By Charles Chiniquy
Were I to write all the ingenious tricks, pious lies, shameful stories called miracles, and sacrilegious perversions of the Word of God made use of by superiors of seminaries and nunneries to entice poor victims into the trap of perpetual celibacy, I should have to write ten large volumes, instead of a short chapter.
Sometimes the trials and obligations of married life are so exaggerated that they may frighten the strongest heart. At other times the joys, peace and privileges of celibacy are depicted with such brilliant colours that they fill the coldest mind with enthusiasm.
The Pope takes his victim to the top of a high mountain, and there shows him all the honours, praise, wealth, peace and joys of this world, united to the most glorious throne of heaven, and then tells him: "I will give you all those things if you fall at my feet, promise me an absolute submission, and swear never to marry in order to serve me better."
Who can refuse such glorious things? But before entirely shutting their eyes, so that they may not see the bottomless abyss into which they are to fall, the unfortunate victims sometimes have forebodings and presentiments of the terrible miseries which are in store for them. The voice of their conscience, intelligence and common sense has not always been so fully silenced as the superior desired.
At the very time when the tempter is whispering his lying promises into their ears, their Heavenly Father is speaking to them of the ceaseless trials, the shameful falls, the tedious days, the dreary nights, and the cruel and insufferable burdens which are concealed behind the walls where the sweet yoke of the good Master is exchanged for the burdens of heartless men and women.
As formerly, the human victims crowned with flowers, when dragged to the foot of the altar of their false gods, often cried out with alarm and struggled to escape from the bloody knife of the heathen priest, so at the approach of the fatal hour at which the impious vow is to be made, the young victims often feel their hearts fainting and filled with terror. With pale cheeks, trembling lips and cold-dropping sweat they ask their superiors, "Is it possible that our merciful God requires of us such a sacrifice?"
Oh! how the merciless priest of Rome then becomes eloquent in depicting celibacy as the only way to heaven, or in showing the eternal fires of hell ready to receive cowards and traitors who, after having put their hand to the plough of celibacy, look back! He speaks of the disappointment and sadness of so many dear friends, who expected better things of them. He points out to them their own shame when they will again be in a world which will have nothing for them but sneers for their want of perseverance and courage. He overwhelms them with a thousand pious lies about the miracles wrought by Christ in favour of his virgins and priests. He bewitches them by numerous texts of Scripture, which he brings as evident proof of the will of God in favour of their taking the vows of celibacy, though they have not the slightest reference to such vows.
The text of which the strangest abuses are made by the superiors to persuade the young people of both sexes to bind themselves by those shameful vows is Matthew xix. 12, 13, "For there are eunuchs which were born from their mother's womb; and there are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men; and there are eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."
Upon one occasion our superior made a very pressing appeal to our religious feelings from this text, to induce us to make the vow of celibacy and become priests. But the address, though delivered with a great deal of zeal, seemed to us deficient in logic.
The next day was a day of rest (conge). The students in theology who were preparing themselves for the priesthood, with me, talked seriously of the singular arguments of the last address. It seemed to them that the conclusions could not in any way be drawn from the selected text, and therefore determined to respectfully present their objections and their views, which were also mine, to the superior; and I was chosen to speak for them all.
At the next conference, after respectfully asking and obtaining permission to express our objections with our own frank and plain sentiments, I spoke about as follows:
"Dear and venerable sir: You told us that the following words of Christ, 'There be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake,'—show us evidently that we must make the vow of celibacy and make ourselves eunuchs if we want to become priests. Allow us to tell you respectfully, that it seems to us that the mind of our Saviour was very different from yours when He pronounced these words. In our humble opinion, the only object of the Son of God was to warn His disciples against one of the most damnable errors which were to endanger the very existence of nations. He was foretelling that there would be men so wicked and blind as to preach that the best way for men to go to heaven would be to make eunuchs of themselves. Allow us to draw your attention to the fact that in that speech Jesus Christ neither approves or disapproves of the idea of gaining a throne in heaven by becoming eunuchs. He leaves us to our common sense and to some clearer parts of Scripture to see whether or not He approves of those who would make eunuchs of themselves to gain a crown in heaven. Must we not interpret this text as we interpret what Jesus said to His apostles, 'The time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service' (John xvi. 1,2).
Allow us to put these two texts fact to face:
"'There are eunuchs which have "'The time cometh that whosoever made themselves eunuchs for the killeth you will think that he kingdom of heaven's sake' doeth God service' (Matt. xix. 12,13.) (John xvi. l,2).
"Because our Saviour has said that there would be men who would think that they would please God (and of course gain a place in heaven) by killing His disciples, are we, therefore, allowed to conclude that it would be our duty to kill those who believe and follow Christ? Surely not!
