in the Church of Rome
by Charles Chiniquy
The hour of my absence had been one of anxiety for the curate and the vicars. But my prompt return filled them with joy.
"What news?" they all exclaimed.
"Good news," I answered; "the battle has been fierce but short. We have gained the day;; and if we are only true to ourselves, another great victory is in store for us. The bishop is so sure that we are the only ones who think of that reform, that he will not move a finger to prevent the other priests from following us. This security will make our success infallible. But we must not lose a moment. Let us address our circular to every priest in Canada."
One hour later there were more than twenty writers at work, and before twenty-four hours, more than three hundred letters were carried to all the priests, giving them the reasons why we should try, by all fair means, to put an end to the shameful simoniacal trade in masses which was going on between Canada and France.
The week was scarcely ended, when letters came from almost all curates and vicars to the bishop, respectfully requesting him to withdraw his name from "The Society of the Three Masses." Only fifty refused to comply with our request.
Our victory was more complete than we had expected. But the Bishop of Quebec, hoping to regain his lost ground, immediately wrote to the Bishop of Montreal, my Lord Telemesse, to come to his help and show us the enormity of the crime we had committed, in rebelling against the will of our ecclesiastical superiors.
A few days later, to my great dismay, I received a short and very cold note from the bishop's secretary, telling me that their lordships, the Bishops of Montreal and Quebec, wanted to see me at the palace, without delay. I had never seen the Bishop of Montreal, and my surprise and disappointment were great in finding myself in the presence of a man, my idea of whom was of gigantic proportions, when in reality, he was very small. But I felt exceedingly well pleased by the admirable mixture of firmness, intelligence, and honesty of his whole demeanor. His eyes were piercing as the eagle's; but when fixed on me, I saw in them the marks of a noble and honest heart.
The motions of his head were rapid, his sentences short, and he seemed to know only one line, the straight one, when approaching a subject or dealing with a man. He had the merited reputation of being one of the most learned and eloquent men of Canada. The Bishop of Quebec had remained on his sofa, and left the Bishop of Montreal to receive me. I fell at his feet and asked his blessing, which he gave me in the most cordial way. Then, putting his hand upon my shoulder, he said, in a Quaker style: "Is it possible that thou art Chiniquy that young priest who makes so much noise? How can such a small man make so much noise?"
There being a smile on his countenance as he uttered these words, I saw at once that there was no anger or bad feeling in his heart; I replied: "My lord; do you not know that the most precious pearls and perfumes are put up in the smallest vases?"
The bishop saw that this was a compliment to his address; he smilingly replied: "Well, well, if thou art a noisy priest, thou art not a fool. But, tell me, why dost thou want to destroy our `Three Mass Society' and establish that new one on its ruins, in spite of thy superiors?"
"My lord, my answer will be as respectful, short, and plain as possible. I have left the `Three Mass Society' because it was my right to do it, without anybody's permission. I hope our venerable Canadian bishops do not wish to be served by slaves!"
"I do not say," replied the bishop, "that you wert bound in conscience to remain in the `Three Mass Society;' but, can I know why thou hast left such a respectable association, at the head of which thou seest thy bishops and the most venerable priests in Canada?"
"I will again be plain in my answer, my lord. If your lordship wants to go to hell with your venerable priests by spiriting away twenty cents from every one of our honest and pious penitents, for masses which you get said for five, by bad priests in Paris, I will not follow you. Moreover, if your lordship wants to be thrown into the river by the furious people, when they know how long and how cunningly we have cheated them, with our simoniacal trade in masses, I do not want to follow you into the cold stream."
"Well! well, answered the bishop, "let us drop that matter for ever."
He uttered this short sentence with such an evidence of sincerity and honesty, that I saw he really meant it. He had, at a glance, seen that his ground was untenable, in the presence of priests who knew their rights, and had a mind to stand by them.
My joy was great indeed at such a prompt and complete victory. I fell again at the bishop's feet, and asked his benediction before taking leave of him I then left to go and tell the curates and vicars the happy issue of our interview with the bishop of Montreal.
From that time till now, at the death of every priest, the Clerical Press never failed mentioning whether the deceased priest belonged to the "Three" or "One Mass Society."
We had, to some extent, diminished the simoniacal and infamous trade in masses; but unfortunately we had not destroyed it; and I know that today it has revived. Since I left the Church of Rome, the Bishops of Quebec have raised the "Three Mass Society" from its grave.
It is a public fact, that no priest will dare deny, that the trade in masses is still conducted on a large scale with France. There are in Paris and other large cities in that country, public agencies to carry on that shameful traffic. It is, generally, in the hands of booksellers or merchants of church ornaments. Every year their houses send a large number of prospectuses through France and Belgium and other catholic countries, in which they say that, in order to help the priests, who having received money for their masses, don't know where to have them said; they offer a premium of twenty-five or thirty per cent to those who will send them the surplus of the money they have in hand, to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The priests who have such surplus, tempted by that premium, which is usually paid with a watch or a chain, or a chalice, disgorge a part, or the whole of the large sums they possess, into the hands of the pious merchants, who take this money and use it as they please.
