The Priest, The Woman And The Confessional
by Father Chiniquy
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ENTERED according to the Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the year One thousand eight hundred and seventy-five, by F. E. GRAFTON of Montreal, in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture.

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1 And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon me.

2 Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire; from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the color of amber.

3 And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy.

4 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the vision that I saw in the plain.

5 Then said he unto me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the north, and behold northward at the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry.

6 He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.

7 And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall.

8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall; and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door.

9 And he said unto me. Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.

10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about.

11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up.

12 Then said he unto me. Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.

13 He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do.

14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD'S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.

15 Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O Son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.

16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD'S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.

17 Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O Son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger; and, lo, they put the branch to their nose.

18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.

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There are two women who ought to be the constant objects of the compassion of the disciples of Christ, and for whom daily prayers ought to be offered at the mercy-seat—the Brahmin woman, who, deceived by her priests, burns herself on the corpse of her husband to appease the wrath of her wooden gods; and the Roman Catholic woman, who, not less deceived by her priests, suffers a torture far more cruel and ignominious in the confessional-box to appease the wrath of her wafer-god.

For I do not exaggerate when I say that for many noble-hearted, well-educated, high-minded women to be forced to unveil their hearts before the eyes of a man, to open to him all the most sacred recesses of their souls, all the most sacred mysteries of their single or married life, to allow him to put to them questions which the most depraved woman would never consent to hear from her vilest seducer, is often more horrible and intolerable than to be tied on burning coals.

More than once I have seen women fainting in the confessional-box, who told me, afterwards, that the necessity of speaking to an unmarried man on certain things, on which the most common laws of decency ought to have for ever sealed their lips, had almost killed them! Not hundreds, but thousands of times I have heard from the dying lips of single girls, as well as of married women, the awful words: "I am for ever lost! All my past confessions and communions have been as many sacrileges! I have never dared to answer correctly the questions of my confessors! Shame has sealed my lips and damned my soul!"

How many times I remained as one petrified by the side of a corpse when, these last words having hardly escaped the lips of one of my female penitents, she was snatched out of my reach by the merciless hand of death, before I could give her pardon through the deceitful sacramental absolution! I then believed, as the dead sinner herself believed, that she could not be forgiven except by that absolution.

For there are not only thousands, but millions, of Roman Catholic girls and women whose keen sense of modesty and womanly dignity are above all the sophisms and diabolical machinations of their priests. They never can be persuaded to answer "Yes" to certain questions of their confessors. They would prefer to be thrown into the flames, and burnt to ashes with the Brahmin widows, rather than to allow the eyes of a man to pry into the sacred sanctuary of their souls. Though sometimes guilty before God, and under the impression that their sins will never be forgiven if not confessed, the laws of decency are stronger in their hearts than the laws of their cruel and perfidious Church. No consideration, not even the fear of eternal damnation, can persuade them to declare to a sinful man sins which God alone has the right to know, for He alone can blot them out with the blood of His Son shed on the cross.

But what a wretched life that of those exceptional noble souls, which Rome keeps in the dark dungeons of her superstition! They read in all their books, and hear from all their pulpits, that if they conceal a single sin from their confessors they are for ever lost! But, being absolutely unable to trample under their feet the laws of self-respect and decency which God Himself has impressed in their souls, they live in constant dread of eternal damnation. No human words can tell their desolation and distress when, at the feet of their confessors, they find themselves between the horrible necessity of speaking of things on which they would prefer to suffer the most cruel death rather than to open their lips, or to be for ever damned if they do not degrade themselves for ever in their own eyes by speaking on matters which a respectable woman will never reveal to her own mother, much less to a man!

I have known only too many of these noble-hearted women, who, when alone with God, in a real agony of desolation and with burning tears, had asked Him to grant them what they considered the greatest favour, which was to lose so much of their self-respect as to be enabled to speak of those unmentionable things just as their confessors wanted them to speak; and, hoping that their petition had been granted, they went again to the confessional-box, determined to unveil their shame before the eyes of that inexorable man. But, when the moment had come for the self-immolation, their courage failed, their knees trembled, their lips became pale as death. Cold sweat flowed from all their pores! The voice of modesty and womanly self-respect was speaking louder than the voice of their false religion. They had to go out of the confessional-box unpardoned—nay, with the burden of a new sacrilege on their conscience.

Oh, how heavy is the yoke of Rome—how bitter is human life—how cheerless is the mystery of the cross to those deluded and perishing souls! How gladly they would rush into the blazing piles with the Brahmin women, if they could hope to see the end of their unspeakable miseries through the momentary tortures which would open to them the gates of a better life!

I do here publicly challenge the whole Roman Catholic priesthood to deny that the greater part of their female penitents remain a certain period of time—some longer, some shorter—under that most distressing state of mind.

Yes, by far the greater majority of women, at first, find it next to impossible to pull down the sacred barriers of self-respect which God Himself has built around their hearts, intelligences, and souls, as the best safeguard against the snares of this polluted world. Those laws of self-respect, by which they cannot consent to speak an impure word into the ears of a man, and which shut all the avenues of their hearts against his unchaste questions, even, when speaking in the name of God—those laws of self-respect are so clearly written in their conscience, and they are so well understood by them to be a most Divine gift, that, as I have already said, many prefer to run the risk of being for ever lost by remaining silent.

It takes many years of the most ingenious (I do not hesitate to call it diabolical) efforts on the part of the priests to persuade the majority of their female penitents to speak on questions which even pagan savages would blush to mention among themselves. Some persist in remaining silent on those matters during the greatest part of their lives, and many prefer to throw themselves into the hands of their merciful God and die without submitting to the defiling ordeal, even after they have felt the poisonous stings of the enemy, rather than receive their pardon from a man who, as they feel, would have surely been scandalized by the recital of their human frailties. All the priests of Rome are aware of this natural disposition of their female penitents. There is not a single one—no, not a single one of their moral theologians, who does not warn the confessors against that stern and general determination of the girls and married women never to speak in the confessional on matters which may, more or less, deal with sins against the seventh commandment. Dens, Liguori, Debreyne, Bailly, &c.—in a word, all the theologians of Rome—own that this is one of the greatest difficulties which the confessors have to contend with in the confessional-box.

Not a single Roman Catholic priest will dare to deny what I say on this matter; for they know that it would be easy for me to overwhelm them with such crowd of testimonies that their grand imposture would for ever be unmasked.

I intend, some future day, if God spares me and gives me time for it, to make known some of the innumerable things which the Roman Catholic theologians and moralists have written on this question. It will form one of the most curious books ever written; and it will give an unanswerable evidence of the fact that, instinctively, without consulting each other, with an unanimity which is almost marvellous, the Roman Catholic women, guided by the honest instincts which God has given them, shrink from the snares put before them in the confessional-box; and that everywhere they struggle to nerve themselves with a superhuman courage against the torturer who is sent by the Pope to finish their ruin and to make shipwreck of their souls. Everywhere woman feels that there are things which ought never to be told, as there are things which ought never to be done, in the presence of the God of holiness. She understands that, to recite the history of certain sins, even of thoughts, is not less shameful and criminal than to do them; she hears the voice of God whispering into her ears, "Is it not enough that thou hast been guilty once, when alone, in My presence, without adding to thine iniquity, by allowing that man to know what should never have been revealed to him? Do you not feel that you make that man your own accomplice the very moment that you throw into his heart and soul the mire of your iniquities? He is as weak as you are; he is not less a sinner than yourself; what has tempted you will tempt him; what has made you weak will make him weak? what has polluted you will pollute him; what has thrown you down into the dust will throw him down into the dust. Is it not enough that My eyes had to look upon your iniquities? must my ears to-day listen to your impure conversation with that man? Were that man as holy as My prophet David, may he not fall before the unchaste unveiling of the new Bathsheba? Were he as strong as Sampson, may he not find in you his tempting Delilah? Were he as generous as Peter, may he not become a traitor at the maid-servant's voice?"

Perhaps the world has never seen a more terrible, desperate, solemn struggle than the one which is going on in the soul of the poor trembling young woman, who, at the feet of that man, has to decide whether or not she will open her lips on those things which the infallible voice of God, united to the no less infallible voice of her womanly honour and self-respect, tell her never to reveal to any man!

The history of that secret, fierce, desperate, and deadly struggle has never yet, so far as I know, been fully given. It would draw the tears of admiration and compassion of the whole world, if it could be written with its simple, sublime, and terrible realities.

How many times I have wept as a child when some noble-hearted and intelligent young girl, or some respectable married woman, yielding to the sophisms with which I, or some other confessor, had persuaded them to give up their self-respect, their womanly dignity, to speak with me on matters on which a decent woman would never say a word with a man! They told me of their invincible repugnance, their horror of such questions and answers, and they asked me to have pity on them. Yes! I often wept bitterly on my degradation when a priest of Rome! I felt all the strength, the grandeur, the holiness of their motives for being silent on those defiling matters. I could not but admire them. It seemed, at times, that they were speaking the language of angels of light; that I ought to fall at their feet, and ask their pardon for having spoken to them of questions on which a man of honour ought never to converse with a woman whom he respects.

