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Rebecca Theresa Reed.

Six months in a convent, or, The narrative of Rebecca Theresa Reed, who was under the influence of the Roman Catholics about two years, and an inmate of the Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict, Charles online

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Online LibraryRebecca Theresa ReedSix months in a convent, or, The narrative of Rebecca Theresa Reed, who was under the influence of the Roman Catholics about two years, and an inmate of the Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict, Charles → online text (page 4 of 12)
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folly of educating the daughters of frer>. republicans at
Catholic Convents, must assuredly approve of the eulo-
gium the infidel historian Hume pronounces on Pope Leo
the Tenth, " whose sound judgment, moderation, and



INTRODUCTION. 33

temper were well qualified to retard the progress of the
Reformation."
Miss R. therefore, even had she used the precise lan-

§uage Judge Fay ascribes to her, might have quoted an
lustrious example. Luther had seen the abuses of the
Romish Church, as she had seen those of the Convent at
Charlestown, and when his enemies proposed to stipulate
for his silence, and even his friends feared he was going
too far, he exclaimed, " I will not be guilty of an impious
silence, and of the neglect of divine truth, and of so many
thousand precious souls." And yet Luther's single as-
sertion stood ibr some time against the testimony of the
whole hierarchy of Rome, and had Christians taken their
denials where "would have been the Reformation? So if
the Protestants of the present day admit the denials of the
members of Catholic Convents as conclusive against the
statements of all seceders from such institutions, who
alone can carry into the world a knowledge of its secret
discipline, will it not amount to an entire immunity to
such establishments for any abuses or follies they may
practise ?

But it is not true that Miss R. took any pains to dis-
seminate her opinions of t'i-3 Nunnery. On the contrary,
she uniformly refrained from doing no. unless under cir-
cumstances where she felt called upon by a sense of duty
and the inquiries of those interested in knowing the truth.
One of the few conversations she held on this subject, after
she left the Convent, was the one Which Judge Fay has
brought before the public, and misrepresented, with marked
disregard to delicacy, because the conversation he uses to
establish his charge of conspiracy against Miss R. was
held with his own wife, at her argent solicitation. This
we will prove. In 1833, Miss R. was a pupil in the
Cambridgeport Academy, nearly opposite the residence of
Judge Fay. Mrs. Fay called on her there, and requested
an interview relative to the Convent, in which she had
daughters. Miss R. declined calling. The earnestness
with which the interview was pressed, will appear front
the following notes, which the judge has obliged the
friends of Miss R. to publish.

"Mrs. Fay will be at home this morning, and wouldbe happy
to have a few moments' conversation with Miss Reed after school
this morning, if it would ba agreeable to Miss Reed, in relation to



34 INTRODUCTION.

the Convent. Mrs. Fay only wishes to know if certain reports
which she hae heard are true.
"Friday morning."

[Miss R. replied in a note, declining to call at the resi-
dence of Mrs. F., but expressing a willingness to have that
lady call on her. The answer to this note was as fol-
lows.]

" Mrs. Fay will not be able to call and see Miss Reed this after-
noon, as b-he is going to Boston. She is much obliged to Mis.? Reed
for her polite note, and will be happy to have Miss Reed call any-
day next week, eithe- before or after school.

" Saturday morning."

A conversation, drawn from an artless young lady, by
such earnest and kind solicitations as these, certainly
ought not to have been treasured up nearly two years, and
then made public, in a distorted form, in order to charge
upon her a conspiracy to incite a mob to commit arson
and burglary.

We know it has been thrown out, by way of threat, that
should Miss R. suffer her narrative to be published, her
veracity would be destroyed by means of spies in the
guise of friends, who had watched her ever since she es-
caped from the Convent, and taken down her conversa-
tions in writing, in order to detect her in some contradic-
tions. That such a cold-blooded, Jesuitical system of
espionage can have been introduced into this enlightened
community, and practised for the ruin of a voung lady,
we shall believe when we see these pretended records of
Miss R.'s conversation published, and not before. We
certainly acquit so respectable a lady as Mrs. F. of any
design to entrap Miss R. oy kind solicitations into a con-
versation that was to be used, at some future period, to hei
injury.

