The Priest, the Woman and the Confessional

By CHARLES CHINIQUY

A former priest warns of the dangers of the confessional


CHAPTER 4

How the Vow of Celibacy of the Priests is Made Easy by Auricular Confession

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 machine of demoralization which the world has ever seen.

About the year 1830, there was in Quebec a fine-looking young priest; he had a magnificent voice, and was a pretty good speaker. 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 revival), 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, and her desires. Sometimes she was remarked to have remained a whole hour in the confessional-box, accusing herself of all her human frailties. What did she say? God only knows; but what became hereafter known by a great part of the entire part of the population 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 two many eyes upon them. But the confessor was a man of resources. On the last day of the Novena, he said to his beloved penitent, "I am going now to Montreal; but in three days, I will take the steamer back to Quebec. That steamer is accustomed to stop here. At about twelve, at night, be on the wharf dressed as a young man; but 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, there, we will be happy together."

The fourth 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, of course, all in vain. Many public and private prayers were offered to God to help her 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 at the sad end of Geneva, she was in the parsonage of the rich 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, and 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 the Rev. Mr. D -- -, and also with the Right Rev. Bishop 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, who was also the Curate of Quebec, made it almost impossible to imagine 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 that 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 upon himself one day 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 most deplorable suspicions.

The position of the Right Rev. Bishop and his vicars, was, then, 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 these 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, and many sleepless nights succeeded the too happy ones of better times. But what was to be done? There were breakers ahead; breakers on the right, on the left, and on every side. However, when everyone, particularly the venerable (?) Coadjutor, felt as criminals who expect their sentence, and that their horizon seemed surrounded absolutely by only dark and stormy clouds, a happy opening suddenly presented itself to the anxious sailors.

The curate of "Les Eboulements," the Rev. Mr. Clement, had just come to Quebec on some private business, and had taken up 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 thus removed.

Joseph, once installed into the parsonage of the pious (?) parish priest of the Eboulements, soon gained the favor of the whole people by his good and winning manners, and every parishioner complimented the curate on the smartness of his new servant. 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 neighbors, 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 these remarks privately, began, little by little, to convey their views to their next neighbor, 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 live near his good master, consented also to marry the 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 of 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 some time 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 enquired 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 but be struck with his sudden change of color.

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 everyone. 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 an ante-mortem inquest. The Honorable Lateriere, who was called, and made the proper inquiry, declared 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 forever 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 and boldly before the people of Canada?

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

They immediately sent a trustworthy man with 500, to say to the girl that if she remained at 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 500 if she would promise to go and never return.

She accepted the offer, crossed the lines, and has never gone back to Canada, where her sad history is well known by thousands and thousands.

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 I say.*

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

* This was written in 1874. Now, in 1880, I have to say that Rev. Mr. Tetreau died in 1877, in the peace of God, in Montreal. Twice before his death he ordered out the priests of Rome, who had come to try to persuade him to make his peace with the Pope, calling them "Suppots de Satan" -- "Devil's Messengers."


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