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==Father Petit-Jean to Father Colin, 11 Dec 1841 [extracts]==
==11 December 1841 – Father Jean-Baptiste Petit-Jean Letter to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka==
==11 December 1841 – Father Jean-Baptiste Petit-Jean Letter to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka==
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=== Notes ===
=== Notes ===
''Translated by Holly Wasson, University of Waikato, 2008. Edited by William Jennings, University of Waikato''
;[33]: I have also to inform you of a tragic event which came to pass on one of the islands of our bay (Bay of Islands). On Saturday 20 November five people were killed. The only house there was burnt to the ground. The culprit has been caught and here are some details: an elderly manservant of this house had his head split with an axe while sleeping outdoors. A widow and a small child, along with another young girl that she was caring for, were killed in the house; their bodies roasted by the flames. Another boy of this same widow, around six or seven years old, was caught while running away and in spite of his cries and tears he was thrown onto the rocks from a great height; the sea then swallowed him up, without his body ever being found. This catastrophe has plunged the Europeans into shock and consternation. We are also seized by horror and compassion for this unfortunate widow. We openly share the bereavement, especially since the husband of this woman, named Roberton, had shown a particular kindness for the Catholic mission. These crimes were carried out at around 3’o clock in the morning; the fire immediately following the murders. Three weeks earlier, having just visited native tribes, surprised by the night and unable to reach Kororareka, I went to this island in my boat and accepted the hospitality at the home of this kind lady. I remember that we had a brief conversation. She confessed that she was of the sect of the Quaker’s. I asked her if her children were baptised and she replied in the affirmative. She had recently received the news of the death of her father-in-law. Who can possibly contemplate the troubles, leading to complete destruction; that have fallen upon this family? Mr Roberton had six brothers. They all drowned before him and he himself suffered the same fate in the Bay of Islands; and now at about the anniversary of her husband’s death, his widow has been killed with all of his children, and the house, near completion, by Mr Roberton has been reduced to ashes. The island is becoming a deserted place that people are afraid of and horrified by. I can not help make the following reflection. The ungodly world sees only fate here; those who are ignorant use the same language without understanding it. But the children of God, the people of morality know that everything that happens in this world only does so by the will of God, whose justice or mercy is in everything. We can see when he tests those who he loves. A doctor from Kororareka testified or certified that beneath this woman was found an open Bible, hardly damaged, and concluded that this person, having died with a Bible in her hand, died the most beautiful death possible. This doctor told me that he noted the chapter that she was occupied in reading immediately before her murder. As for myself, my hopes in the mercy of God on this widow are founded on other considerations, my very reverend father. I will confess to you frankly that I was desperately worried to learn if the murderer was a Catholic or a Protestant. It is remarkable that none of the witnesses heard by the Kororareka jury, determining the circumstances of the murder, mentioned the New Testament covered in blood found on the murderer, that the jury itself has not said a word, while it is certain that they have received the book from the hands of the Natives.
;[34]: As you know, commonly speaking, the Protestants and others blame the Catholic Church for crimes committed by its ministers or even its members. It is exactly in this sense that the Protestant missionaries have aimed their attacks against the Holy Roman Catholic Church during the debate; there, they made sure to recapitulate all of their old slander; thus it was said that the Roman Church was a cruel church, whose customs involved the use of thousands of tortures, thousands of humiliations against the dead and the living, that it had slaughtered peoples, that it had bled them with a knife, that it had burnt and sawn. And thankfully the good Lord permitted that the murderer is not a Catholic. He is a young man of around 19 years of age, a protestant Maori. I have heard that he had spent two or three days on the island to do some work for the woman immediately before carrying out his attack. The urge to pillage or the desire for some petty vengeance are perhaps obvious motives that have provoked him to kill, but it seemed to me, to have been decided by his natural ferocity. It seems that this monster has not been encouraged by anyone.
;[35]: Our intention is not in any way to make the protestant missionaries responsible. Since when have masters answered for the conduct of their disciples? Only I will take a lesson from this unfortunate circumstance, an opinion that I will direct to all the Protestants who think similarly. It was not necessary to hastily throw the Bible or the New Testament into the hands of newcomers, but to prepare them to receive this prestigious book by the reading other books more basic, more intelligible, less valuable and that one fears less of seeing profaned. Thus, during this public mourning, I say it with sorrow and with a profound shame, one finds covered in blood the Maori gospel of the murderer. Although this young man had paid his ministers the sum of 5 francs, I have difficulty believing that a sordid interest had been the underlying motive for him to procure this New Testament. I repeat it, it is an injustice to blame the protestant missionaries for the conduct of this disciple, and we push it away from our thoughts.
;[36]: But it is not so of our natives. The protestant missionaries by false reasoning have spoilt the judgement of this people in the matter of religion. They repeated unceasingly that in our church one kills, one burns, one bleeds; this language has even been repeated with complacency by some reputed, honourable Europeans in assemblies of very numerous Maori. But the Maori people not having seen with their own eyes these past facts or distant facts, attributed in great number to the Roman Church, observed very attentively what happened in on their land and under their eyes; in a short space of time there have been 3 or 4 different murders committed against Europeans or Maori in Bay of Islands by Maori missionaries; and now, some weeks after the debate among the disciples of the Lord, the most horrible assassination that one had witnessed and known of in these recent times has occurred. Here is what a Catholic chief named Rewa told me: the murderer is not of our church, we Catholics, we live, we console each other… If the murderer had belonged to the bishop, we would have been sick, inconsolable, if the murderer had been one of the members of this church that bleeds, that burns, the Catholic Church would have been hurt. Since it did not happen that way, and the bad action having been committed by a member of the church that is innocent of everything, that has never spilled blood; it is up to them to redeem themselves from embarrassment, to them the shame, he added. They said in the debate that the Roman Church kills and burns and in less than a month since this speech, one of their own in a single day, in a single action, cut throats, burned, killed. I have heard with my own ears the wife of a Maori speak with great ignorance and also superstition, in keeping with the pantheon of gods devised by them. I heard her say: be wary of the God of the protestant missionaries; it is a God who kills. It is a fact that several Maori have given back their books to the Protestants.
