The Provincial Letters, by Blaise Pascal

Letter XVI

TO THE REVEREND FATHERS, THE JESUITS

December 4, 1656

REVEREND FATHERS,

I now come to consider the rest of your calumnies, and shall begin with those contained in your advertisements, which remain to be noticed. As all your other writings, however, are equally well stocked with slander, they will furnish me with abundant materials for entertaining you on this topic as long as I may judge expedient. In the first place, then, with regard to the fable which you have propagated in all your writings against the Bishop of Ypres, I beg leave to say, in one word, that you have maliciously wrested the meaning of some ambiguous expressions in one of his letters which, being capable of a good sense, ought, according to the spirit of the Gospel, to have been taken in good part, and could only be taken otherwise according to the spirit of your Society. For example, when he says to a friend, “Give yourself no concern about your nephew; I will furnish him with what he requires from the money that lies in my hands,” what reason have you to interpret this to mean that he would take that money without restoring it, and not that he merely advanced it with the purpose of replacing it? And how extremely imprudent was it for you to furnish a refutation of your own lie, by printing the other letters of the Bishop of Ypres, which clearly show that, in point of fact, it was merely advanced money, which he was bound to refund. This appears, to your confusion, from the following terms in the letter, to which you give the date of July 30, 1619: “Be not uneasy about the money advanced; he shall want for nothing so long as he is here”; and likewise from another, dated January 6, 1620, where he says: “You are in too great haste; when the account shall become due, I have no fear but that the little credit which I have in this place will bring me as much money as I require.”

If you are convicted slanderers on this subject, you are no less so in regard to the ridiculous story about the charity-box of St. Merri. What advantage, pray, can you hope to derive from the accusation which one of your worthy friends has trumped up against that ecclesiastic? Are we to conclude that a man is guilty, because he is accused? No, fathers. Men of piety, like him, may expect to be perpetually accused, so long as the world contains calumniators like you. We must judge of him, therefore, not from the accusation, but from the sentence; and the sentence pronounced on the case (February 23, 1656) justifies him completely. Moreover, the person who had the temerity to involve himself in that iniquitous process, was disavowed by his colleagues, and himself compelled to retract his charge. And as to what you allege, in the same place, about “that famous director, who pocketed at once nine hundred thousand livres,” I need only refer you to Messieurs the cures of St. Roch and St. Paul, who will bear witness, before the whole city of Paris, to his perfect disinterestedness in the affair, and to your inexcusable malice in that piece of imposition.

Enough, however, for such paltry falsities. These are but the first raw attempts of your novices, and not the master-strokes of your “grand professed.” To these do I now come, fathers; I come to a calumny which is certainly one of the basest that ever issued from the spirit of your Society. I refer to the insufferable audacity with which you have imputed to holy nuns, and to their directors, the charge of “disbelieving the mystery of transubstantiation and the real presence of Jesus Christ in the eucharist.” Here, fathers, is a slander worthy of yourselves. Here is a crime which God alone is capable of punishing, as you alone were capable of committing it. To endure it with patience would require an humility as great as that of these calumniated ladies; to give it credit would demand a degree of wickedness equal to that of their wretched defamers. I propose not, therefore, to vindicate them; they are beyond suspicion. Had they stood in need of defence, they might have commanded abler advocates than me. My object in what I say here is to show, not their innocence, but your malignity. I merely intend to make you ashamed of yourselves, and to let the whole world understand that, after this, there is nothing of which you are not capable.

You will not fail, I am certain, notwithstanding all this, to say that I belong to Port-Royal; for this is the first thing you say to every one who combats your errors: as if it were only at Port-Royal that persons could be found possessed of sufficient zeal to defend, against your attacks, the purity of Christian morality. I know, fathers, the work of the pious recluses who have retired to that monastery, and how much the Church is indebted to their truly solid and edifying labours. I know the excellence of their piety and their learning. For, though I have never had the honour to belong to their establishment, as you, without knowing who or what I am, would fain have it believed, nevertheless, I do know some of them, and honour the virtue of them all. But God has not confined within the precincts of that society all whom he means to raise up in opposition to your corruptions. I hope, with his assistance, fathers, to make you feel this; and if he vouchsafe to sustain me in the design he has led me to form, of employing in his service all the resources I have received from him, I shall speak to you in such a strain as will, perhaps, give you reason to regret that you have not had to do with a man of Port-Royal. And to convince you of this, fathers, I must tell you that, while those whom you have abused with this notorious slander content themselves with lifting up their groans to Heaven to obtain your forgiveness for the outrage, I feel myself obliged, not being in the least affected by your slander, to make you blush in the face of the whole Church, and so bring you to that wholesome shame of which the Scripture speaks, and which is almost the only remedy for a hardness of heart like yours: “Imple facies eorum ignominia, et quaerent nomen tuum, Domine — Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek thy name, O Lord.”

