Auricular Confession -- A Deep Pit of Perdition for the Priest
IT was some time after our dear Mary had been buried. The terrible and mysterious cause of her death was known only to God and to myself. Though her loving mother was still weeping over her grave, as usual, she had soon been forgotten by the greatest part of those who had known her; but she was constantly present to my mind. I never entered the confessional-box without hearing her solemn, though so mild voice, telling me, "There must be, somewhere, something wrong in the auricular confession. Twice I have been destroyed by my confessors; and I have known several others who have been destroyed in the same way."
More than once, when her voice was ringing in my ears from her tomb, I had shed bitter tears on the profound and unfathomable degradation into which I, with the other priests, had to fall in the confessional-box. For many, many times, stories as deplorable as that of this unfortunate girl were confessed to me by city, as well as country females.
One night I was awakened by the rumbling noise of thunder, when I heard some one knocking at the door. I hastened out of bed to ask who was there. The answer was that the Rev. Mr._____ was dying, and that he wanted to see me before his death. I dressed myself, and was soon on the highway. The darkness was fearful; and often, had it not been for the lightning which was almost constantly tearing the clouds, we should not have known where we were. After a long and hard journey through the darkness and the storm, we arrived at the house of the dying priest. I went directly to his room, and really found him very low: he could hardly speak. With a sign of his hand he bade his servant girl, and a young man who were there, to go out, and leave him alone with me.
Then he said, in a low voice, "Was it you who prepared poor Mary to die?"
"Yes, sir," I answered.
"Please tell me the truth. Is it a fact that she died the death of a reprobate, and that her last words were, 'Oh my God! I am lost!' "
I answered him, "As I was the confessor of that girl, and we were talking together on matters which pertained to her confession at the very moment that she was unexpectedly summoned to appear before God, I cannot answer your question in any way; please, then, excuse me if I cannot say any more on that subject: but tell me who can have assured you that she died the death of a reprobate!"
"It was her own mother," answered the dying man. "Last week she came to visit me, and when she was alone with me, with many tears and cries, she said how her poor child had refused to receive the last sacraments, and how her last cry was, 'I am lost!'" She added that that cry, 'Lost!' was pronounced with such a frightful power that it was heard through all the house."
"If her mother told you that, I replied, you may believe what you please about the way that poor child died. I cannot say a word -- you know it -- about the matter."
"But if she is lost," rejoined the old, dying priest, "I am the miserable one who has destroyed her. She was an angel of purity when she came to the convent. Oh! dear Mary, if you are lost, I am a thousandfold more lost! Oh, my God, my God! what will become of me? I am dying; and I am lost!"
It was indeed an awful thing to see that old sinner wringing his hands, and rolling on his bed, as if he had been on burning coals, with all the marks of the most frightful despair on his face, crying, "I am lost! Oh, my God, I am lost!"
I was glad that the claps of thunder which were shaking the house, and roaring without ceasing, prevented the people outside the room from hearing the cries of desolation from the priest, whom every one considered a great saint.
When it seemed to me his terror had somewhat subsided, and that his mind was calmed a little, I said to him, " My dear friend, you must not give yourself up to such despair. Our merciful God has promised to forgive the repenting sinner who comes to Him, even at the last hour of the day. Address yourself to the Virgin Mary, she will ask and obtain your pardon."
"Do you not think that it is too late to ask pardon? The doctor has honestly warned me that death is very near, and I feel that I am just now dying. Is it not too late to ask and obtain pardon?" asked the dying priest.
"No! my dear sir, it is not too late, if you sincerely regret your sins. Throw yourself into the arms of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; make your confession without any more delay; I will absolve you, and you will be saved."
But I have never made a good confession. Will you help me to make a general one?"
It was my duty to grant him his request, and the rest of the night was spent by me in hearing the confession of his whole life.
I do not want to give many particulars of the life of that priest. First: It was then that I understood why poor Mary was absolutely unwilling to mention the iniquities which she had committed with him. They were simply surpassingly horrible -- unmentionable. No human tongue can express them -- few human ears would consent to hear them.
