THE first time that I was laid hold of by the Inquisition, I blamed
myself for not disclosing more fully what my belief was at that period.
Already for several years, I had received the doctrines of the Bible:
I had become a theologian of the true primitive Church. I cannot,
however, say that as yet I was a firm believer, since I had not abiding
in me the spirit of the Gospel of Christ; which is neither the fruit
of our reading, nor the work of our own intellect, but is given us
immediately from God. I was a Christian in mind, but not in heart. If
Christianity, as some suppose, were a mere opinion, a belief, it would
suffice, in order to become a Christian, to admit the truth of the
Scriptures. The absurdity of which is manifest, from the consideration
that, in this case, the first Christian would have been no other
than the devil, since he was the first to acknowledge the truth of
Christianity. I understood and acknowledged the truth, although I was
not yet fully actuated by it; I possessed the understanding of faith,
but not faith itself; I could instruct others in its precepts, but was
not myself capable of obeying them. This, I apprehend, was a state
necessary for me to undergo, preparatory to the great change–as the
state of the chrysalis is essential to the production of the butterfly.
I stood midway between the old and the new man: the old man was already
buried, but the new man had not yet come to life.

What, then, would have been my profession of faith, at this period?
That of a theologian, who draws his arguments from the Bible; that
of a man who, aware not only of the errors of others, but of his own
also, renounces, condemns, and endeavours to get rid of them, by every
possible means. This profession of faith I had not yet publicly avowed,
but in many ways it might have been surmised; and putting together the
various opinions I had already made known, it was not difficult to form
a pretty correct idea as to the whole of my religious persuasions. I
by no means wanted the courage–I wanted only a fitting opportunity to
declare myself.

Every action, to be well performed, ought to be done in its proper time
and place. The true reason, therefore, why I had not avowed my full
sentiments was, that a fitting opportunity had not yet presented itself.

But Rome was not ignorant of my real opinions. Surrounded as I was with
spies, although leading a private life in Naples, separated from the
Dominicans, apart from society, and buried among my books, the Papal
Court still found no difficulty in becoming acquainted with my state of
mind, and was displeased thereat; and since there appeared but little
hope that I should retrace my steps, it would have been very glad had
I, at that time, come so far forward as to afford a pretence for my

The Inquisition, ever since the year 1833, had been endeavouring, by
means of its emissaries, to discover in my conduct some ground for
accusation. But either through want of ability, or from not being so
malicious as it required, they brought nothing against me that the Holy
Office could take hold of. Their accusations, as far as I could learn,
were vague, uncertain, and frequently contradictory. Among my accusers
were two cardinals. One of them stated that during all the time I had
lived with him, (I think it was during Lent, in 1835,) although he
had studied my character with great attention, he never could make
me out satisfactorily; that he had listened to above forty of my
sermons, and never found in them a single expression to which he could
object;–but that in my private conversation he had often detected
much bitterness against the Court of Rome, and, in many points, direct
opposition to the Council of Trent; and that, although not himself
altogether a disciple of Bellarmine, he felt shocked at the severity
of my attacks upon that celebrated writer: neither, he continued, did
I spare the other two historians and annalists of the Church of Rome,
Orsi and Baronio; that I spoke highly of Fra Paolo Sarpi to Cardinal
Pallavicino; that I ridiculed the sanctity of Gregory VII., and went so
far as to say that it would be well to take the opinion of the Countess
Matilda on that point. The other cardinal who accused me, expressed
himself as follows:–

“I have nothing to say against Father Achilli myself, but my vicar
has told me that he is unstable in his faith. I think him a dangerous
character: it would be best to make a friend of him, by kind treatment.
I see no middle path; we must either make him a bishop, or shut him up
in the Inquisition.”

This worthy cardinal was generally considered to be rather deficient in
judgment. I am of a contrary opinion. Indeed, when I read his letter,
among other documents respecting my cause in the Inquisition, I judged
him to be more crafty than many of his brethren.[5]

Among other accusations brought against me, there was one written by
two Dominicans, who had formerly been my pupils in theology; and these
friars deposed that I manifested a continual spirit of opposition to
many of the doctrines of the Church of Rome, and that they entertained
but little doubt that I should shortly renounce it altogether,–which,
indeed, I had already done. I was also accused, by them, of paying
no respect to authority. Another Dominican asserted that I did not
believe in the power of the keys to absolve the penitent; and that I
explained in a perfectly new manner the words of Christ addressed to
Peter: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,”
&c.;[6] that my explanation, he continued, was as follows:–“I will
give unto thee,” signifies a promise that Jesus Christ makes to Peter,
and not a power which he confers upon him, as the Church of Rome
asserts. “The keys” signify knowledge, whereby we unlock and arrive at
the mysteries of science, &c. “Of the kingdom of heaven,” signifies
of my church upon earth; on which account we say in our prayers, “Thy
kingdom come.” Thus, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom
of heaven,” means, I promise to give unto thee the knowledge of my
church; that is to say, to place thee within it, to give thee fully
to understand its principles and its doctrines, and the spirit with
which it is animated. That the following passage, “Whatsoever _thou_
shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever _thou_
shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” is to be interpreted
by another, “Whatsoever _ye_ shall bind on earth shall be bound in
heaven; and whatsoever _ye_ shall loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven.”[7] And this, again, by the following, “Whosesoever sins _ye_
remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins _ye_ retain,
they are retained.”[8] “Ye”–it being no longer said to Peter alone,
but to all the apostles; yea, to all the disciples also, which includes
all believers. Wherefore St. Augustine exclaims, “What is said to St.
Peter is said to all:” _Quod dictum est Petro dictum est omnibus._ To
you believers, what ye bind shall be securely bound, and what ye loose
shall be entirely loosed.

This interpretation had given such great uneasiness to the poor friar,
that he found it necessary to disburthen his conscience, by relating
the whole to the Inquisitors. I do not recollect on what occasion,
or in what place, I told him all this: it is, however, perfectly
true; and I imagine, in his own mind, the friar did not disagree with
me; though he found it extremely difficult to reconcile it with the
tenets of the Church of Rome, which preach that Jesus Christ, in these
words, confers upon Peter, and upon him alone, the authority of the
keys; by which is to be understood the power of excommunication, and
of absolution, to whomsoever he thinks proper, and for whatever cause
he may judge expedient; and that this power is still possessed by the
heirs of St. Peter, the popes of Rome.

My opinions on these heads were extremely unpalatable to the Church
of Rome; and the more so from the consequences that might attach to
them. Other accusations were also preferred against me, with reference
to the famous dogma of Transubstantiation. It was asserted that I did
not appear to believe in the literal sense of the words of Christ,
respecting the bread and wine of the Last Supper.

All this, however, was very imperfectly related by my accuser, so that
I think no great effect was produced by his disclosures on the minds of
the reverend Inquisitors.

Much clearer was the account of a poor nun, written, as she set forth,
at the instigation of her confessor. With great simplicity, she related
a conversation she had held with me in the confessional, respecting
the two sacraments, which entirely occupied the spiritual thoughts of
this poor sister, Confession, and the Holy Supper. With respect to
the first, she stated, that of all the confessors she had ever heard
of, I had the most strange and singular method. I would listen, she
said, with the greatest patience, to the disclosure, not only of her
sins, but of her thoughts and feelings as well; in short, of all her
deficiencies; and that I was very earnest in directing her conscience
with respect to what she ought to do, according to the dictates of the
Spirit; but that when we were arrived at that point when I ought to
have given her absolution, I invariably turned my back, saying that it
belonged to God alone to give absolution for sins committed against
himself; that we can only absolve each other for the offences we may
have mutually committed against each other; and that the priest and
the bishop can, in the name of the church, absolve such sins as are
committed against the church, but nothing further.

