Pastor Chiniquy the Seducer

E. L. Core

If you would have some direct downright proof that Catholicism is what Protestants make it to be, something which will come up to the mark, you must lie....
(Newman, True Testimony Insufficient for the Protestant View, 1851)

So said Rev. John Henry Newman, D.D., in a series of Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England, in 1851, six years after he had joined the Catholic Church. Within a few years, Charles Chiniquy would appear on the Protestant scene in North America, proving Newman right.

The apostate Catholic priest Chiniquy died in 1899, but his name is still proclaimed and his works still promulgated. Is he denounced as the seducer of maidens, the trickster of the generous, and the slanderer of the innocent — as he should be denounced? Are his works decried as lurid falsehoods, well-crafted to appeal to the basest prurient interests of the superficially proper — as they should be decried?

Hardly. He is accounted an apostle of liberty, his works the trumpet of truth. By whom? By anti-Catholic bigots. Not merely by fundamentalist Protestants but also by atheists.

Charles Chiniquy’s most infamous works — masterpieces of misrepresentation, grotesque caricaturization, fantastical embellishment, and plain, simple lying — are The Priest, the Woman & the Confessional (1875) and Fifty Years in the Church of Rome (1885).

The latter book is the subject of a work by Rev. Sydney F. Smith, S.J., Pastor Chiniquy: An Examination of His “Fifty Years in the Church of Rome”, published by The Catholic Truth Society in 1908. Smith obtained documents concerning Chiniquy that the latter avoided discussing in his own works, and carefully built a case that exposes the faux exposer Chiniquy.

For instance (p. 23), Smith quotes a letter from Chiniquy’s bishop, M. Bourget of Montreal, to Chiniquy himself, about to go to preach a temperance crusade in Illinois; dated May 7, 1851, the letter contains the following instructions to Chiniquy:

  1. take strict precautions in your relations with persons of the opposite sex;
  2. avoid carefully all that might savour of ostentation, and the desire to attract attention; simplicity is so beautiful and lovable a virtue;
  3. pay to the priests of the country the honour due to their ministry; the glory of God is the best recompense of an apostolic man.

One need not be free of anti-Catholic prejudice to get the drift: Chiniquy’s special faults are sexual immorality, pride, jealousy, and greed. Indeed, one need not be free of prejudice to get the drift; one need not be intelligent, even; one must be merely awake.

More telling, Smith relates (p. 11) a lengthy discourse, given by Chiniquy himself in controversy with a Protestant minister surnamed Roussy, January 7, 1851. As revealed in an earlier study, The Two Chiniquys, Chiniquy himself defended the Catholic Church against the charge that it keeps the Bible from the people. Keep in mind the pointed quotation from Newman above; keep in mind that the following words are from Chiniquy’s own mouth, in the very same year Newman was preaching in England on the bigotry of anti-Catholics:

“Protestantism is fed on lies”.

Those words are Chiniquy’s, in 1851; not Father Newman’s, not Bishop Bourget’s, but Chiniquy’s own words, in 1851.

Growing disgust among the Catholic hierarchy, clergy, and laity would change Chiniquy’s tune. Charges against him of sexual immorality date from little later than his childhood; Bishop Bourget’s instructions, quoted above, reveal that he had become known for pride, jealousy, and greed; eventually, he was charged with keeping for his personal use funds donated for the rebuilding of a burned-out American church — and many believed Chiniquy himself had torched it as an excuse to recruit donations from Canadian Catholics.

After being twice suspended from priestly ministry, for moral turpitude and disobedience, he was finally excommunicated as a schismatic, September 3, 1856. Smith quotes (p. 43) a letter written afterwards by M. Mailloux, a Canadian then living in America:

Mr. Chiniquy had in Canada, and still has here, the reputation of being a man of most notorious immorality. The many women he has seduced, or tried to seduce, are ready to testify thereunto. Those who in this country have lived in Mr. Chiniquy’s intimacy loudly proclaim that he has lost his faith long ago, and that he is an infamous hypocrite.

Knowing that — in Chiniquy’s own words — “Protestantism is fed on lies”, he spent the rest of his days telling certain Protestants what they wanted to hear: lies about the Catholic Church. He lied generally about the Catholic Church; he lied specifically about priests, falsely attributing to most of them his own particular sins; and, he lied particularly about individuals who had died and could no longer defend themselves.

