Fifty Years in the Church of Rome
by Charles Chiniquy
"No words can express to those who have never had any experience in the matter, the consternation, anxiety and shame of a poor Romish child, when he hears, for the first time, his priest saying from the pulpit, in a grave and solemn tone, "This week, you will send your children to confession. Make them understand that this action is one of the most important of their lives, and that for every one of them, it will decide their eternal happiness or misery. Fathers and mothers, if, through your fault, or his own, your child is guilty of a bad confession—if he conceals his sins and commences lying to the priest, who holds the place of God Himself, this sin is often irreparable. The devil will take possession of his heart: he will become accustomed to lie to his father confessor, or rather to Jesus Christ, of whom he is a representative. His life will be a series of sacrileges; his death and eternity those of the reprobate. Teach him, therefore, to examine thoroughly his actions, words and thoughts, in order to confess without disguise."
I was in the church of St. Thomas when these words fell upon me like a thunderbolt.
I had often heard my mother say, when at home and my aunt since I had come to St. Thomas, that upon the first confession depended my eternal happiness or misery. That week was, therefore, to decide about my eternity.
Pale and dismayed, I left the church, and returned to the house of my relatives. I took my place at the table, but could not eat, so much was I troubled. I went to my room for the purpose of commencing my examination of conscience and to recall all my sinful actions, words, and thoughts. Although I was scarcely over ten years of age, this task was really overwhelming for me. I knelt down to pray to the Virgin Mary for help; but I was so much taken up with the fear of forgetting something, and of making a bad confession, that I muttered my prayers without the least attention to what I said. It became still worse when I commenced counting my sins. My memory became confused, my head grew dizzy; my heart beat with a rapidity which exhausted me, and my brow was covered with perspiration. After a considerable length of time spent in those painful efforts, I felt bordering on despair, from the fear that it was impossible for me to remember everything. The night following was almost a sleepless one; and when sleep did come, it could scarcely be called a sleep, but a suffocating delirium. In a frightful dream, I felt as if I had been cast into hell, for not having confessed all my sins to the priest. In the morning, I awoke, fatigued and prostrated by the phantoms of that terrible night. In similar troubles of mind were passed the three days which preceded my first confession. I had constantly before me the countenance of that stern priest who had never smiled upon me. He was present in my thoughts during the day, and in my dreams during the night, as the minister of an angry God, justly irritated against me on account of my sins. Forgiveness had indeed been promised to me, on condition of a good confession; but my place had also been shown to me in hell, if any confession was not as near perfection as possible. Now, my troubled conscience told me that there were ninety-nine chances against one, that my confession would be bad, whether by my own fault I forgot some sins, or I was without that contrition of which I had heard so much, but the nature and effects of which were a perfect chaos in my mind.
Thus it was that the cruel and perfidious Church of Rome took away from my young heart the good and merciful Jesus, whose love and compassion had caused me to shed tears of joy when I was beside my mother. The Saviour whom that church made me to worship, through fear, was not the Saviour who called little children unto Him, to bless them and take them in His arms. Her impious hands were soon to torture and defile my childish heart, and place me at the feet of a pale and severe looking man—worthy representative of a pitiless God. I was made to tremble with terror at the footstool of an implacable divinity, while the gospel asked from me only tears of love and joy, shed at the feet of the incomparable Friend of sinners. At length came the day of confession; or rather of judgment and condemnation. I presented myself to the priest.
Mr. Loranger was no longer priest of St. Thomas. He had been succeeded by Mr. Beaubien, who did not favour our school any more than his predecessor. He had even taken upon himself to preach a sermon against the heretical school, by which we had been excessively wounded. His want of love for us, however, I must say, was fully reciprocated.
Mr. Beaubien had, then, the defect of lisping and stammering. This we often turned into ridicule, and one of my favourite amusements was to imitate him, which brought bursts of laughter from us all.
It had been necessary for me to examine myself upon the number of times I had mocked him. This circumstance was not calculated to make my confession easier, or more agreeable.