;[37]: I am going, by way of questions; propose a reflection on this tragic accident. Is it not the case that God allows to pass, an event or even crimes; that greatly affect whole populations, as punishment of an earlier offence? Yes, without a doubt. But, this crime was committed recently at Kororareka. Which crime does one speak of? To derisively call the Virgin an idol. That, of a bloody irony and insult against the medals of the Virgin and the noble sign of the cross, when in during the debate this wanderer that I will not describe, shaking the crosses and medals, knelt down before them. God usually takes vengeance in this world to glory his outraged mother and the cross of Jesus Christ falls again with all its weight on those who are vile and contemptuous.
;[38]: We will be able to record in the annals of New Zealand that the atrocious crime that I have just related was committed on 20th November, a Saturday, the day consecrated to the Virgin, the day before the presentation of Mary, the first feast since the debate. The crime of a member of a religious group is always a deep shame for that group, especially in the case of a horrible atrocity. We fear therefore, we Catholics, of being from now on humiliated on this ground by some infamy of a new boldness directed at Catholics among us. But rather, we hope that heaven, satisfied by such expiations, will not ask another price for our crimes and will spare us from such terrible lessons.
;[39]: White or Maori, Protestant or Catholic, if the common link of a shared faith is rejected, let us at least have charity and compassion for each other. And let us prepare to learn of the truth, in humbling ourselves deeply to the hand of the Lord who considers us profoundly. When, in some part of the world, incidents happen similar to the one we have just seen, each person interprets in his own manner according to the beliefs by which he is motivated. Ignorance, passion, truth and faith dictate different judgements. [40] The thoughts and the reflections that I have ventured, I believe I formed them according to thoughts of faith. If I was wrong, I beg forgiveness from God and man and declare that I had no other intention apart from edifying myself and all those among the hands of which were able to fall, by setting an example of the usual appropriateness of the legitimate ministers of the Roman Catholic Church. My very reverend father, although I am aware of your concern to pray for us all, always I commend myself to you in such a way, so that I am not an obstacle to the conversion of souls and to the building of the Society of Mary. My great consolation is to pray the Lord that he soothe the sorrow so vast and so bitter and that everyday increases more. I am with a very deep respect, my very reverend father,
:::: your submissive and respectful child
:::: Jean Baptiste Petit-Jean
:::: Marist priest, missionary, apostle
:Please give news of me to my brother-in-law, Auguste Paillasson.

Latest revision as of 13:50, 19 March 2020

11 December 1841 – Father Jean-Baptiste Petit-Jean Letter to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Kororareka

Translated by Lynley Calder for her 2009 Master’s Thesis for the University of Waikato [ https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4269 permalink]

Two pages sewn together, forming sixteen written pages.

In the register of letters, ED 1, portfolio number 88.

I confide this letter to Mary Conceived without sin.

Bay of Islands, Kororareka

11 December 1841.

To the very reverend Father Colin. Lyon France - from Father Petit-Jean

My Very Reverend Father, This letter is too long, have it read by another person.
You will be pleased to learn that this year we assembled together as numerous as possible in the house at Kororareka to participate in the pious exercises of retreat. The final day was held on the day of the Presentation of Our Lady. Without a doubt our good brothers participated, but, it must be said that we had such a pressing need for their labour that we had to exempt them from some of the activities so that they could return to their daily occupations, nevertheless carried out prayerfully and in silence.
Our greatest occupation at present focuses on the construction of a building to house our printery. Mr Perret is the architect in charge of the construction of this building which will be constructed using the pisé technique. Nothing is more pressing for us than the printery. The natives torment us for books, we are worn out by transcribing them and still how does one satisfy their hunger? Also how does one put a stop to these torrents of slander which are poured out against the Catholic Church our mother? And so our dear brothers during the retreat did not stop their work, but with one hand they worked in the material realm and with the other invisible hand they offered prayers in the spiritual realm of perfection. I have worked with them in the latter. We have all worked together. Praise God that I am not a lowly beginner who would be occupied without cease in building foundations. It seems that God has worked with us and our efforts have been blessed. Mary’s children in New Zealand have been visited by their good mother.
Oh my reverend father, the poor apostolic missionary feels that he is desperately in need of a retreat to rekindle the moral courage that is ever fading. A lot of reasons contribute to the weakening of a priest‘s heart, where the salt should dwell, which Jesus Christ spoke about in his gospel when he said to his apostles, vos etis sal terrae. [1] I remember having read in – les annales de la Propogation de la Foi - a letter by Father Riccadona, who agreed with Saint Jerôme, that it is men who sanctify a place and not the place that sanctifies men. This excellent missionary spoke precisely in his letter of great profane and sacred recollections linked to the land of Syria and that of Palestine and adds that the former are not capable of turning a missionary into a saint if he does not strive to become one. The whites of New Zealand, perhaps more thatn elsewhere are occupied with the means of making a fortune and scandals are common enough to diminish the horror that vice creates if one does not have a soul strengthened in virtue.