But, alas! I had soon to reproach myself and regret these short instances of my wavering faith in the infallible voice of my Church; I had soon to silence the voice of my conscience, which was telling me, "Is it not a shame that you, an unmarried man, dare to speak on those matters with a woman? Do you not blush to put such questions to a young girl? Where is your self-respect? where is your fear of God? Do you not promote the ruin of that girl by forcing her to speak with a man on such questions?"

I was compelled by all the Popes, the moral theologians, and the Councils of Rome, to believe that this warning voice of my merciful God was the voice of Satan; I had to believe, in spite of my own conscience and intelligence, that it was good, nay, necessary, to put those polluting, damning questions. My infallible Church was mercilessly forcing me to oblige those poor, trembling, weeping, desolated girls and women to swim with me and all her priests in those waters of Sodom and Gomorrha, under the pretext that their self-will would be broken down, their fear of sin and humility increased, and that they would be purified by our absolutions.

In the beginning of my priesthood, I was not a little surprised and embarrassed to see a very accomplished and beautiful young lady, whom I used to meet almost every week in her father's house, entering the box of my confessional. She used to go to confess to another young priest of my acquaintance, and she was looked upon as one of the most pious girls of the city. Though she had disguised herself as much as possible, that I might not know her, I thought that I was not mistaken—she was the amiable Mary * * * *

Not being absolutely sure of the correctness of my impressions, I left her entirely under the hope that she was a perfect stranger to me. At the beginning she could hardly speak; her voice was suffocated by her sobs; and, through the little apertures of the thin partition between her and me, I saw two streams of big tears trickling down her cheeks.

After much effort, she said: "Dear Father, I hope you do not know me, and that you will never try to know me. I am a desperately great sinner. Oh! I fear that I am lost! But if there is still any hope for me to be saved, for God's sake, do not rebuke me! Before I begin my confession, allow me to ask you not to pollute my ears by the questions which our confessors are in the habit of putting to their female penitents. I have already been destroyed by those questions. Before I was seventeen years old, God knows that His angels are not more pure than I was; but the chaplain of the Nunnery where my parents had sent me for my education, though approaching old age, put to me in the confessional a question which, at first, I did not understand; but, unfortunately, he had put the same questions to one of my young class-mates, who made fun of them in my presence, and explained them to me; for she understood them too well. This first unchaste conversation of my life plunged my thoughts into a sea of iniquity, till then absolutely unknown to me; temptations of the most humiliating character assailed me for a week, day and night; after which, sins which I would blot out with my blood, if it were possible, overwhelmed my soul as with a deluge. But the joys of the sinner are short. Struck with terror at the thought of the judgments of God, after a few weeks of the most deplorable life, I determined to give up my sins and reconcile myself to God. Covered with shame, and trembling from head to foot, I went to confess to my old confessor, whom I respected as a saint and cherished as a father. It seems to me that with sincere tears of repentance I confessed to him the greatest part of my sins, though I concealed one of them through shame, and respect for my spiritual guide. But I did not conceal from him that the strange questions he had put to me at my last confession were, with the natural corruption of my heart, the principal cause of my destruction.

"He spoke to me very kindly, encouraged me to fight against my bad inclinations, and, at first, gave me very kind and good advice. But when I thought he had finished speaking, and as I was preparing to leave the confessional-box, he put to me two new questions of such a polluting character that I fear neither the blood of Christ nor all the fires of hell will ever be able to blot them out from my memory. Those questions have achieved my ruin; they have stuck to my mind as two deadly arrows; they are day and night before my imagination; they fill my very arteries and veins with a deadly poison.

"It is true that, at first, they filled me with horror and disgust; but, alas! I soon got so accustomed to them that they seemed to be incorporated with me, and as though becoming a second nature. Those thoughts have become a new source of innumerable criminal thoughts, desires, and actions.

"A month later, we were obliged, by the rules of our convent, to go to confess; but this time, I was so completely lost that I no longer blushed at the idea of confessing my shameful sins to a man; it was the very contrary. I had a real, diabolical pleasure in the thought that I should have a long conversation with my confessor on those matters, and that he would ask me more of his strange questions.

"In fact, when I had told him everything, without a blush, he began to interrogate me, and God knows what corrupting things fell from his lips into my poor criminal heart! Every one of his questions was thrilling my nerves, and filling me with the most shameful sensations. After an hour of this criminal tete-a-tete with my old confessor (for it was nothing else but a criminal tete-a-tete), I perceived that he was as depraved as I was myself. With some half-covered words, he made me a criminal proposition, which I accepted with covered words also; and during more than a year, we have lived together in the most sinful intimacy. Though he was much older than I, I loved him in the most foolish way. When the course of my convent instruction was finished, my parents called me back to their home. I was really glad of that change of residence, for I was beginning to be tired of my criminal life. My hope was that, under the direction of a better confessor, I should reconcile myself to God and begin a Christian life.

"Unfortunately for me, my new confessor, who was very young, began also his interrogations. He soon fell in love with me, and I loved him in a most criminal way. I have done with him things which I hope you will never request me to reveal to you, for they are too monstrous to be repeated, even in the confessional, by a woman to a man.

"I do not say these things to take away the responsibility of my iniquities with this young confessor from my shoulders, for I think I have been more criminal than he was. It is my firm conviction that he was a good and holy priest before he knew me; but the questions he put to me, and the answers I had to give him, melted his heart—I know it—just as boiling lead would melt the ice on which it flows.

"I know this is not such a detailed confession as our holy Church requires me to make, but I have thought it necessary for me to give you this short history of the life of the greatest and the most miserable sinner who ever asked you to help her to come out from the tomb of her iniquities. This is the way I have lived these last few years. But last Sabbath, God, in His infinite mercy, looked down upon me. He inspired you to give us the Prodigal Son as a model of true conversion, and as the most marvelous proof of the infinite compassion of the dear Saviour for the sinner. I have wept day and night since that happy day, when I threw myself into the arms of my loving, merciful Father. Even now I can hardly speak, because my regret for my past iniquities, and my joy that I am allowed to bathe the feet of my Saviour with my tears, are so great that my voice is as choked.

"You understand that I have for ever given up my last confessor. I come to ask you the favour to receive me among your penitents. Oh! do not reject nor rebuke me, for the dear Saviour's sake! Be not afraid to have at your side such a monster of iniquity! But before going farther, I have two favours to ask from you. The first is, that you will never do anything to know my name; the second is, that you will never put me any of those questions by which so many penitents are lost and so many priests for ever destroyed. Twice I have been lost by those questions. We come to our confessors that they may throw upon our guilty souls the pure waters which flow from heaven to purify us; and, instead of that, with their unmentionable questions, they pour oil on the burning fires which arc already raging in our poor sinful hearts. Oh! dear father, let me become your penitent, that you may help me to go and weep with Magdalene at the Saviours feet! Do respect me, as He respected that true model of all the sinful but repenting women! Did Our Saviour put to her any question? did He extort from her the history of things which a sinful woman cannot say without forgetting the respect she owes to herself and to God? No! You told us, not long ago, that the only thing our Saviour did was to look at her tears and her love. Well, please do that, and you will save me!"

I was a very young priest, and never had any words so sublime come to my ears in the confessional-box. Her tears and her sobs, mingled with the so frank declaration of the most humiliating actions, had made upon me such a profound impression that I was, for some time, unable to speak. It had come to my mind also that I might be mistaken about her identity, and that perhaps she was not the young lady that I had imagined. I could, then, easily grant her first request, which was to do nothing by which I could know her. The second part of her prayer was more embarrassing; for the theologians are very positive in ordering the confessors to question their penitents, particularly those of the female sex, in many circumstances.

I encouraged her, in the best way I could, to persevere in her good resolutions by invoking the blessed Virgin Mary and St. Philomene, who was then the Sainte a la mode, just as Marie Alacoque is to-day, among the blind slaves of Rome. I told her that I would pray and think over the subject of her second request; and I asked her to come back, in a week, for my answer.

The very same day, I went to my own confessor, the Rev. Mr. Baillargeon, then curate of Quebec, and afterwards Archbishop of Canada. I told him the singular and unusual request she had made that I should never put to her any of those questions suggested by the theologians, to insure the integrity of the confession. I did not conceal from him that I was much inclined to grant her that favour; for I repeated what I had already several times told him, that I was supremely disgusted with the infamous and polluting questions which the theologians forced us to put to our female penitents. I told him, frankly, that several young and old priests had already come to confess to me; and that, with the exception of two, they had all told me that they could not put those questions and hear the answers they elicited without falling into the most damnable sins.

