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 13 of 30)
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Timon for no other motive ; and, as a last experiment, "to bring
them to obedience to his arbitrary will, he has thought fit to
withdraw the clergy from their church, and by so doing to de-
prive them of all those consolations derived from religion.

" ' Your petitioners can but hope that your honorable body will

see fit, as grantors, to give them that relief which they claim, by

enforcing the use of the grant as intended by the city, or by any

other measures which your honorable body may think fit, so that

the congregation of the St. Louis church may re-enter into the



full possession and control of their cemetery, where the remains
Df their friends have been deposited for the last twenty years.
And your petitioners will ever pray and feel grateful for. your so


No. 3.

" ' To the Hon. the Mayor and City Council of Buffalo :

'•'•''Gentlemen: Profound respect for your honorable body
induces me now to act contrary to the resolution I had taken,
never more to notice the misrepresentations of men who wish to
belong to our Church, provided that Church consent to be taught
and ruled by them. They inform your honorable body 'that
Bishop Timon has lately claimed said cemetery as his own.'
Now I have latehj claimed nothing more than I, and my prede-
cessors, claimed from the beginning.

'"On the 19th of February, 1848, W. B. Lecouteulx, Esq.,
stopped me in the street to inform me that he was about handing
in a petition to your honorable body. After reading it, I told
him that it contained many things that were not true, others
misrepresented or exaggerated ; and that, further, I held the deed
of that cemetery. He came to my house, read the deed, and I
heard no more of an attempt to appro23riate to a small fraction
of the Catholics of Buffalo what had been sfiven for all. On the
2d of March, 1833, the Honorable Mayor made a deed to Bishop
Dubois of the land in question. Different congregations were
formed from those who, in March, 1833, worshiped in St. Louis
church. Those of St. Patrick's church first migrated, but still
retained their rights on the cemetery ; and about five years ago


the Irish Catholics made a collection for. repairing the fence.
The Germans of St. Mary's chnrch erected a poor shelter, in
which they could worship in peace, when the trustees forced
Bishop Hughes to withdraw the priest from St. Louis church ;
and, though those Germans subsequently bought a graveyard,
yet they never renounced their rights. St. John's church had
equal claims. St. Peter's withdrew, with the then pastor of St.
Louis church, (the Kev. Mr. Guth,) when he and they found the
yoke of the trustees too heavy. St. Michael's church, too, was
formed from St. Louis. The present pastor was pastor of St.
Louis church, when in the peaceable discharge of his duty he
was insulted in the church, ordered out, and menaced. He
retired meekly, bearing with him the holy sacrament; but
neither he nor his ilock abandon their just rights.

"'In Ausust, 1849, I received information from St. Louis
church that the old graveyard was full; then, on the 15th of
August, 1849, I consecrated as a graveyard, a piece of ground
which had been purchased for another object. Publicly, and
before a large concourse of people, I read aloud the rules which
should govern the allocation of lots. They were: 1st, That the
poor should have graves free of charge; 2d, That as the land had
been bought and fenced in, iiot hy contrihution^ or hy public
money^ but by funds advanced by one individual^ those who had
means should pay a moderate rate for graves; that the money
thus obtained would go to liquidate the debt on the graveyard,
and that, as soon as that debt was paid, the revenue accruing
from subseqiTent sales should be applied solely to keeping the
cemetery in order and adorning it.

" ' The whole amount received, up to this time, from that new
cemetery, is less than one-third of the sum advanced on it.

" ' Having been warned that it was no longer decent to bury
in the old cemetery, I told the pastor of St. Louis church that it
should be closed, but that if Catholics, from any parish of the
city^ greatly wished, through affection for the dead there in-
terred, to be buried near their friends, he, the pastor of St. Louis
church, might give permission; requiring, however, two dollars


for each grave, and retaining the money thus received to form a
small fund, which should be solely employed in keeping up the
fences, lest, in some years, hogs and cattle might rummage
amidst the graves of the dead. But I was soon informed that I
was deceived as to the state of the graveyard. I then revoked
that order, and burials ever since have been going on as before,
without charge. This the trustees of St. Louis church well knew.
Well did they know that I never received a cent from that ceme-
tery, that I never sought it; yet they dare tell you that Bishop
Timon permits to be buried there only those he pleases, to the
exclusion of the church of St. Louis, creating himself a revenue
of the said cemetery. May God have mercy on men who can .
descend to such means!