“One day, I said to him,” added the nun, “‘I believe that Confession,
as the church teaches, is a sacrament instituted by Christ for the
remission of all sins whatsoever. Is it not so?’–‘I think not,’
replied he, ‘because I do not find any passage in the Holy Scriptures
where the institution of this sacrament is spoken of.’

“‘And the injunction of St. James,’ I said, ‘”Confess your sins to one

“‘They are of the same signification as those that follow, “and pray
one for another.” Do you imagine that only nuns and monks are to pray
for the remainder of mankind? “Confess your sins to one another,”
signifies that it is your duty to confess to me the sins you have
committed against me; and I, on the other hand, will do as much towards
you, if ever I should offend you.’

“‘Then it is unnecessary that I should reveal to a confessor the sins I
may have committed against the laws of God?’

“‘Not only unnecessary, but the practice is pernicious, if you believe
that the confessor can, on the part of God, pardon you. We read that
this power is granted by God to his Christ, who says, “But, that ye
may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins,” &c.
God can delegate to another, in an extraordinary mission, authority to
announce to others that he has pardoned them, as we read in the case of
Nathan, with respect to David. But whom do we ever read of, that was
appointed by God to act as a confessor, and to give absolution in his
stead? Jesus Christ has given to believers the power to remit their own
offences, entirely, and for ever; and this he has done because he is
constituted the Head of the Church, that is to say, of the people who
are believers; to which people God has promised remission of sins,
through faith in Jesus Christ.’

“‘Then,’ said I to him,” continued the nun, “‘how shall I be assured
that my sins are forgiven me, unless a prophet is sent to tell me so,
as he was to David?’

“‘Oh! you will know it,’ replied he, ‘through evidence of your own
faith, if you can truly say to yourself, “I believe in the remission of
sins.” Is not faith more convincing than words? Man’s words may deceive
you, but not the word of God. If you were to hear from me, what you
have so often heard from others, “I absolve you from your sins,” what
assurance would you have, that you were really absolved? What am I, but
a sinner, like yourself? Do you apply for health to a sick man, or for
wealth to a poor one? Oh! how is it possible that you can prefer to be
so continually deceived? Poor deluded being, come out of this darkness,
and open your eyes to the light.’

“‘Then,’ I replied, ‘my father, according to your idea, I ought never
to confess to any one. How, then, could I partake of the Holy Supper?’

“‘St. Paul,’ he returned, ‘has said, “Let a man examine himself, and
so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.” St. Paul nowhere
tells us that it is first necessary to confess to a priest.'”

Here terminated the first part of her account, which was entirely
confined to Confession. The second part related to the Communion, and
was as follows:–

“One day I was at confession: my heaviest crime was a want of
faith in the sacrament of the Holy Supper. I accused myself of
having entertained doubts as to the real presence of Christ in the
Eucharist.–‘What do you understand by the real presence?’ demanded he.

“‘The substance presented before us of the body, blood, soul, and
divinity of Jesus Christ.’

“‘If such be your opinion, you are deceived,’ he pursued; ‘this
substance cannot exist in the bread and wine. You know that this
sacrament is instituted by Christ, to eat and to drink. Hence the
precept, “Eat and drink;” and, again, the penalty for non-observance:
“If ye eat not of this bread and drink not of this cup, ye have no
life in you.” Understand well that the body of Christ was not made
to be eaten, nor his blood to be drunk. The natural body of Christ
was offered in sacrifice once only,[9] which is enough for our
sanctification, if you believe St. Paul speaks the truth.’

“‘I believe it, indeed,’ replied I, ‘but I also wish to believe in the
Holy Mother, the Church of Rome.’

“‘My good daughter,’ he said, ‘if these two should be opposed to each
other, to which of them would you give credence,–to St. Paul, or to
the Church of Rome?’

“‘I should certainly be more inclined to believe St. Paul, since he
speaks through Divine inspiration.’

“‘The case is plain then,–St. Paul and the Church of Rome are in
opposition. The apostle calls that which we eat in the sacrament,
bread, and that which we drink, wine; whereas the Church of Rome
pretends that the bread and the wine vanish away, at the appearance of
the body and blood of Christ.’

“‘But then,’ I rejoined, ‘where is the sacrament; where is the
communion of the body and blood of Christ?’

“‘Clearly in the bread and in the cup. You believe St. Paul–listen to
his words: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion
of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the
communion of the body of Christ?”‘[10]

“To be candid,” added the nun, “this doctrine led me away for a time;
and in communicating in future, I intended to eat of the bread, and
to conjoin myself by faith only, to our Lord Jesus Christ. From which
period I could no longer adore the sacrament, for I could not help
saying to myself, This is merely bread; it can have no particular
signification shut up there;–and so all my devout prayers to this
same sacrament were suddenly put an end to. I experienced a sort of
repugnance in bending my knee, as I passed before the altar; ‘If it be
merely bread,’ I thought, ‘it is an act of idolatry to worship it;’
and at length I felt shocked to see others prostrate, and adoring this
bread, and offering up prayers to it, as if it were God. Afterwards, I
confess, I experienced much suffering when other confessors undertook
to lead me back to my old belief. It was necessary to prohibit me from
thinking on the words of St. Paul, of which no one was able to give me
a satisfactory explanation; unless I should call the reply of a certain
reverend father (to whom I confided my difficulty) a satisfactory one,
when he assured me that he thought it wiser not to trouble his head
about such matters, lest he should have to find the best argument and
the most satisfactory explanation within the walls of the Inquisition.”

This poor nun, who was at that time converted by my arguments, was
afterwards compelled to denounce me to the Inquisition, which she had
done through fear of being herself shut up in it, had she refused; as
it obtains possession of the greater part of its victims by threatening
those who will not denounce them, with imprisonment themselves. And I
have no doubt that she was so threatened more than once.

From these and similar accusations was my process got up, before the
Inquisition, in the year 1842. Here then was my profession of faith,
warranted on very respectable authority. I was very glad to see an
account of it; and, to say the truth, I felt not a little proud of
it. I hastily put together these few notices, and hid them for future
use. I was annoyed that I had not time to read more of the voluminous
process, and to extract from it other portions. I should perhaps have
found a complete series of accusations, which might have completely
laid open my entire Christian belief. In fact, there were denunciations
with respect to what I had taught in the schools, in the confessional,
and in the pulpit. Doubtless the opportunity was not lost of accusing
me of frequently controverting the doctrines of Thomas Aquinas,
respecting the pretended propitiatory sacrifice of the Mass, the number
of the Sacraments, the value of Indulgences, the torments of Purgatory,
and other doctrines of that time, handed down to us as dogmas of

If these accusations were joined to others, which I saw in the volume
at the Inquisition, chiefly from Naples, with respect to my preaching,
then indeed there could have been nothing wanting to satisfy the Holy
Office that I was a heretic, in every sense of the word, and richly
merited to be consigned to the flames.