My confessor seemed to be much perplexed about what he could answer. He asked me to come the next day, that he might review his theological books in the interval. The next day, I took down in writing his answer, which I find in my old manuscripts; and I give it here in all its sad crudity:—

"Such cases of the destruction of female virtue by the questions of the confessors is an unavoidable evil. It can not be helped; for such questions are absolutely necessary in the greatest part of the cases with which we have to deal. Men generally confess their sins with so much sincerity that there is seldom any need for questioning them, except when they are very ignorant. But St Liguori, as well as our personal observation, tells us that the greatest part of girls and women, through a false and criminal shame, very seldom confess the sins they commit against purity. It requires the utmost charity in the confessors to prevent those unfortunate slaves of their secret passions from making sacrilegious confessions and communions. With the greatest prudence and zeal, he must question them on those matters; beginning with the smallest sins, and going, little by little, as much as possible, by imperceptible degrees, to the most criminal actions. As it seems evident that the penitent referred to in your questions of yesterday is unwilling to make a full and detailed confession of all her iniquities, you cannot promise to absolve her without assuring yourself, by wise and prudent questions, that she has confessed everything.

"You must not be discouraged when, through the confessional or any other way, you learn the fall of priests into the common frailties of human nature with their penitents. Our Saviour knew very well that the occasions and the temptations we have to encounter, in the confessions of girls and women, are so numerous, and sometimes so irrepressible, that many would fall. But He has given them the Holy Virgin Mary, who constantly asks and obtains their pardon; He has given them the sacrament of penance, where they can receive their pardon as often as they ask for it. The vow of perfect chastity is a great honour and privilege; but we cannot conceal from ourselves that it puts on our shoulders a burden which many cannot carry for ever. St Liguori says that we must not rebuke the penitent priest who falls only once a month; and some other trustworthy theologians are still more charitable."

This answer was far from satisfying me. It seemed to me composed of soft-soap principles. I went back with a heavy heart and an anxious mind; and God knows that I made many fervent prayers that this girl should never come again to give me her sad history. I was hardly twenty-six years old, full of youth and life. It seemed to me that the stings of a thousand wasps to my ears would not do me so much harm as the words of that dear, beautiful, accomplished, but lost girl.

I do not mean to say that the revelations which she made had, in any way, diminished my esteem and my respect for her. It was just the contrary. Her tears and her sobs, at my feet; her agonizing expressions of shame and regret; her noble words of protest against the disgusting and polluting interrogations of the confessors, had raised her very high in my mind. My sincere hope was that she would have a place in the kingdom of Christ with the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, and all those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

At the appointed day, I was in my confessional, listening to the confession of a young man, when, I saw Miss Mary entering the vestry, and coming directly to my confessional-box, where she knelt by me. Though she had, still more than at the first time, disguised herself behind a long, thick, black veil, I could not be mistaken; she was the very same amiable young lady in whose father's house I used to pass such pleasant and happy hours. I had so often heard, with breathless attention, her melodious voice when she was giving us, accompanied by her piano, some of our beautiful Church hymns. Who could see her without almost worshipping her? The dignity of her steps, and her whole mien, when she advanced towards my confessional, entirely betrayed her and destroyed her incognito.

Oh! I would have given every drop of my blood, in that solemn hour, that I might have been free to deal with her just as she had so eloquently requested me to do—to let her weep and cry at the feet of Jesus to her heart's content! Oh! if I had been free to take her by the hand, and silently show her her dying Saviour, that she might have bathed His feet with her tears, and spread the oil of her love on His head, without my saying anything else but "Go in peace: thy sins are forgiven!"

But there, in that confessional-box, I was not the servant of Christ, to follow His divine, saving words, and obey the dictates of my honest conscience. I was the slave of the Pope! I had to stifle the cry of my conscience, to ignore the inspirations of my God! There, my conscience had no right to speak; my intelligence was a dead thing! The theologians of the Pope, alone, had a right to be heard and obeyed! I was not there to save, but to destroy; for, under the pretext of purifying, the real mission of the confessor, often in spite of himself, is to scandalize and damn the souls.

As soon as the young man, who was making his confession at my left hand, had finished, I, without noise, turned myself towards her, and said, through the little aperture, "Are you ready to begin your confession?"

But she did not answer me. All that I could hear was, "Oh, my Jesus, have mercy upon me! Dear Saviour, here I am with all my sins; do not reject me! I come to wash my soul in Thy blood; wilt Thou rebuke me?"

During several minutes, she raised her hands and her eyes to heaven, and wept and prayed. It was evident that she had not the least idea that I was observing her; she thought the door of the little partition between her and me was shut. But my eyes were fixed upon her; my tears were flowing with her tears, and my ardent prayers were going to the feet of Jesus with her prayers. I would not have interrupted her, for any consideration, in this her sublime communion with her merciful Saviour.

But, after a pretty long time, I made a little noise with my hand, and, putting my lips near the opening of the partition which was between us, I said, in a low voice, "Dear sister, are you ready to begin your confession?"

She turned her face a little towards me, and said, with a trembling voice, "Yes, dear Father, I am ready."

But she then stopped again to weep and pray, though I could not hear what she said.

After some time of silent prayer, I said, "My dear sister, if you are ready, please begin your confession."

She then said, "My dear Father, do you remember the prayers which I made to you, the other day? Can you allow me to confess my sins without forcing me to forget the respect I owe to myself, to you, and to God, who hears us? And can you promise that you will not put to me any of those questions which have already done me such irreparable injury? I frankly declare to you that there are sins in me that I cannot reveal to any man, except to Christ, because He is my God, and that He already knows them all. Let me weep and cry at His feet, and do forgive me without adding to my iniquities by forcing me to say things that the tongue of a Christian woman cannot reveal to a man!"

"My dear sister," I answered, "were I free to follow the voice of my own feelings I would be too happy to grant you your request; but I am here only as the minister of our holy Church, and bound to obey her laws. Through her most holy popes and theologians, she tells me that I cannot forgive you your sins, if you do not confess them all just as you have committed them. The Church tells me also that you must give the details which may add to the malice or change the nature of your sins. I am also sorry to tell you that our most holy theologians make it a duty of the confessor to question his penitent on the sins which he has good reason to suspect have been voluntarily or involuntarily omitted."

With a piercing, cry she exclaimed, "Then, O my God, I am lost—for ever lost!"

This cry fell upon me as a thunderbolt; but I was still more terror-stricken when, looking through the aperture, I saw she was fainting; and I heard the noise of her body falling upon the floor, and of her head striking against the sides of the confessional-box.

Quick as lightning, I ran to help her, took her in my arms, and called a couple of men, who were at a little distance, to assist me in laying her on a bench. I washed her face with some cold water and vinegar. She was as pale as death, but her lips were moving, and she was saying something which nobody but I could understand,—

"I am lost—lost for ever!"

We took her to her disconsolate family, where, during a month, she lingered between life and death.

Her two first confessors came to visit her: but, having asked every one to go out of the room, she politely but absolutely requested them to go away and never come again. She asked me to visit her everyday, "for," she said, "I have only a few more days to live. Help me to prepare myself for the solemn hour which will open to me the gates of eternity!"

Every day I visited her, and I prayed and I wept with her.

Many times, with tears, I requested her, when alone, to finish her confession; but, with a firmness which then seemed to me mysterious and inexplicable, she politely rebuked me.

One day when, alone with her, I was kneeling by the side of her bed to pray, I was unable to articulate a single word, because of the inexpressible anguish of my soul on her account; she asked me, "Dear Father, why do you weep?"

I answered, "How can you put such a question to your murderer? I weep because I have killed you, dear friend."

This answer seemed to trouble her exceedingly. She was very weak that day. After she had wept and prayed in silence, she said, "Do not weep for me, but weep for so many priests who destroy their penitents in the confessional. I believe in the holiness of the sacrament of penitence, since our holy Church has established it. But there is, somewhere, something exceedingly wrong in the confessional. Twice I have been destroyed, and I know many girls who have also been destroyed by the confessional. This is a secret, but will that secret be kept for ever? I pity the poor priests the day that our fathers will know what becomes of the purity of their daughters in the hands of their confessors. Father would surely kill my two last confessors, if he could know how they have destroyed his poor child."

I could not answer except by weeping.

We remained mute for a long time; then she said, "It is true that I was not prepared for the rebuke you have given me, but you acted conscientiously as a good and honest priest. I know you must be bound by certain laws."

She then pressed my hand with her cold hand and said, "Weep not, dear Father, because that sudden storm has wrecked my too fragile back. This storm was to take me out from the bottomless sea of my iniquities to the shore where Jesus was waiting to receive and pardon me. The night after you brought me, half dead, here to father's house, I had a dream. Oh, no, it was not a dream, it was a reality. My Jesus came to me; He was bleeding. His crown of thorns was on His head, the heavy cross was bruising His shoulders. He said to me, with a voice so sweet that no human tongue can imitate it, "I have seen thy tears, I have heard thy cries, and I know thy love for Me: thy sins are forgiven. Take courage; in a few days thou shalt be with Me!'"

She had hardly finished her last word when she fainted, and I feared lest she should die just then when I was alone with her.

I called the family, who rushed into the room. The doctor was sent for. He found her so weak that he thought proper to allow only one or two persons to remain in the room. He requested us not to speak at all, "For," said he, "the least emotion may kill her instantly; her disease is, in all probability, an aneurism of the aorta, the big vein which brings the blood to the heart; when it breaks she will go as quick as lightning."