" ' With profound respect, honorable gentlemen, your most
obedient, humble servant,

" '-f JOHN TIMON, mshop of Buffalo.'"

No. 4.

" ' Buffalo, April 5, 1852.
" ' To the Hon. Common Council of the City of Buffalo :

" ' The undersigned, who were members of St. Louis church of
Buffalo, at the time the deed hereinafter referred to was given,
do respectfully remonstrate against your honorable body taking
any action on the petition of the trustees of said church, relative
to the Catholic burying ground.

" ' It is with feelings of deep regret that we are called upon to
act in this matter. Many years since we emigrated to the village
of Buffalo, here to make this our homes, where we could enjoy
the religion of our fathers. About that time, the Hon. Louis
Lecouteulx made a donation of a very large piece of land, suffi-
cient for church and burying ground purposes for a long time yet
to come, had not your predecessors prohibited the use of said
ground for burial purposes. At this time there was but one


Catholic church in Buffalo, organized under the Bishopric of
New York ; this was then and is now called the St. Louis
church, in which the French, German, Irish, Italian, and English
Catholics all worshiped the same God, and kneeled at the same
altar. At this time, on the 2d March, 1833, the city of Buffalo,
by Ebenezer Johnson, Mayor, etc., Dyre Tillinghast, Clerk, under
the corporate seal of said city, for the consideration of five dollars
in the deed expressed, conveyed to John Dubois, Roman Catholic
Bishop of New York, and to his successors in the holy office of
Bishop, in trust forever for the sole and only uses of a Roman
Catholic burial ground, eighty-eight feet front of land, running
back to the road, etc., (being the land which has been used for
tliat purpose since the day of the grant,) which deed was, on the
4th April, 1833, recorded in Erie County Clerk's office, in liber
20 of deeds, at page 455, to which we beg leave to refer. From
tlie day of the said grant until the present time, the Catholics of
Buffalo, who have now, independent of St. Louis church, seven
church organizations, viz : St. Patrick's, St. Mary's, St. John's,
St. Michael's, St. Peter's, St. Mary's of the Lake, and St. Joseph's,
which churches have been organized by members of St. Louis
church, who, for convenience and brotherly love, have aided in
erecting such church edifices, and who are all Roman Catholics,
and owe ecclesiastical allegiance to the Right Rev. John Timon,
Bishop of Buftalo, and successor of the venerable and departed
John Dubois, late Bishop of New York.

" ' Our kindred and friends lie buried in said grounds ; our
wives, our children, there rest in peace, and where we wish that
our bodies may be interred. In said ground our wives, children,
kindred and friends have found a common resting place ; by
your grant we are entitled to rest there. Nearly twenty years
since you done one of the most solemn acts you could perform ;
you donated to us the right to have our bodies interred by the
side of our wives and children.

" ' You are now called upon by the trustees of St. Louis church
to act disgraceful in the sight of God and man, and say you, the
city of Buffalo, have repudiated your act and deed, and have


permitted a self- constituted body of priestless men, without any
ecclesiastical power or authority, to assume the control of that
which now belongs to, and is held in trust for, the members of
seven churches, regularly organized.

" ' We admit that we have reason to believe, and do believe,
that the grave-digger has been dismissed. We do not know the
reason, or when the same was done ; but we do know that this
same man left the bodies of the dead so near the surface of the
ground, that your honorable body was compelled, at a large
expense, to cover the same with earth during the Sunmier of
1849. If he was not discharged for this reason, he should have

" ' In regard to pay for interment, all we can say is, that the
deposed grave-digger has, for nearly eighteen years, charged for
his services about double what is charged in other grounds, and
we deny most unequivocally that any other charge has been
made for interments.

" ' With this information before you, we ask who is right?
" ' Yery respectfully, your ob't servants.' "

Here follow the names of forty-four members.