The second thing that I am bound in conscience to reveal is almost incredible, but it is nevertheless true. The number of married and unmarried females he had heard in the confessional was about 1,500, of whom he said he had destroyed or scandalised at least 1,000 by his questioning them on most depraved things, for the simple pleasure of gratifying his own corrupted heart, without letting them know anything of his sinful thoughts and criminal desires towards them. But he confessed that he had destroyed the purity of ninety-five of those penitents, who had consented to sin with him.
And would to God that this priest had been the only one whom I have known to be lost through the auricular confession. But, alas! how few are those who have escaped the snares of the tempter compared with those who have perished? I have heard the confessions of more than 200 priests, and to say the truth, as God knows it, I must declare, that only twenty-one had not to weep over the secret or public sins committed through the irresistibly corrupting influences of auricular confession!
I am now more than seventy-one years old, and in a short time I shall be in my grave. I shall have to give an account of what I now say. Well, it is in the presence of my great Judge, with my tomb before my eyes, that I declare to the world that very few -- yes, very few -- priests escape from falling into the pit of the most horrible moral depravity the world has ever known, through the confession of females.
I do not say this because I have any had feelings against those priests; God knows that I have none. The only feelings I have are of supreme compassion and pity. I do not reveal these awful things to make the world believe that the priests of Rome are a worse set of men than the rest of the innumerable fallen children of Adam; no; I do not entertain any such views; for everything considered, and weighed in the balance of religion, charity and common sense -- I think that the priests of Rome are far from being worse than any other set of men who would be thrown into the same temptations, dangers, and unavoidable occasions of sin.
For instance, let us take lawyers, merchants, or farmers, and, preventing them from living with their lawful wives, let us surround each of them from morning to night, by ten, twenty, and sometimes more, beautiful women and tempting girls, who would speak to them of things which would pulverize a rock of Scotch granite, and you will see how many of those lawyers, merchants, or farmers would come out of that terrible moral battlefield without being mortally wounded.
The cause of the supreme -- I dare say incredible, though unsuspected -- immorality of the priests of Rome is a very evident and logical one. By the diabolical power of the Pope, the priest is put out of the ways which God has offered to the generality of men to be honest, upright and holy.* And after the Pope has deprived them of the grand, holy, and Divine (in this sense that it comes directly from God) remedy which God has given to man against his own concupiscence -- holy marriage, they are placed unprotected and unguarded
* "To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." (I Cor., vii. 2.)
in the most perilous, difficult, and irresistible moral dangers which human ingenuity or depravity can conceive. Those unmarried men are forced, from morning to night, to be in the midst of beautiful girls, and tempting, charming women, who have to tell them things which would melt the hardest steel. How can you expect that they will cease to be men, and become stronger than angels?
Not only are the priests of Rome deprived by the devil of the only remedy which God has given to help them to withstand, but in the confessional they have the greatest facility which can possibly be imagined for satisfying all the bad propensities of fallen human nature. In the confessional they know those who are strong, and they also know those who are weak among the females by whom they are surrounded; they know who would resist any attempt from the enemy; and they know who are ready -- nay, who are longing after the deceitful charms of sin. If they still retain the fallen nature of man, what a terrible hour for them? what frightful battles inside the poor heart? what superhuman effort and strength would be required to come out a conqueror from that battlefield, where a David and a Samson have fallen mortally wounded'?
It is simply an act of supreme stupidity on the part of the Protestant, as well as Catholic public, to suppose or suspect, or hope that the generality of the priests can stand such a trial. The pages of the history of Rome herself are filled with unanswerable proofs that the great generality of the confessors fall. If it were not so, the miracle of Joshua, stopping the march of the sun and the moon, would be childish play compared with the miracle which would stop and reverse all the laws of our common fallen nature in the hearts of the 100,000 Roman Catholic confessors of the Church of Rome. Were I attempting to prove, by public facts, what I know of the horrible depravity caused by the confessional-box among the priests of France, Canada, Spain, Italy, and England, I should have to write many big volumes in folio. For brevity's sake, I will speak only of Italy. I take that country, because, being under the very eyes of their infallible and most holy (?) pontiff, being in the land of daily miracles of painted Madonnas, who weep and turn their eyes left and right, up and down, in a most marvellous way, being in the land of miraculous medals and heavenly spiritual favors, constantly flowing from the chair of St. Peter, the confessors in Italy, seeing every year the miraculous melting of the blood of St. January having in their midst the hair of the Virgin Mary, and a part of her shirt, are in the best possible circumstances to be strong, faithful and holy. Well, let us hear the testimony of an eye-witness, a contemporary, and an unimpeachable witness about the way the confessors deal with the penitent females in the holy, apostolical, infallible (?) Church of Rome.
