CENTER-SHOTS AT ROME


[pg. 87]

IV.
THE AURICULAR CONFESSION.
(1 John 1:9.)

Every system that accomplishes anything must have a mainspring, or, to put it in another way, a central or chief source of power. And during the last seven centuries Roman Catholicism has depended very largely upon the auricular confession.

The auricular confession is the disclosure by word of mouth of sins upon the part of the penitent into the auris, or ear, of a priest. Hence the curtained recess in every Catholic church called the "confessional-box."

To-night I shall submit and confine my remarks to three propositions, and if I fail to prove them, I'll "eat'em alive." [Laughter.]

1. That it took the devil twelve hundred years to make that little box.
2. That it paid him to make it. For


[pg. 88] all of the boxes in the world in which he has an investment, the confessional-box has yielded, and still yields him, the largest return.

3. That God is the only logical and Scriptural confessor to whom penitents should go. [Applause.]

There is not a hint of the auricular confession in the Old Testament. Doubtless the devil would have been highly pleased to have had a confessional-box in Solomon's Temple. But, evidently, he never found an opportunity to sneak into that splendid edifice, with a bundle of planks under his arm, and a pen off a little corner for his own amusement. [Laughter.]

Nor is there a trace of the confessional-box in the New Testament. We read about churches in Jerusalem, Rome, Corinth, and other places; we read about elders or bishops, and preachers, and the people composing the congregations; and we read about meetings that were held, missionary journeys that were held, church tribunals that were called, persecutions that were endured, and other


[pg. 89] features of early church life; but we never read of the confessional or priestly absolution.

Hence the history of Roman Catholicism itself must introduce the auricular confession.

The Council of Trent declared: "Whoever shall say that the mode of secretly confessing to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always observed and still observes, is foreign to the institution and command of Christ and is a human invention, let him be accursed."

Well, I presume I'm about to be accursed. For I shall now say that the confessional is not only "foreign to the institution and command of Christ," and therefore a human institution, but that the Catholic Church worried along a number of centuries without it. [Applause.]

It's one thing to make an assertion, but quite another to prove it. The Catholic Church asserts that the auricular confession has always been associated with her polity. But there's not a


[pg. 90] Roman Catholic in the world — from the richly adorned pope down to the little, petticoated parish priest — who can prove it. [Applause.]

Had the confessional-box, which is to-day the very heart-throb of Romanism, been connected with church life in the early centuries, the primitive Fathers, on whom both Catholics and Protestants must depend for early church history, would undoubtedly have made some reference to it. I could name the men who would have written about the confessional, had it existed in their day, and the works in which such references could have been made. But life is too short to walk a mile when the distance can be covered in a jump. [Laughter.] I shall, therefore, resort to a method that is by far easier and just as sure. As the million dollars I offered a couple of weeks ago, to the man who would prove that Peter was ever in Rome, has not yet been called for, I'll give it to the layman, priest, bishop, cardinal, or pope who will produce one sentence from the Fathers in proof of the Catholic proposi-


[pg. 91] tion that the confessional existed in their day. [Applause.]

In the meantime, while waiting for some one to produce the sentence, I'll refer you to a book, entitled "Confessions," by Augustine, the greatest of the Latin Fathers. Had the confessional existed in his day, one would think that in this work he would have made at least a reference to it. But he did not. Instead, he wrote many things which prove that he taught and practiced the very reverse of this blasphemous doctrine now taught and practiced by the Catholic Church. And here's one of his terse statements: "I shall confess my sins to God, and he will pardon all my iniquities."

In this particular, at least, Augustine was orthodox, if we measure him by the New Testament. But if measured by Roman Catholic standards, instead of being "sainted", he ought to be "accursed," dumped back into purgatory where he belongs, and chained to an iron post in the hottest corner. [Applause.]