The great spiritual illness is that of indifference. Lately a minister of the so-called sect of the Independents [2] was complaining bitterly about this even to us. Of the approximate 300 souls that Kororareka[3] holds, I think that there are about 50 Catholics. The rest are divided generally into all of the English sects. There are amongst them each Sunday at least two very distinct congregations. Out of the 50 Catholics, I think that about 20 to 25 regularly attend church, at each mass service I count about a dozen whites who attend, other than the people of our mission house. At this time I see only one person who regularly partakes in communion. We have prepared one or two abjurations. Our chapel is only a small temporary building, 26.10 feet (7.95m) in length and 7.99 feet (2.43m) in width. It could certainly not be sufficient to hold the Maori, at least once they finish their work and return to town, because while they are in their fields, one sees very few of them at Kororareka. Pious curiosity would attract a certain number of English Protestants to our chapel if it was found to be ‘comfortable’. So you see, my Very Reverend Father that our worship out here in New Zealand is far from those that attract attention in France where the congregating of the faithful, the grandeur of the churches, and the majesty of the ceremonies nourish particularly well the piety of the faithful and exert great influence on the conversion of the sinners. When in the silence of meditation I compare our poverty, our isolation, to that of religious pomp of Catholic European countries, my heart is moved, and I find myself weeping and what, I say to myself, am I then like Israel, captive on the banks of the Euphrates River.[4] Oh, far from me are such thoughts, my happiness and my consolation are above all, if I do not see the beautiful temples, the rich churches, pompous ceremonies, I have the advantage of being with Jesus Christ, but with Jesus Christ poor, without refuge but with Jesus almost abandoned and with no place to lay my head7.[5] The places where we offer the holy sacrifice are transformed into temples. I am a traveller with Jesus. No country is foreign for the minister of Jesus Christ. Everywhere he finds brothers and sisters. One cannot understand what joy it is for the children of Mary to say to each other, in this distant land, ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum habitare fraters in unum. [6]
Whilst the new inhabitants of New Zealand only unite most of the time for commercial purposes, the children of Mary are bonded by the pure strands of charity which the three golden vows of poverty, chastity and obedience make indissoluble. I would say wholeheartedly to those who are preparing to cross the seas to follow us: besides the hardships and difficulties which are abundant in this land, there is still a sort of trial harder to bear; it is when one encounters the hardness, the ingratitude amongst those whom one evangelises. And, in this country the case is not uncommon. Firstly the New Zealanders, who deep down in their character have certain nobleness that is misunderstood, are ambitious, extremely covetous of the goods of this world. They have been cleverly fashioned to European customs; generally they follow for the most part the principle not to do anything for free. So if you want to obtain a worldly service from them, one must always have in hand a way of payment. The reason for this is simple, it is that they are lazy, poor and are convinced at the same time that all of the wealth is in the hands of the Europeans. There is no exception made for His Grace and priests. Until now, catholic ministers and especially His Grace have been regarded by them as very powerful and very rich chiefs. The New Zealanders have found it difficult to understand that it could be otherwise. For me, I confess that I have often had difficulty to find oarsmen to travel to tribes for want of a sufficient remuneration. On one such occasion, whilst I was travelling, I lost an oarsman who returned home; I searched for another one to return to the main location of my station. My requests to a tribe which claimed to be catholic proved to be useless. Therefore I withdrew to a secluded spot to weep, but I knew that I was only a feeble beginner in the apostolic career, I was nothing more than a young conscript in his first battle and now that I am more hardened, I am not as easily perturbed.
One must stop considering the bad qualities of the New Zealanders which will slowly disappear with time but rather admire the immediate changes that grace and the aid of civilization have brought about in them. There are nevertheless outcomes that one can only attribute to God‘s mercy to the docility of this people. One must not loose sight of the fact that only ten years ago they were cannibals. Children aged about 14 or 15 were almost all treated to human flesh by their parents. It was not that long ago that the hut of Rewa, the great chief of Kororareka, was surrounded by human heads planted on top of poles. It seems to me that certain Europeans do not have enough tolerance towards the Maori; they despise them because of their hardness and do not go beyond these natural feelings towards these people.
The New –Zealanders love each other a lot, and one not must expect them to show the same affection for the whites especially when generally the whites show them very little similar feelings. For that matter the New Zealanders in their superstitious beliefs believe that we are from another origin other than theirs. We, on the contrary, know that they have the same father as us: Adam, the same creator: God, the same saviour: Jesus Christ.
When, in spite of this intimate persuasion, are we led to like them a lot? If we consider them only with the eyes of the flesh, do we not feel on the other hand happily exempt to despise them, to almost tread them underfoot? So why therefore demand of these poor natives, who have barley left a state more savage than one could imagine, sentiments more perfect than those which we probably naturally have towards them. I know, this magnificent philosophy which boasts so 10 much of philanthropy, yet when it is out of sight of others, pays little heed to the lives of these islanders. I have seen some whites approach the natives who were seated and nudge them with a stick in the same manner as one would touch a worm or as one would prod sheep. Others have assured me that at the slightest hostile movement by any one of the natives, they will slaughter them all indiscriminately. I say, that in spite of philosophy, that religion is solely responsible for sharing in the interests of these people, religion is solely responsible for becoming acquainted with how the true rights of man apply to the case of the savage himself. What is more, the New Zealander is not without pride and does not understand the language of contempt. Forgive me, my Reverend Father, if I seem to be lead astray by my love for these people. I will ask these philosophers what are your wonderful examples that you give them to make them better? You dishonour their daughters; you take almost all of them, so that none remain to procreate. Soon these people will possibly be erased from the list of peoples and the nation‘s families. One will see in the history of the discoveries and European establishment amongst new peoples, before the birth and progress of modern philosophy that these conquered peoples had been preserved because even in the heart of atrocities which they gave themselves up to, a religious principle governed the preservation of these peoples. We have even seen the conquerors and the defeated become allies and to merge together to the extent of mixing the two races. On the contrary new discoveries, new establishments where true religion, the true mother of man, had not initially covered the islanders with her protection, we have seen these islanders perish and possibly even disappear completely. Forgive me for this digression my very reverend father. I let myself be carried away by the love and tenderness that I have for my dear New-Zealanders.
Just one more word. Quite some time ago some pastors came to visit the New-Zealanders, but these were not true pastors. They were wolves hidden under sheep‘s fleeces. These pastors pretended to want the best for their flock, but in reality they wanted to have their milk, their wool, even their skin. We see them today, these pastors who boast of being pastors of Christ, magnificently adorned in the hides of their flock; and one missionary alone, for example, was not ashamed to demand of his government up to eleven thousand acres of land acquired at a lowly price using a pair of scissors, an axe, or maybe a comb or some other trinkets so that he can retain them and be able to pass them on as his property and bequeath them to their children. There it is: the pious use of protestant alms for their zealous missionaries who all enrich themselves in this manner. One can well imagine enough how these alleged missionaries, these bible merchants who proclaim their gospel in such a sordid manner, are irritated when seeing the disinterest in the goods of this world by the legitimate minister, and their boldness to slander him in front of these childlike people who firstly believe fables.
