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The life and times of the Rt. Rev. John Timon, D. D. : first Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo online

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would spoil what was then, in its beautiful simplicity, a trulv
noble church. Bishop Tinion went out to \isit his dirx;ese. At
his return he found the monstrous addition which he had forbid-
den, already far out of ground. The trustees tlirew the blame
on their pastor, but the Bishop knew that a large share belonged
to the trustees, for he had spf»ken at length to them ; they had
shown him the plan ; to them, and to them alone, he had uttered
the words of strong prohibition ; no occasirm had occurred for the
same language to be used to their piistor. Yet, at the reipiest of
the pastor, the Bishop Mithdrew his orders for demolishing the
works begun ; declaring, however, that he could not sanction it,
but that he would remain silent under certain conditions, which
were accepted, hut which were not fulfilled. A most useless
expense for disfiguring their church, and a large debt, were the
results of this disobedience.

" The Bisho}) brought Sisters of Charity to teach a free sclnx>l
for the girls of St. L<^uis church; the trustees declared to the pas-
tor that they did not want them, and thus frustrated the desire
of the Bishop to secure good pantchial schools for tluit flock.
But wliy enumerate? the very grave digger was othcially advised
by the trustees to resist the Bishop's orders. And secret insinua-
tions were in continual use to cause disquietude, distrust, and
trouble amidst a good^ simple, and xoell disposed people. The
correspondence, now given verhatim^ will itself prove this. Dur-
ing the Bishop's absence in Europe, the pastor found his position
so unpleasant that he quit it; the French, who had sirffered much
from the trustees, also left St. Louis church, and founded a new
congregation in the church of St. Peter.* The Bishop, at his
return, tried to remedy the evil. The trustees and their adherents
rejected his propositions; but on August 30th, ISoO, they them-
selves prepared, in rather bad English, the following dociuuent,
which the Bishop accepted :

* Corner Clinton and Washington streets.



124 IJFE A2s'D TIMES OF



" ' To THE Rt. Rev. Joun Timon, Bishop of BxiffaU :

"'The undersigned, trustees of the Roman Catliolic churcli,of
St. Louis, in the city of Buffalo, regret that misunderstanding
has arisen between them and their Bishop, regarding the right-
and duties that devolve on tliem under the hiws of the State, in
the administration of the aifairs of the said St. Louis church.

"'Whatever may have been the character or extent of our
past differences, we regret them, and pray the Bishop to forget
them. We propose to the Bishop that he and his successors in
office, and we, abide and be governed by the following rules and
ref]rulations :

" ' On our part we acknowledge that, according to the laws of
the State, the titles of the temporalities of the church are vested
in the Bishop and his successors in office, in trust for the sole use
and only purp<)ses of the congregation. That the Bisho]>, for the
time being, according to the sj^iritual and Divine laws, is guardian
of the church and its property. We bind ourselves to do nothing
having reference to spiritual matters without the ])ermission and
consent of the Bishop, and truly and faithfully to observe and
fulfill his command in that regard. We propose to administer
the temporal affairs of the church under the counsel arid advice
of the Bishop, as becomes the children of God and of the Bishop.
We acknowledge that the Bishop and pastor appointed by him
for the time being are accountable to God as guardians of their
flocks, and as such we acknowledge that they have the right to
superintend the schools attached to the church, and we pledge
our best exertions in aid of the clergy for the success of the school
and the education of the youth. The trustees shall, under the
direction of the Bishop, select the teacher or teachers of the
school, and no teacher shall be appointed without the sanction of
the Bishop or pastor. We consent and agree that the rector
appointed by the Bishop for the time being, shall preside over
the deliberations of the trustees, and have his vote. The under-
signed trustees shall not and will not expend over one hundred
dollars at any one time on any improvements, repairs, or building,



RIGHT REV. JOHN TEVION, D. D. 125

or in any manner, without the knowledge and consent of the
Bishop, and we ask and desire that the Bishop and tlie rector
for the time being, will use their power, advice, and influence to
prevent the election hereafter of any person as trustee who may
be known as a person of immoral character or who fails to per-
form his duty as a christian, and we pledge ourselves never to
wish for or assist in the election of any such person.

" ' Finally, we wish sincerely to cooperate with the clergy in
all things tending to the glory of God, the good of ourselves, the
welfare of our people, and to the prosperity of our church.