Innocent III., proclaimed by Catholics


[pg. 92] as a holy man and one of the great popes, at whose hands, as any reputable encyclopζdia will inform you, the bloody crusade against the Albigenses was organized; the pope who dispatched an army of priests throughout all Europe to stir up sentiment against heretics; the pope who so thirsted for universal dominion that he hesitated not to bathe his hands, ex officio, in the innocent blood of multitudes — this power loving, cruel, red-handed monster of hellish deeds (than which history records none that was more diabolical was the originator of the auricular confession. He was the sovereign dictator of and inspired all that was accomplished in the fourth Council of Lateran, which, by its twenty-first canon, authorized the auricular confession. If any man will produce history to prove that prior to the year 1215 there was an authorized confessional-box in any Catholic church, I'll reduce my estate by another million and deposit it in his bank. [Laughter.] You need entertain no fears concerning my financial future or the present condition of my purse


[pg. 93] — the millions I'm offering will never be called for. [Applause.]

This historic council, governed by Innocent III., which decreed the extermination of heretics, the blasphemous doctrine of transubstantiation and the iniquitous confessional, stands out against the sky-line of past events brazen as the sun in its abominable heresies, arrayed in garments that smell of vengeance across the centuries, and painted red with human blood. This assembly pulled the very heart out of hell and established it in the breast of the church. The benediction on that council should have been:

"Praise the devil,
From whom all iniquities flow!"
[Applause.]

Ladies and gentlemen, I insist that I have proven the first proposition — that after a persistent effort, twelve centuries long, by which he gradually reduced the church to a state of degradation which made it like putty in his hands, the devil himself, using the fourth Council of Lateran for a hammer, nailed together


[pg. 94] and set up that little confessional-box in yonder cathedral [pointing toward St. Joseph's Cathedral of East Broad Street]. [Applause.]

And now, that I may prove the second proposition (that it paid the devil to make this box), I shall now ask you to look while I show you a few of the assets he has gotten, and is still getting, out of it.

Children sometimes play with a little box which, when a spring is touched, flies open, and all kinds of hideous things jump up. I'm now ready to begin touching a spring in the confessional-box, and, for awhile, some of the most frightful imps of history and the present day will jump up and try to stare you out of countenance. Nor will they be hobgoblins; they will be terrible realities. But don't be alarmed. I have them securely chained, and I'll not let them bite you. [Laughter.]

The first little imp that jumps up is the historic indulgence, and when we look at it awhile, it assumes considerable proportions.


[pg. 95] Pope Urban, in the eleventh century, delivered an oration which hypnotized the people, causing them to shout, "It is the will of God!" and inaugurated the holy Crusades. The pope then absolved the people of their sins and sent them forth to fight. As the war progressed, indulgences were freely granted in person or hired others to go, and finally to all who made contributions to the war treasury.

But it remained for Innocent III. to make the indulgences a potent factor in the schemes of Roman Catholicism. Under his administration, people were given indulgences for murdering heretics. The confessional-box which he established at once became the instrument which made the indulgence a valuable asset, and from that day to this the confessional-box and the indulgence have been too closely united to be even mentally divorced.

The time came when it was discovered that the indulgences were as valuable to the church in times of peace as in war. And they were offered to all


[pg. 96] who would buy. During the construction of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, the pope exchanged indulgences for contributions to the building treasury. And various other Catholic enterprises have been carried on largely by means of revenue derived from the sale of indulgences.

It was the wicked practice of selling indulgences that stirred Luther and made the Reformation a reality.

And indulgences are sold to-day for the support of confraternities and other church policies. I, myself, heard a priest, while making announcements prior to his sermon, urge the people to buy holy water, holy candles, scapulars, and indulgences.

But what is an indulgence?

An indulgence is a money-making device which enriches the church by deceiving the people regarding both life and death.

If you have a friend or relative in purgatory and buy an indulgence for him, it will shorten his residence in that warm climate [laughter], and likewise


[pg. 97] reduce his perspiration and make him more comfortable during the period of his enforced visit to the place whence proceeds the equator. [Laughter.]