But there is one fact which we cannot withhold in this
connection, as it will account for the spirit of extreme
hostility with which Miss R. has been pursued, ever since
her escape from the Convent, and her renunciation of the
Roman Ca.nolic faith. We quote from the "Jesuit,"
published in Boston, the organ of Romanism in New
England, fr-n which it will be seen that whenever a
Catholic changes his religion, the dogma of the church
enjoms that he is never afterward to be trusted or believed
in any thing; and is to be driven, by persecutions, to in-



INTRODUCTION. 35

temperance, madness, or suicide. That these are the ter-
rors held out to apostates from Popery, cannot be mistak-
en from the following language.

[From the Boston Jesuit of 1631.]

" Whenever a Catholic changes bis religion, his motives
and conduct are to be invariably suspected, and his honesty
to be never trusted. Never did such apostates become
thereby more moral or religious. Faith being the free
gift ofGod to man, may be lost by an individual not keep-
ing it active by the penormance of the moral and religious,
duties which an incarnate God and his Church inculcate
and enforce.

But conscience, with her thousand tongues, will cry out
in the midst of festive gayety, in darkness or solitude,
against such deep and davming- perfidy, and the unfortu-
nate victim, iu all the abasement of guilt, to palliate his
mental torture, will have recourse to the stupefying bowl^
or terminate his career by suicide.' 1 '

Need we marvel that :; mother Church" is infallible in the
eyes of her votaries, when such are the arguments used
against a Catholic turning Protestant ? Need we wonder if
even deranged fugitives from Convents should be sudden-
ly restored to their senses, and voluntarily return to their
mental prison, as the only means to escape such a terrible
anathema ? How conveniently, in case ofthe sudden death
of an " apostate" this doctrine of a guilty conscience im-
pelling to suicide would " cover it all over like a cloak."
We bring no accusation ; we merely trace avowed doc-
trines to their legitimate consequences ; and we ask, if the
above article really embodies the true spirit with which
the Nuns of the Convent, the Bishop and Priests, and the
Catholics generally, view the secession of Miss R. from
their order, ought she not to be an object of the lively
sympathy, and the zealous protection of Protestant Chris-
tians, instead of being pursued and persecuted by them
also, as the unconscious instruments of the vengeance of
the former ?

One word as to the intimation that the Narrative of
Miss R., as now puolished, has undergone "pruning and
purgation to suit the publisher." It has neither been
pruned nor expurgated, to suit the views of any body. It
contains everv fact which it contained when committed to



36 INTRODUCTION.

writing by Miss It between two and three \enrs ago.
The form in which it is now published is a revision of the
original draft by Miss R., under the r.dvice of judicious
friends, bui the language, the thoughts, the facts and the
inferences are wholly ner's, with a few unimportant cor-
rections. We repeat, that not a fact contained in the
original Narrative has been suppressed, and these are all
the facts which Miss R. has at any time authorized to
" pass under the sanction of her name." If she knows facts
more injurious to the character of the Convent, they have
not been disclosed ; and a discreet public can judge from
this Narrative with how much justice the Boston Com-
mittee, in their Report, have ascribed to Miss R. the origin
of the excitement that led to the riot of the 11th of August.
We cannot so well describe the circumstances under
which the Narrative was at first prepared, as they are re-
lated in the following communication on that subject, ad-
dressed to us by Miss R. last October.

TO MV RESPECTED FRIEND3 :

' Seon after I left the TJrauline Community on 3Iounl Benedict,
Charlestown, I felt it my duty and privilege to resume the connec
tion which, before I became a convert to Romanism, I held with
the Protestant Episcopal Church, in Cambridge. I accordingly
applied to the Rev. Mr. C the pastor of Christ Church. Boston,
with whom I had consulted previously to my joining the Catholics.
I related to him, as my pastor and spiritual adviser, the circum-
stances which led to the temporary renunciation of the f tith in
which I was brought up by my pious mother.

Before the death of my mother, she took care to have myself
and two sisters baptized, at the Episcopal Church in Cambridge,
by the Rev. Mr. Doane, then of Trinity Church, Boston, now aii
Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey.

It was the daily prayer of my beloved mother that her children
might be brought up in the ways of religion and truth. Accord-
ingly she gave my two younger sisters and myself to the Episco-
pal Church in baptism. Previous to her death she summoned
us to her bed, in presence of my father and one of our sponsors,
and reminded us of the solemn obligation we had taken on our-
selves in the ordinance of baptism, and said that she knew of no
truer religion than that of the Church of England ; that if there
was a holier people, we had only to seek, and we should find them.
And here I should do well to call to mind other advice and
requests which she made : although her body sleeps in the dust, the
remembrance of her dying words is still fresh In my mind.

