ON quitting Rome I no longer thought of its material objects, its
churches, and its palaces; but of its unworthy government, and its
degraded race of priests and friars. As yet I had never visited Naples;
I fancied to myself that in most respects it was less objectionable
than Rome. I passed over the Pontine Marshes, that famous Maremma,
on which Pope Pius VI. expended so large a sum, in order to drain
it, and render it free from the malaria that infested it, but which
still continues the same. I arrived at Capua, which town I was soon
to revisit, to preach the Lent sermons; a vast number of priests were
here mixed up with a few townspeople and soldiers. At length I reached
the city of Naples, where, as every one knows, the eye wandering among
the busy throngs that are perpetually hurrying through the streets,
discovers, on every side, innumerable hats of priests and cowls of
monks; and, what at first sight excites so much surprise, friars of
every colour, order, and denomination; who pursue each other through
the crowd, as regardless of the tumult as if they were in the seclusion
of their own cloisters. “Well!” thought I to myself, “Rome is not the
only place that is overstocked with these gentry; Naples has its full
share of them as well.”

Naples is an exceedingly fine city, abundantly enriched by nature,
and endowed with every gift calculated to ameliorate the condition of
man, and to improve society. In casting our eyes over this delightful
country, where variety and harmony, beyond the reach of art, prevail
on every side; where nature, often in other countries sparing of her
bounty, here lavishes her utmost to produce the beautiful, the lovely,
and the enchanting, we are called upon to acknowledge that it is a
land especially gifted by Providence. As I then saw and enjoyed it, I
blamed myself for not having visited it sooner, and I made a resolution
to remain in it, until some weighty reason should determine me to the

As it wanted but a few days to Lent, I chose to remain _incognito_
during that time, busying myself in studying the genius of the people,
and the manners and habits of the various classes. The tumult of the
city, at all hours, and in all parts, was equally novel and strange to
me; as was likewise the great contrast I observed between those who
were in authority, and those whose duty it was to obey: the first, full
of importance, and proud of their privileges, assumed not merely an air
of superiority, but of disdain and contempt for the lower classes; who,
in their turn, aware of their necessities, and humiliated by their lot,
betrayed in their countenances a sense of their utter degradation, and
seemed themselves to authorize the slavery that debased them.

This moral deformity presented a strange contrast to the physical
beauty that reigned on every side: the one inspiring satisfaction and
delight, the other abhorrence and disgust. Naples itself is a paradise;
but the Neapolitans, to what are they to be likened? Whatever they are,
it is the government which has made them so. The people–and by the
people I do not merely understand the lower orders, but even those who
inhabit the court–have not a single fault that is not to be attributed
to their rulers: the better they are by nature, the worse they become
by their education. This evil is more apparent in the capital than
in the provinces; an evident proof that the government and the court
occasion the evil, and the consequent demoralization; in fact, it is
with the king himself, who sets the example, that the whole mischief

Suppose a lazzarone steals a handkerchief out of your pocket; might
he not plead in excuse that others commit far greater robberies with
impunity? Does not theft pervade every rank of society, even to royalty
itself? What barefaced depredations are not made on the public purse,
under the title of salaries and stipends, for duties which do not
exist! Whatever vices prevail in the lower classes, are invariably to
be found in a greater degree in the higher, and more especially in the
court circle. Lying, which is so common a vice among the lower orders,
is elevated to a science in the middle class, while among the nobility
it is regarded as a grace and a sort of gallantry, and with the king
and his ministers it is esteemed as an essential principle in the art
of governing.

The wife who lies to her husband, and the children who do the same
to their parents, encourage by their example the servants, who
consequently lie to their masters; and all these persons are encouraged
to do so by the priest, who, in his confessional, pardons, without any
sort of hesitation, every species of falsehood of which they accuse
themselves. Lying and thieving, which in all civilized countries are
held in detestation, are in this unhappy land almost regarded as
virtues. Blame is only attached to the practice when it is unskilfully
performed, so as to bring disgrace upon the order of liars and thieves,
_en masse_.

