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 17 of 30)
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Vvdnch was in itself productive, the rights and the obligations
of those who administered them, or who claimed a share in the
administration, would depend on the conditions stipulated by the
donor and accepted by the church, according to her own rules of
discipline ; and the decision of difficulties that might arise could
only be based on her laws, and on the above named conditions.
But I find nothing of this in the case before me. Here there are
no possessions or capital to be administered which can, properly
speaking, be said to be productive. Only the offerings of the.
faithful are to be received and distributed, whether these offerings
are given during the public worship, or are previously agreed
upon for tlie use of pews during Divine service. Can there be
any thing more exclusively subject to the ecclesiastical ministry
than this kind of revenue? The pews are not, of themselves,
productive ; you yourselves, whilst your church was closed, could
see this. The oblations and the contributions for pews take place


only in view of the Divine service, and that it may be carried on,
and they must be appropriated to meet the expenses incurred in
performing it, or to support tlie ministers aj^pointed by the Bishop
to celebrate the Divine mysteries. Those contributions, then, are
but the direct result of the sacred ministry, and consequently
must be subject to the free administration of ecclesiastical
authority. The Bishop who sends thither the ministers has the
right to prescribe the mode of collecting such contributions, and
of distributing them, so as fully to accomplish the sacred inten-
tions for which they are given.

" ' He has, also, the right of making such changes or modifica-
tions in the rules governing such matters as may become necessary
from time to time. The canonical prescriptions which guide the
Bishop in his actions are, on the other hand, well known ; they
prevent the possibility of abuse, or provide an efiicacious remedy
for it. These very prescriptions not only give the Bishop power^
but they impose on him the obligation of remedying abuses which
might occur in the administration, however legally acquired, of
property and revenues of any kind which belong to the Church.
But, as in your case there is question solely of pious oblations or
contributions, which, after all, are but voluntary, there can be no
doubt that the Bishop has full right to determine the manner of
regulating them, and he, more than any one else, will take a deep
interest in applying them to their holy destination. When,
therefore, your Bishop informed you that he would name, out of
your own congregation, a certain number of persons to receive
and distribute, for the use and benefit of the same, the aforesaid
oblations, whether offered during the holy sacrifice, or given for
the use of pews by those who occupy them during the Divine
service, it was manifestly your duty to submit, as he had an
undoubted right to make such arrangements.

" ' Your very memorial shows abundantly that the system of
administration heretofore existing was very defective, since you
have only disorders to deplore; and your very assertions prove
clearly that to cure them fully and radically, your Bishop could
not have acted otherwise than ho did.


" ' Mention is often made in suid memorial of an intention to
change the nationality of the church of St. Louis, and, by giving
it to others, to take it away from those to whom it was first given.
But the existence of such an intention is denied by the Bishop,
(I have no proof of it,) I cannot even believe it possible; and if
ever it were attempted the Holy See is ready to make the execu-
tion of such an attempt impossible.

" ' You say also that, since your charter of incorporation gives
to the trustees elected by the congregation the administration of
oblations, and the above mentioned contributions, you cannot
cede it, without failing in your duty. Here I call to your mind
what has been already stated. When, in such an affair, you
use the rights which the civil law gives you, you are bound to
make your action harmonize with your duty as Catholics. The
privilege which the civil law here grants is permissive; jou may
use it or not. It is your duty to consult the principles of your
faith, to ascertain when and how you ought to use it.

" ' Without examining the legal rights which accrue to you as
trustees under your charter of incorporation, and without deter-
mining by whom and in what way the thing should be done, it
suffices for me to state what the Bishop may lawfully decide and
require, and to this the congregation, either by mere consent or by
direct and immediate action, should conform. Consequently, I
declare that those who refuse fail in their duty, and by thus
hindering the Bishop in the free exercise of his holy ministry,
they become responsible for all the sad consequences that may
result. Furthermore, I cannot believe that any law of the State
mil prevent your conforming to the discipline of your church ; on
the contrary, I know that the spirit of justice, which so strongly
characterizes the legislation of this country, will never make the
accomplishment of its duties impossible to a religious congrega-
tion, nor compel them to adopt a course that would necessarily
produce disorder and confusion. But if by chance it were other-
wise, I am convinced that you need only make the case known
to the legislative body, and they would grant such modification