"Well, it seems to us that we are not to believe that the best way to go to heaven is to make ourselves eunuchs, because our Saviour said that some men had got that criminal and foolish notion into their mind!
"Christian nations have always looked with horror upon those who have voluntarily become eunuchs. Common sense, as well as the Word of God, condemns those who thus destroy in their own bodies that which God in His wisdom gave them for the wisest and holiest purposes. Would it not, therefore, be a crime which every civilized and Christian nation would punish, to preach publicly and with success to the people that one of the surest ways for man to go to heaven would be to make himself a eunuch. How can we believe that our Saviour could ever sanction and such a practice?
"Moreover, if being eunuchs would make the way to heaven surer and more easy, would not God be unjust for depriving us of the privilege of being born eunuchs, and thus being made ripe fruits for heaven?
"It seems to us that that text does not in any way require us to believe that an eunuch is nearer the kingdom of God than He who lives just according to the laws which God gave to man in the earthly paradise. If it was not good for man to be without his wife when he was so holy and strong as he was in the Garden of Eden, how can it be good now that he is so weak and sinful? "Our Saviour clearly shows that He finds no sanctifying power in the state of an eunuch, in His answer to the young man who asked Him, 'Good Master, what must I do that I may have eternal life?" (Matt. xix. 16). Did the good Master answer him in the language we heard from you two days ago, namely, that the best way to have eternal life is to make yourself an eunuch—make a solemn vow never to marry? No; but He said, 'Keep the commandments!' But where is the commandment of God, in the Old or New Testament, to induce us to make such a vow as that of celibacy? The promise of a place in heaven is not attached in any way to the vow of celibacy. Christ has not a word about that doctrine.
"Allow us to respectfully ask, if the views concerning the vows of celibacy entertained by Christ had been like yours, is it possible that He would have forgotten to mention them when He answered the solemn question of that young man? Is it possible that He would not have said a single word about a thing which you have represented to us as being of such vital importance to those who sincerely desire to know what to do to be saved? Is it not strange that the Church should attach such an importance to that vow of celibacy, when we look in vain for such an ordinance in both the Old and New Testaments? How can we understand the reasons or the importance of such a strict and, we dare say, unnatural obligation in our day, when we know very well that the holy apostles themselves were living with their wives, and that the Saviour had not a word of rebuke for them on that account?"
This free expression of our common views on the vows of celibacy evidently took our superior by surprise. He answered me, with an accent of indignation which he could not suppress: "Is that all you have to say?"
"It is not quite all we have to say," I answered; "but before we go further we would be much gratified to receive from you the light we want on the difficulties which I have just stated."
"You have spoken as a true heretic," replied Mr. Leprohon, with an unusual vivacity; "and were it not for the hope which I entertain that you have said these things to receive the light you want than to present and support the heretical side of such an important question, I would at once denounce you to the bishop. You speak of the Holy Scriptures just as a Protestant would do. You appeal to them as the only source of Christian truth and knowledge. Have you forgotten that we have the holy traditions to guide us, the authority of which is equal to that of the Scriptures?
"You are correct when you say that we do not find any direct proof in the Bible to enforce the vows of celibacy upon those who desire to consecrate themselves to the service of the Church. But if we do not find the obligation of that vow in the Bible, we find it in the holy traditions of the Church.
"It is an article of faith that the vow of celibacy is ordered by Jesus Christ, through His Church. The ordinances of the Church, which are nothing but the ordinances of the Son of God, are clear on that subject, and bind our consciences just as the commandments of God upon Mount Sinai; for Christ has said, those who do not hear the Church must be looked upon as heathen and publicans. There is no salvation to those who do not submit their reason to the teachings of the Church.
"You are not required to understand all the reasons for the vow of celibacy; but you are bound to believe in its necessity and holiness, as the Church has pronounced her verdict upon that question. It is not your business to argue about those matters; but your duty is to obey the Church, as dutiful children obey a kind mother.
"But who can have any doubt about the necessity of the vows of celibacy, when we remember that Christ had ordered His apostles to separate themselves from their wives?—a fact on which no doubt can remain after hearing St. Peter say to our Saviour, 'Behold, we have forsaken all and follow Thee; what shall we have, therefore?' (Matt. xix. 27). Is not the priest the true representative of Christ on earth? In his ordination, is not the priest made the equal and in a sense the superior of Christ? for when he celebrates Mass he commands Christ, and that very Son of God is bound to obey! It is not in the power of Christ to resist the orders of the priest. He must come down from heaven every time the priest orders Him. The priest shuts Him up in the holy tabernacles or takes Him out of them, according to his own will.
"By becoming priests of the New Testament you will be raised to a dignity which is much above that of angels. From these sublime privileges flows the obligation to the priest to raise himself to a degree of holiness much above the level of the common people—a holiness equal to that of the angels. Has not our Saviour, when speaking of the angels, said, 'Neque nubent neque nubentur?' They marry not, nor are given in marriage. Surely, since the priests are the messengers and angels of God, on earth they must be clad with angelic holiness and purity.