At last the dreaded moment came. I knelt at the side of my confessor. My whole frame trembled. I repeated the prayer preparatory to confession, scarcely knowing what I said, so much was I troubled by fear.
By the instructions which had been given us before confession, we had been made to believe that the priest was the true representative—yes, almost the personification of Jesus Christ. The consequence was, that I believed my greatest sin had been that of mocking the priest. Having always been told that it was best to confess the greatest sin first, I commenced thus: "Father, I accuse myself of having mocked a priest."
Scarcely had I uttered these words, "mocked a priest," when this pretended representative of the humble Saviour, turning towards me, and looking in my face in order to know me better, asked abruptly, "What priest did you mock, my boy?" I would rather have chosen to cut out my tongue than to tell him to his face who it was. I therefore kept silent for a while. By my silence made him very nervous and almost angry. With a haughty tone of voice he said, "What priest did you take the liberty of thus mocking?"
I saw that I had to answer. Happily his haughtiness had made me firmer and bolder. I said, "Sir, you are the priest whom I mocked."
"But how many times did you take upon you to mock me, my boy?"
"I tried to find out," I answered, "but I never could."
"You must tell me how many times; for to mock one's own priest is a great sin."
"It is impossible for me to give you the number of times," answered I.
"Well, my child, I will help your memory by asking you questions. Tell me the truth. Do you think you have mocked me ten times?"
"A great many times more, sir."
"Many more still."
"A hundred times?"
"Say five hundred times, and perhaps more," answered I.
"Why, my boy, do you spend all your time in mocking me?"
"Not all; but unfortunately I do it very often."
"Well may you say unfortunately; for so to mock your priest, who holds the place of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a great misfortune, and a great sin for you. But tell me, my little boy, what reason have you for mocking me thus?"
In my examinations of conscience I had not foreseen that I should be obliged to give the reasons for mocking the priest; and I was really thunderstruck by his questions. I dared not answer, and I remained for a long time dumb, from the shame that overpowered me. But with a harassing perseverance the priest insisted upon my telling why I had mocked him; telling me that I should be damned if I did not tell the whole truth. So I decided to speak, and said, "I mocked you for several things."
"What made you first mock me?" continued the priest.
"I laughed at you because you lisped. Among our pupils of our school, it often happens that we imitate your preaching to excite laughter."
"Have you often done that?"
"Almost every day, especially in our holidays, and since you preached against us."
"For what other reasons did you laugh at me, my little boy?"
For a long time I was silent. Every time I opened my mouth to speak courage failed me. However, the priest continuing to urge me, I said at last, "It is rumoured in town that you love girls; that you visit the Misses Richards every evening, and this often makes us laugh."
The poor priest was evidently overwhelmed by my answer, and ceased questioning me on this subject. Changing the conversation, he said:
"What are your other sins?"
I began to confess them in the order in which they came to my memory. But the feeling of shame which overpowered me in repeating all my sins to this man was a thousand times greater than that of having offended God. In reality this feeling of human shame which absorbed my thought—nay, my whole being—left no room for any religious feeling at all.
When I had confessed all the sins I could remember, the priest began to ask me the strangest questions on matters about which my pen must be silent. I replied, "Father, I do not understand what you ask me."
"I question you on the sixth commandment (seventh in the Bible). Confess all. You will go to hell, if through your fault you omit anything."
Thereupon he dragged my thoughts to regions which, thank God, had hitherto been unknown to me.
I answered him: "I do not understand you," or "I have never done these things."
Then, skillfully shifting to some secondary matter, he would soon slyly and cunningly come back to his favourite subject, namely, sins of licentiousness.
