in the Church of Rome
by Charles Chiniquy
I finished, at the College of Nicolet, in the month of August, 1829, my classical course of study which I had begun in 1822. I could easily have learned in three or four years what was taught in these seven years.
It took us three years to study the Latin grammar, when twelve months would have sufficed for all we learned of it. It is true that during that time we were taught some of the rudiments of the French grammar, with the elements of arithmetic and geography. But all this was so superficial, that our teachers often seemed more desirous to pass away our time than to enlarge our understandings.
I can say the same thing of the Belles Letters and of rhetoric, which we studied two years. A year of earnest study would have sufficed to learn what was taught us during these twenty-four months. As for the two years devoted to the study of logic, and of the subjects classed under the name of philosophy, it would not have been too long a time if those questions of philosophy had been honestly given us. But the student in the college of the Church of Rome is condemned to the torments of Tantalus. He has, indeed, the refreshing waters of Science put to his lips, but he is constantly prevented from tasting them. To enlarge and seriously cultivate the intelligence in a Roman Catholic college is a thing absolutely out of the question. More than that, all the efforts of the principals in their colleges and convents tend to prove to the pupil that his intelligence is his greatest and most dangerous enemy that it is like an untamable animal, which must constantly be kept in chains. Every day the scholar is told that his reason was not given him that he might be guided by it, but only that he may know the hand of the man by whom he must be guided. And that hand is none other than the Pope's. All the resources of language, all the most ingenious sophisms, all the passages of both the Fathers and the Holy Scriptures bearing on this question are arranged and perverted with inconceivable art to demonstrate to the pupil that his reason has no power to teach him anything else than that it must be subjected to the Supreme Pontiff of Rome, who is the only foundation of truth and light given by God to guide the intelligence and to enlighten and save the world.
Rome, in her colleges and convents, brings up, or raises up, the youth from their earliest years; but to what height does she permit the young man or woman to be raised? Never higher than the feet of the Pope!! As soon as his intelligence, guided by the Jesuit, has ascended to the feet of the Pope, it must remain there, prostrate itself and fall asleep.
The Pope! That is the great object towards which all the intelligence of the Roman Catholics must be converged. It is the sun of the world, the foundation and the only support of Christian knowledge and civilization.
What a privilege it is to be lazy, stupid, and sluggish in a college of Rome! How soon such an one gets to the summit of science, and becomes master of all knowledge. One needs only to kiss the feet of the Pope, and fall into a perfect slumber there! The Pope thinks for him! It is he (the Pope) who will tell him what he can and should think, and what he can and should believe!
I had arrived at that degree of perfection at the end of my studies, and J.B. Barthe, Esq., M.P.P., being editor of one of the principal papers of Montreal in 1844, could write in his paper when my "Manual of Temperance" was published: "Mr. Chiniquy has crowned his apostleship of temperance by that work, with that ardent and holy ambition of character of which he gave us so many tokens in his collegiate life, where we have been so many years the witness of his piety, when he was the model of his fellow-students, who had called him the Louis de Gonzague of Nicolet."
These words of the Montreal Member of Parliament mean only that, wishing to be saved as St. Louis de Gonzague, I had blindly tied myself to the feet of my superiors.
I had, as much as possible, extinguished all the enlightenments of my own mind to follow the reason and the will of my superiors. These compliments mean that I was walking like a blind man whom his guide holds by the hand.
Though my intelligence often revolted against the fables with which I was nurtured, I yet forced myself to accept them as gospel truths; and though I often rebelled against the ridiculous sophisms which were babbled to me as the only principles of truth and Christian philosophy, yet as often did I impose silence on my reason, and force it to submit to the falsehoods which I was obliged to take for God's truth! But, as I have just confessed it, notwithstanding my goodwill to submit to my superiors, there were times of terrible struggle in my soul, when all the powers of my mind seemed to revolt against the degrading fetters which I was forced to forge for myself.
I shall never forget the day when, in the following terms, I expressed to my Professor of Philosophy, the Rev. Charles Harper, doubts which I had conceived concerning the absolute necessity of the inferior to submit his reason to his superior. "When I shall have completely bound myself to obey my superior, if he abuses his authority over me to deceive me by false doctrines, or if he commands me to do things which I consider wrong and dishonest, shall I not be lost if I obey him?"
He answered: "You will never have to give an account to God for the actions that you do by the order of your legitimate superiors. If they were to deceive you, being themselves deceived, they alone would be responsible for the error which you would have committed. Your sin would not be imputed to you as long as you follow the golden rule which is the base of all Christian philosophy and perfection humility and obedience!"
Little satisfied with that answer, when the lesson was over I expressed my reluctance to accept such principles to several of my fellow-students. Among them was Joseph Turcot, who died some years ago when, I think, he was Minister of Public Works in Canada.
