By Charles Chiniquy
I had not forgotten the advice given me by Archbishop Kenrick, of St. Louis, April 9th, 1856, to address my complaints to the Pope himself. But the terrible difficulties and trials which had constantly followed each other, had made it impossible to follow that advice. The betrayal of Mons. Desaulnier and the defection of Mons. Brassard, however, had so strangely complicated my position, that I felt the only way to escape the wreck which threatened myself and my colony, and to save the holy cause God had entrusted to me, was to strike such a blow to our haughty persecutor that he would not survive it. I determined to send to the Pope all the public accusations which had been legally proved and published against the bishop, with a copy of the numerous and infamous suits which he had sustained before the civil courts, and had almost invariably lost, with the sentences of the judges who had condemned him. This took nearly two months of the hardest labours of my life. I had gathered all those documents, which covered more than two hundred pages of foolscap. I mailed them to Pope Pius IX., accompanied by only the following words: "Holy Father, for the sake of your precious lambs which are slaughtered and devoured in this vast diocese by a ravening wolf, Bishop O'Regan, and in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ, I implore your Holiness to see if what is contained in these documents is correct or not. If everything is found correct, for the sake of the blood shed on Calvary, to save our immortal souls, please take away from our midst the unworthy bishop whose daily scandals cannot longer be tolerated by a Christian people."
In order to prevent the Pope's servants from throwing my letter with those documents into their waste-paper baskets, I sent a copy of them all to Napoleon III., Emperor of France, respectfully requesting him to see, through his ambassador at Washington, and his consul at Chicago, whether these papers contained the truth or not. I told him how his countrymen were trampled under the feet of Bishop O'Regan, and how they were ruined and spoiled to the benefit of the Irish people; how the churches built by the money of the French were openly stolen, and transferred to the emigrants from Ireland. Napoleon had just sent an army to punish the Emperor of China on account of some injustice done to a Frenchman. I told him "the injustice done to that Frenchman in the Chinese Empire is nothing to what is done here every day, not against one, but hundreds of your majesty's countrymen. A word from the Emperor of France to His Holiness will do here what your armies have done in China: force the unjust and merciless oppressor of the French of Illinois to do them justice."
I ended my letter by saying: "My grandfather, though born in Spain, married a French lady, and became, by choice and adoption, a French citizen. He became a captain in the French navy, and for gallant service, was awarded lands in Canada, which by the fate of war fell into the hands of Great Britain. Upon retiring from the service of France he settled upon his estates in Canada, where my father and myself were born. I am thus, with other Canadians who have come to this country, a British subject by birth, an American citizen by adoption, but French still in blood and Roman Catholic in religion. I, therefore, on the part of a noble French people, humbly ask your majesty to aid us by interceding with his Holiness, Pope Pius IX., to have these outrages and wrongs righted."
The success of this bold step was more prompt and complete than I had expected. The Emperor was, then, all powerful at Rome. He had not only brought the Pope from Civita Vecchia to Rome, after taking that city from the hands of the Italian Republicans, a few years before, but he was still the very guardian and protector of the Pope.
A few months later, when in Chicago, the Grand Vicar Dunn showed me a letter from Bishop O'Regan, who had been ordered to go to Rome and give an account of his administration, in which he had said: "One of the strangest things which has occurred to me in Rome, is that the influence of the Emperor Napoleon is against me here. I cannot understand what right he has to meddle in the affairs of my diocese."
I had learned since, that it was really through the advice of Napoleon that Cardinal Bidini, who had been previously sent to the United States to inquire about the scandal given by Bishop O'Regan, gave his opinion in our favour. The cardinals, having consulted the bishops of the United States, who unanimously denounced O'Regan as unfit and unworthy of such a high position, immediately ordered him to go to Rome, where the Pope unceremoniously transferred him from the bishopric of Chicago to a diocese extinct more than 1,200 years ago, called "Dora." This was as good as a bishopric in the moon. He consoled himself in his misfortune by drawing the hundreds of thousands of dollars of stolen money he had sent at different times, to be deposited in the banks of Paris, and went to Ireland, where he established a bank, and died in 1865.
On the 11th of March 1858, at about ten o'clock p.m., I was not a little pleased and surprised to hear the voice of my devoted friend, Rev. M. Dunn, grand vicar of Chicago, asking my hospitality for the night. His first words were: "My visit here must be absolutely incognito. In ordering me to come and see you, the Bishop of Dubuque, who is just named administrator of Chicago, advised me to come as secretly as possible." He said: "Your triumph at Rome is perfect. You have gained the greatest victory a priest ever won over his unjust bishop; but you must thank the Emperor Napoleon for it. It is to his advice, which, under the present circumstances, is equal to an order,that you owe the protection of the Cardinal Bidini. His report to the Pope is, that all the documents you sent to Rome were correct. The inquiry of the cardinal has brought facts to the knowledge of the Pope, still more compromising than what you have written against him. Several bishops of the United States have unanimously denounced Bishop O'Regan as a most depraved man, entirely unworthy of his position, and have advised the Pope to take him away and choose another bishop for Chicago. It is acknowledged, at Rome, that all the sentences pronounced by that bishop against you, are unjust and null. Our good administrator has been advised to put an end, at once, to all the troubles of your colony, by treating you as a good and faithful priest.