" ' Dated Bufi.'alo, August 3d, 1850.

(Signed.) '"N. OTTENOT,

'"J. HABERSTRO,
'"JNO. CIIRETIEX,
'•'JACOB WILHELM,
" ' GEORGE ZIMMERMAN.

' ' Mr. Eslinger had removecl to Wisconsin.

" 'Mr. Handel had resigned.'

" To induce the Bishop to waive his opposition to the useless
expense of the addition to St. Louis church, and to convince him
that they would be prudent in not contracting debts beyond what
the church could easily pay, the trustees, over and over again,
declared to the Bishop that the debts they miight contract would
be on their own individual responsibility. The Bishop did
not wish them to suffer, but he ought, at least, to have been con-
sidted when the trustees laid aside the check which their own
declaration had placed on future imprudent enterprises ; yet,
before Bishop or pastor knew anything of it, the trustees trans-
ferred the burden to many generous members of the congregation.
They or their abettors acted with regard to Bishop Timon as,
after having demanded pardon of Bishop Hughes, they had acted
with him ; then they published that they had triumphed ; that
Bishop Hughes had been forced to cede. It was only after some
good christian had translated into German, and published the
trustees' apology, inserted in the Commercial Advertiser of 10th
August, 1844, that the good Germans of the congregation were



126 LIFE AND TIIMES OF



undeceived. So, also, after signing the above document, they pub-
lish in the German papers of Buffalo that they had triumphed, and
of course that Bishop Timon was forced to acknowledge his error.
Bishop Timon, who sought no honor of triumph, was silent until,
emboldened by his silence, they had these articles translated into
English for a population who, being unacquainted w^ith the
preliminaries, could not easily detect the falsehood. Then an
answer was published ; the document was shown to the editors
of two principal gazettes, in which the false boast of victory had
been published, and those editors, with generous indignation for
the attempted deception, publislied in a few words the facts and
their convictions. Various other arts were used. It is scarcely
possible that the trustees would descend to some of them, it was
the work of the party.

"After having taken advice from pious, learned and distin-
guished priests, on Easter Sunday, Bishop Timon addressed the
following letter to the congregation :

" ' Having long borne with patience from the trustees' acts of
usurped authority which have plunged your church in debt, and
others which have caused this, once the most flourishing congre-
gation in my diocese, to gradually fall away, so that whilst St.
Mary's church has six or seven hundred children in the parish
schools, you have but a handful; and, under incessant insinuations
that your Bishop wants to do now ihis^ now that^ the spirit of
unholy distrust and of murmuring has entered the fold, and the
piety of many has grown cold ; it becomes our duty to remedy
so sad a state of things. We are the more impelled to this by a
step taken witliout our knowledge, and which we only learned a
few days ago. It seems that many of the congregation were
called upon to assume the jjayment of a debt for a needless addi-
tion to this church, began without my permission, and against all
tlie laws of the church and the diocese. Now, under proper
management, the resources of this church would suffice to pay
the debt. You know, beloved bretliren, that when you invited
the Jesuits to come and serve this church, these fathers proposed
that they would assume the debts of the church, and 'furnish as



EIGHT KEY. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 127

many German priests as might be necessary for your fullest
spiritual comfort. Second, That this church should remain for
ever the parish church of the German Catholics of tnis congrega-
tion, and that the Rev. Father would build school houses for
your children. Now, if the Jesuits could offer such advan-
tageous conditions, why did the trustees burden many of you
with personal obligations for this debt?

" ' The promises these gentlemen made to me last August, have
been broken in a most important feature. They bound themselves
in a written article, that the parish priest should be president of
the board ; yet they have elected a lay president, contrary to the
letter and the spirit of our agreement. Beloved brethren, you
ought to know that even in Protestant churches of this State, the
pastor is generally the only president of the board ; so that those
trustees wish to have your church under a far more Presbyterian
government than most of the Protestant churches themselves.
We know not what thus presses those gentlemen to meddle with
the affairs of God's house ; the priest or Bishop never thinks of
meddling with the affairs of your houses, or with the affairs of
houses consecrated to civic or political uses ; though b}^ his taxes
the priest pays in part for those houses affected to civic uses, he
willingly leaves the care of them to men of the world ; but the
priest, the man of God, the Bishop, as minister of God, is bound
to take care of God's house. We willingly use the help of lay-
men in temporal affairs, but then upon the laymen whom we
call to help us the power descends from above, it does not come
from below ; the Bishop and the priest are called by God through
a superior power, which also comes from God, and the laymen
we call to aid us have their power also from above, through the
Bishop's nomination ; then all is in peace, and God's blessing
dwells in His houses. We now name five responsible men, K.
K. 'N. 'N. N., as administrators of this church in temporal affairs.

