In those books I have mentioned, they will find the obscene questions which are put by priests and bishops of the Romish church, to all women, young and old, married or single; and if any married man, or father, or brother, will, after the perusal of these questions, allow his wife, his daughter, or his sister, ever again to go to confession, I will only say that his ideas of morality are more vague and loose than those of the heathen or the Turk. Christian he should not be called, who permits these deeds in our midst. I beg here to lay before my readers an extract from a work, recently published in Paris, entitled, "Auricular Confession and Direction.
Michelet, one of the most distinguished writers in France. It has been noticed in the last number of the Foreign Quarterly Review, and in that admirably conducted press, the Boston Courier. There exists in the bosom of society—in the family circle—a serious dissension, nay, the most serious of all dissensions.
They are on one side of the table, you on the other, alone. The priest, as spiritual director, animates that woman with his own ideas, moves her with his own will, fashions her according to his own fancy. And this priest is doomed to celibacy. He is a man, but is bound to pluck from his heart the feelings of a man. If he is without faith, he makes desperate use of his power over those confiding in him. If he is sincerely devout, he has to struggle with his passions, and there is a perilous chance of his being defeated in that struggle. And even should he come off victorious, still the mischief done is incalculable and irreparable.
The woman's virtue has been preserved by an accident, by a power extraneous to herself. She was wax in her spiritual director's hands; she has ceased to be a person , and is become a thing. Paul Louis Courrier has painted a fearful picture of the priest's position as an unmarried confessor; and as Courrier's works are far less read than they deserve to be, we make no scruple of transferring his powerful sentences to our pages.
Love is forbidden them, marriage especially; women are given up to them. They may not have one of their own, and yet live familiarly with all, nay, in the confidential, intimate privity of their hidden actions, of all their thoughts. An innocent girl first hears the priest under her mother's wing; he then calls her to him, speaks alone with her, and is the first to talk of sin to her, before she can have known it. When instructed, she marries; when married, he still confesses and governs her. He has preceded the husband in her affections, and will always maintain himself in them.
What she would not venture to confide to her mother, or confess to her husband, he, a priest, must know it, asks it, hears it, and yet shall not be her lover.
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How could he, indeed? He hears whispered in his ear, by a young woman, her faults, passions, desires, weaknesses, receives her sighs without feeling agitated, and he is five-and-twenty! At the end of the church a species of closet or sentry-box is erected against the wall, where the priest awaits in the evening, after vespers, his young penitent whom he loves, and who knows it; love cannot be concealed from the beloved person.
You will stop me there: his character of priest, his education, his vow I reply that there is no vow which holds good, that every village cure just come from the seminary, healthy, robust, and vigorous, doubtless loves one of his parishioners. It cannot be otherwise; and if you contest this, I will say more still, and that is, that he loves them all , those at least of his own age; out he prefers one, who appears to him, if not more beautiful than the others, more modest and wiser, and whom he would marry; he would make her a virtuous, pious wife, if it were not for the Pope.
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He sees her daily, and meets her at church or elsewhere, and sitting opposite her in the winter evenings, he imbibes, imprudent man! Honesty, duty, wise resolutions, are here of little use, without peculiarly heavenly grace. I will suppose him a saint: unable to fly, he apparently groans, sighs, recommends himself to God; but if he is only a man, he shudders, desires, and already unwillingly, without knowing it, perhaps, he hopes.
She arrives, kneels down at his knees, before him whose heart leaps and palpitates. You are young, sir, or you have been so; between ourselves, what do you think of such a situation? Alone most of the time, and having these walls, these vaulted roofs, as sole witnesses, they talk; of what? This lasts for an hour or more, and is often renewed. This scene takes place such as I describe it; is renewed daily by forty thousand young priests, with as many young girls whom they love, because they are men, whom they confess in this manner, entirely tete-a-tete , and visit, because they are priests, and whom they do not marry, because the Pope is opposed to it.
He is connected with her by the most sacred ties; his interest in her he disguises to himself under the cloak of spiritual anxiety. He can always quiet the voice of conscience by an equivoque. The mystic language of love is also the mystic language of religion, and what guilt is shrouded under this equivoque, the history of priestcraft may show. Parler l'amour c'est faire l'amour , is a profound truth. From the love of God, it is easy to descend to the love of man; especially when this man is a priest, that is to say, a mediator between the woman and God, one who says, 'God hears you through me; through me he will reply.
Michelet's book contains the proofs of what I have just said; but they are too numerous to quote.
I shall only borrow from his work the passages he gives from an unexceptionable authority, Llorente. He told each of them in the confessional that he had received from God a singular favor: "Our Lord," he said, "has deigned to show himself to me in the Sacrament, and has said to me, Almost all the souls that thou dost direct here are pleasing to me, but especially such a one, the capuchin named her to whom he spoke.
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She is already so perfect, that she has conquered every passion, except carnal desire, which torments her very much. Therefore, wishing virtue to have its reward, and that she should serve me tranquilly, I charge thee to give her a dispensation, but only to be made use of with thee; she need speak of it to no confessor; that would be useless, as with such a dispensation she cannot sin.