"I come here, not only to congratulate you on your victory, but also to thank you, in my name, and in the name of the church, for having saved our diocese from such a plague; for Bishop O'Regan was a real plague. A few more years of such administration would have destroyed our holy religion in Illinois. However, as you handled the poor bishop pretty roughly, it is suspected, at a distance, that you and your people are more Protestants than Catholics. We know better here; for, from the beginning, it was evident that the act of excommunication, posted at the door of your chapel by three priests too drunk to know what they were about, is a nullity, having never been signed by the bishop. It was a shameful and sacrilegious comedy. But, in many distant places, that excommunication was accepted as valid, and you are considered by many as a real schismatic. Bishop Smith has thought it advisable to ask you to give him a written and canonical act of submission, which he will publish to show the world that you are still a good Roman Catholic priest."
I thanked the grand vicar for his kind words, and the good news he was giving me, and I asked him to help me to thank God for having so visibly protected and guided me through all these terrible difficulties. We both knelt and repeated the sublime words of gratitude and joy of the old prophet: "Bless the Lord, oh! my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name," ect. (Ps. ciii.) I then said I had no objection to give the renewed act of my faith and submission to the church, that it might be published. I took a piece of paper, and with emotion of joy and gratitude to God, which it would be impossible to express, I slowly prepared to write. But as I was considering what form I should give to that document, a sudden, strange thought struck my mind: "Is this not the golden opportunity to put an end to the terrible temptations which have shaken my faith and distressed me for so many years." I said to myself:
"Is not this a providential opportunity to silence those mysterious voices which are troubling me almost every hour, that, in the church of Rome, we do not follow the Word of God, but the lying traditions of men?"
I determined then to frame my act of submission in such a way that I would silence those voices, and be, more than ever, sure that my faith, the faith of my dear church, which had just given me such a glorious victory at Rome, was based upon the Holy Word of God, on the divine doctrines of the Gospel. I then wrote down, in my own name, and in the name of my people:
"My lord Bishop Smith, Bishop of Dubuque and administrator of the diocese of Chicago:- We want to live and die in the holy Catholic, apostolic and Roman church, out of which there is no salvation, and to prove this to your lordship, we promise to obey the authority of the church according to the word and commandments of God as we find them expressed in the Gospel of Christ.
I handed this writing to Mr. Dunn, and said:
"What do you think of this act of submission?" He quickly read it, and answered:
"It is just what we want from you."
"All right," I rejoined. "But I fear the bishop will not accept it. Do you not see that I have put a condition to our submission? I say that we will submit ourselves to the bishop's authority, but only according to the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ."
"Is not that good?" quickly replied Mr. Dunn.
"Yes, my dear Mr. Dunn, this is good, very good indeed," I answered, "but my fear is that it is too good for the bishop and the Pope!"
"What do you mean?" he replied.
"I mean that though this act of submission is very good, I fear lest the Pope and the bishop reject it."
"Please explain yourself more clearly," answered the grand vicar. "I do not understand the reason for such a fear."
"My dear Mr. Dunn," I continued, "I must confess to you here a thing which is known only to God. I must show you a bleeding wound which is in my soul for many years. A wound which has never been healed by any of the remedies I have applied to it. It is a wound which I never dared to show to any man, except to my confessor, though it has often made me suffer almost the tortures of hell. You know well that there is not a living priest who has studied the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Fathers, with more attention and earnestness, these last few years than I have. It was not only to strengthen my own faith, but also the faith of our people, and to be able to fight the battles of our church against her enemies, that I spent so many hours of my days and nights in those studies. But, though I am confounded and ashamed to confess it to you, I must do it. The more I have studied and compared the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Fathers with the teachings of our church, the more my faith has been shaken, and the more I have been tempted to think, in spite of myself, that our church has, long ago, given up the Word of God and the Holy Fathers, in order to walk in the muddy and crooked ways of human and false traditions. Yes! the more I study, the more I am troubled by the strange and mysterious voices which haunt me day and night, saying: 'Do you not see that in your Church of Rome, you do not follow the Word of God, but only the lying traditions of men?' What is more strange and painful is, that the more I pray to God to silence these voices, the louder they repeat the same distressing things. It is to put an end to those awful temptations that I have written this conditional submission. I want to prove to myself that I will obey the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ in our church, and I shall be happy all the rest of my life, if the bishops accept this submission. But I fear it will be rejected."
Mr. Dunn promptly replied:
"You are mistaken, my dear Mr. Chiniquy. I am sure that our bishop will accept this document as canonical, and sufficient to show your orthodoxy to the world."
"If it be so," I replied, "I will be a most happy man." It was agreed that on the 25th of March I would go with him to Dubuque, to present my act of submission to the administrator of the diocese, after the people had signed it. Accordingly, at seven p.m. on that day, we both took the train at Chicago for Dubuque, where we arrived next morning. At eleven a.m. I went to the palace of the bishop, who received me with marks of the utmost cordiality and affection.
I presented him our written act of submission with a trembling hand, fearing he would reject it. He read it twice, and throwing his arms around me, he pressed me to his heart. I felt his tears of joy mixed with mine, rolling down my cheeks, as he said: "How happy I am to see that submission! How happy the Pope and all the bishops of the United States will be to hear of it, for I will not conceal it from you; we feared that both you and your people would separate from the church, by refusing to submit to her authority." I answered that I was not less happy to see the end of those painful difficulties, and I promised him that, with the help of God, our holy church would not have a more faithful priest than myself.
While engaged in that pleasant conversation, the dinner hour came. He gave me the place of honour on his right, before the two grand vicars, and nothing could be more pleasant than the time we spent around the table, which was served with a good and well prepared, though frugal meal. I was happy to see that the bishop, with his priests,were teetotalers. No wine nor beer to tempt the weak. Before the dinner was over, the bishop said to Mr. Dunn: "You will accompany Mr. Chiniquy to St. Anne in order to announce, in my name, to the people, the restoration of peace, next Sabbath. No doubt it will be joyful news to the colony of Father Chiniquy. After so many years of hard fighting, the pastor and the people of St. Anne will enjoy the days of peace and rest which are now secured to them."