" 'Mr. Editor: Bishop Timon adheres to his resolution of not
noticing the misstatements of a gentleman who insists on re-
maining a Roman Catholic, but who has long neglected to
practice its most sacred duties. To me it seems that the Bishop
is over delicate in his views of charity. To me it seems that, as
some may be deceived, misrepresentation tending to foment
division and strife ought to be contradicted. Extracts from a few
letters wiU suffice for this. The first is from P. A. Lecouteulx,
Esq., received by Bishop Timon in August, 1851, with permission
to make it public. Delicacy for the feelings of a gentleman in
this city, induced the Bishop not to use that permission. I lately,
with difficulty, obtained leave to copy it, and now give extracts
to the public :


^'' ^ Right Rev. Sir : If liithcrto I have not intervened in the
difHculty which exists between you and tlie Germans of the con-
gregation of St. Louis, it was in liopes that, touched by your
forbearance, they would yield, acknowledging your authority and
the inviolable rights which you and your successors have over
the church of St. Louis and its dependencies. Hence I waited
till now. But now that you are forced to interdict the church of
St. Louis, (having also read in the daily papers that the trustees
of St. Louis church maintained that its temporal ])ropcrty r)ught
to remain where my father, L. F. Lecoutenlx, the founder of that
church, had placed it, namely, in the trustees, intimating thereby
that it was due to his memory to maintain his will,) I consider
that I would be culpable if I remained silent longer, without
raising my voice to refute the shameless calunmies spread about
against you by a faction of the German congregation of that
church. I also thought it my duty to publish the wislies of my
father, and to demand a strict fulfillment. Previously to the
year 1829, the Roman Catholics were not very numerous ; they
were French, Geruums, and Irish. My father having re(pie8ted
of Bisliop Dubois a priest for the Catholics of Buffalo, received
him into his house, and placed at his disposal a room in which
mass was said. This })lace soon became too small. My father
made then a donation to Bishop Dubois and to his successors, of
lots for the use of a Roman Catholic church, and for the estab-

lishment of a school, a Presbytery, etc. The Catholics, French,
German, and Irish, caused immediately a small church to be
built at common expense ; they also built the priest's house, and
some time after a school house. Besides the lots alluded to, my
father gave money for these buildings. The Catholic population
having rapidly increased, and the church not being able to
contain them, the Irish formed a congregation apart ; but as they
had, in common, concurred in the erection of this church, my
father, through a sense of justice which always characterized him,
made donation of a lot to this congregation. St. Louis church
renuiined with the French and Germans, but the population
having rapidly increased, the old church became too small, and


the congregation was obliged, in 1838-39, to build upon the same
site the vast edifice which now stands there. The building was
constructed under the direction of Rev. Alexander Pax, and
finished by the aid of voluntary contributions, and by the joint
eiforts of all the Catholics, and even of strangers.

" ' Every thing went on well, and the most perfect peace pre-
vailed between the French and Germans up to the death of my
father, which took place in 1840. Disorder then began. (ITie
date fixed hy Bislio^ Hughes for tJie beginning of troubles is 1841. j
The trustees commenced to arrogate undue power to themselves,
justifying their illegal usurpation on the ground of having been
incorporated, and having then acquired the exclusive right over
the church and its dependencies, saying that in this they fulfilled
the will of my father. I can afiirm that this demand of incor-
poration has been made without the concurrence of my father,
who, as the founder, ought, at least, to have been consulted. I
am even led to think that he was ignorant of it He had, iiudeed,
often spoken to me of his desire to have Magnillis or Counselors,
such as we had in France. But I affirm, that never did he wish
that trustees or administrators (especially by election,) should be
appointed and be invested with a power thus repugnant to the
Holy Eoman Catholic Church, for which he had the greatest
respect; if such an intention had been manifested to him, he
would have opposed it with all his might. Further, he knew
that, in the position of the congregation of St. Louis church, com-
posed in part of French and Germans, it was necessary that the
power should be in the hands of the Bishop and of the pastor of
the church, in order to maintain the just rights of all, and to pre-
vent the majority, which was already German, from trampling
on the rights of his compatriots. It is evident that it was for
this my father made the donation of the property to Bishop
Dubois and to his successors;* the trustees knew, as well as I did,
this will of my father; hence it was only after his death that they
laid claim to the property and administration of the church. It

*"The act authorizing incorporation then existing."