(Surely, not all Protestants are anti-Catholic bigots; not all Protestants want lies about the Catholic Church: some eschew them, some condemn them, some couldn’t care less about them. But the market among Protestants for slanderous misrepresentation of the Catholic Church is nonetheless enormous.)

Smith points out (p. 10) Chiniquy’s poorly wrought lie about Catholics and the Bible:

He is continually telling his readers that the Church of Rome forbids the reading of Scripture to the laity, and even to her ecclesiastical students. Thus when he was a young seminarian at St. Nicolet he tells us it was the rule of the College to keep the Bible apart in the library, among the forbidden books.... Yet in the story of his boyhood — in which he tells us how he used as a child to read aloud to the neighbouring farmers out of a Bible belonging to his family, and how the priest, hearing of this, came one day to take the forbidden book away — he has to acknowledge that this copy had been given to his father as a seminary prize in his early days.

Upon reading this tortured tale in Fifty Years, what would a reasonable person do? Chiniquy is not merely revealed as a liar; he is not merely revealed as a poor liar; he is revealed as a poor liar by his very own words, in the self-same book. Upon reading this, a reasonable person would toss the book aside and take up something with more enduring substance, like the day’s comic strips.

But not the anti-Catholic bigots: the fundamentalist Protestants and the atheists. No. Among them, any lie is to be believed: any lie — no matter how outrageous, no matter how mundane, no matter how clever, no matter how stupid — any lie is to be believed, and excused, as long as it is told about the Catholic Church.

Here, at this juncture, might come at last incredulity from Protestant fundamentalists: “Do you really expect us to believe” (they may ask) “that Pastor Chiniquy wasn’t telling the truth?” Swallowing camels, they strain out gnats. They accept — wholesale, without question, without pause — that a world-wide organization with nearly 2,000 years of history is populated by nothing but (on the one hand) devious, cunning, unscrupulous, lascivious, faithless fiends who dupe (on the other hand) the naive and ignorant masses. Yet, they balk at the suggestion that one man told lies to get himself prestige, influence, and money — as if the notion offends their delicate sensibilities.

Indeed, as I have said, Chiniquy’s bald-faced lies are used as ammunition against the Catholic Church by Protestant fundamentalists and by atheists. (This can be easily demonstrated by a Web search.) Yes, the fundamentalists and the atheists are ranged on the same side, using Chiniquy’s lies to attack the Catholic Church. Yet, something inexplicable deters the fundamentalists from realizing that the mere fact of siding with atheists ought to show them they are on the wrong side.

Mindless hatred is inexplicable, no?

Continue with Father Smith’s seldom-seen examination of Pastor Chiniquy’s life and his Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, now available on the World Wide Web by the efforts of Sue Smith, Antoine Valentim, and Jim Goodluck (link below).

Smith’s prose flows like slow-moving streams, occasionally filling up small pools, eventually to overflow and proceed further downstream. And — in starkest contrast to Chiniquy — Smith is master of the ironical understatement, as when he writes (p. 63) of Chiniquy:

It was his misfortune to be continually having charges of the same kind brought against him from different and independent quarters.

But Smith does give Chiniquy his due. Of his work in preaching temperance, Smith says (p. 21): “It was in this work during the next four years that Chiniquy acquired what was certainly the best distinction of his life.”

Following this gracious example, let us too give Chiniquy his due. Surely, it cannot be denied that he exercised one virtue consistently throughout his life: consistency. Even in his youth, he was the seducer of maidens; later, he was the seducer of generous Catholics who only wanted to contribute financially to the work of the Church; last, he was the seducer of naive Protestants who didn’t know better than to retch at his vile impostures — and he still is.

Yes, let us give him his due — Pastor Chiniquy the Seducer.

Pastor Chiniquy: An Examination of His Fifty Years in the Church of Rome
(Rev. Sydney F. Smith, S.J., 1908)

It is by wholesale, retail, systematic, unscrupulous lying, for I can use no gentler term, that the many rivulets are made to flow for the feeding the great Protestant Tradition....
(Newman, Fable the Basis of the Protestant View, 1851)

© ELC 2001

Webpage © 2001 ELC
Lane Core Jr. (
Created January 16, 2001; revised January 21, 2001.