It was nearly ten at night when I left the house, to go and take some rest. But it is not necessary to say that I passed a sleepless night. My dear Mary was there, pale, dying from the deadly blow which I had given her in the confessional. She was there, on her bed of death, her heart pierced with the dagger which my Church had put into my hands! And instead of rebuking, cursing me for my savage, merciless fanaticism, she was blessing me! She was dying from a broken heart, and I was not allowed by my Church to give her a single word of consolation and hope, for she had not yet made her confession! I had mercilessly bruised that tender plant, and there was nothing in my hands to heal the wounds I had made!

It was very probable that she would die the next day, and I was forbidden to show her the crown of glory which Jesus has prepared in His kingdom for the repenting sinner!

My desolation was really unspeakable, and I think I would have been suffocated, and have died that night, if the stream of tears which constantly flowed from my eyes had not been as a balm to my distressed heart.

How dark and long the hours of that night seemed to me!

Before the dawn of day I arose, to read my theologians again, and see if I could not find some one who would allow me to forgive the sins of that dear child without forcing her to tell me everything she had done. But they seemed to me more than ever unanimously inexorable, and I put them back on the shelves of my library with a broken heart.

At nine a.m. the next day I was by the bed of our dear sick Mary. I cannot sufficiently tell the joy I felt when the doctor and the whole family said to me, "She is much better; the rest of last night has wrought a marvelous change indeed."

With a really angelic smile she extended her hand towards me, that I might press it in mine; and she said, "I thought, last evening, that the dear Saviour would take me to Him, but He wants me, dear Father, to give you a little more trouble; but be patient, it cannot, be long before the solemn hour of the appeal will ring. Will you please read me the history of the sufferings and death of the beloved Saviour which you read me the other day? It does me so much good to see how He has loved me, such a miserable sinner."

There was a calm and a solemnity in her words which struck me singularly, as well as all those who were there.

After I had finished reading, she exclaimed, "He has loved me so much that He died for my sins!" And she shut her eyes as if to meditate in silence, but there was a stream of big tears rolling down her cheeks.

I knelt down by her bed with her family to pray, but I could not utter a single word. The idea that this dear child was there, dying from the cruel fanaticism of my theologians and my own cowardice in obeying them, was as a mill-stone to my neck. It was killing me.

Oh! if by dying a thousand times I could have added a single day to her life, with what pleasure I would have accepted those thousand deaths!

After we had silently prayed and wept by her bed-side, she requested her mother to leave her alone with me.

When I saw myself alone, under the irresistible impression that this was her last day, I fell on my knees again, and with tears of the most sincere compassion for her soul, I requested her to shake off her shame and to obey our holy Church, which requires every one to confess their sins if they want to be forgiven.

She calmly, but with an air of dignity which no human words can express, said, "Is it true that, after the sin of Adam and Eve, God Himself made coats of skins, and clothed them, that they might not see each other's nakedness?"

"Yes," I said, "this is what the Holy Scriptures tell us."

"Well, then, how is it possible that our confessors dare to take away from us that holy, divine coat of modesty and self-respect? Has not Almighty God Himself made with His own hands that coat of womanly modesty and self-respect that we might not be to you and to ourselves a cause of shame and sin?"

I was really stunned by the beauty, simplicity, and sublimity of that comparison. I remained absolutely mute and confounded. Though it was demolishing all the traditions and doctrines of my Church, and pulverizing all my holy doctors and theologians, that noble answer found such an echo in my soul that it seemed to me a sacrilege to try to touch it with my finger.

After a short time of silence, she continued, "Twice I have been destroyed by priests in the confessional. They took away from me that divine coat of modesty and self-respect which God gives to every human being who comes into this world, and twice I have become for those very priests a deep pit of perdition, into which they have fallen, and where, I fear, they are for ever lost! My merciful Heavenly Father has given me back that coat of skins, that nuptial robe of modesty, self-respect, and holiness, which had been taken away from me. He cannot allow you, or any other man, to tear again and spoil that vestment which is the work of His hands."

These words had exhausted her; it was evident to me that she wanted some rest. I left her alone, but I was absolutely beside myself. Filled with admiration for the sublime lessons which I had received from the lips of that angel, who, it was evident, was soon to fly away from us, I felt a supreme disgust for myself, my theologians, and—shall I say it? yes—I felt, in that solemn hour, a supreme disgust for my Church, which was so cruelly defiling me and all the priests, in the confessional-box. I felt in that hour a supreme horror for that auricular confession, which is so often such a pit of perdition and supreme misery for the confessor and the penitent. I went out, walked two hours on the Plains of Abraham, to breathe the pure and refreshing air of the mountain. There alone I sat on a stone, on the very spot where Wolf and Montcalm had fought and died, and wept to my heart's content on my irreparable degradation, and the degradation of all the priests through the confessional.

At four o'clock in the afternoon I went back again to the house of my dear dying Mary. The mother took me apart, and very politely said, "My dear Mr. Chiniquy, do you not think that it is time that our dear child should receive the last sacraments? She seemed to be much better this morning, and we were full of hope; but she is now rapidly sinking. Please lose no time in giving her the holy viaticum and the extreme unction."

I said, "Yes, Madam; let me pass a few minutes alone with our poor dear child, that I may prepare her for the last sacraments."

When alone with her, I again fell on my knees, and, amidst torrents of tears, I said, "Dear sister, it is my desire to give you the holy viaticum and the extreme unction; but tell me, how can I dare to do a thing so solemn against all the prohibitions of our holy Church? How can I give you the holy communion without first giving you absolution? and how can I give you absolution when you earnestly persist in telling me that you have committed sins which you will never declare either to me or any other confessor?

"You know that I cherish and respect you as if you were an angel sent to me from heaven. You told me the other day that you blessed the day that you first saw and knew me. I say the same thing. I bless the day that I have known you; I bless every hour that I have passed by your bed of suffering; I bless every tear which I have shed with you on your sins and on my own; I bless every hour that we have passed together in looking to the wounds of our beloved, dying Saviour; I bless you for having forgiven me your death! for I know it, and I confess it a thousand times in the presence of God, I have killed you, dear sister. But now I prefer a thousand times to die than to say to you a word which would pain you in any way, or trouble the peace of your soul. Please, my dear sister, tell me what I can and must do for you in this solemn hour."

Calmly, and with a smile of joy, such as I had never seen before, nor have seen since, she said, "I thank and bless you, dear father, for the parable of the Prodigal Son, on which you preached a month ago. You have brought me to the feet of the dear Saviour; there, I have found a peace and a joy which surpass anything which human heart can feel; I have thrown myself into the arms of my heavenly Father, and I know He has mercifully accepted and forgiven His poor prodigal child! Oh, I see the angels with their golden harps around the throne of the Lamb! Do you not hear the celestial harmony of their songs? I go—I go to join them in my Father's house. I shall not be lost!"

While she was thus speaking to me, my eyes were really turned into two fountains of tears, and I was unable, as well as unwilling, to see anything, so entirely overcome was I by the sublime words which were flowing from the dying lips of that dear child, who was no more a sinner, but a real angel of Heaven to me. I was listening to her words; there was a celestial music in every one of them. But she had raised her voice in such a strange way, when she had begun to say, "I go to my Father's house," and she had made such a cry of joy when she had let the last words, "not be lost," escape her lips, that I raised my head and opened my eyes to look at her. I suspected that something strange had occurred.

I got upon my feet, passed my handkerchief over my face, to wipe away the tears which were preventing me from seeing with accuracy, and looked at her.

Her hands were crossed on her breast, and there was on her face the expression of a really superhuman joy; her beautiful eyes were fixed as if they were looking on some grand and sublime spectacle; it seemed to me at first that she was praying.

In that very same instant the mother rushed into the room, crying, "My God! my God! what does that cry 'lost' mean?"—for her last words, "not be lost," particularly the last one, had been pronounced with such a powerful voice that they had been heard almost everywhere in the house.

I made a sign with my hand to prevent the distressed mother from making any noise, and troubling her dying child in her prayer, for I really thought that she had stopped speaking, as she used so often to do, when alone with me, in order to pray. But I was mistaken. That redeemed soul had gone, on the golden wings of love, to join the multitudes of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, to sing the eternal Alleluia.

* * * * *



* * * * *

It was some time after our Mary had been buried. The terrible and mysterious cause of her death was known only to God and to me. Though her loving mother was still weeping over her grave, she had soon been forgotten, as usual, by the greatest part of those who had known her: but she was constantly present to my mind. I never entered the confessional-box without hearing her solemn, though so mild, voice telling me, "There must be somewhere something wrong in the auricular confession. Twice I have been destroyed by my confessors; and I have known several others who have been destroyed in the same way."

More than once, when her voice was ringing in my ears from her tomb, I had shed bitter tears on the profound and unfathomable degradation into which I, with the other priests, had to fell in the confessional-box. For many, many times, stories as deplorable as that of this unfortunate girl were confessed to me by city as well as country females.

One night I was awakened by the rumbling noise of thunder, when I heard some one knocking at the door. I hastened out of bed to ask who was there. The answer was that the Rev. Mr. —— was dying, and that he wanted to see me before his death. I dressed myself, and was soon on the highway. The darkness was fearful; and often, had it not been for the lightning which was almost constantly tearing the clouds, we should not have known where we were. After a long and hard journey through the darkness and the storm, we arrived at the house of the dying priest. I went directly to his room, and really found him very low; he could hardly speak. With a sign of his hand he bade his servant-girl and a young man who were there go out, and leave him alone with me.