His questions were so unclean that I blushed, and felt sick with disgust and shame. More than once I had been, to my regret, in the company of bad boys; but not one of them had offended my moral nature so much as this priest had done. Not one of them had ever approached the shadow of the things from which that man tore the veil, and which he placed before the eye of my soul. In vain did I tell him that I was not guilty of such things; that I did not even understand what he asked me; he would not let me off. Like the vulture bent upon tearing the poor bird that falls into his claws, that cruel priest seemed determined to defile and ruin my heart.
At last he asked me a question in a form of expression so bad that I was really pained. I felt as if I had received a shock from an electric battery; a feeling of horror made me shudder. I was so filled with indignation that speaking loud enough to be heard by many, I told him: "Sir, I am very wicked; I have seen, heard and done many things which I regret; but I never was guilty of what you mention to me. My ears have never heard anything so wicked as what they have heard from your lips. Please do not ask me any more of those questions; do not teach me any more evil than I already know."
The remainder of my confession was short. The firmness of my voice had evidently frightened the priest, and made him blush. He stopped short and began to give me some good advice, which might have been useful to me if the deep wounds which his questions had inflicted upon my soul had not so absorbed my thoughts as to prevent me from giving attention to what he said.
He gave me a short penance and dismissed me.
I left the confessional irritated and confused. From the shame of what I had just heard from the mouth of that priest I dared not lift my eyes from the ground. I went into a retired corner of the church to do my penance; that is, to recite the prayers he had indicated to me. I remained for a long time in church. I had need of a calm after the terrible trial through which I had just passed. But vainly sought I for rest. The shameful questions which had been asked me, the new world of iniquity into which I had been introduced, the impure phantoms by which my childish heart had been defiled, confused and troubled my mind so strangely that I began to weep bitterly.
Why those tears? Why that desolation? Wept I over my sins? Alas! I confess it was shame, my sins did not call forth these tears. And yet how many sins had I already committed, for which Jesus shed His precious blood. But I confess my sins were not the cause of my desolation. I was rather thinking of my mother, who had taken such good care of me, and who had so well succeeded in keeping away from my thoughts those impure forms of sin, the thoughts of which had just now defiled my heart. I said to myself, "Ah! if my mother had heard those questions; if she could see the evil thoughts which overwhelm me at this moment—if she knew to what school she sent me when she advised me in her last letter to go to confession, how her tears would mingle with mine!" It seemed to me that my mother would love me not more—that she would see written upon my brow the pollution with which that priest had profaned my soul.
Perhaps the feeling of pride was what made me weep. Or perhaps I wept because of a remnant of that feeling of original dignity whose traces had still been left in me. I felt so downcast by the disappointment of being removed farther from the Saviour by that confessional which had promised to bring me nearer to Him. God only knows what was the depth of my sorrow at feeling myself more defiled and more guilty after than before my confession.
I left the church only when forced to do so by the shades of night, and came to my uncle's house with that feeling of uneasiness caused by the consciousness of having done a bad action, and by the fear of being discovered.
Though this uncle, as well as most of the principal citizens of the village of St. Thomas, had the name of being a Roman Catholic, he yet did not believe a word of the doctrines of the Roman Church. He laughed at the priests, their masses, their purgatory, and especially their confession. He did not conceal that, when young, he had been scandalized by the words and actions of a priest in the confessional. He spoke to me jestingly. This increased my trouble and my grief. "Now," said he, "you will be a good boy. But if you have heard as many new things as I did the first time I went to confess, you are a very learned boy;" and he burst into laughter.
I blushed and remained silent. My aunt, who was a devoted Roman Catholic, said to me, "Your heart is relieved, is it not, since you confessed all your sins?" I gave her an evasive answer, but I could not conceal the sadness that overcame me. I thought I was the only one from whom the priest had asked those polluting questions. But great was my surprise, on the following day, when going to school I learned that my fellow pupils had not been happier than I had been. The only difference was, that instead of being grieved, they laughed at it. "Did the priest ask you such and such questions?" they would demand, laughing boisterously. I refused to reply, and said, "Are you not ashamed to speak of these things?"