Then, addressing himself to me, the bishop said: "The only condition of that peace is that you will spend fifteen days in retreat and meditation in one of the religious houses you will choose yourself. I think that, after so much noise and exciting controversies, it will do you good to pass those days in meditation and prayer, in some of our beautiful and peaceful solitudes." I answered him: "If your lordship had not offered me the favour of those days of perfect and Christian rest, I would have asked you to grant it. I consider it as a crowning of all your acts of kindness to offer me those few days of calm and meditation, after the terrible storms of those last three years. If your lordship has no objection to my choice, I will go to the beautiful solitude where M. Saurin has built the celebrated Monastery, College, and University of St. Joseph, Indiana. I hope that nothing will prevent my being there next Monday, after going next Sabbath in the company of Grand vicar Dunn, to proclaim the restoration of the blessed peace to my people of St. Anne." "You cannot make a better choice," answered the bishop. "But, my lord," I rejoined, "I hope your lordship will have no objection to give me a written assurance of the perfect restoration of that long-sought peace. There are people who, I know, will not believe me, when I tell them how quickly and nobly your lordship has put an end to all those deplorable difficulties. I want to show them that I stand to-day in the same relation with my superiors and the church in which I stood previous to these unfortunate strifes." "Certainly," said the bishop, "you are in need of such a document from your bishop, and you shall have it. I will write it at once."
But he had not yet written two lines, when Mr. Dunn looked at his watch and said: "We have not a minute to lose, if we want to be in time for the Chicago train." I then said to the bishop: "Please, my lord, address me that important document to Chicago, where I will get it at the postoffice, on my way to the University of St. Joseph, next Monday; your lordship will have plenty of time to write it, this afternoon." The bishop having consented, I hastily took leave of him, with Mr. Dunn, after having received his benediction.
On our way back to St. Anne, the next day, we stopped at Bourbonnais to see the Grand Vicar Mailloux, one of the priests who had been sent by the Bishops of Canada to help my lord O'Regan to crush me. We found him as he was going to his dining-room to take his dinner. He was visibly humiliated by the complete defeat of Bishop O'Regan, at Rome.
After Mr. Dunn had told him that he was sent to proclaim peace to the people of St. Anne, he coldly asked the written proof of that strange news. Mr. Dunn answered him: "Do you think, sir, that I would be mean enough to tell you a lie?"
"I do not say that you are telling me a lie," replied Mr. Mallous, "I believe what you say. But, I want to know the condition of that unexpected peace. Has Mr. Chiniquy made his submission to the church?"
"Yes, sir," I replied, "here is a copy of my act of submission."
He read it, and coldly said: "This is not an act of submission to the church, but only to the authority of the Gospel, which is a very different thing. This document can be presented by a Protestant; but it cannot be offered by a Catholic priest to his bishop. I cannot understand how our bishop did not see that at once."
Mr. Dunn answered him: "My dear Grand Vicar Mailloux, I have always been told that it does not do to be more loyal than the king. My hope was that you would rejoice with us at the news of the peace. I am sorry to see that I was mistaken. However, I must tell you that if you want to fight, you will have nobody to fight against; for Father Chiniquy was yesterday accepted as a regular priest of our holy church by the administrator. This ought to satisfy you."
I listened to the unpleasant conversation of those two grand vicars, with painful feelings, without saying a word. For, I was troubled by those mysterious voices which were reiterating in my mind the cry: "Do you not see that in the Church of Rome, you do not follow the Word of God, but only the lying traditions of men?"
I felt much relieved, when I left the house of that so badly disposed confrere, to come to St. Anne, where the people had gathered on the public square, to receive us, and rend the air with their cries of joy at the happy news of peace.
The next day, 27th of March, was Palm Sunday, one of the grand festivities of the Church of Rome; there was an immense concourse of people, attracted not only by the religious solemnity of the feast; but also by the desire to see and hear the deputy sent by their bishop to proclaim peace. He did it in a most elegant English address, which I translated into French. He presented me with a blessed palm, and I offered him another loaded with beautiful flowers, in the presence of the people, as a public sign of the concord which was restored between my colony and the authorities of the church.
That my Christian readers may understand my blindness, and the mercies of God towards me, I must confess here, to my shame, that I was glad to have made my peace with those sinful men, which was not peace with my God. But, that great God had looked down upon me in mercy. He was soon to break that peace with the great apostate church, which is poisoning the world with the wine of her enchantments, that I might walk in the light of the Gospel and possess that peace and joy which passeth all understanding.
CHAPTER 65Bishop Smith had fulfilled his promise in addressing to me a testimonial letter, which would show to both friends and foes that the most honourable and lasting peace between us was to succeed the deplorable years of strife through which we had just passed. I read it with Grand Vicar Dunn, who was not less pleased than I with the kind expressions of esteem towards my people and myself with which it was filled. I had never had a document in which my private and public character were so kindly appreciated. I put it in my portfolio as the most precious treasure I had ever possessed, and my gratitude to the bishop who had written such friendly lines, was boundless. I, at once, addressed a short letter to thank and bless him: and I requested him to pray for me during the happy days of retreat I was to spend at the monastery of St. Joseph.
