Charles George Deuther.

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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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 12 of 30)
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gone home, rushed into the church, insulted the pastor, menaced
him with personal violence, and ordered him out. He retired,
bearing; our Lord in the most blessed sacrament out with him.
For several succeeding Sundays, an unauthorized, uncatholic
worship was held in the church. It became the Bishop's duty to
interfere. He addressed the following letter to them :

" ' Buffalo, June 14, 1851.
"'^ the faithful of the congregation of St. Louis church:

"'After exhausting all means of patience and of kindness to
induce the trustees and their abettors to permit the laws of the
Church to be freely executed in your congregation ; after having
known that your pastor M^as insulted in the church, menaced,
there in presence of the trustees, and ordered to leave the house
of God, and thus forced to withdraw ; we have the grief to see
that a kind of schismatic worship has been there established by
the trustees ; some of the sacred vestments, used in Divine
worship, are placed on the children ; the altars are adorned,
vespers sung, the organ played, etc., whilst many neglect mass to
assist at such rites. By the laws of God's Church, such acts
subject those who assist at them to various spiritual penalties,
and force the Bishop to declare, as we' now do, St. Louis church
to be under an interdict ; and consequently that no child of the
Church can, witliout grievous sin, assist there at such rites and
prayers, whilst this sad state of things continues. May God save
our beloved in Christ from awful punishment, such as He inflicted
in times past on those who, in. their worldly wisdom,, rebelled
against Moses and Aaron.'

" Strange how the same spirit has ever followed the said ' cor-
poration.' Bishop Hughes never dreamed of taking their church.


Yet in 1843 the innocent Germans were deceived by the party
to believe it. That same part}'^, on the 21st June, 1851, had the
following article inserted in the Morning Exjpress^ of Buffalo :

" ' St. Louis Church. — This church, the oldest of that persua-
sion in our city, and the only one, perhaps, incorporated according
to the laws of this State, is involved in serious ditiiculties with
Bishop Timon, we understand in consequence of a refusal to
abandon to him their church property, and the administration of
their temporal affairs. A few years ago that congregation expe-
rienced the same troubles with Bishop Hughes, from a like cause,
but after a rupture of two years, matters were settled to their
satisfaction, they being secured in the enjoyment of their former
rights. We learn that Bishop Timon has been more severe Avith
the congregation of St. Louis than was Bishop Hughes, having,
(after depriving them of their priests for the last two months,) on
Sunday, the 19th inst., caused a pastoral letter to be read in all
the Catholic churches of the diocese, by which he pronounces
excommunication against that church and its congregation ! We
know nothing of the merits of this controversy, save what we
hear, but it looks a little like taking us back to ages almost for-
gotten, when such things occur in a free country, where all
religions are equally acknowledged and tolerated.'

" In the same paper of the 24th June, the following answer
appeared :

" 'St. Louis Church. — ^The upright-minded editor of the Exjiress
has been deceived, as was, by the same party, the editor of the
Buffalo Gazette decewed in 1843. Bishop Timon never sought
for any property in the St. Louis church other than the deed Mr.
Lecouteulx gave, and the laws of the Church made it the Bishop's
duty to maintain. He never even wished to administer the
revenues of the church, but, he was bound to see them adminis-
tered in a Catholic spirit. The statements published in the
Express of Saturday morning, are as false, with regard to Bishop
Timon, as were false, with regard to Bishop Hughes, the state-
ments in the Buffalo Gazette^ which drew forth the following
letter from that learned and distinguished prelate ; the only


difference is, that Bishop Timon has long and patiently borne
mth much more than Bishop Hughes had to bear with from the
same party, , It is false that Bishop Timon has excommunicated
any one of that church. When the pastor (insulted and menaced
in the church by a turbulent minority who domineer there,) was,
by them, ordered out of it, he did leave it. And, when many
were deceived by the semblance of a public, un catholic worship,
and neglected the great act of Catholic worship, (the mass,) at
which they might have assisted in different churches of the city,
then the Bishop, according to the laws of the Church and the
decrees of the Council of Buffalo, pronounced an interdict on the
church, that is, forbade any public worship in it. If any one
incurs excommunication, it will be by his own act, for refusing to
obey the laws of the Church, and assisting at a schismatic

