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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concerning the Holy Virgin Mary, to whom an abundance of
grace was given to conquer sin completely. They also declared
that most Glorious Virgin the reparation of her parents, the
vivifier of posterity chosen from the ages, prepared for Himself
by the Most High; predicted by God when He said to the serpent,
'I will place enmity between thee and the woman;' w^ho un-
doubtedly has crushed the poisonous head of the same serpent;
and therefore they affirm that the same Blessed Virgin was,


through grace, perfectly free from every stain of sin, and from all
contagion of body, and soul, and mind, and always conversant
with God, and, united with Him in an eternal covenant, never
was in darkness, but always in light, and, therefore, was plainly
a fit habitation for Christ, not on account of her bodily state, but
on account of her original grace. To these things are added the
noble words in which, speaking of the conception of the Virgin,
they have testified that nature yielded to grace and stood trem-
bling, not being able to proceed further; for it was to be that the
Virgin mother of God should not be conceived of Anna before
grace should bear fruit. For she ought thus to be conceived as a
first born, from whom was to be conceived the first born of every
creature. They have testified that the flesh of the Virgin, taken
from Adam, did not admit the stain of Adam, and on this
account, that the most Blessed Virgin was the tabernacle created
by God Himself, formed by the Holy Spirit, truly enriched with
purple, which that new Bezaleel made, adorned and woven with
gold, and that the same Virgin is, and deservedly is, celebrated
as she who was the first and peculiar work of God, escaped from
the fiery weapon of evil, and fair by nature, and entirely free
from all stain of sin, came into the world all shining like the
moon in her immaculate conception; nor, truly, was it right that
this vessel of election should be assailed by common injuries, since
differing very much from others, she shared their nature not their
fault ; far more, it was right that, as the Only Begotten had
a Father in heaven, whom the Seraphim extol thrice holy,
so He should have a mother on earth, vviio never should
want the splendor of His holiness. And this doctrine, indeed,
so filled the minds and souls of our forefathers, that marvelous
and singuhir forms of speech prevailed with them, in which
they very frequently called the mother of God immaculate,
and entirely immaculate, innocent, and most innocent, spot-
less, holy, and most distant from every stain of sin; all pure,
all perfect, the type and model of purity and innocence by nature,
fairer, more beautifnl, and more holy than the Cherubim and the
Seraphim; she, whom all the tongues of heaven and earth do not


suffice to extol. ISTo one is ignorant that these forms of S23eech
have passed, as it were spontaneously, into the monuments of the
most Holy Liturgy, and the offices of the Church, ' and that they
occur often in them and abound amply; and since the mother of
God is invoked and named in them as a spotless dove of beauty,
as a rose ever blooming and perfectly pure, and ever spotless
and ever blessed, and is celebrated as innocence which was never
wounded, and the second Eve, who brought forth ImmanueL'

"Through liturgies, through fathers of the Church, through
decrees of many Popes, establishing the Feast of the Immaculate
Conception, and attaching indulgences to it, we traced the con-
stant belief of God's Church, and we hear the fathers of the
Council of Trent, when defining the communication of original
sin to all the posterity of Adam, protest that it was not their in-
tention to include in that declaration the Blessed and Immaculate
Virgin. At length, in this last epoch of time, the adorable Son
inspires His Yicar on earth to define the dogma. From the right
hand of this Eternal Father, the devout son may well conceive
that best of Sons, thus addressing His own loved mother: 'My
love, undefiled one, in the begiiming of My Church I inspired
the apostles, though none contradicted, to define some few articles
of faith and all implicitly in the clause; ' I believe in the Holy
Catholic Church.' Then, after professing faith in My Eternal
Father, in Me, His only Begotten Son, and in the Holy Spirit, I
taught them to record thy name and My birth from thee as a
Virgin. Now, as time draws to its close, though no one that
claims to be a child of My Church, doubts this privilege, yet, I
now urge the organs of the mystic body to weave into the fair
garland that crowns thy sacred brow, the spotless lily of thy
Immaculate Conception. Then, as in Divine light My love for
thee shines in brighter, holier radiance, so through thee shall My
graces flow more abundantly on My redeemed, to aid them in
better sanctifying what yet remains of time.'

