Thursday, April 28, 2011

Charles Chiniquy - Illinois Schismatic: The First American Catholic Apostate

I lived in Kankakee County from 1975 until 1988. I was a teacher at Bishop McNamara High School in the City of Kankakee. The County is heavily populated with descendants of French Canadian Voyageurs of the late 18th Century and Immigrants from Canada lured to Illinois by a controversial and public relations savvy Catholic priest, Charles H. Chiniquy.

Bishop McNamara ( formerly St. Patrick's High School) was staffed by Clerics of St. Viator priests. This order was brought to Kankakee County expressly to combat the apostasy of Pastor Charles Chiniquy.

I worked with many talented scholars while at Bishop Mac, especially Father Jim Fanale,CSV. my Department Chair. Father Fanale and librarian Anne Chandler introduced me to Charles Chiniquy and his impact on the region. Father Fanale gave me a copy of a dissertation done by a gentleman named Barrett. This was a well-written and detailed study of Chiniquy. The dissertation was like a prose map of Kankakee.

To this day one can trace the exodus of Chinquyites from the Catholic Church out of Bourbonnais, St. Ann, Beaverville, Martinton, Papineau, E'lrable, and Kankakee township via the French names in the registers of the Presbyterian and Baptist Churches in Kankakee and Irqouis Counties.

In the late 1840's, Chicago Bishop James Oliver Van de Velde, SJ (1848–1853,a Belgian, sought to bring more Catholics into Illinois from Canada. The Bishop it seems wanted more literate, tractable, socially sophisticated and skilled French craftsmen and farmers to settle in Illinois and offset the tide of unskilled, illiterate, intractable and violent Irish canal workers.

Though Illinois was pioneered by French voyageurs in the 18th Century, Anglo-Protestant Americans shifted from the east during and immediately after the War of 1812. Protestant political power gripped the State of Illinois. The fledgling Catholic Diocese of Chicago was massive in terms of landscape but empty of people in the pews.

Canada's Bishop Bourget was appealed to by Van De Velde. As luck would have it Bishop Bourget had a popular, but troublesome priest in Charles Chiniquy.

Chiniquy was known throughout Canada as a brilliant preacher and wildly popular Temperance Advocate. Chinquy launched an anti-alcohol campaign that spread like wild-fire throughout Canada. The newspapers lauded this young fierce Temperance Apostle and helped Chiniquy's pamphleteering and public relations. However, the activist priest was accused by more than a few women in written complaints to Bishop Bourget of using the confessional to force sexual advances on them.

Chiniquy's talent for promoting emigration to Illinois and personal self-promotion made Illinois look mighty inviting. French Canadians knowing only of the Chiniquy the Temperance Priest followed him to Illinois.

Chiniquy was energetic and dynamic. He established churches in St. George, Bourbonnais, Beaverville and St. Ann and towns and villages sprung up around those churches. The farm land was rich and fruitful and the Illinois Central Railroad was linking Chicago to the Ohio River. The Railroad had a sharp lawyer - Abraham Lincoln.

Bishop Van De Velde and his Irish successor Bishop Anthony O'Regan (1854–1858) warred constantly with the fiery priest over property rights and over charges that Chiniquy was taking great liberties with women.

Chiniquy sued parishioners for slander and was himself sued by Peter Spink of Bourbonnais:

After the fall court term, Spink applied for a change of venue to the court in Urbana. Abraham Lincoln was then hired by Chiniquy to defend him. The spring court action in Urbana was the highest profile libel suit in Lincoln’s career. [2] The case was ended in the fall court session by agreement. [3]

Charles Chiniquy clashed with the Bishop of Chicago, Anthony O'Regan, over the bishop’s treatment of Catholics in Chicago, particularly French Canadians. He declared that O’Regan was secretly backing Spink's suit against him. Chiniquy stated that in 1856 O’Regan threatened him with excommunication if he didn’t go to a new location where the bishop wanted him. Several months later the New York Times published a pastoral letter from Bishop O’Regan in which O’Regan stated that he had suspended Charles Chiniquy and since the priest had continued in his normal duties as a priest, the bishop excommunicated him by his letter. Chiniquy vigorously disputed that he had been excommunicated, saying publicly that the Bishop was mistaken. Chiniquy left the Church in 1858. [4] He claimed that the Catholic Church is pagan, that Roman Catholics worship the Virgin Mary, that its theology spoils the Gospel and that its theology is anti-Christian. He also claimed that the Vatican had planned to take over the United States by importing Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Germany and France.