"Does not Paul say that the state of virginity is superior to that of marriage? Does not that saying of the apostle show that the priest, whose hands every day touch the divine body and blood of Christ, must be chaste and pure, and must not be defiled by the duties of married life? That vow of celibacy is like a holy chain, which keeps us above the filth of this earth and ties us to heaven. Jesus Christ, through His Holy Church, commands that vow to His priests as the most efficacious remedy against the inclinations of our corrupt nature.
"According to the holy Fathers, the vow of celibacy is like a strong high tower, from the top of which we can fight our enemies, and be perfectly safe from their darts and weapons.
"I will be happy to answer you other objections, if you have any more," said Mr. Leprohon.
"We are much obliged to you for your answers," I replied, "and we will avail ourselves of your kindness to present you with some other observations.
"And, firstly, we thank you for having told us that we find nothing in the Word of God to support the vows of celibacy, and that it is only by the traditions of the Church that we can prove their necessity and holiness. It was our impression that you desired us to believe that the necessity of that vow was founded on the Holy Scriptures. If you allow it, we will discuss the traditions another time, and will confine ourselves to-day to the different texts to which you referred in favour of celibacy.
"When Peter says, 'We have given up everything,' it seems to us that he had no intention of saying that he had for ever given up his wife by a vow. For St. Paul positively says, many years after, that Peter had his wife; that he was not only living with her in his own house, but was traveling with her when preaching the gospel. The words of Scripture are of such evidence on that subject that they can neither be obscured by any shrewd explanation nor by any tradition, however respectable it may appear.
"Though you know the words of Paul on that subject, you will allow us to read them: 'Have we not power to eat and drink? have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?' (I Cor. ix. 4, 5). St. Peter saying 'We have forsaken everything' could not then mean that he had made a vow of celibacy, and that he would never live with his wife as a married man. Evidently the words of Peter mean only that Jesus had the first place in his heart—that everything else, even the dearest objects of his love, as father, mother, wife, were only secondary in his affections and thoughts.
"Your other text about the angels who do not marry, from which you infer the obligation and law on the vow of celibacy, does not seem to us to bear on that subject as much as you have told us. For, be kind enough to again read the text: 'Jesus answered and said to them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels of God in heaven' (Matt. xxii. 29, 30). You see that when our Saviour speaks of men who are like angels, and who do not marry, He takes care to observe that He speaks of the state of men after the resurrection. If the Church had the same rule for us that Christ mentioned for the angelic men to whom He refers, and would allow us to make a vow never to marry after the resurrection, we would not have the slightest objection to such a vow.
"You see that our Saviour speaks of a state of celibacy; but He does not intimate that that state is to begin on this side of the grave. Why does not our Church imitate and follow the teachings of our Saviour? Why does she enforce a state of celibacy before the resurrection, while Christ postpones the promulgation of this law till after that great day?
"Christ speaks of a perpetual celibacy only in heaven! On what authority, then, does our Church enforce that celibacy on this side of the grave, when we still carry our souls in earthly vessels?
"You tell us that the vow of celibacy is the best remedy against the inclinations of our corrupt nature; but do you not fear that your remedy makes war against the great one which God prepared in His wisdom? Do we not read in our own vulgate: 'Propter fornicationem autem unus quisque uxorem snam habeat, et unaquaque virum suum'? "To avoid fornication let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband' (2 Cor. vii. 2).
"Is it not too strange, indeed, that God does tell us that the best remedy He had prepared against the inclinations of our corrupt nature is in the blessings of a holy marriage. 'Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.' But now our Church has found another remedy, which is more accordant to the dignity of man and the holiness of God, and that remedy is the vow of celibacy!"
The sound of my last words were still on my lips when our venerable superior, unable any longer to conceal his indignation, abruptly interrupted me, saying:
"I do exceedingly regret to have allowed you to go so far. This is not a Christian and humble discussion between young Levites and their superior, to receive from him the light they want. It is the exposition and defense of the most heretical doctrines I have ever heard. Are you ashamed, when you try to make us prefer your interpretation of the Holy Scriptures to that of the Church? Is it to you, or to His holy Church, that Christ promised the light of the Holy Ghost? It is you who have to teach the Church, or the Church who must teach you? Is it you who will govern and guide the Church, or the Church who will govern and guide you?
"My dear Chiniquy, if there is not a great and prompt change in you and in those whom you pretend to represent, I fear much for you all. You show a spirit of infidelity and revolt which frightens me. Just like Lucifer, you rebel against the Lord! Do you not fear to share the eternal pains of his rebellion?