The witness we will hear is of the purest blood of the princes of Italy. Her name is Henrietta Carracciolo, daughter of the Marshal Carracciolo, Governor of the Province of Pari, in Italy. Let us hear what she says of the Father Confessors, after twenty years of personal experience in different nunneries of Italy, in her remarkable book, "Mysteries of the Neapolitan Convents," pp. 150, 151, 152: "My confessor came the following day, and I disclosed to him the nature of the troubles which beset me. Later in the day, seeing that I had gone down to the place where we used to receive the holy communion, called Communichino, the conversa of my aunt rang the bell for the priest to come with the pyx.* He was a man of about fifty years of age, very corpulent, with a rubicund face, and a type of physiognomy as vulgar as it was repulsive.
"I approached the little window to receive the sacred wafer on my tongue, with my eyes closed,
* A silver box containing consecrated bread, which is believed to be the real body, blood and divinity of Jesus Christ as is customary. I placed it on my tongue, and, as I drew back, I felt my cheeks caressed. I opened my eyes, but the priest had withdrawn his hand, and, thinking I had been deceived, I gave it no more attention.
"On the next occasion, forgetful of what had occurred before, I received the sacrament with closed eyes again, according to precept. This time I distinctly felt my chin caressed again, and on opening my eyes suddenly, I found the priest gazing rudely upon me with a sensual smile on his face.
"There could be no longer any doubt; these overtures were not the result of accident.
"The daughter of Eve is endowed with a greater degree of curiosity than man. It occurred to me to place myself in a contiguous apartment, where I could observe whether this libertine priest was accustomed to take similar liberties with the nuns. I did so, and was fully convinced that only the old left him without being caressed.
"All the others allowed him to do with them as he pleased, and even, in taking leave of him, did so with the utmost reverence.
" 'Is this the respect,' said I to myself, 'that the priests and the spouses of Christ have for their sacrament of the Eucharist? Shall the poor novice be enticed to leave the world in order to learn, in this school, such lessons of self-respect and chastity?' "
Page 163, we read: "The fanatical passion of the nuns for their confessors, priests, and monks, exceeds belief. That which especially renders their incarceration endurable is the illimitable opportunity they enjoy of seeing and corresponding with those persons with whom they are in love. This freedom localizes and identifies them with the convent so closely that they are unhappy, when, on account of any serious sickness, or while preparing to take the veil, they are obliged to pass some months in the bosom of their own families, in company with their fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. It is not to be presumed that these relatives would permit a young girl to pass many hours, each day, in a mysterious colloquy with a priest, or a monk, and maintain with him this correspondence. This is a liberty which they can enjoy in the convent only.
"Many are the hours which the Heloise spends in the confessional, in agreeable pastime with her Abelard in cassock.
"Others, whose confessors happen to be old, have in addition a spiritual director, with whom they amuse themselves a long time every day tete-a-tete, in the parlatoria. When this is not enough, they simulate an illness, in order to have him alone in their own rooms."
Page 166, we read: "Another nun, being somewhat infirm, her priest confessed her in her own room. After a time, the invalid penitent found herself in what is called an interesting situation, on which account, the physician declaring that her complaint was dropsy, she was sent away from the convent.
Page 167: "A young educanda was in the habit of going down, every night, to the convent burying-place, where, by a corridor which communicated with the vestry, she entered into a colloquy with a young priest attached to the church. Consumed by an amorous passion, she was not deterred by bad weather or the fear of being discovered.
"She heard a great noise, one night, near her. In the thick darkness which surrounded her, she imagined that she saw a viper winding itself round her feet.. She was so much overcome by fright, that she died from the effects of it a few months later."
Page 168: "One of the confessors had a young penitent in the convent. Every time he was called to visit a dying sister, and on that account passed the night in the convent, this nun would climb over the partition which separated her room from his, and betake herself to the master and director of her soul.