A stop must be put to this insolence, which does not spare the most sacred retreats. For who can be safe after a calumny of this nature? For shame, fathers! to publish in Paris such a scandalous book, with the name of your Father Meynier on its front, and under this infamous title, Port-Royal and Geneva in concert against the most holy Sacrament of the Altar, in which you accuse of this apostasy, not only Monsieur the abbe of St. Cyran, and M. Arnauld, but also Mother Agnes, his sister, and all the nuns of that monastery, alleging that “their faith, in regard to the eucharist, is as suspicious as that of M. Arnauld,” whom you maintain to be “a down-right Calvinist.” I here ask the whole world if there be any class of persons within the pale of the Church, on whom you could have advanced such an abominable charge with less semblance of truth. For tell me, fathers, if these nuns and their directors had been “in concert with Geneva against the most holy sacrament of the altar” (the very thought of which is shocking), how they should have come to select as the principal object of their piety that very sacrament which they held in abomination? How should they have assumed the habit of the holy sacrament? taken the name of the Daughters of the Holy Sacrament? called their church the Church of the Holy Sacrament? How should they have requested and obtained from Rome the confirmation of that institution, and the right of saying every Thursday the office of the holy sacrament, in which the faith of the Church is so perfectly expressed, if they had conspired with Geneva to banish that faith from the Church? Why would they have bound themselves, by a particular devotion, also sanctioned by the Pope, to have some of their sisterhood, night and day without intermission, in presence of the sacred host, to compensate, by their perpetual adorations towards that perpetual sacrifice, for the impiety of the heresy that aims at its annihilation? Tell me, fathers, if you can, why, of all the mysteries of our religion, they should have passed by those in which they believed, to fix upon that in which they believed not? and how they should have devoted themselves, so fully and entirely, to that mystery of our faith, if they took it, as the heretics do, for the mystery of iniquity? And what answer do you give to these clear evidences, embodied not in words only, but in actions; and not in some particular actions, but in the whole tenor of a life expressly dedicated to the adoration of Jesus Christ, dwelling on our altars? What answer, again, do you give to the books which you ascribe to Port-Royal, all of which are full of the most precise terms employed by the fathers and the councils to mark the essence of that mystery? It is at once ridiculous and disgusting to hear you replying to these as you have done throughout your libel. M. Arnauld, say you, talks very well about transubstantiation; but he understands, perhaps, only “a significative transubstantiation.” True, he professes to believe in “the real presence”; who can tell, however, but he means nothing more than “a true and real figure”? How now, fathers! whom, pray, will you not make pass for a Calvinist whenever you please, if you are to allowed the liberty of perverting the most canonical and sacred expressions by the wicked subtleties of your modern equivocations? Who ever thought of using any other terms than those in question, especially in simple discourses of devotion, where no controversies are handled? And yet the love and the reverence in which they hold this sacred mystery have induced them to give it such a prominence in all their writings that I defy you, fathers, with all your cunning, to detect in them either the least appearance of ambiguity, or the slightest correspondence with the sentiments of Geneva.

Everybody knows, fathers, that the essence of the Genevan heresy consists, as it does according to your own showing, in their believing that Jesus Christ is not contained in this sacrament; that it is impossible he can be in many places at once; that he is, properly speaking, only in heaven, and that it is as there alone that he ought to be adored, and not on the altar; that the substance of the bread remains; that the body of Jesus Christ does not enter into the mouth or the stomach; that he can only be eaten by faith, and accordingly wicked men do not eat him at all; and that the mass is not a sacrifice, but an abomination. Let us now hear, then, in what way “Port-Royal is in concert with Geneva.” In the writings of the former we read, to your confusion, the following statement: That “the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ are contained under the species of bread and wine”; that “the Holy of Holies is present in the sanctuary, and that there he ought to be adored”; that “Jesus Christ dwells in the sinners who communicate, by the real and veritable presence of his body in their stomach, although not by the presence of his Spirit in their hearts”; that “the dead ashes of the bodies of the saints derive their principal dignity from that seed of life which they retain from the touch of the immortal and vivifying flesh of Jesus Christ”; that “it is not owing to any natural power, but to the almighty power of God, to whom nothing is impossible, that the body of Jesus Christ is comprehended under the host, and under the smallest portion of every host”; that “the divine virtue is present to produce the effect which the words of consecration signify”; that “Jesus Christ, while be is lowered and hidden upon the altar, is, at the same time, elevated in his glory; that he subsists, of himself and by his own ordinary power, in divers places at the same time — in the midst of the Church triumphant, and in the midst of the Church militant and travelling”; that “the sacramental species remain suspended, and subsist extraordinarily, without being upheld by any subject; and that the body of Jesus Christ is also suspended under the species, and that it does not depend upon these, as substances depend upon accidents”; that “the substance of the bread is changed, the immutable accidents remaining the same”; that “Jesus Christ reposes in the eucharist with the same glory that he has in heaven”; that “his glorious humanity resides in the tabernacles of the Church, under the species of bread, which forms its visible covering; and that, knowing the grossness of our natures, he conducts us to the adoration of his divinity, which is present in all places, by the adoring of his humanity, which is present in a particular place”; that “we receive the body of Jesus Christ upon the tongue, which is sanctified by its divine touch”; “that it enters into the mouth of the priest”; that “although Jesus Christ has made himself accessible in the holy sacrament, by an act of his love and graciousness, he preserves, nevertheless, in that ordinance, his inaccessibility, as an inseparable condition of his divine nature; because, although the body alone and the blood alone are there, by virtue of the words — vi verborum, as the schoolmen say — his whole divinity may, notwithstanding, be there also, as well as his whole humanity, by a necessary conjunction.” In fine, that “the eucharist is at the same time sacrament and sacrifice”; and that “although this sacrifice is a commemoration of that of the cross, yet there is this difference between them, that the sacrifice of the mass is offered for the Church only, and for the faithful in her communion; whereas that of the cross has been offered for all the world, as the Scripture testifies.”