of the law as would place 3^our legal position in harmony with



the laws of the Church to which you belong. I know that such
acts of justice, in favor of other corporations, have already ema-
nated • from the Legislature of this State, and I cannot believe
that a like concession, so evidently just, would be refused to the
Catholics of this Republic, when once they make their wants
known, and sincerely seek a remedy. In the meantime, if you
but do your duty, nothing need prevent the administrators named
by the Bishop from discharging their duties, even legally, in the
church of St. Louis; and I counsel you to take the necessary steps
to effect this object as soon as possible. The Bishop does not ask
for himself the administration; he is ready to place it in the hands
of members of your own congregation, but appointed by him.
All that these may receive in the church, shall be used for the
.congregation itself; and at fixed periods shall give an account of
their administration to the Bishop as well as to the faithful that
frequent the church. Thus peace and order have been restored
to other congregations; and the same will doubtless happen here,
as soon as you have the sincere desire of restoring order, and of
enjoying the precious advantages of a holy and lasting j)eace.

" ' I request you to reflect most seriously and conscientiously
on what you will do after this answer. You undoubtedl}^ are
free to submit or not to my declaration, and to follow my coun-
sels; but the Catholic Church is also free to recognize those that
are truly her children, and those that are not. After so many
dissensions, disorders, and painful agitations, it is time to return
to peace, and to make the vineyard of the Lord flourish in union,
in charity, and in humility, without which it is impossible to
please God. The congregation of St. Louis church, by adopting
the course indicated, which alone is just and indispensable, will
give a noble proof of faith and charity, and a sincere desire for
order and peace; will crown all my efforts with the most happy
success; and they will have a very large portion in the benedic-
tions which the Catholic Church and its visible head bestow on her
zealous and obedient children. But if they refuse, I can only
see in them persons faithless to their duties, who make use of
their privileges, not to edify in the Church of God, but to destroy;


who, by placing obstacles to the free exercise of Episcopal author-
ity, can never be received as obedient sons of the Church of God,
who has confined solely to Bishops the power and the right to
gbvern it. '•Posuit &pwco])os regere Ecclesiam DeV — Acts xx: 28.
" ' The Holy See will ever perpetuate the succession of worthy
and holy pastors, and the common father of the faithful is always
ready to provide for the spiritual wants of the flock in every part
of the world, by providing such pastors, and by the prescriptions,
the rules, and the holy discipline of the Church. You now know
his decision, his counsel, and even his earnest recommendation
in regard to the question at issue; you have only to comply with
this earnest recommendation to merit still more fully his paternal
care and holy benedictions. Tour submission to the laws of the
Church vdll ever be a pledge of your submission to every other
law to which you are subject, as it is impossible to be a good
Catholic, and not be at the same time a good citizen of your



" 'Archbishop of Thebes, Apostolic Nuncio.* "


" ' October 25th, 1853.

'''■'■ JExcellency: "We have read the esteemed answer given by
you at our last inter\iew, (this morning,) with a great deal of
attention, and we see therein, with great astonishment, that you
say '•among a few members of the congregation^ (although we are
very numerous.)

" ' It appears to us that you have been misinstructed in that
regard, and we would propose to your Excellency the contrary,
if his Excellency think it necessary, by calling a general meeting
of the congregation in St. Louis church, at any time your Excel-
lency may appoint, within forty -eight hours. "We 'know positively
that the congregation of St. Louis church is yet three hundred
family fathers stro^ig.


" ' Furthermore, we see nothing in your Excellency's answer,
bnt a repetition of the demand made by the Right Rev. Bishop
Timon, that is, entire submission^ and that our act of incorpora-
tion sfiould he annulled^ and that the appointment of a committee
instead of a hoard of trustees^ should he made hy him^ which has
been the cause of our difiGuUies. Uj) to the time of the begin-
ning of these ditficulties, we never meddled with the spiritual,
leaving it entirely to the pastor and Bishop, but as to the tem-
poralities we had always the control, subject nevertheless to the
yearly inspection of the Right Reverend Bishop and pastor, (and
at any time within the fiscal year,) over the amount expended
and received, and which the pastor always found correct. As
to the annulling of our act of incorporation, there is not the least
shadow of thought, as we believe that temporalities have nothing
to do with spiritualities.