" It may perhaps be said, ' If Mary was sinless, how is Christ
her Saviour? ' In the noblest manner is He her Saviour. Mary
is immaculate only through His merits. From Calvary back


through all preceding ages, back even to Adam, flowed the
efficacy of His sacred blood; back, too, from Calvary, even to the
dwelling of Holy Anna, did the merits of the same blood reach
to save Mary in a perfect manner, not from sin, incurred, but from
incurring the least stain of sin. A physician would better save his
friend by preserving him from a dreadful disease, (which, with-
out such preservation, must certainly have been incurred,) than
by curing him of the same disease after it had been incurred.
It is not, indeed, a little ornament to the redemption which is in
Christ Jesus, that it redeemed one of the race in a manner so
perfect. Mary's preservation from original sin is solely through
tlie merits of Jesus, all her glory is His; 'tis He that so wonder-
fully lavished His grace upon her; 'tis He that so gloriously now
crowns her merits, and who, in crowning her merits, does but
crown His own gifts."


The bill introduced into the Legislature by the Hon. James O.
Putnam, (reference to which has already been made, and which
was the famous Church Property bill,) became a law upon
the statute books.

Bishop Timon published a letter, addressed to the public
papers, in which he set forth his views on the question, which
substantially are the same as embodied in his reply to Senator
Babcock. Some of his statements in this letter being solemnly
emphatic, we reproduce a few quotations, particularly that por-
tion in which he very humorously grinds up the " poetry " of
Mr. Putnam's speech on the bill :


'-'•Mr. Editor: To use the common phrase, ' in this enlightened
age, and in this free country,' a law has passed, conflicting most
probably with the constitution of our State, and certainly at vari-
ance with the maxims of our forefathers. Mr. Putnam, the
father of that bill, showed its necessity by ' presenting a petition,
which, in view of its great importance, he said should be printed;
his motion to that effect was adopted by the Senate.' Seventeen


men, who determine, right or wrong, to call themselves Catholics,
signed that petition, which Archbishop Hughes calls a ' fiction in
all its material parts, with a small sprinkling of truth in parts
which are not material;' and ably has he proved his assertion.
My name having also been introduced by the petitioners, it be-
comes a duty to satisfy the public that Archbishop Hughes uttered
the truth in his letter, when he said, ' I am persuaded that the
trustees of St. Louis church have as little reason to complain of
their present Bishop as they had to complain of me.'

"First, then, !Mr. Editor, I solemnly declare that I neither
asked the trustees, nor thought of asking them, or of compdling
them to surrender to me the title of said church; on the contrary,
when the trustees' party spread false reports to that effect in
public documents, I not only denied the charge, but also declared
that no inducements, no salary, could ever tempt me to adminis-
ter their revenues."

In July, 1854, a correspondent of the Buffalo CommerrJM
Adn^eriisKT^ answering by authority of the Bishop the same mis-
statement, says :

"Your correspondent of last evening infers that the offence of
the trustees is their ' sturdy and meritorious refusal to convey the
property of the society to the Bishop.' Strange! the documents
have been published that prove that the Bishop never asked the
trustees to convey said property to him, for the same reason that
the Bishop already, as always, holds the deed for that property,
and he believes that the laws of our free and happy country
would sustain hinn in his right. The dilliculty has never been
about the property, but about the violation of Church discipline.
The Bishop has over and over declared to the trustees and to
others, that he never would go to law to vindicate his right to
such a property; he preferred to build poor churches, even shan-
ties, in which f-iithful Germans might worship in peace, and
suffer the trustees to keep the material edifice and property.
The Bishop has kept his word; greatly through his aid and con-
tributions two new German churches have been erected, and are
now crowded with faithful Germans. The trustees have been


suffered to keep St. Louis church and its property, and the Bishop
has not troubled them in their possession. If they want his ser-
vices, or those of his assistants, he has a right to define his terms;
they cannot force him to serve them on their terms.

