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Fr Auguste-Joseph Chouvet to an unknown recipient, 28 October 1845

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, November 2005

APM Z 208 28 October 1845 (2)


New Zealand 28 October 1845

(Father Chouvet)

We are still locked in a struggle with the boldest and most barefaced heresy of the daughters of Hell. Before the flame of the true faith, which is necessarily one, holy, Catholic and apostolic, began to be seen in this area, the false prophetess, forgetting what she calls her divine mission, watched over almost nothing more than the vast domain she occupied there, and contented herself with harvesting what she had sown, grains which are not among those destined to be brought into the storehouse of the Lord.[2] But in the view of those who, in the name of the Lord, came to declare war on her, she showed herself totally devoured by zeal for the prison of Beelzebul. Yes, she is today indefatigable and does not cease being the heaviest cross for the true missionaries, although they triumph everywhere their small numbers allow them to penetrate. The superstitions of the pagans, their beliefs, their customs, are obstacles incomparably less than those raised up against us by heretics, promoting bitterness with their everlasting calumnies. It is these false apostles who must be fought against with vigorous courage, to snatch souls from their tyranny. As furious as they can possibly be, and not having truth on their side, they willingly take up lies for weapons, and there is no horror nor stupidity, at one and the same time, which they do not cease to spout forth to the poor natives, to arouse their hatred and scorn against those who truly love them. And what can they preach, those who are the eldest sons of the father of lies, as St Polycarp called Marcion?[3] How painful it is for me not to be able to carry out the attacks which I burn to carry out on them! How painful it is for me not to be able to go and hunt out the enemy where I want to. The increasing weakness of my eyes absolutely prevents me from making journeys and I can only groan over the fate of the tribe which has become the prey of these ravenous wolves. But I know too well that I am unworthy to fight in this glorious militia, and I submit myself to the will of the Lord. I only ask for the prayers of others, so that if I am forced to abandon apostolic life, at least I will not lose its crown. Their lies and impostures are such that even the gallows, humanly speaking, would not give them what they deserve. When poor people are told, for example, that Catholic priests hide their wives in their trunks [malles] – when they are told that Bonaparte was the leader of the Catholics, when they are told that the three Hebrew children were thrown into the furnace because they were Protestants, and did not want to be idolaters like the Catholics, whose leader Nabuchodonosor wanted to force them to do the koropiko (to bow down or kneel) before a statue, when it is said that Catholic worship, in spite of its majesty, its pomp, its solemnity, its grace and piety, is quite similar to the gross customs of the natives; when they are warned with the words of O[ur] D[ivine] Master, “Guard yourselves against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, while interiorly they are ravening wolves[4] and told they apply to Catholic priests, when they are told again and again that the ancient Catholics in England massacred all the Protestants, although, very much to the contrary, it was the Protestants of the Anglican Church who massacred and pillaged the Catholics, and that everyone can [illegible word – recall?] what was said recently about wretched Ireland by Daniel OConell [sic – O’Connell], [illegible word] defender of the faith: There has never been on the face of the earth a people as cruelly treated as the Irish Catholics. When each day they have spouted out to them a new, similar, calumny; can there be seen in all that, angels of peace, men inspired by God, and deserving to be greeted thus Quam speciosi pedes evangeliz[antium] bona evangel[izantium] pacem?[5] And if I add that they have the effrontery to call the mission of the Roman church a day of vengeance of the Lord on which they[6] will be paid back for the crimes, the crimes and blasphemies which they have come to teach the savages, by leaving everything for them, by loving even poverty, can it be canonised without making saints of them, of the same sort as those [p2] of the Anglican church, such as a St Luther and a Saint Henry VIII, the most infamous and most sacrilegious of men, of whom the first died suddenly[7] with meat and wine, and the second died while calling out “All is lost”? Can they, above all, be canonised before their deaths, as was St Elizabeth, under the title of Virgin Queen, during the time she was given over as much as possible to dissipation?