" ' If your Excellency thinks that, by having another interview,
(the Right Reverend Bishop in person present,) a reconciliation
can be effected, we leave it to your Excellency's own discretion,
praying you to inform ns of the appointed time to such an inter-
view, if one is to be had.

" ' In hopes that a reconsideration of the past transactions will
be made, and that a more favorable discussion in our favor will
take place,

" ' I have the honor to be, with high resj)ect, your Excellency's

most sincere and obedient servant,


" ' Secretary of the Board of Trustees of St. Louis Church.

" < To his Excellency, C. BEDINI,

" ' Apostolic Nuncio, at St. Mary^s Church.


"'j?o the Trustees of St. Louis Church:

" ' I informed you that I was ready to hear you again, as I was
told that you had something to add to the letter of your secre-
tary, in answer to mine of the 25th inst. I also wished to know


for certain if that letter was the expression of the sentiment of
the board of trustees. In our last interview you told me that you
had nothing more to say, and that the aforesaid letter was the
expression of your sentiments. I made known to you at the
same time that I had not authorized any one to say a word to
you regarding the question at issue, as it was fnlly treated in my
letter, and I was decidedly unwilling to communicate any part
whatever of my decision by word of mouth, or by any one's in-
tervention, so as to avoid effectually all misunderstanding,

" ' ISTow, then, it becomes my duty to say that your answer is
truly painful, especially to an envoy of the Holy Father, to whom
you referred your case. The sad conviction forces itself on me
that you disregard altogether Catholic principles, consequently
that if you persist, it only remains for me to deplore the sad posi-
tion in which you place yourselves in the face of the Church; but
the responsibility of this rests entirely on yourselves.

" ' Buffalo, October 26th, 1853.


" ^Archbishop of Thebes, Apostolic Nuncio.' "


The Church Peopertt Bill. — Hon. Mr. Putnam and Hon. Me. Babcock. — Bishop
Timon's Eeplt. — The Foundling Asylum. — Ground devoted by Louis S. Lecou-
TEULX. — Cottages secured. — Cholera. — Bishop Timon carries Infants in his
Arms to Places of Safety. — Buys a Farm for a Cemetery and other Uses. —
Sentence of Excommunication against the Trustees of St. Louis Church. —
Father Weniger mediates and restores Order.

In the year 1853, during the great Know j^othing excitement, a
bill was introduced by the Hon. James O. Putnam, in the
Legislature of the State of New York, at the instigation of the
trustees of St. Louis church, of Buffiilo, which, in substance, was
done to necessitate the transfer of all ecclesiastical property to
the trustees. As the custom generally of other denominations,
(non- Catholics,) was to vest their Church property in corporate
bodies, of course this affected Catholics only.


Much debate was elicited upon that famous bill, particularly
from Hon. Erastus Brooks, Senator from New York, and one of
the editors of the New York Exjyress.'^

Among the champions of that famous Church Property
bill was the Hon. Mr. Babcock, who, in his speeches, uttered
so many remarks at variance with known facts,f that Bishop
Timon felt compelled, under the signature of Yeritas^ to publish
a reply by way of correcting the erroneous statements of the


" Absence for some months, will account for so late a notice of
the Hon. Mr. Babcock' s speech on the ' Koman Catholic Church
Property Bill.' Love for my country, which each absence in-
creases, and regret that in an American Senate, an American
Senator should, in malicious insinuations and sweeping denun-
ciations, utter the oft related calumnies of by-gone years against
the faith of many of his own constituents and against individuals,
press me to offer some remarks to a generous public.

