," replied the bishop.
"It may be that I have made a blunder, and that I am guilty of some grave error in coming here, and speaking to you as I am doing, my lord. In that case, I am ready to ask your pardon. But before I retract what I have said, please allow me to respectfully ask you a very simple question."
Then taking from my pocket-book his printed address, and his public and solemn promise never to drink, neither to offer any intoxicating drinks to others, I read it aloud, and said: "Are you the same Bishop of Detroit, called Lefebre, who has made this solemn promise? If you are not the same man, I will retract and beg your pardon, but if you are the same, I have nothing to retract."
My answer fell upon the poor bishop as a thunderbolt.
He lisped some unintelligible and insignificant explanation, which, however, he ended by a coup d'etat, in saying:
"My dear Mr. Chiniquy, I did not invite you to preach to the bishop, but only to the people of Detroit."
"You are right, my lord, I was not called to preach to the bishop, but allow me to tell you that if I had known sooner, that when the Bishop of Detroit, with his priests, solemnly, publicly, and with their right hand on the altar, promised that they would never drink any intoxicating drinks, it means that they will drink and fill themselves with those detestable liquors, till their brains shiver with their poisonous fumes, I would not have troubled you with my presence or my remarks here. However, allow me to tell your lordship to be kind enough to find another lecturer for your temperance meetings. For I am determined to take the train to-morrow morning for Chicago."
There is no need to say that, during that painful conversation, the priests (with only one exception) were as full of indignation against me as they were full of wine. I left the table and went to my sleeping apartment, overwhelmed with sadness and shame.
Half an hour later, the bishop was with me, conjuring me to continue my lectures, on account of the fearful scandals which would result from my sudden and unexpected exit from Detroit, when the whole people had the assurance from me, that very night, that I would continue to lecture the two following evenings. I acknowledged that there would be a great scandal, but I told him that he was the only one responsible for it by his want of faith and consistency.
He, at first, tried to persuade me that he was ordered to drink, by his own physicians, for his health; but I showed him that this was a miserable illusion. He then said that he regretted what had occurred, and confessed that it would be better if the priests practiced what they preached to the people. After which, he asked me, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to forget the errors of the bishops and priests of Detroit, in order to think only of the good which the conversion of the numberless drunkards of that city would do to the people.
He spoke to me with such earnestness of the souls saved, the tears dried, the happiness restored to hundreds of families, by temperance, that he touched the most sensitive chords of my heart, and got from me the promise that I would deliver the other two expected lectures. He was so glad, that he pressed me on his bosom, and gave me, what we call in France, Le baiser de paix (kiss of peace), to show me his esteem and gratitude.
When alone, I tried to drown in a sound sleep the sad emotions of that evening; but it was impossible. That night was to be again a sleepless one to me. The intemperance of that high dignitary and his priests filled me with an unspeakable horror and disgust. Many times, during the dark hours of that night, I head as if it were a voice saying to me, "Do you not see that the bishops and priests of your church do not believe a word of their religion? Their only object is to throw dust in the eyes of the people, and live a jolly life. Do you not see that you do not follow the Word of God, but only the vain and lying traditions of men in the Church of Rome? Come out of it. Break the heavy yoke which is upon you, and follow the simple, pure religion of Jesus Christ."
I tried to silence that voice by saying to myself: "These sins are not the sins of my holy church; they are the sins of individuals. It was not the fault of Christ if Judas was a thief! It is not more the fault of my holy church if this bishop and his priests are drunkards and worldly men. Where will I go if I leave my church? Will I not find drunkards and infidels everywhere I may go in search of a better religion?"
The dawn of the next day found me feverish, and unable to get any rest in my bed. Hoping that the first fresh air of the morning would do me good, I went to the beautiful garden, covered with fruit trees of all kinds, which was, then, around the episcopal residence. But what was my surprise to see the bishop leaning on a tree, with his handkerchief over his face, and bathed in tears. I approached him with the least noise possible. I saw that he did not perceive me. By the motion of his head and shoulders, it became evident to me that he was in anguish of soul. I said to him: "My dear bishop, what is the matter? Why do you weep and cry at such an earl hour?"
Pressing my hand convulsively in his, he answered:
"Dear Father Chiniquy, you do not yet know the awful calamity which has befallen me this night?"
"What calamity?" I asked.
"Do you not remember," he answered, "that young priest who was sitting at your right hand last evening? Well! he went away, during the night, with the wife of a young man, whom he had seduced, and stole four thousand dollars from me before he left."
"I am not at all surprised at that, when I remember how that priest emptied his glasses of beer and wine last night," I answered. "When the blood of a man is heated by those fiery liquors, it is sheer absurdity to think that he will keep his vow of chastity."
"You are right! You are right! God Almighty has punished me for breaking the public pledge I had taken never to drink any intoxicating drinks. We want a reform in our midst, and we will have it,'" he answered. "But what horrible scandal! One of my young priests gone with that young wife, after stealing four thousand dollars from me! Great God! Must we not hide our face now, in this city?"
I could say nothing to alleviate the sorrow of the poor bishop, but to mingle my tears of shame and sorrow with his. I went back to my room, where I wept a part of the day, to my heart's content, on the unspeakable degradations of that priesthood of which I had been so proud, and about which I had such exalted views when I entered its ranks, before I had an inside view of its dark mysteries.
Of course, the next two days that I was the guest of Bishop Lefebre, not a single drop of intoxicating drink was seen on the table. But I know that not long after, that representative of the Pope forgot again his solemn vows, and continued with his priests, drinking, till he died a most miserable death in 1875.
Continue to Chapter 48