I reflected much on the lamentable condition of a people destined
by nature to be virtuous rather than vicious; and I was moved at
the consideration of the real cause of their misery. The immorality
of the people is entirely owing to its government; that is to say,
to its unjust laws and its corrupt magistrates. The police protects
every description of iniquity, and leagues itself with malefactors.
Money, the source of all evil, changes the face of everything. Both
witness and judge are notoriously sold to the highest bidder; it is
money, therefore, and not right, which decides a cause. For money,
the police is either alert or otherwise; it either invents crimes,
or conceals them. For money, the king grants pardons, and out of the
sums so applied a large portion finds its way into the pockets of the
confessor, and the servants about court. What wonder can there be then
that the example of the ministers of religion, whose office it is to
govern and to instruct, should be so generally followed? Money is, in
reality, the god that is worshipped in Italy. Naples is the kingdom
of the Church; Rome is the state. It is in Naples that the papistry
of Rome is in the fullest vigour, and the poor Neapolitans furnish
abundant proof of the iniquity of the system: they are the rowers of
the pope’s grand bark, and the king is at their head. The priests
rule in every direction; they insinuate themselves in a thousand ways
into every body’s concerns, and, directly or indirectly, possess an
influence over all. Through confession they obtain dominion over
the very minds of men, and discover their most secret thoughts and
intentions. Whoever would ascertain what priestcraft really is, and the
mischief it occasions in Italy, let him go to Naples.

It was during Lent, in the year 1835, that I went to Capua, and was
the guest of Cardinal Serra Cassano. He was an exceedingly polite man,
but to myself his attention was more than ordinary. His attendants
remarked to me that they had never known him so much at home with any
one before, and that he addressed me as his dearest friend.

Every day I preached, both morning and evening; and I had also other
duties assigned to me by the Cardinal: to draw up rules for monastic
bodies, to lay down a plan of study for the seminary, to suggest
measures of reform with respect to the clergy, &c. were what I had
to attend to; besides which, he was in the habit of consulting me on
other matters. Our conversation was unrestrained: and I frequently had
the satisfaction of declaring the truth to one whose ears had hitherto
been accustomed only to the voice of adulation, as he was exceedingly
wealthy, and held a sort of court, in which his will was absolute.
Did it happen that any one contradicted or offended him, even in a
single instance, he was sure to visit the culprit with his indignation;
and if he were in his service, he ran the risk of being immediately
discharged. All his dependents, therefore, trembled before him, and
watched with anxiety the expression of his eye. However much he might
be in the wrong, his servile followers were obliged to say: “Your
Eminence is in the right.” He was like one of the feudal barons of the
middle ages, with respect to the state and tyranny of his conduct. I
was greatly amused at his extravagances; and as I did not fear him, I
sacrificed nothing of my own independence in my demeanour towards him.
No argument of any consequence took place between us, although I often
endeavoured to lead the conversation to serious topics: in fact, he had
not much head for subjects of high importance. All that I could do was,
to present a few words of truth to him, in the simplest form, since he
was incompetent to enter into any grave discussion. He disliked to talk
of religion, but delighted to expatiate on the Church; on the dignity
of bishops and cardinals; of the privileges of the clergy, of their
immunities, &c. He was frequently at issue, nevertheless, with his
clergy, and had many important lawsuits with the heads of the cathedral
and the collegiate church. Consequently, he was generally disliked: it
may, indeed, be averred that he was beloved by no one at Naples, not
even by his own relations.

I relate these circumstances, which are well known to all his
acquaintance, in order that the true character of these sons of the
Church of Rome, in her last days, may be known. The Cardinal, who was a
man of very slender ability, had already occupied the post of Apostolic
Nuncio, at the Court of Bavaria, and had performed good service in that
capacity for the Holy See; having obtained, as he himself told me, from
that country large sums of money, by the sale of indulgences and papal
dispensations. He had, moreover, executed many important commissions
on the part of the Propaganda and the Inquisition; and even, on one
occasion, had successfully resisted the power of the king, in his
attempt to interfere in some ecclesiastical matters. “Your Majesty
must recollect,” said he, “that you are the subject of the Church.”
These few words, the Cardinal observed, were sufficient to stop the
proceedings of his majesty.

In these matters he was adroit enough. His altercations with the King
of Naples were perfectly amusing, and no one was more frank than he was
in expressing his sentiments. But the worst of it was, that all his
courageous efforts were directed either to matters of no importance
whatever, or to support things decidedly wrong and bad. Never, in a
single instance, that ever came to my knowledge at least, was there
any subject discussed between the king and him, of a noble or useful
nature; though he was continually perplexing his brains with government
affairs, and censuring the ministers, or giving them his advice.