Father Chiniquy relates that when his father died, he left an estate, consisting of a widow, three small children, some debts, and a cow. The cow was the only means of support for the family. The priest demanded money to lessen the deceased man's residence in purgatory. But he was informed that there was no money. He then offered to adjust that little purgatory matter for the cow. [Laughter.} Mrs. Chiniquy loved her husband enough to let the priest drive away the cow, and the priest loved the cow enough to drive her away. [Laughter.]

In the "Book of the Scapular," familiar to all Catholics, Mary says to the faithful who wear the scapular during life: "I, their glorious mother, on the Saturday after their death, will descend to purgatory and deliver those whom I shall find there, and take them up to the holy mountain of eternal life."


[pg. 98] I've always had a high regard for Mary. But, if the "Book of Scapular" is her mouthpiece, I'm convinced that she doesn't play fair. And I think I can convince you of her partiality in about two minutes.

Let us suppose that you and I each go to the expense and trouble of wearing a scapular all our lives. I die, with mine on, a minute after twelve o'clock Sunday morning. According to Mary's contract with me, I'll have to stay in purgatory a whole week! In that time I would be roasted. [Laughter.] But you die, with your scapular on, a minute before twelve Friday night. You have only a minute to stay in purgatory! You would scarcely be singed. [Laughter.] You would not be there long enough to say "Good morning" to the devil [laughter], much less to look around the place and renew old friendships. [Laughter.]

If I were a Catholic and wore a scapular, I would arrange with my doctor to delay giving me the fatal dose until a minute before twelve Friday night. [Laughter.]


[pg. 99] But the indulgence is a pliable instrument and respects this life also.

According to human reasoning, death is always in the distant future and purgatory is still a station beyond. [Laughter.]

A man who had stolen a woman's sheep was acquitted by the court. The woman said to him: "This abominable court has cleared you. But wait till the day of judgment then you'll have to pay for that sheep." Whereupon the man answered: "Madam, if you credit me that long, I'll steal another." [Laughter.]

Indulgences guarantee their purchasers absolution in this life. In other words, an indulgence is a license to sin. If you buy an indulgence for sixty or ninety days, your confession is taken for granted, and you have the right to sin during the time specified, just as the saloon-keeper pays for his license and can sell liquors for a year.

And indulgence is a kind of fire-insurance policy, and the Vatican is the company that issues it. And, judging from


[pg. 100] the lives of the popes as described by Pastor, a celebrated Roman Catholic, some of those infallible bachelors must have been pretty heavily insured. [Laughter.]

The second imp which jumps up out of the confessional-box has a very long, sharp nose; I would call it "Prying into Other People's Business."

All ex-priests tell us (and ex-Catholics right here in Columbus — people of good standing in the community and their churches — have told me the same thing) that the confessional is employed as a medium of information concerning the home and general private life. It means that no Catholic family enjoys immunity from the priest's knowledge of its affairs, if, for any reason, he may wish the information. It also means that, if you are a Protestant and your wife and children are Catholics, what the priest doesn't know about your business, your politics, your religion, and your private life could be put in one corner of a gnat's eye. [Laughter.]

Furthermore, it is averred that the homes of Protestants in which there are


[pg. 101] Catholic domestics are kept under constant surveillance through the confessional, if the family is prominent or there are any other reasons for information.

The next imp is quick and wiry. He turns his head, first one side, then the other; his eyes glance at you, then turn away; he smiles, and tries to look innocent and true. For the lack of a more euphonious name, we will call him a liar. [Laughter.]

Do you suppose every one who goes to confessional divulges every secret of the life? I don't. Catholics are human, and it is not human nature to open wide the heart to other human creatures. There are times when even Catholics would rather skate around on the ice-ponds of perdition [laughter] than reveal certain thoughts and deeds. Ex-Catholics — especially women — affirm that the priests ask questions which cause the cold sweat to stand out in beads on the penitent's brow.

Chiniquy left the following testimony: "I do here publicly challenge the whole Roman Catholic priesthood to deny


[pg. 102] that the greater part of their female penitents remain a certain period of time under the most distressing state of mind. I have heard from the lips of dying girls, as well as married women, the awful words: 'I am forever lost! All my past confessions have been so many lies. I have never dared to answer correctly the questions of my confessors. Shame has sealed my lips and damned my soul.'

