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6 November 1842 - Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Father Denis Maîtrepierre, Bay of Islands

Translated by ChatGPT

Based on the document sent, APM OOc 418.1 Pompallier.

Two sheets and one page, totalling ten written pages.

[p. 1]
[Written by Poupinel]
New Zealand ¤ Monsignor Pompallier

J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph)

Mission of the Assumption of Mary, New Zealand, Bay of Islands, November 6, 1842.

To Reverend Father Maîtrepierre, assistant to the Superior General of the Society of Mary in Lyon.

My reverend and dear father,
Let us, therefore, try to make peace. Upon my arrival from the tropics, I found your letter (October 20, 1841) at the Bay of Islands. I am grateful for the frankness and dedication you expressed in it, but alas! I see so many misunderstandings, so much credulity, and so much lack of knowledge in it! I have not shown your letter to anyone, fearing that it might create negative impressions either towards you or towards other members. Only the number 16 of this letter I showed to Reverend Father Baty, provicar, and Reverend Father Garin, provincial, and perhaps even to Reverend Father Forest, to prove to them that false reports had been made against my administration of the temporal affairs of this mission. However, I have meditated alone before the Lord and at the feet of Mary on the entire contents of your letter. I received an inner response to place it at the foot of the cross with many other trials, no less significant, and to maintain peace. God allowed you to make a serious mistake concerning the letter, the context, and the spirit of my letter to the Superior General (May 1841). [1]
I hope you will receive with kindness the small observations I am about to make. I say small because I leave to God the care of my case and, if necessary, to the Holy See someday; the overwhelming work makes it impossible for me to tell you in detail about the many points of reproach you make towards me. It will be sufficient for me to show you in two or three points that you have been greatly mistaken. Then, when you compare the tribulations I endure here for the holy cause of Jesus Christ with the approach you have taken, it will not be difficult for you to understand the potential consequences of assuming such responsibility against Christian charity and the salvation of my dear flock, whose souls are redeemed at the same price as ours.
Before I present my small observations, my reverend father, here are some updates from the mission, from July 19, 1841, to August 26, 1842, during which time I have been continuously on my mission journeys. My letter in May 1841, you say, evoked pity in the council of the Superior General. May what I am about to tell you awaken your mercy and a zeal for cooperation with my work through your prayers and efforts!
After visiting the tribes in the southeast bays of New Zealand and finding much consolation after many battles against infidelity and heresy, nourishing the hope that aid would be dispatched from the benevolent associations to mitigate the deadly blow of the Wright's bankruptcy, I arrived in Akaroa in October.[2] Shortly after, through the corvette l'Allier (Captain Du Bouzet),[3] which brought me letters, I found a letter from the Superior General and another from Fr Poupinel, which made me sufficiently aware of what I already knew quite well, that the confidence in my administration was paralyzed in the benevolent associations of this mission, i.e., the Congregation and the Propagation of the Faith. This news strengthened my painful resolution, which I had already taken, to make a journey to Lyon and the Holy See for the well-being of this interesting and beloved mission, which is still so little known. The French authorities of the naval station had already offered me a free passage aboard a state vessel for myself, one of my priests, and two young New Zealanders whom I wish to have educated at the Urban College in Rome. Monsieur le Commandant Lavaud, the station chief, was kind enough to have a cabin specially prepared for the bishop on board. However, alas! It cost me a lot to tear myself away from numerous parishioners in danger on the side of heresy and seduction! But God disposed of all things differently.
At the moment when I was about to undertake my long journey to Europe, I received a letter from the Bay of Islands informing me of the death of Reverend Father Chanel and the abandonment of his mission, as well as the urgent need for my visit to Wallis, where the mission was also on the brink of collapse. My initial plan was to send the mission schooner on a tour to these islands and to send one of my provicars to visit them. However, upon receiving the latest news in the letter I just mentioned, I had the opportunity to secure a French corvette to go to these places myself and finally show some sign of the greatness of France and the protection it provides me in my work. This would be highly advantageous in the ordinary course of providence for the health of our missionaries and the freedom of their ministry, and even to give them a beneficial influence and consideration in relation to the people of these islands. Furthermore, as I had in mind to bring many subjects for this mission upon my return to Europe, I would have been greatly troubled to find employment for them if, as was easy to foresee, the two missions we have in the tropics had fallen. Their downfall would have cut off our path to establish our work in the neighbouring archipelagos.
All these considerations of the duties of apostolic life made me decide not to carry out my journey to Europe this time. I discussed it with Commandant Lavaud, who was devoted to me. He was saddened by the change in my plan; he would have liked to take me to France and offered me a bishopric in my homeland, but I firmly rejected the idea. I convinced him of the duties of my vocation and made my request for one of the three corvettes anchored in the bay to visit my missions in the tropics. He sympathized with my hardships and difficulties and immediately granted my request.
Two or three days later, I set sail for Vavao, where the commanding officer, Monsieur Du Bouzet, who was in charge of the corvette accompanying me, strongly reprimanded the chiefs of the tribes on this island for having denied me entry to their land four years ago.[4]