Then, with a low voice, he said, "Is it you who prepared poor Mary to die?"

"Yes, sir," I answered.

"Please tell me the truth. Is it the fact that she died the death of a reprobate, and that her last words were, 'Oh, my God! I am lost'?"

I answered: "As I was the confessor of that girl, and we were talking together on matters which pertained to her confession, in the very moment that she was unexpectedly summoned to appear before God, I cannot answer your question in any way; please, then, excuse me if I cannot say any more on that subject: but tell me who can have assured you that she died the death of a reprobate."

"It was her own mother," answered the dying man. "She came, last week, to visit me, and when she was alone with me, with many tears and cries, she said how her poor child had refused to receive the last sacraments, and how her last cry was, 'I am lost!'" She added that that cry, 'Lost!' was pronounced with such a frightful power that it was heard through all the house."

"If her mother has told you that," I replied, "you may believe what you please about the way that poor child died. I cannot say a word—you know it—about that matter."

"But if she is lost," rejoined the old, dying priest, "I am the miserable one who has destroyed her. She was an angel of purity when she came to the convent. Oh! dear Mary, if you are lost, I am a thousandfold more lost! Oh, my God, my God! what will become of me? I am dying; and I am lost!"

It was indeed an awful thing to see that old sinner tearing his own hands, rolling on his bed as if he had been on burning coals, with all the marks of the most frightful despair on his face, crying, "I am lost! Oh, my God, I am lost!"

I was glad that the claps of thunder, which were shaking the house and roaring without ceasing, prevented the people outside the room from hearing those cries of desolation from that priest, whom every one considered a great saint.

When it seemed to me that his terror had somewhat subsided, and that his mind was calmed a little, I said to him, "My dear friend, you must not give yourself up to such despair. Our merciful God has promised to forgive the repenting sinner who comes to Him, even at the last hour of the day. Address yourself to the Virgin Mary, she will ask and obtain your pardon."

"Do you not think that it is too late to ask pardon? The doctor has honestly warned me that death is very near, and I feel I am just now dying! Is it not too late to ask and obtain pardon?" asked the dying priest.

"No, my dear sir, it is not too late, if you sincerely regret your sins. Throw yourself into the arms of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; make your confession without any more delay, and you will be saved."

"But I have never made a good confession. Will you help me to make a general one?"

It was my duty to grant him his request, and the rest of the night was spent by me in hearing the confession of his whole life.

I do not want to give many particulars of the life of that priest. I will only mention two things. First: It was then that I understood why poor young Mary was absolutely unwilling to mention the iniquities which she had done with him. They were simply surpassingly horrible—unmentionable. No human tongue can express them—few human ears would consent to hear them.

The second thing that I am bound in conscience to reveal is almost incredible, but it is nevertheless true. The number of married and unmarried females he had heard in the confessional was about 1500, of which he said he had destroyed or scandalized at least 1000 by his questioning them on most depraving things, for the simple pleasure of gratifying his own corrupted heart, without letting them know anything of his sinful thoughts and criminal desires towards them. But he confessed that he had destroyed the purity of ninety-five of those penitents, who had consented to sin with him.

And would to God that this priest had been the only one whom I have known to be lost through the auricular confession! But, alas! how few are those who have escaped the snares of the tempter compared with those who have perished! I have heard the confessions of more than 200 priests, and, to say the truth, as God knows it, I must declare that only twenty-one had not to weep over the secret or public sins committed through the irresistibly corrupting influences of auricular confession!

I am sixty six years old; in a short time I shall be in my grave. I shall have to give an account of what I say to-day. Well, it is in the presence of my great Judge, with my tomb before my eyes, that I declare to the world that very few—yes, very few—priests escape from falling into the pit of the most horrible moral depravity the world has ever known, through the confession of females.

I do not say this because I have any bad feelings against those priests: God knows that I have none. The only feelings I have are of supreme compassion and pity. I do not reveal these awful things to make the world believe that the priests of Rome are a worse set of men than the rest of the innumerable fallen children of Adam. No, I do not entertain any such views; for, everything considered and weighed in the balance of religion, charity, and common sense—I think that the priests of Rome are far from being worse than any other set of men who would be thrown into the same temptations, dangers and unavoidable occasions of sin.

For instance, let us take lawyers, merchants, or farmers, and, preventing them from living with their lawful wives, let us surround each of them from morning to night by ten, twenty, and sometimes more, beautiful women and tempting girls, who would speak to them of things which can pulverize a rock of Scotch granite, and you will see how many of those lawyers, merchants or farmers will go out of that terrible moral battle-field without being mortally wounded.

The cause of the supreme—I dare say incredible, though unsuspected—immorality of the priests of Rome is a very evident and logical one. By the diabolical power of the Pope, the priest is put out of the ways which God has offered to the generality of men to be honest, upright, and holy[1]. And after the Pope has deprived them of the grand, holy, I say Divine (in this sense that it comes directly from God) remedy which God has given to man against his own concupiscence—holy marriage, they are placed unprotected, unguarded in the most perilous, difficult, irresistible moral dangers which human ingenuity or depravity can conceive. Those unmarried men are forced to be, from morning to night, in the midst of beautiful girls, and tempting, charming women, who have to tell them things which would melt the hardest steel. How can you expect that they will cease to be men, and become stronger than angels?

Not only are the priests of Rome deprived by the devil of the only remedy which God has given to help them to stand up, but they have, in the confessional, the greatest facility which can possibly be imagined for satisfying all the bad propensities of fallen human nature. In the confessional they know those who are strong, and they know those who are weak among the females by whom they are surrounded; they know who would resist any attempt from the enemy; and they know who are ready—nay, who are longing after the deceitful charms of sin. If they still retain the fallen nature of man, what a terrible hour for them! what frightful battles inside the poor heart! What superhuman efforts and strength would be required to come out a conqueror from that battle field, where a David, a Samson, have fallen, mortally wounded!

It is simply an act of supreme stupidity on the part of the Protestant, as well as Catholic public, to suppose, or suspect, or hope, that the generality of the priests can stand that trial. The pages of the history of Rome herself are filled with the unanswerable proofs that the great generality of the confessors fall. If it were not so, the miracle of Joshua, stopping the march of the sun and the moon, would be a childish play compared with the miracle which would stop and reverse all the laws of our common fallen nature in the hearts of the 100,000 Roman Catholic confessors of the Church of Rome. Were I attempting to prove by public facts what I know of the horrible depravity caused by the confessional-box among the priests of France, Canada, Spain, Italy, England, I should have to write many big volumes in folio. For brevity's sake, I will speak only of Italy. I take that country because, being under the very eyes of their infallible and most holy (?) Pontiff, being in the land of daily miracles, of painted Madonnas, who weep and turn their eyes left and right, up and down, in a most marvellous way, being in the land of miraculous medals and heavenly spiritual favors, constantly flowing from the chair of St. Peter, the confessors in Italy are in the best possible circumstances to be strong, faithful, and holy. Well, let us hear an eye-witness, a contemporary, an unimpeachable witness about the way the confessors deal with their penitent females, in the only holy, apostolical, infallible (?) Church of Rome.

The witness we will hear is of the purest blood of the princes of Italy. Her name is Henrietta Carracciolo, daughter of the Marshal Carracciolo, Governor of the Province of Bari, in Italy. Let us hear what she says of the Father Confessors, after twenty years of personal experience in different nunneries of Italy, in her remarkable book, "Mysteries of the Neapolitan Convents," pp. 150, 151, 152: "My confessor came the following day, and I disclosed to him the nature of the troubles which beset me. Later in the day, seeing that I had gone down to the place where we used to receive the holy communion, called Communichino, the conversa of my aunt rang the bell for the priest to come with the pyx.[2] He was a man of about fifty years of age, very corpulent, with a rubicund face, and a type of physiognomy as vulgar as it was repulsive.

"I approached the little window to receive the sacred wafer on my tongue, with my eyes closed, as it is customary. I placed it upon my tongue; and, as I drew back, I felt my cheeks caressed. I opened my eyes, but the priest had withdrawn his hand, and, thinking I had been deceived, I gave it no more attention.

"On the next occasion, forgetful of what had occurred before, I received the sacrament with closed eyes again, according to precept. This time I distinctly felt my chin caressed again; and on opening my eyes suddenly, I found the priest gazing rudely upon me, with a sensual smile on his face.

"There could be no longer any doubt: these overtures were not the result of accident.

"The daughter of Eve is endowed with a greater degree of curiosity than man. It occured to me to place myself in a contiguous apartment, where I could observe if this libertine priest was accustomed to take similar liberties with the nuns. I did so, and was fully convinced that only the old left him without being caressed!

"All the others allowed him to do with them as he pleased; and even, in taking leave of him, did so with the utmost reverence.

"'Is this the respect,' said I to myself, 'that the priests and the spouses of Christ have for the sacrament of the Eucharist? Shall the poor novice be enticed to leave the world in order to learn, in this school, such lessons of self-respect and chastity?'"

