Frequency of the Priests' Visits to the Nunnery--Their Freedom and Crimes--Difficulty of learning their Names--Their Holy Retreat--Objections in our minds--Means used to counteract Conscience--Ingenious Arguments.

SOME of the priests from the Seminary were in the nunnery every day and night, and often several at a time. I have seen nearly all of them at different times, though there are about one hundred and fifty in the district of Montreal. There was a difference in their conduct; though I believe every one of them was guilty of licentiousness; while not one did I ever see who maintained a character any way becoming the profession of a priest. Some were gross and degraded in a degree which few of my readers can ever have imagined; and I should be unwilling to offend the eye, and corrupt the heart of any one, by an account of their words and actions. Few imaginations can conceive deeds so abominable as they practised, and often required of some of the poor women, under the fear of severe punishments, and even of death. I do not hesitate to say with the strongest confidence, that although some of the nuns became lost to every sentiment of virtue and honour, especially one from the Congregational Nunnery whom I have before mentioned, Saint Patrick, the greater part of them loathed the practices to which they were compelled to submit by the Superior and priests, who kept them under so dreadful a bondage.

Some of the priests whom I saw I never knew by name, and the names of others I did not learn for a time, and at last learnt only by accident. They were always called "Mon père," my father; but sometimes, when they had purchased something in the ornament-room, they would give their real names, with directions where it should be sent. Many names, thus learnt, and in other ways, were whispered about from nun to nun, and became pretty generally known. Several of the priests, some of us had seen before we entered the Convent.

Many things of which I speak, from the nature of the case, must necessarily rest chiefly upon my own word, until further evidence can be obtained but there are some facts for which I can appeal to the knowledge of others. It is commonly known in Montreal that some of the priests occasionally withdraw from their customary employments, and are not to be seen for some time, it being understood that they have retired for religious study, meditation, and devotion, for the improvement of their hearts: Sometimes they are thus withdrawn from the world for weeks: but there is no fixed period. This was a fact I knew before I took the veil; for it is a frequent subject of remark, that such or such a Father is on a "holy retreat." This is a term which conveys the idea of a religious seclusion from the world for sacred purposes. On the reappearance of a priest after such a period, in the church or the streets, it is natural to feel a peculiar impression of his devout character--an impression very different from that conveyed to the mind of one who knows matters as they really are. Suspicions have been indulged by some in Canada on this subject, and facts are known by at least a few. I am able to speak from personal knowledge: for I have been a nun of Soeur Bourgeoise.

The priests are liable, by their dissolute habits, to occasional attacks of disease, which render it necessary, or at least prudent, to submit to medical treatment. In the Black Nunnery they find private accommodations, for they are free to enter one of the private hospitals whenever they please; which is a room set apart on purpose for the accommodation of the priests, and is called a retreat-room. But an excuse is necessary to blind the public, and this they find in the pretence they make of being in a "Holy Retreat." Many such cases have I known; and I can mention the names of priests who have been confined in this Holy Retreat. They are very carefully attended by the Superior and old nuns, and their diet mostly consists of vegetable soups, &c. with but little meat, and that fresh. I have seen an instrument of surgery laying upon the table in that holy room, which is used only for particular purposes. Father Tabeau {British edition: Tombeau}, a Roman priest, was on one of his holy retreats about the time when I left the nunnery. There are sometimes a number confirmed there at the same time. The victims of these priests frequently share the same fate.

I have often reflected how grievously I had been deceived in my opinions of a nun's condition! All the holiness of their lives, I now saw, was merely pretended. The appearance of sanctity and heavenly mindedness which they had shown among us novices, I found was only a disguise to conceal such practices as would not be tolerated in any decent society in the world; and as for peace and joy like that of heaven, which I had expected to find among them, I learnt too well, that they did not exist there.

The only way in which such thoughts were counteracted, was by the constant instructions given us by the Superior and priests, to regard every doubt as a mortal sin. Other faults we might have, as we were told over and over again, which, though worthy of penances, were far less sinful than these. For a nun to doubt that she was doing her duty in fulfilling her vows and oaths, was a heinous offence, and we were exhorted always to suppress our doubts, to confess them without reserve, and cheerfully to submit to severe penances on account of them, as the only means of mortifying our evil dispositions, and resisting the temptations of the devil. Thus we learnt in a good degree to resist our minds and consciences, when we felt the first rising of a question, about the duty of doing any thing required of us.

To enforce this upon us, they employed various means. Some of the most striking stories told us at catechism by the priests, were designed for this end. One of these I will repeat. One day, as a priest assured us who was hearing us say the catechism on Saturday afternoon, as one Monsieur, a well-known citizen of Montreal, was walking near the cathedral, he saw Satan giving orders to numerous evil spirits who had assembled around him. Being afraid of being seen, and yet wishing to observe what was done, he hid himself where he could observe all that passed. Satan despatched his devils to different parts of the city, with directions to do their best for him; and they returned in a short time, bringing in reports of their success in leading persons of different classes to the commission of various sins, which they thought would be agreeable to their master. Satan, however, expressed his dissatisfaction, and ordered them out again; but just then a spirit from the Black Nunnery came, who had not been seen before, and stated that he had been trying for seven years to persuade one of the nuns to doubt, and had just succeeded. Satan received the intelligence with the highest pleasure; and turning to the spirits around him, said: '"You have not half done your work--he has done much more than all of you."

In spite, however, of our instructions and warnings, our fears and penances, such doubts would intrude; and I have often indulged them for a time, and at length, yielding to the belief that I was wrong in giving place to them, would confess them, and undergo with cheerfulness such new penances as I was loaded with. Others too would occasionally entertain and privately express such doubts; though we all had been most solemnly warned by the cruel murder of Saint Francis. Occasionally some of the nuns would go further, and resist the restraints or punishments imposed upon them; and it was not uncommon to hear screams, sometimes of a most piercing and terrific kind, from nuns suffering under discipline.

Some of my readers may feel disposed to exclaim against me, for believing things, which will strike them as so monstrous and abominable. To such, I would say, without pretending to justify myself--You know little of the position in which I was placed: in the first place, ignorant of any other religious doctrines; and in the second, met at every moment by some ingenious argument, and the example of a large community, who received all the instructions of the priests as of undoubted truth, and practised upon them. Of the variety and speciousness of the arguments used, you cannot have any correct idea. They were often so ready with replies, examples, anecdotes, and authorities, to enforce their doctrines, that it seemed to me they could never have learnt it all from books, but must have been taught by wicked spirits. Indeed, when I reflect upon their conversations, I am astonished at their art and address, and find it difficult to account for their subtlety and success in influencing my mind, and persuading me to any thing they pleased. It seems to me, that hardly anybody would be safe in their hands. If you were to go to confession twice, I believe you would feel very differently from what you do now. They have such a way of avoiding one thing, and speaking of another, of affirming this, and doubting or disputing that, of quoting authorities, and speaking of wonders and miracles recently performed, in confirmation of what they teach, as familiarly known to persons whom they call by name, and whom they pretend to offer as witnesses, though they never give you an opportunity to speak with them--these, and many other means, they use in such a way, that they always blinded my mind, and, I should think, would blind the minds of others.

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