The venerable Grand Vicar Surin, and his assistant, Rev. M. Granger, received me as two Christian gentlemen receive a brother priest, and I may say that, during my stay in the monastery, they constantly overwhelmed me with the most sincere marks of kindness. I found in them both the very best types of priests of Rome. A volume, and not a chapter, would be required, were I to tell what I saw there of the zeal, devotedness, ability and marvelous success of their labours. Suffice it to say, that Grand Vicar Saurin is justly considered one of the greatest and highest intellects Rome has ever given to the United States. There is not, perhaps, a man who had done so much for the advancement of that church in this country as that highly gifted priest. My esteem, respect, I venture to say, my veneration for him, increased every time I had the privilege of conversing with him. The only things which pained me were:
1st. When some of his inferior monks came to speak to him, they had to kneel and prostrate themselves as if he had been a god, and they had to remain in that humble and degrading posture, till, with a sign of his hand or a word from his lips, he told them to rise.
2nd. Though he promised to the numerous Protestant parents, who entrusted their boys and girls to his care for their education, never to interfere with their religion, he was, nevertheless, incessantly proselytizing them. Several of his Protestant pupils were received in the Church of Rome, and renounced the religion of their fathers, in my presence, on the eve of Easter of that year.
While, as a priest, I rejoined in the numerous conquests of my church over her enemies, in all her colleges and nunneries, I objected to the breach of promise, always connected with those conversions. I, however, then thought, as I think to-day, that a Protestant who takes his children to a Roman Catholic priest or a nun for their education, had no religion. It is simply an absurdity to promise that we will respect the religion of a man who has none. How can we respect that which does not exist?
As a general thing, there are too few people who understand the profound meaning of our Saviour's words to His disciples: "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile." These words, uttered after the apostles had gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told Him all things both what they had done and taught, ought to receive more attention, on the part of those whom the Son of God has chosen to continue the great work of preaching His Gospel to the world. I had never before so well realized how good it was to be alone with Christ, and tell Him all I had done, said, and taught. Those few days of rest and communion with my Saviour were one of the greatest favours my merciful God had ever given me.
My principal occupation was to read and meditate on the Gospel. That divine book had never been so precious to me as since God had directed me to put it as the fundamental stone of my faith in the act of submission I had just given to my bishop: and my church had never been so dear to me as since she had accepted that conditional submission. I felt a holy pride and joy at having finally silenced the voice of the enemy which, so often, troubled my faith by crying to my soul: "Do you not see that in your Church of Rome, you do not follow the Word of God, but only the lying traditions of men." My church, through her bishop, had just given me what I considered an infallible assurance of the contrary, by accepting the document signed by me and by my people, where we had clearly said that we would never obey any authority or any superior, except when "their orders or doctrines would be based upon the Gospel of Christ." My soul was rejoicing in those thoughts, when on the 5th of April (Monday after Easter) Grand Vicar Saurin handed me a letter from Mr. Dunn, telling me that a new storm, brought by the Jesuits, and more formidable than the past ones, was about to break on me; that I had to prepare for new and more serious conflicts than I had ever experienced.
The next morning, Mr. Saurin handed me another letter from the Bishop of Dubuque and with a sympathy which I will never forget, he said: "I am sorry to see that you are not at the end of your troubles, as you expected. Bishop Smith orders you back to Dubuque with words which are far from being friendly." But, strange to say, this bad news, which would have saddened and discouraged me in other circumstances, left me perfectly calm and cheerful on that day. In my dear Gospel, which had been my daily bread, the last eight days, I had found the helmet for my head, the breastplate and the shield to protect me, and the unconquerable sword with which to fight. From every page, I head my Saviour's voice: "Fear not, I am with thee" (Isaiah xlii. 5).
When on my way back to Dubuque, I stopped at Chicago to know from my faithful friend, Mr. Dunn, the cause of the new storm. He said:
"You remember how Grand Vicar Mailloux was displeased with the conditional submission you had given to the bishop. As soon as we had left him, he sent the young priest who is with him to the Jesuits of Chicago to tell them that the authority of the church and of the bishop would be for ever lost if Chiniquy were allowed to submit on such a condition. He wanted them to notice that it was not to the authority of the bishops and the church you had submitted; but only to the authority of the Bible. The Jesuits were of the same mind. They immediately sent to Dubuque, and said to the bishop, 'Do you not see that Chiniquy is a disguised Protestant; that he has deceived you by presenting you such an act of submission. Does not your lordship see that Chiniquy has not submitted himself to your authority, but to the authority of his Bible alone? Do you not fear that the whole body of the bishops and the Pope himself will condemn you for having fallen into the trap prepared by that disguised Protestant?' Our administrator, though a good man when left to himself, is weak, and like soft wax, can be manipulated in every way. The Jesuits, who want to rule the priests and the church with an iron rod, and who are aiming to change the Pope and the bishops into the most heartless tyrants, have advised the administrator to force you to give an unconditional act of submission. It is not the Word of God which must rule us now. It is the old Jupiter who is coming back to rule us under the name of a modern divinity, called 'the authority of the bishops.' The administrator and the Jesuits themselves have telegraphed your submission to several bishops, who have unanimously answered that it must be rejected, and another, without condition, requested from you. You were evidently too correct when you told me, the other day, that your act of submission was too good for the bishops and the Pope. What will you do?"
I replied: "I do not know what I will do, but be sure of this, my dear Mr. Dunn, I will do what our great and merciful God will tell me."
"Very well, very well," he answered; "may God help you!" (That same Mr. Dunn was also excommunicated not long after by his bishop, and died after publicly refusing to be relieved from that sentence).