I shall now introduce the big imp — one that is horrible to behold. He has hoofs and horns and tusks, a vicious countenance, and eyes that hypnotize; his arms are muscular and cruel; his breath is as the fumes of a crematory; his raiment is midnight blackness; his name is hell.

It is generally understood that Catholic men, as a rule, do not give as much attention to the confessional as do the women. And to this observation all ex-priests bear testimony.

The man, especially if he has means, can evade the confessional-box to a considerable extent or altogether, and at the


[pg. 103] end of life arrange with the priest to look after his purgatorial interests. Or, if he happens to drop through the trap-door without having made the necessary arrangement, his administrators can make it for him.

And money talks in the Catholic Church. The sound of its voice delights the devil in this world, and its clink is music to his imps in the lower regions. But as in this world, its power is commensurate only with its bulk in the next.

To put it in figures of speech. If a man has only a little money, about all the comfort he can hope for in purgatory is a pair of sheet-iron slippers to partially shield his feet from the excessive heat contained in the red-hot streets. [Laughter.] If he can make a payment of considerable size, he is furnished with a pair of stilts and a palm-leaf fan. [Laughter.] But if he has plenty of cash and is willing to plank it down, the priest sends the devil a "wireless" to make special preparations, for a gentleman who has the "chink" and doesn't hesitate to part with it is on the road. [Laughter.]


[pg. 104] And when the distinguished guest arrives, he's met at the station with a limousine and whirled away to a fire-proof palace, wherein he and the popes, Bishop Purcell says are in hell, spend their time drinking iced lemonades — pretty well spiked — and looking through the windows at the poor wretches who are roasting in the flames because they failed to pay their hotel bills and their living relatives are too stingy to put up the money. [Applause.]

In the meantime, the priests who have not yet purchased their transportation for purgatory [laughter] manage to live pretty well and save a little money. And some of these "sacrificers for the good of the cause" — Like Bishop Quigley, of Chicago — live in mansions that would make a man worth only a million or so blush, and enjoy the luxury of stables at the rear of their homes — like Bishop Quigley's — that would make any dwelling on East Broad Street* look like thirty cents. [Laughter.]


*East Broad is the wealthy residence street of Columbus.


[pg. 105] The confessional-box is patronized largely by women and girls — especially women and girls whose time is not monopolized by the frivolities of society, and who are made to believe that, although the canon of the church specifies the confessional at least once a year, they must whisper into the holy father's ear not less than once a week.

And in the last lecture I emphasized the numerous charges preferred against the priesthood by history and living, responsible people, concerning which Romanism is as silent as the grave.

It has been clearly proven that the system has degraded priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes. On page 71 of "Romanism a Menace to the Nation," Crowley affirms that Leo XIII. [1878-1903] was an immoral man and that one of his sons —


[pg. 106] Cardinal Satolli — has left his own footprints in the mud of licentiousness. Crowley offers ten thousand dollars for proof that his assertions are false. The Catholic Church proclaims Leo XIII. as the most immaculate of popes. And if he was not Cardinal Satolli's father, it is passing strange that the church has not sufficient pride to disprove the charge.

If any credence can be placed in history — history penned by Catholics themselves — and the testimony of ex-Catholics whose veracity in all other matters is above reproach, the confessional-box is the instrument through which the law of cause and effect, in its connection with the system, operates.

The imp of the confessional-box, whose constant sin is blacker than murder, strikes both ways, frequently destroying both confessor and penitent.

In 1907 three thousand French priests, staggering under the weight of this unnatural system, are said to have signed and sent a petition to Pius X., praying him to abolish priestly celibacy.

Priests confess one to another.


