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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was read by the Hon. George W. Clinton, secretary of the board,
the purport of which was to enquire whether Catholic clergy
would be allowed access to the institution, and permitted to afford
religious instruction to the children of that faith. This was
referred to a committee of five. Bishop Timon being present,
expressed his deep interest in the religious character of the
institution. He said he was prompted to attend the meeting
in order to ascertain whether the object of the petition would be
granted, basing his remarks upon the petition on the fact that
Catholic clergymen were denied admittance both to the House
of liefuge at Rochester, and to the Protestant Orphan Asylum
of Buffalo, although a large proportion of Catholic children were
in both of these institutions.

He said he M'as willing to contribute to charities so far as his
humble means would permit ; but he could not sanction this
(asylum,) if Catholic children were to be placed where they would
be prejudiced against the religion of their fathers, and come out
hostile to it. He also protested against the power vested in the
managers, to sunder the relations of parent and child.

* Among other ordinances, it was forbidden to walk on the grass in Paiks and other public


260 LIFE a:kd TiivrES of

" Yet still the question would come, ' Can you depart from all
the wise legislation of our country, by lodging that despotic
power in officers whom the law will not ]3ermit to judge of any
other important affair, not even of a paltry debt that exceeds a
limited sum? ' In the name of common humanity, I appeal to
the respectable and honorable gentlemen around me, to modify
powers most despotic, which tear the child from the parent,
intrude on the sanctity of the domestic circle, and empower every
justice of the peace to have any man, by a summary process,
brought before him and tried as to his honor and virtue, or his
improvidence and vice, and condemned to lose his child or
children, if that justice of the peace decide that the parent is
improvident or vicious. Born in America, and clinging with
fond enthusiasm to the institutions of our free country, I abhor
despotism. I hope that under the abused name of benevolence,
such disgraceful scenes as have made 'the Soupers' a by- word
and a shame not only in Ireland, but also in all Europe, may
never dishonor our country. To give shelter or food, as a j^rice
for the faith of the poor, is what no generous hearted American
can ever brook. If the Catholic be wrong, let him be convinced
and converted ; but let not the benevolence which may give him
increased well being for a few days of mortal life, be the induce-
ment to reject the faith to which his understanding and his
remorse-torn heart still clings. Let benevolence form this insti-
tute, and, if it be true benevolence, let the child take his faith
with him, and refuse him not the food that will nourish that faith.

" For the class of whom the District Attorney^ spoke, the grand
jury, our judges and our laws in many ways make ample pro-
vision ; but this scheme embraces very many who do not come
under the class of those whom I have just described, and hence
why pass despotic laws for them? The Catholics of Buffalo are
generally poor, and it is but Mr to suppose that a great portion
of the children detained in the Juvenile Asylum will be Catholic.
If you want to reclaim them efficaciously, must you not appeal
to those convictions of truth and right which they received with

* Mr. Sawin. **


their mother's milk? Is it holj, just or right, to deny them the
relio-ious instruction which alone will find an echo in their con-
science? Is it, therefore, throwing a firebrand in the midst of
this meeting, to ask for fair play and justice? to beg that the
sacred rights of parents and the holiness of the domestic circle
be respected? Would any one of us wish to be put on trial for
our honor, our virtue, or vice, before the same office, on the
summary process as that established by this law? The poor man
has his feelings as well as the rich, and his honor and virtue, too,
are dear to him; his children are his treasure. This law, how-
ever, most despotically deals with his honor, his virtue, and his
children. Make the law such as it should be, then I will
support it, remembering that nothing can be permanent that is
not just."

