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

. (page 18 of 30)
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 18 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tor 'is all a farce.' Those Germans who really wish to be
Catholics and hear mass, have now, as formerly, all the sacraments
administered to them. Those who wish to be Catholics accord-
ing to their own rule, still go to St. Louis church, and make the
prayers that suit them.

"Mr. Babcock is equally unfortunate in all his operations; it is
not true that ' through the intervention of Cardinal Fornasi, the


Pope's Nimcio at Paris, Mr. Lecouteiilx succeeded in his mis-
sion.' But it is true that the trustees begged pardon of Bishop
Hughes, promised amendment, and obtained forgiveness for their
reckless and insulting conduct!

"The Senator says: 'In France, for instance, the Church pro-
perty is held by the municipal council, composed exclusively of
laymen.' Alas, here again the same evil genius was at the Sen-
ator's elbow, to tell him what is not true. In France, no parish
church or its property is held under the name of a municipal
council, or of a corporation, or of a layman ! Permit me to cite
a little of French law; the French text will be at the Senator's
service at any time:

"In 1801 a concordat was made between France and the
Hol}^ See; the twelfth article reads thus: 'All metropolitan, cathe-
dral, and parochial churches, and all other churches necessary
for worship, shall be delivered up to the care of the Bishop.'
This law remains in force to this day, in that part of Catholic
Europe which was affected by the French revolution.

" On the 18th June, 1827, a concordat was made between the
King of Belgium and the Holy See. The first article is: 'Art. 1.
The concordat of 1801, between the Sovereign Pontiff and the
French government, being now in force in the southern provinces
of Belgium, shall henceforward apply also to the northern pro-

" In the French decree concerning Les FahnqiieSy passed 30th
December, 1809, we find: 'Of Sales,' 'Article 1. The aberration
of Church property cannot be valid, unless authorized by the
Emperor, (King, etc., as rulers changed,) mid hy the Bisho])^ the
administrator ex officio of Church property. '

" ' Sec. 2. Art. 1. The council of administration of a church
shall watch over the preservation and repairs of the church, and
administer the revenues. In parishes of more than five thousand
population, there shall be nine councilors; the Bishop will name
five and the Prefect four; in parishes of less than five thousand
souls, there will be only five councilors; the Bishop will appoint
three, the Prefect two. The pastor of the church shall always,


ex officio^ be the first member of the council; he may depute his
\dcar to fill his place. The council shall name the ' marguilliers,'
(acting trustees.) Vacancies that occur will be filled by a major-
ity of the council; if they neglect this for one month, the Bishop
must then name to the vacancy.'

" Americans would perhaps only pity the Hon. Senator ibr his
gullibility in believing the statement of ' his respectable inform-
ant ' in French law. But deeply mortified will the candid
American be, when he finds the same Senator mistaldng the laws
of our own country, in order to satisfy those bigoted feelings to
which he well alludes when he says : ' As a private citizen and a
Protestant, I may have a duty to perform in regard to the growth
of Romanism, very wide of that incumbent upon a legislator.'
"Wliat sort of a duty he may have to perform, Mr. Babcock says
not. It may not be to burn our convents, as in Philadelphia ;
still he may have a duty to perform in regard to the rapid growth
of Pomanism!

" If Mr. Babcock had studied the law which he read in the
Senate, he must have seen that the clause first enacted forms a
Church government merely human, (the pastor having of right no
more to do with the trustees than the man in the moon.) Other
societies were not satisfied. The Protestant Episcopal Church
obtained a special enactment, declaring that the pastor of the
church is, ex Oifficio^ member and president of the board of
trustees. Other Churches, too, claimed exemption from that
ultra-human form.

" The Peformed Dutch Church obtained this concession : ' Be
it enacted, that the minister or ministers, and elders and deacons,
of every Peformed Dutch church or congregation, now or here-
after to be established in this State, shall be the trustees for every
such church or congregation.' Even the Presbyterians found
themselves aggrieved by the earlier act; hence, in 1822, they
obtained this exemption : ' Be it enacted, that the minister or
ministers, and elders and deacons, of every Reformed Presby-
terian church, now or hereafter to be established within this


State, shall be tiie trustees of every such church and congrega-
tion.' In 1825, the ' Tme Keformed Dutch Church ' obtained
the same favor.