"I never was opposed to a fair trustee system; I would even
bear with a bad one, were it administered by Catholics in a
Catholic spirit, who, as Archbishop Bedini said, ' would make
their action harmonious with their duty as Catholics.' Hence,
when Rev. Mr. Guth,* with the French portion of the congrega-
tion, had been forced, by the oppression of the trustees, to abandon
St. Louis church, I was satisfied with the pledge and the writ-
ten document which the trustees gave, that none but practical
Catholics should be elected trustees, that the Pastor should bo
president of the board, and have a vote, and that the discipline
of the Church should be observed. Each of these promises have
been violated. For many years, and in several of our councils,
I have advocated the expediency of a trustee system which Cath-
olics could safely and conscientiously use; but I have always felt
as a great number of the most respectable Protestant churches of
this State, and their Protestant members have felt, with regard
to the clause under which alone Catholics can be incorporated.
T know not why men, after being informed of their error, persist
in saying that the law ' for religious incorporation ' passed in
1813. t

" The trustees say that the incorporation was effected with the
hearty concurrence of the Bishop. Yet, the Rev. Mr. Pax,
then pastor, denies it, and the Yery Rev. Raffeiner, Yicar Gen-
eral for the Germans in the Diocese of New York, has declared
on oath that Bishop Dubois did not consent to incorporation, and
that he was much displeased when he heard that it had been
effected. But why follow these ' petitions' through their .wild fic-
tion ? TVas I not in Europe when the oppressions and usurpations

* Rev. Guth was obliged to leave St. Louis church, bearing with him the Sacred Host, owing
to the threats and violence used against him.

fHere the Bishop quotes and explains the laws passed in 1784, 1789, 1795, 1822, and 1825, but
which are omitted here, as they are substantially contained in his reply to Senator Babcock'a



of the trustees forced the Rev. Mr. Gnth, with the French
portion of the congregation, to abandon St. Louis church, and
their rights in and to it?

" My efforts from first to last were to see its revenues admin-
istered by truly Catholic laymen of the same congregation, in
accordance with the laws of the Church; and also to enable the
clergy to secure the decency of Divine worship, and freely admin-
ister the introductions and spiritual helps that might best
sanctify the flock. How much longer I might have remained
striving to obtain this end, by protestations, by kindness, or by
menace, I know not. The trustee party settled that question, and
hurried on their work. After publicly insulting and menacing
their j^astor in the very church, they ordered him out of it; he
then, and then only, left it, bearing with him the Blessed Sacra-
ment, and neither the Lord nor His minister has entered the
desecrated house since; nor would any worthy priest consent,
even at the request of the Bishop, to be pastor of that church,
until the wound, that has been festering for so many years, be
radically cured.

" Since writing the above, I have seen the speech of Hon. Mr.
Putnam. Alas! alas! In the Senate of a great State, the hon-
orable gentleman quotes Shakspeare, Milton, Wordsworth, and
'the 7nuse of history;' but certainly, he deals but little in 'the
unvarnished tale of trnth,' in 'calm reason's holy law,' or in the
sober prose of history. Had the Hon. Senator examined the
records of Erie County, he would have found that the Bishop
after purchasing, (not with the people's money, but with his own,)
property for an hospital, for orphan asylums, for a college, etc.,
conveyed that property to incorporations or societies, who will
use them for these charitable and beneficent objects. Had the
Hon. Senator not lived in a world of fiction and prejudice, he
would have known that Mr. Brownson neither wrote nor pub-
lished the passage with which the honorable gentleman treated
the Senate. Did the Hon. Senator speak prose or poetry in the
wildest fiction, when he said: 'It took Anglo-Saxon Protestant-
ism but about one century to work out its illiberality and


intolerance,' or when lie gave the touching picture about 'the
darkest hour of the middle ages, when the English throne scarce
had a being save at the pleasure of the lloman Pontiff; nearly
one-half of the real estate of the kingdom was absorbed in the
Catholic Church.'

" What poetry in the passage which represents the priest as
'armed with the terrible enginery of the Vatican, closing the
door of the sanctuary, })utting out the fires upon its altar, and
scourging every communicant who dares to think a thought inde-
pendent of iiis spiritual master!' etc. But does not the Hon.
Senator know that the trustees keep the keys of the church? hence
if the sanctuary is closed it is they alone that close it? Does the
Hon. Senator use the word communicant in irony, because he
knows the 'Eminent Catholic,' whose letter he read in the
Senate, has not thought fit, for many, many long j^ears, to be a
communicant, or to practice other essential Catholic duties? But
poetry itself can scarcely excuse, not the fiction, but the worse
than fiction, of his passage : ' Here, sir, in the bosom of this free
State, we find a hierarchy having no sympathy with our institu-
tions, admitting no supreme fealty to the civil power, but acting
under the impulsive energy of its Italian centre and head. '