I have quoted enough, fathers, to make it evident that there was never, perhaps, a more imprudent thing attempted than what you have done. But I will go a step farther, and make you pronounce this sentence against yourselves. For what do you require from a man, in order to remove all suspicion of his being in concert and correspondence with Geneva? “If M. Arnauld,” says your Father Meynier, p.93, “had said that, in this adorable mystery, there is no substance of the bread under the species, but only the flesh and the blood of Jesus Christ, I should have confessed that he had declared himself absolutely against Geneva.” Confess it, then, ye revilers! and make him a public apology. How often have you seen this declaration made in the passages I have just cited? Besides this, however, the Familiar Theology of M. de St. Cyran having been approved by M. Arnauld, it contains the sentiments of both. Read, then, the whole of lesson 15th, and particularly article 2d, and you will there find the words you desiderate, even more formally stated than you have done yourselves. “Is there any bread in the host, or any wine in the chalice? No: for all the substance of the bread and the wine is taken away, to give place to that of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the which substance alone remains therein, covered by the qualities and species of bread and wine.”

How now, fathers! will you still say that Port-Royal teaches “nothing that Geneva does not receive,” and that M. Arnauld has said nothing in his second letter “which might not have been said by a minister of Charenton”? See if you can persuade Mestrezat to speak as M. Arnauld does in that letter, on page 237. Make him say that it is an infamous calumny to accuse him of denying transubstantiation; that he takes for the fundamental principle of his writings the truth of the real presence of the Son of God, in opposition to the heresy of the Calvinists; and that he accounts himself happy for living in a place where the Holy of Holies is continually adored in the sanctuary”— a sentiment which is still more opposed to the belief of the Calvinists than the real presence itself; for, as Cardinal Richelieu observes in his Controversies (p. 536): “The new ministers of France having agreed with the Lutherans, who believe the real presence of Jesus Christ in the eucharist; they have declared that they remain in a state of separation from the Church on the point of this mystery, only on account of the adoration which Catholics render to the eucharist.” Get all the passages which I have extracted from the books of Port-Royal subscribed at Geneva, and not the isolated passages merely, but the entire treatises regarding this mystery, such as the Book of Frequent Communion, the Explication of the Ceremonies of the Mass, the Exercise during Mass, the Reasons of the Suspension of the Holy Sacrament, the Translation of the Hymns in the Hours of Port-Royal, &c.; in one word, prevail upon them to establish at Charenton that holy institution of adoring, without intermission, Jesus Christ contained in the eucharist, as is done at Port-Royal, and it will be the most signal service which you could render to the Church; for in this case it will turn out, not that Port-Royal is in concert with Geneva, but that Geneva is in concert with Port-Royal and with the whole Church.

Certainly, fathers, you could not have been more unfortunate than in selecting Port-Royal as the object of attack for not believing in the eucharist; but I will show what led you to fix upon it. You know I have picked up some small acquaintance with your policy; in this instance you have acted upon its maxims to admiration. If Monsieur the abbe of St. Cyran, and M. Arnauld, had only spoken of what ought to be believed with great respect to this mystery, and said nothing about what ought to be done in the way of preparation for its reception, they might have been the best Catholics alive; and no equivocations would have been discovered in their use of the terms real presence and transubstantiation. But, since all who combat your licentious principles must needs be heretics, and heretics, too, in the very point in which they condemn your laxity, how could M. Arnauld escape falling under this charge on the subject of the eucharist, after having published a book expressly against your profanations of that sacrament? What! must he be allowed to say, with impunity, that “the body of Jesus Christ ought not to be given to those who habitually lapse into the same crimes, and who have no prospect of amendment; and that such persons ought to be excluded, for some time, from the altar, to purify themselves by sincere penitence, that they may approach it afterwards with benefit”? Suffer no one to talk in this strain, fathers, or you will find that fewer people will come to your confessionals. Father Brisacier says that “were you to adopt this course, you would never apply the blood of Jesus Christ to a single individual.” It would be infinitely more for your interest were every one to adopt the views of your Society, as set forth by your Father Mascarenhas, in a book approved by your doctors, and even by your reverend Father-General, namely: “That persons of every description, and even priests, may receive the body of Jesus Christ on the very day they have polluted themselves with odious crimes; that, so far from such communions implying irreverence, persons who partake of them in this manner act a commendable part; that confessors ought not to keep them back from the ordinance, but, on the contrary, ought to advise those who have recently committed such crimes to communicate immediately; because, although the Church has forbidden it, this prohibition is annulled by the universal practice in all places of the earth.”