"Ah! ah! how very scrupulous you are," continued they. "If it is not a sin for the priest to speak to us on these matters, how can it be a sin for us?" I stopped, confounded, not knowing what to say.
I soon perceived that even the young schoolgirls had not been less polluted and scandalized by the questions of the priest than the boys. Although keeping at a distance, such as to prevent us from hearing all they said, I could understand enough to convince me that they had been asked about the same questions. Some of them appeared indignant, while others laughed heartily.
I should be misunderstood were it supposed that I mean to convey the idea that this priest was more to blame than others, or that he did more than fulfill the duties of his ministry in asking these questions. Such, however, was my opinion at the time, and I detested that man with all my heart until I knew better. I had been unjust towards him, for this priest had only done his duty. He was only obeying the pope and his theologians. His being a priest of Rome was, therefore, less in crime than his misfortune. He was, as I have been myself, bound hand and foot at the feet of the greatest enemy that the holiness and truth of God have ever had on earth—the pope.
The misfortune of Mr. Beaubien, like that of all the priests of Rome, was that of having bound himself by terrible oaths not to think for himself, or to use the light of his own reason.
Many Roman Catholics, even many Protestants, refuse to believe this. It is, notwithstanding, a sad truth. The priest of Rome is an automaton—a machine which acts, thinks and speaks in matters of morals and of faith, only according to the order and the will of the pope and of his theologians.
Had Mr. Beaubien been left to himself, he was naturally too much of a gentleman to ask such questions. But no doubt he had read Liguori, Dens, Debreyne, authors approved by the pope, and he was obliged to take darkness for light, and vice for virtue.
Shortly after the trial of auricular confession, my young friend, Louis Cazeault, accosted me on a beautiful morning and said, "Do you know what happened last night?"
"No," I answered. "What was the wonder?"
"You know that our priest spends almost all his evenings at Mr. Richard's house. Everybody thinks that he goes there for the sake of the two daughters. Well, in order to cure him of that disease, my uncle, Dr. Tache, and six others, masked, whipped him without mercy and he was coming back at eleven o'clock at night. It is already known by everyone in the village, and they split their sides with laughing."
My first feeling on hearing that news was one of joy. Ever since my first confession I felt angry every time I thought of that priest. His questions had so wounded me that I could not forgive him. I had enough self-control, however, to conceal my pleasure, and I answered my friend:
"You are telling me a wicked story; I can't believe a word of it."
"Well," said young Cazeault, "come at eight o'clock this evening to my uncle's. A secret meeting is to take place then. No doubt they will speak of the pill given to the priest last night. We shall place ourselves in our little room as usual and shall hear everything, our presence not being suspected. You may be sure that it will be interesting."
"I will go," I answered, "but I do not believe a word of that story."
I went to school at the usual hour. Most of the pupils had preceded me. Divided into groups of eight or ten, they were engaged in a most lively conversation. Bursts of convulsive laughter were heard from every corner. I could very well see that something uncommon had taken place in the village.
I approached several of these groups, and all received me with the question:
"Do you know that the priest was whipped last night as he was coming from the Misses Richards'?"
"That is a story invented for fun," said I. "You were not there to see him, were you? You therefore know nothing about it; for it anybody had whipped the priest he would not surely boast of it."
"But we heard his screams," answered many voices.
"What! was he then screaming out?" I asked.
"He shouted out at the top of his voice, 'Help, help! Murder!'"
"But you were surely mistaken about the voice," said I. "It was not the priest who shouted, it was somebody else. I could never believe that anybody would whip a priest in such a crowded village."
"But," said several, "we ran to his help and we recognized the priest's voice. He is the only one who lisps in the village."
"And we saw him with our own eyes," said several.
The school bell put an end to this conversation. As soon as school was out I returned to the house of my relatives, not wishing to learn any more about this matter. Although I did not like this priest, yet I was much mortified by some remarks which the older pupils made about him.