After warmly shaking hands with me, I left to take the train for Dubuque, where I arrived next morning. I went immediately to the bishop's palace. I found him in the company of a Jesuit, and I felt myself as a poor helpless ship between two threatening icebergs.
"Your lordship wants to see me again," I said.
"Yes, sir, I want to see you again," he answered.
"What do you want from me, my lord?" I replied.
"Have you the testimonial letter I addressed to you at Chicago last week?"
"Yes, my lord, I have it with me."
"Will you please show it to me?" he replied.
"With pleasure—here it is;" and I handed him the precious document.
As soon as he had assured himself that it was the very letter in question, he ran to the stove and threw it into the fire. I felt so puzzled at the action of my bishop that I remained almost paralyzed; but soon coming to myself, I ran to save from the flames that document which was more valuable and precious to me than all the gold of California, but it was too late. It was in ashes. I turned to the bishop and said: "How can you take from me a document which is my property, and destroy it without my permission?"
He answered me with an impudence that cannot be expressed on paper: "I am your superior, and have no account to give you."
I replied: "Yes, my lord, you are my superior indeed! You are a great bishop in our church, and I am nothing but a poor miserable priest. But there is an Almighty God in heaven, who is as much above you as He is above me. That great God has granted me rights which I will never give up to please any man. In the presence of that God I protest against your iniquity."
"Have you come here to lecture me?" replied the bishop.
"No, my lord, I did not come to lecture you; I come at your command, but I want to know if it was to insult me as you have just done that you requested me to come here again."
"I ordered you to come here again because you deceived me the last time you were here," he answered: "you gave me an act of submission which you know very well is not an act of submission. I accepted it then, but I was mistaken; I reject it to-day."
I answered: "How can you say that I deceived you? The document I presented you is written in good, plain English. It is there, on your table, I see it: you read it twice, and understood it well. If you were deceived by its contents, you deceived yourself. You are, then, a self-deceiver, and you cannot accuse me of having deceived you."
He then took the document, read it slowly; and when at the words, "we submit ourselves to your authority, according to the Word of God as we find it in the Gospel of Christ," he stopped and said: "What do you mean by this?"
I answered, "I mean what you see there. I mean that neither I nor my people will ever submit ourselves to anybody, except according to the eternal laws of truth, justice, and holiness of God, as we find them expressed in the Bible."
He angrily answered, "Such language on your part is sheer Protestantism. I cannot accept such a conditional submission from any priest."
Then again I seemed to hear the mysterious voice, "Do you not see that in your Church of Rome you do not follow the Word of God, but the lying traditions of men?"
Thanks be to God, I did not silence the voice in that solemn hour. An ardent, though silent prayer, went from the bottom of my heart to God! speak, speak again to Thy poor servant, and grant me the grace to follow Thy holy Word!" I then said to the bishop:-
"You distress me by rejecting this act of submission, and asking another. Please explain yourself more clearly, and tell me the nature of the new one you require from me and my people."
Taking then a more subdued and polite tone, the bishop said:
"I hope, Mr. Chiniquy, that, as a good priest, you do not want to rebel against your bishop, and that you will give me the act of submission I ask from you. Take away these 'Words of God,' 'Gospel of Christ,' and 'Bible' from your present document, and I will be satisfied."
"But, my lord, with my people I have put these words because we want to obey only the bishops who follow the Word of God. We want to submit only to the church which respects and follows the Gospel of Christ."
In an irritated manner he quickly answered: "Take away from your act of submission those 'Words of God,' and 'Gospel of Christ,' and 'Bible!' of I will punish you as a rebel."
"My lord," I replied, "those expressions are there to show us and to the whole world that the Word of God, the Gospel of Christ, and the Bible are the fundamental stones of our holy church. If we reject those precious stones, on what foundations will our church and our faith rest?"
He answered angrily: "Mr. Chiniquy, I am your superior, I do not want to argue with you. You are inferior: your business is to obey me. Give me at once an act of submission, in which you will simply say that you and your people will submit yourselves to my authority, and promise to do anything I will bid you."
I calmly answered: "What you ask me is not an act of submission, it is an act of adoration. I do absolutely refuse to give it."
"If it be so, sir," he answered, "you can no longer be a Roman Catholic priest."
I raised my hands to heaven, and cried with a loud voice: "May God Almighty be for ever blessed."
I took my hat, and left to go to my hotel. When alone in my room I locked the door and fell on my knees, to consider, in the presence of God, what I had just done. There the awful, undeniable truth stared me in the face. My church could not be the church of Christ! That sad truth had not been revealed to me by any Protestant, not any other enemy of the church. It was from her own lips I had got it! It had been told me by one of her most learned and devoted bishops! My church was the deadly, the irreconcilable enemy of the Word of God, as I had so often suspected! I was not allowed to remain a single day longer in that church without positively and publicly giving up the Gospel of Christ! It was evident to me that the Gospel was only a blind, a mockery to conceal her iniquities, tyrannies, superstitions, and idolatries. The only use of the Gospel in my church was to throw dust in the eyes of the priests and people! It had no authority. The only rule and guide were the will, the passions, and the dictates of sinful men!
There, on my knees, and alone with God, it was evident to me that the voice which had so often troubled and shaken my faith, was the voice of my merciful God. It was the voice of my dear Saviour, who was bringing me out of the ways of perdition in which I had been walking. And I had tried so often to silence that voice!
