CHAPTER IV. THE CONFESSION OF A ‘CONVERT’ TO ROMANISM.
Attorney C. C. Copeland, of the archdiocese of Chicago, a prominent, wealthy “convert” to Romanism, protested against priestly crime and corruption in an appeal which he wrote and sent to The New World, the papal organ, for publication. This appeal was refused insertion and ignored.
“Oct. 19, ’01.
“REV. J. J. CROWLEY,
“Enclosed I send you that paper to read and be returned to me. If you may want to use it, I may revise it some, as I have thought of doing, and then let you have it. I could add a good supplement under head of “After Two Years,” or something of the kind. My intention is to revise it and put it in some unique shape and scatter it through the Hierarchy. I have some notes already on a revision.
“Yours very respectfully,
“[Signed] C. C. COPELAND.”
The following is the original confession:
“Rev. Dr. Dunne [now Bishop Dunne, of Peoria, Illinois], in closing his discourse on the life and character of Very Rev. Thomas Burke, which was no overdrawn picture of that great priest, as every one can testify who knew him well, said: ‘Learn, then, to respect the dignity of the priest, and to appreciate the good that he is called upon to perform in the exercise of his ministry. Allow no man or woman to wantonly assail his character in your presence, for, believe me, in proportion as his reputation is lessened in the eyes of the community, his influence for good is weakened. Respect the priest as the Ambassador of your Divine Redeemer. Honor him as the minister of God. Love him as a friend, as a brother, as a father, who has nothing so much at heart as your eternal welfare.’
All this will every good Catholic do, and love to do and more, to a priest who himself respects the dignity of the position he occupies among men and the obligation which he incurred when he accepted the sacred mission to ‘Go forth and teach all nations,’ and who appreciates himself the good he is called upon to perform and the life he ought to lead in the exercise of that mission; so that the estimation in which he is held, the amount of good he may do, the freedom from assault in which he may live, the influence for good he may exercise, the respect and honor he will receive, as the Ambassador of our Divine Redeemer, and the minister of God, the love and obedience that will go out to him as a friend, as a brother, as a father, who has nothing so much at heart as our eternal welfare, depend upon himself.
A Kempis says: ‘Great is the dignity of priests to whom that is given which is not granted to angels.’ ‘The priest indeed is the minister of God.’ ‘Take heed to thyself and see what kind of ministry has been delivered to thee by the imposition of the bishop’s hands.’ ‘Thou hast not lightened thy burdens, but art now bound with a stricter band of discipline, and art obliged to a greater perfection of sanctity.’ ‘A priest ought to be adorned with all virtues and to give example of a good life to others. His conversation should not be with the vulgar and common ways of men.’
Now, if, instead of being this kind of a man, or of attempting to lead this kind of a life, or of fulfilling this kind of a mission, one who accepts the office of priest is a miser, and puts forth all his energies and improves every opportunity to enrich himself and hoard money, or is a drunkard, or gives his life to the enjoyment of sensual, worldly things, or is otherwise decidedly self-indulgent, unpriestly, or grossly neglects the duties which that mission imposes upon him, and disregards that sacred office, can and ought a good Catholic to respect him or defend his character? He certainly can not respect him. Unworthy priests weaken the influence, to a greater or less extent, of the whole priesthood; dishearten zealous bishops, priests and laymen and drive large numbers of their fellow-Catholics into doubt and infidelity. It is largely to them we may attribute the loss of two or three times as many members of the Church as we claim to have now, and in a great measure because of them that the Church is being rapidly depleted at this time, and unless their baneful influence is removed, is there not reason to fear that it has reached its zenith in this country? It looks this way to any one who travels much and is very observing and deeply interested.
But are there many unworthy, self-indulgent, bad priests in the United States? Too many, far too many, everywhere. The harvest is just now full and ripe in this land which is ours by discovery and settlement, and by the libation of the blood of martyrs, but too many of the reapers are blind, or perverse, and are not only going about destroying the golden grain, but are preventing the good, zealous reapers from gathering it in.