But it was difficult not to hear any more. On my arrival home I found my uncle and aunt engaged in a very warm debate on the subject. My uncle wished to conceal the fact that he was among those who had whipped him. But he gave the details so precisely, he was so merry over the adventure, that it was easy to see that he had a hand in the plot. My aunt was indignant, and used the most energetic expressions to show her disapprobation.
That bitter debate annoyed me so that I did not stay long to hear it all. I withdrew to my study.
During the remainder of the day I changed my resolution many times about my going to the secret meeting in the evening. At one moment I would decide firmly not to go. My conscience told me that, as usual, things would be uttered which it was not good for me to hear. I had refused to go to the two last meetings, and a silent voice, as it were, told me I had done well. Then a moment after I was tormented by the desire to know precisely what had taken place the evening before. The flagellation of a priest in the midst of a large village was a fact too worthy of note to fail to excite the curiosity of a child. Besides, my aversion to the priest, though I concealed it as well as I could, made me wish to know whether everything was true on the subject of the chastisement. But in the struggle between good and evil which took place in my mind during that day, the evil was finally to triumph. A quarter of an hour before the meeting my friend came to me and said:
"Make haste, the members of the association are coming."
At this call all my good resolutions vanished. I hushed the voice of my conscience, and a few minutes later I was placed in an angle of that little room, where for more than two hours I learned so many strange and scandalous things about the lives of the priests of Canada.
Dr. Tache presided. He opened the meeting in a low tone of voice. At the beginning of his discourse I had some difficulty to understand what he said. He spoke as one who feared to be overheard when disclosing a secret to a friend. But after a few preliminary sentences he forgot the rule of prudence which he had imposed upon himself, and spoke with energy and power.
Mr. Etienne Tache was naturally eloquent. He seemed to speak on no question except under the influence of the deepest conviction of its truth. His speech was passionate, and the tone of his voice clear and agreeable. His short and cutting sentences did not reach the ear only: they penetrated even the secret folds of the soul. He spoke in substance as follows:
"Gentlemen,—I am happy to see you here more numerously than ever. The grave events of last night have, no doubt, decided many of you to attend debates which some began to forsake, but the importance of which, it seems to me, increases day by day.
"The question debated in our last meeting—'The Priests'—is one of life and death, not only for our young and beautiful Canada, but in a moral point of view it is a question of life and death for our families, and for every one of us in particular.
"There is, I know, only one opinion among us on the subject of priests; and I am glad that this opinion is not only that of all educated men in Canada, but also of learned France—nay, of the whole world. The reign of the priest is the reign of ignorance, of corruption, and of the most barefaced immorality, under the mask of the most refined hypocrisy. The reign of the priest is the death of our schools; it is the degradation of our wives, the prostitution of our daughters; it is the reign of tyranny—the loss of liberty.
"We have only one good school, I will not say in St. Thomas, but in all our county. This school in our midst is a great honour to our village. Now see the energy with which all the priests who come here work for the closing of that school. They use every means to destroy that focus of light which we have started with so much difficulty, and which we support by so many sacrifices.
"With the priest of Rome our children do not belong to us: he is their master. Let me explain. The priest honours us with the belief that the bodies, the flesh and bones of our children, are ours, and that our duty in consequence is to clothe and feed them. But the nobler and more sacred part, namely, the intellect, the heart, the soul, the priest claims as his own patrimony, his own property. The priest has the audacity to tell us that to him alone it belongs to enlighten those intelligences, to form those hearts, to fashion those souls as it may best suit him. He has the impudence to tell us that we are too silly or perverse to know our duties in this respect. We have not the right of choosing our school teachers. We have not the right to send a single ray of light into those intellects, or to give to those souls who hunger and thirst after truth a single crumb of that food prepared with so much wisdom and success by enlightened men of all ages.
"By the confessional the priests poison the springs of life in our children. They initiate them into such mysteries of iniquity as would terrify old galley slaves. By their questions they reveal to them secrets of a corruption such as carries its germs of death into the very marrow of their bones, and that from the earliest years of their infancy. Before I was fifteen years old I had learned more real blackguardism from the mouth of my confessor than I have learned ever since, in my studies and in my life as a physician for twenty years.