The Dominicans, to whom, in honour of their founder,[11] has hitherto
been granted the great privilege of being the chief agents in the
Inquisition, hold Thomas Aquinas and his doctrines in the highest
esteem and veneration, insomuch that their principal school is
called after his name. There is no degree of praise that they have
not lavished on their master, on whom they have even bestowed the
title of _Angelic_; and they have represented him, as all the world
knows, with a radiant sun in his breast, as symbolic of his wisdom,
and a dove at his ear, to indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit,
revealing to him the truth. Among other pleasant stories recorded of
him, is one which relates that the crucifix addressed him in a set
speech, in approbation of his doctrine, saying, “O Thomas, thou hast
written well concerning me!” The Dominicans swear to follow implicitly
the theological and philosophical views of Thomas Aquinas; and it
is indispensably requisite to take an oath to that effect, before
admission into their colleges. At the present juncture, all who do
not agree with the Jesuits, flock to the schools of the Dominicans.
Indeed, I am of opinion that these two parties divide among themselves
the whole Church of Rome: those who are not Jesuits, or Molinists, are
Dominicans, or Thomasines. Other schools of theology are of little
account, and are scarcely known, having no followers beyond the
immediate establishments; such as the Benedictines, the Augustines, the
Carmelites, and others.

Brought up myself in this school of Aquinas, I was early imbued with
his doctrines. Five years I studied the writings of this author, so
celebrated for learning and scholastic subtlety. Unquestionably,
Thomas Aquinas was not the original framer of the Romish doctrines:
they were already produced, and he did no more than defend and explain
them. The most ingenious of theologians, he possessed a rare faculty
of persuasion; so that if instead of the doctrines he undertook to
defend, he had had others placed before him, still more opposed to the
truth, he would equally well have reconciled them at once to the Holy
Scriptures, and to the teaching of Aristotle. In his _Summa Theologiæ_
is to be found all that can be most interesting to Rome, except _il
diritto nuovo_ of the Council of Trent. I have always admired the
ingenuity of this writer, but very early I experienced considerable
difficulty with respect to some of his theories.

Having completed my course of study, I was appointed, in my
twenty-fourth year, to the duty of teaching. The first book on which
I had to display my ability was this very _Summa Theologiæ_ of Thomas
Aquinas. Many opinions were formed as to how I should acquit myself
on the occasion. It was predicted by some who had heard me strongly
object to various points in the Thomasine doctrines, that I should not
prove very faithful to them. The General of the Dominicans hesitated to
confide to me a school belonging to the order, after he had heard that
in my examination I had shown but little respect for the scholastic
doctrines; and he wrote to a certain cardinal, who had sought to
engage my services, as professor of theology, in a seminary: “I would
willingly accede to the request of your Eminence, with respect to the
Lecturer Achilli, were I not obliged, for certain reasons, to examine
him a little further as to his orthodoxy.”[12] After the lapse of a
year, however, he granted me permission to officiate at Viterbo, where,
for a considerable length of time, I was professor of various sciences,
at the Seminary and Bishop’s College, as I was also of theology, in the
College of the Dominicans.

My labours in these situations obtained for me, from the very
beginning, considerable reputation, and not a few friends gathered
round me. Still I had many enemies, and chiefly among the friars,–a
class of gentry who to a very little good, adjoin a large share of
evil. Few among them are respectable in character; the major part of
them being lazy vagabonds, who, to avoid every species of exertion,
either physical or mental, and to pass their whole lives in sloth and
ignorance, adopt the frock and cowl, which at once authorize them to
receive food, clothes, and lodging, without any trouble or labour on
their part. Altogether they constitute the worst part of society, and
only serve to demoralize it by their bad example. As I could never
endure them, and shunned all intercourse with them, it was natural that
I should incur their hatred and censure.

It appeared that those among the friars who disliked me, feared me
no less; since in all their attempted persecutions, they studiously
avoided coming forward and avowing their hostility. However this may
be, out of the cloister I was equally beloved and protected. Many
bishops had a regard for me, and several cardinals. Pope Gregory XVI.
looked upon me with a favourable eye, and spoke of me to the general
of my order; and his predecessor, Leo XII., had recommended me to the
Master of the Sacred Palace, as his Vicar, in the year 1827.

In the mean while my enemies grew more and more uneasy every day, and
were more and more disappointed. Did they attack me on one side? They
were speedily put to confusion. On the other? It frequently happened
they inflicted injury on themselves alone. Often, I believe, they
despaired altogether of accomplishing their evil intentions towards me.
One only method remained, by means of which, secretly and securely,
and without danger of being discovered by myself or my protectors,
they might effect their object; and this was the Inquisition: for in
that place no one, not even the dearest friend, can afford protection
or support. There every accusation has to be fully entered into. The
accuser gives his name to the tribunal, which for its own part affects
to be ignorant of it. The same with the witnesses. Rarely does it
happen that they are examined a second time. Their first deposition is

They began in this manner with respect to myself, in order to undermine
the edifice they were determined to destroy; and the first attack
against me was made at Viterbo, in concert with certain parties in
Rome, and some of the Dominicans from Naples, who were also invited to
lend their assistance.

But observe the foolishness and blindness of men! They who wielded this
powerful weapon against me, thought to destroy me with it; instead of
which, they were the means of giving me fresh life. They undertook to
explain to others my profession of faith, which I had not yet been able
to make out clearly to myself. They reared the structure in the most
solemn manner, before the Inquisition, that they themselves might no
longer doubt, and that the memory of my conversion from Papacy to pure
Christianity, which began about the year 1830, from which epoch the
earliest of my accusations are dated, might for ever be preserved. May
the Lord be praised!

Why do not my present enemies publish these facts in the manner in
which they took place? I should like to see the secret accusations
against me openly detailed. Instead of falsely framing charges of
immorality which never existed, let them state my real crimes. They
might show “that in point of religious belief I could not depart from
the Holy Scriptures; that my Christianity did not extend beyond the
Bible; that I was greatly opposed to the later doctrines of the Roman
Church; that my theology had existed eighteen centuries, neither more
nor less; and that every article that did not conform itself to this
old theology, I neither owned for doctrine, nor for Christianity.”
Such was the epitome with which a Dominican friar of Naples wound up
a lengthened declamation, to prove that I was, reader, guess what–a
_Neoterico_–a _Novatore_.

To say the truth, if the Commissioner of the Inquisition had
communicated to me the substance of the above, I should have leaped
for joy. But in the opinion of the friar, these premises were
terrific. A heretic, according to the Bible! A _Novatore_, according
to primitive Christianity! These titles were for me a source of pride
and gratification. The Inquisitor thought it far better that I should
not be made acquainted with the charges. He did not foresee that I
might read them without his permission. But since I had read them, and
retained them perfectly in my memory, it frequently happened that I
made use of them, in my replies to him. For example, when he asked me
_Quid sentis de fide_? I remember my answer was:

“To those who are good Latin scholars, this question may be considered
in three points of view: you might intend to ask me what I think
concerning faith? or, what do I think I ought to believe? or, lastly,
what is it that I do believe? I will readily reply to all these points.
1st, What do I think concerning faith? That it is a gift from God, by
which we are made believers in the truths that He has revealed.–2d,
What do I think I ought to believe? The truth alone; which He has
revealed to us, according to what is written in the authentic book of
Divine Revelation, and interpreted according to the spirit and common
sense of Christendom.–3d, What is it that I do believe? The answer is
already given.”

“Then,” rejoined the Inquisitor, “you believe nothing but what you find
written in the Bible?”