Page 163, we read, "The fanatical passion of the nuns for their confessors, priests, and monks, exceeds belief. That which especially renders their incarceration endurable is the illimitable opportunity they enjoy of seeing and corresponding with those persons with whom they are in love. This freedom localizes and identifies them with the convent so closely that they are unhappy when, on account of any serious sickness, or while preparing to take the veil, they are obliged to pass some months in the bosom of their own families, in company with their fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. It is not to be presumed that these relatives would permit a young girl to pass many hours each day in a mysterious colloquy with a priest, or a monk, and maintain with him this continual correspondence. This is a liberty which they can enjoy in the convent only.

"Many are the hours which the Heloise spends in the confessional, in agreeable pastime with her Abelard in cassock.

"Others, whose confessors happen to be old, have in addition a spiritual director, with whom they amuse themselves a long time every day, tete-a-tete, in the parlatorio. When this is not enough, they simulate an illness, in order to have him alone in their own rooms."

Page 166, we read:—"Another nun, being somewhat infirm, her priest confessed her in her own room. After a time, the invalid penitent found herself in what is called an interesting situation, on which account, the physician declaring that her complaint was dropsy, she was sent away from the convent."

Page 167:—"A young educanda was in the habit of going down every night to the convent burial-place, where, by a corridor which communicated with the vestry, she entered into a colloquy with a young priest attached to the church. Consumed by an amorous impatience, she was not deterred from these excursions either by bad weather or the fear of being discovered.

"She heard a great noise one night near her. In the thick darkness which surrounded her, she imagined that she saw a viper winding itself around her feet. She was so much overcome by fright that she died from the effects of it a few months later."

Page 168:—"One of the confessors had a young penitent in the convent. Every time he was called to visit a dying sister, and on that account passed the night in the convent, this nun would climb over the partition which separated her room from his, and betake herself to the master and director of souls.

"Another, during the delirium of a typhoid fever, from which she was suffering, was constantly imitating the action of sending kisses to her confessor, who stood by the side of her bed. He, covered with blushes on account of the presence of strangers, held a crucifix before the eyes of the penitent, and in a commiserating tone exclaimed,—

"'Poor thing! kiss thy own spouse!'"

Page 168:—"Under the bonds of secrecy, an educanda, of fine form and pleasing manners, and of a noble family, confided to me the fact of her having received, from the hands of her confessor, a very interesting book (as she described it), which related to the monastic life. I expressed the wish to know the title, and she, before showing it to me, took the precaution to lock the door.

"It proved to be the Monaca, by Dalembert, a book, as all know, filled with the most disgusting obscenity."

Page 169:—"I received once from a monk, a letter in which he signified to me that he had hardly seen me, when 'he conceived the sweet hope of becoming my confessor.' An exquisite of the first water, a fop of scents and euphuism, could not have employed phrases more melodramic, to demand whether he might hope or despair."

Page 169:—"A priest who enjoyed the reputation of being an incorruptible sacerdote, when he saw me pass through the parlatorio, used to address me as follows:—

"'Ps, dear, come here! Ps, Ps, come here!'

"These words, addressed to me by a priest, were nauseous in the extreme.

"Finally, another priest, the most annoying of all for his obstinate assiduity, sought to secure my affections at all cost. There was not an image profane poetry could afford him, nor a sophism he could borrow from rhetoric, nor wily interpretation he could give to the Word of God, which he did not employ to convert me to his wishes. Here is an example of his logic:—

"'Fair daughter,' said he to me one day, 'knowest thou who God truly is?'

"'He is the Creator of the Universe,' I answered drily.

"'No,—no,—no,—no! that is not enough,' he replied, laughing at my ignorance. 'God is love, but love in the abstract, which receives its incarnation in the mutual affection of two hearts which idolize each other. You, then, must not only love God in His abstract existance, but must also love Him in His incarnation, that is, in the exclusive love of a man who adores you. Quod Deus est amor, nec colitur, nisi amando.'

"'Then,' I replied, 'a woman who adores her own lover would adore Divinity itself?'

"'Assuredly,' reiterated the priest over and over again, taking courage from my remark, and chuckling at what seemed to him to be the effect of his catechism.

"'In that case,' said I hastily, 'I should select for my lover rather a man of the world than a priest.'

"'God preserve you, my daughter! God preserve you from that sin!' added my interlocutor, apparently frightened. 'To love a man of the world, a sinner, a wretch, an unbeliever, an infidel! Why, you would go immediately to hell. The love of a priest is a sacred love, while that of a profane man is infamy; the faith of a priest emanates from that granted to the holy Church, while that of the profane is false,—false as the vanity of the world. The priest purifies his affections daily in communion with the Holy Spirit: the man of the world (if he ever knows love at all) sweeps the muddy crossings of the street with it day and night.

"'But it is the heart, as well as the conscience, which prompts me to fly from the priests,' I replied.

"'Well, if you cannot love me because I am your confessor, I will find means to assist you to get rid of your scruples. We will place the name of Jesus Christ before all our affectionate demonstration, and thus our love will be a grateful offering to the Lord, and will ascend fragrant with perfume to Heaven, like the smoke of the incense of the sanctuary. Say to me, for example, "I love you in Jesus Christ; last night I dreamed of you in Jesus Christ;" and you will have a tranquil conscience, because in doing this you will sanctify every transport of your love.'

"Several circumstances not indicated here, by the way, compelled me to come in frequent contact with this priest afterwards, and I do not therefore give his name.

"Of a very respectable monk, respectable alike for his age and his moral character, I inquired what signified the prefixing the name of Jesus Christ to amorous apostrophes.

"'It is,' he said, 'an expression used by a horrible sect, and one unfortunately only too numerous, which, thus abusing the name of our Lord, permits to its members the most unbridled licentiousness.'"

And it is my sad duty to say, before the whole world, that I know that by far the greater part of the confessors in America, Spain, France and England, reason and act just like that licentious Italian priest.

Christian nations! if you could know what will become of the virtue of your fair daughters if you allow secret or public slaves of Rome to restore the auricular confession, with what a storm of holy indignation you would defeat their plans!

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* * * * *

If any one wants to hear an eloquent oration, let him go when the Roman Catholic priest is preaching on the divine institution of auricular confession. There is no subject, perhaps, on which the priests display so much zeal and earnestness, and of which they speak so often. For this institution is really the corner-stone of their stupendous power; it is the secret of their almost irresistible influence. Let the people to-day open their eyes to the truth, and understand that auricular confession is one of the most stupendous impostures which Satan has invented to corrupt and enslave the world; let the people desert the confessional-box to-day, and tomorrow Romanism will fall into the dust. The priests understand this very well; hence their constant efforts to deceive the people on that question. To attain their object, they have recourse to the most egregious falsehoods; the Scriptures are misrepresented; the holy Fathers are brought to say the very contrary of what they have ever thought or written; the most extraordinary miracles and stories are invented. But two of the arguments to which they have more often recourse are the great and perpetual miracles which God makes to keep the purity of the confessional undefiled, and its secrets marvellously sealed. They make the people believe that the vow of perpetual chastity changes their nature, turns them into angels, and puts them above the common frailties of the fallen children of Adam.

Bravely and with a brazen face, when they are interrogated on that subject, they say that they have special graces to remain pure and undefiled in the midst of the greatest dangers; that the Virgin Mary, to whom they are consecrated, is their powerful advocate to obtain from her Son that superhuman virtue of chastity; that what would be a cause of sure perdition to common men is without peril and danger for a true son of Mary; and, with amazing stupidity, the people consent to be duped, blinded, and deceived by those fooleries.

But here let the world hear the truth as it is, from one who knows perfectly everything inside and outside the walls of that Modern Babylon; though many, I know, will disbelieve me and say, "We hope you are mistaken. It is impossible that the priests of Rome should turn out to be such impostors. They may be mistaken; they may believe and repeat things which are not true, but they are honest; they cannot be such impudent deceivers."

Yes! though I know that many will hardly believe me, I must say the truth.

Those very men who, when speaking to the people in such glowing terms of the marvellous way they are kept pure in the midst of the dangers which surround them, honestly blush, and often weep, when they speak to each other (when they are sure that nobody except priests hears them). They deplore their moral degradation with the utmost sincerity and honesty. They ask from God and men pardon for their unspeakable depravity.

I have here in my hands, and under my eyes, one of their most remarkable secret books, written, or at least approved, by one of their greatest and best bishops and cardinals, the Cardinal De Bonald, Archbishop of Lyons.

The book is written for the use of the priests alone. Its title is in French, "Examen de Conscience des Pretres." At page 34 we read:—

"Have I left certain persons to make the declarations of their sins in such a way that the imagination, once taken and impressed by pictures and representations, could be dragged into a long course of temptations and grievous sins? The priests do not pay sufficient attention to the continual temptations caused by the hearing of confessions. The soul is gradually enfeebled in such a way that, at the end, the virtue of chastity is for ever lost."

Here is the address of a priest to other priests when he suspects that nobody but his co-sinner brethren hear him. Here is the honest language of truth.