"My God! my God!" I cried, "The Church of Rome is not Thy church. to obey the voice of my conscience, which is Thine, I gave it up. When I had the choice between giving up that church or the Bible, I did not hesitate. I could not give up Thy Holy Word. I have given up Rome! But, oh Lord, where is Thy church? Oh! speak!! where must I go to be saved?"
For more than one hour I cried to God in vain; no answer came. In vain I cried for a ray of light to guide me. The more I prayed and wept, the greater was the darkness which surrounded me! I then felt as if God had forsaken me, and an unspeakable distress was the result of that horrible thought. To add to that distress, the thought flashed across my mind that by giving up the Church of Rome, I had given up the church of my dear father and mother, of my brother, my friends, and my country—in fact, all that was near and dear to me!
I hope that none of my readers will ever experience what it is to give up friends, relatives, parents, honour, country—everything! I did not regret the sacrifice, but I felt as if I could not survive it. With tears, I cried to God for more strength and faith to bear the cross which was laid on my too weak shoulders, but all in vain.
Then I felt that an implacable war was to be declared against me, which would end only with my life. The Pope, the bishops, and priests, all over the world, would denounce and curse me. They would attack and destroy my character, my name and my honour, in their press, from their pulpit, and in their confessionals, where the man they strike can never know whence the blow is coming! Almost in despair, I tried to think of some one who would come to my help in that formidable conflict, but could find none. Every one of the millions of Roman Catholics were bound to curse me. My best friends—my own people -- even my own brothers, were bound to look upon me with horror as an apostate, a vile outcast! Could I hope for help or protection from Protestants? No! for my priestly life had been spent in writing and preaching against them. In vain would I try to give an idea of the desolation I felt when that thought struck my mind.
Forsaken by God and man, what would become of me? Where would I go when out of that room? Expelled with contempt by my former Roman Catholic friends; repulsed with still more contempt by Protestants: where could I go to hide my shame and drag on my miserable existence? How could I go to hide into that world where there was no more room for me; where there was no hand to press mine; none to smile upon me! Life suddenly became to me an unbearable burden. My brain seemed to be filled with burning coals. I was losing my mind. Yea, death, and instant death, seemed to me the greatest blessing in that awful hour! and, will I say it? Yes! I took my knife to cut my throat, and put an end to my miserable existence! But my merciful God, who wanted only to humble me, by showing me my own helplessness, stopped my hand, and the knife fell on the floor.
Though I felt the pangs of that desolation for more than two hours, I constantly cried to God for a ray of His saving light, for a word telling me what to do, where to go to be saved. At last, drops of cold sweat began to cover again my face and my whole body. The pulsations of my heart began to be very slow and weak: I felt so feeble that I expected to faint at any moment, or fall dead! At first, I thought that death would be a great relief, but then, I said to myself, "If I die, where will I go, when there is no faith, nor a ray of light to illumine my poor perishing soul! Oh, my dear Saviour," I cried, "come to my help! Lift up the light of Thy reconciled countenance upon me."
In that very instant, I remembered that I had my dear New Testament with me, which I used then, as now, to carry everywhere. The thought flashed across my mind that I would find in that Divine book the answer to my prayer, and light to guide me thorough that dark night, to that house of refuge and salvation, after which my soul was ardently longing. With a trembling hand and a praying heart, I opened the book at random—but no! not I, my God himself opened it for me. My eyes fell on these words: "YE ARE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE. BE NOT YE THE SERVANTS OF MEN" (I Cor. vii. 23).
Strange to say! Those words came to my mind, more as a light than an articulated sound. They suddenly but most beautifully and powerfully gave me, as much as a man can know it, the knowledge of the great mystery of a perfect salvation through Christ alone. They at once brought a great and delightful calm to my soul. I said to myself: "Jesus has bought me, then I am His; for when I have bought a thing it is mine, absolutely mine! Jesus has bought me! I, then, belong to Him! He alone has a right over me. I do not belong to the bishops, to the popes, not even to the church, as I have been told till now. I belong to Jesus and to Him alone! His Word must be my guide, and my light by day and by night. Jesus has bought me," I said again to myself; "then He has saved me! and if so, I am saved, perfectly saved, for ever saved! for Jesus cannot save me by half. Jesus is my God; the works of God are perfect. My salvation must, then, be a perfect salvation. But how has He saved me? What price has He paid for my poor guilty soul?" The answer came as quickly as lightning: "He bought you with His blood shed on the cross! He saved you by dying on Calvary!"
I then said to myself again: "If Jesus has perfectly saved me by shedding His blood on the cross, I am not saved, as I have thought and preached till now, by my penances, my prayers to Mary and the saints, my confessions and indulgences, not even by the flames of purgatory!"
In that instant, all things which, as a Roman Catholic, I had to believe to be saved—all the mummeries by which the poor Roman Catholics are so cruelly deceived, the chaplets, indulgences, scapularies, auricular confession, invocation of the virgin, holy water, masses, purgatory, ect., given as means of salvation, vanished from my mind as a huge tower, when struck at the foundation, crumbles to the ground. Jesus alone remained in my mind as the Saviour of my soul!
Oh! what a joy I felt at this simple, but sublime truth! But it was the will of God that this joy should be short. It suddenly went away with the beautiful light which had caused it; and my poor soul was again wrapped in the most awful darkness. However profound that darkness was, a still darker object presented itself before my mind. It was a very high mountain, but not composed of sand or stones, it was a mountain of my sins. I saw them all standing before me. And still more horrified was I when I saw it moving towards me as if, with a mighty hand, to crush me. I tried to escape, but in vain. I felt tied to the floor, and the next moment it had rolled over me. I felt as crushed under its weight; for it was as heavy as granite. I could scarcely breathe! My only hope was to cry to God for help. With a loud voice, heard by many in the hotel, I cried: "O my God! have mercy upon me! My sins are destroying me! I am lost, save me!" But, it seemed God could not hear me. The mountain was between, to prevent my cries from reaching Him, and to hide my tears. I suddenly thought that God would have nothing to do with such a sinner, but to open the gates of hell to throw me into that burning furnace prepared for his enemies, and which I had so richly deserved!
