Monday, April 2, 1855 - page 2, columns 2 and 3.
Unfortunate too is its defiant tone, and especially unfortunate its menace to employ legal cunning, to find ways to evade the provisions of the Bill if ripened into a Law. The craft of the Priest was asleep here. Otherwise he could not have flung in the face of our Legislature the following notice.
"Professional gentlemen may discover some defect in the framing and wording of the enactment which will render it inapplicable. But even if this should not be the case, it will only produce, in the minds of Catholics, the very feeling and purposes which it aims to overthrow or prevent. The Catholic laity, in my opinion, will reason with themselves thus: 'the Legislature wishes to prevent our doing with our own property what we think proper - it wishes us to give nothing by devise, conveyance, gift, or any other form of transfer to our Bishops and clergy for the purpose of promoting or supporting our religion, except as it sees fit to direct. - Now in this it seems to meddle with our religious as well as civil rights, and we shall find twenty ways out side the intricate web of its prohibitions for doing, and doing more largely still, the very things which it wished us not to do. In these matters which invade our religious as well as civil rights, we shall take the liberty of doing what is right, in our own way'."
It is sufficient to remark here, that it required six centuries in Great Britain, to perfect the legislation undertaken to save the landed property of the Kingdom from being swallowed up by ecclesiastical bodies. Strange indeed would it be, if six month labor in New York would prove sufficient to accomplish the same results. The policy of our Democratic Society is opposed to Church Wealth. The People of the State are determined that religious corporations, having endless succession, shall not roll up, generation after generation, real and personal property into an anti-republican, over-shadowing wealth. They make no distinctions between creeds, either in this determination. They will apply to Catholics and Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists.
The Archbishop has seen fit to give to the public his version of the Buffalo St. Louis Church case. It is as follows:
In the Statutes of our Synod, held in 1842, certain rules were laid down by which lay trustees should be thenceforward guided in administering the ecclesiatical property which the Catholic people had contributed for the purpose of religion. The following extract from our Pastoral Letter, published on that occasion, contains the only rules which could in the least trench on the perogatives of lay Trustees which had been so long enjoyed for ruin with impunity:
We have therefore directed and ordained, by the statutes of the Diocese, that, henceforward, no body of lay Trustees, or lay persons, by whatever name called, shall be permited [sic] to appoint, retain or dismiss any person connected with the church - such as sexton, organist, singers, teachers or other persons employed in connection with religion or public worship, against the will of the Pastor, subject to the ultimate decision of the Ordinary. We have ordained, likewise, in that expenses necessary for the maintenance of the Pastors, and the support of religion, shall, in no case, be withheld or denied if the congregation be able to afford them. It shall not be lawful for any Board of Trustees, or other lay persons, to make use of the church, chapel, basement or other portions of the grounds or ediface consecrated to religion, for any meeting having a secular, or even ecclesiastical object, without the approval, previously had of the Pastor, who shall be accountable to the Bishop for his decision. And, with a view to arrest the evils of the Trustee system in expending inconsiderately or otherwise, the property of the faithful it has been ordained by statute of the Diocese, that no Board of Trustees shall be at liberty to vote, expend, or appropriate for contracts, or under any pretext any portion of the property which they are appointed to administer, (excepting the current expenses as above alluded to), without the express approval and approbation of the Pastor, in every case, and it is further ordained that even this the Trustees of the churches, with the approbation of the Pastor, shall not be at liberty to expend any amount larger than the sum of one hundred dollars in any one year, without the consent of the Bishop approving or permitting the expenditure."
I am sure that no member of the Legislature not even Mr. Putnam will be able to discover, in these regulations, anything unjust, unwise, or oppressive. They took from the Board of Trustees the power of contracting debts ad libitum, and bequeathing to their successors in office the less pleasant duty of making payment. They took from the Lay Turstees the right of employing church property for the payment of persons connected with religion, against whose fitness of moral character the pastor of the church might have strong and well founded objections. In these regulations will be found the only grounds that ever existed for the resistance to Episcopal authority which the Trustees of St. Louis's Church Buffalo pleased to inauguarate.