See what it is, fathers, to have Jesuits in all places of the earth! Behold the universal practice which you have introduced, and which you are anxious everywhere to maintain! It matters nothing that the tables of Jesus Christ are filled with abominations, provided that your churches are crowded with people. Be sure, therefore, cost what it may, to set down all that dare to say a word against your practice as heretics on the holy sacrament. But how can you do this, after the irrefragable testimonies which they have given of their faith? Are you not afraid of my coming out with the four grand proofs of their heresy which you have adduced? You ought, at least, to be so, fathers, and I ought not to spare your blushing. Let us, then, proceed to examine proof the first.

“M. de St. Cyran,” says Father Meynier, “consoling one of his friends upon the death of his mother (tom. i., let. 14), says that the most acceptable sacrifice that can be offered up to God, on such occasions, is that of patience; therefore he is a Calvinist.” This is marvellously shrewd reasoning, fathers; and I doubt if anybody will be able to discover the precise point of it. Let us learn it, then, from his own mouth. “Because,” says this mighty controversialist, “it is obvious that he does not believe in the sacrifice of the mass; for this is, of all other sacrifices, the most acceptable unto God.” Who will venture to say now that the do not know how to reason? Why, they know the art to such perfection that they will extract heresy out of anything you choose to mention, not even excepting the Holy Scripture itself! For example, might it not be heretical to say, with the wise man in Ecclesiasticus, “There is nothing worse than to love money”; as if adultery, murder, or idolatry, were not far greater crimes? Where is the man who is not in the habit of using similar expressions every day? May we not say, for instance, that the most acceptable of all sacrifices in the eyes of God is that of a contrite and humbled heart; just because, in discourses of this nature, we simply mean to compare certain internal virtues with one another, and not with the sacrifice of the mass, which is of a totally different order, and infinitely more exalted? Is this not enough to make you ridiculous, fathers? And is it necessary, to complete your discomfiture, that I should quote the passages of that letter in which M. de St. Cyran speaks of the sacrifice of the mass as “the most excellent” of all others, in the following terms? “Let there be presented to God, daily and in all places, the sacrifice of the body of his Son, who could not find a more excellent way than that by which he might honour his Father.” And afterwards: “Jesus Christ has enjoined us to take, when we are dying, his sacrificed body, to render more acceptable to God the sacrifice of our own, and to join himself with us at the hour of dissolution; to the end that he may strengthen us for the struggle, sanctifying, by his presence, the last sacrifice which we make to God of our life and our body”? Pretend to take no notice of all this, fathers, and persist in maintaining, as you do in page 39, that he refused to take the communion on his death-bed, and that he did not believe in the sacrifice of the mass. Nothing can be too gross for calumniators by profession.

Your second proof furnishes an excellent illustration of this. To make a Calvinist of M. de St. Cyran, to whom you ascribe the book of Petrus Aurelius, you take advantage of a passage (page 80) in which Aurelius explains in what manner the Church acts towards priests, and even bishops, whom she wishes to degrade or depose. “The Church,” he says, “being incapable of depriving them of the power of the order, the character of which is indelible, she does all that she can do: she banishes from her memory the character which she cannot banish from the souls of the individuals who have been once invested with it; she regards them in the same light as if they were not bishops or priests; so that, according to the ordinary language of the Church, it may be said they are no longer such, although they always remain such, in as far as the character is concerned — ob indelebilitatem characteris.” You perceive, fathers, that this author, who has been approved by three general assemblies of the clergy of France, plainly declares that the character of the priesthood is indelible; and yet you make him say, on the contrary, in the very same passage, that “the character of the priesthood is not indelible.” This is what I would call a notorious slander; in other words, according to your nomenclature, a small venial sin. And the reason is, this book has done you some harm by refuting the heresies of your brethren in England touching the Episcopal authority. But the folly of the charge is equally remarkable; for, after having taken it for granted, without any foundation, that M. de St. Cyran holds the priestly character to be not indelible, you conclude from this that he does not believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the eucharist.