We also name Father C , the priest you desired, to be pastor;

he will be assisted by two other clergymen, in whose zeal and
piety you and we have full confidence. We declare that, hence-
forward, the so called trustees have no right in this church. The



128 LIFE AND TIMES OF



l^ropertj is vested in us for your use. If they wish to be trustees,
let them find a church in which to exercise their functions, but
they will never have a priest to minister. '

"The Bishop having understood that the most unfounded state-
ments had been made by the adverse party, had, on the following
Sunday, a letter read to the flock, as follows :

''''''Beloved Brethren: On tiiat holy and most solemn day,
when our Blessed Lord rose from the dead, and twice wished
peace to His redeemed, I sought to procure the true and holy
peace of this congregation by the declaration made to you last
Sunday, and from which my love for you and for your happiness
and peace in time and eternity, will never permit me to recede.
But, with grief, I learn that now, as heretofore, men whom the
spirit of party blinds and agitates, whisper among the people
insidious doubts, and false, malignant insinuations. It is for your
peace that I should notice them ; for me to be calumniated or to
be praised is all the same, and whether I succeed or do not suc-
ceed in mj efforts for your peace, God will reward my upright
intentions. I seek but my God, and your salvation and happi-
ness, for His glory. I have not long to live; I seek for nothing on
earth, and it is my joy to know that when I die, all that is
entrusted to me shall remain for the uses for which it was given,
and I will retain nothing but my cofiin and my shroud. Hence
what I now say to you is not to defend myself, but to prevent the
father of lies from destroying your peace.

" ' First, Beloved brethren, it has been said to you that I
wished to take your church. Now, from my first coming among
you, to many questions and proposals I ever returned the same
answer, that I abhorred the very idea of permitting this church
to be ever diverted from its application to the use of the German
congregation of St. Louis church. I never wanted your church
except to hold it in trust for you according to my deed, and to
the very declaration of your trustees. I wish your church to be
administered as almost all the churches in America, and as all
the churches in my diocese but this, are administered ; so that
your trustees may not so fetter the action of your clergy, that



RIGHT KEY. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 129



they can do little for your spiritual comfort, little for the ednca
tion of your children. I now declare solemnly to yon, as I often
declared to your trustees, that I do not want your cliurch, except
(in the very words of the donor, Mr. Lecouteulx,) ' in trust to me
and my successors in office of Bishop for your sole use and bene-
fit.' I do not want the revenues of your church, do not even want
to meddle with them; the revenues of your church shall be hence-
forth more carefully, more exactly, and most scrupulously applied
to the sole use and benefit of this congrerration and church.
Alas, had I taken this measure three years ago, your beautiful
church would now, I am sure, be finished, be well ornamented,
and be out of debt.

"'Let any of those who resist the Bishop show me a text
of scripture which constitutes them your pastors and guardians
of your church rights. Be not deceived, beloved brethren; hear
the blessed apostle saying to you, 'obey your pastors and be
subject to them, for they watch, as having to give an account
to God of your souls.'

"A few days after, a committee, having as their president
a gentleman who seldom came to church, and who never
approached the sacraments, speaking in the name of the con-
gregation, but really representing a minority of the fiock, handed
to the Bishop the following document, containing self lauda-
tions, many vague words, and worse :

RESOLUTIONS.