Let some new brothers hasten to come and join us, that the winds carry them on their wings, that they come to aid us to clear a land that up until present is so savage, so barren, later their joy will be shared with those who have sown and those who have reaped, let them come to support us in the battle of the Lord, let them make haste. It is glorious to carry the sign of the Lord, the banner of the cross in the land of the unfaithful, and if they, noble soldiers, have no other triumphs, they will have at least the glory of standing guard in the advanced posts of the Roman Church to thwart the infernal Satan who prowls the world in search of souls to devour.[7] As for the rest we have to be able to say with the apostle: that no one should trouble me as I carry the stigmata of Jesus Christ10. Of course, our own stigmata, are everything that we endure; hunger, thirst, ingratitude, rejections[8] and with all of that I say that we purchase the glory of the apostle at an inexpensive price. I will repeat it once more; one must not expect to be treated well by all of the tribes we visit. One must constantly remind oneself of the very recent ferocity of the New Zealanders, to thank the mercy of God for the wonderful changes that have taken place in a large number of tribes and if some of them have not yet been stripped of all of the barbarity; we should be therefore grateful to take away our lives unharmed from amongst them.
Allow me to quote by way of distraction and amusement the fable of the wolf and the stork. That one pays particular attention to the stork who successfully and carefully extracts the bone that was embedded in the wolf’s mouth and then the wolf’s response to the stork when he demanded payment.[9]
Here are one or two examples where the duties of a holy ministry have greatly comforted me. During September of this year I went from the Bay of Islands to Wangaroa. I was made to travel by new paths without knowing why. After a day‘s travel on foot, my guide and I stumbled upon a village named Upoko Rau. This village, composed of Protestants welcomed us well enough. My first duty was to inquire if there were any sick people. They were happy to lead me to a woman who was very ill. After having prepared her as much as possible I believed I could give her the last rites of the Catholic Church. But there was another woman with another illness. Eventually through questioning I found her and by my insisting I obtained someone to lead me to her. I cannot express my surprise, my sadness and my joy all at the same time! This poor woman was dying, but in perfect state of mind and was still able to articulate a few words. Anticipating that she was well-disposed to receive me, I thought with gladness that I could well be in the hands of God like an angel of salvation to guide this soul into heaven. This woman was stretched out on the ground in the traditional Maori way. After having prayed to God, I placed myself at the bedside of the invalid. I spoke to her about how her soul would soon separate from her body, of the judgement by the great spirit, the abode of light where all good souls were admitted without any distinction between foreigners or Maori, just as with the prison of darkness where all of the malicious would be sent down to whether they be white or Maori, to suffer numerous torments, fire in particular. I explained to her in different ways the two mysteries of the Holy Trinity and of incarnation. She seemed to have grasped my explanation, seeing as though she had already received some instruction by way of Protestant books. I insisted on how it was necessary for her to repent of her faults and presented her with different ways of contrition adjusting them to her level of intelligence and, as she desired that I pray to God for the forgiveness of her sins, after having explained confusingly to her sacraments, I hastened to administer those that were necessary to her. One must not be surprised if I did not speak to her about Protestantism nor the Catholic Church. She would no have understood me straight away, time was against us. In this case it was not necessary that she profess explicitly to be a member of the Catholic Church. Through the fact that her heart was on the 14 straight path and in search of the truth, she was tending towards the true church of Jesus Christ. At least she was ready to belong to the church and was worthy of receiving sacraments of the said church adding to this arrangement. This person truly became one of the members of the mystical body of Jesus Christ and as we express, belong to the soul of the church. It is thus that Catholics are consoled in thinking firstly that all of the children baptised in the world are saved and that a good number of Protestants and others find the good faith, that is to say believe with sincerity of a clear conscience that they are on the straight path, saving themselves as long as their life was good or that they had repented sufficiently for their sins. We say that these Protestants are not united to the true church by way of exterior links but that they are attached through interior and invisible links and it is thus that they do not belong to the body but to the soul of the church. I learned that the woman, I have just mentioned, passed away a few hours after I had left her. She had promised that she would pray for me in the house of the Holy Spirit.
Approximately two weeks later, I experienced a similar joy. I found myself in Mongonui. I learned that a Maori there was close to death. I found a way to be near him. I became aware that due to certain obstacles I could only deal with the matter of his salvation at night. The good God treated me favourably, arranging the night in a miraculous manner. I thus spent the whole night instructing and preparing him. Though up until this moment he had professed to be protestant, to me he seemed to be in the same state of mind as the woman I discussed above and I did not hesitate to administer to him the last rites of the church; I would have deferred from doing this straight away had I been able to extend my stay there. I learned later on that he had passed away. Although one should generally have the 15 salvation of all souls at heart, there are some that are of more concern and through converting these souls, they do have a strong influence on the salvation of many others. Such was the person of whom I have just spoken. This man was named Tupaia in Maori and by the whites Mister Bely. Whilst he was quite young he was taken in by the protestant school at Paihia and as he was recognised to have certain talents, a commandant from the English Navy took him aboard. He was taken to London where he was educated (a very restricted education because this same man admitted to me that he did not know how to read even though he spoke English very well.) He then moved up several ranks in the English navy, and made several voyages. When he fell ill, he was third officer aboard a whaling ship. He was landed at Mangonui, and there he was fortunate enough to die almost in the arms of a minister from the Catholic Church.
Towards the end of October, I had yet another remarkable consolation to minister to two French sailors aboard the Héroïne which was anchored at Kororareka. One of them died almost immediately afterwards during the voyage from the Bay of Islands to Akaroa. One cannot help moaning about the fate of French sailors who die at sea aboard ships without having the comfort and help of a priest. Christian parents are sad to see their children serve aboard warships deprived of all assistance from religious ministers both in life and in death; numerous sailors request to have a priest and the eyes of those dying search to no avail a priest who could help them to die peacefully. The protestant nations teach us humiliating lessons on this subject. I do not dare to hold the French nation responsible for this, this nation so generous, so sensitive; I am satisfied to complain deep within my heart and to yearn for a better order together with the good people.