He answered me: "The more I study what they call their principles of Christian philosophy and logic, the more I think that they intend to make asses of every one of us!"
On the following day I opened my heart to the venerable man who was our principal the Rev. Mr. Leprohon. I used to venerate him as a saint and to love him as a father. I frankly told him that I felt very reluctant in submitting myself to the crude principles which seemed to lead us into the most abject slavery, the slavery of our reason and intelligence. I wrote down his answer, which I give here:
"My dear Chiniquy, how did Adam and Eve lose themselves in the Garden of Eden, and how did they bring upon us all the deluge of evils by which we are overwhelmed? Is it not because they raised their miserable reason above that of God? They had the promise of eternal life if they had submitted their reason to that of their Supreme Master.They were lost on account of their rebelling against the authority, the reason of God. Thus it is today. All the evils, the errors, the crimes by which the world is over flooded come from the same revolt of the human will and reason against the will and reason of God. God reigns yet over a part of the world, the world of the elect, through the Pope, who controls the teachings of our infallible and holy Church. In submitting ourselves to God, who speaks to us through the Pope, we are saved. We walk in the paths of truth and holiness. But we would err, and infallibly perish, as soon as we put our reason above that of our superior, the Pope, speaking to us in person, or through some of our superiors who have received from him the authority to guide us."
"But," said I, "if my reason tells me that the Pope, or some of those other superiors who are put by him over me, are mistaken, and that they command me something wrong, would I not be guilty before God if I obey them?"
"You suppose a thing utterly impossible," answered Mr. Leprohon, "for the Pope and the bishops who are united to him have the promise of never failing in the faith. They cannot lead you into any errors, nor command you to believe or do something contrary to the teachings of the Gospel, God would not ask of you any account of an error committed when you are obeying your legitimate superior."
I had to content myself with that answer, which I put down word for word in my note-book. But in spite of my respectful silence, the Rev. Mr. Leprohon saw that I was yet uneasy and sad. In order to convince me of the orthodoxy of his doctrines, he instantly put into my hands the two works of De Maistre, "Le Pape" and "Les Soirees de St. Petersburgh," where I found the same doctrines supported. My superior was honest in his convictions. He sincerely believed in the sound philosophy and Christianity of his principles, for he had found them in these books approved by the "infallible Popes."
I will mention another occurrence to show the inconceivable intellectual degradation to which we had been dragged at the end of seven years of collegiate studies. About the year 1829 the curate of St. Anne de la Parade wrote to our principal, Rev. Mr. Leprohon, to ask the assistance of the prayers of all the students of the College of Nicolet in order to obtain the discontinuance of the following calamity: "For more than three weeks one of the most respectable farmers was in danger of losing all his horses from the effects of a sorcery! From morning, and during most of the night, repeated blows of whips and sticks were heard falling upon these poor horses, which were trembling, foaming and struggling! We can see nothing! The hand of the wizard remains invisible. Pray for us, that we may discover the monster, and that he may be punished as he deserves."
Such were the contents of the priest's letter; and as my superior sincerely believed in that fable I also believed it, as well as all the students of the college who had a true piety. On that shore of abject and degrading superstitions I had to land after sailing seven years in the bark called a college of the Church of Rome!
The intellectual part of the studies in a college of Rome, and it is the same in a convent, is therefore entirely worthless. Worse than that, the intelligence is dwarfed under the chains by which it is bound. If the intelligence does sometimes advance, it is in spite of the fetters placed upon it; it is only like some few noble ships which, through the extraordinary skill of their pilots, go ahead against wind and tide.
I know that the priests of Rome can show a certain number of intelligent men in every branch of science who have studied in their colleges. But these remarkable men had from the beginning secretly broken for themselves the chains with which their superiors had tried to bind them. For peace' sake they had outwardly followed the rules of the house, but they had secretly trampled under the feet of their noble souls the ignoble fetters which had been prepared for their understanding. True children of God and light, they had found the secret of remaining free even when in the dark cells of a dungeon!
Give me the names of the remarkable and intelligent men who have studied in a college of Rome, and have become real lights in the firmament of science, and I will prove that nine-tenths of them have been persecuted, excommunicated, tortured, some even put to death for having to think for themselves.
Galileo was a Roman Catholic, and he is surely one of the greatest men whom science claims as her most gifted sons. But was he not sent to a dungeon? Was he not publicly flogged by the hands of the executioner? Had he not to ask pardon from God and man for having dared to think differently from the Pope about the motion of the earth around the sun!
Copernicus was surely one of the greatest lights of his time, but was he not censured and excommunicated for his admirable scientific discoveries?
France does not know any greater genius among her most gifted sons than Pascal. He was a Catholic. But he lived and died excommunicated.