18 useless, sir, for me to retrace here what has been tlie deplor-
able consequences of the unhappy system adopted by the trustees.
You have developed them better than I could in your historical
document relative to this aifair. I shall not, then, limit myself
to its sad consequences for the French.

" 'At the time of the nomination of trustees by election, the
Germans of the congregation of St. Louis were most numerous;
the French never obtained but a weak minority; finally the
French, disgusted at the vexations they had to suffer, withdrew
from the elections.' (Mr. Lecouteulx here enters at large on
various complaints of the French against the 1/rustees', some of
them were suhmitted to the Bishop for arbitration. Mr. Lecou-
teulx com/plains that the trustees violated the agreement then
entered into, a/nd continues:) ' It would be too tedious to enume-
rate all the vexations which the German trustees inflicted on the
French part of the congregation; they became intolerable, and
forced the French to quit their clmrch during your absence, with
tlie pastor of St. Louis church, who could no longer risk the dig-
nity of his ministry by suffering such usurpations. It is evident
from what I write that there has been a determination since my
father's death to get possession of the property of the church, and
to chase away the French. To attain this, the most iniquitous
arts have been resorted to, and, to justify all, they dare to say
that they execute the will of my father. This assertion is an out-
rage on his memory, and I regret it with indignation.

(Signed,) "'P. A. LECOUTEULX.' "

" W. B. Lecouteulx several times has published, in our city
papers, the assertion that in France all the Church property
belongs to the people, who have the administration of it. Xow,
before and since his first publication of this misstatement, in pre-
sence of several respectable gentlemen and in my presence.
Bishop Timon repeated to Mr. Lecouteulx the very words of the
French laws upon this subject, and invited Mr. Lecouteulx to
read the text in the original French, the Bishop adding that
he had several works published in France, giving, in extenso, the


French laws on church i)roperty; but Mr. Lecouteulx did not
wish to read the laws, that he might with a quiet conscience
assert 'what suited his purpose.

"After calling the Bishop ( adinmistratev/r ne) administrator
ex officio of church property, the French laws provide as follows :
In parishes of more than five thousand souls there shall be nine
counselors, if the population be less than five thousand there
must be five counselors; when the counselors are nine, the Bishop
shall name five and the Prefect four; when there are only five
counselors, the Bishop shall name three and the Prefect two.
The pastor shall always be, ex offi/}io^ the first member of the
council; he may depute his vicar to fill his place. The Mayor
also shall be a member and have the second place; but if he be
not a Catholic, he must name a Catholic who will fill his place.
The council shall meet four times a year. It cannot meet oftener
but by the authorization of the Bishop or the Prefect. The coun-
cil names the marguilliries, or what we would call the acting
trustees. Vacancies in the council are filled by the remaining
members. If the council neglect to fill a vacancy for one month
after such vacancy occurs, the Bishop then names to that vacancy.
Reparations of any moment cannot be made without the appro-
bation of the Bishop. That of the Prefect is also necessary,
particularly if help from the public treasury is required.'

"The statements about to be made were volunteered by the
writer, as Bishop Timon had no correspondence, mediate or
immediate, ^^^th Mr. Pax, nor had he the least expectation ot
receiving any communication from him.

" Extract of a letter from Rev. A. Pax, dated 4:th Sej^tember,
1851, from Dubling Depart, of Moselle, France :

" ''Right Rev. Svr: Deign to permit a priest, who for eight
years was a missionary in Bufiklo, and under whom the church
of St. Louis was built, to express to you his sentiments of condo-
lence for the grief which that church causes to your j^aternal
heart. Permit me also to compliment you uj^on the wise firm-
ness and apostolic zeal with which you defend the rights of the


church from the usurpation of the trustees. I learned witli
extreme sorrow tlie excesses to which arrogant impiety impelletl
those trustees and thpir adherents. And also with joy I read
the letter by which you interdicted tlie profaned church of St.
Louis. This measure was necessary in order to terminate usur-
pations and schismatic pride. I pray to God that He W(»ul<l
deign to open the eyes of those senseless men, and call them from
their wanderings to sincere repentance.