In the presence of God, those priests acknowledge that they have not a sufficient fear of those constant (what a word—what an acknowledgment—constant!) temptations, and they honestly confess that those temptations come from the hearing of the confessions of so many scandalous sins. Here the priests honestly acknowledge that those constant temptations, at the end, destroy for ever in them the holy virtue of purity![3]

Ah! would to God that all the honest girls and women whom the devil entraps into the snares of auricular confession could hear the cries of distress of those poor priests whom they have tempted—for ever destroyed! Would to God that they could see the torrents of tears shed by so many priests because, from the hearing of confessions, they had for ever lost the virtue of purity! They would understand that the confessional is a snare, a pit of perdition, a Sodom for the priest; and they would be struck with horror and shame at the idea of the continual, shameful, dishonest, degrading temptations by which their confessor is tormented day and night—they would blush on account of the shameful sins which their confessors have committed—they would weep over the irreparable loss of their purity—they would promise before God and men that the confessional-box should never see them any more—they would prefer to be burned alive, if any sentiment of honesty and charity remained in them, rather than consent to be a cause of constant temptation and damnable sin to that man.

Would that respectable lady go any more to confess to that man if, after her confession, she could hear him lamenting the continual, shameful temptations which assail him day and night, and the damning sins which he has committed on account of what she has confessed to him? No—a thousand times no!

Would that honest father allow his beloved daughter to go any more to that man to confess if he could hear his cries of distress, and see his tears flowing because the hearing of those confessions is the source of constant, shameful temptations and degrading iniquities?

Oh! would to God that the honest Romanists all over the world—for there are millions who, though deluded, are honest—could see what is going on in the heart, the imagination of the poor confessor when he is, there, surrounded by attractive women, and tempting girls, speaking to him from morning to night on things which a man cannot hear without falling! Then that modern but grand imposture called the Sacrament of Penance would soon be ended.

But here, again, who will not lament the consequence of the total perversity of our human nature? Those very same priests who, when alone in the presence of God, speak so plainly of the constant temptations by which they are assailed, and who so sincerely weep over the irreparable loss of their virtue of purity, when they think that nobody hears them, will yet in public deny with a brazen face those temptations. They will indignantly rebuke you as a slanderer if you say anything to lead them to suppose that you fear for their purity when they hear the confessions of girls or married women. There is not a single one of the Roman Catholic authors who have written on that subject for the priests, who has not deplored their innumerable and degrading sins against purity on account of the auricular confession; but those very men will be the first to try to prove the very contrary when they write books for the people. I have no words to say what was my surprise when, for the first time, I saw that this strange duplicity seemed to be one of the fundamental stones of my Church.

It was not very long after my ordination, when a priest came to me to confess the most deplorable things. He honestly told me that there was not a single one of the girls or married women whom he had confessed who had not been a secret cause of the most shameful sins in thoughts, desires, or actions; but he wept so bitterly over his degradation, his heart seemed so sincerely broken on account of his own iniquities, that I could not refrain from mixing my tears with his. I wept with him, and I gave him the pardon of all his sins, as I thought, then, I had the power and right to give it.

Two hours afterwards, that same priest, who was a good speaker, was in the pulpit. His sermon was on "The Divinity of Auricular Confession;" and, to prove that it was an institution coming directly from Christ, he said that the Son of God was making a constant miracle to strengthen His priests, and prevent them from falling into sins, on account of what they might have heard in the confessional!

The daily abominations, which are the result of auricular confession, are so horrible and so well known by the popes, the bishops, and the priests, that several times, public attempts have been made to diminish them by punishing the guilty priests; but all these have failed.

One of the most remarkable of those efforts was made by Pius IV. about the year 1500. A Bull was published by him, by which all the girls and the married women who had been seduced into sins by their confessors were ordered to denounce them; and a certain number of high church officers of the Holy Inquisition were authorized to take the depositions of the fallen penitents. The thing was at first tried at Seville, one of the principal cities of Spain. When the edict was first published the number of women who felt bound in conscience to go and depose against their father confessors was so great that, though there were thirty notaries and as many inquisitors to take the depositions, they were unable to do the work in the appointed time. Thirty days more were given, but the inquisitors were so overwhelmed with the numberless depositions that another period of time of the same length was given. But this, again, was found insufficient. At the end, it was found that the number of priests who had destroyed the purity of their penitents was so great that it was impossible to punish them all. The inquest was given up, and the guilty confessors remained unpunished. Several attempts of the same nature have been tried by other popes, but with about the same success.

But if those honest attempts, on the part of some well-meaning popes, to punish the confessors who destroy the purity of their penitents, have failed to touch the guilty parties, they are, in the good providence of God, infallible witnesses to tell to the world that auricular confession is nothing else than a snare to the confessor and his dupes. Yes, those Bulls of the popes are an irrefragable testimony that auricular confession is the most powerful invention of the devil to corrupt the heart, pollute the body, and damn the soul of the priest and his female penitent!

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* * * * *

Are not facts the best arguments? Well, here is an undeniable, a public fact, which is connected with a thousand collateral ones to prove that auricular confession is the most powerful engine of demoralization which the world has ever seen.

About the year 183—, there was in Quebec a fine-looking young priest; he had a magnificent voice, and was a pretty good speaker.[4] Through regard for his family, which is still numerous and respectable, I will not give his name, I will call him Rev. Mr. D——. Having been invited to preach in a parish of Canada, about 100 miles distant from Quebec, called Vercheres, he was also requested to hear the confessions during a few days of a kind of Novena (nine days of prayer), which was going on in that place. Among his penitents was a beautiful young girl, about nineteen years old. She wanted to make a general confession of all her sins from the first age of reason, and the confessor granted her request. Twice every day she was there, at the feet of her handsome young spiritual physician, telling all her thoughts, her deeds, her desires. Sometimes she was remarked to have remained a whole hour in the confessional-box, in accusing herself of all her human frailties. What did she say? God only knows; but what became hereafter known by the entire of Canada is that the confessor fell in love with his fair penitent, and that she burned with the same irresistible fires for her confessor, as it so often happens.

It was not an easy matter for the priest and the young girl to meet each other in as complete a tete-a-tete as they both wished, for there were too many eyes upon them. But the confessor was a man of resources. The last day of the Novena he said to his beloved penitent, "I am going to Montreal, but three days after I will take the steamer back to Quebec. That steamer is accustomed to stop here. At about twelve a.m., be on the wharf, dressed as a young man. Let no one know your secret. You will embark in the steamboat, where you will not be known, if you have any prudence. You will come to Quebec, where you will be engaged as a servant-boy by the curate, of whom I am the vicar. Nobody will know your sex except myself, and we will there be happy together."

The fifth day after this there was a great desolation in the family of the girl, for she had suddenly disappeared and her robes had been found on the shores of the St. Lawrence river. There was not the least doubt in the minds of all relations and friends, that the general confession she had made had entirely upset her mind, and, in an excess of craziness, she had thrown herself into the deep and rapid waters of the St. Lawrence. Many searches were made to find her body, but all in vain; many public and private prayers were offered to God to help her to escape from the flames of Purgatory, where she might be condemned to suffer for many years, and much money was given to the priest to sing high masses, in order to extinguish the fires of that burning prison, where every Roman Catholic believes he must go to be purified before entering the regions of eternal happiness.

I will not give the name of the girl, though I have it, through compassion for her family; I will call her Geneva.

Well, when father and mother, brothers, sisters, and friends were shedding tears on the sad end of Geneva, she was in the rich parsonage of the Curate of Quebec, well paid, well fed and dressed; happy and cheerful with her beloved confessor. She was exceedingly neat in her person, always obliging, ready to run and do what you wanted at the very twinkling of your eye. Her new name was Joseph, by which I will now call her.

Many times I have seen the smart Joseph at the parsonage of Quebec, and admired his politeness and good manners; though it seemed to me sometimes that he looked too much like a girl, and that he was a little too much at ease with Rev. Mr. D——, and also with the Right Rev. M——. But every time the idea came to me that Joseph was a girl, I felt indignant with myself. The high respect I had for the Coadjutor Bishop made it impossible to think that he would ever allow a beautiful girl to sleep in the adjoining room to his own, and to serve him day and night; for Joseph's sleeping-room was just by the one of the Coadjutor, who, for several bodily infirmities, which were not a secret to every one, wanted the help of his servant several times at night, as well as during the day.

Things went on very smoothly with Joseph during two or three years in the Coadjutor Bishop's house; but at the end it seemed to many people outside that Joseph was taking too great airs of familiarity with the young vicars, and even with the venerable Coadjutor. Several of the citizens of Quebec, who were going more often than others to the parsonage, were surprised and shocked at the familiarity of that servant-boy with his masters; he really seemed sometimes to be on equal terms with, if not somewhat above them.

An intimate friend of the Bishop, a most devoted Roman Catholic, who was my near relative, took one day upon himself to respectfully say to the Right Rev. Bishop that it would be prudent to turn out that impudent young man from his palace; that he was the object of strong and deplorable suspicions.