The 26th and 27th October were celebrated by a formal conference with Anglican missionaries. This conference came about through a Protestant book thrown at a catholic chief by a minister from Kororareka and given back to the same minister by the same chief who did not want it. It was held in the absence of his Grace. The day was left to the priests to choose, they desired to wait until the work of the natives had progressed so that the congregation would be more numerous. Mister W.[10] and his colleagues thought that it should be held as soon as possible. In cooperation with these gentlemen, we decided on the courtyard of the house at Kororareka mission as the location for the conference. Mister W. decided later on to change it. It must, he said, be on neutral ground, and so we accepted a large plain, opposite the protestant temple but as it happened, rain interrupted us on the second day of the meeting, we offered again the house of his Grace and the assembly was moved there. Mister W. and the minister from Kororareka came and asked for a copy of the true vine. It was agreed that we would deal with two questions, that of the church as well as that of images. We asked that everyone spoke English in the conference which would then be translated into Maori. Mister W. argued that the conference being for the benefit of the Maori, it was better to use exclusively their language. On the set day, two or three hundred people, as many whites as Maori, arrived at the place of the conference. The Christianity of Hokianga had sent thirty of its delegates with father Servant. A few officers from the English Navy could be seen in the assembly. The first day, the president‘s seat was held by the Magistrate. It is impossible for me to describe this conference in detail. Here are some details that we examined together. 1° Mister W. who spoke first, constantly refused to clearly explain to the natives the essential function of the board which was to write and sign its assertions if the opposing group asked them to. 2° The protestants insisted on starting with the question of images even though the question of the church would have been easier for the natives to understand and certainly decisive and fundamental. The question of images, whilst simple, can however end up obscure and confusing in the native‘s eyes, who do not yet have clear ideas about relative worship, words such as adoration, honour etc.
So therefore these protestant gentlemen began to demonstrate that we are idolatrous; and that idolatry is the worst crime of the Roman Church. To prove this crime against us, they had to demonstrate that we worship images, but all they had as proof consisted of producing the first commandment of the Decalogue in which God forbids making images in order to worship them, which is what the Roman Catholic church precisely adheres to when presenting to the faithful images of Jesus Christ or of the Saints, which the church expressly forbids to worship, but allows them to pay veneration relative to the original, that is to say the person who is represented. The protestant missionaries went further. They maintained to find in the Decalogue a rule that it was forbidden formally to make any type of representation. An unreasonable interpretation and full of ridicule by which one puts themselves in contradiction with the Lord himself who strictly commanded to make two golden cherubim as well as to raise a bronze serpent in the desert, a prophetic symbol of the crucifixion of the saviour of the world. Observe the attitude or bad faith of our adversaries. They translated the word worship by the Maori word Koropiko, which in its literal sense represent the action of bowing down. When in order to translate the word to worship properly, one must add to the literal meaning of Koropiko another figurative meaning to express worship, the worship that we show evidence when we bow down as one does in the Greek word π ρ ο ς κ σ ν ε ω.[11] Therefore here is what their translation and their argument is reduced to. God forbids that one bows down in front of images, and as the Catholics bow down in front of images; therefore the Catholics go against God‘s law. I leave it to those people who have common sense to judge this syllogism. To make their reasoning clearer, they mimicked the ceremonies that we do in front of images; they bowed down in front of any painting and said: this is what the Catholics do which is what God has forbidden. You should never bow down to images. One could say that they presented in front of the whole assembly a true histrionic scene, one of the protestant missionaries suddenly burst out in a theatrical scene, pulled out from his pocket some crosses and several medals linked together and held them out slightly high up, he threw himself onto his knees to worship them; this did not produce any feeling except pity. Mister W., held a small statue of the Holy Virgin and showed it to the people: this is he spelt out, what the bishop has said is his God. To prove that the Holy Virgin is invoked as our God, look at what argument was used: In the “Hail Mary” we say in Maori for more clarity: Holy Mary, mother of Jesus Christ our God. These words, our God, refer to Jesus Christ, without doubt; not at all, as the protestant missionaries made the link to the Blessed Virgin and persisted in saying that she is our God. When such an explication goes against common sense and is a mistranslation. In fact there are four ways to vary in Maori the pronoun “our” depending on the peoples or the things to which it refers. The pronoun “tatou” or “our” indicates here inevitably that Jesus Christ is also the God of Mary.
Now this is how they reacted when dealing with the question of the church. They asserted that Saint Peter was a pope and that all popes were bad, that they were dead branches. To destroy the idea of succession which is shown when one considers the tree of the true vine the series of popes, everything relating back to Peter, even to Jesus Christ, one of these cunning men made a simple change to the true vine that he had borrowed and had drawn a thick black line just above the head of the image of Jesus Christ to separate this divine saviour from Peter his apostle and successor. We would have liked to take back this true vine now corrected and changed. We offered to give him a bigger one and we argued that that one belonged to us and should be returned as it was only on loan. But it appeared that Mister W. was very attached to his work, and he threatened to call off the session if his sheet of paper was not returned. This is what was carried out and only then did he regain his composure. One of our opponents pointed out twenty or twenty-four so called errors of the Roman Catholic Church, among others that we taught that the bread was the body of Jesus Christ. I asked him to sign his written document and hand it to me. Oh no, it is one thing to produce slander it is another thing to sign them. What did our man do, he hid his paper under the table, tore it into two and kept the sheet where the main points of his argument were written; he only offered us the one which had an outline, the summary of the questions. To the ranting of our adversaries, we could only oppose this word: Sign this document. This was perfectly sufficient to bring them down; it was there that we saw them voice all their vehemence and all their evidence. Mister W. was called to order by the president who turned towards him, saying: Tena ra ko koe, ―farewell‖, he pronounced these words with a certain manner and tone to provoke general laughter. To the following question, to know if Luther was the first Protestant, if he had not committed a good number of scandals in particular against the virtue of chastity, Mister W briefly replied: not at all, that is not true, who has seen Luther? This is a man beyond the seas, and myself I am in New Zealand. I do not know anything about it, I do not know Luther; he is not in my book. And nevertheless, he stubbornly refused to hand in by form of written document what he had presented. They still wanted to criticize the Roman Catholic Church for having images. And there and then, we showed the assembly a book of prayers from the English Reformed Church. We asked Mister W. if he recognised it, then we opened it and all of the Maori could see with their own eyes a mass of engravings which represented pious scenes; we saw among others one or several people kneeling down in front of a crucifix. So then of course these men blushed. We reminded them again of the crosses mounted on the churches of England in Sydney and in London, etc and in the settlement of Sydney. Therefore they had images; therefore they went against God’s commandments who after all in their interpretations forbid making even the slightest representation.