"Whence have you taken the false and heretical notions you have, for instance, about the wives of the apostles? Do you not know that you are supporting a Protestant error, when you say that the apostles were living with their wives in the usual way of married people? It is true that Paul says that the apostles had women with them, and that they were even traveling with them. But the holy traditions of the Church tell us that those women were holy virgins, who were traveling with the apostles to serve and help them in different ways. They were ministering to their different wants—washing their underclothes, preparing their meals, just like the housekeeper whom the priests have to-day. It is a Protestant impiety to think and speak otherwise.
"But only a word more, and I am done. If you accept the teaching of the Church, and submit yourselves as dutiful children to that most holy Mother, she will raise you to the dignity of the priesthood, a dignity much above kings and emperors in this world. If you serve her with fidelity, she will secure to you the respect and veneration of the whole world while you live, and procure you a crown of glory in heaven.
"But if you reject her doctrines, and persist in your rebellious views against one of the most holy dogmas; if you continue to listen to the voice of your own deceitful reason rather than to the voice of the Church, in the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, you become heretics, apostates and Protestants; you will lead a dishonoured life in this world, and you will be lost for all eternity."
Our superior left us immediately after these fulminating words. Some of the theological students, after this exit, laughed heartily, and thanked me for having so bravely fought and gained so glorious a victory. Two of them, disgusted by the sophisms and logical absurdities of our superior, left the seminary a few days after. The rest, with me had not the moral courage to follow their example, but remained, stunned by the last words of our superior.
I went to my room and fell on my knees, with a torrent of tears falling from my eyes. I was really sorry for having wounded his feelings, but still more so for having dared for a moment to oppose my own feeble and fallible reason to the mighty and infallible intelligence of my Church!
At first it appeared to me that I was only combating, in a respectful way, against my old friend, Rev. Mr. Leprohon; but I had received it from his own lips that I had really fought against the Lord!
After spending a long and dark night of anguish and remorse, my first action, the next day, was to go to confession, and ask my confessor, with tears of regret, pardon for the sin I had committed and the scandal I had given.
Had I listened to the voices of my conscience, I certainly would have left the seminary that day; for they told me that I had confounded my superior and pulverized all his arguments. Reason and conscience told me that the vow of celibacy was a sin against logic, morality and God; that that vow could not be sustained by any argument from the Holy Scriptures, logic or common sense. But I was a most sincere Roman Catholic. I had therefore to fight a new battle against my conscience and intelligence, so as to subdue and silence them for ever! Many a time it was my hope, before this, to have succeeded in slaughtering them at the foot of the altar of my Church; but that day, far from being for ever silenced and buried, they had come out again with renewed force, to waken me from the terrible illusions in which I was living. Nevertheless, after a long and frightful battle, my hope was that they were perfectly subdued and buried under the feet of the holy Fathers, the learned theologians and the venerable popes, whose voice I was determined now to follow. I felt a real calm after that struggle. It was evidently the silence of death, although my confessor told me it was the peace of God. More than ever I determined to have no knowledge, no thought, no will, no light, no desires, no science but that which my Church would give me through my superior. I was fallible, she was infallible! I was a sinner, she was the immaculate spouse of Jesus Christ! I was weak, she had more power than the great waters of the ocean! I was but an atom, she was covering the world with her glory! What, therefore, could I have to fear in humbling myself at her feet, to live of her life, to be strong of her strength, wise of her wisdom, holy with her holiness? Had not my superior repeatedly told me that no error, no sin would be imputed to me as long as I obeyed my Church and walked in her ways?
With these sentiments of a most profound and perfect respect for my Church, I irrevocably consecrated myself to her services on the 4th of May, 1832, by making the vow of celibacy and accepting the office of sub-deacon.
CHAPTER 15"The mother of harlots and abominations." -- Rev. xvii. 5.
Constrained by the voice of my conscience to reveal the impurities of the theology of the Church of Rome, I feel, in doing so, a sentiment of inexpressible shame. They are of such a loathsome nature, that often they cannot be expressed in any living language.
However great may have been the corruptions in the theologies and priests of paganism, there is nothing in their records which can be compared with the depravity of those of the Church of Rome. Before the day on which the theology of Rome was inspired by Satan, the world had certainly witnessed many dark deeds; but vice had never been clothed with the mantle of theology:—the most shameful forms of iniquity had never been publicly taught in the schools of the old pagan priest, under the pretext of saving the world. No! neither had the priests nor the idols been forced to attend meetings where the most degrading forms of iniquity were objects of the most minute study, and that under the pretext of glorifying God.
Let those who understand Latin read "The Priest, the Women, and the Confessional," and decide as to whether or not the sentiments therein contained are not enough to shock the feelings of the most depraved. And let it be remembered that all those abominations have to be studied, learned by heart and thoroughly understood by men who have to make a vow never to marry! For it is not till after his vow of celibacy that the student in theology is initiated into those mysteries of iniquity.