Section 14 provided ten days only in wdiich a parent had time
to claim his child from the asylum, and if he failed to do so
within that short space of time, he should forfeit all further clain a
upon it until it should be of age. Should a parent, (Section 15,)
however, succeed in getting his child out, and it were again
arrested as before, then there was no further redress. These and
other sections were contained in the " act " which was so odious
and despotic that it was a matter of surprise to find men in
favor of it who stood so high in the community for honor,
integrity and justice. In the meantime, the people of Buifalo
were aroused to a sense of the danger threatened against their
liberties, and several enthusiastic meetings were held to take
proper action on the subject. A report, modifying the " act
incorporating the Juvenile Asylum," and embod^-ing new and
more healthy features, was adopted, with resolutions and a
petition praying the legislature for relief Every effort was
made to restrain the enforcement of the passage of this odious
" act," and at length it was so far repealed and modified as to
permit the existence of the asylum, restraining the board of
directors from incarcerating a child without notifying the parents
of the same, and relieving the citv from any taxation whatever


for its support. This virtually made the entire undertaking " a
dead letter," since it was robbed of its proscriptive features,
which was mostly what its originators desired to effect.



Niagara Falls Seminary. — Catholic Funerals.— Bishop Timon goes to Rome.— His
Journey. — His Return. — His Sermon. — Jubilee Announced. — Efforts for the
Roman College. — Jubilee Extended.— Catholic Funerals again. — Zeal op Bishop
Timon.— William B. Lecocteulx.— St. Peregbinus.

In 1857, a theological seminary was opened near Niagara City,
!N. Y., on the American side, under the auspices of the Lazarists,
in which Bishop Timon took a great interest. This seminary was
subsequently destroyed by fire, but by dint of renewed zeal upon
the part of the Bishop, who opened his purse very liberally, it
■\/as rebuilt upon a more improved plan. The annual session of
the Synod of the clergy of the diocese took place in September
of this year, (1857,) and upon the termination of its labors, Bishop
Timon issued a pastoral in which, among other things, he referred
to "wakes" and Catholic funerals, deprecating the desecration
of religious rites and ceremonies, that often occurred upon the
death of a departed soul.

In a previous pastoral, the Bishop had required that the faithful
should employ the use of a limited number of conveyances at
funerals, and now, under pain of excommunication, (the right of
absolution being reserved to the Bishop alone,) any scandals at
wakes, through debauchery, drunkenness, or other crimes, were
entirely prohibited. The subject of Catholic funerals was subse-
quently more seriously agitated, not only in this but also in other
dioceses, owing to the disgrace and discredit which the conduct
of certain persons brought upon the Church by their irreverent
practices at the funerals of their friends. The prompt and
decisive step taken by the Bishop, of course, had its salutary
effect, since non-Catholics have little or nothing in this regard to
complain of now.


Business of great urgency about this time called Bishop Tirtion
to Rome and other parts of Europe, and accordingly, on Wednes-
day, May 5, 1858, he sailed from New York in the Cunard
steamship " Canada."

Before leaving his diocese, he received marked expressions of
love and esteem from his beloved flock in Dunkirk, Buffalo,
Rochester, and other places. At Rochester, besides a handsome
purse, he was presented with an address, in which was said :

"All churches reared by you through other hands, all houses
of learning fostered by your zealous care, all religious institutions
encouraged by your teachings, are as living monuments of your
solicitude for our future welfare ; and when we have passed from
earth, and other generations have taken our place, then these
institutions, in letters of love, will teach our children of your
interest for their good, and their prayers will ascend as precious
jewels to deck your crown of glory."

The Bishop's journey was very favorable. He was present at
the celebration of the great Festival of St. Peter and Paul, in
Rome. Here the Pope gave his apostolical benediction for
himsQlf, his clergy, and people. From Rome he went to Paris,
where he delivered to the Emperor of France, Napoleon IH,
a verbal communication of great importance from the Pope
himself. From Paris he went to Brussels and along the German
States, passing over to Ireland, and thence, by way of England,
to his own native shores. This visit was productive of much
good to his diocese, both temporal and spiritual.

On Tuesday, September 13, 1858, he reached home, in good
health and excellent spirits. His arrival home was the signal
for a hearty and generous welcome from his people.

He received a large crowd in front of his Episcopal residence,
where he delivered an appropriate address, in which he referred
to his recent visit to Rome. On Sunday following, the Bishop
delivered a sermon in his cathedral, which was thus substantially
noticed in a daily paper : *

* From the Buffalo Courier.