The Church of Rome boasts of Bossuet, the Bishop of Meaux, as one of the greatest men she ever had. Yes; but has not Veuillot, the editor of the Univers, who knows his man well, confessed and declared before the world that Bossuet was a disguised Protestant?
Where can we find a more amiable or learned writer than Montalembert, who has so faithfully and bravely fought the battle of the Church of Rome in France during more than a quarter of a century? But has he not publicly declared on his death-bed that that Church was an apostate and idolatrous Church from the day that she proclaimed the dogma of the Infallibility of the Pope? Has he not virtually died an excommunicated man for having said with his last breath that the Pope was nothing else than a false god?
Those pupils of Roman Catholic colleges of whom sometimes the priests so imprudently boast, have gone out from the hands of their Jesuit teachers to proclaim their supreme contempt for the Roman Catholic priesthood and Papacy. They have been near enough to the priest to know him. They have seen with their own eyes that the priest of Rome is the most dangerous, the most implacable enemy of intelligence, progress and liberty; and if their arm be not paralyzed by cowardice, selfishness, or hypocrisy, those pupils of the colleges of Rome will be the first to denounce the priesthood of Rome and demolish her citadels.
Voltaire studied in a Roman Catholic college, and it was probably when at their school he nerved himself for the terrible battle he has fought against Rome. That Church will never recover from the blow which Voltaire has struck at her in France.
Cavour, in Italy, had studied in a Roman Catholic college also, and under that very roof it is more than probable that his noble intelligence had sworn to break the ignominious fetters with which Rome had enslaved his fair country. The most eloquent of the orators of Spain, Castelar, studied in a Roman Catholic college; but hear with what eloquence he denounces the tyranny, hypocrisy, selfishness and ignorance of the priests.
Papineau studied under the priests of Rome in their college at Montreal. From his earliest years that Eagle of Canada could see and know the priests of Rome as they are; he has weighed them in the balance; he has measured them; he has fathomed the dark recesses of their anti-social principles; he has felt his shoulders wounded and bleeding under the ignominious chains with which they dragged our dear Canada in the mire for nearly two centuries. Papineau was a pupil of the priests; and I have heard several priests boasting of that as a glorious thing. But the echoes of Canada are still repeating the thundering words with which Papineau denounced the priests as the most deadly enemies of the education and liberty of Canada! He was one of the first men of Canada to understand that there was no progress, no liberty possible for our beloved country so long as the priests would have the education of our people in their hands. The whole life of Papineau was a struggle to wrest Canada from their grasp. Everyone knows how he constantly branded them, without pity, during his life, and the whole world has been the witness of the supreme contempt with which he has refused their services, and turned them out at the solemn hour of his death!
When, in 1792, France wanted to be free, she understood that the priests of Rome were the greatest enemies of her liberties. She turned them out from her soil or hung them to her gibbets. If today that noble country of our ancestors is stumbling and struggling in her tears and her blood if she has fallen at the feet of her enemies if her valiant arm has been paralyzed, her sword broken, and her strong heart saddened above measure, is it not because she had most imprudently put herself again under the yoke of Rome?
Canada's children will continue to flee from the country of their birth so long as the priest of Rome holds the influence which is blasting everything that falls within his grasp, on this continent as well as in Europe; and the United States will soon see their most sacred institutions fall, one after the other, if the Americans continue to send their sons and daughters to the Jesuit colleges and nunneries.
When, in the warmest days of summer, you see a large swamp of stagnant and putrid water, you are sure that deadly miasma will spread around, that diseases of the most malignant character, poverty, sufferings of every kind, and death will soon devastate the unfortunate country; so, when you see Roman Catholic colleges and nunneries raising their haughty steeples over some commanding hills or in the midst of some beautiful valleys, you may confidently expect that the self-respect and the many virtues of the people will soon disappear intelligence, progress, prosperity will soon wane away, to be replaced by superstition, idleness, drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, ignorance, poverty and degradation of every kind. The colleges and nunneries are the high citadels from which the Pope darts his surest missiles against the rights and liberties of nations. The colleges and nunneries are the arsenals where the most deadly weapons are night and day prepared to fight and destroy the soldiers of liberty all over the world.
The colleges and nunneries of the priests are the secret places where the enemies of progress, equality and liberty are holding their councils and fomenting that great conspiracy the object of which is to enslave the world at the feet of the Pope.
The colleges and nunneries of Rome are the schools where the rising generations are taught that it is an impiety to follow the dictates of their own conscience, hear the voice of their intelligence, read the Word of God, and worship their Creator according to the rules laid down in the Gospel.
It is in the colleges and nunneries of Rome that men learn that they are created to obey the Pope in everything-- that the Bible must be burnt, and that liberty must be destroyed at any cost all over the world.
Continue to Chapter Ten
Back to Contents