'"The committee appointed by the incorporated Society of St.
Louis, to draw resolutions concerning the contents of the pastoral,
published from the pulpit instead of the sermon, on the feast of
the Easter, A. D. 1851, by Rev. Mr. Eaffeiner, by the orders of
the Bt. Rev. J. Timon, Bishop of the Diocese of Buffiilo, Erie
county, State of 'New York, by which (pastoral) said congregation
of St. Louis is to be forcibly debarred of her legal administration
of the temporal affairs of the church, in virtue of the State
Charter of the 2d December, 1838, and to propose the same
resolutions to the meeting adjourned to the 2Tth of April, 1851,

(9)



130 LIFE AND TIMES OF



for their approbation, has the honor to answer with this the
wishes of the said congregation, and respectfully to j)ropose its
resolutions to their examination,

" ' 1st. Resolved^ That the society of the St, Louis, before all,
regrets most heartily that for several years they have been so
often disturbed in their truly christian peace and indefatigable
zeal in doing good, by their own clergy, the Rt, Rev. J. B. Tiinon,
Bishop, included, and are yet, disturbed, for this only reason, that
they (the congregation,) refuse to give over to the E-t. Rev. Bishop
Tiraon, as his free and absolute property, their beautiful new
church of St. Louis — which they have built with their own means,
and which was solemnly consecrated — so that he might, as the
rumor has gone abroad, appropriate the same for the use of the
Irish congregation. And, wdiereas, the Rt. Rev. Bishop, (since
all his previous attempts to grasp at said St. Louis church have
rebounded against the firmness of St. Louis congregation, which
constantly fought, and always will fight for its rights,) has betaken
himself to violent measures, which not only are in direct opposi-
tion to the laws of the State, but may turn very pernicious to the
holy Roman Catholic religion in the Union.

" ' 2d. Resolved^ Whereas, the Rt. Rev. Bishop refused person-
ally to communicate to the committee appointed legally by the
board of the trustees, composed of Messrs. J. Haberstro and
Anton Diebold, the pastoral published from the pulpit in St.
Louis church, on Easter Sunday, (either the original or a copy
thereof,) St. Louis congregation cannot but regret that the Right
Rev. Bishop should have caused to be published from the j)ulpit
upon one of the holiest festivals of the year; and at the solemn
Divine service, in place of a religious discourse, that wdiich he
feels not inclined to entrust to two citizens.

'"3d. Resolved^ That the congregation of St. Louis will not take
the least notice of the said pastoral, since said congregation was
incorporated as a religious society under an act of this State,
passed April 5th, 1813, with the consent of the generous donor,
Louis Lecouteulx, and also with the consent of the Right Rev.
Dubois, Bishop of I*Tew York ; and that, although at that time.



EIGHT KEY. JOHN TIMON, D, D. 131

when the well known lot on which the St. Louis church stands,
the society as such had no legal existence, and the land had been
deeded in trust to the Bishop of New York and his successors,
that trust has entirely ceased since the act of incorporation,
December 2d, 1838, and was transferred to the incorporated
society of St. Louis, which shall see to it, that in all circumstances
their charter may be preserved in all its strength. That the
society of St. Louis will always call for his advice in the admin-
istration of the temporal afitiirs of the church.

" ' ■Ith. Resolved, Whereas, neither the board of trustees, nor
the society of St. Louis, had ever made to the Rt. Rev. Bishop J.
B. Timou, or to the Rev. Fathers Jesuits, or to any body whatso-
ever, any proposition that the said fathers of the Society of Jesus
might take charge of the religious (spiritual) affairs of St. Louis
society. This is founded on an error, of which the Rev. Bfshop
nnist be as well convinced as the board of the trustees, for, when
the trustees were invited by the Rt. Rev. Y. G. F. Guth to call
at the Bishop's instantly and in great hurry, they had not the
slightest knowledge of the plan of giving St. Louis church into
the hands of the Rev. Fathers Jesuits ; they were opposed to
having the Superior of the Jesuits sent for, until the Right Rev.
Bishop told them personally, as they were retiring, that he had
spoken over the matter with his Yicar General G., so as to
appoint the Fathers Jesuits for this place, etc., etc. That some
other individuals, moved by ambition and self-interest, had l)een
working to the same purpose, is perfectly well known to St. Louis
society. St. Louis society had been till now attended by secular
priests, who stand under their Bishop, and never preferred
against them any complaint, notwithstanding the many chances
of doing it. It only wishes to have such pastors who will do
honor, not only to St. Louis church, but to the whole Roman
Catholic religion in the Old and New World.

