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14 January 1846 – Bishop Pierre Bataillon to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Wallis

Source APM OC 418.1

Translated by Natalie Keen, October 2010

Two sheets comprising eight handwritten pages, the Poupinel annotation appearing at the top of the first page. At the top of the fifth page (the first of the second sheet), in the author’s hand the word “Continuation”

[p.1, at the top of the page]
[in Poupinel’s hand]
Central Oceania *at Wallis * Bishop Bataillon
Mission of Our Lady of Good Hope
Uvea 14 January 1846
to the Reverend Father Colin

My very Reverend Father,
This letter is straight from the heart…. In it I want to convey to you purely and simply our thoughts on the mission in Central Oceania, in relation to the workers. All the priests and brothers are in general driven by a very good spirit. One might say that that is so as far as human weakness allows; I believe I’ve seen a consistent spirit abroad in all the stations, peace, and harmony among the various members of each one and towards us. We can only praise their obedience, their respect and the show of confidence they afford us. I have only one wish, that you might always send us subjects as good as those you have sent us up till now, so that this fine spirit, this family feeling, this spirit of oneness which constitutes the missioner’s main comfort might always reign among us.
Here are the small exceptions: one subject only seems to keep to himself and distress us a little, that is Father Grange; he has ideas of his own of which no one approves. –According to him, no one but he understands the administration of the mission and it is impossible to save himself body and soul under the existing regime. -- That is the reason why he is quite decided to leave for France; he has just recently told me this in writing; it is a real shame because he’s a man who is in a position to pass on a quite false idea of the mission and lose vocations. You must actually know this subject either through his own letters or through the letters of Fathers Chevron and Calinon; that’s why I’m just mentioning it to you and being very careful with what I say about him. Moreover he is a good priest, but he has a quite unworldly way of looking at things. I asked all the subjects who have come to Oceania if they felt they were better or worse off than they expected as far as food and temporal wellbeing were concerned and all of them replied that they were happily mistaken: that in dedicating themselves to the missions they were expecting many more hardships than they have found. Father Grange on the other hand claims that if they knew in France the hardships we have to put up with, they wouldn’t find any more subjects willing to come out to the missions. In a word, his way of looking at things is, according to all of us, both novel and absurd. I shall try to reason with him amicably and if I can’t change him, I’ll let him go quite willingly and say no more about it.
On the subject of our Reverend Father Provincial, I have told you in the past of a discussion we had with him and which had especially upset me because I was more keen to keep always among us the spirit of unity and harmony. --- I am ashamed, my Reverend Father, to spell out these sorts of things but alas! you well know that always and everywhere poor mankind gives way to temptation. According to Father Calinon, he has responsibility for all the temporal welfare of the mission, and as well it would be up to him to make the placements of priests and brothers etc, so that the sole responsibility for us would be to give our approval from time to time; as proof of this, he quotes his rules as provincial. I pointed out to him that the best way of knowing your intentions was to look at facts rather than words, which can be unclear, and that by the sole fact that the funds for the mission and the subjects, were directed to us, it seemed obvious that you were still regarding us as the principal administrator of the mission. This reply threw him a bit and he finished up by telling me that things henceforth would not continue in this way, that to conform to his orders, it was necessary that the subjects be sent directly to him and that the Propagation of the Faith should henceforth send to him alone the funds it would grant for the apostolic vicariate, but with the exception of what was necessary for the personal support of the apostolic vicar whom the Society was under no obligation to maintain as he was an outsider. I was completely taken aback by all this reasoning, and what upset me the most at the time was not at all the loss of an authority which undoubtedly would be much better placed in other hands, but the thought that with my mitre and my crook I was going to find myself with much less authority than before, since before I had the confidence of my superiors and the honour and the joy of belonging to the Society of Mary.[1] --- But in short, I’ve put aside all these thoughts and arguments and up till now I’ve done all I can to steer the ship as if there were no problem. I leave it all to your great wisdom; only please always pray for us and let me always call you my father and myself the last of your children and be convinced that I wish always to obey you in everything as the vicar of Our Lord and as Our Lord himself, convinced as I am that it is the same spirit of Our Lord which sustains and directs you, you and his first representative on earth.