“And you think that all that was said and done by Jesus Christ, is
recorded in that book? How is it then that St. John tells us, that if
that had been the case, the whole world would not have contained the
books that would have been written?”[13]

“I am glad, Father Inquisitor, to hear you quote a text from the
Evangelist, which, if I interpret it aright, leads us to infer that
Jesus did many other things which we do not know; and not, as you
imagine, that we know them from other sources; and that, as they are
told to us from these sources, so we ought to believe them. I do not
believe, Father Inquisitor, more than I find written, because I know
that to be sufficient; I am satisfied that I am not deceived; and
besides, I believe that no one should add to what is written from
Divine inspiration. You have quoted St. John, I now quote him in my
turn, and I select that passage in which, speaking of his Revelation,
he affirms as follows:–

“‘If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the
plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away
from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his
part, out of the book of life.'[14]

“Is it not clear, from this, that we are instructed neither to add
to, nor to take away from, what is written? The faith, therefore,
that I profess, is the same that was defined by Jesus Christ himself,
emanating from him eighteen centuries ago. This law was never abrogated
in order to engraft new doctrines upon the old, or to make us falsify
our original belief. Are you of opinion, Father Inquisitor, that we
can possess a different faith from our forefathers? I speak of those
early Christians, who, in this very country, renounced idolatry to
follow Christ; of those very men to whom the apostle addressed the
invaluable testimony: ‘Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole
world!’ In all other matters I am willing to go with the nineteenth
century; but as regards religion, I do not depart from the first. I do
not know, Father Inquisitor, what your opinion is, but I am firm in the
belief that all Christians ought to be similarly minded; and that the
Church should return to its first state, both as regards discipline and

Such then, at that time, was my profession of faith; in which I was
continually, through the operation of various circumstances, being
perfected; not a little assisted by the machinations of my enemies
themselves. It is true, I had not yet sufficient courage to seek for
occasions of trial; but on their occurrence, I invariably experienced
such grace and favour from God, that in no instance was the opportunity
lost of deriving due profit from them. And since it has been ordained
by Providence that I should bear solemn testimony in favour of the
pure and true religion of Christ, and publicly make avowal of my faith
before men, and before God, so it was expedient that I should, in the
first instance, make declaration of it in the face of my enemies, and
of that very tribunal before which so many had sacrificed their lives,
in defence of the same holy cause.

I did not at that time perceive the lofty designs of this all-wise
Providence: my eyes were not open to behold the hidden destiny which,
nevertheless, was in store for me. I walked in darkness, and only knew
that I should not lose my way, because I was assured that a Divine hand
would be my protection and my guide.

At present, however, through the mercy of the Lord, I see my way
more clearly. By his power I have been snatched from the abyss of
perdition, delivered from the malice of my enemies, and conducted to a
land where there is liberty of belief, and where man lives honourably,
in obedience to the laws of truth and justice.

My first step, on finding myself a free man in a free country, was to
make a full and unqualified declaration of my religious faith, that
there might not remain the least shadow of doubt, as to my entire
secession from the Church of Rome.

Every one acquainted with me knows that I never attempt to disguise
what I feel; should prudence occasionally enjoin me to be silent, it is
only for a very short time that I can listen to her dictates. My energy
increases before an opposing barrier, until, like a rushing torrent, it
levels and destroys every object it meets with. Thus, no sooner did an
outlet present itself for the manifestation of my opinions, than they
eagerly pressed forward, and swept away all opposition that stood in
their way.

I was full of wrath against the Church of the priests, ever since I
discovered the deceit in which I had been educated; and still more
so, on account of having myself been instrumental in propagating her
doctrines and her errors. This wrath I had hitherto been obliged to
restrain within my own breast; but when I arrived in Corfu, in the year
1842, I found an opportunity for giving way to it, of which I quickly
availed myself. My tongue was not idle, and my pen was more active

I regret that I have not kept copies of several letters I wrote at
that time to divers cardinals at Rome, which, although full of stern
reproof, were written without bitterness, and in a conciliatory spirit;
and I still remember them with pleasure, because I know that they
evinced how strong my feelings were upon the subject.[15]

I shall, however, present to my readers, in the Appendix to this work,
copies of two letters which I wrote about the same period to Pope
Gregory XVI., as well as of one which I subsequently addressed to his
successor Pius IX.


[5] On one occasion I was left alone by the Inquisitor, above an hour,
in one of the apartments of the Holy Office, while he was preparing my
process. He had left on the table a bundle of papers, containing the
correspondence of the Inquisition with its agents, and from which my
accusations were drawn: I therefore deemed myself at full liberty to
peruse these documents, and obtained from them much important matter,
relating to my own affairs.

[6] Matt. xvi. 19.

[7] Matt. xviii. 18.

[8] John xx. 23.

[9] Heb. x. 10.

[10] I Cor. x. 16.

[11] Domenico di Guzman was the first Inquisitor, under Innocent
III. (1215), to whom he suggested the great project of destroying,
by an armed force, all the Protestants of that period, chiefly known
under the denominations of Albigenses and Valdenses. This friar,
in conjunction with the pope, founded an order of knights, whom he
frequently led on himself, and who were renowned for their massacre
of these good Christians, who, retaining the Gospel, rejected the new
doctrines of the Fourth Council of the Lateran.

[12] Letter from Father Velzi to Cardinal Galeffi (1825).

[13] John xxi. 25.

[14] Rev. xxi. 19.

[15] Since the publication of my first Edition, I have discovered
among my papers a copy of one of these letters, which will be found in
the Appendix. It is addressed to Cardinal Lambruschini, at that time
Secretary of State, on occasion of his having urgently required of the
Papal Consul, at Corfù, that he should endeavour to induce the Ionian
Government to have me sent out of the country. As, however, my real
motive for quitting Rome was well known, the Cardinal’s remonstrance
only served to render the Government more determined to protect me.

WE are now in the middle of the nineteenth century, and still the
Inquisition is actually and potentially in existence. This abominable
institution, the history of which is a mass of atrocious crimes,
committed by the priests of the Church of Rome, in the name of God and
of His Christ, is still in existence in Rome and in the Roman States,
with the Pope at its head.

I have heard of some avowed or concealed papists, belonging to Great
Britain, who, on occasion of the public demonstrations that took place
in the principal cities of the kingdom, on account of my liberation,
had the boldness to deny that I had ever been incarcerated in the
Inquisition at all; or that any such establishment existed in Rome,
at the present period. I shall not take up my own time, or that of my
readers, in arguing with these persons, any more than I should with
those who might deny that it was noon-day, when the sun was in its

In the month of April, 1850, during my stay in Dublin, an immense
number of people, of all ranks and classes, attended the meetings that
were held in my favour, to express their joy in seeing me, and the
satisfaction they experienced in hearing me. The whole body of papists
were considerably annoyed on the occasion, and not knowing in what
manner to put a stop to the proceedings, some of them took it into
their heads to spread a report through the city, affirming that I was
not the Dr. Achilli, imprisoned by the Inquisition, but an impostor,
who assumed his name. This poor invention, however, was not very likely
to serve them, as it would have been easy for me to prove my identity.
In like manner, any one who should persist in denying the present
existence of the Inquisition in Rome, would soon find his statement
refuted and held up to ridicule. And this being granted, can any one
attempt to justify the conduct of the Church of Rome in permitting it?