From there, we proceeded to Wallis, where an unfortunate influential young chief and the king of the people[5] were trying to ruin the works of Fathers Bataillon and Chevron. I believed that my visit of 5 or 6 days to this island, along with the appearance of the corvette (named "L'Allier"), could be enough to put the missionaries in a position to succeed. However, Father Bataillon, who knew the minds of the people well, believed that if I did not stay longer, there was not much hope of success. Moreover, he begged me to take him and his companions with me and relocate them elsewhere, if I could not definitively stay with them for three or four months. So, I decided to work on this island for that entire time, until the mission's schooner came to pick me up from the Bay of Islands. I quickly learned the language of the Friendly Islands, whose nature is quite similar to that of New Zealand. After three weeks of work, I was able, with God's help, to preach to the people in a special way, as those to whom He said: "Euntes docete..." [Go, teach...]. I wasted no time in persuading the king and especially the young chief, who was more hostile to religion, to grant their people the freedom that the chiefs of New Zealand allow in matters of religion. There, whoever wants to convert can do so and whoever wants to be baptized can be. The young chief and the king of Wallis were persuaded by my arguments, having formed a friendship with me, something I had strived to achieve. Immediately, instructions were given throughout the island on the necessary truths for salvation; from all sides, people prepared for baptism and confirmation, and within about four and a half months, the entire island was baptized and confirmed, including the king and his entire family. The young chief was about to be baptized when he unfortunately undertook a trip to Futuna, which caused a delay in his salvation. A mission cross was solemnly planted in Wallis, and the people there provide sweet consolations through their pure and faithful ways.
When I decided to stay in Wallis, the corvette went to Futuna, where I sent a chief[6] of that same island of Futuna, who had sought refuge in Wallis after a defeat in the wars he had with the enemies of his party, with the necessary powers.
He was a catechumen of Father Chanel and had received enough instruction under Father Chanel and Father Bataillon to teach the first truths of salvation and the morning and evening prayers. I sent him, as I mentioned, with the necessary authority to catechize those of the people of Futuna who would listen, after receiving the protection of Commandant Du Bouzet. The endeavor was a great success; this catechumen brought the entire island of Futuna back to the Catholic Church. After my stay of nearly five months in Wallis, the mission schooner took me to Futuna, where I baptized and confirmed this chief and his family, along with one hundred and fifteen other people who were prepared by Father Chevron, assisted by Brother Marie Nizier. I stayed there for only ten days and left Fathers Servant and Rouleau with Brother Marie Nizier. Before departing, I celebrated the Holy Mass at the place where Father Chanel had been martyred. I planted a seven-foot tall cross there and blessed it. I had the remaining precious remains of Father Chanel brought to the foot of this cross, which is to say, some flesh that I had retrieved from the place where he had been buried, so that I could bury them again more appropriately. I also had the native people return the objects that had been stolen from him, especially the hatchet or adze that delivered the final blow along with the martyr's crown. I preached to this people several times, and they seemed deeply moved and repentant.
From Futuna, I went to the islands of Fiji, where I visited the island of Oneata and the island of Lakemba.[7] There, I left an indigenous catechist[8] who has relatives there. This catechist is baptized and confirmed, and he has the responsibility of spreading the message throughout the archipelago, which already has three Wesleyan stations, that there is a true Church that cares about them and will strive to send them legitimate ministers.
From Fiji, I went to Tongatapu, where I encountered strong opposition from the Wesleyan missionary station that is still there, as well as from a chief and his people who have turned to them. However, they are all only a small minority of the island. The vast majority, about ten thousand natives according to the Europeans present, are still infidels and deeply opposed to the Methodists. The minority of those converted is around 800 to 1000. The infidels, including the king of the entire island,[9] have received me very warmly; the chiefs of Fort Bea, that is, the powerful tribe, have positively converted to the faith after the few conversations I had with them during my 10-day stay there with Father Chevron. All the other chiefs of the other tribes of infidels were very grateful that I left Father Chevron and Brother Attale with them, promising that as soon as I returned to New Zealand, I would send them another priest. (This has already been done; on the 4th of October last, I sent Father Grange there). The brother of the great chief of Bea wanted to accompany me on the mission ship; however, he had been a Methodist for 15 years. He wasted no time in renouncing his sect; I had the consolation of baptizing and confirming him and sending him back to his country with Father Grange.
These are some news of my missionary journey from the 23rd of July 1841 to the 26th of August 1842. I omit many interesting things for lack of time. This is what the grace of the Lord accomplishes through the holy vocation that He has deigned to give me despite my unworthiness. This is, I say, what He accomplishes while, alas! you thunder against me in your council. May God bless you nonetheless, for I cherish you from the depths of my heart.
I only advise you not to judge and condemn me too quickly and from afar; please allow me these expressions, do not accuse me of pride. Remember that it is dangerous to condemn one of the anointed of the Church of God, as you have done to me. I have no doubt that Mary, our blessed mother, also feels her heart pierced by the illusions that are spread about this mission. How is it that all these works succeed in my hands? (No pride, do not be scandalized; forgive me, my dear father.) It is because I have full and complete obedience to the successor of St. Peter, and the graces of ecce ego vobiscum sum accompany me and accomplish everything I do, despite my sins. Why is it not the same for almost all my collaborators? Because they have not fully received this spirit, which belongs eminently to the august Mary, the queen of the Church and the apostles. Some focus too much on the letter and not enough on the Spirit. The holy father himself has outlined a plan for missions; he wants the perfection of the Marists as religious in this mission to be specifically under the charge of the Superior General. He wants the rule of religious perfection to be observed here, but the apostolic works to be under his authority and directed by him through the representation of the Vicar Apostolic. Do you think that I am apostatizing from the Society of Mary by following this plan, which is imposed on me by my faculties, and that in explaining it to those who do not show me obedience in my jurisdiction, I want to detach them from the sacred bonds of religion? For me, in choosing between schism and schism, I prefer to be a Christian rather than being a religious in this regard. In other words, I would rather be united with the Holy See and leave the Society alone to oppose the vicar of our Lord, and I do not fear any anathemas that it may hurl at me, as it would be only an illusion on its part, which would greatly grieve me due to the attachment I still have for it.