" A large congregation assembled, in wliicb we recognized
many leading citizens of Protestant denominations. The occasion
was the first service conducted by the Rt. Rev. Bishop since bis
return from Rome. The fame of the prelate's eloquence, and
respect for his character, attracted the people to listen to bis
teachings, and extend to him a personal welcome home.

"After the celebration of the mass, the Bisbop ascended the
pulpit, and, having read a few verses from the first chapter of
the Epbesians, proceeded to address the audience upon tbe
subject of his recent journey.

" lie bad not accomplished all tbe objects of bis mission ; but
the success he did achieve be trusted would promote tbe spiritual
well-being of his diocese. He bad failed in obtaining a loan
witb vvhicb to pay ofi" tbe debt of the church, owing to tbe
severity of tbe times and a want of confidence abroad, aggra-
vated by untoward influences and events. But be had secured
numerous valuable relics, which he had boj^ed would be condu-
cive to spiritual edification and stimulate to religious attainment.

" Among these is the entire body of a sainted martyr of the
Church, witb the rudely sculjDtured slab which chronicled tbe
name and the fate of the departed. *****

"Tbe Bishop gave a flattering contrast to the people of his
diocese, between tbe condition of things abroad and that wbicb
exists here. He assured the congi-egation that tbe lines to them
were cast in pleasant places. "VVlietber he regarded circumstances
of social, civil and political influence, or those which more
imniediately affected the religious intere^s, there was every
reason for congratulation. A marked improvement in the state
of tlio Church showed itself in all its surroundings. Their
edifices for worship, their numerous religious establishments,
their increasing numbers, — all gave tokens of their prosperity
and progress. Most of the institutions of the Church were in
their infancy; but they were planted on. solid and abiding
foundation, witb every element of expansion to encourage hope
of permanency and wide-spread influence. Tlie cathedral (of


Buffalo,) in which they worshiped, was a noble monument of
classic taste and elegance. The Bishop had visited most of the
celebrated cathedrals of Europe ; and though many of them
surpass this in size, few, if any, are superior in justness of pro-
portion and beauty of architecture and decoration. He had seen
the magnificent cathedral of Cologne. The windows presented
to it by King Louis of Bavaria, were the delight and wonder of
the beholder ; but they were confessedly inferior to those which,
in our own cathedral, elevate the pious-minded to contemplation
of the birth and sufferino- and glorification of the Redeemer.

"In many an audience with the Sovereign Pontiff, the Bishop
had recounted the piety and ardent zeal of his flock in the
service of the Holy Church. * * * -x- * ^\^q
Pope, he said, listened with delight to these representations, and
charged the Bishop with a special blessing for the good people
thus strongly commended to the love and protection of the Church.

" The venerable prelate described the Holy Father in his per-
sonal ministration at the altar, with a touching pathos. The
saintly benevolence that irradiated the features of the Pontiff,
reflected, he said, the impulses of his heart, as he pronounced
his benediction upon the congregation of worshipers. We are
but channels, said the prelate, of the grace which comes from
God. We are but channels, whether Pope, Bishop, or priest, and
the grace itself derives no efficacy from any personal sanctity in
those by whom it is transmitted. But to the recipient it seems
doubly blessed, when it comes to him through a channel of trans-
lucent purity, and is administered with tokens of cordial sympathy
and love. This character gives a special interest to the heavenly
blessing which I am charged to bring you by the earthly head of
the Church.

" Bishop Timon said he was obliged to make one important
exception to his commendation of those institutions established
amongst us by the authority of the State. The exception was to
what he pronounced an odious, because a godless school system.
He disclaimed being influenced to this belief by religious bigotry.
Opinion and practice in Protestant countries in Europe, he