Do not expect me to answer this, fathers. If you have got no common sense, I am not able to furnish you with it. All who possess any share of it will enjoy a hearty laugh at your expense. Nor will they treat with greater respect your third proof, which rests upon the following words, taken from the Book of Frequent Communion: “In the eucharist God vouchsafes us the same food that He bestows on the saints in heaven, with this difference only, that here He withholds from us its sensible sight and taste, reserving both of these for the heavenly world.” These words express the sense of the Church so distinctly that I am constantly forgetting what reason you have for picking a quarrel with them, in order to turn them to a bad use; for I can see nothing more in them than what the Council of Trent teaches (sess. xiii, c. 8), namely, that there is no difference between Jesus Christ in the eucharist and Jesus Christ in heaven, except that here he is veiled, and there he is not. M. Arnauld does not say that there is no difference in the manner of receiving Jesus Christ, but only that there is no difference in Jesus Christ who is received. And yet you would, in the face of all reason, interpret his language in this passage to mean that Jesus Christ is no more eaten with the mouth in this world than he is in heaven; upon which you ground the charge of heresy against him.

You really make me sorry for you, fathers. Must we explain this further to you? Why do you confound that divine nourishment with the manner of receiving it? There is but one point of difference, as I have just observed, betwixt that nourishment upon earth and in heaven, which is that here it is hidden under veils which deprive us of its sensible sight and taste; but there are various points of dissimilarity in the manner of receiving it here and there, the principal of which is, as M. Arnauld expresses it (p.3, ch.16), “that here it enters into the mouth and the breast both of the good and of the wicked,” which is not the case in heaven.

And, if you require to be told the reason of this diversity, I may inform you, fathers, that the cause of God’s ordaining these different modes of receiving the same food is the difference that exists betwixt the state of Christians in this life and that of the blessed in heaven. The state of the Christian, as Cardinal Perron observes after the fathers, holds a middle place between the state of the blessed and the state of the Jews. The spirits in bliss possess Jesus Christ really, without veil or figure. The Jews possessed Jesus Christ only in figures and veils, such as the manna and the paschal lamb. And Christians possess Jesus Christ in the eucharist really and truly, although still concealed under veils. “God,” says St. Eucher, “has made three tabernacles: the synagogue, which had the shadows only, without the truth; the Church, which has the truth and shadows together; and heaven, where there is no shadow, but the truth alone.” It would be a departure from our present state, which is the state of faith, opposed by St. Paul alike to the law and to open vision, did we possess the figures only, without Jesus Christ; for it is the property of the law to have the mere figure, and not the substance of things. And it would be equally a departure from our present state if we possessed him visibly; because faith, according to the same apostle, deals not with things that are seen. And thus the eucharist, from its including Jesus Christ truly, though under a veil, is in perfect accordance with our state of faith. It follows that this state would be destroyed, if, as the heretics maintain, Jesus Christ were not really under the species of bread and wine; and it would be equally destroyed if we received him openly, as they do in heaven: since, on these suppositions, our state would be confounded, either with the state of Judaism or with that of glory.

Such, fathers, is the mysterious and divine reason of this most divine mystery. This it is that fills us with abhorrence at the Calvinists, who would reduce us to the condition of the Jews; and this it is that makes us aspire to the glory of the beatified, where we shall be introduced to the full and eternal enjoyment of Jesus Christ. From hence you must see that there are several points of difference between the manner in which he communicates himself to Christians and to the blessed; and that, amongst others, he is in this world received by the mouth, and not so in heaven; but that they all depend solely on the distinction between our state of faith and their state of immediate vision. And this is precisely, fathers, what M. Arnauld has expressed, with great plainness, in the following terms: “There can be no other difference between the purity of those who receive Jesus Christ in the eucharist and that of the blessed, than what exists between faith and the open vision of God, upon which alone depends the different manner in which he is eaten upon earth and in heaven.” You were bound in duty, fathers, to have revered in these words the sacred truths they express, instead of wresting them for the purpose of detecting an heretical meaning which they never contained, nor could possibly contain, namely, that Jesus Christ is eaten by faith only, and not by the mouth; the malicious perversion of your Fathers Annat and Meynier, which forms the capital count of their indictment.