Has the world ever witnessed such a sacrilegious comedy? A young man about twenty years of age has been enticed to make a vow of perpetual celibacy, and the very next day the Church of Rome put under the eye of his soul the most infamous spectacle! She fills his memory with the most disgusting images! She tickles all his senses and pollutes his ears, not by imaginary representations, but by realities which would shock the most abandoned in vice!
For, let it be well understood, that it is absolutely impossible for one to study those questions of Roman Theology, and fathom those forms of iniquity without having his body as well as his mind plunged into a state the most degrading. Moreover, Rome does not even try to conceal the overwhelming power of this kind of teaching; she does not even attempt to make it a secret from the victims of her incomparable depravity, but bravely tells them that the study of those questions will act with an irresistible power upon their organs, and without a blush says, "that pollution must follow!!!"
But in order that the Church of Rome may more certainly destroy her victims, and that they may not escape from the abyss which she has dug under their feet, she tells them, "There is no sin for you in those pollutions!" (Dens, vol. i. p. 315.)
But Rome must bewitch so as the better to secure their destruction. She puts to their lips the cup of her enchantments, the more certainly to kill their souls, dethrones God from their consciences, and abrogates His eternal laws of holiness. What answer does Rome give to those who reproach her with the awful impurity of theology. "My theological works," she answers, "are all written in Latin; the people cannot read them. No evil, no scandal, therefore, can come from them!" But this answer is a miserable subterfuge. Is this not the public acknowledgment that her theology would be exceedingly injurious to the people if it were read and understood by them?
By saying, "My theological works are written in Latin, therefore the people cannot be defiled, as they do not understand them," Rome does acknowledge that these works would only act as a pestilence among the people, were they read and understood by them. But are not the one hundred thousand priests of Rome bound to explain in every known tongue, and present to the mind of every nation, the theology contained in those books? Are they not bound to make every polluting sentence in them flow into the ears, imaginations, hearts and minds of all the married and unmarried women whom Rome holds in her grasp?
I exaggerate nothing when I say that not fewer than half a million women every day are compelled to hear in their own language, almost every polluting sentence and impure notion of the diabolical sciences.
And here I challenge, most fearlessly, the Church of Rome to deny what I say, when I state that the daily average of women who go to confession to each priest, is ten. But let us reduce the number to five. Then the one hundred thousand priests who are scattered over the whole world, hear the confession of five hundred thousand women every day! Well, now, out of one hundred women who confess, there are at least ninety-nine whom the priest is bound in conscience to pollute, by questioning them on the matters mentioned in the Latin pages at the end of this chapter. How can one be surprised at the rapid downfall of the nations who are under the yoke of the Pope.
The public statistics of the European, as well of American nations, show that there is among Roman Catholics nearly double the amount of prostitution, bastardy, theft, perjury, and murder than is found among Protestant nations. Where must we, then, look for the cause of those stupendous facts, if not in the corrupt teachings of the theology of Rome. How can the Roman Catholic nations hope to raise themselves in the scale of Christian dignity and morality as long as there remain one hundred thousand priests in their midst, bound in conscience every day to pollute the minds and the hearts of their mothers, their wives and their daughters!
And here let me say, once for all, that I am not induced to speak as I do from any motive of contempt or unchristian feeling against the theological professors who have initiated me into those mysteries of iniquity. The Rev. Messrs. Raimbault and Leprohon were, and in my mind they still are, as respectable as men can be in the Church of Rome. As I have been myself, and as all the priests of Rome are, they were plunged without understanding it, into the abyss of the most stolid ignorance. They were crushed, as I was myself, under a yoke which bound their understanding to the dust, and polluted their hearts without measure. We were embarked together on a ship, the first appearance of which was really magnificent, but the bottom of which was irremediably rotten. Without the true Pilot on board we were left to perish on unknown shoals. Out of this sinking ship the hand of God alone, in His providence rescued me. I pity those friends of my youth, but despise them? hate them? No! Never! Never!
Every time our theological teachers gave us our lessons, it was evident that they blushed in the inmost part of their souls. Their consciences as honest men were evidently forbidding them, on the one hand, to open their mouths on such matters, while, on the other hand, as slaves and priests of the Pope, they were compelled to speak without reserve.
After our lessons in theology, we students used to be filled with such a sentiment of shame that sometimes we hardly dared to look at each other: and, when alone in our rooms, those horrible pictures were affecting our hearts, in spite of ourselves, as the rust affects and corrodes the hardest and purest steel. More than one of my fellow-students told me, with tears of shame and rage, that they regretted to have bound themselves by perpetual oaths to minister at the altars of the Church.
One day one of the students, called Desaulnier, who was sick in the same room with me, asked me: "Chiniquy, what do you think of the matters which are the objects of our present theological studies? Is it not a burning shame that we must allow our minds to be so polluted?"