[pg. 107] Father Chiniquy says: "Those who have escaped the snares of the tempter are few compared with those who have perished. I have heard the confessions of more than two hundred priests, and to say the truth, as God knows it, I must declare that only twenty-one had not to weep over the secret sins committed through the irresistibly corrupting influences of the auricular confession. I am now more than seventy-seven years old, and in a short time I shall be in my grave. I shall have to give an account of what I now say. Well, it is in the presence of my great Judge, with my tomb before my eyes, that I declare to the world that very few — yes, very few — priests escape from falling into the pit of the most horrible moral depravity the world have ever known, through the confessional."

In addition to the shady theology taught in the Catholic seminaries, the priests are instructed in the art of leading penitents on by authorized questions. And many of these questions are of such a nature that should I repeat them here


[pg. 108] to-night, you would rise, en masse, and drive me from the building. The questions asked penitents are such that no woman could repeat them to another of her own sex without blushing. Vile men could discuss and enjoy them, but men of culture would not pollute their lips with such obscenity.

This is not fancy upon my part. Should you read Dens, Liguori, Debreyne, and other Roman instructors who prescribe the questions every priest must know s he knows the alphabet, and ask his penitents, you would wonder how any priest could walk the streets without wearing a veil. [Applause.]

Cases are on record of girls running home from the confessional and asking their parents about things the priests had revealed to them — things of which they were entirely ignorant and concerning which they should have been kept in ignorance for years to come. And cases are on record of boys declaring that the priests had told them, in the confessional, things they had not even heard from the lips of bad companions. It's authentic


[pg. 109] that boys have said to one another: "Let's go to confessional, and let the holy father entertain us with religion." [Laughter.]

"Well, Bridget," asked the priest, "have you thought about anything bad since your last confession?"

"No, yez Holiness," was the reply, "nothing excipt the thing yez told me about the last time I was here." [Laughter.]

All down through the centuries, since the inauguration of the auricular confession, from it has gone forth a constant stream of corruption. In recent years hundreds of cases have come to light in which we see a reflection of hell itself. And at the present time, whenever a life is blighted or a home ruined by the Catholic priesthood, nine times in ten, the infamy is traceable to the confessional-box. Crowley, Clark and numerous other living, responsible men — and women, too — declare that the auricular confession is debauching young lives by the thousand all over the country and throughout the world. Yet the Catholic


[pg. 110] Church puts forth not effort to defend this institution.

I shall now make three statements, and my only regret is that the limitations of our language prohibit the emphasis with which I should like to make them.

1. If the Methodist, Baptist, or any other Protestant church, had a confessional, whose language could not be printed in English, concerning which there was one-half the suspicion and connected with which there was one-third the scandal that attach to the Catholic confessional, the American people would raise a howl that would frighten the inhabitants of Mars out of their wits. [Applause.] Our lawmakers would no longer say they could not interfere with religious liberty, and they would smash that confessional-box into smithereens. [Applause.]

2. I challenge statistics to prove that Mormonism has corrupted the morals of our country anything like as much as has the Catholic confessional. Yet, a few years ago, the Federal Government forgot its "religious liberty


[pg. 111] policy" long enough to open wide its indignant hand and slap Mormonism in the face so hard that the Latter-day Saints ran back to Salt Lake City, praying: "O shades of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young! Come back and protect us from this terrible persecution!" [Applause.]

3. And I unhesitatingly assert that the auricular confession, which pours into the minds of young people its unprintable questions, wrecks homes, and is accused of multiplied dark and monster crimes by reputable men who declare they have the evidence, but are not called upon to produce it, and which has been repeatedly condemned in the persons of offending priests by the courts of our land, ought to be prohibited by law. [Prolonged Applause.]

Last Sunday night I stated that the Catholic press calls antipapal magazines "vile sheets." I further stated that I agreed with the Catholic verdict, and that to-night I would tell you why. I shall now redeem that promise. Antipapal journals are sharp knives that are


[pg. 112] run, up to the hilt, into the side of Romanism every month and week in the year. And if only the auricular confession were under consideration, these blades are necessarily vile, because they are being constantly stuck into the filthiest system over which the angels have wept and the devil has laughed. [Applause.]