Mister W. what is more made a crime out of the Roman Catholic Church’s celibacy; he declared that it was a crime for us not to marry, our priest and in particular our lord Bishop. And to refute this, we did not make much use of Saint Paul to defend virginity. He could have replied like another Anglican missionary replied recently to a Catholic priest who quoted Saint Paul on virginity: that there was only Saint Paul who said it. We therefore preferred to make use of the Book of Common prayers from the Church of England, where we find written word for word that religious ministers are free to remain celibate or to enter into the state of marriage, following what they believe to be the best option to do God‘s service. We do not believe that their books leave them free to choose between celibacy and marriage. Because we rarely see any evidence of the freedom to remain celibate; they are all persuaded that it far more of an advantage for their sanctification and more convenient for God‘s glory that each of them have a wife.
All of those who attended the conference could attest to how willing the catholic priests were to reply in writing to all of their opponents’ questions. The latter eventually vanquished their stubbornness; they decided to hand us a signature. To limit these eternal orators, we had listed the four following questions to which we wanted a written answer.
1. Is it permitted to portray through sculpture or paintings things that are common to this world such as great men, the sun, trees, plants and animals etc?
2. Is it permitted to portray in painting or sculpture people or holy things such as God‘s friends and all that is related that will remind us of a pious object?
3. Is it permitted to honour great men portrayed in paintings or statues?
4. Is it permitted to honour Jesus Christ and God‘s friends equally portrayed in paintings and sculptures.
Firstly it was our intention to put all of these questions on the same sheet of paper so that we could have the response to all straight, under our eyes. Our adversaries did not want this; they preferred them in the way of short notes. Thus we wrote the first question. To save time, they transcribed it themselves. This question so simple, to know if it is permitted to portray great men, a question to which any man with common sense could reply to straight away, created a commotion within the enemy camp. Straightaway our alleged missionaries consulted each other, Mister Burrows presided over them. Really they seemed a lot like children carried away by all sorts of doctrines. They wrote their reply, Mister W. presented it; we point out to him that we insisted on his signature and that it was missing. He hesitated to give it – the congregation laughed- he pulled out his pencil- we tell him that he must use a plume and ink, he finally resigned himself to give that fatal signature- and immediately after it was legalised by the magistrate. Here is the question in Maori with its translation, followed by the reply signed by Mister W., all of it is true to the original.
E tika ana kia hanga wakapakoko hei ritenga wakamahara ki nga mea noa o tenei ao, pera me te tuhituhinga i te kanohi o te rangatira wakapakoko rakau kowatu rino. Is it permitted to make portrayals as ways to remember things common to this world such as the portrait of kings, figures made in wood, stone or bronze? Response: Kite mea hei mea noa te wakapakoko he mea noa ano — Kite mea ia hei mea wakamahara tapu he mea he rawa rawa.
[If common things are used to represent common things – yes; but if used to represent something sacred that is very very bad.]
I refrain from judging a response which condemns the simple remembrance of Holy things when it comes to us by way of statues or paintings which are natural signs of these matters. Signs of convention are permitted, such as writing, to use these to be reminded of pious objects, but painting and sculpture which are natural marks; one cannot use them at all without great sin. God expressly forbid it. To help us to remember all sacred objects, although we may use these two arts, painting and sculpture, this should not be regarded as a legitimate use for such profane things. Finally, our adversaries would without a doubt look upon it as permitted to create deep in one’s heart through imagination an intellectual image of a pious object. But they would condemn, they would charge anathema the skilful hands which wanted to change a block into a statue, or animate a canvas to depict a faithful image of any type of holy subject. Finally, I said that I did not want to judge our adversaries, I was content to lead them to the artists’ tribunal. I leave them there to their judgement. I carefully keep the aforesaid question and answer signed by Mister W., aided by all his colleagues of about six or seven, and notably by the minister of Kororareka, the same signature authenticated by the magistrate. I keep them, these papers, we can look at them and consult them when we want; I keep them as a symbol of the perverse protestant doctrines and the inevitable consequences of a principle once adopted that is bad to honour Jesus Christ and the saints by way of representation. This is quite characteristic of the Minister who did not show any good faith. Whilst he and his colleagues were deliberating and preparing an answer to the first question, a person from the assembly who had not grasped the precise meaning of the question, asked what it was about, and the Minister replied with I do not know what kind of smile: ―They asked us if it is permitted to worship images. At that instant, he was called to order severely by an Englishman called Mr Watertown, and that left only the confusion of his lie.
I believe I can assure you that this conference was a complete success for religion. What made the biggest impression on the Maori was this constant refusal by these alleged missionaries to sign questions that were addressed to them and about their own doctrine. But the following day, the same missionaries did not believe themselves to be defeated. The progression towards error has a subtlety and guile similar to that of the serpent. The following day when our natives were returning to Hokianga, after having sung whilst embarking: Ka taka te W…, W. fell; beyond the bay they came across an agent of these missionaries who wanted them to accept a small brochure entitled the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. All of his books stayed with him along with the shame for having offered them. It is precisely on the side of Pahia that what I have just spoken about took place. Here is how one of our natives gives an account in a simple manner, of the conference, in a letter that he wrote at the request of a Frenchman, who had recently arrived from France and who today resides in Sydney; out of curiosity he wanted to send a letter written by a Maori to his parents or friends in France. Here it is; the results of his thoughts and his plume. No one dictated it to him and I have just transcribed it here for no other reason than to give an example of the Maori epistolary style.
Ki nga pakeha pai katoa no te komititanga tenei o nga motu katoa hoki. Na tenei ano te korero o nga mitinare. E mea ana ratou kia matou he aha koutou he atua koia to koutou. Na tenei korero he korero wakabe kia matou koia he pono te korero teka o nga mitinare watiia no te hahi katorikaf inamata. Na tenei ano ratou kia wakaputara mai te atua ki tenai ao. Ka nui te korero wakama o te mitinare watiia no te rahau. N he korero he kia matou ki nga tangata maori o te hahi a ka mea atu matou e te W. tou korero he korero tamaiti koia catorika romana. Na hoane papita Okotopi 1841.
[This correspondence is to all good Europeans at every junction of the land, all major areas and inclusive of all respective islands.[12] This is the missionaries’ correspondence. They say to us “You have a God”. Through this letter we wonder whether this is the truth according to the Catholic Church of old. They also say God came to our world through them.[13] There is a lot of embarrassment[14] in the missionaries’ communication. Williams told us they are lying to the Māori Roman Catholics. From Jean Baptiste October 1841][15]
Note when an object moves towards the person who is speaking, then one adds to the verb the particle “mai”; if, on the other hand, this same object moves away from the person who is speaking, one replaces “mai” with “atu”; “mai” is a sign of arrival, “atu” is a mark of departure.