'"The name of Bishop Hughes having been united in blame
with the name of Bishop Timon, it is ho23ed that the generous
editor of the JExpress will publish his letter as inserted in the
Buffalo Gazette for April 4th, 1843.*


" The following document will close the evidence now offered
to the public :

" Extract from a letter written by J. A. Yandyke, Esq., a Protes-
tant lawyer of high standing, to Bishop Le Fevre, of Detroit,
on a case very similar to that of the church of St. Louis, in
Buffalo : ,

" ' Mr. and Mrs. Beaubien donated the land on which the
German Catholic church is erected. I prepared the deed ; it ran
from the donors directly to yourself, (Bishop Le Fevre,) as acting
Bishop, and to the Bishop who should succeed you in this
diocese, and to his successors as such Bishop, being and holding
according to the rites of the Church. It was in trust for the use
of a German Catholic congregation, worsljiping and to worship
according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church. There

* See page 109.


existed at the time of the deed, since, and still exists, a statute
in this State providing that a given number of stated hearers of
a congregation may take certain proceedings, give notice, elect
trustees, and fully incorporate themselves, and that, on becoming
incorporated, the whole of the church property, etc., by whomso-
ever held in whatsoever manner or name, for the use ot such
congregation, should pass to and vest in the corporation. A
certain portion of the German congregation went to work and
incorporated themselves, and having so done, undertook to assume
and exercise control over the church affairs, and, among other
things, to rent pews. You, by the appointed priest, remained in
possession, continued the exercise of full control, and to rent out
the pews ; a pew being held by one under you, was claimed by
a tenant under the incorporation ; his claim, and attempt to
enforce it, vi et arinis^ being successfully resisted, he brought suit
to gain possession of his alleged rights ; it then and thus became
necessary to try titles.

" ' We contended that the deed, on its face, was one of special
trusts, that it was a contract, etc., which prevented all inter-
ference by the statutory regulations and corporation thereunder.
But we were desirous to test the principle and fix the rule in the
State ; a principle so important to your church, and going to the
right of its existence here in its integrity and uncrippled exer-
cise. We therefore claimed — That the cmion law constituted
part of the discipline, rules and regulations of the Catholic
Church ; that discipline, as well as ftiith, made up the Church ;
that it was part of that law, and hence of the Church ; that the
Church .property could not be vested in laymen ; that such was
the decree of the Council of Baltimore, which itself was a mere
declaration of the old canon law ; that although the courts of this
country would not regard the canon law of the land, yet that
they would regard and enforce it as a matter of contract between
church members, as part of the discipline and government of the
Church, where it did not come into collision with the laws of the
country. We claimed that, whenever the Church existed unfet-
tered by the arm of temporal power, usage and custom were in


accordance with the said rule of the canon law; that, in fact, no
Catholic could in conscience thus join in such incorporation; that
the thing was against his duty and religion ; that it was fraud
upon the Church and the rights of members who refused to join
this faction ; that said statute was only permissive in its nature ;
that it gave the privilege to persons and churches, who could
properly avail themselves thereof, to become incorporated, but
never could be construed to compel members of a church to join
in an act against their religion and duty, and with a faction
banded against their ministers and faith, or suffer the penalty of
seeing the church property wrested from them; that if such
things could be, it would be, in fact, denying the freedom of con-
science and the free exercise of religion and worship of God, and
would be unconstitutional, if held to apply. We proved that
such was the canon law; we succeeded in obtaining judgment in
the court below, sustaining us in every point; and the case going
up to the Supreme Court, we recently obtained a full affirmation;
thus affording to you a shield and protection of the most invalu-
able character.