Here, when I saw that I was not being obeyed, I have sometimes read to my collaborators the brief that the Holy Father has given me, and I noticed that they were very surprised and had been unaware of the plan for this mission until then. As I also saw that this plan was unknown in the council of the general, I allowed myself to explain it. Yet, in doing so, you say in your letter that I offend the Reverend Superior General and try to limit his rights and duties, despite his profound knowledge of these matters. Moreover, without answering whether I am in error or truth on these points, you talk about everything else, you review this apostolic vicariate, my administration, etc. You have listened to reports from worldly people who come here, the illusory reports of new priests, whose words are treated by you as texts from the acts of the apostles, without taking into account that imagination and inexperience, not to mention more, might be the cause of their denunciation. Your letter is not a response for me, despite your charitable intentions, for which I am very grateful. Just tell me whether they are here to serve Propaganda or not, while still carefully observing their holy religious state. If you think otherwise, I am obviously in error, provided that you are right. But, my reverend father, how fortunate you are to be close to the Holy See, where it is easy for you to gain insights! You will acknowledge that up until now, neither the entire Congregation nor the Reverend Father General has been charged with the apostolic works of this mission, except to provide subjects for it.[10] When one does not have jurisdiction in the Church for such matters, one is not obligated to have the graces of the Lord to direct them. Moreover, if one desires to do so, regardless of age or merits, one loses time, effort, and perfection in the eyes of the Church and the Lord. Do not think that I have confidence in myself when I speak in this manner; rather, I have confidence in the principles of faith and even in my authority, believing that it is accompanied by the graces of God solely because it is legitimate. If you tell me that I do not embody the Marist sentiments, I confess that I prefer to remain a Christian and hold on to these sentiments, rather than to be one without them, even if I had to renounce my current position. Allow me to express it this way.
Please also excuse the tone of my letter (May 1841),[11] which you described as "thunders from Oceania." I wrote it while witnessing the compromised state of this mission, with a clergy that struggles to receive the impetus from the apostolic vicar, the pastor of the flock, and the workers, while facing assaults from infidelity and heresy, various troubles, and paralyzing misery that makes everything languish. I am aware of this, and I saw at the end of my letter that it reflected my feelings, but it also contained my apologies. As for the essence of the letter, it was necessary for me to address it to the Holy Father or, at the very least, to His Eminence, the Cardinal Prefect of the Propaganda. You are not unaware that I am obligated to do so, but out of affection for the Reverend Father General and for the Congregation, I preferred to speak directly to him first, if possible, and avoid compelling the Holy See to make any reprimands. I did not mention this motive of affection on my part because I assumed it would be understood without having to state it explicitly.
In the first, second, third, and fourth parts of your letter, you accuse me of finding no good qualities in my priests, in the Society of Mary, and in the general. I am far from that, my reverend father. All the good things you tell me do not add anything to my esteem, affection, dedication, and respect for you. It is precisely because I am devoted to you more than you think, that I have said and done all that you know and many things that you do not know, without which perhaps you would not bear the beautiful name that you carry, the name of Marist along with the entire congregation.
In the 9th part of your letter, my reverend father, you did not understand my spirit, the context, and especially not the intent of my letter. I did not say that I placed myself outside the Society of Mary, but rather that, as far as it depended on me, I withdrew from the delegation of the Superior General to be the superior of the missionaries as a religious. The occult method adopted was humiliating the episcopate, which I cannot allow to be humiliated. "Non expedit vobis, neque ecclesiae." Sometimes, it has been established in principle that one must resist bishops and even the pope within the Society. Walk alone on this path; Mary will not accompany you, nor will I. I am far from being a Marist on this matter. Thunder away, your thunders will make me even more Marist than you, even if you proscribe me from the Society. The act I have taken, the solemn commitment I have made, is intact on my part; it is up to you to annul it if the sentiments I do not share lead you to do so. My conscience does not accuse me of all that is imputed to me, not even of a lack of religious spirit, to cease the delegation of the general over the religious of this mission. It was not an object of ambition for me, but rather an object of harmony and unity. For I knew that without it, we cannot battle against hell here; experience and quite serious facts already show it. Do as you wish, may the Lord have mercy on all of us. May Mary save this mission! You will soon learn all the good spirit of the members you have sent me. The provincial father had enough time to know many things and many false reports against my person; he can and should let you know about it if he fulfills his duties well. However, I say nothing to him on this matter; I only know that he wrote to all his religious accordingly.