The position of the Right Rev. Bishop and his vicars was not a very agreeable one. Their barque had evidently drifted among dangerous rocks. To keep Joseph among them was impossible, after the friendly advice which had come from such a high quarter, and to dismiss him was not less dangerous; he knew too much of the interior and secret lives of all those holy (?) celibates to deal with him as with another common servant-man. With a single word of his lips he could destroy them; they were as if tied to his feet by ropes, which at first seemed made with sweet cakes and ice-cream, but had suddenly turned into burning steel chains. Several days of anxiety passed away; many sleepless nights succeeded the too-happy ones of better times. But what to do? There were breakers ahead; breakers on the right, on the left, and on every side. But when every one, particularly the venerable (?) Coadjutor, felt as criminals who expect their sentence, and that their horizon seemed surrounded absolutely by only dark and stormy clouds, on a sudden, a happy opening presented itself to the anxious sailors.

The curate of "Les Eboulements," the Rev. Mr. ——, had just come to Quebec on some private business, and had taken his quarters in the hospitable house of his old friend, the Right Rev. ——, Bishop Coadjutor. Both had been on very intimate terms for many years, and, in many instances, they had been of great service to each other. The Pontiff of the Church of Canada, hoping that his tried friend would perhaps help him out of the terrible difficulty of the moment, frankly told him all about Joseph, and asked him what he ought to do under such difficult circumstances.

"My Lord," said the curate of the Eboulements, "Joseph is just the servant I want. Pay him well, that he may remain your friend, and that his lips may be sealed, and allow me to take him with me. My housekeeper left me a few weeks ago; I am alone in my parsonage with my old servant-man. Joseph is just the person I want."

It would be difficult to tell the joy of the poor Bishop and his vicars, when they saw that heavy stone they had on their neck removed.

Joseph, once installed into the parsonage of the pious (?) parish priest of the Eboulements, soon gained the favour of the whole people by his good and winning manners, and every parishioner complimented his curate on the smartness of his new servant. But the priest, of course, knew a little more of that smartness than the rest of the people. Three years passed on very smoothly. The priest and his servant seemed to be on the most perfect terms. The only thing which marred the happiness of that lucky couple was that, now and then, some of the farmers, whose eyes were sharper than those of their neighbours, seemed to think that the intimacy between the two was going a little too far, and that Joseph, was really keeping in his hands the sceptre of the little priestly kingdom. Nothing could be done without his advice; he was meddling in all the small and big affairs of the parish, and the curate seemed sometimes to be rather the servant than the master in his own house and parish. Those who had at first made those remarks privately began little by little to convey their views to the next neighbour, and this one to the next. In that way, at the end of the third year, grave and serious suspicions began to spread from one to the other in such a way that the Marguilliers (a kind of Elders) thought proper to say to the priest that it would be better for him to turn Joseph out than to keep him any longer. But the old curate had passed so many happy hours with his faithful Joseph that it was as hard as death to give him up.

He knew, by confession, that a girl in the vicinity was given to an unmentionable abomination, to which Joseph was also addicted. He went to her and proposed that she should marry Joseph, and that he (the priest) would help them to live comfortably. Joseph, in order to continue to live near his good master, consented also to marry that girl. Both knew very well what the other was. The banns were published during three Sabbaths, after which the old curate, blessed the marriage of Joseph with the girl his parishioner.

They lived together as husband and wife in such harmony that nobody could suspect the horrible depravity which was concealed behind that union. Joseph continued with his wife to work often for his priest, till after sometime that priest was removed, and another curate, called Tetreau, was sent in his place.

This new curate, knowing absolutely nothing of that mystery of iniquity, employed also Joseph and his wife several times. One day when Joseph was working at the door of the parsonage, in the presence of several people, a stranger arrived, and inquired of him if the Rev. Mr. Tetreau, the curate, was there.

Joseph answered, "Yes, sir. But as you seem to be a stranger, would you allow me to ask you whence you come?"

"It is very easy, sir, to satisfy you. I come from Vercheres," replied the stranger.

At the word "Vercheres" Joseph turned so pale that the stranger could not be but struck with his sudden change of colour.

Then, fixing his eyes on Joseph, he cried out, "Oh, my God! what do I see here? Geneva! Geneva! I recognize you, and here you are in the disguise of a man!"

"Dear uncle (for it was her uncle), for God's sake," she cried, "do not say a word more!"

But it was too late. The people who were there had heard the uncle and niece. Their long secret suspicions were well-founded—one of their former priests had kept a girl under the disguise of a man in his house! and, to blind his people more thoroughly, he had married that girl to another one, in order to have them both in his house, when he pleased, without awakening any suspicion!!

The news went almost as quick as lightning from one end to the other of the parish, and spread all over the northern country watered by the St Lawrence river.

It is more easy to imagine than express the sentiments of surprise and horror which filled every one. The justices of the peace took up the matter; Joseph was brought before the civil tribunal, which decided that a physician should be charged to make, not a post-mortem, but ante-mortem inquest. The Honourable L——, who was called and made the proper inquiry, declared upon oath that Joseph was a girl! and the bonds of marriage were legally dissolved.

During that time the honest Rev. Mr. Tetreau, struck with horror, had sent an express to the Right Reverend Bishop Coadjutor of Quebec, informing him that the young man whom he had kept in his house several years, under the name of Joseph, was a girl.

Now, what were they to do with the girl, after all was discovered? Her presence in Canada would for ever compromise the holy (?) Church of Rome. She knew too well how the priests, through the confessional, select their victims, and help themselves, in their company, in keeping their solemn vows of celibacy! What would have become of the respect paid to the priest, if she had been taken by the hand and invited to speak, bravely, boldly, before the people of Canada?

The holy (?) Bishop and his vicars understood these things very well.

They immediately sent a trustworthy man with L500 to say to the girl that, if she remained in Canada, she could be prosecuted and severely punished; that it was her interest to leave the country, and emigrate to the United States. They offered her the L500 if she would promise to go and never return.

She accepted the offer, crossed the lines, and we have never since heard anything of her.

In the providence of God, I was invited to preach in that parish soon after, and I learned these facts accurately.

The Rev. Mr. Tetreau, under whose pastorate this great iniquity was detected, began from that time to have his eyes opened to the awful depravity of the priests of Rome through the confessional. He wept and cried over his own degradation in the midst of that modern Sodom. Our merciful God looked down with compassion upon him, and sent him His saving grace. Not long after, he sent to the Bishop his renunciation of the errors and abominations of Romanism.

To-day he is working in the vineyard of the Lord with the Methodists in the city of Montreal, where he is ready to prove the correctness of what we say.

Let those who have ears to hear, and eyes to see, understand, by this fact, that Pagan nations have not known any institution so depraving as Auricular Confession!

* * * * *



* * * * *

The most skilful warrior has never had to display so much skill and so many ruses de guerre; he has never had to use more tremendous efforts to reduce and storm an impregnable citadel, as the confessor who wants to reduce and storm the citadel of self-respect and honesty which God Himself has built around the soul and the heart of every daughter of Eve.

But, as it is through woman that the Pope wants to conquer the world, it is supremely important that he should enslave and degrade her by keeping her at his feet as his footstool, that she may become a passive instrument in the accomplishment of his vast and profound scheme.

In order perfectly to master women in the higher circles of society, every confessor is ordered by the Pope to learn the most complicated and perfect strategy. He has to study a great number of treatises on the art of persuading the fair sex to confess to him plainly, clearly, and in detail, every thought, every secret desire, word, and deed, just as they occurred.

And that art is considered so important and so difficult that all the theologians of Rome call it "the art of arts."

Dens, St. Liguori, Chevassu, the author of the "Mirror of the Clergy," Debreyne, and a multitude of authors too numerous to mention, have given the curious and scientific rules of that secret art.

They all agree in declaring that it is a most difficult and dangerous art; they all confess that the least error of judgment, the least imprudence or temerity, when storming the impregnable citadel, is sure death (spiritual, of course) to the confessor and the penitent.

The confessor is taught to make the first steps towards the citadel with the utmost caution, in order that his female penitent may not suspect at first what he wants her to reveal; for this would generally induce her to shut for ever the door of the fortress against him. After the first steps of advance, he is advised to make several steps back, and to put himself in a kind of spiritual ambuscade, to see the effect of his first advance. If there is any prospect of success, then the word "March on!" is given, and a more advanced post of the citadel must be tried and stormed if possible. In that way, little by little, the whole place is so well surrounded, so well crippled, denuded, and dismantled, that any more resistance seems impossible on the part of the rebellious soul.

Then the last charge is ordered, the final assault is given; and if God does not perform a real miracle to save that soul, the last walls crumble, the doors are beaten down! Then the confessor makes a triumphant entry into the place; the very heart, soul, conscience, and intelligence, are conquered.

When once master of the place, the priest visits all its most secret recesses and corners; he pries into its most sacred chambers. The conquered place is entirely, absolutely in his hands; he does what he pleases within its precincts; he is the supreme master, for the surrender has been unconditional. The confessor has become the only infallible ruler in the conquered place—nay, he has become its only God—for it is in the name of God that he has besieged, stormed, and conquered it, it is in the name of God that, hereafter, he will speak and be obeyed.

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