Just allow me to tell you frankly how I see things (it wouldn’t be my place to express these thoughts to you but I leave my own self aside at this point and I speak for the future rather than the present). I consider that things certainly cannot work if the Father provincial has primary authority in the missions, nor even if his authority is absolutely equal to that of the apostolic vicar; it can happen sometimes that a vicar apostolic might abuse his authority, but the provincial himself can do likewise; mistakes can be made in the choice of a provincial just as in the choice of a bishop. --- The essential thing will be to always take care in the choice of apostolic vicar and to give preference precisely to the one who shows the qualities of a provincial; or rather the first step would be to choose one’s provincial –and carefully-, place complete confidence in him and grant him all his authority and after that present him to Rome to make him a bishop. That would save two appointments; it would simplify things and maintain[2] and much better, I think, peace and harmony in the missions.
I know that what has apparently happened in New Zealand has contributed much to the drafting of certain articles in the provincial’s orders, but I point out, my Father, that perhaps there have been many false reports about Bishop Pompallier;[3] but even supposing there has been abuse, wouldn’t there still be a need to see if it is still continuing rather than basing a ruling on a single case since such a ruling might itself bring about greater abuse than that which it is trying to put right. I repeat, I shouldn’t be talking to you myself about these matters, but again I leave my own self entirely aside and I believe I have in mind only the general welfare of the mission.
Let all that remain between the two of us. Don’t go thinking, my Reverend Father, as a result of these reflections that we’re starting to imagine things or that our feelings and behaviour towards the Society and our dear colleagues has changed; no, I’ve already told you, in practice, we try to do everything for the best and I can tell you that there prevails among us great unity and a very good spirit. We care for one another, we all seek one another’s opinions, being all young, we bring together all our knowledge and our efforts to guide the ship together as well as we can.—
In spite of that, I have fears for the future, especially if through false reports you are led to believe things are otherwise than they are. I fear broken hearts and despondency and all that ensues. --- I don’t think there will be any fuss in the outside world, for I intend to yield in every way I am permitted rather than bring a fuss of this sort upon the church or the Society of Mary. -- But things will drag on and all of us down here will have a double cross to bear.
Be patient, my Reverend Father; a few more insights: Just above I mentioned false reports; this is something most regrettable which does much to hamper the mission because these arouse mistrust, suspicions in our superiors who as a result no longer know if they should send help and new subjects to a mission which they believe is badly directed and administered; that’s why I am telling you these things; for if the wellbeing of the mission were not at stake as a result, but only our reputation, I would regard it as of no importance and simply not mention it to you. Here’s an example; Father Calinon writes to me from Tonga that the system that I have recommended to them, that is, not to get the natives used to selling us their supplies etc. is untenable,[4] but knowing that I would certainly not allow them to change it (according to him), not to upset the unity, that is his own wording, he prefers to write to France about it to obtain the permission he wants rather than talking to me about it. You be the judge whether that is the way to preserve unity. Now, on the basis of this very request which must have reached you some long time ago, what thoughts must you not have had about it? What fears must you not have had? ---- Well, my Father, here is the fact that I can easily prove, whenever you wish and which time itself will prove to you.
1º When I was in Tonga I enquired from Father Chevron whether they had in fact suffered hunger, as per the report to the Bishop of Amata[5] when he passed through. ---He told me that it was probably Father Grange who had given this report but that he could not remember ever having been hungry except perhaps at times when they were journeying – that every day they had had chicken or pork to eat with their yams.
2º Following this report and the recommendations you make so often that we build up our own resources for the future and not count on what might come to us from France, because that could be sporadic, I recommended that they themselves plant with their subjects and get the natives used to not asking anything for what they can give them or for small services they can render because this system of buying and selling in an island where it is not their custom is quite obnoxious, and once established, they could no longer have the least thing without paying on the spot. Now, if at a later time help from France failed, we would take -- or if it was a matter of buying in, we would then just need to put up with hunger, or suffer hunger for hunger’s sake, it seems that it would be still better to put up with a little in the first place (but that isn’t happening) to set up a good routine which would ensure the wellbeing of the missionaries, even if nothing more should be received from France, rather than be exposed through a distasteful system to putting up with it later and perhaps for a long time. But that’s not really what I wanted to tell you, in spite of all these considerations and many others that I haven’t the time to explain to you here. I had only advised them to follow this system and I had added categorically and repeated several times that if, in trying this way of doing things, they judged it unworkable, I left them completely free to act as they saw fit. Judge in the light of that whether it must have been very pleasant for me to learn that a letter was being written to France to ask for something which I had granted them categorically (and that in order not to upset the unity, he says).