avowed, fully bore out the training of children six days in a
week with careful exclusion from religious influence. In Protes-
tant Prussia and in other European communities, the sentiment
of gratitude was universally expressed, that the system of secular,
without admixture of religious instruction, was abandoned. They
wanted no more experience of the fruits of a system, which,
in their estimation, leads to civil disorder and anarchy, to polit-
ical persecution and despotism, than what they had already
suffered. Opinion, then, had' almost universally established the
plan of allowing communities of various creeds, respectively, to
form schools of their own, in which the religious tenets of the
parents were inculcated upon their children, and the State appor-
tioned the tax raised for educational purposes, on the basis of
numbers of the system in vogue, and here, he said, that Brown-
son, Robert Dale Owen, and Fanny Wright, were among the
prominent originators and advocates. The Bishop doubted the
right of the State to tax the people for an educational system
which they conscientiously disapprove. He denied the justice of
having to pay for palatial school edifices in which the teaching
conflicts with his views of duty. But he recommended acquies-
cence and obedience to the laws. Good citizenship he regards
as a Catholic virtue. He expressed faith, however, in a change
in the public sentiment, which he thought certain to remedy the
grievance under which the people labor. You all know, he said,
the opinion held by Mr. Seward* on this subject. And I have
been gratified within the past w^eek, to read in the report of a
discussion held by Mr. Smith, f who is now canvassing the State
for the ofiice of Governor, that avows unmeasured hostility to the
present odious and oppressive school system. The State of ITew
York appropriates four million of dollars to the support of public
schools, and another million, as far as I can learn, is contributed
from other sources to this same object. Less than half the
amount would accomplish all the educational advantages thereby

* William H. Seward, afterwards Secretary of State, under the administration of Presi-
dents Lincoln and Johnson.

tHon. Gerrit Smith, Abolition candidate for Governor of the State of New York, in 1858.


acquired, in a much safer and better manner, were it applied in
accordance with the wishes of parents. It is to parents that God
has committed the training of the children whom he gives them.
Neither tlie State, nor even the Church has a right to take them
from that trust. The State may assist, but it is not competent to
assume and usurp. Tell me not of sectarian schools. Sect means
cut off. A sect is something lappe<l off, divided from the parent
stem. But from what was the Catholic Church? No, it is not a
sect, it is the parent stem ; it is the Mother Church!

"The persuasive and impressive elocution with which the Bishop
urged these peculiar views, and which, indeed, characterized
every part of the address, can be appreciated only by those who
heard him. The congregation hung upon his words, as on the
admonitions of a beloved and venerated parent. A solemn still-
ness pervaded the audience during the whole discourse, save
when, at intervals, a spontaneous universal movement marked
the surging of a sympathy that could not be repressed."

On the 13th of October, 1858, Bishop Timon published a pas-
toral, in which he announced the jubilee granted by the Holy
Father, Pope Pius IX. The Bishop, in announcing the joyous
circumstance, observed :

"Before the written records of Christianity noted the fact,
usages, which the oldest of living men could only remember,
traced back the christian jubilee, and urged the Sovereign Pon-
tiff to establish, as a gracious law, what venerable men, bowed
down with years, came to seek as a just privilege of mercy, of
which, on the bed of death, their dying grandfathers had spoken
as fore-appointed to grace the beginning of each christian cen-
tury. Human life being too short for graces at intervals so
distant, the christian jubilee, like the Jewish one, soon took place
every fiftieth year; but as even then the life of many was too
short for its recurrence, twenty- five years was fixed upon for the
regular return of those stars of mercy which brighten the chris-
tian sky. Extraordinary jubilees, for particular great reasons,
became as comets that might shine more brightly, but irregularly,
amidst those fixed epochs of mercy and holy joy."


The good results of religion in this country, and the pros])ec-
tive abundance of a large harvest, began to be felt. The Holy
Father, encouraged by the American Bishops, therefore strove
to provide for this spiritual abundance, and urged the establish-
ment of an American College at Kome, in wliich young men
could be educated and fitted as priests for the numerous missions
of the Wew World. For this purpose collections throughout the
entire province were taken up, and a begiiming, though feeble,
made, to which Bishop Timon liberally corresponded.