" The Hon. Senator has indeed ' read history badly,' or he has
only read such history as forced the Count de Maistre to declare
that, for nearly three hundred years, it had been 'a vast conspi-
racy against the truth.' Innocent the IH, Gregory YH, Boniface
YHI, were not bold, ambitious, unscrupulous men. Hutter, then
a Protestant, in his ' Life and Pontificate of Lmocent HI,' and
Yought, a Protestant and a German, in ' The Life and Pontificate
of Gregory YH,' vindicate the character of those much calum-
niated Pontiffs. Yoit, the eminent Protestant historian, shows
Hildebrand, Gregory YII, to have been a truly meek and humble
follower of the Redeemer, and calls him 'the savior of the
liberties of Europe.' The character of Boniface YHI has been

* As the reader will get a very comprehensive idea of the details, etc., of this bill, from the
controversies and writings of Archbishop Hughes, which are already published, we will avoid
giving a lengthened analysis of the same. So far as Bishop Timon took part, however, will
appear in this work. — The Authok.

t We mean no offence to the Hon. Senator. But as many things said by him were subse-
quently corrected by Bishop Timon, we are left to presume, that the sources from which he got
his information must have been poisoned.


often and ably vindicated. Mr. Babcock assumes, as an undis-
puted fact, ' the encroachments of the ecclesiastical power upon
civil rights,' yet he ought to know that the majority of christians
consider their by-gone ' encroachments' to have been the enei'oacTi-
inents of the civil, or rather of secular despotic power on Church
rights. By the words ' Papal See,' Mr. Babcock evidently under-
stands the Pope, the Papacy. ITow, he must know that the vast
majority of the christian world hold the Papacy 7iot to be a
human organization, ' nor its agencies to have been for evil ;' he
should also know that ' the Papal Dominion ' held no possessions
in England; then, indeed, the Church property was eminently
English and popular, as proved, not long since, at the bar of the
House of Lords; the canon law required the incumbents of Church
property to divide the revenues thus: One-fourth for the clergy,
one-fourth for the poor, one-fourth for hospitality, one-fourth for
the public buildings.

" Thus, also, ' the Papal Domination ' holds no possessions in
the United States; Roman Catholics indeed hold property, Church
property, according to the rules and discipline which, they know,
will best secure the safety of that property and the peace of con-
gregations. The Hon. Senator may say, ' I quote from such and
such an historian,' but certainly, the Hon. Senator knows that the
vast majority of christians tell a very different story. Who is to
decide upon this question of truth, and upon other questions in
which his assertion is contradicted by three-fourths of the chris-
tian world? Will the Senate summon distinguished clergymen
on each side, hear them on oath, pass some years in reviewing
their authorities, and then decide who is right and who is wrong?
If this can be done, why not leave controversy, either in strong
unproved assertion, or in inferences and broad allusions, to scenes
less dignified than an American Senate?

"How coolly the Hon. Senator informs the Legislature that
' under Henry VHI, the English exchanged one despot in Italy
for another in Britain ! ' With what dogmatic assurance he
makes the very erroneous assertion ' that the canon law was pro-
mulgated after the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, that it is


utterly repugnant to civil liberty;' adding insult to his error
when he says, ' I have not found it necessary to war against their
faith, however erroneous I may deem it; if their practices tend
to the subversion of our republican institutions and the destruc-
tion of true liberty, theirs is the offence, not mine.' The Hon.
Senator has indeed read history in vain, if he knows not that the
faith which he attacks by such insinuations, molded the former
despotic governments of the Old World to that high degree of
freedom which they enjoyed before the Reformation. The Sena-
tor should know that when Luther began his sad work, there was
not a despotic government, nor a standing army in Europe. He
should know that then all the governments in Christendom were
either republics or limited monarcliies, ' with parliament or courts
as powerful,' says Macaulay, ' as any that ever sat in Westmin-
ster.' The Senator should know history before delivering lectures
upon it in an American Senate. The Hon. Senator has also had
the politeness to call names. Catholics are not Romanists. The
Church of Rome is not in America, it is in Italy. There is no
' Roman Bisho23 ' here. The Hon. Senator shows his learning in
theology by informing the Senate that ' the canon laws are no
part of the faith of the Roman Church at the present day.' But
the Hon. Senator has forgotten to inform us when the faith of
the Roman Church, ' at the present day,' changed from what it
was in other days, or when laws regarding discipline, which ma/y
change, ever formed part of faith, which cannot change.