To all of the good foreigners on the subject of the conference this letter is addressed to them, to all the foreigners from the great countries of earth and also all of the islands. Here is the language of the missionaries (Anglican). They say to us that are you, you others, is it really true that you have a God. These are for us scandalous words. Certainly, in reality, these are false speeches from these missionaries once separated from the Catholic Church. For this is how God should appear in the world, they say. So many shameful words on the part of these missionaries separated from the main trunk. For us, we say: W., your speech is a speech of a child, yes, this is for us a deceitful speech, for us, for the Maori of the Roman Catholic Church. From Jean Baptiste October 1841
My Very Reverend Father, in speaking to you about our conference, I have lost sight that this was a letter and I sense that I have not always given it the appropriate style.
I still have to recount to you a tragic event that has just taken place on one of the islands in our bay (Bay of Islands). On Saturday 20 November, five people were killed; the only house that was there was destroyed by fire. The guilty party has been arrested. Here are a few details: An old servant had his head cracked open by a blow from an axe whilst he slept outside. A widow and a small child with another little girl whom she looked after, received fatal blows inside the house, and their bodies were, so to speak, roasted by the flames. Another boy from this same widow, aged about six or seven years old, was caught whilst fleeing and despite his screams and his tears, he was thrown onto a rock from a great height, then the sea engulfed him, so his body could not be recovered. This catastrophe has plunged the whites into astonishment and dismay.17[16] One is seized by horror and compassion for this unfortunate widow. We share keenly in the public mourning, just as, this woman‘s husband, named Roberton, had shown a particular benevolence for the Catholic mission. All of these crimes were committed towards 3 o’clock at night and the blaze immediately followed the murder. Three weeks beforehand, coming from a visit from some tribes, surprised by the night and unable to reach Kororareka, I went with my boat towards this island, and I had accepted the hospitality of this benevolent lady. I remember that we had a short conversation. She admitted to me that she was from a sect of Quakers. I asked her if her children were baptised, she replied to me in the affirmative. Exactly at that time she had received the news of the death of her father-in-law. Who can consider without trembling the calamities which have swept down upon this family until its entire destruction. Mister Roberton had six brothers; they all drowned before him; he himself suffered the same fate in the Bay of Islands, and near the time of the anniversary of the death of the husband, his widow is killed with all of his children and the house, which had not completely been finished by Mister Roberton, was reduced to cinders. The island has become a deserted place that one fears and of which one has horror. I cannot stop myself from letting this thought escape. The ungodly world here only sees fate, the ignorant use this same language without understanding. But the children of God, those reasonable people know that nothing happens in this world without God‘s permission, who shows his justice or his mercy in everything. We know to what extent that he sometimes tests those whom he loves. A medical doctor from Kororareka testified or certified that one had found under this woman the bible open and little damaged and he concluded that this person died bible in hand, and had died the most beautiful death possible. This doctor told me, that he had noted the chapter that she was busy reading immediately before being murdered. As for myself, my expectations in God‘s mercy on this unfortunate widow are based on the grounds of other factors, my very reverend Father. I confess to you frankly that deep in my heart I was cruelly worried to know if the murderer was a Catholic or a Protestant. It is surprising that all of the witnesses heard by the jury at Kororareka on the circumstances of the murder made no mention at all of the blood-soaked New Testament found on the murderer, whereas it is certain that they received the book from the hands of natives.
You know, commonly speaking, Protestants and others blame the Catholic Church for the crimes of which certain of their ministers or even their members are guilty. It is exactly in this manner that the protestant missionaries had conducted their attacks against the holy Roman Catholic church at the time of the conference; there, they had taken care to reiterate all of their old calumnies; in this manner they said that the Roman Church was a cruel church which had used thousands of tortures, thousands humiliations against the dead and the living, that it had slaughtered populations, that it had bleed them with a knife, that it had burned and sawed. And so the good God had permitted that the murderer was not catholic. It is a young man of about 19 years old, and a Maori protestant. I heard it said that he had stayed two or three days on the island to do some work for this lady immediately before carrying out his attack. The longing to plunder, the desire for some small vengeance may be one of the apparent motives which prompted the crime, but it seems to me that it was caused by his natural ferocity. Some people say that it was not his first attempt at something of this kind. It does not seem that anyone drove this monster to this.
Our intention is to at no point hold the protestant missionaries responsible. Since when do teachers answer for the conduct of their disciples? Only I would gather from an unfortunate circumstance one instruction, an opinion that I will address to all Protestants who think they know better. It is that one must not hasten to throw into the hands of newly converted people bibles or new testaments, but prepare them to receive these pious books through the reading of other books that are more elementary, more understandable, less pious and that we fear less to see become desecrated. In this way in the middle of public mourning, I say it with sorrow as if with deep shame, we find the murderer’s blood-soaked gospel in Maori. Even though this young man had paid his pastors the sum of 5 francs, I can hardly believe that a sordid interest was the dominating motive for him to obtain this New Testament. I repeat it, it is unjust to blame the protestant missionaries for the conduct of this disciple, and we push this thought aside.
But this is not so for our natives. The protestant missionaries through false reasoning have spoiled the judgement of these people on the matter of religion. They went on repeating without cease that in our church we kill, burn, or bleed people; this language even was reused smugly by reputable honourable whites in the assemblies with large numbers of Maori. Now as the Maori could not witness these past facts, attributed in great number to the Roman Catholic church they observed very attentively what happened on their own land and under their eyes; when here are in a fairly short space of time there were three or four different murders committed on whites or Maori in the area of the Bay of Islands by Maori missionaries; and now a few weeks after the conference, the most horrible attack that we have seen and known in recent times broke out among the disciples of Mister…. Listen to what a catholic chief, called Rewa, said to me: The murderer is not from our church, we, as, Catholics, live, we console ourselves, a a a …if the murderer had belonged to the bishop, we would be sick, and inconsolable. If the murderer had been a member of this church which bleeds, which burns people, the Catholic Church would have been sick. But it happened differently, and the bad action was committed by a member of the church that is innocent of everything, who has never spilled blood; it is for them to find a way out of this problem, shame be on them… a a a…he added. They said in the meeting that the Roman Catholic Church killed and burned, and before even a month had passed since this speech, we have seen one of their own in one single day, in one single action, slaughter, burn, and batter to death. I have heard with my own ears the wife of a Maori say with great ignorance and a superstition too conforming to the 31 multiplicity of imaginary gods among them. I heard her say: “One must be aware of the God of the protestant missionaries, it is a God that kills”. In fact we are certain that several Maori have returned their books to the Protestants.