But they never pay the masses in money, they give only merchandise. For instance, that priest will receive a watch, if he promises to celebrate one or two hundred masses, or a chalice to celebrate three or four hundred masses. I have, here in my hand, several of the contracts or promissory notes sent by those merchants of masses to the priests. The public will, no doubt, read the following documents with interest. They were handed me by a priest lately converted from the Church of Rome:
RUE DE REIMES - PARIS
Ant. Levesques, editor of the works of Mr. Dufriche - Desgenettes.
Cure of Notre Dame des Victories.
Delivered to the Rev. Mr. Camerle, curate of Ansibeau (Basses Alpes). Paris, October 12, 1874.
10 metres of Satin Cloth at 22 francs.................... 220.
8" of Merino, all wool.................................. 123.
Month of May............................................. 2.
History of Mary Christina................................ 1.40
Life of St. Stanislas Koska.............................. 2.
Meditations of the Soul.................................. 4.
Jesus Christ, the Light of the World..................... 2.
Packing and Freight...................................... 9.30
Mr. Curate; We have the honour of informing you that the packages containing the articles you have ordered on the 4th of October, were shipped on the 12th of October, to Digne, where we respectfully request you to go and ask for them. For the payment of these articles, we request you to say the following masses:
58 ad intentionem of the giver, for the discharge of Rev. Mr. Montet.
58 ad intentionem of the givers, for the discharge of Rev. Mr. Hoeg.
100 - 188 for the dead, for the discharge of Rev. Mr. Wod.
Mr. Curate: Will you be kind enough to say or have said all those masses in the shortest time possible, and answer these Revd. gentlemen, if they make any inquiries about the acquittal of those masses.
(Signed) Ant. Levesques.
Paris, November 11th, 1874.
Rev. Mr. Camerle; We have the honour of addressing you the invoice of what we forwarded to you on the 12th of October. On account we have put to your credit 188 masses. We respectfully request you to get said the following intentions:
73 for the dead, to the acquittal of Rev. Mr. Watters,
70 pro defuncto, For the discharge of
20 ad intentionem donatis, Rev. Mr. C.
13 ad intentionem donatis, ____ 176
Mr. Curate; Be kind enough to say these masses, or have them said as soon as possible, and answer the reverend gentleman who may inquire from you about their acquittal. The 188 masses mentioned in our letter of the 3rd inst., added to the 176 here mentioned, make 364 francs, the value of the goods sent you. We thought you would like to have the pamphlets of propaganda we address you.
(signed) Ant. Levesques.
Hence, it is that priests, in France and elsewhere, have gold watches, rich house furniture, and interesting books, purchased with the money paid by our poor deluded Canadian Catholics to their priests, for masses which are turned into mercantile commodities in other places. It would be difficult to say who makes the best bargain between those merchants of masses, the priests to whom they are sold, or those from whom they are bought at a discount of twenty-five to thirty per cent.
The only evident thing is the cruel deception practiced on the credulity and ignorance of the Roman Catholics by their priests and bishops. Today, the houses of Dr. Anthony Levesques in Paris are the most accredied in France. In 1874, the house of Mesme was doing an immense business with its stock of masses, but in an evil day, the government suspected that the number of masses paid into their hands, exceeded the number of those celebrated through their hired priests. The suspicions soon turned into certainty when the books were examined. It was then found that an incredible number of masses, which were to empty the large room of purgatory, never reached their destination, but only filled the purse of the Parisian mass merchant; and so the unlucky Mesme was unceremoniously sent to the penitentiary to meditate on the infinite merits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which had been engulfed in his treasures.
But these facts are not known by the poor Roman Catholics of Canada, who are fleeced more and more by their priests, under the pretext of saving souls from purgatory.
A new element of success in the large swindling operations of the Canadian priests has lately been discovered. It is well known that in the greater part of the United States, the poor deluded Irish pay one dollar to their priest, instead of a shilling, for a low mass. Those priests whose conscience are sufficiently elastic (as is often the case), keep the money without ever thinking of having the masses said, and soon get rich. But there are some whose natural honesty shrinks from the idea of stealing; but unable to celebrate all the masses paid for and requested at their hands, they send the dollars to some of their clerical friends in Canada, who, of course, prefer these one dollar masses to the twentyfive cent ones paid by the French Canadians. However, they keep that secret and continue to fill their treasury.