" tempora^ mores! The French lawyers must go to school
to Mr. Putnam to learn what he teaches, which is contrary to the
express letter of their code, and to the practice of France, of
Belgium, etc., that 'the temporal administration of the Church
is in the Council of Fabique, who are chosen by the Municipal
Council, the latter being chosen hy the people in several com-
munes!' Had the Senator said they were elected by the
Bishops, he would have been more near the truth. The people of
France have nothing to do in their elections. Alas! again alas!
that such hearsay statements, such narrow, bigoted views, founded
on superficial reading, should be uttered in so dictatorial a tone,
in the noblest Senate of our happy country.

"-f JOHN TIMON, Bishop of Buffalo.'


Besides assisting in council at Rome for the Chiicch in general,
Bishop Timon did not forget his own flock and diocese in particu-
lar. He obtained a special favor from the Holy Father, of which
the following is the translation :

" Rome, !N"ovember 19, 1854.
" The Bishop of Buffalo humbly entreats His Holiness to grant
a plenary indulgence, on the conditions usually attached to such
a grace, once a year, and also a plenary indulgence at the article
of death, to the present or future benefactors of the fine Orphan
Asylums in the Diocese of Bnftalo."

"Rome, November 19, 1854.

"The petition is granted.

"PIUS, P. P., EX."


St. Patrick's and other Churches. — St. Joseph's Cathedral.— Correspondence.—
Bishop Timon travels the World for Help for his Cathedral. — Difficulties.
— Corner Stone and Dedication. — First Diocesan Synod. — A Carillon of Forty-
three Bells.— Episcopal Visitations.— Bishop Timon visits St. Louis, Mo.— Thk
Alleghany College.— Election Day.— Juvenile Asylum.

'The holy Providence that blessed the material labors of the
Church Militant in the Diocese of Bnifalo, was indeed mysterious;
and although the necessities of religion in council at Rome, as
well as the multifarious duties throughout the diocese, taxed
heavily upon the age and health of' Bishop Timon, still, amid all
of these incessant occupations, he found time to make provision
for other purposes of a more gigantic nature.

After he left St. Louis church, in 1848, he originated St.
Patrick's parish, and built on the corner of Ellicott and Batavia
streets, contiguous to the " Vincent Orphan Asylum," a neat
brick church, in which that portion of his flock who were willing
to obey Church discipline might worship in peace. Many pious
German and French Catholics of St. Louis church, likewise


dissatisfied with the conduct of the men who had secured them-
selves the position of trustees, began to form other parishes.
Hence was started St. Mary's church, under the Redemptorist
Fathers, in a long, narrow, brick building, in which were no pews,
but where, indiscriminately, without reference to rank or sex,
pious people gathered to worship, also unencumbered with trouble
to their Bishop. During the Bishop's absence in Europe, in 1853,
Kev. Mr. Guth was compelled to leave St. Louis' church, as already
stated, and with him went a great many good French people, who
formed the congregation of St. Peter's.

Shortly afterwards St. Michael's church was begun. Then
followed other churches, as if by magic, all over the city, so that,
at the present time, Buffalo has seven churches of Catholic faith.
Many of these are magnificent edifices, to say nothing of the
cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

The wants of a rapidly increasing flock gave Bishop Timon no
time for inaction. On the contrary, though continually busy, he
conceived the project of building a plaice of Divine worship that
should be the crowning act of his Episcopal labors. It was to
build St. Joseph's Cathedral. As early as 1850, he made
preparations for this purpose, and consulted with his architect,
P. C. Keely, Esq., into whose able hands he committed its

" To Sister .

" Buffalo, April 29, 1854.

''''Dear Sister: I returned last night from seeing the Mother
Superior in Albany; unhappily, her sufferings did not permit her
to go further. Your esteemed letter and the pious gift w^ere
handed to me; accept my thanks. The prayer for the chaplet
of the Immaculate Conception was indeed very beautiful. I
*Tiope that you and other good Sisters will offer up the chaplet
and the prayer to obtain God's protection upon the poor Bishop
of Buffalo.