The Protestant magazine, the Menace, and other strictly antipapal journals, together with a number of independent religious papers that contain antipapal departments — the Christian Standard* of Cincinnati being second to none — constitute a great blade which is constantly getting longer and sharper each week. This blade is constantly pushed into the side of Rome and turned, and the old lady, in a voice that can be heard the world around, is daily shrieking, "Ouch! that hurts!" [Applause.]

The independent press, a knife that


* The Christian Standard, published from Eighth, Ninth and Cutter Streets, Cincinnati, O., each week contains a page, ably edited, devoted to a discussion of the problems thrust upon the attention of the church and the public by the false pretensions and misdeeds of Roman Catholicism.


[pg. 113] reaches across oceans and continents, and whose length is measured only by the extent of civilization, is on the job, slashing Romanism from head to foot every day in the year and every hour in the day. [Applause.] It is cutting the curtains from around the confessional-box and revealing the most hideous monster of the nefarious system, which for centuries has degraded and damned the women and children in the name of religion. [Applause.] And the task of revelation, from combined sources, will be continued until either Romanism abolishes the confessional-box and strangles the demon which debauches priests and penitents, or the governments of the world rise up in their indignation and integrity and sweep the entire system into perdition. [Applause.]

And still another imp jumps up. [Laughter.] Its name will appear in the next statement I shall make.

The best priest in the world is a sinful man — just like other men. And when he assumes the prerogative of deciding the gravity of another's sin and


[pg. 114] granting or withholding absolution — a prerogative which belongs only to God — the assumption is the most blatant blasphemy known to man. [Applause.]

Furthermore, when a priest, whose body is saturated with rum — in the light of the Scriptural statement, "No drunkard shall enter the kingdom of heaven" — and whose heart and life are steeped in the lowest iniquity to which the outcast can stoop, sits in God's stead to hear and pass upon the sins of which the purest of women and innocent children feel guilty, it's an insult to human intelligence, a travesty upon religion, and an outrage upon high Heaven. [Applause.]

The arrogance of the confessional alone condemns Roman Catholicism before the judgment-bar of unbiased reason. [Applause.]

After his confession, an Irishman is said to have engaged his priest in the following conversation:

"Father, does yez iver go to confission?"

"Certainly, Patrick. Priests, bishops,


[pg. 115] cardinals, and popes all go to confession. The priest confesses to his bishop, the bishop to a cardinal, the cardinal to the pope, and the pope to God."

"Is thot so? And what might be the cost?"

"The priest pays the bishop twenty-five dollars, the bishop pays the cardinal fifty dollars, and the cardinal pays the pope one hundred dollars."

"Is thot so" It appears to git higher the fither up yez go! and what does the pope pay God, yez riverence?"

"Why, the pope gets his confession free."

"Is thot so? If thot's the case, I think Oi'll confiss to God meself after this." [Laughter.]

The confessional is about the only feature of Romanism that is not directly connected with the almighty dollar; but indirectly it is a money-making institution, for it keeps the people in line with the sale of indulgences, scapulars, holy water, etc.

Eliminating the direct confessional fee, which is not charged, the story intro-


[pg. 116] duces my third proposition — God is the only logical and Scriptural confessor to whom the penitents should go.

The human heart yearns for the touch of a power higher than its own. Common sense declares that this power is not lodged in the breast of man or any position he may create. [Applause.]

The Scriptures teach that man is responsible to God, and to him alone. The command, "Confess your faults one to another," has reference to man's relation to man and not his relation to God.

God alone has power to forgive sins. Nor has he ever delegated this power to any other, save his only begotten Son. Hence, any man who arrogates unto himself the prerogative of sitting in God's or Christ's stead is the most brazen blasphemer on earth. [Applause.]

And all, however conscientious they may be, who bow in the confessional-box, bend the knee of contrition to the evil spirit that was thrown out of heaven and fell "as lightning" to the earth — whom, not knowing what else to name him, we call him the devil. [Applause.]


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