In the meantime, the jubilee already alluded to had been fin-
ished. But late in December of the year, by a special permission
of the Holy Father, based upon an urgent application of the
Bisliop, an extension of the jubilee was granted until the close of
the month tbllowiug, January, 1859. This favor, in the plenitude
of charity of Pius IX, was granted particularly to give those
whose avocations in summer kept them away from home, on the
waters, as sailors, an opportunity to reap the benefit of its

We liave already alluded to the steps taken by Bishop Timon
for establishing some system and order with regard to Catholic
funerals. On the 11th of April, 1859, he issued another pastoral,
the principal features of which were, that the burial services over
deceased Catholics should be performed at the parochial church
to which they belonged. That no more than four carriages and.
hearse would be permitted to attend the funeral of such deceased.
That to any person or persons, violating these ordinances, burial
services shall be denied. And finally, he recommended that the
friends of the deceased should walk in procession from the house
to the church were the funeral service was to be performed.

This new order by the Bishop was gladly and willingly obeyed
by his flock, and resulted very materially in putting an end to
much disorder and scandal, thitherto prevalent at Catholic fune-
rals among the poorer classes of the diocese. The Bishop himself,
very beautifully, observed in a letter to his flock :

"According to those rules, everything in our christian funerals
will assume the form of a religious act. The sacred calm, the


religious quiet, which then must become habitual in the cemetery,
will make it, indeed, a hallowed spot. Soon a monument, or at
least a cross, will be placed over the grave, which aftectionate
hands will deck with Hovvers. From tim« to time, dear friends
and loving relatives will drive out to bend in prayer over the
grave; perhaps bedew the liowers with their tears, but there will
be 'joy in their grief; ' the holy calm, the religious spirit that
breathes around; the emblems of faith and hope that speak from
every grave of a better life, will console; the mournei-s will love
to return; in the course of the year many carriages will thus be
used without tumult, racing, or scandal; a pilgriniage on foot
will be preferred by some; but whether on foot, or in a carriage,
all, according to the Scripture demand, ' will be done in order ; '
all will be done for God's blessing, both for this Kfe and the
next. "

This zeal for order, peace, and the dignity of faith, by no means
measured to the fullest extent the labors of Bishop Timon in his
arduous mission. It would require a volume alone to give the
details ot his tireless efforts in every direction for the promotion
of good works and religious institutions. We necessarily avoid
the recital of them in the pages of this work, as they belong more
properly to a volume especially devoted to the " Missions in
Western New York." It will suffice at this period of our writ-
ing, to quote an extract from the pages of a paper,* dated June
25th, 1859:

" Our readers may wonder, while reading the appointments
under the head ' Episcopal Visitations,' how they can be attended
to by a prelate of the advanced age of our zealous and untiring
Bishop. Let us state what he accomplished last Sunday: In the
morniag^ he officiated at the blessing of St. Mary's Hospital,
Rochester; preached at ten o'clock service at St. Patrick's; pro-
ceeded seven miles, (same day,) to Greece, and officiated at
laying the corner-stone for the church of our Lady of Sorrows,
and preached an eloquent sermon, and returning to Rochester

* Buffalo &n<ine/.


again, preached in St, Mary's church in the evening^ (same day.)
"We venture to say, that not another prelate can go through as
much service as the Bishop of this diocese does week after vjeeJc.'' '

On the 18th of July, 1859, Bishop Timon was called to attend
the last moments of William B. Lecouteulx,* a man who, during
his lifetime, figured so prominently against the Church, though
professing to be a Catholic. It is refreshing, therefore, as we
draw towards the close of these pages, to be able to speak more
favorably of this misguided man, and to observe that, although
he was openly the avowed opponent of the Bishop, the latter did
not forget the charity of his sacred character, and administered
to him, with his own hands, the holy viaticum.

Among the many relics and sacred things brought by the
Bishop from his late visit to Rome, was the entire body of St. Pere-
grinus, a martyr. It was given to him by Cardinal Franzoni,
and was contained in a box, which, with the marble slab that
covered the tomb, he brought with him. This martyr suffered
death in A. D, 190, and was in a remarkable state of preserva-
tion when first exposed to the light. Still it was deemed best to
adopt a practice, common in Europe, and which was to keep from
exposure to light and air bones, (that now, after so many ages,
would rapidly disintegrate.) by making a figure of wax, and
placing the skeleton form within the enclosure. The box also con-

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 23 of 30)