3º From the report of Father Mathieu who has just visited the missions, you will see that the priests in Futuna have the greatest abundance of provisions -- that those in Tonga are for the moment even better than those in Wallis. -- They prepare three meals a day, which I don’t think happens in any other mission station, and as well as the yield from the island, they also have potatoes and various types of vegetables in plenty, such as cabbages, lettuce, carrots and beans to spare. In addition to that, they have for a few months had wine, biscuits, coffee, tea and flour which they say they don’t know how to use and the brothers have admitted that the thing they found most tiring was the work in the kitchen. Along with that a Father Grange never stops railing against the administration, pleads poverty all the time and is getting ready to return to France to maintain, so he says in a letter to me, his health of body and soul. And the good Father Calinon himself, undoubtedly as a result of hearing complaints has finally been persuaded that these were justified and believes he must hire a schooner to go to Sydney for supplies, not for the missionaries but for the religious, not at the expense of the mission but that of the Society and on his return, he is to visit all the missions and turn up as a last stop in Wallis, undoubtedly as it says in his rules, to act in concert with the Apostolic Vicar and in the interests of harmony… His voyage and the visit to the missions will undoubtedly be very beneficial in a spiritual context, but in a temporal one it is sheer expenditure which is quite unnecessary for he will find all the stations well provided with all kinds of things. And yet he well knew that we had just purchased a schooner and that we were shortly to bring assistance to the missions. I had recently written telling him and in fact we did so at the actual time but Father Calinon had just left Tonga when our schooner arrived there. He has still not returned, at least he has not yet arrived in Wallis. I am hoping that our schooner which is to leave for Sydney, finds him there to save the expense of hiring another boat for his return. At this point, you might think that we shall be enraged when he arrives in Wallis; not at all, I shall give a favourable nod to his intentions, I will leave facts to speak for themselves and time to reveal everything. -While we wait, harmony will likewise reign, unless he insists on destroying it, which I don’t believe he will.
I am very sorry, my most Reverend Father, for speaking to you at such length of all these trifling things which after all represent no more than the ordinary troubles of life. Please believe that it is not in any way an attempt to justify myself by bringing accusations against Father Calinon; I don’t believe that I am infallible, far from it; but I think that Father Calinon has misjudged us completely, that he has misunderstood our intentions, and that on the basis of false conjectures or appearances he may have made inaccurate reports to France which could do damage to the welfare of the mission if for my part I said nothing of what I know in my soul and conscience on the subject of this same mission. So please don’t judge the Father provincial in a hurry on the basis of the details I am giving you here. But in the same way afford us the same leniency, let time provide you with all the information, but while you wait, please don’t lose interest in our missions. That’s the only thing I ask of you; and whether you might promise me that whatever reports you receive in the future on the administration of the mission, you will send continuously both subjects and assistance, as if nothing were amiss. Well I for my part promise that I shall never again seek to justify myself or to exonerate myself from anything anyone might have chosen to say about us.
Sorry, once again, my Reverend Father, if I have distressed you. If you take the trouble to read these long and unpleasant details, then throw the letter in the fire, and may your fatherly heart not be troubled. --- Be persuaded always that all is going well in your beloved central mission; and that is true at present, and in spite of the anxieties I have mentioned, I hope it always will go well. At least, that is the wish the good Lord has always inspired in us, is still inspiring in us and always will, we trust.
Care for us always, my Reverend Father, pray for us always and please ever look on me as the last of your children
and your very humble and obedient servant
Pierre Bishop of Enos


  1. To these complaints about Calinon, already mentioned by Bataillon on 27 August 1844, Colin replied in a friendly and kindly manner on 26 and 31 October 1845 (cf. doc. 348, §4, n.1). The apostolic vicar had apparently not yet received these replies two and a half months later at the time he was writing the present letter. To be noted that Brother Jean Raynaud wrote to Colin in October 1845 that his position with Father Calinon was “a little trying” (cf. doc. 414, §11) On the other hand, Calinon wrote on 3 April 1846 of the difficulties Mathieu was having with Bataillon (cf. doc. 498, §12).
  2. Read: entretiendrait = maintain
  3. Jean-Baptiste François Pompallier, Titular Bishop of Maronée.
  4. On this subject, see the observations of Chevron dated 17 June 1845 (doc. 372, §12).
  5. Guillaume Douarre, Titular Bishop of Amata