He took great delight in all private gossip, and Neapolitan jokes,
which are often none of the most decent; and encouraged all dealers
in satire, provided it was directed against classes he deemed fitting
subjects for it; more especially against the monks, for whom he
professed very little regard. With the pope or the cardinals, however,
it was different: no one was permitted to censure them in his presence.
Nevertheless, I often took the liberty of doing so myself, on which
occasions I never failed to receive a gentle reproof.

“Ah! you are no friend to cardinals,” said he to me one day.

“On the contrary,” I replied, “I am so much their friend, that nothing
would give me more pleasure than to introduce a real reform among
them, and give them an opportunity of becoming estimable characters.
The good Bishop Bartholomew de Martiribus, the primate of Hungary, was
of the same opinion when he exclaimed before the Council of Trent:
_Illustrissimi et Reverendissimi Cardinales indigent illustrissima
et reverendissima reformatione._[75] Three ages have elapsed since
this exclamation was made, but nothing as yet has resulted from it.
Who, indeed, can ever reform them, so long as they alone possess the
privilege of doing so?”

“The pope, who is their superior, may reform them.”

“And the pope himself, who is to reform him?”

“The Almighty.”

“May it be so.”

On my leaving Rome, Olivieri, the Father-General of the Dominicans,
and head commissioner of the Inquisition, had deputed me to go to
Mugnano, in the diocese of Nola, where the celebrated new saint,
Philomena, the pretended worker of so many recent miracles, is held
in great veneration. The Inquisition was not quite satisfied with the
manner in which the priest Don Francesco di Lucia had exhibited these
miracles to the public. This priest, it seems, was in possession of
certain reliques, fragments of bones, which he had brought away from
Rome in the year 1802, and subsequently enclosed within a little image
of _papier maché_, originally a figure of Christ, such as are sold
at Naples, to which he added a female mask and suitable garments,
disposing the image in a sleeping attitude. Thus metamorphosed into a
female, the worthy priest soon found a name for his saint, although
no one could tell whether the bones had belonged to a male or a
female.[76] Be that as it may, he was the first to celebrate their
fame, and set up a sanctuary, in which such astonishing prodigies were
soon said to be performed, that ignorant peasants came from all the
neighbouring parts, to worship the new idol, bringing their offerings
with them, and inducing other devout idolaters to do the same.

I was therefore authorized by the commissioner to reprove the priest,
on account of the numerous tales he had spread abroad, respecting the
life, death, and miracles of his wonderful saint. I was directed to
inform him that not one of his boasted prodigies could be believed,
since there was no evidence whatever of their having actually occurred;
and that the Roman Inquisition entirely disapproved of his conduct, and
was on the point of condemning all the books he had published on the

I undertook this office with considerable satisfaction, as I had for a
long time been disgusted with all the fabulous stories of saints and
miracles that inundated Italy and Europe, and were even introduced
into the sermons of the missionaries of the Propaganda. Accordingly,
during the Holy week, when I had no duty to perform, I took upon me
to go to Mugnano, accompanied by Monsignor Angustoni, a preacher in
the collegiate church of Santa Maria. Our arrival was hailed with
great pleasure by Don Francesco, who, at the sight of us, flattered
himself that two preachers from Capua had actually become followers
of his saint. He accordingly began in his usual style to vaunt her
perfections, and the wonders she had performed.

“See,” said he to me, pointing to the image, “this saint is different
from all other saints in existence. She knows beforehand the favours
her devotees come to ask of her, and she shows in a decided manner
whether she intends to grant their suit or not. A few days ago a
bishop, I shall not tell his name, came to pay his respects to her;
I saw at once that she was displeased at his visit, as she visibly
changed countenance, and assumed a pale and sad aspect: whereas, on
the very same day, when the Marchioness of Riso, from Naples, came
here, her aspect was altogether different. I wish you could have seen
how handsome she looked! The marchioness told me she had come to ask a
favour, but that she found it was granted, even before she had arrived
at Mugnano.”

“I hope our visit will be equally acceptable to your saint,” said I;
“and that she will look favourably upon us, when you make us acquainted
with her. I do not know whether my friend here has any boon to ask of
her. For my own part, I require nothing at all from her saintship.”