You also tell me in the 14th part that I am suspicious of archbishops and bishops against whom I guard myself. But, my reverend father, is that the spirit of our holy Mother that guides you? Can you find in my letter such odious spirit and expressions? I spoke hypothetically, and you attribute to me positive expressions that are repugnant to my heart and Christian charity. You add that the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda prays and thanks for them. However, if, in the supposition I made in my letter, it happened, which I do not believe, that someone paralyzes the requests regarding their fellow workers, do you think that the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda would have thanks and compliments to give?
In the 16th part of your letter, you have taken for granted the reports made against my person regarding the management of the temporal affairs of this church. They have told you that I am naive and you reject the odiousness of the term and believe it to be an exaggeration. But if you were to come to this country, they would call me the Antichrist. Would you also reject the insult and believe in the accusation? You are very quick to judge and condemn one of those whom the Holy Spirit has chosen to govern this budding church. If there are dangers of robbers here, as in many other places and with regard to many other people, even with Saint Paul, "periculis latronum," I, too, have not been fortunate enough to be exempt from them, and neither have you in the Society, and even you, even more than me. In one fell swoop, I was deprived of around 35,000 pounds here, as they were placed innocently without seeking information on the spot in London (without us providing notes accordingly by letter), and placed, I repeat, in a bank that went bankrupt a few days after the deposit. It never occurred to me to reproach you for this. It was an accident, a misfortune. "Deus dedit, Deus abstulit." [Job 1:21 “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away.”] However, here, an incident occurred. A fire completely destroyed the house of the Wesleyan missionary in Hokianga,[12] a house of a value at least as considerable as the sum lost to us until now. Well, in a few months, he had a more beautiful house than the one that had burned down because the Wesleyan community did not condemn him. Instead, they showed charity, or rather enthusiasm, which I have not had the good fortune to experience from my co-workers in this mission. They promptly organized a subscription that amounted so high that the Wesleyan missionary could say "felix culpa" for the fire. But for me, after my misfortunes, you tell me that I am naive to everyone while rejecting the term, and that it took threats of expropriation to bring me to reflection. No effort was made to deal with such a disastrous blow to my work. I mean that there was no effort after the departure of the missionaries from London. I know that there was a loan made just before their departure, but I only received seven thousand five francs here, despite having a ship that cost 18,000 pounds per year in expenses. And for a whole year, from June 1841 to May 1842, we received nothing here except reproaches based on the credibility of false reports against me. If I had administered this apostolic vicariate in a way that didn't lead to extreme poverty, it would have been because I had received regular allocations from the Propagation of the Faith for the past two years and if measures had been taken to prevent bankruptcy, just like they did for the Wesleyan mission's fire, without accusing me as it was done against me.
My reverend father, let us cease all these hostilities, let us unite our forces and prayers for the work of God. Seek an audience with the Holy See at Propaganda and explain everything. So far, I am certain that I am on the path where it has placed me. I may appoint representatives but not superiors in the apostolic life for the countries under my jurisdiction or outside of these places. One can encroach upon everything, in part, but one does not have the right, authority, or graces for it. It is better to obtain and receive, speaking to the Holy See, then we will have the graces with us. Until then, my duty is to resist any change. Firstly, because I owe that to apostolic obedience; secondly, because everything taken in terms of jurisdiction leads to ruin and not to resurrection, to the good of souls. One cannot have any success there without the grace of God, without the assistance of "ecce ego vobiscum sum" (I am with you always); and one will not have that without the vocation ad hoc and the received jurisdiction, which should not be taken away. It is the Protestants here who prevented the downfall of all my efforts, "salus ex inimicis in fide," and amicis in urbanitate et in charitate (salvation from enemies in faith, and from friends in urbanity and in charity).
There are two traps set for this mission: firstly, the attack on the temporal by deceit and theft, and secondly, the lies and calumny. In the eyes of politics, I have been made a dangerous agent; in the eyes of heresy, I am the Antichrist, and so on. And now, in the eyes of the Congregation of Mary, I have become a sort of scapegoat, bearing its sins and those of others. I have become a man tending to make apostates in the Society of Mary. I find myself all alone in my defence. They may perhaps excommunicate me from the bosom of the Society, but that will be far from drawing graces upon it until now. I have the sweet confidence in my soul that the thunderbolts will not come from the hands of Mary, whom I have loved since my earliest childhood. This time, I cannot write to the Reverend Father Superior General. Please convey the contents of my letter to him with my respects, gratitude, veneration, and heartfelt affection. Please do the same with Reverend Father Cholleton, to whom you may well show my letter. Have mercy on me, and pray fervently to our divine Master and my refuge as a sinner, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Your humble and obedient servant, + Jean-Baptiste François, Bishop and Apostolic Vicar.
Postscript: I kindly ask you to tell the Reverend Father General that I have always been so far from encouraging any subject here to abandon their religious vocation that if any of our missionaries were to leave it, they would lose my trust in my work, and risk losing their crown with the powers of apostolate. You may share the news of my work with the Society to instill confidence, but only show the full content to the Reverend Father Superior and Fr. Cholleton. This will be a good deed for this mission. Souls here have already suffered greatly from misunderstandings that have prevailed among the workers of the household.