" 'A sad prelude to these events was, that Bishop Dubois, of
venerable memory, always believetl that Mr. Lecouteulx had
ceded the lot to him personally. Hence he strongly urged me'
to accept that mission and to build that church. ' For,' said he,
' the usui'pations of trustees are not there to be feared, because the
ground belongs to me.' Were it not for this conviction, I would
not have built the church, of which each stone was watered with
my sweat. The church svas not yet finished before I was
undeceived. Then began the domineering pretensions and the
usurpation of the trustees, and their stubborn opposition to the
kind and zealous etlbrts of Bishop Hughes. The vexation I had
to undergo injured my health, and, more than my other labors,
forced me to return to my native climate.

(Signed,) '"'PAX, Cure o/Dublinfir.'"

"P. A. Lecouteulx, Escp, residuary legatee of L. Lecouteulx's
estate, declares that his father never wished such a corporation;
Rev. Mr. Pax declares that Bishop Dubois never wished it. A
Protestant lawyer, before the Supreme Court, quotes the univer-
sal teaching and legislation of the Roman Catholic Church, and
says : ' 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 them; they are at once at war
with the Church.' The Supreme Court decides in favor of the
Bishop according to those princi])les.


" ' Wherever the affairs of St. Louis church, or your trustee
system, was mentioned, all, both the clergy and the laity, were
greatly surprised at the wondrous pretensions of congregations
and Catholic individuals to the ownership of Church property.
In all Europe, in modern schools, or in schools of former days,
wherever common law is taught, it is an undisputed principle
that the Church of Christ, Christ as embodied in the Church, is
the only legitimate owner of Clnirch property. Not some mem-
bers of the Church, nor any particular association of Church
members, but the Bishop, not in his private capaoity^ but as Jte who
is dmiMsly appointed to rule and govern the Church of God, is
the only legitimate administrator of Church property.'

"Thus think Bishops, clergy, ninety-nine out of a hundred
Catholics in America, and nine hundred and ninety-nine out of
a thousand Catholics in the world. Are we to believe, them, or

Mr. ? The question is not whether the Church is right or

wrong in her faith and discipline; but whether, in our free
country, she is free to exist, according to her faith and disci-
pline; whether a minority may or may not have the power
of. forcing the majority, either to observe regulations directly
adverse to the spirit and laws of the Church, or to abandon
their just rights in the joint occupancy of Church property,
and, for conscience sake, and for peace sake, build, at their
own expense, poor shelters in which they may worship unmo-
lested. I entreat the public to notice a fact that stares each
one in the face. Bisljop Timon had rights to St. Louis church;
like the Bishop of Detroit, he might have maintained his posi-
tion; but he wished not to -have litigation, even with a small
and misguided portion of his flock; he abandoned the posses-
sion of St. Louis church and its dependencies to the men who
thirsted for power; he aided to build, or formed poor churches,
in which the large majority of those who not long since wor-
shiped in St. Louis church now worsliip in peace. Yet, lately,
for a poor grcme yard already filled^ in which even the refrac-
tory members of St. Louis church were maintained by the


Bishop in equal rights with other Catholics, the trustees, after
acts of violence, during which, at least, one body was lawlessly
interred ! after uttering, in their petition to the council, false accu-
sations against their Bishops, have instituted suit !




The Bishop and the Mendicant.— Bishop Timon visits Baltimore to get Sisters
FOR an Hospital and Asylum.— Resources. — Sisters Arrive.— Hospital Opened.
— Attacked by Rev. John C. Lord, a Protestant Minister. — Defended by Rev.
B. O'Reilly.— The Orphan Asylum.

Great men are highly distinguishable for some prominent
characteristic in their genius. Some excel for their magnanim-
ity and piety; some for administrative and executive abilities;
in some again moral courage and a zeal for the dissemination of
the principles of revealed religion predominate; and so on to the
end of the catalogue.

In the subject of this memoir, however, charity was the pre-

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 13 of 30)