All the other Boards of Trustees in the Diocese acquiesced in them, and the Catholics at large saw in them a prudent measure and a wise precaution. The only exception was the Trustees of St. Louis's Church. They would be Catholics after their own fashion, and they have reaped the consequences. Not understanding the English language well, they caused the Pastoral to be translated into German. Then in their corporate capacity as lay trustees they took it into "mature and respectful" consideration and reviewed it paragraph by paragraph. They were kind enough to approve of some parts, while in the most polite language, which a French gentleman knows so well how to employ, they signified to me that other portions of the document did not meet their approbation. Their objections were cheifly contained in the above extract from the Pastoral Letter. They would not allow either bishop or priest to examine their church books, or their treasurer's accounts. They would not allow the pastor to have anything to do with the approval or disapproval of persons whom they might think fit to employ in connection with the services of the Church. Thus, by implication, they would reserve to themselves the right to employ an infidel to teach chatechism to the children of the congregation - the right to employ a Jew to serve the priest at Mass, and a scoffer at all religion to play the organ on Sunday or chant the praises of God in his holy temple. Their refusal to acquiesce in the above regulations of the Pastoral Letter was communicated to me accompanied by polite expressions of profound respect for episcopal authority. In reply, I expressed to them briefly my regret at the course which they thought proper to adopt, intimated that the duties of my office required that I should be the Bishop, and that in the government of the Diocese they should be content with their condition as lay men - that under no circumstances would I quarrel or have any controversy with them - that if they thought proper to persevere in their resolutions, we should part company in peace - that Bishops and Priests, and religion itself, were quite as free in this country as were lay trustees.
In the Pastoral Letter it had been made known that at the period of six month from its promulgation the priest should be withdrawn from every church whose trustees refuse to comply with the above regulations - the Trustees of St. Louis's Church alone persevered in the refusal. The priest, however, was not withdrawn by me, but was actually compelled, by the ill-treatment he received from the Trustees and their adherents, to quit his post and return to his native country.
From the time he left I did not send another priest, nor was another priest permitted to officiate in their church. But as the Catholic people, whose interests these men had so mis-managed, whose peace they had destroyed, whom they had deprived of religious consolation so far as depended on them, were still a precious portion of my Catholic flock, I sent two other priests not, indeed, to be under the ignorant tyranny of Lay Trustees in St. Louis's Church, but to be free ministers of God, freely discharging their duties toward all the people.
The Almighty gave a blessing to their ministry and labors. A new temple was soon commenced, and this church of St. Louis remained an altarless pile, which its owners might have disposed of as they saw proper. On my second episcopal visitation, one or two years afterward, the trustees then in office addressed me a note solicitng me to receive them for the purpose of an interview in regard to its condition. I informed them in reply that unless they were prepared to acquiesce in the requirements of the Pastoral Letter, and thus come back to the starting point of their schism, an interview would be useless, and could not be granted. They came, notwithstanding, at the hour which they indicated in their note. They asked me to explain the meaning of certain passages in the extract of the Pastoral as quoted above. This was readily given, and in its close they alleged as an apology for their schismatical course up to that time, that they were unacquainted with the value of English words, that Mr. Wm. B. Le Couteulx had been their interpretor - and that he had always assured them that the Bishop was endeavoring to get possession of their Church property, in order to give it to the Irish! In short they stated (that is some of them stated, and the rest remained silent) - that if my interpretation of the Pastoral Letter was correct, Mr. Le Couteulx had been deceiving them from the beginning, and that now they were prepared to submit in all things to the general discipline of the Diocese as set forth in the Pastoral Letter. Their submission was complete and unconditional - it was spontaneous, for I neither argued with them, nor suffered them to argue with me. I congratulated them, intimating at the same time that their acknowledged and causeless obstinancy had give great scandal, which, as good Christians, they were bound to repair as far as possible. This they admitted, and were prepared to ask pardon of God and of their Bishop for the scandals they had given. They besought the Bishop, however, to open their Church and preach in it on the following day, which was Sunday. I replied that before I opened their church they should make the amende honorable to their fellow Catholics of the Diocese and of the world, which they did in the afternoon papers by a public expression of their regret for the course which they had hitherto pursued. Here the matter ended, as between the Bishop of New York and the Trustees of St. Louis Church. A new pastor was appointed, and things went on peacefully till the Diocese was divided.
Thursday, April 12, 1855 - Page 2, Column 4
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
MR. W.B. LECOUTEULX - We understand that this gentleman whose pen has no nobly and fearessly defended the Trustees of the Church of St. Louis, against the aspersions of the two † JOHNS, is about to sail for Italy again, whether upon business connected with the Church or not, we are unable to say.
Joint Stock Bank