Before withdrawing the curtain that concealed his oracle from the
common gaze, the priest showed us a piece of marble upon the altar,
which, he said, having been accidentally broken in two pieces, the
saint had miraculously joined, and made it as perfect as before. I
however begged leave to point out to him that there were pretty evident
marks of its having been cemented in the ordinary way, by mastic. He
also showed me a little shrine, from which, as he assured me, the
reliques of the saint, after having been carefully placed there by
his own hands, suddenly disappeared; because the owner of it was not
sufficiently devout. As I could allege nothing to the contrary, I made
no remark, but merely smiled at his absurdity. Don Francesco now rang
the great bell of the church, lighted the candles upon the altar, and
assembled the people. Among them I particularly noticed twenty or
thirty young girls, who were maintained at the expense of the priest,
out of the money given to Saint Philomena; their office was to pray to
the saint, in behalf of those persons who presented gifts to her.

These girls, with loud shrill voices, frequently raised to their
extremest pitch, chanted the customary prayers, in the same style as
the old women at Naples, in the chapel of St. Januarius, invoke the
saint to perform his annual miracle of liquefying his own blood. Other
girls tinkled the various bells belonging to the church, while Don
Francesco, devoutly kneeling, exposed the sacred reliques. We, for our
part, were lost in admiration, at beholding such solemn ceremonies,
on so ridiculous an occasion as the appearance of a painted doll,
dressed in female attire, with a few bones withinside, and called Saint

“Oh! how beautiful she is,” exclaimed Don Francesco, turning towards
us. “Observe the charming colour of her cheeks; she is like a rose of

“Which is a good sign, I suppose, is it not?” I replied. “She must be
greatly pleased with our visit.”

“Undoubtedly she is,” he returned, “and quite disposed to grant
whatever you may ask of her.”

“Is she then omnipotent?”

“Why, as to that, she is the daughter of the Omnipotent God, and
dispenses all his favours; she keeps the treasury of the Divine grace,
and to her friends she denies nothing; what she receives in heaven she
freely bestows upon earth; she takes from the hand of God, and gives to

“Don Francesco,” said I to him, “all this appears to me an idle dream;
it agrees with no doctrine in theology. Christianity is not based on
such superstitions, but on real facts. Who has told you that your
saint is what you report her to be? Besides, what you affirm concerning
her, is also affirmed of hundreds, nay, thousands of other saints,
who are said to be equally powerful; all have access to the Divine
treasury, all deal in miracles, prodigies, and conjurations alike.
Besides, with so many saints to intercede for us, what becomes of the
office of Jesus Christ, of whom it is said by John, that he intercedes
for us, that he is our only advocate with the Father? Moreover, He
himself says, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.'[77] ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by
me.'[78] Now, it is clear that you, Don Francesco, have recourse to
others than the Lord Jesus Christ, to gain admission to the Father.
Take care you do not altogether mistake the way, and teach what is not
true. For it is written, ‘If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall
into the ditch.'”[79]

Don Francesco appeared greatly disconcerted by so public a rebuke
as this: it was what he so little expected. He concealed his
embarrassment, however, as well as he could, and continued, but with
less assurance, his account of Saint Philomena.

“See here,” said he, “one cannot deny that her hair grows, or that she
has moved her feet; they are more stretched out and curved than they
were. She even changed her position a little time ago.”

“She, do you say? tell me, do you mean the saint herself, or the
pasteboard image? for I do not suppose you have operated the change, or
transubstantiation, of the saint into _papier maché_, and _vice versâ_!
What does it signify if the paper doll has become a little twisted by
the changes in the temperature of the atmosphere? Are not the ropes of
the church bells affected in the same way? do not they become longer
when the weather is damp, and shorter when it is dry? These miracles of
yours all arise from natural causes. Even suppose it otherwise, what
benefit would it be to the Church if the image really moved itself
about?[80] Divine miracles always have an important object, never being
wrought but for purposes of exceeding utility. Do you ever read in the
Bible about miracles, performed as it were in sport, or to satisfy vain
curiosity, such as these of your saint? Religion has no need of such,
and they do her no honour. I wish to heaven that we had never talked
of the miracles of St. Anthony, of St. Vincent, and others, which are
only derogatory to the excellence and the truth of those operated by
the Saviour and his apostles. In the early days of Christianity there
was a necessity for miracles, in order, as one of the Fathers expresses
it, to water the new plants of the religion of Christ. Those plants are
now strong and healthy, and have no need to be watered as they formerly

At these words I saw the priest evince great signs of dissatisfaction.
He eyed me askance, his lip quivered with a sort of convulsive
movement. It appeared that he had a reply ready for me, which he had
probably been concocting all the time I had been lecturing him. I
paused therefore to give him an opportunity of speaking.