I was mistaken. After eight or ten minutes of unspeakable agony, the rays of a new and beautiful light began to pierce through the dark cloud which hung over me. In that light, I clearly saw my Saviour. There He was, bent under the weight of His heavy cross. His face was covered with blood, the crown of thorns was on His head, and the nails in His hands. He was looking to me with an expression of compassion, love, which no tongue can describe. Coming to me, He said: "I have heard thy cries, I have seen thy tears, I have given Myself for thee. My blood and My bruised body have paid thy debts; wilt thou give Me thy heart? Wilt thou take My Word for the only lamp of thy feet, and the only light of thy path? I bring thee eternal life as a gift!"
`I answered: "Dear Jesus, how sweet are Thy words to my soul! Speak, oh! speak again! Yes, beloved Saviour, I want to love Thee; but dost Thou see that mountain which is crushing me? Oh! remove it! Take away my sins!"
I had not done speaking when I saw His mighty hand stretched out. He touched the mountain, and it rolled into the deep and disappeared. At the same time, I felt as if a shower of the blood of the Lamb were falling upon me to purify my soul. And, suddenly, my humble room was transformed into a real paradise. The angels of God could not be more happy than I was in that most mysterious and blessed hour of my life. With an unspeakable joy, I said to my Saviour: "Dear Jesus, the gift of God! Thou hast brought me the pardon of my sins as a gift. Thou has brought me eternal life as a gift! Thou hast redeemed and saved me, beloved Saviour; I know, I feel it. But this is not enough. I do not want to be saved alone. Save my people also. Save my whole country! I feel rich and happy in that gift; grant me to show its beauty, and preciousness, to my people, that they may rejoice in its possession."
This sudden revelation of that marvelous truth of salvation as a gift, had so completely transformed me, that I felt quite a new man. The unutterable distress of my soul had been changed into an unspeakable joy. My fears had gone away, to be replaced by a courage and a strength such as I had never experienced. The Popes, with their bishops and priests, and millions of abject slaves might now attack me, I felt that I was a match for them all. My great ambition was to go back to my people and tell them what the Lord had done for my soul. I washed my tears away, paid my bill, and took the train which brought me back into the midst of my dear countrymen. At that very same hour they were very anxious and excited, for they had just received, at Kankakee City, a telegram from the Bishop of Dubuque, telling them: "Turn away your priest, for he has refused to give me an unconditional act of submission."
They had gathered in great numbers to hear the reading of that strange message. But they unanimously said: "If Mr. Chiniquy has refused to give an unconditional act of submission, he has done right, we will stand by him to the end." However, I knew nothing of that admirable resolution. I arrived at St. Anne on a Sabbath day at the hour of the morning service. There was an immense crowd at the door of the chapel. They rushed to me, and said: "You are just coming from the bishop; what good news have you to bring us?"
I answered: "No news here, my good friends; come to the chapel and I will tell you what the Lord had done for my soul."
When they had filled the large building, I told them:
"Our Saviour, the day before His death, said to His disciples: 'I will be a scandal to you, this night.' ("All ye shall be offended because of Me this night" -- Matt. xxvi. 31; Mark xiv. 27). I must tell you the same thing. I will be, to-day, I fear, the cause of a great scandal to every one of you. But, as the scandal which Christ gave to His disciples has saved the world, I hope that, by the great mercy of God, the scandal I will give you will save you. I was your pastor till yesterday! But I have no more that honour to-day, for I have broken the ties by which I was bound as a slave at the feet of the bishops and of the Pope."
This sentence was scarcely finished, when a universal cry of surprise and sadness filled the church: "Oh! what does that mean!" exclaimed the congregation.
"My dear countrymen," I added, "I have not come to tell you to follow me! I did not die to save your immortal souls; I have not shed my blood to buy you a place in heaven; but Christ has done it. Then follow Christ and Him alone! Now, I must tell you why I have broken the ignominious and unbearable yoke of men, to follow Christ. You remember that, on the 21st of March last, you signed, with me, an act of submission to the authority of the Bishop of the Church of Rome, with the conditional clause that we would obey him only in matters which were according to the teachings of the Word of God as found in the Gospel of Christ. In that act of submission we did not want to be slaves of any man, but the servants of God, the followers of the Gospel. It was our hope then, that our church would accept such a submission. And your joy was great when you heard that Grand Vicar Dunn was here on the 28th of March to tell you that Bishop Smith had accepted the submission. But that acceptation was revoked. Yesterday, I was told, in the presence of God, by the same bishop, that he ought not to have accepted an act of submission from any priest or people based on the Gospel of Christ! Yes! yesterday Bishop Smith rejected, with the utmost contempt, the act of submission we had given him, and which he had accepted only two weeks ago, because 'the Word of God' was mentioned in it! When I respectfully requested him to tell me the nature of the new act of submission he wanted from us, he ordered me to take away from it 'the Word of God, the Gospel of Christ, and the Bible,' if we wanted to be accepted as good Catholics! WE had thought, till then, that the sacred Word of God and Holy Gospel of Christ were the fundamental and precious stones of the Church of Rome. We loved her on that account, we wanted to remain in her bosom, even when we were forced to fight as honest men, against that tyrant, O'Regan. Believing that the Church of Rome was the child of the Word of God, that it was the most precious fruit of the Divine tree planted on the earth, under the name of the Gospel, we would have given the last drop of our blood to defend her!
