The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional
The Struggle before the Surrender of Womanly
Self-Respect in the Confessional
THERE are two women who ought to be 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
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 secret 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 lips of dying girls, as
well as of married women, the awful words; "I am forever lost! All
my past confessions and communions have been so 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, who had been 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 had
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 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
But what a wretched life must that be 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 forever 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 under 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 forever damned if they do
not degrade themselves forever 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 favor,
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 poured 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
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
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 the heart 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 forever 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 greater 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 a crowd of testimonies that their grand imposture would
forever be unmasked.
I intend, at 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
unanswerable evidence of the fact that, instinctively, without
consulting each other, and 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 thought, 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
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 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 Samson,
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 a 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 honor 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 have I 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, and their womanly dignity, to speak with
me on matters on which a decent woman should never say a word with a
man. They have told me of their invincible repugnance, their horror of
such questions and answers, and they have asked me to have pity on them.
Yes! I have often wept bitterly on my degradation, when a priest of
have realized all the strength, the grandeur, and the holiness of
their motives for being silent on these defiling matters, and 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
honor ought never to converse with a woman whom he respects.
But alas! I had soon to reproach myself, and regret those 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
these 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 matters?
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, desolate girls and
women, to swim with me and all her priests in those waters of Sodom and
Gomorrah, 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.
With what supreme distress, disgust, and surprise, we see, to-day, a
great part of the noble Episcopal Church of England struck by a plague
which seems incurable, under the name of Puseyism, or Ritualism, and
bringing again—more or less openly—in many places the diabolical and
filthy auricular confession among the Protestants of England, Australia
and America. The Episcopal Church is doomed to perish in that dark and
stinking pool of Popery—auricular confession, if she does not find a
prompt remedy to stop the plague brought by the disguised Jesuits, who
are at work everywhere, to poison and enslave her too unsuspecting
daughters and sons.
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 at her father's house, entering the box
of my confessional. She had been used to confess to another young priest
of my acquaintance, and she was always looked upon as one of the most
pious girls of the city. Though she had disguised herself as much as
possible, in order that I might not know her, I felt sure that I was not
mistaken—she was the amiable Mary * *
Not being absolutely certain 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 a 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 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 like 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 if 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 and confess; but by 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 a criminal proposition, which I accepted
with covered words also; and during more than a year, we have lived
together on 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 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 marvellous 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 the
Saviour with tears, are so great that my voice is as choked.
"You understand that I have forever given up my last confessor.
I come to ask you to do me the favor 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
further, I have two favors to ask from you. The first is, that you will
never do anything to ascertain my name; the second is, that you will
never put to me any of those questions by which so many penitents are
lost and so many priests forever 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; but
instead of that, with their unmentionable questions, they pour oil on
the burning fires which are 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 Saviour's 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 then 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 frank declaration of the most humiliating actions, had made
such a profound impression upon me that I was, for some time, unable to
speak. It had come to my mind also that I might be mistaken about her
identify, 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 favor; 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 old and young
priests had already come to confess to me; and that, with the exception
of two, they had told me that they could not put those questions and
hear the answers they elicited, without falling into the most damnable
My confessor seemed to be much perplexed about what he should answer.
"He asked me to come the next day, that he might review some of 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
cannot be helped; for such questions are absolutely necessary in the
greater 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
"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
irresistible, 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 honor
and privilege; but we cannot conceal from ourselves that it puts on our
shoulders a burden which many cannot carry forever. 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 women, Mary Magdalene, and all the
sinners 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 often listened, with breathless attention, to her
melodious voice, when she was giving us, accompanied by her piano, some
of our beautiful Church hymns. Who could then see and hear 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 the 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, if not always, in
spite of himself, is to scandalise 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
But she did not answer me. All that I could hear was: "Oh, my
Jesus, have mercy upon 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
She turned her face a little towards me, and said with 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 that 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 anyone,
except to Christ, because He is my God, and that He already knows them
all. Let me weep and cry at His feet: can you not 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 only too happy to grant 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 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 the penitent on the sins
which he has good reason to suspect have been voluntarily or
With a piercing cry, she exclaimed, Then, O my God, I am lost
This cry fell upon me like a thunderbolt; but I was still more
terror-stricken when, looking through the aperture, I saw she was
fainting; 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 forever!"
We took her home 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 every day., "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, when alone, with tears I requested her to finish her
confession; but, with a firmness which, then, seemed to be 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 penance,
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 forever? 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 silent for a long time; then she said, "It is true
that I was not prepared for the rebuke you have given me, the other day,
in the confessional; 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 bark.
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 with me. 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, and 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 made her confession! I had mercilessly bruised that
tender plant, and there was nothing in my hands to heal the wounds I had
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
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 marvellous 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; however, be patient, it
cannot be long before the solemn hour of the appeal will ring. Will you
please read me the history of the suffering 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
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
After we had silently prayed and wept by her bedside, 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 and skins; and clothed them, that they might not see
each other's nakedness?"
"Yes," I said, this is what the Holy Scriptures tell
"Well, then, how is it possible that our confessors dare to take
away from as 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 forever 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
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 regenerated daughter of Eve, 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
her priests in the confessional-box. I felt, in that hour, a supreme
horror for that auricular confession, which is so often a pit of
perdition and supreme misery for the confessor and penitent. I went out
and 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 Wolfe and Montcalm had fought and died; and I wept to my
heart's content, on my irreparable degradation, and the degradation of
so many 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 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
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 many sins which you will never declare either to me or any
" 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
spent 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 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
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
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 surpassing anything the 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; 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
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 instant the mother rushed into the room, crying, My God!
my God! what does that cry 'lost' mean?"—For her last words,
"not to 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
multitude of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb,
to sing the eternal Alleluia.
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