“Then you have no faith in the miracles of St. Philomena?”

“What miracles do you mean? Those you have spoken of are no miracles at
all. The operations of nature, even when most extraordinary, are not
miracles. Miracles are above the power of nature, and contrary to her
laws. All that you have brought forward is child’s play, mere nonsense.
As to the other marvels you tell me of–the instantaneous cures that
have been effected, gifts and visions from heaven, angels appearing,
and devils being put to flight–I hold them all to be pure inventions.
You seem angry with me for discrediting your account; I hope you will
be less so with the cardinals of the Inquisition, who, I can assure
you, highly disapprove, as well as myself, of your wonderful relations,
and hold them all as fables: moreover, I have to inform you, which
I do in the presence of Monsignor Angustoni, brother of the Pope’s
Sacristan, that the rebuke I have given you is at the special direction
of the Commissioner-General of the Holy Office.”

At these words the priest hung down his head, as one who already hears
the judge pronouncing his sentence. I saw that he was effectually
humbled, and therefore did not carry my reproof any further.

“My dear Don Francesco,” I said, “the religion of Jesus Christ, which
we both profess, is truth in its most luminous aspect; but it is as a
mirror, which becomes sullied by human breath. If it be entirely from
God, man can add nothing to it. It is our duty to receive it such as it
is, without seeking to embellish it with our own inventions, however
holy or spiritual they may appear to be. Grievous superstitions have
in this manner been introduced into Christianity, If our venerable
fathers of the early ages could return to this world, they would
find so many abuses and falsehoods among us, that they would no
longer recognise the holy spouse of Christ. Give up, therefore, these
idle stories about Saint Philomena, which cause great injury to the
simple-minded, in leading them to worship, instead of the Lord Jesus
Christ, a created being, nay, even dead bones and a senseless image.
May God pardon you the offence you have already committed!”

And what, it may be asked, was really the effect of my lecture on
the mind of Don Francesco? I verily believe it had none whatsoever;
since, as I afterwards understood, he continued his practices exactly
in the same style, and I never heard that the Inquisition took any
steps towards interfering with them. Perhaps he may have learned to
accommodate his lies on the subject, according to the prescribed rules
of the Holy Congregation of Rites, and consequently is no longer at
variance with Rome. The miracles attributed to this saint have been
trumpeted forth to all the world, and her worship, or rather idolatry,
extends everywhere. The King of Naples, his whole family, and the
members of his court, are among her most zealous supporters, and Don
Alfonzo d’Avalos, the Court Grand-master of the ceremonies, has the
honour of being her treasurer!

“What is your opinion with respect to this Saint Philomena?” inquired
the Cardinal one day, as we were discoursing together.

“I think it is a gross piece of idolatry to worship her,” I replied.
“I reproved Don Francesco for his fanaticism pretty severely. But how
is it possible to convince a priest? One might as well argue with a
block of stone. To what a pass has religion come in this country of
ours! to the worship of images and reliques; to the adoration of the
Madonna and the saints! God, or Jesus Christ, serve only as names to
cover or sanction this species of idolatry, under the title of the
Christian religion. No, your Eminence, this is not Christianity, it
has been corrupted by the priests altogether. And what are our bishops
about? They shut their eyes to what is going on, regardless of their
responsibility in these matters. Every shepherd is bound to take care
of his flock; he who neglects this duty is a hireling, and unworthy
of his charge. Now what is the Bishop of Nola about, while these
impostures are being carried on in his diocese?”

“Why, they say they pull together in that respect; but I do not believe
it,” replied the Cardinal.

It is indeed notorious how the worship of saints increases, as well
as the fame of their miracles. The priests and the bishops favour the
practice alike. The Cardinal, although he appeared to disapprove of
this affair of Saint Philomena, was only instigated by his desire to
pay greater homage to other saints, whose repute he was more interested
in advocating. But what can be advanced in favour of these proceedings,
when it is seen that the greatest saint in the Romish Church is that of
whom the greatest lies have been invented? They only are true saints,
who, without any of these pretensions, died, according to the old Latin
phrase, _in osculo domini_; they alone are those whom God acknowledges
as such, and whom we may hope to meet in heaven.