When I threw off the strong delusion under which I had been
Induced to embrace Romanism or the Catholic religion, and my



INTRODUCTION. 37

mind waa left at liberty to reflect on the dying words of my de-
parted mother, I sought consolation in the Episcopal Church. la
doing this, and in applying to tb? Rev. Mr. C. for readrnission to
the church, I felt it my duty, in returning as a lost sheep to the
fold, to open my whole heart, and disclose all the circumstances
that led to my wandering from the truth and embracing the Ro-
man Catholic faith — my introduction to the Ursuline Community —
a narrative of my residence there— the circumstances which
caused me to doubt the purity of their faith and practice— my con-
sequent elopement from the Convent, and my renunciation of
Romanism. And my present pastor can bear me witness that I
have never expressed any desire to injure the Convent or bring
unjust reproacii on the Catholic religion, but to do my duty as I
conscientiously believed I ought to do, in telling the truth, on my
application for readrnission to the Episcopal Church ; and leave the
event to the wise Disposer of all things.

At the time I related the facts contained in this Narrative to the
Rev. Mr. O, he advised me as soon as I was able to put In
writing all that I had learned and experienced of Roman Catho-
licism while among them, and while in the Convent. At first I was
able to make only memoranda, but I have at last endeavored, in
my own simple language, to place them together in something
like the form of a narrative, for your perusal.

The above are t lie circumstances under which this short account
has been drawn up; and I have now explained to you the motives
for this narrative of the most interesting and distressing period of
my life. R. THERESA REED.

Among the many unkind things said of Miss R., an at-
tempt has been made to impute ingratitude to her, because
she was received at the Convent as a charity scnolar. Mrs.
Moffat*, the Superior, in her testimony, said, " Miss R.
was received from motives of charity ;" and the Report of
the Boston Committee, taking the alleged fact solely from
the Superior, says, " her means of knowledge were derived
from her having become a voluntary inmate of the house,
for the purpose of receiving a gratuitous education."

Had disinterested benevolence been the motive which
led to the admission of Miss R. to the Convent, those who
could exercise such benevolence would not have publicly
reproached her with ingratitude on that score. But the
Superior proved, while under oath, that the object was not
charity, but the pecuniary interest of the school. We
quote the following from the cross examination of the Su-
perior, in answer to questions put by Mr. Farley.

" Miss Reed cams as a charity scholar. She was em-
ployed in attending to her education. Question* What



38 INTRODUCTION.

was the design of educating her? Answer. To privare
her to instruct in the school. Mr. Farley. Then after she
was taught sufficiently to instruct in the school, would she
not have been an acquisition to the Community ? Answer.
Certainly."

This is the same kind of charity which a master bestows
upon his apprentice the first six months. Miss R., when
she appliea for admission to the Convent, was found to
possess a fine talent for music, which she has since de-
veloped. As an instructer in music, therefore, had she re-
mained at the Convent after the six months, her services
would have been highly important. The receipts from
sixty scholars were not less than ten thousand dollars per
annum, and there were but eight teachers, so that Miss
R.'s proportion of labor, when qualified to instruct in music,
would have been twelve hundred per annum. "Charity"
like this was certainly casting a single loaf of bread upon
the waters, with a certainty of receiving a v, hole cargo in
return.

Nor was this all. Miss R. was well skilled in orna-
mental needle-work, as the ornaments of the altar and the
robe of the Bishop can bear witness, and her industry in
that department was a full equivalent for all the " charity"
she received at the Convent. We will prove this out of
the mouths of the Catholics themselves, by quoting the
following article referring to Miss R. just before she en-
tered the Convent.

[From the Boston Jesuit of August G, 1831.]

" We have frequently heard and noticed the anti-christian pre-
judice which a conversion from sectarianism to the Holy Catholic
Church, produces in the minds of the unconverted friends and
relatives of the new convert.

" A young lady (meaning Miss R.) who lived not a great distance
from Boston, became a convert a few months ago. This so exas-
perated her father, that she was obliged to leave the house. She
found a shelter in the house of a worthy Catholic family. She is
very capable of obtai7iins: a livelihood, by her knowledge of the
various branches of necdleicork. Passing over a certain bridge,
not very far from this city, she was met by a brother, who unnatural-
ly exclaimed that very little icould induce him to throip her into
the water. He fortunately did not violate the majesty of the law.
Happy privilege of the private judgment principle ! edifying de-
monstration of its practical results ! "Read th^. Bible and judge for
youreelf, says the minister. When one does so. and thereby be-



INTRODUCTION. 39

comes a Catholic, he is forthwith denounced, yes, and but too often
persecuted. Strange logic this! happy coincidence of principle
and practice !' ;

We have introduced this extract merely to sh> w that be-
fore Miss R. was received into the Convent, it was well
understood by her Catholic friends, that she was very capa-
ble of obtaining a livelihood, by the precise kind of still
which was particularly wanted in the decorations of the
Convent. But as this extract from the Jesuit contains
many false statements never derived from Miss R. or her
friends, but invented by the Priest who wrote it, we sub-
join the following declaration made by the brother of Miss
R., which is also fully assented to by her father.