"A few days ago I questioned my little nephew, Louis Cazeault, upon what he had learned in his confession. He answered me ingenuously, and repeated things to me which I would be ashamed to utter in your presence, and which you, fathers of families, could not listen to without blushing. And just think, that not only of little boys are those questions asked, but also of our dear little girls. Are we not the most degraded of men if we do not set ourselves to work in order to break the iron yoke under which the priest keeps our dear country, and by means of which he keeps us, with our wives and children, at his feet like vile slaves.
"While speaking to you of the deleterious effects of the confessional upon our children, shall I forget its effects upon our wives and upon ourselves? Need I tell you that, for most women, the confessional is a rendezvous of coquetry and of love? Do you not feel as I do myself, that by means of the confessional the priest is more the master of the hearts of our wives than ourselves? Is not the priest the private and public confidant of our wives? Do not our wives go invariably to the feet of the priest, opening to him what is most sacred and intimate in the secrets of our lives as husbands and as fathers? The husband belongs no more to his wife as her guide through the dark and difficult paths of life: it is the priest! We are no more their friends and natural advisers. Their anxieties and their cares they do not confide to us. They do not expect from us the remedies for the miseries of this life. Towards the priest they turn their thoughts and desires. He has their entire and exclusive confidence. In a word, it is the priest who is the real husband of our wives! It is he who has the possession of their respect and of their hearts to a degree to which no one of us need ever aspire!
"Were the priest an angel, were he not made of flesh and bones just as we are, were not his organization absolutely the same as our own, then might we be indifferent to what might take place between him and our wives, whom he has at his feet, in his hands—even more, in his heart. But what does my experience tell me, not only as a physician, but also as a citizen of St. Thomas? What does yours tell you? Our experience tells us that the priest, instead of being stronger, is weaker than we generally are with respect to women.
His sham vows of perfect chastity, far from rendering him more invulnerable to the arrows of Cupid, expose him to be made more easily the victim of that god, so small in form, but so dreadful a giant by the irresistible power of his weapons and the extent of his conquests.
"As a matter of fact, of the last four priests who came to St. Thomas, have not three seduced many of the wives and daughters of our most respectable families? And what security have we that the priest who is now with us does not walk in the same path? Is not the whole parish filled with indignation at the long nightly visits made by him to two girls whose dissolute morals are a secret to nobody? And when the priest does not respect himself, would we not be silly in continuing to give him that respect of which he himself knows he is unworthy?
"At out last meeting the opinions were divided at the beginning of the discussion. Many thought it would be well to speak to the bishop about the scandal caused by those nightly visits. But the majority judged that such steps would be useless, since the bishop would do one of two things, namely, he would either pay no attention to our just complaints, as has often been the case, or he would remove this priest, filling his place with one who would do no better. That majority, which became a unanimity, acceded to my thought of taking justice into our own hands. The priest is our servant. We pay him a large tithe. We have therefore claims upon him. He has abused us, and does so every day by his public neglect of the most elementary laws of morality. In visiting every night that house whose degradation is known to everybody, he gives to youth an example of perversity the effects of which no one can estimate.
"It had been unanimously decided that he should be whipped. Without my telling you by whom it was done, you may be assured that Mr. Beaubien's flagellation of last night will never be forgotten by him!
"Heaven grant that this brotherly correction be a lesson to teach all the priests of Canada that their golden reign is over, that the eyes of the people are opened, and that their domination is drawing to an end!"
This discourse was listened to with deep silence, and Dr. Tache saw by the applause that followed that his speech had been the expression of every one.
Next followed a gentleman named Dubord, who in substance spoke as follows:
"Mr. President,—I was not among those who gave the priest the expression of public feeling with the energetic tongue of the whip. I wish I had been, however; I would heartily have co-operated in giving that lesson to the priest of Canada. Let me give my reason.