Myself now, I am going to go by way of questions propose reflection on this tragic incident. Is it not true that God allows events, sometimes even heinous crimes which grieve entire populations to punish a precedent crime? Yes, without doubt. Now this crime was committed a long time ago at Kororareka. What crime could we say? That of ridiculously having called the virgin a divinity. Such a bloody irony and insult against the medals of the virgin and the noble sign of the cross, when in the middle of the conference this thespian that I will not name, shaking the cross and medals, knelt in front of them. Ordinarily God avenges in this world the glory of his insulted mother and the cross of Jesus Christ falls with all its might on her loathsome despisers.
One can note in the Annales of New Zealand that this atrocious crime I have just recounted took place on 20 November, on a Saturday, the day consecrated to the virgin, the eve of the Presentation of our Lady, the first celebration that was held since the conference. The crime of a member of a religious society is always a humiliation for this society, especially in the case of a horrible villainy. Therefore we as Catholics must fear to be henceforth humiliated in this land by some other new bold act of infamy committed by one of our Catholics. But rather, let‘s hope that the heavens, satisfied by such atonements, will not demand another price for our crimes and will spare us from such horrible lessons.
Whites or Maori, Protestants or Catholics, if the common link of the same faith is rejected, let’s have at least charity and compassion for each other. And prepare us in the knowledge of truth, deeply humbling ourselves under the hand of the Lord which is upon us. So that when, in some part of the world, similar incidents occur to those that we have seen, let each interprets that in his own way following the sentiments which drive him. Ignorance, passion, truth and faith give rise to different judgements.
I believe to have formed the thoughts and reflections that I have ventured following the thought of faith. If I am wrong, I demand pardon from God and from men, and declare that I had no other intention than to enlighten myself and all those into whose hands it might fall, making it more appreciable through the examples, of the customary honesty of the legitimate ministers of the Roman Catholic Church. My very reverend father, though I am familiar with your solicitude to pray for all of your [children], I recommend myself nevertheless to you in such particular manner, so that I will not be an obstacle to the conversion of souls and the edifying of the Society of Mary. My great consolation is to pray the Lord that he lessens for you the pains of solicitude so vast and so bitter and increase every day.
I am, with very profound [respect], my very reverend father, your submissive and respectful child,
Jean Baptiste Petit- Jean
Marist Priest, apostolic missionary
Could one please give my news to my brother in law, Auguste Paillasson.


  1. Matthew 5:13 You are the salt of the earth. Newberry, Thomas (ed), Holy Bible: The Authorized King James Version, Kregel Publications, Michigan, 1973. All following Bible Verses quoted have been taken from this version of the Bible.
  2. This is the name for the missionaries from the London Missionary Society and the churches founded by them in Samoa and other places in Oceania. If the minister mentioned above was from the L.M.S (which was not established in New Zealand at the time) he would have probably been travelling.
  3. 3 [Note from author in side margin] at first Kororareka grew rapidly. But the governor, having fixed the capital of New Zealand at Auckland, enticed immigrants there by selling them land and giving them title deeds immediately. Add to this other considerations, like for example that Auckland is more central; the result is that the Bay of Islands, whilst known as an important point and especially for the most beautiful port in New Zealand, remains for the moment stationary without […] [quote stops mid sentence]
  4. Psalms 137:1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, Yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
  5. Matthew 8:20 and Luke 9:58 Jesus saith unto him ―The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head
  6. Psalms 132:1 [Psalms 133:1] Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.
  7. 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
  8. Galatians 6:17 From henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus
  9. 12Fable of the wolf and stork by Jean de la Fontaine, the wolf‘s response to the stork was that he should be happy than he had not eaten him, that he escaped with his life.
  10. Henry Williams and William Colenso, missionaries for the Church Missionary Society, spoke for the Protestant side of the debate on the 26th and 27th of October 1841. Henry Williams, minister and head of the Anglican mission in New Zealand should not be confused with his brother, William Williams, who was also an Anglican minister, and who participated in a theological debate with another Marist missionary, Claude-André Baty, in December 1841, William Williams was between Wairoa and Turanga according to his journal.
  11. προσκσνε'ω according to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament means ‗to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence‘ in the N.T it means ‗by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or to make supplication.‘ Thayer, Joseph, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Zondervan publishing house, United States,1976
  12. Translator believes this is a reference to New Zealand.
  13. The missionaries.
  14. No reference is given to whom the embarrassment is suffered by.
  15. Translated from Maori by Natana Takurua
  16. The details recounted are true, the date is correct; here are the names of the people concerned: the culprit, Maketu (Maketu Wharetotara), son of chief Ruhe from the Nga Puhi tribe, was approximately 16 years old, employed at Mrs Roberton’s Farm; the “old servant”, Thomas Bull, who had been ill-treating Mateku for a while; the widow, Elizabeth Roberton; the “young child”, aged 2, Mrs Roberton‘s daughter; the other young girl, Isabella Brind, the granddaughter of Rewa, great chief of Nga Puhi (she lived with Mrs Roberton); the “boy from the said widow”, Gordon Roberton, 8 years old; the island of the Roberton’s farm, Motuarohia in the Bay of Islands. In killing Rewa’s granddaughter, Maketu awoke hostilities between Maori; to keep the peace, Ruhe handed over his son. On 16 December 1841, Rewa, Ruhe and other chiefs gathered for a meeting in Paihia, distanced themselves from the crime, and declared that Maketu had acted alone. Tried before an English tribunal in Auckland, he was found guilty and was hanged on 7 March 1842. On the morning of his execution, he was baptised according to the Anglican tradition by Reverend John Churton. (ref Dictionary of NZ biography, Vol.1, p.262)