Chiniquy claimed that he was falsely accused by his superiors (and that Abraham Lincoln had come to his rescue), that the American Civil War was a plot against the United States of America by the Vatican, and that the Vatican was behind the Confederate cause, the death of President Lincoln and that Lincoln's assassins were faithful Roman Catholics ultimately serving Pope Pius IX.

Chiniquy played the Ethnicity Card against Bishop Regan charging that the Mick Bishop was maltreating French Catholics; it worked for a few of his followers. Chiniquy took his tiny flock out of the Roman Catholic Church after several failed attempts to wrest Church property. Chiniquy began his own Church and later merged with the Presbyterians. That was a bumpy ride as well.

Chiniquy returned to writing fiery tomes and pamphlets culminating in Fifty Years in the Church of Rome in 1885. This work was cited by Cardinal Newman as one of the wilder anti-Catholic polemics that were used by Know-Nothings in Illinois like Joseph Medill to drum up ant-Catholic hatred in the newspapers.

Here is an example of Chiniquy's self-promotionfrom Fifty Years in the Church of Rome:

The next morning I went to table with the Bishop Prince, the coadjutor, who had invited me to breakfast.

He said to me, "M. Chiniquy, you look like a man who has spent the night in tears. What is the matter with you?"

I said, "My lord, you are correct. I am desolate above measure."

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"Oh! I cannot tell you here," I said. "Will you please give me one hour in your room alone? I will tell you a mystery which will puzzle you."

After breakfast I went out with him and said:

"Yesterday you paid me a great compliment because of the sermon in which I proved that Jesus had always granted the petitions of His mother. But, my lord, last night I heard another voice, stronger than yours, and my trouble is that I believe that voice is the voice of God. That voice has told me that we Roman Catholic priests and bishops preach a falsehood every time we say to the people that Mary has always the power to receive from the hands of Jesus Christ the favours which she asks. This is a lie, my lord-this, I fear, is a diabolical and damning error."

The Bishop then said, "M. Chiniquy, what do you mean? Are you a Protestant?"

"No," I said, "I'm not a Protestant." (Many times I had been called a Protestant because I was so fond of the Bible.) "But I tell you, face to face, that I sincerely fear that yesterday I preached a lie, and that you, my lord, will preach one also the next time you say that we must invoke Mary, under the pretext that Jesus has never refused any favour to His mother. This is false."

The Bishop said, "M. Chiniquy, you go too far!"

"No, my lord," I said, "it is of no use to talk. Here is the Gospel; read it."

I put the Gospel into the hands of the Bishop, and he read with his own eyes what I have already quoted, My impression was that he read those words for the first time. The poor man was so much surprised that he remained mute and trembling. Finally he asked, "What does that mean?"

"Well," I said, "this is the Gospel; and here you see that Mary has come to ask from Jesus Christ a favour, and He has not only rebuked her, but has refused to consider her as His mother. He did this publicly, that we might know that Mary is the mother of Jesus as man, and not as God."

The Bishop was beside himself. He could not answer Me.

I then asked to be allowed to put him a few questions. I said, "My lord, who has saved you and saved me upon the Cross?"

He answered, "Jesus Christ."

"And who paid your debts and mine by shedding His blood; was it Mary or Jesus?"

He said, "Jesus Christ."

"Now, my lord, when Jesus and Mary were on earth, who loved the sinner more; was it Mary or Jesus?"

And again be answered that it was Jesus.

"Did any sinner come to Mary on earth to be saved?"


"Do you remember that any sinner has gone to Jesus to be saved?"

"Yes, many."

"Have they been rebuked?


"Do you remember that Jesus ever said to sinners, 'Come to Mary and she will save you'?"

" No", he said.

"Do you remember that Jesus has said to poor sinners, 'Come unto me'?"

"Yes. He has said it."

"Has He ever retracted those words?"


"And who was, then, the more powerful to save sinners?" I asked.

"Oh! it was Jesus!"

"Now, my lord, since Jesus and Mary are now in Heaven, can you show me in the Scriptures that Jesus has lost anything of His desire and power to save sinners, or that He has delegated this power to Mary?"

And the Bishop answered, "No."

"Then, my lord," I asked ' "why do we not go to Him, and Him alone? Why do we invite poor sinners to come to Mary, when, by your own confession she is nothing compared with Jesus, in power, in mercy, in love, and in compassion for the sinner?"

Then the poor Bishop was as a man who is condemned to death. He trembled before me, and as he could not answer me, be pleaded business and left me. His "business" was that he could not answer me.