Another, during the delirium of a typhoid fever from which she was suffering, was constantly imitating the action of sending kisses to her confessor, who stood by the side of her bed. He, covered with blushes on account of the presence of strangers, held a crucifix before the eyes of the penitent, and exclaimed in a commiserating tone: -- "'Poor thing! kiss thy own spouse!'"
Page 168: "Under the bonds of secresy, an educanda of fine form and pleasing manners, and of a noble family, confided to me the fact of her having received, from the hands of her confessor, a very interesting book (as she described it) which related to the monastic life. I expressed the wish to know the title, and she, before showing it to me, took the precaution to lock the door.
It proved to be the Monaca, by Dalembert, a book as all know, filled with the most disgusting obscenity.
Page 169: "I received once, from a monk, a letter in which he signified to me that he had hardly seen me when 'he conceived the sweet hope of becoming my confessor.' An exquisite of the first water, a fop of scents and euphuism, could not have employed phrases more melodramatic, to demand whether he might hope or despair."
Page 169: "A priest who enjoyed the reputation of being an incorruptible sacerdote, when he saw me pass through the parlatoria, used to address me as follows: --
"'Ps, dear, come here; Ps, Ps, come here!'
"These words, addressed to me by a priest, were nauseous in the extreme.
"Finally, another priest, the most annoying of all for his obstinate assiduity, sought to secure my affections at all cost. There was not an image profane poetry could afford him, nor a sophism he could borrow from rhetoric, nor wily interpretation he could give to the Word of God, which he did not employ to convert me to his wishes. Here is an example of his logic: --
" 'Fair daughter,' said he to me one day, 'knowest thou who God truly is?'
"'He is the Creator of the Universe,' I answered drily.
"'No, -- no, -- no, -- no! that it is not enough,' he replied, laughing at my ignorance. 'God is love, but love in the abstract, which receives its incarnation in the mutual affection of two hearts which idolise each other. You, then, must not only love God in His abstract existence, but must also love Him in His incarnation, that is, in the exclusive love of a man who adores you. Quod Deim est amor, nee colitur nisi amando.'
"'Then,' I replied, 'a woman who adores her own lover would adore Divinity itself?'
"Assuredly,' reiterated the priest, over and over again, taking courage from my remark, and chuckling at what seemed to him to be the effect of his catechism.
" 'In that case,' said I, hastily, "I should select for my lover rather a man of the world than a priest.'
"God preserve you, my daughter! God preserve you from that sin!' added my interlocutor, apparently frightened, 'To love a man of the world, a sinner, a wretch, an unbeliever, an infidel! Why, you would go immediately to hell. The love of a priest is a sacred love, while that of a profane man is infamy; the faith of a priest emanates from that granted to the holy Church, while that of the profane is false -- false as the vanity of the world. The priest purifies his affections daily in communion with the Holy Spirit; the man of the world (if he ever knows love at all) sweeps the muddy crossings of the street with it day and night.'
"But it is the heart, as well as the conscience, which prompts me to fly from the priests,' I replied.
"'Well, if you cannot love me because I am your confessor, I will find means to assist you to get rid of your scruples. We will place the name of Jesus Christ before all our affectionate demonstrations, and thus our love will be a grateful offering to the Lord, and will ascend fragrant with perfume to Heaven, like the smoke of the incense of the sanctuary. Say to me, for example, "I love you in Jesus Christ; last night I dreamed of you in Jesus Christ;" and you will have a tranquil conscience, because in doing this you will sanctify every transport of your love."
Several circumstances not indicated here, by the way, compelled me to come in frequent contact with this priest afterwards, and I do not, therefore, give his name."
"Of a very respectable monk, respectable alike for his age and his moral character, I enquired what signified the prefixing the name of Jesus Christ to amorous apostrophes."
"It is,' he said, 'an expression used by a horrible sect, and one unfortunately only too numerous, which, thus abusing the name of our Lord, permits to its members the most unbridled licentiousness."
And it is my sad duty to say, before the whole world, that I know that by far the greater part of the confessors in America, Spain, France, and England, reason and act just like that licentious Italian priest.
Christian nations! If you could know what will become of the virtue of your fair daughters if you allow secret or public slaves of Rome under the name of Ritualists to restore the auricular confession, with what a storm of holy indignation you would defeat their plans!