" If I can, I will pass by Emmetsburgh as I return from Pitts-
burgh, though, alas, I know not what sudden call may prevent


me. Pray that I may be enabled to finish my cathedral^ for
now it makes me a perfect slave. May God, in mercy, accept
the sacrifices which I must daily make.

" With great respect and esteem,

"Your obedient and humble servant,

"-f JOHN, Bishop of Buffalo:'

" N'ew York, May 13, 1854.
'•''Dear Sister: It gave me great pleasure to receive your letter,
and that of Sister . Thanks to both for kind remem-
brances. Your remarks about our poor beginnings touched me
much. Yes, dear Sister, Hhen^ when I hardly "knew where to find
what would meet the expenses of the next day., God gave such
peace and joy that we were all happy; blessed be His holy name.
And let me try to serve Him well now, when prospects seem
more smiling. The Orphan Asylum goes on well, as does the
Hospital. The Protestants have lately appealed to the public for
their Orphan Asylum, and they say, ' See how the Koman Cath-
olics keep up their benevolent works ; it is a shame we do not
imitate them.' Though trying all I can to get up a cathedral,
still we do not neglect your children. I even hope this season to
make an addition to their house. Pray for us, and pray in an
especial manner for

" Your devoted father in Christ,

"-]- J HN, Bishop of Buffalo. ' '

In order to meet the expenses of this costly undertaking, Bishop
Timon visited Mexico, Spain, some parts of Europe, and the
greater part of the United States, soliciting aid for his cathedral.
His zeal and his name, already well known for energy, piety and
charity, opened almost immediate entrance to the generosity and
liberality of christians every where. The King of Bavaria, espe-
cially pleased with the zeal and charity of Bishop Timon, remitted

* The emphasis is the author's.

I- S..;,../L.|-.. I.ii!, PrC JSIfii.r.. lUdT.Ji.JT,-



him a handsome donation, subsequently, for his charitable insti-
tutions. As has been seen from his "Lecture on Mexico," he
profited well from his travels in that country particularly, and
the fund of knowledge he gathered in his travels abroad, he made
judicious disposition of in improving the affairs of his diocese.

Still his efforts met with obstacles of an unexpected nature.
It is to be regretted that these pages should record them, but
justice to the Bishop, as well as a desire to give the reader a fair
estimate of the ditiiculties that had to be overcome in the origin
of the cathedral, renders reference to them important.

It seems that after the Bishop had bought the property on
which stands the cathedral, and the fact had become known that
a Catholic church was to be erected on it, a murmur of dissent
was expressed by some of the property holders of the immediate
neighborhood. A proposition was advanced to "buy off" the
property at a higher figure than the Bishop had paid for it. But,
of course, to this he would not consent. Subsequently, after the
building had been erected, and the roof was about to be put on,
there was one individual, at least, who would subscribe eight
thousand dollars to help to tear down the entire structure.

In the Fall of the year 1852, the corner-stone had been laid,
and now, in June, 1855, the cathedral was ready for dedication.
The Buffalo Sentinel^ contained an interesting account of the
ceremonies, a part of which we quote :

"It was a consoling sight to behold, in this splendid edifice,
some fourteen prelates and about a hundred priests, all bound by
the laws of charity in the same faith, bowing down together in
adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, of that God for whom that
house was just built. It was pleasant to find about three thou-
sand of our fellow citizens assembled under one vast roof, ot all
nations and tongues, hearing the eloquent and gigantic Archbishop

* A Catholic journal and the Bishop's organ, started in June, 1853, under Mr. Michael
Hagan, and ending in 1864. This paper was ably conducted by its editor for nearly ten years
of arduous labor. In 18G4, it ceased to be the Bishop's organ, and a new paper, called
tha " Western Ntw York Catholic," was commenced, under the auspices of Mr. D. M. Enright.
Mr. Hagan felt justified in pursuing a certain course and policy in the control of his paper, not
altogether in accordance with the Bishop's views, and, as no terms of agreement could be
settled upon, the Bishop withdrew his name and influence from the paper.


of this pro\^nce battling against modern j^aganism, as an Ambrose,
or an Augustine, when they stood with holy pride over the scat-
tered ruins of ancient paganism, and launched the thunderbolts
of their oratory on a wondering populace. The most attentive

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 21 of 30)