"But, yesterday, I have learned from the very lips of a Bishop of Rome, that we were a band of simpletons in believing those things. I have learned that the Church of Rome has nothing to do with the Word of God, except to throw it overboard, to trample it under their feet, and to forbid us even to name it even in the solemn act of submission we have given. I have been told that we could no longer be Roman Catholics, if we persisted in putting the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ as the foundation of our religion, our faith and our submission. When I was told by the bishop that I had either to renounce the Word of God as the base of my submission, or the title of the priest of Rome, I did not hesitate. Nothing could induce me to give up the Gospel of Christ; and so I gave up the title and position of priest in the Roman Catholic Church. I would rather suffer a thousand deaths than renounce the Gospel of Christ. I am no longer a priest of Rome; but I am more than ever a disciple of Christ, a follower of the Gospel. That Gospel is for me, what it was for Paul, 'The power of God unto salvation' (Rom. i. 16). It is the bread of my soul. In it we can satisfy our thirst with the waters of eternal life! No! no!! I could not buy the honour of being any longer a slave to the bishops and popes of Rome, by giving up the Gospel of Christ!
"When I requested the bishop to give me the precise form of submission he wanted from us, he answered: "Give me an act of submission, without any condition, and promise that you will do anything I bid you.' I replied:
"'This is not an act of submission, it is an act of adoration! I will never give it to you!'
"'If so,' said he, 'you can no longer be a Roman Catholic priest.'
"I raised my hands to heaven, and with a loud and cheerful voice, I said: 'My God Almighty be for ever blessed!'"
I then told them something of my desolation, when alone, in my room; of the granite mountain which had been rolled over my shoulders, of my tears, an of my despair. I told them also how my bleeding, dying, crucified Saviour had brought me the forgiveness of my sins; how He had given me eternal salvation, as a gift, and how rich, happy, and strong I felt in that gift. I then spoke to them about their own souls.
My address lasted more than two hours, and God blessed it in a marvelous way. Its effects were profound and lasting, but it is too long to be described here. In substance, I said: "I respect you too much to impose myself upon your honest consciences, or to dictate what you ought to do on this most solemn occasion. I feel that the hour has come for me to make a great sacrifice; I must leave you! but, no! I will not go away before you tell me to do so. You will yourselves break the ties so dear which have united us. Please, pay attention to these, my parting words: If you think it is better for you to follow the Pope than to follow Christ; that it is better to trust in the works of your hands, and in your own merits, than in the blood of the Lamb, shed on the cross, to be saved; if you think it is better for you to follow the traditions of men than the Gospel; and if you believe that it is better for you to have a priest of Rome, who will keep you tied as slaves to the feet of the bishops, and who will preach to you the ordinances of men, rather than have me preach to you nothing but the pure Word of God, as we find it in the Gospel of Christ, tell it to me by rising up, and I will go!" But, to my great surprise, nobody moved. The chapel was filled with sobs; tears were flowing from every eye; but not one moved to tell me to leave them! I was puzzled. For though I had hoped that many, enlightened by the copies of the New Testament that I had given them, tired of the tyranny of the bishops, and disgusted with the superstitions of Rome, would be glad to break the yoke with me, to follow Christ, I was afraid that the greatest number would not dare to break their allegiance to the church, and publicly give up her authority. After a few minutes of silence, during which I mixed my tears and my sobs with those of my people, I told them: "Why do you not at once rise up and tell me to go? You see that I can no longer remain your pastor after renouncing the tyranny of the bishops and the traditions of men to follow the Gospel of Christ as my only rule. Why do you not bravely tell me to go away?"
But this new appeal was still without any answer I was filled with astonishment. However, it was evident to me that a great and mysterious change was wrought in that multitude. Their countenances, their manners, were completely changed. They were speaking to me with their eyes filled with tears, and their manly faces beaming with joy. Their sobs, in some way, told me that they were filled with new light; that they were full of new strength, and ready to make the most heroic sacrifices, and break their fetters to follow Christ, and Him alone. There was something in those brave, honest and happy faces which was telling me more effectually than the most eloquent speech: "We believe in the gift, we want to be rich, happy, free, and saved in the gift: we do not want anything else: remain among us and teach us to love both the gift and the giver!"
A thought suddenly flashed across my mind, and with an inexpressible sentiment of hope and joy, I told them: "My dear countrymen! The Mighty God, who gave me His saving light, yesterday, can grant you the same favour to-day. He can, as well, save a thousand souls as one. I see, in your noble and Christian faces, that you do not want any more to be slaves of men. You want to be the free children of God, intelligent followers of the Gospel! The light is shining, and you like it. The gift of God has been given to you! With me, you will break the fetters of a captivity, worse than that of Egypt, to follow the Gospel of Christ, and take possession of the Promised Land: let all those who think it is better to follow Jesus Christ than the Pope, better to follow the Word of God than the traditions of men; let all those of you who want me to remain here and preach to you nothing but the Word of God, as we find it in the Gospel of Christ, tell it to me, by rising up. I am your man! Rise up!"
Without a single exception, that multitude arose! More than a thousand of my countrymen had, for ever, broken their fetters. They had crossed the Red Sea and exchanged the servitude of Egypt for the blessings of the Promised Land! 50year30.htm