I do not know what to think of the audacity of a certain writer,
unquestionably not an ordinary personage, who published an article in
the “Dublin Review” (July 1850), entitled “The Inquisition;” the object
of which was to persuade the world that, after all, this Inquisition,
respecting which so much _unjust clamour_ (!) had been raised,
contained nothing but what might _honestly_ be considered _necessary_,
for the _present state of society_, and the _interests of religion_.
Every religion, it was stated, had been intolerant. “What by us,” it
said, “in the present day, is denominated intolerance, entered into the
very spirit of the Jewish religion.” (P. 423.) The learned writer, who,
to his shame, is an Englishman, and at this present time a cardinal,
leads the reader to the conclusion that the Almighty himself, the
founder of the Jewish religion, has countenanced intolerance.

He then proceeds to observe: “Of the five great religions which divided
the Gentile world–the Greek, the Roman, the Egyptian, the Persian,
and the Indian–there is not one which can claim exemption from the
charge.” (_Ib._) His inference, therefore, is, that it is no wonder
that Christianity also is in a similar state; and this involves the
farther conclusion that Christianity itself, in this respect, is a
system of religion similar to these five great religious systems which
divided the pagan world. This is the doctrine held out to us by a
Cardinal Archbishop! According to him, Christianity, like the preceding
religions, has always been more or less intolerant. With respect to
papacy, it is most true that in practice it has always been more or
less so, but in theory it has been always the same. In fact, Thomas
Aquinas, the leading theologian and doctor of the Church of Rome, lays
down the following doctrine, which his Eminence, and others of his
school, seem very ready to act upon. “It is,” says he, “much more
grievous to corrupt faith, which is the source and life of the soul,
than to corrupt money, which only tends to the relief of the body.
Hence, if coiners and other malefactors are justly put to death, by the
secular authority, much more may heretics not only be excommunicated,
but put to death.”[16]

For example, if you, reader, a Christian of intelligent mind, should
deny that the bread and the wine, in consequence of a few words uttered
over them, should cease to be bread and wine–you, in that case, have
corrupted the faith of the Thomasine school, which is that of the
Church of Rome; the reverend Inquisitor therefore speedily lays hold of
you, with sufficient argument before him to condemn you to death, for
the glory of God.

These barbarities were formerly common in Spain and Italy; but
now!!–Is the theory of the Church of Rome, you ask, still in favour of
these practices? I answer, it is not possible for Cardinal Wiseman to
renounce this doctrine, and at the same time remain consistent to his
principles. Is it not manifestly a contradiction? It is his duty,[17]
then, as a Roman Catholic, and an Archbishop, to condemn you to death,
whenever he may have the power so to do, if you refuse to believe that
the bread and the wine, over which a priest has breathed the words,
“_Hoc est corpus meum_,” have not, forthwith, ceased to be bread and
wine. Yes, his Eminence, faithful to his oath, and sanctioned by the
theological and legal decision of the Thomasine doctors, must of
necessity consign you to the flames. Are flames no longer resorted to,
as attracting too vividly the attention of the public? It matters not;
poison will get rid of a heretic equally well, and more secretly.

The reverend Jesuits, Busembau, Sa, Escobar, and others, readily gave
their vote to that effect. When, in the year 1842, I was for the first
time delivered over to the Inquisition, the General of the Dominicans,
the oldest of the Inquisitors,[18] exclaimed before the council: “This
heretic,” speaking of myself, “we had better burn him alive.” Such
was the humanity of one who had grown grey among the corruptions and
evil practices of his profession! His proposition, however, was not
seconded, it being the first time I had been accused; but what might
not have been my fate, if this old man had been living, and appointed
to judge me in the year 1850? In fact, I heard last year, whilst I was
in Rome, that another of these precious theologians, less fierce and
furious than the Dominican, suggested a more moderate proceeding, in
the following terms:–

“I should advise that Achilli be so dealt with as to prevent
the possibility of his ever troubling us any more.”[19] This,
unquestionably, evinced no intention of setting me at liberty. And at a
later period, after I had written my letters to the Pope, and published
many other things in opposition to the Romish doctrines, the same
_monsignore_, speaking of me to one of his adherents, who was more my
friend than his, observed:

“I was right in the advice I gave in 1842, that Achilli should be so
dealt with as to prevent the possibility of his ever troubling us
any more. Had it been followed, we should not have had the present
annoyance. And who knows what worse he may not have in store for us?”

I am indeed much indebted to this _monsignore_: I hope to do far better
yet for the true Church of Christ.

What, then, is the Inquisition of the nineteenth century? The same
system of intolerance which prevailed in the barbarous ages. That which
raised the Crusade, and roused all Europe to arms at the voice of a
monk,[20] and of a hermit.[21] That which–in the name of a God of
peace, manifested on earth by Christ, who, through love for sinners,
gave himself to be crucified–brought slaughter on the Albigenses and
the Waldenses; filled France with desolation, under Domenico di Guzman,
and raised in Spain the funeral pile and the scaffold, devastating the
fair kingdoms of Granada and Castile, through the assistance of those
detestable monks, Raimond de Pennafort, Peter Arbues, and Cardinal
Torquemada. The same system which, to its eternal infamy, registers in
the annals of France the fatal 24th of August, and the 5th of November,
in those of England. The same which at this moment flourishes in Rome;
which has never yet been either worn out or modified, and which, in the
jargon of the priests, is still called “the Holy, Roman, Universal,
Apostolic Inquisition.” Holy, as the place where Christ was crucified
is holy; Apostolic, because Judas Iscariot was the first Inquisitor;
Roman and Universal, because from Rome it extends over all the world.

It is denied by some that the Inquisition, which exists in Rome, as its
centre, is extended throughout the world by means of the missionaries.
The Roman Inquisition and the Roman Propaganda are nevertheless in
close connexion with each other. Every bishop who is sent _in partibus
infidelium_, is an Inquisitor, charged to discover, through the means
of his missionaries, whatever is done or said by others, in reference
to Rome, with the obligation to make his report secretly. The apostolic
nuncios are all Inquisitors, as also are the apostolic vicars.

Here, then, we see the Roman Inquisition extending into the most
remote countries. In India, for example–who would ever believe that
the Inquisition was at work there? So far from Rome! in the dominions
of the English! The bare assertion would meet with ridicule. “Oh! the
Inquisition in India! No, no, we cannot believe that. In name, indeed,
it may be there, but never in actual reality.” Fortunately, however, I
have a letter by me, which I received in this country in March last.
The original has been seen by many persons; among others, by Sir
Culling E. Eardley, through whom, indeed, I received it. It came to
hand very opportunely. It is written in English, and, if not elegant
in its phraseology, it is at least sincere, and to be depended upon. It
is as follows:–

“DEAR AND REVEREND SIR,–I hope you will excuse me, if I, who am a
stranger to you, take the liberty to address you the present letter.
But the same God who delivered you from the brutal hands of your
persecutors, (for which I congratulate you,) has given me courage
to rise from my lethargy in which I was; and, kneeling before His
presence, I heard a voice, saying, Write to Mr. A. [Achilli] for
advice, and fly again from this Babylon. Therefore, full of confidence,
I take the pen, in order to relate to you all my story.