Has the Church no discipline left? Can it not remove these scandals, this hindrance to the working of the Spirit of Truth; prevent further depletion, and bring back the lost sheep to the true fold?
Could not ( i ) more care be taken in sending young men to Seminaries, (2) in ordaining priests, (3) and in weeding out those who have been ordained and tried, and are found unworthy?
A mission once a year is far better than sending a disedifying, disorderly, scandalous priest to take charge of a parish. Is there not too much of the spirit of the world in some of our young men, who are being ordained and put in charge of parishes these days? Many of them seem to want a parish ‘for what there is in it for themselves.’ The people to whom they are sent are intelligent, observing, and becoming more enlightened, and when they see this lack of spirituality in the life of the priest, his influence for good is lost. It is the intelligent, well-to-do members who are leaving us. They cannot endure that they themselves or their families shall be led and directed by a man whose sensibility has been blunted and whose passions have been aroused by intoxicants, or who demeans himself in an unpriestly manner, more like a loafer, or a sport, or a dude, or a miser, than like a gentleman. They demand that their priest shall be priestly, and unless the Hierarchy in the United States manages to meet this demand, can it be expected that the Church will grow in numbers and improve in the character of its members? Can one born in the Church well imagine the shock an intelligent convert receives when he first meets a drunken priest, or sees one drinking in a saloon, or sitting on a beer-keg at its door, or sees one at the altar celebrating mass after a night’s carouse, or learns that the result of years of earnest appeals from the pulpit for the orphans and the hospitals and the schools and the Pope has been the accumulation of a large fortune by the pastor, or sees a priest smitten of a woman and running after her, to the amusement of Protestants and humiliation of Catholics, or sees him in the company of women of not known unblemished reputation in unseemly places, or learns of the drinking, carousing and gambling of priests at their places of rendezvous, and of other still more unpriestly conduct, all of which he may but too often see and know of a truth in this land consecrated to the One who was ‘full of grace?’ Will it suffice to say that there was one Judas among the twelve, or that the majority of the clergy are self-sacrificing, zealous men and rest there? If there is even one such, should he be let to remain to disgrace the whole order? If a Catholic travels much and observes closely, he will be disposed to shun priests whom he does not know to be priestly, rather than seek them out as most agreeable, proper, profitable company. This is the case with not only some converts, but some who were reared Catholics. Laymen want protection for themselves and their families.
An exemplary convert, who was cashier in a bank in one of our large cities, told the writer with an aching heart how mortified he had often been at seeing priests coming there under the influence of liquor where he was the only Catholic, and having the clerks looking sneeringly at him, and how many have told him of similar and much worse experiences. When fathers know those conditions exist, how can they urge their children, who know them also, to go to their religious duties? ‘When the man is gone, what becomes of the priest?’
And is this the condition and this the conduct and this the character of many of the priests in our country? Of far too many, and the proportion of such is not diminishing. Have not Catholics been told too often and too long to hide these things out of charity? Was it ever the proper use of charity to overlook or hide such conduct in a priest? Simply for the man, and were he only concerned and affected, it might do for awhile, a Kempis says: ‘Admonish thy neighbor twice or thrice.’ Here is a mature man, ordained of God, who, by the simple fact of ordination, is supposed to be intelligent, and to understand the duties of his sacred office, scandalizing whole communities. It is not the man we are considering, but the communities and the effects of his life on them and on the work the Church is trying to accomplish. Has not the mantle of charity for this purpose been stretched till it is all in shreds and hides no one? Under circumstances where some have said that a priest was sick or had fits, would it not be better not to tell a lie and to say that he was drunk? Is not the truth always best? Does not hiding such depravity only nourish and encourage it? If some of our priests are of a low, depraved order of men, which is a fact, would it not be wiser to expose them and silence them? Is not such recklessness and depravity contagious? and if not treated heroically and in season, will it not spread like blood poisoning from a scratch and direful consequences follow? Can there be too much vigilance and severity in discipline in this matter, since the abuse has gone so far already?