'" Roman Catholics can only incorporate by a clause so ultra-
Presbyterian, that even Presbyterians have asked and obtained
laws to exempt them from its rigor. To the honor of the
legislators who passed it, we may say that it was never intended
for Catholics, (Catholics were then but a handful; the law seems
to ignore their very existence,) no officer of their Church is once
designated. The Hon. Senator says: ' Full ninety-nine hundredths
of all the religious societies in the State are organized under the
provisions of this law.' Is this an evasion, or special pleading?
Under the clause against which the Catholics protest, it will be
fair to say that only a small minority of the religious societies are
incorporated. Take away the Protestant Episcopal Church, the
Eeformed Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Dutch Church, the
True Reformed Dutch Church, and see if 'ninety-nine hundredths
of the religious societies of the State are organized ' under the
form which ago-rieves the Catholics.

"The Hon. Senator says that 'the Senator from the 11th, and
others in and out of the Senate, claim that the Reformed Dutch
Church has simOar powers, and is a close corporation.' He is
wholly mistaken; the constitution of that Church provides for the
election of the elders and' deacons by the body of the church, and
for certain periods. But as regards the point at issue, either the
Hon. Senator does not know what law is, or, in his high office of
Senator, he descended to special pleading to mislead the Senate.

" Men who would vote for an individual to be trustee, would not
afterwards refuse a vote to the same person were he a candidate for
a spiritual office. Through an error, repugnant to the legislation
of the Holy Scriptures and to the experience of man, many
unthinking persons consider the church edifice and the revenues
of the chm-ch as entirely distinct from the church in its spiritual
character. In vain do we tell them that they might as well con-
sider the body, its nourishment, its functions, and its actions, as
entirely distinct from the soul. In vain do we show them how,


by God's eternal law, the soul acts on the body, and the body
and the functions of the body have their powerful influence on the
Boul. In vain do we show them that to legislate for the human
body, because it is flesh, as you would legislate for the animal
body, which is also flesh, would be enslaving the immortal s]>irit:
still they affect to consider the church, not as the house of God,
but as the house of Mr. Somebody, whom they rej)resent, and the
church revenues, not as something consecrated to God, and belong,
ing to Him, but as something belonging to them and their's. Such
persons will vote for Mr, B. as a trustee, because he is a very
clever fellow; for Mr. C, because he is a great financier; for Mr.
D., because he is a good Democrat, etc. Ask their vote to elect
the same person into some known spiritual ofiice, and they will
shrink from the projDOsal.

" The Hon. Senator gives us extracts from the canon law which
go most strongly to prove that the Bishops, and at least ninety-
nine hundredths of the Catholics in the United States, know and
act according to the principles of their Church, and that Mr.
Lecouteulx and a very small minority, who care little for sacra-
ments or discipline, neither know nor act according to the religion
they profess. I do not here seek to prove that the Catholics are
right, and that Mr. Babcock's religion is wrong. I merely say
that Mr. Babcock's extracts, proving that the Bishops and the
priests are right in their construction of the laws and disci^^line
of their churches, prove also that they are worthy of praise, and
not of blame, when they peacefully withdraw from men -who do
not believe as they do, and abandon the church edifice and its
prospects, rather than go to law or act against their conscience.

" How different from Mr. Babcock's were the sentiments of the
honored men who legislated for New York near the time of the
heroes and sages of our Revolution! The very act passed 6tli
of April, 1784, which enacts the clause against which alone
Catholics protest, says: 'It is ordained and declared that the free
exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship,
without discrimination or preference, be enjoyed by all religious
denominations.' On the 7th of March, 1788, the New York