“I am a Roman Catholic priest, and, as soon as I was ordained, being
very anxious to preach the gospel to the poor Hindoos, I left Rome,
on the 2d of March, 1840, being then twenty-three years of age, and
was sent by _Propaganda Fide_ to India; and there, being able to speak
the English language, I was appointed, by the Roman Catholic bishop
of Bombay, as military chaplain, and was sent to a military camp at
Belgaum, where I was a very zealous and bigoted Roman Catholic priest,
till God was pleased to open my eyes in the following manner:

“A Protestant clergyman of the Church of Scotland, named Taylor,
celebrated the marriage ceremony to two Catholics; and this hurt my
feeling very much; therefore I thought it my duty to write him a letter
in very impolite[22] manner, as is the custom of all Roman Catholic
priests to do, to which he answered very kindly, and sent me also some
Protestant books to read;–of course I refused to read them, and I
returned them to him. But God put into his heart to call, as he did, on
me. He spoke to me a new language, which I had never before heard;–it
was the language of a true Christian–(how sinner is justified before
God). This language, by the grace of God, touched my heart in such a
manner that I took a Protestant book and began to read. It was ‘The
Spirit of the Papacy,’ which opened my eyes, and I began to perceive
the errors of the Church of Rome. Then, quite another man, I opened
the Holy Bible, and confirmed myself that the Catholic religion is
in perfect contradiction to the word of God, and that the Protestant
Church was the Church in which God called me; therefore I opened my
mind to the Rev. Mr. Jackson, who was the military Protestant chaplain
at Belgaum, and a great friend of mine. He advised me to write to Dr.
Carr, bishop of Bombay, which I did; and his lordship was pleased to
answer me in a very polite manner, begging me to write my sentiments
about the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament, and
a treatise on the spiritual power of the Pope, which I also did; and
then he wrote to me to go to Bombay, where I embraced the Protestant
religion; that is to say, the pure religion of the Gospel.

“A Spanish Jesuit priest, named Francis Xavier Serra, whom I never
saw before, called on me, in a secular dress; and, speaking the
Italian language well, he told me that he was an Italian layman, and
having heard that I was an Italian too, he called on me: but he did
not mention anything about religion, saying he did not care about
it;–and he was very kind to me. He called on me four or five times;
till one day, being a very agreeable evening, he begged me to take a
round with him, which I did. And we went near the Catholic church,
and to my great surprise, I was taken by four men, and forced to go
to the vicar-general, where they forced me to write a letter to the
Protestant minister, Mr. Valentine, in whose house I lived, stating my
intention to return to the Catholic religion; which I am very sorry
to say I did. They then closed me in a room, till Sunday; when the
vicar took me by force to the pulpit, and dictated to me what I was to
say to the congregation; and he obliged me to declare that I left the
Catholic religion for worldly motives; which was quite contrary to my
sentiments. When night came, they took me from the room in which I was
closed, and delivered me to a captain of a French ship, as a prisoner;
with the order to take care of me to Marseilles, where he delivered me
to the bishop; who, with a French priest, sent me to Rome. From Rome I
was sent, as a punishment, to a convent at Perugia, where I remained
for five years, till I got again my liberty, and returned to Rome; this
was in November 1848.

“I am sure, Sir, you are not surprised to hear the treachery made to me
at Bombay by that Jesuit, and by the vicar. Besides, you must know that
the vicar, whose name is Father Michele Antonio, for his bad character,
had been put in gaol for six months, by the British Government at

“Now, Sir, I live in a most miserable estate of mind, being from my
heart a Protestant, yet I am obliged to observe the Roman Catholic
forms; which is quite contrary to my feelings. I am very sorry that
I had not in India the Christian courage which you have demonstrated
just now in Rome: but you must know that they threatened me with brutal
menaces, and that I was too young.

“I am at present firmly resolved to fly from this Babylon, and embrace
again the pure doctrine of the Gospel; to remain in the faith, by the
grace of God, till my death, and to preach it throughout the world….

“I have the honour &c.
“Your Brother in Jesus Christ,
“N. N.”
“ROME, the 26th Feb. 1850.”

This adventure at Bombay proves that the Inquisition is not only in
existence, but sufficiently daring to carry on its operations even
within the British dominions: and we see the manner in which it acts.
In Bombay, the recantation of this poor priest is all that is known
(as an English missionary, who was there at the time, told me): it was
said, indeed, that he had since left the country; but no one knew of
the treachery of the Jesuit, or of the tricks of the apostolic vicar.

Similar events occur, more or less frequently, in various parts of
the world; most commonly in the Levant; since the Turkish governor
does not grant his protection to foreigners, and the obliging consuls
of Austria, France, and Naples generally have the complaisance to
arrest whomsoever the bishops require, and send them to Rome. It
is notorious that in Constantinople, in the year 1847, an Armenian
priest, D. Giovanne Keosse, although an Ottoman subject and born in
Constantinople, was seized in the night by four bullies from the
Austrian Embassy, and hurried into a steamer, to be conveyed as a
prisoner to Marseilles, and thence to Rome, to be handed over to the
Inquisition. And all this took place by order of the Armenian Catholic

This Keosse, who was confined in a cabin on board the steamer, found
means to effect his escape, by slipping through the window, into a
boat, while the vessel was disembarking a part of its passengers and
goods at Smyrna. He subsequently put himself under the protection of
the American consul; and the Austrian, finding himself discovered,
gave up the affair, and so it ended. Keosse, however, did not feel at
all sure of his safety from the grasp of the Inquisition, so long as
he remained under the Ottoman Government; and being advised to go to
Malta, he went there without delay, and there he remains at the present
period.[23] This affair of Keosse was much talked about; several
journals took it up; and some went so far as to insult the Embassy, for
acting in the character of Inquisitors.

I certainly think these gentlemen must be ashamed of themselves for
having lent their aid to the Inquisition of Rome; pretty much in the
same manner as the French have reason to blush for having lent six
chasseurs of Vincennes, to effect my imprisonment in the same place.
But such is the witchcraft of this renowned harlot, that, almost
without being aware of it, “all nations have drunk of the wine of the
wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed
fornication with her.”[24]

We have seen constitutional Austria and republican France degrade
themselves so far as to bombard our cities, to replace upon the
throne–whom?–the head of the Inquisition! And Spain, that has shown
so much determination in resisting priestcraft, monkery, and the
dominion of the Inquisition, she also hastened to Rome,–and for what
purpose? To assist in the restoration of the papacy!

But let us inquire what is the Inquisition of the present day in Rome.
It is the very same that was instituted at the Council of Verona, to
burn Arnold of Brescia; the same that was established, at the third
Council of the Lateran, to sanction the slaughter of the Albigenses
and the Waldenses, the massacre of the people, the destruction of the
city; the same that was confirmed at the Council of Constance, to burn
alive two holy men, John Huss and Jerome of Prague; that which at
Florence, subjected Savonarola to the torture; and at Rome condemned
Aonio Paleario, and Pietro Carnesecchi. It is the self-same Inquisition
with that of Pope Caraffa, and of Fr. Michele Ghislieri, who built the
palace called the _Holy Office_, where so many victims fell a sacrifice
to its barbarity, and where at the present moment the Roman Inquisition
still exists. Its laws are always the same. _The Black Book_, or
_Praxis Sacræ Romanæ Inquisitionis_, is always the model for that which
is to succeed it. This book is a large manuscript volume, in folio, and
is carefully preserved by the head of the Inquisition. It is called,
_Libro Nero_, _the Black Book_, because it has a cover of that colour;
or, as an Inquisitor explained to me, _Libro Necro_, which, in the
Greek language, signifies “the book of the dead.”