Chiniquy became a stalker of his lawyer, Abe Lincoln. Though the Spink trial which was settled out of court gave Lincoln some notoriety, the Rail Splitter and Chinquy were anything but fast friends. Chiniquy after his break with Catholicism went uninvited to see President Lincoln during the Civil War. The meeting was more than brief, but Chiniquy used that entree to further promote himself and his war on Catholicism. Chiniquy claimed, twenty years after the assassination of Lincoln, to have warned the President of the Pope's plot to kill him -

"My dear President I answered, it is just that letter which brought me to your presence again. That letter is a poisoned arrow thrown by the Pope at you personally; it is your death warrant. Before the letter, every Catholic could see that their church as a whole was against this free Republic. However, a good number of liberty-loving Irish, German and French Catholics, following more the instincts of their noble nature than the degrading principles of their church, enrolled themselves under the banners of liberty, and have fought like heroes. To detach these men from the rank and file of the Northern armies, and force them to help the cause of the rebellion, became the main object of the Jesuits. Secret pressing letters were addressed from Rome to the bishops, ordering them to weaken your armies by detaching those men from you. The bishops refused; for they would be exposing themselves as traitors and be shot. But they advised the Pope to acknowledge, at once, the legitimacy of the Southern republic, and to take Jeff Davis under his supreme protection, by a letter, which would be read everywhere. That letter tell every Roman Catholic that you are a bloodthirsty tyrant fighting against a government which the infallible and holy Pope of Rome recognizes as legitimate. The Pope, by this letter, tells his blind slaves that you are outraging the God of heaven and earth, by continuing such a bloody. By this letter of the Pope to Jeff Davis you are not only an apostate, as you were thought before, whom every man had the right to kill, according to the canonical laws of Rome: but you are more vile, criminal and cruel that the horse thief, the public bandit, and the lawless brigand, robber and murderer. And my dear President, this is not a fancy imagination on my part, it is the unanimous explanation given me by a great number of the priests of Rome, with whom I have had occasion to speak on that subject. In the name of God, and in the name of our dear country, which is in so much need of your services, I plead that you pay more attention to protect your precious life, and not continue to expose it as you have done till now."

The man can prose.

Chiniquy wrote a pamphlet accusing the Pope, Jesuits and Bishops of America for the assassination of Lincoln.

Chiniquy claimed that he was falsely accused by his superiors (and that Abraham Lincoln had come to his rescue), that the American Civil War was a plot against the United States of America by the Vatican, and that the Vatican was behind the Confederate cause, the death of President Lincoln and that Lincoln's assassins were faithful Roman Catholics ultimately serving Pope Pius IX.

After leaving the Catholic Church, Chiniquy dedicated his life to trying to win his fellow French Canadians, as well as others, from Catholicism to the Protestant faith. He wrote a number of books and tracts pointing out the errors in the faith and practises of the Roman Catholic Church. His two most influential works are Fifty Years in The Church of Rome[5] and The Priest, The Woman and The Confessional.[6] These books raised concerns in the United States about the Catholic Church. According to one Canadian biographer, Charles Chiniquy is Canada’s best-selling author of all time. [7] These books were written at a time when Americans were suspicious of foreign influence, as typified by the Know-Nothing movement.

He died in Montreal on January 16, 1899.

Charles H. Chiniquy is the first example of American Apostasy. There have been others like the African-American Catholic Association Breakaway black Roman Catholic group who have rejected Catholic doctrine barring abortion, remarriage after divorce and ordination of women and married men. Here are other breakaway churches:

American Catholic Church in the United States

Ancient Apostolic Communion

Arian Catholic (The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church)

Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church

Catholic Apostolic National Church United States

Catholic Apostolic Church

Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Celtic Catholic Church

Charismatic Episcopal Church

Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (Patriotic Catholic Association) Parallel Catholic Church in China that appoints its own bishops and answers to the Chinese government, but adheres closely to the rites of a traditional Catholic Consecration, began after China broke ties with the Vatican when the Communists gained power in 1949.

Free Catholic Church

Liberal Catholic Church

Mariavite Church

Old Catholic Church

Palmarian Catholic Church

Latin Episcopal Church of Brazil

Philippine Independent Church

Polish National Catholic Church

True Catholic Church,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=710f75bbac2df164

1 comment:

Tom King said...

Chiniquy complained that there are negative consequences to priests because of the church's requirement, at least at the time, that priests draw out the lurid details of sexual sins, particularly from female petitioners in auricular confession. These concerns ring rather true, given the problems the church has been having these days with sexual sin amongst the clergy.