Conscious, however, of the wretched deficiency of your proofs, you have had recourse to a new artifice, which is nothing less than to falsify the Council of Trent, in order to convict M. Arnauld of nonconformity with it; so vast is your store of methods for making people heretics. This feat has been achieved by Father Meynier, in fifty different places of his book, and about eight or ten times in the space of a single page (the 54th), wherein he insists that to speak like a true Catholic it is not enough to say, “I believe that Jesus Christ is really present in the eucharist,” but we must say, “I believe, with the council, that he is present by a true local presence, or locally.” And, in proof of this, he cites the council, session xiii, canon 3d, canon 4th, and canon 6th. Who would not suppose, upon seeing the term local presence quoted from three canons of a universal council, that the phrase was actually to be found in them? This might have served your turn very well, before the appearance of my Fifteenth Letter; but, as matters now stand, fathers, the trick has become too stale for us. We go our way and consult the council, and discover only that you are falsifiers. Such terms as local presence, locally, and locality, never existed in the passages to which you refer; and let me tell you further, they are not to be found in any other canon of that council, nor in any other previous council, not in any father of the Church. Allow me, then, to ask you, fathers, if you mean to cast the suspicion of Calvinism upon all that have not made use of that peculiar phrase? If this be the case, the Council of Trent must be suspected of heresy, and all the holy fathers without exception. Have you no other way of making M. Arnauld heretical, without abusing so many other people who never did you any harm, and, among the rest, St. Thomas, who is one of the greatest champions of the eucharist, and who, so far from employing that term, has expressly rejected it —“Nullo modo corpus Christi est in hoc sacramento localiter. — By no means is the body of Christ in this sacrament locally”? Who are you, then, fathers, to pretend, on your authority, to impose new terms, and ordain them to be used by all for rightly expressing their faith; as if the profession of the faith, drawn up by the popes according to the plan of the council, in which this term has no place, were defective, and left an ambiguity in the creed of the faithful which you had the sole merit of discovering? Such a piece of arrogance, to prescribe these terms, even to learned doctors! such a piece of forgery, to attribute them to general councils! and such ignorance, not to know the objections which the most enlightened saints have made to their reception! “Be ashamed of the error of your ignorance,” as the Scripture says of ignorant impostors like you, “De mendacio ineruditionis tuae confundere.”

Give up all further attempts, then, to act the masters; you have neither character nor capacity for the part. If, however, you would bring forward your propositions with a little more modesty, they might obtain a hearing. For, although this phrase, local presence, has been rejected, as you have seen, by St. Thomas, on the ground that the body of Jesus Christ is not in the eucharist, in the ordinary extension of bodies in their places, the expression has, nevertheless, been adopted by some modern controversial writers, who understand it simply to mean that the body of Jesus Christ is truly under the species, which being in a particular place, the body of Jesus Christ is there also. And in this sense M. Arnauld will make no scruple to admit the term, as M. de St. Cyran and he have repeatedly declared that Jesus Christ in the eucharist is truly in a particular place, and miraculously in many places at the same time. Thus all your subtleties fall to the ground; and you have failed to give the slightest semblance of plausibility to an accusation which ought not to have been allowed to show its face without being supported by the most unanswerable proofs.

But what avails it, fathers, to oppose their innocence to your calumnies? You impute these errors to them, not in the belief that they maintain heresy, but from the idea that they have done you injury. That is enough, according to your theology, to warrant you to calumniate them without criminality; and you can, without either penance or confession, say mass, at the very time that you charge priests, who say it every day, with holding it to be pure idolatry; which, were it true, would amount to sacrilege no less revolting than that of your own Father Jarrige, whom you yourselves ordered to be hanged in effigy, for having said mass “at the time he was in agreement with Geneva.”

What surprises me, therefore, is not the little scrupulosity with which you load them with crimes of the foulest and falsest description, but the little prudence you display, by fixing on them charges so destitute of plausibility. You dispose of sins, it is true, at your pleasure; but do you mean to dispose of men’s beliefs too? Verily, fathers, if the suspicion of Calvinism must needs fall either on them or on you, you would stand, I fear, on very ticklish ground. Their language is as Catholic as yours; but their conduct confirms their faith, and your conduct belies it. For if you believe, as well as they do, that the bread is really changed into the body of Jesus Christ, why do you not require, as they do, from those whom you advise to approach the altar, that the heart of stone and ice should be sincerely changed into a heart of flesh and of love? If you believe that Jesus Christ is in that sacrament in a state of death, teaching those that approach it to die to the world, to sin, and to themselves, why do you suffer those to profane it in whose breasts evil passions continue to reign in all their life and vigour? And how do you come to judge those worthy to eat the bread of heaven, who are not worthy to eat that of earth?

Precious votaries, truly, whose zeal is expended in persecuting those who honour this sacred mystery by so many holy communions, and in flattering those who dishonour it by so many sacrilegious desecrations! How comely is it, in these champions of a sacrifice so pure and so venerable, to collect around the table of Jesus Christ a crowd of hardened profligates, reeking from their debauchcries; and to plant in the midst of them a priest, whom his own confessor has hurried from his obscenities to the altar; there, in the place of Jesus Christ, to offer up that most holy victim to the God of holiness, and convey it, with his polluted hands, into mouths as thoroughly polluted as his own! How well does it become those who pursue this course “in all parts of the world,” in conformity with maxims sanctioned by their own general to impute to the author of Frequent Communion, and to the Sisters of the Holy Sacrament, the crime of not believing in that sacrament!

