Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
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Father Chiniquy did not voluntarily leave the Catholic Church, but was suspended and degraded for misconduct on many occasions, and excommunicated despite repeated piteous appeals for reinstatement as a priest.
That is one of the noblest letters that has ever come from any man's pen. There have been few priests in history who have proved so unfaithful to their office as Father Chiniquy. He not only failed to live up to his obligations; he also gave great disedification and scandal by his manner of life. After the expulsion from the Catholic Church his conduct brought upon him, he indulged in a bitter campaign of vilification against the Church—so bitter and untruthful that, when he came to die, the normal human reaction would be to let him die in whatever dispositions he might choose. Or the Archbishop might reasonably say, "If he wants the last Sacraments of the Church, and to be reconciled to God, let him ask for a priest. If he sends for a priest, a priest will be put at his disposal." But the Archbishop was a man of great faith. His faith shines out in his letter. No one can doubt his sincere and utter conviction of the priestly dignity indelibly impressed upon the soul of Pastor Chiniquy. No one can doubt his deep appreciation of the intense significance of death, of judgment, of the vital necessity of securing one's salvation. And Archbishop Bruchesi was so much a man of God that he felt it his pastoral duty, not only to leave the 99 and seek out the one sheep in danger of being lost. He sought not only one who had gone astray, but one who had consistently reviled and attacked all that was most dear to him. If ever a man put into practice the command of Christ, "Love your enemies," it was Archbishop Bruchesi. And it was not for anything he personally had to gain, but for Father Chiniquy's own sake. The good Archbishop really dreaded the thought that even a Chiniquy should go to his judgment unrepentant and unforgiven. That is why he wrote such a letter.
In such a letter at such a moment, harsh terms would be quite out of place. And it is true that Father Chiniquy severed his connection with the Catholic Church insofar as he was personally responsible for conduct meriting his excommunication. Chiniquy was a French Canadian who was ordained a priest in 1843. On Sept. 28th, 1851, he was suspended from priestly duties by his bishop for immoral conduct. He left Canada for the United States, and persuaded a bishop there to give him another chance. But that bishop had to expel him on Nov. 20th, 1856. At once Chiniquy wrote to his former Canadian bishop as follows: "My Lord, as my actions have given scandal, and caused many to believe that sooner than obey you I would consent to be separated from the Catholic Church, I hasten to express my regret. To show the world my firm desire to live and die a Catholic, I hasten to write that I submit to your sentence, and I promise never more to exercise the sacred ministry in your diocese without your permission. So I beg your lordship to take off the censures you have pronounced against me, and against those who have communicated with me in things divine. I am your most devoted son in Jesus Christ, Charles Chiniquy, Nov. 25th, 1856. Chiniquy's conduct even when writing this letter was such that no bishop could accept it. And the bishop rightly refused to reinstate him as a priest on active duties. In 1858, he persuaded the Bishop of Chicago to accept him, but almost at once was again expelled. Then, having made himself impossible to every Catholic bishop, he went to a hotel, and after a night of agony and distress over his abandonment by the Catholic Church, he says that the light of heaven dawned upon him, and he saw clearly that the Church of Rome was false, and that salvation was with the Protestants. But they had trouble with him also. In 1862, the Protestant Synod of Chicago expelled him for misappropriation of money he collected on false pretenses in Europe on behalf of a non-existent Protestant charity. The American Presbyterians then accepted him, but before long had to expel him for embezzlement. After that, the Orangemen took him up, and he became a lecturer against Rome on the Protestant platform. Thus he spent the rest of his days till he came to die. It was then that the Archbishop of Montreal most charitably extended to him the offer of forgiveness and reconciliation with his Church in the spirit of Christ's own forgiveness at the last moment of the repentant thief on Calvary. In the light of all this, it cannot be said that Father Chiniquy voluntarily left the Catholic Church; nor does his conduct in any way prove that Church to be erroneous.