"I cannot sufficiently tell you my feelings of disgust," I answered. "Had I known sooner that we were to be dragged over such a ground, I certainly never would have nailed my future to the banners under which we are irrevocably bound to live." "Do you know," said Desaulnier, "that I am determined never to consent to be ordained a priest; for when I think of the fact that the priest is bound to confer with women on all of these polluting matters, I feel an insurmountable disgust and shame."
"I am not less troubled," I replied. "My head aches and my heart sinks within me when I hear our theologians telling us that we will be in conscience bound to speak to females on these impure subjects. But sometimes this looks to me as if it were a bad dream, the impure phantoms of which will disappear at the first awakening. Our Church, which is so pure and holy that she can only be served by the spotless virgins, surely cannot compel us to pollute our lips, thoughts, souls, and even our bodies, by speaking to strange women on matters so defiling!"
"But we are near the hour at which the good Mr. Leprohon is in the habit of visiting us. Will you," I said, "promise to stand by me in what I will ask him on this subject? I hope to get from him a pledge that we will not be compelled to be polluted in the confessional by the women who will confess to us. The purity and holiness of our superior is of such a high character, that I am sure he has never said a word to females on those degrading matters. In spite of all the theologians, Mr. Leprohon will allow us to keep our tongues and our hearts, as well as our bodies, pure in the confessional."
"I have had the desire to speak to him upon this subject for some time," rejoined Desaulnier, "but my courage failed me every time I attempted to do so. I am glad, therefore, that you are to break the ice, and I will certainly support you, as I have a longing desire to know something more in regard to the mysteries of the confessional. If we are at liberty never to speak to women on these horrors, I will consent to serve the Church as a priest; but if not, I will never be a priest."
A few minutes after this our superior entered to kindly enquire how we had rested the night before. Having thanked him for his kindness, I opened the volumes of Dens and Liguori which were on our table, and, with a blush, putting my fingers on one of the infamous chapters referred to, I said to him:
"After God, you have the first place in my heart since my mother's death, and you know it. I take you, not only as my benefactor, but also, as it were, as my father and mother. You will therefore tell me all I want to know in these my hours of anxiety, through which God is pleased to make me pass. To follow your advice, not to say your commands, I have lately consented to receive the order of sub-deacon, and I have in consequence taken the vow of perpetual celibacy. But I will not conceal the fact from you, I had not a clear understanding of what I was doing; and Desaulnier has just stated to me, that until recently he had no more idea of the nature of that promise, nor of the difficulties which we now see ahead of us in our priestly life than I had.
"But Dens, Liguori and St. Thomas have given us notions quite new in regard to many things. They have directed our minds to the knowledge of the laws which are in us, as well as in every other child of Adam. They have, in a word, directed our minds into regions which were quite new and unexplored by us; and I dare say that every one of those whom we have known, whether in this house or elsewhere, who have made the same vow, could tell you the same tale.
"However, I do not speak for them; I speak only for myself and Desaulnier. For God's sake, please tell us if we will be bound in conscience to speak in the confessional, to the married and unmarried females, on such impure and defiling questions as are contained in the theologians before us?"
"Most undoubtedly," replied Rev. Mr. Leprohon; "because the learned and holy theologians whose writings are in your hands are positive on that question. It is absolutely necessary that you should question your female penitents on such matters; for, as a general thing, girls and married women are too timid to confess those sins, of which they are even more frequently guilty than men, therefore they must be helped by questioning them."
"But have you not," I rejoined, "induced us to make an oath that we should always remain pure and undefiled? How is it then, that to-day you put us in such a position that it is almost impossible for us to be true to our sacred promise? For the theologians are unanimous that those questions put by us to our female penitents, together with the recital of their secret sins, will act with such an irresistible power upon us that we will be polluted.
"Would it not be better for us to experience those things in the holy bonds of marriage, with our wives, and according to the laws of God, than in company and conversation with strange women? Because, if we are to believe the theologians which are in our hands, no priest—not even you, my dear Mr. Leprohon—can hear the confessions of women without being defiled."
Here Desaulnier interrupted me, and said: "My dear Mr. Leprohon, I concur in everything Chiniquy has just been telling you. Would we not be more chaste and pure by living with our lawful wives, than by daily exposing ourselves in the confessional in company of women whose presence will irresistibly drag us into the most shameful pit of impurity? I ask you, my dear sir, what will become of my vow of perfect and perpetual chastity, when the seducing presence of my neighbour's wife, or the enchanting words of his daughter, will have defiled me through the confessional. After all, I may be looked upon by the people as a chaste man; but what will I be in the eyes of God? The people may entertain the thought that I am a strong and honest man; but will I not be a broken reed? Will God not be the witness that the irresistible temptations which will have assailed me when hearing the secret sins of some sweet and tempting woman, will have deprived me of that glorious crown of chastity for which I have so dearly paid? Men will think that I am an angel of purity; but my own conscience will tell me that I am nothing but a skillful hypocrite. For according to all the theologians, the confessional is the tomb of the chastity of priests!! If I hear the confession of women, I will be like all other priests, in a tomb, well painted and gilded on the outside, but within full or corruption."