The subscriber is the only brother of R. Theresa Reed, who was
in the Convent at Charlestown for some time. He and all the
family were always opposed to Theresa's going to the Convent,
and did all they could to persuade her not to go there, but never
used any other mean3 than advice. Theresa was livinir at home
with my father, and was under no necessity to seek admission to
the Convent as a charily to her. We always believed she was
overpersuaded by others to go there. Her father always opposed
her going there. He showed me, at the lime, a letter from the
Superior of the Convent to him, which said, "With your approba-
tion I shall receive your daughter, and give her two or three quar-
ters' instruction and fit her for a teacher." My father did n»t
consent, but told me he had sent word by Mrs. Locke, who did
washing at the Convent, to tell the Superior not to receive his
daughter, and that she had friends to provide for her.

A short time before my sister went into the Convent, I met her
on Charlestown bridge, the only time I ever remember meeting
her there. I tried to persuade her from going into the Convent,
which she seemed very anxious to do, and wished me to go with
her to see the Superior. I declined doing so, and said I should
rather follow her to her grave than have her go there. In that
and no other conversation I never used any threat toward her,
which it would have been impossible for me to do at any time :
and the story which afterwards appeared in the Jesuit, that I had
threatened to throw her off the bridge, or used any threat, is &
felsehood from beginning t< end. w ^ c j^™ ,

Many persons who will read this Narrative, and hare
read the Boston Report, may suppose that they are called
upon to decide between the veracity of the influential citi-
zens who signed that report, and so humble an individual
as Miss R. It is not so. These gentlemen do not assert
a single fact or belief, in their own knowledge, which af-



40 INTRODUCTION.

fects the correctness of Miss R.'s statement. Wherever
there is any contradiction in matter of fact, it rests between
Miss R. arid the inmates of the Convent, relating to facts
of a secret nature, which none but the Nuns, the Novitiates,
and the Priests could know. The Superior, when under
oath, admitted that Miss R. " would know every thing
which took place during the time she was with us, except-
ing what occurred in the school room."

It is therefore simply a question of personal veracity, and
of internal and external evidence of truth. Such being the
case, and Miss R. having been presented in an unfavora-
ble and unjust light, in the Report of the Boston Com-
mittee, it has seemed to her friends that it was due to her
and due to truth, that the estimation in which she is held
by those who know her best, should be made public at
this time, as ample proof that she has friends to protect her
from injustice.

The subjoined certificates were given shortly after the
publication of the Report of the Boston Committee, and
though many more, respectable names, might be obtained,
the number and character of those given must satisfy every
candid mind, that few young ladies of twenty, in any circle,
could produce better "evidence of their being entitled to
confidence and esteem.

I hereby certify that Miss Rebecca T. Reed has been, for mora
than two years last past, a communicant at Christ Church ; that I
have always regarded her as a devout person and exemplary in
her Christian walk and conversation ; that I repose great confi-
dence in her sincerity and intention to relate, on all occasions,
what she believes to be the truth.

WILLIAM CROSWELL,
Rector of Christ Church, Boston.

October 20th, 1834.

Cambridgeport, October 3d, 1831.

This certifies that Miss R. Theresa Reed attended the Cam-
bridgeport Academy several months within the last year. It
gives me pleasure to add, that s* far as my knowledge extended,
her conduct during this time was uniformly eood.
\ SAMUEL ADAMS,

Principal of Cambridgeport Academy.

We the subscribers, having been acquainted with Miss Rebecca
Theresa Reed, previous to her becoming a member of the Ursuline
Community at Mount Benedict, Charlestown, and since leaving
that institution, feel it due te the cause of truth and justice to sajr.
that we consider her a person entitled to our confidence, sua*



INTRODUCTION. 41

taining as she does a character distinguished for love of truth, for
unexceptionable morals, and for meek and modest deportment.
And we feel it our duty to give, and cheerfully do give, this our
testimonial, to be used by her and her friends as they shall deem
most expedient.