In this book is the criminal code, with all the punishments for
every supposed crime; also the mode of conducting the trial, so as
to elicit the guilt of the accused; and the manner of receiving the
accusations. I had this book in my hand, on one occasion, as I have
related above, and read therein the proceedings relative to my own
case; and I moreover saw in this same volume, some very astounding
particulars: for example, in the list of punishments, I read concerning
the bit, or as it is called by us the _mordacchia_; which is a very
simple contrivance to confine the tongue, and compress it between two
cylinders, composed of iron and wood, and furnished with spikes. This
horrible instrument not only wounds the tongue and occasions excessive
pain, but also, from the swelling it produces, frequently places the
sufferer in danger of suffocation. This torture is generally had
recourse to in cases considered as blasphemy against God, the Virgin,
the Saints, or the Pope. So that, according to the Inquisition, it is
as great a crime to speak in disparagement of a pope, who may be a
very detestable character, as to blaspheme the holy name of God. Be
that as it may, this torture has been in use till the present period;
and to say nothing of the exhibitions of the same nature which were
displayed in Romagna, in the time of Gregory XVI., by the Inquisitor
Ancarani–in Umbria, by Stefanelli, Salua, and others, we may admire
the inquisitorial zeal of Cardinal Ferretti, the cousin of his present
holiness, who condescended more than once to employ these means, when
he was Bishop of Rieti and Fermo.

Every one knows how the Holy Inquisition has surpassed every other
tribunal by its exquisite ingenuity in torturing human nature. Must I
bring examples from the Inquisition of Spain? That of Rome has her own
to answer for as well. Through the mercy of Heaven, the former has come
to an end; but that of Rome is still in full vigour.

I do not propose to myself to speak of the Inquisition of times past,
but of what exists in Rome at the present moment: I shall therefore
assert that the laws of this institution being in no respect changed,
neither can the institution itself be said to have undergone any
alteration. The present race of priests who are now in power, are
too much afraid of the popular indignation to let loose all their
inquisitoria fury, which might even occasion a revolt, if they were not
to restrain it; the whole world, moreover, would cry out against them;
a crusade would be raised against the Inquisition itself, and for a
little temporary gratification, much power would be endangered. This
is the true reason why the severity of its penalties is in some degree
relaxed at the present time, but they still remain unaltered in its

Concerning the method of conducting a process, I read in the _Libro
Necro_ as follows: “With respect to the examination, and the duty of
the examiners–either the prisoner confesses, and he is proved guilty
from his own confession, or he does not confess, and is equally guilty
on the evidence of witnesses. If a prisoner confesses the whole of
what he is accused of, he is unquestionably guilty of the whole; but
if he confesses only a part, he ought still to be regarded as guilty
of the whole; since what he has confessed proves him to be capable
of guilt, as to the other points of accusation. And here the precept
is to be kept in view, ‘no one is obliged to condemn himself,’ _nemo
tenetur prodere seipsum_. Nevertheless, the judge should do all in
his power to induce the culprit to confess, since confession tends to
the glory of God. And as the respect due to the glory of God requires
that no one particular should be omitted, not even a mere attempt; so
the judge is bound to put in force, not only the ordinary means which
the Inquisition affords, but whatever may enter into his thoughts, as
fitting to lead to a confession. Bodily torture has ever been found the
most salutary and efficient means of leading to spiritual repentance.
Therefore, the choice of the most befitting mode of torture is left to
the Judge of the Inquisition, who determines according to the age, the
sex, and the constitution of the party. He will be prudent in its use,
always being mindful, at the same time, to procure what is required
from it–the confession of the delinquent. If, notwithstanding all the
means employed, the unfortunate wretch still denies his guilt, he is
to be considered as a victim of the devil; and, as such, deserves no
compassion from the servants of God, nor the pity or indulgence of holy
mother Church: he is a son of perdition. Let him perish, then, among
the damned, and let his place be no longer found among the living.”

This most astounding page is followed by another, in which is given
the mode of obtaining a conviction. Various means are pointed out to
establish the guilt of the prisoner, and to declare him deserving the
condemnation of the tribunal. For example, Titius is accused of having
eaten meat on Friday or Saturday. The Inquisition does not permit the
name of the accused to appear, neither those of the witnesses. The
accusation is laid that Titius has eaten meat in the house of Caius.
Sempronius is the accuser, and he summons the family of Caius to give
evidence; but, as these have been accomplices in the same affair, they
cannot be induced to depose against Titius; perhaps other witnesses
may be brought, who may be equally incompetent. In which case the
wary judge endeavours to draw from the prisoner himself sufficient to
inculpate him. He will first inquire respecting several other families
the points which he wishes to know with regard to that of Caius. He
will try to learn at what other houses Titius has been accustomed to
eat, in order to know concerning the house of Caius, where the meat
was eaten. The accusation sets forth that on such a day, at such an
hour, Titius went to the house of Caius, where the whole family were
present, and that all sat down to table, &c. &c. If Titius admits all
the circumstantial matters brought forward by the accuser, with respect
to time, place, and persons, but is silent, or denies entirely the only
crime imputed to him, he stands convicted: the accuser has no necessity
to bring forward witnesses: judgment is pronounced.

This practice is still employed by the Inquisition. In the year 1842, I
was accused of having spoken, in a certain house, against the worship
of saints. If the judge had made my accusation known (as is the case
in all other tribunals throughout the world), saying to me: You are
accused of having, in such a house, spoken of such and such matters,
in the presence of so and so,–I should have known my accuser by the
part he would take in the question. But instead of interrogating me
in a straightforward manner, I was made to give a description of the
house in question, together with that of several other houses; to
describe the persons belonging to it, and many other persons at the
same time; to discuss the real subject of accusation, mixed up with
other irrelevant matters, in order to mislead me as much as possible,
and prevent me from gaining any insight whatever of the points of
which I was accused, or of the persons who had accused me. Whether I
confessed or not, I was to be declared guilty, or, as they term it,
_reo convinto_.

With regard to these denunciations, the Inquisition declares that, in
matters of offences against religion, it is the positive and bounden
duty of every one to become an accuser. Children may and ought to
accuse their parents, wives their husbands, and servants their masters.
The law is, according to the decrees of several popes, that whoever
becomes acquainted with any offence committed against religion, whether
from his own knowledge, or from hearsay, is bound, within fifteen days,
to bring forward his accusation before an inquisitor, or the vicar of
the Holy Office; or, where these are not present, before a bishop. The
crime, whatever it may be, not only attaches to the principal and the
accomplices, but also to every one who knows of it and does not reveal
it. So that if you, for example, dear reader, should unfortunately
belong to the Church of the Inquisition, you would be obliged to
accuse not only me, who address you, but all those who, together with
yourself, listen to me: and whoever knows that you have listened to
my discourses, although he himself may never have heard me, is under
the obligation to denounce you to the Inquisition. The punishment for
non-observance of this duty is excommunication, which excludes the
party subject to it from the benefit of all the sacraments, and shuts
him out from the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, besides excommunication,
he is liable to be imprisoned in the Inquisition, and to suffer such
other punishment as may be deemed necessary. Even the very Cardinals,
and the Inquisitors themselves, are not exempt from this obligation;
the Pope himself has followed the example. My letters to Gregory XVI.
were immediately forwarded to the Inquisition, by his own hand. I have
reason to believe that Pius IX. did the same when I wrote to him. All
this we may overlook: but that a wife should be obliged to accuse her
own husband, or a mother her children, is too dreadful to think of.