Francis Desaulnier, just as he had foretold me, refused to be a priest. He remained all his life in the orders of sub-deaconate, in the College of Nicolet, as a Professor of Philosophy. He was a man who seldom spoke in conversation, but thought very much. It seems to me that I still see him there, under that tall centenary tree, alone, during the long hours of intermission, and many long days during our holidays, while the rest of the students passed hither and thither, singing and playing, on the enchanting banks of the river of Nicolet.
He was a good logician and a profound mathematician; and although affable to everyone, he was not communicative. I was probably the only one to whom he opened his mind concerning the great questions of Christianity—faith, history, the Church and her discipline. He repeatedly said to me: "I wish I had never opened a book of theology. Our theologians are without heart, soul or logic. Many of them approve of theft, lies and perjury; others drag us without a blush, into the most filthy pits of iniquity. Every one of them would like to make an assassin of every Catholic. According to their doctrine, Christ is nothing but a Corsican brigand, whose blood-thirsty disciples are bound to destroy all the heretics with fire and sword. Were we acting according to the principles of those theologians, we would slaughter all Protestants with the same coolness of blood as we would shoot down the wolf which crosses our path. With their hand still reddened with the blood of St. Bartholomew, they speak to us of charity, religion and God, as if there were neither of them in the world."
Desaulnier was looked upon as "un homme singulier" at Nicolet. He was really an exception to all the men in the seminary. For example: Though it was the usage and the law that ecclesiastics should receive the communion every month, and upon every great feast day of the Church, yet he would scarcely take the communion once a year. But let me return to the interview with our superior.
Desaulnier's fearless and energetic words had evidently made a very painful impression upon our superior. It was not a usual thing for His disciples in theology thus to take upon themselves to speak with such freedom as we both did on this occasion. He did not conceal his pain at what he called our unbecoming and unchristian attack upon some of the most holy ordinances of the Church; and after he had refuted Desaulnier in the best way he could, he turned to me and said: "My dear Chiniquy, I have repeatedly warned you against the habit you have of listening to your own frail reasoning, when you should only obey as a dutiful child. Were we to believe you, we would immediately set ourselves to work to reform the Church and abolish the confession of women to priests; we would throw all our theological books into the fire and have new one written, better adapted to your fancy. What does all this prove? Only one thing, and that is, that the devil of pride is tempting you as he has tempted all the so-called Reformers, and destroyed them as he would you. If you do not take care, you will become another Luther!
"The Theological books of St. Thomas, Liguori and Dens have been approved by the Church. How, therefore, do you not see the ridicule and danger of your position. On one side, then, I see all our holy popes, the two thousand Catholic bishops, all our learned theologians and priests, backed up by over two hundred millions of Roman Catholics drawn up as an innumerable army to fight the battles of the Lord; and on the other side what do I see? Nothing by my small, though very dear Chiniquy!
"How, then, is it that you do not fear, when with your weak reasoning you oppose the mighty reasoning and light of so many holy popes, and venerable bishops and learned theologians? Is it not just as absurd for you to try to reform the Church by your small reason, as it is for the grain of sand which is found at the foot of the great mountain to try to turn that mighty mountain out of its place? or for the small drop of water to attempt to throw the boundless ocean out of its bed, or try to oppose the running tides of the Polar seas?
"Believe me, and take my friendly advice," continued our superior, "before it is too late. Let the small grain of sand remain still at the foot of the majestic mountain; and let the humble drop of water consent to follow the irresistible currents of the boundless seas, and everything will be in order.
"All the good priests who have heard the confessions of women before us have been satisfied and have had their souls saved, even when their bodies were polluted; for those carnal pollutions are nothing but human miseries, which cannot defile a soul which desires to remain united to God. Are the rays of the sun defiled by coming down into the mud? No! The rays remain pure, and return spotless to the shining orb whence they came. So the heart of a good priest—as I hope my dear Chiniquy will be—will remain pure and holy in spite of the accidental and unavoidable defilement of the flesh.
"Apart from these things, in your ordination you will receive a special grace which will change you into another man; and the Virgin Mary, to whom you will constantly address yourself, will obtain for you a perfect purity from her Son.
"The defilement of the flesh spoken of by the theologians, and which, I confess, is unavoidable when hearing the confessions of women, must not trouble you; for they are not sinful, as Dens and Liguori assure us. (Dens. vol. i., pages 299, 300.)