Legislature passed the law which now figures as one of the
clauses of the present law. The preamble is as follows :
' Whereas, by the usage of the religious societies commonly
known by the appellation of the Reformed Dutch Churches, the
minister or ministers, and elders and deacons for the time being,
have the management of the temporalities of the respective
congregations, and the said congregations cannot therefore avail
themselves of the benefit intended by the ' act to enable all the
religious denominations in the State to appoint trustees, etc.,*
without departing from such usage which has been long estab-
lished, therefore, be it enacted, etc' Then follows the law
which constitutes the oflices in the spiritual order, and their
successors in that order, trustees to manage the temporalities.
On the ITth of March, 1795, a law passed exempting the
Protestant Episcopal Church from the rigor of the law of 1784.
But let us hear the very words of the Protestant Church and of
the Legislature : ' Whereas, the Protestant Episcopal Church in
this State hath represented that the 'act to enable all the religious
denominations in this State to appoint trustees,' passed 6th Ajiril,
1784, directs a mode of incorporation which subjects it to a
variety of ditficulties, leaving the congregations not incorporated
to the alternative of foregoing the benefit of incorporation, or of
suhmitting to an entire alteration and subversion of the usual and
peculiar government of the respective congregations of said
Church', for remedy whereof, Be it enacted, etc' Then follows
that which now stands as a clause of the law of our present
Digest or Revisions.

" In that of 1784, against which Catholics, like the respectable
Protestants above cited, protest, for the very same reason, because
they cannot use it ' without an entire alteration and subversion of
the usual and peculiar government of the respective congregations
of said Church.' That law of 1784 which ignores the existence
of the Roman Catholic Church and of its ministers, termi-
nates with the noble and generous proviso, which, if it have
not the power of law in the book, will, I am sure, in every
generous heart, be a law to give to Catholics that relief which


Protestants claimed and obtained. ' Be it further enacted, etc.,
that nothing herein contained will be construed, adjudged, or
taken to abridge or affect the rights of conscience^ or private
judgment, or in the least to alter or change the religious consti-
tution or government of either of the said churches, congregations
or societies, so far as respects, or in any wise concerns^ the
doct/rines^ discvpliMe^ or worship thereof.^


It was always the intention of Bishop Timon to establish, in
connection with the hospital, a " Foundling Asylum " and "Lying-
in House; " as many infants, whose parents had died in tlie
hospital, had no friends to whom they might be given, and con-
sequently, in the very beginning, these children were at first cared
for in awing of the hospital; but, the number of children increas-
ing, and the attention necessary to be paid to them, resulting in
serious damage to the interests of the sick in the hospital. Bishop
Timon was constrained, though with much difficulty, to seek
other lodgings in which to commence a new institution in his

Mr. Louis Stephen Lecouteulx, who had donated other valu-
able pieces of property for religious and charitable purposes, had
intended to give a certain piece of ground, (at present occupied
by a magnificent building called "St. Yincent's Infant Asylum,"
situated on Edward street,) to the Bishop, for any charitable pur-
pose he might see fit to promote. Upon the death of Mr. Lecou-
teulx, senior, his son, P. A. Lecouteulx, kindly donated, according
to the terms of his father's will, this piece of property for such an
asylum; but, owing to a want of funds, Bishop Timon hesitated for
a long time to build upon, and thereby take possession of the land.
Legally, after a certain number of years, the property would have
reverted to the lawful heirs of Mr. Lecouteulx, senior, and indeed,
the time fixed by law for such issues had nearly expired, when,
by mere accident, Bishop Timon discovered the oversight. No
doubt, the necessities of the case, too, very materially aided in


awakenino; him to the critical situation of affairs. He immedi-
ately liad the ground properly fenced in, and two or three small
cottages moved on to it, and in these humble dwellings he began
"St. Vincent's Infant Asylum." This was in the year 1853.
Just at this juncture the cholera broke out in the United States,
and the hospitals were literally choked with patients, many of
whom died. Mothers with infants died almost every day, and
these latter helpless beings, thus deprived of their natural protec-
tors, immediately found a home and careful nursing in the new
asylum. Bishop Timon himself frequently assisted in carrying
over in his own arms* to the asylum, little infants from the hos-
pital whose parents had just died. But, in a very short time,
even these cottages were found to be too small and inconvenient
to answer the purpose required. The present handsome edifice
was projected, for which a subscription was at first started, with
which to commence building. In the meantime, Bishop Timon,
in 1853, succeeded in getting this asylum incorporated, according
to law. The work already begun on the new building was now
pushed on with renewed energy, so that, on the 24th day of
June, 1854, it was ready to receive its first entrances. Since
then improvements have been made, aided by kind donations
from the State.