" ' As regards the information which. Bishop Timon asks of you,
I will briefly say : A deed is made by a donor to the church, he
vests the title thereto in the Bishop, according to the law of the
Church. All persons who join that church, in joining, ascribe
to, and agree to be governed by, not only the faith, but also the
discipline of that church. A court of law, in deciding as to the
rights between litigant parties will look at that discipline as the
contract. It will be seen that Catholics cannot incorporate them-
selves under such a law, and for such a purpose. The very
attempt to do so excommunicates themselves ; they are at once
at war with the Church. The thing is a fraud upon the Church.
The statute must be held inapplicable to a church Math such a
discipline and rule. And the attempt to make such an appli-
cation is an attempt to prevent them from the free and unre-
stricted right of worshiping God according to the dictates of their
own conscience.'


" If a Protestant lawyer thus speaks, and if a Protestant jury,
and Protestant judges of the Supreme Court sustain him, should
Catholics be less just?


" As answer to the above plain documents, many letters full of
insult and void of proof, appeared in some German papers of
Buffalo, the parties even descending so low as to use the Luegen
Feind^ a scurrilous infidel gazette. The Bishop counseled his
clergy not to answer such unchristian efilisions. W. B. Lecouteulx,
Esq., who, for long years, has not approached the sacraments,
and who now, as in the time of Bishop Hughes, courts the uneur
viable position of leader in the war against Church discipline,
published, from time to time, statements either greatly misrepre-
sented or entirely false. Though the Bishop often and publicly
explained to him how the law and practice stood in France, and
offered him French books, in which that law and practice were
laid down in the very words of the French legislation, still this
unhappy gentleman dared to say in his letter of June 28th, 1851:
• The majority of the congregation being natives of France, where
all chwrch property heloiigs to the people, who have the adminis-
t/ration of it, they expressed a wish that their church should be
r administered in the same manner.' He proceeds to state how
they were incorporated, taking care to tell us that the corporation
was, as indeed it is, in the most odious sense, ' a close corpora-
tion.' He tells us how soon the trustees began this sad work,
the Bishop and the priests have all the blame; the trustees could
do no wrong ! He adds a sneer, to insinuation, which all know
to be perfectly false, 'that Bishop Hughes was forced by a higher
power (Rome,) to retrace his steps, through the interference of a
higher power, and a few concessions on our part, (for the clergy
can never be wrong,) a priest was reinstated in our church.' See
document jVb. 1. Finding that the Bishop would not notice these
effusions, in the Spring of 1851, after several acts of violence, and
some interments against the laws of the church, the party pre-
sented to the Common Council a petition, document ^o. 2, to


obtain exclusive control of the graveyard. Tlie Bishop has
thought it his duty to present document Ko. 3 to the Common
Council at the same time a great number of faithful Germans
presented to the Council document No. 4. But the party con-
tinued to misrepresent, and to invent. Until the Yery Eev. P.
Bede published document No. 5, no answer has been attempted
to the plain statement he gives. May God grant that many
upright and generous persons, who are deceived by a few inter-
ested and crafty men, may be undeceived by this simjjle narrative
of facts."

]No. 1.


" ' Buffalo, June 28, 1851.

" ' To the Editor oftJie Buffalo Morning Express:

" ''Dear Sir: In this letter of 'A Subscriber,' which I trace to
the Reverend Francis Guth, formerly pastor of St. Louis church,
and now one of the Vicars General of this diocese, our congrega-
tion is violently taxed mth falsehood, which could easily be
returned to its author, but which a gentleman, who respects him-
self, cannot do; therefore I will limit my answer to the simple
relation of the causes which have brought so much spiritual
severity upon our congregation.

" ' Many years ago, when Buffalo was yet in its infancy, my
late and much regretted father, Louis Lecouteulx, desirous to
have a church in which to worshij) his Creator according to his
persuasion, gave an extensive property on Main street, on which
to erect a Catholic church and make a cemetery; he gave besides
another valuable property on Delaware street, to be leased into
building lots, so as to make a 23erpetual revenue for said church.
The deed was given in trust to the Eight Reverend John Dubois,
then Bishop of the Diocese of New York, and to his successors in