" When uttering most erroneous statements, Mr, Babcock says:
'I am credibly informed, from the most respectable sources.' Yet
the Hon. Senator has been publicly assured that his statements
were not true, and has been called upon to prove them, or to
name persons and places, that his statements may be disproved;
but he is silent^ the poisoned dart is cast, he cannot give proof;
lie must by this time know that he was cheated, but he skulks
from manful assertion, or manful retraction.

" In no' church of Buffalo were the outer doors closed, and the
people coaxed or coerced into signing the remonstrance against


fhe bill; the remonstrances were not ' manuftictured in ]^e\v York
under the direction of Archbishop Hughes;' those from this city,
for instance, were printed in Buffiilo, at the Bepuhlic office. The
Catholic body in this State would, in far greater number, come
forward at any time to sign a remonstrance against such a bill.
The Senator tells the Senate that ' Bishop Timon was consecrated
in St. Louis church ' and talks of a breach of faith on the Bishop's
part, against the rights of a church in which he was consecrated.
Alas ! for the Hon. Senator. Bishop Timon was consecrated in
New York! He never received any sacred rite in St. Louis
church! He has, indeed, celebrated the holy mass there; he has
often administered the sacrament of confirmation there; he has
preached for them; he has labored hard to direct or prepare him-
self for all that was necessary to consecrate that church ; for two
years he sought to save a worthy and large majority of that con-
gregation from the withering influence of a small minority, or
rather of a few men who wish to be Catholics in faith, and Pres-
byterians in practice and discipline; but all this would not render
the Bishop worthy of ' impeachment ' for not totally abandoning
the discipline of his Church to the mercy of such men.

" When Bishop Timon was invited by the trustees of St. Louis
church to consecrate it, he asked them ' if the deed was in the
Bishop's name?' remarking that the decree of the Council of
Baltimore prohibited him from consecrating any church the title
of which was not in the Bishop. The trustees assured him that
the title was in the Bishop, and to convince him, brought him an
attested copy of the deed, which the Bishop still holds. A few
dates will now suffice to show Mr. Babcock how he has been de-
ceived by an unhappy man, whose talent for misstatement is
perhaps unrivaled :

" Bishop Timon reached St. Louis church late at night, on the
22d of October, 1847. Whilst there, he was employed in giving
directions, and preparing himself for the consecration of the
church, and just stayed long enough to consecrate it, and to con-
firm two hundred and twenty-seven persons. The church was


consecrated on the 21st of l^overaber, 1847. The Bishop moved
to St. Patrick's church on the 23d of November, having stayed
at St. Louis church about one month.

" He who will compare these facts and dates with the state-
ment of Mr. Babcock to the Senate and people of New York,
cannot but deeply regret that the Hon. Senator should have lent
the influence of his name and high station to calumny.

" The worthy priest, who, in the new church of St. Michael, is
still the honored pastor of a majority of the former congregation
of St. Louis, left that church, bearing with him the blessed sacra-
ment, when he was publicly insulted in it, menaced, and ordered
by the daring minority to quit it. Can the Bishop be blamed
for not sending there another priest, when all who lived under the
domination of the trustees either fled from it, declaring the post
untenable, or importuned their Bishop to deliver them from such
tyranny? Can the Bishop be blamed for refusing to go to law
even with a misguided portion of his flock, or for not urging his
claims, valid or invalid, but donating lots and money to aid in
building sheds in which the faithful portion of his flock may
worship in peace ? Can the Bishop be blamed for refusing his
services to men who refuse to accept his terms ? Is the Bishop
bound by any law to guide men who refuse to be guided by him;
but who call that right which he calls wrong, and that wrong
which he calls right? "Would not a Bishop of the Protestant
Episcopal Church refuse to sanction sacred rites in a church
in which a minority, after insulting their pastor, and chasing him
away, repudiated the discipline of the Church to which they

"I need scarcely say that the touching jeremiad of the Sena-

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 17 of 30)