Should any priest who is worthy of that highest title which any man can bear on this earth a priest of the Catholic Church blame you, Mr. Editor, for publishing this letter, or me for writing it? Ought not he to thank us rather? It is in defense of the most holy priesthood and for the purpose of protecting it against its very worst enemies that it is written.
Observing, thinking laymen from the Atlantic to the Pacific are aroused at the number and increase of these burning, depleting scandals, and unless something is done soon to stop them, these laymen will make themselves heard at Rome. The Church was instituted for the people, and the bishops and priests are sent forth to instruct and elevate the people, and the people have a right to demand that they do it faithfully, and Rome will see to it that justice is done to the people.
Our grand ceremonies and towering cathedrals are well enough, but will they supply the needs and make converts and save souls in parishes that are much worse off than without a priest? If the outlook for the future of the Church in the United States in this respect were not so saddening, so heartbreaking, so discouraging, one might enjoy those ceremonies and grand churches, and such like things, more. Statistics have been taken in many parishes in the West of Catholics who do and those who do not attend Mass, and the figures are appalling. As are the priests who are sent out, so will be the greater number of the people. ‘By their fruits shall they be known.’ They are wonder-workers for good or wonder-workers for evil. The writer of this letter, who thought when he became a Catholic that all priests must be intelligent, good, self-sacrificing, humble, pious men, will die before he will be able to understand how they can be otherwise. Oh, how his heart has ached when he found any of them otherwise! And, oh! how discouraging and almost hopeless the effort to try to do good has been through all these long years when he will realize that just one unfit, unworthy priest was doing more harm than a hundred or more zealous, well-directed laymen could do good. Is it not better to seek the truth, to find the truth, to proclaim the truth, to stand by the truth, to trust in the truth? Is it not said that ‘The truth shall make us free?’
To save Christianity to the people of the United States of America, and save them for Christianity, and to build up a civilization worthy of the name, is the work of the Catholic Church through its priests. If they are indifferent, incompetent, self-indulgent, worldly men, the work will not be done. Where rests the responsibility right now for the present and for the future? May God have mercy on us; may the Blessed Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Saints pray for us; may the bishops and priests of the Church work for us!”
I expect Mr. Copeland’s revision and supplement of “After Two Years,” plus eleven years which have elapsed since the writing of his letter, would make a good-sized volume. Rome’s silent contempt for the appeals and charges made by the Laymen’s Association of the archdiocese of Chicago against the Hierarchy, no doubt enlightened Mr. Copeland as to Rome’s real attitude toward clerical crime and corruption, and he is now, I believe, a sadder but wiser man.
Of late years, Mr. Copeland has been devoting his time and means in an effort to convert priests and prelates by scattering broadcast among them copies of the “Imitation of Christ,” by a Kempis.
I wonder if he has succeeded in converting “Rev. No. 9. A Gospel Pitcher,” who was his pastor and spiritual director for several years.
- CHAPTER I. WHY I WITHDREW FROM ROMANISM.
- CHAPTER II. CELIBACY AND CONFESSIONAL.
- CHAPTER III. ROME, RUM, RUIN.
- CHAPTER IV. THE CONFESSION OF A ‘CONVERT’ TO ROMANISM.
- CHAPTER V. ARCHBISHOP QUIGLEY COWED BY A FEARLESS WOMAN.
- CHAPTER VI. NEW ‘GET-RICH-QUICK’ SCHEMES.
- CHAPTER VII. THE POPES AND THE BIBLE.
- CHAPTER VIII. PAPAL DESPOTISM.
- CHAPTER IX. ROME THE MOTHER AND MISTRESS OF CRIME.
- CHAPTER X. CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS A JEW.
- CHAPTER XI ROME EVER AND EVERYWHERE THE SAME.
- CHAPTER XII. ROME AND AMERICA.
- CHAPTER XIII. ROMANIZING NON-CATHOLIC COUNTRIES.