I should not have laid the above extract before the public, were I not well aware that such is the extraordinary infatuation of Americans on the subject of Popery and confession, that they may suspect my statements of exaggeration. This alone could induce me to give more than my own assertion for the truth of my statements, as no writer upon Popery knows more, or can relate more of Auricular Confession and Direction , than I can myself, of my own knowledge, and from my own personal experience.
I shall not, however, ask American Protestants to take my naked word for anything which I may say on Popery. I shall substantiate all I assert by proofs from history. The title of Christian land should not be given to this country, nor to any country, which legalizes institutions where deeds of darkness are sanctioned, and the foul debauchers of our youth, of our wives and our sisters, find a shelter.
Shall the cowl shelter the adulterous monk in this land of freedom? Are the sons of freemen required to countenance, nay, asked to build impassable walls around a licentious, lecherous, profligate horde of foreign monks and priests, who choose to come among us, and erect little fortifications , which they call nunneries, for their protection? Shall they own by law and by charter places where to bury, hidden from the public eye, the victims of their lust, and the murdered offspring of their concupiscence? Beware, Americans!
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There are bounds, beyond which sinners cannot go. Bear in mind the fact that the same God who can limit the sphere of an individual's crimes, can also limit those of a nation. You have flourished. Take heed lest you begin to decay before you come to full maturity; and I regret to say, that symptoms of this are now apparent. Already can I see the hectic flush of moral consumption upon the fair face of America.
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Already can I see a demon bird of ill omen plunging its poisoned beak into the very vitals of your national existence, stopping here, and stopping there only to dip his wings in the life streams of your national existence, with the sole view of giving its spread more momentum, until it encompasses the whole length and breadth, centre and circumference of your country.
Infidelity is now fast careering and sporting over the whole face of our land, and if history has not deceived us, and our own personal experience has not been vain, it never moves, it never travels, it never exists, unaccompanied by political as well as moral death. Look at ancient Rome, how it fell in its pride! Look at France—how often it has tottered and stumbled in its beauty! Look at England at the present moment,—see how she trembles even in her strength. Think you that all these things were brought about by the causes to which the world would attribute them?
What signifies the Texas question in the sight of God? What the Oregon difficulties? Such things would have happened if our "mother's cat had but kittened, and we ourselves had ne'er been born. The decay of nations, the fall of thrones, are brought about by infidelity, by national insults to the God of nations, by the sins of the people against the King of glory; and how can this country, deeply steeped as it is, and darkly stained as it is, with the crime of aiding Popery, idolatry, and auricular confession; how can it expect, I repeat the words, that the moral breezes of heaven should breathe upon her, and restore to her again that strong and healthy constitution, which her ancestors have left to her sons?
It cannot be. You must, as the lawyers would say, stand "rectus in curia ," before your God. Withdraw your countenance and your support from Popery. Touch not the unclean thing. Then, and not until then, can you raise clean hands and pure hearts to the throne of God, and ask for a blessing upon the United States and its territories.
But it may be replied, all you say of Popery in the old countries may be true, but it is a different thing altogether in the United States. This is a great error on the part of Americans, and I feel it my duty to correct it if possible.
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I am not surprised that, Americans should entertain ideas of this kind. I was once partly of that opinion myself, and, as I stated in a former page, I determined to visit this new and free country, in the hope—alas! I remember well, having consulted a friend on the propriety of such a course, he strongly dissuaded me from it, assuring me that I would find Popery here essentially the same that it was in Europe, with this difference only, that the crimes and private lives of priests and bishops were more grossly immoral, and, though indirectly, more effectually sanctioned by the laws of the land.
This, however, did not satisfy me, and accordingly, having received from my then ecclesiastical superior, what in church parlance is called an Exeat , the document is in my possession, if any one wishes to see it, or, as American theologians would term it, "a regular dismission" from the church where I officiated, I arrived in New York, in Nov. But the reader may well judge of my disappointment, when I found, on my arrival there, not altogether such Romish priests and bishops as I had left behind me,—for many of them were gentlemen by birth, and paid some regard to public decency, even in their profligacies; but a set of coarse, vulgar, half educated, I may say, half civilized, Irish and French brutes, most of whom might be seen daily lolling in grog-shops, and electioneering among the lowest dregs of society.
I have met but one exception to this, and that was the Reverend Wm. Taylor, who was then in New York.
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Having stated to Taylor my object in coming over, I shall never forget the sad and sorrowful smile which but dimly lit up his naturally kind and cheerful countenance. You must not stay in this city. Go into the country. Go to Albany; you may there see less of those scenes from which you have fled; and as I perceive your introductions from Europe to De Witt Clinton, are numerous and of the best kind, you will find much pleasure in the society of that excellent gentleman, and make up your mind either to leave this country, or to retire from the Romish church altogether.
The latter I will do myself, but not without an effort to correct the abuses of Popery. I lost no time in retiring to Albany. The legislature of the State of New York was then commencing its annual session, and though an entire stranger, so high were my testimonials, both from the Romish bishops, as a priest, and from private individuals, as a man of honor and correct deportment, that I was unanimously elected chaplain to the legislature, without any application on my part for such an appointment.
I will not allude to the flattering attentions which were paid to me by the people of Albany, during my residence among them, which was only about six months. The public presses in that city, while I was there, bear witness to the fact.
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