How imperceptibly the decrees of Divine Providence manifest
themselves tlirough the zeal of devoted and pious men. Thus, in
a few years, from rude beginnings, noble institutions of charity
have sprung up on every side, to the advancement of the inter
ests of the community in whose midst they have been built
Where, a short time ago, were uncultivated acres of la-^d.^ ovei
whose wastes have swept the howl of the wind, there now stand
monuments of mercy, whose splendid piles rear in grandeur to
the skies, as if in thanksgiving for the inscrutable designs of God.
In the meantime. Bishop Timon, in the year 1853, purchased for
the sum of twelve thousand dollars, which he actually had to
lorrow^ a small farm for a cemetei-y, and consecrated forty acres

*The Bishop had early joined the order of St. Vincent de Paul, and in this act of charity,
imitated the example of the illustrious founder of the Sisterhood of infant charity.



of it. This cemetery is located on Limestone Hill, near Buffiilo.

The dijfficulty with the St. Louis church rebels became daily
more complicated and defiant, so that Bishop Timon, who, in the
exercise of charity and forbearance, had overlooked many and
oft re])eated violations of Church discipline, at length felt himself
impelled to adopt a more stringent and decisive course. As has
been seen from the correspondence between Monsignore Bediui,
the Pope's legate, and the trustees, the Nuncio used the follow-
iuff remarkable words :

"•The congregation of St, Louis, by adopting the course indi-
cated, which alone is just and indispensable, will give a noble
proof of faith and charity. But if they refuse, I can only see in
them persons faithless to their duties, who can never be received
as obedient sons of the Church of God."

The trustees "could not see" this kind of advice, and hence
compelled the Nuncio to wind up the correspondence ia the fol-
lowing painful language:

" Now, 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 forced itself upon
me, that you disregard altogether Catholic principles, conse-
quently, that if you persist, it only remains for me to deplore the
sad position in which you place yourselves in the face of the
Church; but the responsibility of this rests on yourselves."

Tiie authority and kindness of the Nuncio failing to adjust the
difficulty between the trustees and their duty, the matter, of
course, was left entirely in the Bishop's hands. He readily
availed himself of the authority thus left him by the Nuncio, in
writing, which was as follows:

"I consider them as not being Catholics at heart, and, Right
Reverend Sir, should your Episcopal ministry inspire you to de-
clare so, in order that good Catholics may know who are their
brethren and who are not, and that those who now are led astray
may no longer be deceived as to right or participation in the
benedictions and benefits of the Catholic Church, I leave it to
your discretion and to your holy inspirations."


This judgment was approved of by the Holy See. The trus-
tees, however, in the public papers, published, amidst many
untruths, their determination never to comply with the decision of
the Holy Father, and this, finally, deternn'ned the Bishop's course
of action, and rendered his duty more imperative and decisive.

Therefore, on the feast of the Octavo of Corpus Christi, June
21st, 1854, Bishop Timon issued his major or greater excommu-
nication against the trustees,* (seven in number,) declaring
further, " that all who may accept the office of trustee of St. Louis
church, to continue the present unholy opposition to Church dis-
cipline^ will, ipsofacto^ incur the same major excommunication."

For nearly two years after the excommunication of the trus-
tees, Bishop Timon allowed no priest to officiate in St. Louis
church. A black flag was flung to the breezes above the church,
by some misguided people, and, although obliged to act as he
had done towards the leaders and promoters of strife in the con-
gregation. Bishop Timon often wept tears of sorrow for the
condition of the congregation itself, thus deprived of spiritual
help. But he did not altogether despair for their future.

On the feast of Pentecost, May 27th, 1855, at the earnest soli-
citation of the distinguished missionary. Rev. Father Weniger,
S. J., the interdict was solemnly removed, and the church re-
opened. The following is the permission given for the removal
of the interdict :

" Buffalo, May 18th, 1855.
"The pious, learned, and zealous missionary, Father Weiiiger,
(wishing to labor for the salvation of souls in the only German
church of this diocese which has not yet heard his noble and
truly christian eloquence,) requests me to withdraw the interdict
from the church of St. Louis, and the excommunication from the
trustees. I can refuse nothing to this worthy priest of God; con-
senting, therefore, to his request, I hereby declare, that the
excommunication will cease as soon as the holy Triduan in St.