I will here relate a fact which it always pains me to recall to mind;
and which, until the present occasion, I have never before spoken
about. During my residence at Viterbo, my native town, where I was
public professor and teacher in the College of _Gradi_, I was one day
applied to by a lady of prepossessing appearance, whom I then saw for
the first time. She requested, with much eagerness, to see me in the
sacristy; and as I entered the apartment where she was waiting for
me, she begged the sacristan to leave us alone, and suddenly closing
the door, presented a moving spectacle to my eyes. Throwing off her
bonnet, and letting loose in a moment her long and beautiful tresses,
the lady fell upon her knees before me, and gave vent to her grief in
abundance of sighs and tears. On my endeavouring to encourage her, and
to persuade her to rise and unfold her mind to me, she at length, in a
voice broken by sobs, thus addressed me:

“No, father, I will never rise from this posture, unless you first
promise to pardon me my heavy transgression.” (Although much younger
than herself, she addressed me as her father.)

“Signora,” replied I, “it belongs to God to pardon our transgressions.
If you have in any way injured me, so far I can forgive you; but I
confess I have no cause of complaint against you, with whom, indeed, I
have not even the pleasure of being acquainted.”

“I have been guilty of a great sin, for which no priest will grant me
absolution, unless you will beforehand remit it to me.”

“You must explain yourself more fully; as yet I have no idea of what
you allude to.”

“It is now nearly a year since I received absolution from my confessor;
and the last few days he has entirely forbid me his presence, telling
me that I am damned. I have tried others, and all tell me the same
thing. One, however, has lately informed me, that if I wished to be
saved and pardoned, I must apply to you, who, after the Pope, are the
only one who can grant me absolution.”

“Signora, there is some mistake here, explain yourself: of what
description is your sin?”

“It is a sin against the Holy Office.”[25]

“Well, but I have nothing to do with the Holy Office.”

“How? are not you Father Achilli, the Vicar of the Holy Office?”

“You have been misinformed, Signora; I am Achilli, the deputy master
of the Holy Palace, not Office: you may see my name, with this title,
prefixed to all works that are printed here, in lieu of that of the
master himself. I assure you that neither my principal nor myself have
any authority in cases that regard the Inquisition.”

The good lady hereupon rose from her knees, arranged her hair, wiped
the tears from her eyes, and asked leave to relate her case to me; and,
having sat down, began as follows:–

“It is not quite a year since, that I was going, about the time of
Easter, according to my usual custom, to confess my sins to my parish
priest. He, being well acquainted with myself and all my family, began
to interrogate me respecting my son, the only one I have, a young man
twenty-four years of age, full of patriotic ardour, but with little
respect for the priests. It happened that I observed to the curate
that, notwithstanding my remonstrances, my son was in the habit of
saying that the business of a priest was a complete deception, and that
the head of all the impostors was the Pope himself. Would I had never
told him! The curate would hear no further. ‘It is your duty,’ said
he, ‘to denounce your son to the Inquisition.’ Imagine what I felt at
this intimation! To be the accuser of my own son! ‘Such is the case,’
persisted he, ‘there is no help for it–I cannot absolve you, neither
can any one else until the thing is done.’ And, indeed, from every one
else I have had the same refusal. It will soon be twelve months since
I have received absolution; and in this present year many misfortunes
have befallen me. Ten days ago I tried again, and promised, in order
that I might receive absolution, that I would denounce my son; but it
was all in vain, until I had actually done so. I inquired then to whom
I ought to go, to prefer the accusation. And I was told to the Bishop,
or the Vicar of the Holy Office, and they named yourself to me. Twice
already have I been here, with the intention of doing what was required
of me, and as often have I recollected that I was a mother, and was
overwhelmed with horror at the idea. On Sunday last I came to your
church, to pray to the Virgin, the mother of Christ, to aid me through
this difficulty; and when I had recited the rosary in her honour, I
turned to pray also to the Son, saying: ‘O Lord Jesus, thou wert also
accused before the chief priests, by a traitorous disciple; but thou
didst not permit that thy Mother should take part in that accusation.
Behold, then, I also am a mother; and although my son is a sinner,
whilst thou wert most just, do not, I implore thee, require that his
own mother should be his accuser.’ Whilst I was making this prayer
the preaching began. I inquired the preacher’s name, and they told me
yours. I feigned to pay attention to the discourse, but I was wholly
occupied in looking at you, and reflecting, with many sighs, that I was
under the obligation to accuse to you my own child. In the midst of my
agitation a thought suddenly relieved me; I did not see the Inquisitor
in your countenance. Young, animated, and with marks of sensibility,
it seemed that you would not be too harsh with my son; I thought I
would intreat you first to correct him yourself, to reprimand, and to
threaten him, without inflicting actual punishment upon him.”

I shall not recapitulate my injunctions to this poor woman, to
tranquillize her mind with respect to having to denounce her son. I
advised her to change her confessor, and to be silent with regard
to him–anyhow she was not in fault. And if confession, I further
remarked, be a sacrament that pardons sins, it can never be made a
means of unwarrantably obtaining information as to the words or deeds
of another.

But had I really been Vicar of the Holy Office, what would have been
my duty in this matter? To receive the accusation of a mother against
her own son. An unheard-of enormity! She naturally would have made it
in grief and tears, and I should have had to offer her consolation. And
since this horrible act of treason has the pretence of religion about
it, I should have employed the aid of religion to persuade her that
the sacrifice she made was most acceptable to God. Perhaps, to act my
part better, I might have alluded to the sacrifice demanded of Abraham,
or Jephtha; or cited some apposite texts from Scripture, to calm and
silence the remorse of conscience she must have experienced on account
of the iniquity of bringing her child before the Inquisition.

Now let us see what is done by the Inquisitors. In what is called the
Holy Office, everything is allowable that tends to their own purposes.
To gain possession of a secret no means are to be disregarded; not
even those against our very nature. For a father and a mother to
reveal the thoughts of their own children, so trustingly confided to
them,–a revelation which may lead to their death,–is so great a
crime that we cannot imagine one more base. And yet the Inquisition
not only sanctions, but enjoins it to be done, daily. And this most
infamous Inquisition, a hundred times destroyed, and as often renewed,
still exists in Rome, as in the barbarous ages; the only difference
being, that the same iniquities are at present practised there with a
little more secrecy and caution than formerly: and this for the sake of
prudence, that the Holy See may not be subjected to the animadversions
and censure of the world at large.


[16] St. Thom. 2d. 9: xi. art. 3.

[17] The bishops swear to observe the laws of the Inquisition.

[18] Father Ancarani, an Inquisitor of forty-five years standing.

[19] This most reverend personage is a man of mild temper, apparently
incapable of cruelty. He was at that time one of the Counsellors of the

[20] Bernard of Chiaravalle.

[21] Peter the Hermit.

[22] As the style does not interfere with the sense, it has not been
deemed necessary to correct the foreign idioms in this letter.

[23] We have lately learned that this worthy has again entered the
Romish Church. It appears that even while he was employed in the
Malta College, he was negotiating with Rome for his pardon; on what
precise terms is not known, but certainly on condition of abjuring
Protestantism, and declaring himself its adversary. It is said he is
now at the Propaganda.

[24] Rev. xviii. 3.

[25] Every offence of which the Inquisition takes cognisance is called
“an offence against the Holy Office.”