"But enough on that subject. I forbid you to speak to me any more on those idle questions, and, as much as my authority is anything to you both, I forbid you to say a word more to each other on that matter!!"
It was my fond hope that my dear and so much venerated Mr. Leprohon would answer me with some good and reasonable arguments; but he, to my surprise, silenced the voice of our conscience by un coup d'etat.
Nevertheless, the idea of that miserable grain of sand which so ridiculously attempted to remove the stately mountain, and also of that all but imperceptible drop of water which attempted to oppose itself to the onward motion of the vast ocean, singularly struck and humbled me. I remained silent and confused, though not convinced.
This was not all. Those rays of the sun, which could not be defiled even when going down into the mud, after bewildering one by their glittering appearance, left my soul more in the dark than ever. I could not resist the presentiment that I was in the presence of an imposition, and of a glittering sophism. But I had neither sufficient learning, moral courage, nor grace from God clearly to see through that misty cloud and to expel it from my mind.
Almost every month of the ten years which I had passed in the seminary of Nicolet, priests of the district of Three Rivers and elsewhere were sent by the bishops to spend two or three weeks in doing penances for having bastards by their nieces, their housekeepers, or their fair penitents. Even not long before this conversation with our director, the curate of St. Francois, the Rev. Mr. Amiot, had in the very same week two children by two of his fair penitents, both of whom were sisters. One of those girls gave birth to her child at the parsonage the very night on which the bishop was on his episcopal visit to that parish. These public and undeniable facts were not much in harmony with those beautiful theories of our venerable director concerning the rays of the sun, which "remained pure and undefiled even when warming and vivifying the mud of our planet." The facts had frequently occurred to my mind while Mr. Leprohon was speaking, and I was tempted more than once to ask him respectfully if he really thought these "shining rays," the priests, had thus come into the mire, and would then return, like the rays of the sun, without taking back with them something of the mire in which they had been so strangely wallowing. But my respect for Mr. Leprohon sealed my lips.
When I returned to my room I fell on my knees to ask God to pardon me for having, for the moment, thought otherwise than the popes and theologians of Rome. I again felt angry with myself for having dared, for a single moment, to have arrayed my poor little and imperceptible grain of sand—drop of water—and personal and contemptible understanding against that sublime mountain of strength, that vast ocean of learning, and that immensely divine wisdom of the popes!
But, alas! I was not yet aware that when Jesus in His mercy sends into a perishing soul a single ray of His grace, that there is more light and wisdom in that soul than in all the popes and their theologians!
I was then taught what the real foundation of the Church of Rome is, and sincerely believed that to think for myself was a damnable impiety—that to look and see with my own eyes, and understand with my own mind, was an unpardonable sin. To be saved I had to believe, not what I considered to be the truth, but what the popes told me to be the truth. I had to look and see every object of faith, just as every true Roman Catholic of to-day has to look and see the same, through the Pope's eyes or those of his theologians.
However absurd and impious this belief may be, yet it was mine, and it is also the belief of every true member of the Church of Rome to-day. The glorious light and grace of God could not possibly flow directly from Him to me; they had to pass through the Pope and his Church, which were my only mountain of strength and only ocean of light. It was, then, my firm belief that there was an impassable abyss between myself and God, and that the Pope and his Church were the only bridge by which I could have communication with Him. That stupendously high and most sublime mountain, the Pope, was between myself and God: and all that was allowed my poor soul was to raise itself and travel with great difficulty till it attained the foot of that holy mountain, the Pope, and, prostrating itself there in the dust, ask him to let me know what my yet distant God would have me to do. The promises of mercy, truth, light, and life were all vested in this great mountain, the Pope, from whom alone they could descend upon my poor soul!
Darkness, ignorance, uncertainty, and eternal loss were my lot, the very moment I ceased worshiping at the feet of the Pope! The God of Heaven was not my God; He was only the God of the Pope! The Saviour of the world was not my Saviour; He was only the Pope's. Therefore it was through the Pope only that I could receive Christ as my Saviour, and to the Pope alone had I to go to know the way, the truth, and the life of my soul!
God alone knows what a dark and terrible night I passed after this meeting! I had again to smother my conscience, dismantle my reason, and bring them all under the turpitudes of the theologies of Rome, which are so well calculated to keep the world fettered in ignorance and superstition.
But God saw the tears with which I bedewed my pillow that night. He heard the cry of my agonizing soul, and in His infinite love and mercy determined to come to my rescue, and save me. If He saw fit to leave me many years more in the slavery of Egypt, it was that I might better know the plagues of that land of darkness, and the iron chains which are there prepared for poor lost souls.
When the hour of my deliverance came, the Lord took me by the hand and helped me to cross the Red Sea. He brought me to the Land of Promise—a land of peace, life, and joy which passeth all understanding. 50year06.htm