Even this, however, does not satisfy them. Nothing less will satiate their rage than to accuse their opponents of having renounced Jesus Christ and their baptism. This is no air-built fable, like those of your invention; it is a fact, and denotes a delirious frenzy which marks the fatal consummation of your calumnies. Such a notorious falsehood as this would not have been in hands worthy to support it, had it remained in those of your good friend Filleau, through whom you ushered it into the world: your Society has openly adopted it; and your Father Meynier maintained it the other day to be “a certain truth” that Port-Royal has, for the space of thirty-five years, been forming a secret plot, of which M. de St. Cyran and M. d’Ypres have been the ringleaders, “to ruin the mystery of the incarnation — to make the Gospel pass for an apocryphal fable — to exterminate the Christian religion, and to erect Deism upon the ruins of Christianity.” Is this enough, fathers? Will you be satisfied if all this be believed of the objects of your hate? Would your animosity be glutted at length, if you could but succeed in making them odious, not only to all within the Church, by the charge of “consenting with Geneva, of which you accuse them, but even to all who believe in Jesus Christ, though beyond the pale of the Church, by the imputation of Deism?

But whom do you expect to convince, upon your simple asseveration, without the slightest shadow of proof, and in the face of every imaginable contradiction, that priests who preach nothing but the grace of Jesus Christ, the purity of the Gospel, and the obligations of baptism, have renounced at once their baptism, the Gospel, and Jesus Christ? Who will believe it, fathers? Wretched as you are, do you believe it yourselves? What a sad predicament is yours, when you must either prove that they do not believe in Jesus Christ, or must pass for the most abandoned calumniators. Prove it, then, fathers. Name that “worthy clergyman” who, you say, attended that assembly at Bourg-Fontaine in 1621, and discovered to Brother Filleau the design there concerted of overturning the Christian religion. Name those six persons whom you allege to have formed that conspiracy. Name the individual who is designated by the letters A. A., who you say “was not Antony Arnauld” (because he convinced you that he was at that time only nine years of age), “but another person, who you say is still in life, but too good a friend of M. Arnauld not to be known to him.” You know him, then, fathers; and consequently, if you are not destitute of religion yourselves, you are bound to delate that impious wretch to the king and parliament, that he may be punished according to his deserts. You must speak out, fathers; you must name the person, or submit to the disgrace of being henceforth regarded in no other light than as common liars, unworthy of being ever credited again. Good Father Valerien has taught us that this is the way in which such characters should be “put to the rack” and brought to their senses. Your silence upon the present challenge will furnish a full and satisfactory confirmation of this diabolical calumny. Your blindest admirers will be constrained to admit that it will be “the result, not of your goodness, but your impotency”; and to wonder how you could be so wicked as to extend your hatred even to the nuns of Port-Royal, and to say, as you do in page 14, that The Secret Chaplet of the Holy Sacrament, composed by one of their number, was the first fruit of that conspiracy against Jesus Christ; or, as in page 95, that “they have imbibed all the detestable principles of that work”; which is, according to your account, a lesson in Deism.” Your falsehoods regarding that book have already been triumphantly refuted, in the defence of the censure of the late Archbishop of Paris against Father Brisacier. That publication you are incapable of answering; and yet you do not scruple to abuse it in a more shameful manner than ever, for the purpose of charging women, whose piety is universally known, with the vilest blasphemy.

Cruel, cowardly persecutors! Must, then, the most retired cloisters afford no retreat from your calumnies? While these consecrated virgins are employed, night and day, according to their institution, in adoring Jesus Christ in the holy sacrament, you cease not, night nor day, to publish abroad that they do not believe that he is either in the eucharist or even at the right hand of his Father; and you are publicly excommunicating them from the Church, at the very time when they are in secret praying for the whole Church, and for you! You blacken with your slanders those who have neither ears to hear nor mouths to answer you! But Jesus Christ, in whom they are now hidden, not to appear till one day together with him, hears you, and answers for them. At the moment I am now writing, that holy and terrible voice is heard which confounds nature and consoles the Church. And I fear, fathers, that those who now harden their hearts, and refuse with obstinacy to hear him, while he speaks in the character of God, will one day be compelled to hear him with terror, when he speaks to them in the character of a judge. What account, indeed, fathers, will you be able to render to him of the many calumnies you have uttered, seeing that he will examine them, in that day, not according to the fantasies of Fathers Dicastille, Gans, and Pennalossa, who justify them, but according to the eternal laws of truth, and the sacred ordinances of his own Church, which, so far from attempting to vindicate that crime, abhors it to such a degree that she visits it with the same penalty as wilfull murder? By the first and second councils of Arles she has decided that the communion shall be denied to slanderers as well as murderers, till the approach of death. The Council of Lateran has judged those unworthy of admission into the ecclesiastical state who have been convicted of the crime, even though they may have reformed. The popes have even threatened to deprive of the communion at death those who have calumniated bishops, priests, or deacons. And the authors of a defamatory libel, who fail to prove what they have advanced, are condemned by Pope Adrian to be whipped — yes, reverend fathers, flagellentur is the word. So strong has been the repugnance of the Church at all times to the errors of your Society — a Society so thoroughly depraved as to invent excuses for the grossest of crimes, such as calumny, chiefly that it may enjoy the greater freedom in perpetrating them itself. There can be no doubt, fathers, that you would be capable of producing abundance of mischief in this way, had God not permitted you to furnish with your own hands the means of preventing the evil, and of rendering your slanders perfectly innocuous; for, to deprive you of all credibility, it was quite enough to publish the strange maxim that it is no crime to calumniate. Calumny is nothing, if not associated with a high reputation for honesty. The defamer can make no impression, unless he has the character of one that abhors defamation as a crime of which he is incapable. And thus, fathers, you are betrayed by your own principle. You establish the doctrine to secure yourselves a safe conscience, that you might slander without risk of damnation, and be ranked with those “pious and holy calumniators” of whom St. Athanasius speaks. To save yourselves from hell, you have embraced a maxim which promises you this security on the faith of your doctors; but this same maxim, while it guarantees you, according to their idea, against the evils you dread in the future world, deprives you of all the advantage you may have expected to reap from it in the present; so that, in attempting to escape the guilt, you have lost the benefit of calumny. Such is the self-contrariety of evil, and so completely does it confound and destroy itself by its own intrinsic malignity.