Louis church will begin.

'<_[_ JOHN, Bishop of Buffalo.''

* Names are here omitted for charity's sake, as the excommunication over them has since
been removed.


Father "Weniger succeeded in obtaining some concessions to
ecclesiastical laws and discipline on the part of the trustees,
though the good father has himself since acknowledged that it
was not without reciprocal concessions on his part. At first,
Bishop Timon was not fully satisfied with the manner in which
Father Weniger was dealing with the affair, and went frequently
to the St. Louis church parsonage to see him about it. At length,
the matter went so far that Father Weniger respectfully sug-
gested to the Bishop, " One of us has to leave Buffalo, until the
settlement is effected." Bishop Timon consented to go to Pitts-

In the statutes of the Diocese of Buffalo, (page 26, Art. xix.,)
may be found the Bishop's conduct towards this church, and
there will also be found the affirmation of the entire clergy, that
the Bishop acted wisely, and even was not strict enough with
this congregation.

The erring 'men at last yielded, and once more the holy sacri-
fice was offered in their church. Thus ended, seemingly, this
long and stubborn difficulty of St. Louis church. We say seem-
ingly, because since then frequent misunderstandings have taken
place, threatening the life of their pastor, and casting under the
table in the waste basket any official communication to the board
of trustees from the Bishop. In fact, this trouble may be com.
pared to the eruptions of a volcano like Vesuvius. Frequent
small eruptions from the mouth of the crater, indicate that the
fires of matter, once so destructive and dangerous, are not wholly
extinct, and are likely, at any moment, to assert their former
ascendency irrespective of the dire consequences that may ensue.

So with St. Louis church. The great eruption has been calmed
down. But the frequent insults to Episcopal authority since, and
the insolence and ill-bred behavior to its priests, are indications
enough to show that the fires of rebellion are still aglow, although
under subdued discipline. God spare the church of the future
in this city from the further scandal of insubordination of the laity
against due Church authority. Amen.



Education.— CoxvENT of the Sacred Heart.— St. Joseph's College.— Oblate Fathers
ARRIVE.— St. Joseph's College.— Discouraging Circumstances.— It Fails. — Chris-
tian Brothers. — Miss Nardin's Academy. — Incidents.— Sisters of the Good
Shepherd. — A detailed Report. — Other Religious Orders. — Provincial Synod. —
Its Results and Importance.— Bishop goes to Rome.— Dogma of Imbiaculatb

The next want in this diocese that manifested itself very
plainly to the Bishop, was that of education. As early as 1848,
Rev. Julian Delaune, late President of St. Mary's College, in
Kentucky, under the auspices of the Bishop, opened the College
of the Sacred Heart, at Rochester; but it met with difficulties, and
closed in 1852. The exertions of the Bishop, however, in the
cause of education, were not confined to this college; he sought
to endow his diocese with a house of religious women, devoted
to the highest order of teaching, and therefore rejoiced to find
that the ladies of the Sacred Heart were able and willing to aid
him. Accordingly, a colony came from Manhattanville, New
York, in 181:9, and founded a convent of their order in Buffalo,
which, however, was, in 1855, transferred to Rochester, as a more
central point for tlieir academy.

The subject of education seemed to impose special claims upon
the Bishop's attention, and, as a matter of urgent necessity as
well as of vital importance, he did not forget the youth of both

In 1849, he opened another institution in Bufiklo, known as St.
Joseph's College. He placed it under the tutelage of the clergy,
and gave it the above name, out of a special veneration he held
for St. Joseph. The early career of this college was a varied
one, transferred from one portion of the cit}' to the other, it was
temporarily located in the Episcopal residence attached to the

Bishop Timon was particularly anxious for its success, and the
encouragements he held out to the laity, and the degree of talent
he employed, were such as to reveal the interest he evinced for

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 18 of 30)