My antagonist at Opotiki[8] – is he one of these liars, one of these [illegible word]? A series of letters which I have exchanged with him will suffice to introduce him to you. It would be [too] long to report it all to you, [so] I will content myself with telling you about a meeting which I had with him in the presence of the natives. This Anglican had declared to me in a letter that he saw himself obliged by charity towards the pagans to preach against the dogma of the Real Presence and to make every effort to [illegible word] to spread it among them. What could I do, perhaps? I would work against his influence, but while it remained for him to call me to the court of the sovereign judge where we would both appear, he was certain that the sentence of condemnation would be brought down against me, to his glory. The gentleman[9] spoke up, and blasphemed in the most offensive way against the most noble sacrament in which my small flock frequently shared. In order to halt the spreading of faith in this so [illegible word] dogma of Christianity, in this incomprehensible gift of a God, the most astounding marvel of his power, his wisdom and his love, he even undertook journeys. In these devilish journeys he was accosted by Brother Elie [-Régis] who completely beat him and followed him into several tribes to humiliate him wherever he went. Father Lampila, coming back from a [missionary] journey, surprised him in a tribe and soon put him to flight. He [Lampila] then came to look for this furious man at Opotiki and suggested to him that they have a public meeting,[10] which he refused under the pretext that the priest had treated him like a wolf at Wakatane [sic]. Then I wrote to him myself, telling him that he could not give me the same excuse, because I had not treated him like a wolf, although, as I added, Father Lampila had only used the words of J[esus] C[hrist], who described false prophets who came dressed in sheepskins as devouring wolves in their hearts. Under pressure from my letter and the urgings of the natives, the gentleman went to the place I had suggested for the meeting. Totally evil [Tout démon] as he is, he affected the modesty of a saint and of an angel of light.

The first words were a formal refusal to begin the discussion because of the small number of listeners. The natives urged him to listen to me, telling him that they were numerous enough, and that the others were engaged in their work in the area round about. Twenty times he replied that he did not want to get involved in a discussion in front of what he called a small number. I pointed out to him that it was not for him to have been the reason that so many of the natives had interrupted their work, and [then] not to want to speak to them; that we ought still[11] begin, while waiting for the Sunday, when we would have all the natives [present]. He still replied “No”: as regards Sunday, h said he did not want to profane it by discussions on the true Church and [illegible word] on that day [illegible word] the road to heaven. He was very determined not to hold the meeting on the holy day of Sunday, reproaching me for what he called my readiness to violate this day.[12]

“Pharisee”, I said to him, “so you do not, on Sundays, pull out of the well the sheep which has fallen into it?[13] Hypocrite: you swallow oxen whole and a gnat upsets you.[14] Let us begin today, and then we will see.” At last, tired out by the natives who were treating him as weak, as a coward, he agreed that I open the discussion with a request. “Listen, my friend,” I said to him, “you have [p3] suggested a thousand times that our Bible is a book full of errors and that we are very wary of handing it out to the natives, for fear that on finding these errors they will all leave the Catholic Church – so therefore, take a Bible and translate it into Maori, while pointing out some mistake.” At first he did not want to accept it – it was only on the urgings of the natives that he agreed to it. So he opened my Bible and immediately shame appeared on his face. He did not understand Latin and could not answer me from this book. “So why,” I said to him, “do you maintain that my book is full of falsehoods, when you do not know even how to read it?” Witnesses to his ignorance, the natives invited me to explain it myself; I [illegible word – took?] it from the hands of my adversary and, opening it, I called out to the Protestant natives who knew how to read, and who had in their hands the New Testament translated from English into Maori. “Look up such and such a chapter, such and such a verse” and I translated into their language about twenty verses following [j’en traduis… une vingt de versets]. These poor natives whom heresy continuously deludes, then looked as if they had just fallen from the clouds when they realised the calumny and exclaimed, “It is very similar to our book.” If I had had the time I would have shown them that it is the Protestants themselves who have contaminated [vitié = vicié?] the Bible and removed [from it] a good number of canonical books, but I contented myself with giving a formal [demente – defeat?] to the devil.