September 26, 1834.

Boston. — James Day, Ebenezer F. Gay.

Lexington. — Jonathan Munroe, Rhoda Munroe, Susan E. Mun-
roe, John Viles, Sally D. Viles, Sarah H. Viles, William L. Smith,
Solomon Harrington, Betsey Harrington.

Woburn. — Luke Wyman, Ruth Wyman, Ruthy B. Wyman,
Lucy Wyman, Seth Wyman, Sarah R. Wyman, Bill Russell,
John Wade, Hannah Wade, John F. Harris, Phebe Harris, Ed-
mun Parker, Thaddeus Parker.

Medford.— Anna Teel, Anna Briant, Leonard Bucknam. Anna
Bucknam, Matilda Johnson.

Cragie's Point. — Elijah Wheeler.

Charlestown. — Stephen Symmes, Priscilla Symmes, John
Swan, Samuel Gardner, Priscilla Reed, Charles Gordon, Ezra
Welsh, Caleb Harrington, Sarah Gardner, Patience Gardner, Abi-
gail Tufts, Caroline Griffin, Nathan Field, Jacob Pasre, John
Tapley.

Cambridgeport. — E. F. Valentine, N. C. Valentine, Martha
Valentine, Jane Valentine, Moses B. Houghton, Almira Hough-
ton, Moses Ward, Ira Ward, Amos Hazeltine, Phebe Hazeltine,
Susan Hazeltine.

Cambridge. — Josiah Johnson, Jonathan Hunt, Betsey Hunt,
Ozias Morse, Sullivan B. Ball, William Hunnewell.

In comparing the Narrative of Miss R. with the Report
of the Boston Committee, we ask those who may suppose
they meet with any material contradiction, to bear in mind
that there is one error pervading nearly the whole of that
very able and forcible document. It is this — adopting as
facts the exculpatory and laudatory statements regarding
the Convent, made by the Superior and her Nuns, and the
Bishop and his Priests. Thus, the Committee vouch for
the propriety and tenderness of the penances imposed, of
which they knew nothing ; they assume a distinction be-
tween the Ursuline and other Nuns, which does not exist ;
declaring that they" are openly engaged in the most useful
and elevated offices of humanity in the presence of the
world," and that " their dwelling was accessible at proper
times to the parents and friends of its numerous inmates."
But how accessible ? Did any Protestant parent or guar-
dian ever see the school room, or the sleeping or eating
rooms in which fifty of their daughters were taught, fed, and



42 INTRODUCTION.

lodged 1 No. Was there ever any examination or public
exercise of the scholars, which their parents were allowed
to witness ? None. Even Hon. S. P. P. Fay. who states
in his testimony on the trial of Buzzell that he had had
daughters in the Convent six years, and had visited it at
all times, also declares on oath — "I never saw the school
at the Convent, and never but once went beyond the par-
lor. When I wished to see my children, they were sent
into the parlor, and when I wished to see any of the
" Community," (their teachers,) saw them also in the par-
lor. The only time I went beyond the parlor, was once
when I saw the ceremony of taking the white veil," (pro-
bably in the chapel.) Levi Thaxter, Esq. another highly
intelligent Protestant patron of the Convent, testified that
he was never in the school, though he went to the Convent
very frequently. He saw his daughters in the parlor.
When he wished to see any one they were sent for.

This, then, is the whole amount of" the dwelling being
accessible at proper times to the parents and friends" of
the pupils there. They were admitted to a common parlor,
and not permitted to enter any other room in that spacious
establishment. No Protestant eye ever saw the apart-
ments of the Nuns, except on the occasion when the se-
lectmen of Charlestown examined the building by appoint-
ment, the day of the riot. Even the physician, as we
understand, never saw any of the Religieuse, to prescribe
for them, in their private apartments. When sick, they
were attended by the infirmarian, one of their own order.

An attempt to establish a Protestant school on such a
plan of secrecy as this, would not be tolerated by judicious
parents a moment. Are Catholic instructers of young
ladies more entitled to confidence in these respects than
Protestant teachers would be ? Suppose a community of
Episcopalian females should open a seminary for young
ladies, and admit no person to go beyond a certain common
visiting room. Suppose, that while they refused access to


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Online LibraryRebecca Theresa ReedSix months in a convent, or, The narrative of Rebecca Theresa Reed, who was under the influence of the Roman Catholics about two years, and an inmate of the Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict, Charles → online text (page 4 of 12)