"My daughter who is twelve years old, went to confession as did the others a few weeks ago. It was against my will. I know by my own experience that of all actions confession is the most degrading in a person's life. I can imagine nothing so well calculated to destroy for ever one's self-respect as the modern invention of the confessional. Now, what is a person without self-respect—especially a woman? Without this all is lost to her for ever.
"In the confessional everything is corruption of the lowest grade.
"In the confessional, a girl's thoughts are polluted, her tongue is polluted, her heart is polluted—yes, and forever polluted! Do I need to tell you this? You know it as well as I do. Though you are now all too intelligent to degrade yourselves at the feet of a priest, though it is long since you have been guilty of that meanness, not one of you have forgotten the lessons of corruption received, when young, in the confessional. Those lessons were engraved on your memory, your thoughts, your heart, and your souls like the scar left by the red-hot iron upon the brow of the slave, to remain a perpetual witness of his shame and servitude. The confessional is a place where one gets accustomed to hear, and repeat without a scruple, things which would cause even a prostitute to blush!
"Why are Roman Catholic nations inferior to nations belonging to Protestantism? Only in the confessional can the solution of that problem be found. And why are Roman Catholic nations degraded in proportion to their submission to the priest? It is because the oftener the individuals composing those nations go to confession, the more rapidly they sink in the scale of intelligence and morality. A terrible example of this I had in my own house.
"As I said a moment ago, I was against my daughter going to confession; but her poor mother, who is under the control of the priest, earnestly wanted her to go. Not to have a disagreeable scene in my house, I had to yield to the tears of my wife.
"On the day following that of her confession they believed I was absent; but I was in my office, with the door sufficiently open to allow me to hear what was said. My wife and daughter had the following conversation:
"'What makes you so thoughtful and sad, my dear Lucy, since you went to confession? It seems to me you should feel happier since you had the privilege of confession your sins.'
"Lucy made no answer.
"After a silence of two or three minutes her mother said:
"'Why do you weep, dear child? Are you ill?'
"Still no answer from the child.
"You may well suppose that I was all attention. I had my suspicions about the dreadful ordeal which had taken place. My heart throbbed with uneasiness and anger.
"After a short time my wife spoke to her child with sufficient firmness to force her to answer. In a trembling voice and half suppressed with sobs my dear little daughter answered:
"'Ah! mamma, if you knew what the priest asked me, and what he said to me in the confessional, you would be as sad as I am.'
"'But what did he say to you? He is a holy man. You surely did not understand him if you think he said anything to pain you.'
"'Dear mother,' as she threw herself into her mother's arms, 'do not ask me to confess what the priest said! He told to me things so shameful that I cannot repeat them. But that which pains me most is the impossibility of banishing from my thoughts the hateful things which he has taught me. His impure words are like the leeches put upon the chest of my friend Louise—they could not be removed without tearing the flesh. What must have been his opinion of me to ask such questions!'
"My child said no more, and began to sob again.
"After a short silence my wife rejoined:
"'I'll go to the priest. I'll tell him to beware how he speaks in the confessional. I have noticed myself that he goes too far with his questions. I, however thought that he was more prudent with children. After the lesson that I'll give him, be sure that you will have only to tell your sins, and that you will be no more troubled by his endless questions. I ask of you, however, never to speak of this to anybody, especially never let your poor father know anything about it; for he has little enough religion already, and this would leave him without any at all.'
"I could contain myself no longer. I rose and abruptly entered the parlour. My daughter threw herself, weeping, into my arms. My wife screamed with terror, and almost fell into a swoon. I said to my child:
"If you love me, put your hand on my heart and promise me that you'll never go to confession again. Fear God, my child; walk in His presence, for His eye seeth you everywhere. Remember that day and night He is ready to forgive us. Never place yourself again at the feet of a priest to be defiled and degraded by him! 50year02.htm