" ' Tlie Catholics in Buffalo being but few at that time, and
generally poor, a small church was erected on the premises
given; but their number increasing rapidly by daily emigration
from all parts of Europe, it became necessary to think seriously
of building a larger church; but their poverty was for some time
a great obstacle to its accomplishment. However, through the
greatest exertions on their part, and generous donations by some
of the inhabitants of this city, the present fine church of St. Louis
was erected. The majority of the congregation being natives of
France, lohere all church property helongs to the people^ who have
the administration of it, they expressed the wish that their
church should be administered in the same manner, and to which,
my worthy father consenting, also the Right Rev. Bishop Dubois,
a Frenchman by birth, who had received the deed in trust, our
church was incorporated according to the laws of this State upon
religious corporation, and und'r a close act of incorporation, the
2d day of December, A. D. 1838; and from that day the trust of
the property fell into the hands of the people, who had the man-
agement of its temporal affairs, and who enjoyed it fully and
peaceably until the decease of their venerable and much regretted
Bishop, the Right Rev. John Dubois.

" ' The Rt. Rev. Bishop Hughes having succeeded him in oflice,
we were left quiet but a few months, when faults began to be found
with the administration of trustees; we were told that ' Church
property being for the use of God, belonged to God; that laymen
were improper persons to administer it; that it belonged to the
clergy,' Our resistance in maintaining our rights caused our
priests to be withdrawn from our church, and for two years we
were deprived of all spiritual succor! At the end of that time
of unspeakable misery to our families, through the interference
of a higher power, and a few concessions on our part to save
appearance, (for the clergy can never be wrong,) a priest was
reinstated in our church, and we remained in peace until the
Diocese of Kew York was divided into three dioceses, and Buffalo
being the See of one, the Right Rev. Timon became our Bishop,


who, after a short time, followed the same course as did Ijis
predecessor, and who found no way to get us to his wishes but by
sending Jesuits to our church, and appointing one our pastor! ""
From that day mischief grew rapidly, and division appeared
among us; pastoral letters were frequently read and enforced by
commentaries from our Jesuit pastor, said Bishop claiming his
right of trust, as given by my father. At last, no doubt as an
experiment, the BishojD had one of his pastoral letters read, in
which he informed the congregation that lie had dismissed our
trustees and appointed others^ of whom he ga/oe the names! This
act, which nothing can justify, caused a spontaneous meeting of
the congregation to take place, in which respectful but firm reso-
lutions were adopted and transmitted to the Bishop, maintaining
our trustees in office and rejecting those appointed by him.
From that moment war was seriously engaged. On the Sunday
following, another pastoral letter was read by our Jesuit pastor,
who, in his commentaries to enforce the Bishop's rights, insulted
the congregation by calling them liars and other such gentle
expressions, until he exasperated the people and made them for-
get that they were in the house of the Lord; an act always to be
deplored. Quiet being soon restored, said Jesuit pastor took
occasion of it to invite those in favor of the Bishop (otherwise his
wishes,) to remain in the church to be counted, and the others to
go out, which again caused some disorder, ffhe consequence of
all this has been the withdrawal of the clergy from our church,
and for these last two months we have been deprived of Divine
service and all spiritual succor!

" ' In the hope that the Right Hev. Bishop would reflect upon
such a state of things, and relent upon his unjust severity toward
us, we continued to frequent our church to j^ray in common,
which, in ' A Subscriber's ' letter, is called an act of ' uncatholic
and schismatic worshij)!' What! to pray God in common in a
consecrated church is uncatholic and schismatic worship? To
what days are we then come to, that such things can be said in
a country like this?


" ' Since I am on tlie Rev. Francis Guth's letter, I am happy
to see him affirm so positively that 'it is false that Bishop Timon
has excommunicated any one from the St. Louis church ;' yet I
cannot make out the difference which he tries to establish between
an excommunication and the interdiction which he says the
Bishop has been obliged to pronounce against our church. ^My
full belief is that it amounts to the same thing.

" ' As to the Right Reverend Bishop Hughes' letter, which you
have been begged to give a new insertion, I will observe that it
is dated the fourth of Aprils 1843, and having answered it at
the time, further comment upon it would be useless, particularly,
belonging as it does tc> a controversy which took place so many
years ago, and which has been satisfactorily settled between the
parties it concerned.