The gentleman thought he could intimidate me by showing me a Greek New Testament. “You claim to know this language,” I said to him, “and you know only the [bie ?]. Here, give me the book, so I can see if you understand it.” But he made haste to hide it.[15]

Then, after having shown him the absurdity of some propositions he had put forward in the presence of all the natives; holding in my hand “the tree of the Church” – I mean the ladder of Popes from Gregory XVI back to St Peter, made leader of the Church by J[esus] C[hrist] himself. I asked the gentleman to be so kind as to show me something similar supporting his religion. Immediately he tried to avoid the question, but as I brought him back to it, he shilly-shallied. Great was his embarrassment. Finally, under pressure, beaten, covered in shame and reduced to silence, he burst out in a torrent of abuse, blasphemies and imprecations against the Catholic Church; which made no impression on the natives [who were] too accustomed to hearing such language, but Father Lampila, who was present at the meeting only as a witness, no longer being able to tolerate these disgusting things, rose to his feet abruptly: “Your ancestors, whom you are being asked about, are they into that sort of thing?” he said to the minister. “Keep quiet, slave,” the latter answered him.

“Slave?” the priest answer sharply. “Do you dare call me that” you are the one who is really a slave, the slave of Satan, a false prophet, a wolf, a murderer of souls.” These words were like holy water thrown on the devil. The gentleman took flight and did not want to come back to the meeting.

Through this reply made in a firm and assured tone, which eternal truth gives to its defenders on these sorts of occasions, Father Lampila [a remporté ? – hard to read – brought about] a complete victory in the minds of the natives. He is even greater than Augustus, they said, and the women and the children going back to their dwellings sang his praises in terms like to “Saul has his thousands, and David his tens of thousands”[16]

{End of letter}

{No signature}


  1. Whakatane. A reading of this letter leads me to believe that this letter was not written from Whakatane but from Kororareka, where the author was at the time (see the earlier letter, also dated 28 October 1845). It seems to be mainly a reflection on his experiences at Opotiki – close to Whakatane – but written at Kororareka. The lack of any opening greeting strengthens my opinion that this is one of the letters Chouvet refers to in the postscript to his letter of Colin of 28.10.1845, written from Kororareka - translator’s note
  2. The false prophetess seems to be a reference to the prostitute of Babylon – Revelation 17 - translator’s note
  3. The source of this claim is St Irenaeus’ Adversus Haereses 3.3.4 – according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia: New York 1967, in its article on Marcion - translator’s note
  4. Matthew 7:15
  5. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news, who herald peace and happiness – cf Romans 10:15, Isaiah 52:7 - translator’s note
  6. the Romanists, it seems - translator’s note
  7. gorg – ending cut off in copying - gorgé? – stuffed
  8. Rev Awilson according to an account Chouvet wrote up later in France - Merv
  9. the Protestant missionary - translator’s note
  10. a common tactic of Lampila’s - translator’s note
  11. devion? Touj? – Chouvet is fond of abbreviations – ought still
  12. It seems that the Anglicans, the better to seduce people, make their disciples keep Sunday with a more than Jewish rigidity. The Catholic natives have assured me that the Protestant natives would never peel potatoes for food on a Sunday. A woman whom I warned on that day that some hens were making [illegible word] the [illegible word] earth/soil, proudly replied that she did not chase them away on Sunday [and] I [illegible word] nothing for my reminder. [It seems] that the Methodists do their hair on Saturday evenings and spend the whole night in an armchair so as not to untidy it.
  13. Matthew 12:11; cf also Luke 14:5
  14. cf Matthew 23:24
  15. Do not be surprised if our opponents, the Anglican ministers, are so ignorant: they have not been to either a seminary or a college. Let us excuse them. Before coming here, one was a cook, another a carpenter, another a locksmith, two or three were soldiers, others, seamen. They have gone straight from these occupations to their apostolic ministry, convinced that with the Bible in their hands they could refute the Augustines, the Ambroses, the Chrysostoms [Fourth-century Doctors of the Church - translator’s note]. That ignorance does not equal their malice and their bad faith; these self-styled apostles are real shams, [comédiens] but shams on big incomes.
  16. 1 Samuel 18:7; 21:12, 29:5