You might have slandered, therefore, much more advantageously for yourselves, had you professed to hold, with St. Paul, that evil speakers are not worthy to see God; for in this case, though you would indeed have been condemning yourselves, your slanders would at least have stood a better chance of being believed. But, by maintaining, as you have done, that calumny against your enemies is no crime, your slanders will be discredited, and you yourselves damned into the bargain; for two things are certain, fathers: first, That it will never be in the power of your grave doctors to annihilate the justice of God; and, secondly, That you could not give more certain evidence that you are not of the Truth than by your resorting to falsehood. If the Truth were on your side, she would fight for you — she would conquer for you; and whatever enemies you might have to encounter, “the Truth would set you free” from them, according to her promise. But you have had recourse to falsehood, for no other design than to support the errors with which you flatter the sinful children of this world, and to bolster up the calumnies with which you persecute every man of piety who sets his face against these delusions. The truth being diametrically opposed to your ends, it behooved you, to use the language of the prophet, “to put your confidence in lies.” You have said: “The scourges which afflict mankind shall not come nigh unto us; for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.” But what says the prophet in reply to such? “Forasmuch,” says he, “as ye have put your trust in calumny and tumult — sperastis in calumnia et in tumultu — this iniquity and your ruin shall be like that of a high wall whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant. And he shall break it as the breaking of the potter’s vessel that is shivered in pieces”— with such violence that “there shall not be found in the bursting of it a shred to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.” “Because,” as another prophet says, “ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and ye have flattered and strengthened the malice of the wicked; I will therefore deliver my people out of your hands, and ye shall know that I am their Lord and yours.”

Yes, fathers, it is to be hoped that if you do not repent, God will deliver out of your hands those whom you have so long deluded, either by flattering them in their evil courses with your licentious maxims, or by poisoning their minds with your slanders. He will convince the former that the false rules of your casuists will not screen them from His indignation; and He will impress on the minds of the latter the just dread of losing their souls by listening and yielding credit to your slanders, as you lose yours by hatching these slanders and disseminating them through the world. Let no man be deceived; God is not mocked; none may violate with impunity the commandment which He has given us in the Gospel, not to condemn our neighbour without being well assured of his guilt. And, consequently, what profession soever of piety those may make who lend a willing ear to your lying devices, and under what pretence soever of devotion they may entertain them, they have reason to apprehend exclusion from the kingdom of God, solely for having imputed crimes of such a dark complexion as heresy and schism to Catholic priests and holy nuns, upon no better evidence than such vile fabrications as yours. “The devil,” says M. de Geneve, “is on the tongue of him that slanders, and in the ear of him that listens to the slanderer.” “And evil speaking,” says St. Bernard, “is a poison that extinguishes charity in both of the parties; so that a single calumny may prove mortal to an infinite numbers of souls, killing not only those who publish it, but all those besides by whom it is not repudiated.”

Reverend fathers, my letters were not wont either to be so prolix, or to follow so closely on one another. Want of time must plead my excuse for both of these faults. The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter. You know the reason of this haste better than I do. You have been unlucky in your answers. You have done well, therefore, to change your plan; but I am afraid that you will get no credit for it, and that people will say it was done for fear of the Benedictines.

I have just come to learn that the person who was generally reported to be the author of your Apologies, disclaims them, and is annoyed at their having been ascribed to him. He has good reason, and I was wrong to have suspected him of any such thing; for, in spite of the assurances which I received, I ought to have considered that he was a man of too much good sense to believe your accusations, and of too much honour to publish them if he did not believe them. There are few people in the world capable of your extravagances; they are peculiar to yourselves, and mark your character too plainly to admit of any excuse for having failed to recognize your hand in their concoction. I was led away by the common report; but this apology, which would be too good for you, is not sufficient for me, who profess to advance nothing without certain proof. In no other instance have I been guilty of departing from this rule. I am sorry for what I said. I retract it; and I only wish that you may profit by my example.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/pascal/blaise/p27pr/part17.html

Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 17:10