" ' I M'ill conclude this already very long letter with saying,
that several attempts have been made with Bishop Timon to
bring him to better feelings toward our congregation, but in vain.
'Submit to your Bishop,' was the only answer that could be
obtained ! Myself, for one, took care to explain to him that our
act of incorporation being a close one, it required the unanimity
of the congregation to alter it or aimul it, and that my firm
belief was that it could never take place. His answer to me
was : ' I cannot change my dispositions ; a church is already in
the course of erection for the dissenters from yours, and if it is
not sufficient, one, or even two more shall be built, so as to leave
but few persons in your church, who may then become Protest-
ants if they please.'

" ' We can now but hope to put a stop to such warfare upon
incorporated religious congregations ; the legislature of this State
will, one day to come, and perhaps not far distant, see fit to pro-
hibit the clergy from holding Church property, as it exists all
through France and many other parts of Europe.
" ' Very respectfully, yours,



No. 2.


"The following petition, in relation to the Cemetery connected
with St. Louis church, in this city, was presented to the Common
Council, read, and ordered printed in the city papers :

" ' To the Hon. the Coininon Council of the city of Buffalo^

"' Greeting : The undersigned, trustees of the St. Louis


Catholic church, in this city, for themselves, and in behalf of the
other members of this congregation, incorporated according to
the laws of this State, on the 2d day of December, A. D. 1838,
would very resjDectfully represent to your honorable body, that in
the year 1832, when the cholera was threatening to invade this
city, the Common Council rendered an ordinance prohibiting the
burial of dead persons within the city limits, which said prohibi-
tion deprived your petitioners of the use of a burial ground given
them by one of their fellow members, the late Louis Lecouteulx.

'"At that time, said congregation having but just finished the
erection of their church, and being too poor to purchase another
cemetery, their hard case was submitted to the Common Council
by Alderman White ; which, in consideration of their precarious
situation, the damage sustained in being deprived of the use of
their burial ground, and furthermore, upon that principle, that as
tax-payers they would have to contribute toward the payment for
any purchase made by the city, adopted a resolution granting
your petitioners (the St. Louis church being the only one of that
persuasion in the city,) a piece of land to be used as a cemetery,
being part of a certain tract of land bought by the city of Wm.
T. Miller and others, and situated out of its limits. At the time
of said grant, the congregation of the St. Louis church not being
yet incorporated, Dyre Tillinghast, Esq., then city clerk, inquired
of the late Louis Lecouteulx in the name of whom the convey-
ance for said grant was to be made, who told him, ' that having
himself made grants of lands to said congregation, he had con-
ve^'ed the title in trust to Right E-everend John Dubois, Catholic


Bishop of the Diocese of ISTew York, and that lie thought that
the conveyance for said grant made by the city should be exe-
cuted in the same manner ;' which was eifectually done, but with
an unfortunate omission, the words in trust not being inserted in
said conveyance.

" ' The consequence of that unfortunate omission for your peti-
tioners is, that the Right Reverend Bishop Timou, now Catholic
Bishop of the new See of Buffalo, has lately claimed said ceme-
tery as his own, turned out our grave-digger and appointed
another, and otherwise having taken the whole control of said
premises, permitting to be buried there only those he pleases,
and mostly from congregations not in existence in the city at the
time of the grant, to the exclusion of that of the church of St.
Louis, for which it was intended, and creating himself a revenue
out of said cemetery, by charging a fee of two dollars for each
body buried there !

" ' That Bishop Timon should buy lands (as he has already
done,) to make cemeteries, and speculate upon the sale of them
into small lots to those willing to buy them, your petitioners have
nothing to say ; but when that spirit of speculation extends to
that cemetery given by the city for the use of our congregation,
surely we have a right to complain, and to seek redress at the
hands of the donors.

" ' The congregation of the St. Louis chm*ch, since the demise
of their worthy Bishop, John Dubois, have been sadly tormented
by his successors in otiice, for their resistance to annul their act
of incorporation. They are now under the displeasure of Bishop

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 12 of 30)