There are, however, many priests in Canada who think it less evil to keep those large sums of money in their own hands, than to give them to the bishops to traffic with the merchants of Paris. At the end of one of the ecclesiastical retreats in the seminary of St. Sulpice in 1850, Bishop Bourget told us that one of the priests who had lately died, had requested him, in the name of Jesus Christ, to ask every priest to take a share in the four thousand dollars which he had received for masses he never said. We refused to grant him that favour, and those four thousand dollars received by that priest, like the millions put into the hands of other priests and the bishops, turned to be nothing less than an infamous swindling operation under the mask of religion.
To understand what the priests of Rome are, let the readers note what is said in the Roman Catholic Bible, of the priest of Babylon: -
"And King Astyges was gathered to his fathers, and Cyrus, of Persia, received his kingdom, and Daniel conversed with the king, and was honoured above all his friends. Now the Babylonians had an idol, called Bel, and there were spent upon him, every day, twelve measures of fine flour, and forty sheep and six vessels of wine. And the king worshipped it and went daily to adore: but Daniel worshipped his own God, and the king said unto him: `Why dost thou not worship Bel?' who answered and said: `Because I may not worship idols made with hands, but the living God, who hath created the heavens and the earth, and hath sovereignty over all flesh.' Then the king said: `Thinkest thou not that Bel is a living God! Seest thou not how much he eateth and drinketh every day?'
"Then Daniel smiled and said: `Oh, king! be not deceived; for this is but clay within and brass without, and did never eat or drink anything.'
"So that king was wroth, and called for his priests and said: `If ye tell me not who this is that devoureth these expenses, ye shall die; but if ye can certify me that Bel devoureth them, then Daniel shall die, for he has spoken blasphemy against Bel.' And Daniel said unto the king; `Let it be according to thy word."
"Now the priests of Bel were three score and ten, besides their wives and children.
"And the king went with Daniel to the temple of Bel so Bel's priests said: `Lo! we got out, but thou, O king, set on the meat, and make ready the wine, and shut the door fast, and seal it with thine own signet; and to-morrow when thou comest in, if thou findest not that Bel had eaten up all, we will suffer death; or else, Daniel, that speaketh falsely against Bel, shall die and they little regarded it, for under the table they had made a privy entrance, whereby they entered continually and consumed those things.'
"So when they were gone forth, the king set meats before Bel.
"Now Daniel had commanded his servants to bring ashes, and those they strewed throughout all the temple, in the presence of the king alone: then went they out, and shut the door, and sealed it with the king's signet, and so departed.
"Now in the night came the priests, with their wives and children, as they were wont to do, and did eat and drink up all.
"In the morning betimes the king arose, and Daniel with him.
"And the king said, `Daniel, are the seals whole?' And he said, `Yea, O king, they be whole.' And as soon as they had opened the door, the king looked upon the table, and cried with a loud voice: `Great art thou, O Bel! and with thee there is no deceit at all.' Then laughed Daniel, and held the king that he should not go in, and said: `Behold now the pavement, and mark well whose footsteps are these.' And the king said: `I see the footprints of men, women, and children.' And then the king was angry, and took the priests, with their wives and children, who showed him the privy doors, where they came in and consumed such things as were on the tables.
"Therefore the king slew them, and delivered Bel into Daniel's power, who destroyed him and his temple."
Who does not pity the king of Babylon, who, when looking at his clay and brass god, exclaimed: "Great art thou, O Bel, and with thee there is no deceit!"
But, is the deception practiced by the priests of the Pope on their poor, deluded dupes, less cruel and infamous? Where is the difference between that Babylonian god, made with brass and baked clay, and the god of the Roman Catholics, made with a handful of wheat and flour, baked between two hot polished irons?
How skilful were the priests in keeping the secret of what became of the rich daily offerings brought to the hungry god! Who could suspect that there was a secret trap through which they came with their wives and children to eat the rich offerings?
So, today, among the simple and blind Roman Catholics, who could suppose that the immense sums of money given every day to the priests to glorify God, purify the souls of men, and bring all kinds of blessings upon the donors, were, on the contrary, turned into the most ignominious and swindling operation the world has ever seen?
Though the brass god of Babylon was a contemptible idol, is not the wafer god of Rome still more so? Though the priests of Bel were skilful deceivers, are they not surpassed in the art of deception by the priests of Rome! Do not these carry on their operations on a much larger scale than the former?
But, as there is always a day of retribution for the great iniquities of this world, when all things will be revealed; and just as the cunning of the priests of Babylon could not save them, when God sent His prophet to take away the mask, behind which they deceived their people, so let the priests of Rome know that God will, sooner or later, send His prophet, who will tear off the mask, behind which they deceive the world. Their big, awkward, and flat feet will be seen and exposed, and the very people whom they keep prostrated before their idols, crying: "O God! with Thee there is no deceit of all!" will become the instruments of the justice of God in the great day of retribution.
Continue to Chapter Twenty-Seven
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