  1. Cf. doc. 91
  2. Pompallier arrives in Akaroa with Viard between October 19 and November 12, 1841: On October 19, he is still expected (as mentioned in an unpublished letter from Comte to Garin on this date, APM Z 208); on November 12, the bishop writes from Akaroa to Colin (cf. document 115).
  3. The Marquis Eugène du Bouzet (cf. [[Girard0133|document 133], § 2 and note 2; 217, § 26-28).
  4. It was in 1841 that the French corvette, l’Allier, approached Vava’u in the archipelago of Tonga; Captain Du Bouzeet profited by the opportunity to reproach some chiefs for their refusal to admit Catholic missionaries in 1837. (cf. Laracy, “Catholic Mission”, Tonga, p. 138)
  5. The young chief, Tuugahala; the king, Lavelua.
  6. Keletaona (Petelo Sam) (cf. doc. 133, §5, n.3; 217, §3 and n. 5).
  7. Oneata and Lakeba, islands of the Lau group of the archipelago of Fiji (cf. doc. 62, § 39 et n. 8; 153, § 12, 20-21; 217, § 1).
  8. Moise (Mosese) Matanavi (cf. doc. 153, § 16, 20-21).
  9. This is the title used without sufficient reason by Pompallier to designate Moeaki, the chief of Pea (cf. doc. 217, §6 and n. 14).
  10. The decision to confer the munus missionis to the priest of the Society of Mary was taken by the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda on 23 December 1835 and confirmed by the Pope on 10 January 1836 (cf. OM 1, doc. 352, § 2-3; cf. also OM 1, doc. 356, § 4-5; 367, § 1; 368, § 1).
  11. Cf. doc. 91.
  12. The house of John Hobbs (cf. doc. 217, § 20, n. 22).

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