" ' 5th. Besolved, That the reproach about religious schools of
St. Louis church lies not at the door of the trustees or of the con-
gregation, but rather of the clergy of said chm-ch, as no teacher
was appointed to said school without the consent of the pastor, if



132 LIFE AND TIMES OF



not bj his strong and formal request ; but that, as soon as the
teacher had the misfortune of calling on himself the displeasure
of the pastor, there was no more mercy for him, and he had to
leave the situation. This is a fact.'

"Several other 'resolutions' of minor importance, but each one
strongly marked by misrepresentation and disregard for truth,
follow. The document was duly signed, and dated April 27th,
1851.

" To this document, in which every paragraph contains misre-
presentation, false insinuations, and absolute falsehoods, the
Bishop addressed the following answer :

'"From a committee, styling itself your organ, and having for
president a gentleman who never practices his religious duties as
a Catholic, I received a paper full of falsehoods and insult.
Judge for yourselves, beloved brethren. That document says
that ' this congregation has been disturbed in its truly christian
peace, by the clergy and the Bishop, only because they refuse to
give up to Bishop Timon their church as his free and absolute
property.' Now, my brethren, did I ever ask you for such a
thing? Have I not, on the contrary, often and most solemnly
declared that I want nothing but to maintain the trust for you,
as Mr. Lecouteulx had given it ; and that I wished that trust to
be administered for you by some from amongst yourselves, viz :
by some laymen whose power, deriving from their Bishop, might
come from above. How then dare those men say, in a public
document, that the only cause of disturbance is my wish to get
the absolute property of your church? I understand well enough
the laws of my country, to know that the trustees could not give
me such absolute right, even if they would, nor even could you,
beloved brethren, give such right, and far am I from wishing it,
StUl those men persevere in the slanderous assertion, which origi-
nated with their party, in order to sow distrust between you and
your Bishop, and, in this document, they even dare to say, ' the
Bishop wants to get the free and absolute property of this church
in order, as rumor spreads, that he may give it to his Irish
congregation ! ' May God have mercy on such deluded and



EIGHT REV. JOHN TLMON, D. D. 133

deluding men, who dare to say that I even thought of taking St
Louis church from you to give to the Irish ! But who was it that
set so lying and slanderous a rumor in motion ? Was it not the
very party that now dares, in a public document, boldly to
endorse it? >.

'"Beloved brethren, we need waste no mofe words on this
subject. Any man of sense, any christian will now see that the
Bishop and the priests of a God of peace and truth, can have no
fittino; connection with an order of things which allows the father
of lies to insinuate his malicious suspicions, first in a whisper,
then more boldly, and finally in a public document, openly and
unblushingly, striving to deceive God's people, first by insinua-
tion and doubt, then by bold assertion, until, as occurred with
Eve, they honor and esteem their spiritual authorities as long as
they live up to the rules of the Roman Catholic Church, of course,
the trustees of St. Louis church heing judges !

" ' I might rely on the law, and appeal for my rights to the
courts, but, beloved brethren, I am not so fond of law as to
engacre in lawsuits for it, unless my duty compel me ; your Cath-
olic spirit, and the mild exercise of my Episcopal right, will, I
trust, suffice. I seek but for the salvation of the souls entrusted
to my care; provided they find peace and holy piety, though in a
shed like that in which the Redemptorists long worshiped, I
would be better satisfied than to see them in a splendid church,
in which the spirit of lies and rebellion would be continually
gnawing away the vitals of true piety.

" ' If, therefore, beloved brethren, the resolutions handed to me
be really the resolutions of a majority of the congregation, (which
I do not believe,) I must only ^vithdraw the priests immediately.
It is your duty to manifest your sentiments. Tlierefore let those
who love their God in their religion, and who adhere to their
Bishop, as to the visible centre of Church unity in this diocese,
let them declare themselves freely and fearlessly. God will bless
and protect those who stand up for His cause. May He inspire
into your hearts holy zeal and courage, to confess Him before
men, that He mav acknowledge you before His Heavenly Father.'



134 LIFE AND TIMES OF



" This letter produced a due effect upon what appeared to be
a large majority; they remained after mass in the church; the
party adverse to the Bishop retired; whilst the pastor was exhort-
ing those within to give a calm and fearless declaration of their
sentiments, tlje turbulent party, finding themselves a feeble
minority, and that the good and peaceable had not, as usual,



Online LibraryCharles George DeutherThe life and times of the Rt. Rev. John Timon, D. D. : first Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo → online text (page 11 of 30)