During my stay at Capua, before the termination of Lent, a certain
Monsignor Lasteria, Bishop of Zante and Cephalonia, came on a visit
to Cardinal Serra. He was a native of Capua, and had formerly been
the Cardinal’s secretary. The object of his visit was, apparently, to
solicit the good offices of the Cardinal with the Propaganda, to obtain
leave for him to resign the bishopric he held; possibly with a view of
obtaining a translation to some see in the dominions of the King of
Naples. The Cardinal had broached the matter to the Propaganda some
time before, but the grand difficulty appeared to be the providing
another bishop for Zante and Cephalonia. I was applied to on the
occasion, and asked if I knew of any fit person whom I could recommend
to this bishopric, which was a difficult post to fill, as the Romish
Church was there placed between the Anglican and the Greek Church. The
Cardinal repeatedly urged me to name some one of my acquaintance, to
present to the Propaganda, instead of Monsignor Lasteria.

I was wearied by these frequent applications, and one day briefly told
his Eminence that I had neither a Titus, nor a Timothy to propose;
hoping that after such an observation I should be no more troubled on
the subject. But not many days after he came to seek me with a very
satisfied and condescending air.

“I hope,” said he, “that you will acknowledge the will of God in
the proposition I am about to make you. The holy Father, on the
recommendation of the secretary of the Propaganda, has signified
his approval of your succeeding Monsignor Lasteria yourself, in the
bishopric of these two Ionian Islands; and besides which he invests
you with the office of Vicar Apostolic of Corfu. He observed, however,
after having spoken very favourably of you, that he could not compel
you to accept this office in a foreign country, but at any rate, if it
did not please you, it need only be for a short time, as he should,
himself, be better satisfied to have you in Rome.”

“Many thanks to your Eminence, as well as to the Pope, and to the
secretary of the Propaganda. This office, which in the time of the
apostles was very desirable, according to the words of St. Paul to
Timothy,[81] is now no longer so; at least, not in my eyes. Indeed,
such as the episcopacy is in our day, I would counsel no man to
accept it: far less would I accept it myself. My objection does not
apply alone to the see of the Ionian Islands, but to every bishopric
whatsoever, belonging to the Church of Rome. The laws and general
usages connected with them are such that I could never conform myself
to them, either as regards practice or precept. I wish it therefore to
be understood that I do not refuse a poor bishopric, in the hope of
obtaining a rich one; it is the dignity itself, the prelacy that I
object to: what I consider therefore as a dangerous acquisition, I am
by no means disposed to possess.”

“Come, take three days to consider of it. Your refusal is too hasty,
you ought to reflect before you decide. Offer up your prayers, these
three days, to the Lord and the most holy Madonna, that they may
enlighten you.”

“Well, I will wait three days, and offer up my prayers to the Lord, and
at the end of that time I will communicate the result to your eminence.”

A few hours after the expiration of the allotted period, the Cardinal
came to me again, to know my decision.

“Everything,” I replied, “strengthens me in the resolution I have
already expressed to your Eminence, of declining to accept the
bishopric. I look at what is true in the office, and at what is false.
The duty of a bishop is essentially that of a shepherd; as the one
leads his flock to pasture, so the other conducts his people into the
way of truth. But the shepherd has become the doctor. He has, and _very
inappropriately_, assumed a command, an authority, a jurisdiction, a
power which usurps dominion: yet He who said to Peter, ‘Feed my sheep,
feed my lambs,’ also said to him, and to all the apostles, ‘Ye know
that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and
they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be
so among you.'[82] Now the office of a bishop at the present day is
totally opposite to what it ought to be. By a bishop, we understand
an ecclesiastic who, in consequence of possessing a dominion, has
authority and a right to command; which right it is pretended he
receives from Christ, through the apostles. But it is evident that the
apostles themselves never had such right. And what are our present
bishops? Shepherds? Would to God they led their flocks to the pastures
of truth, to the holy Word! If any one in the present day were to
fulfil his duty as bishop, according to the original signification of
the office, he would soon be at issue with Rome, from whence all the
scandal proceeds, and which stigmatizes as innovations any return to
the customs and observances of the early times of Christianity.”

“I have no more to say then. If you refuse, I will write and tell them
they must choose another. Have you any one to propose?”

“There is at Rome, among the Dominicans, a missionary, one Father
Hynes, an Irishman, who has lately come over from the United States, in
the hope of obtaining promotion. He would be very fit for the Ionian

The next day the Cardinal came again with a letter in his hand. “I am
going to send,” said he, “your answer to Rome. I have stated that, for
certain private reasons, you cannot accept the offer that has been made
you. Am I right? Shall I send the letter? or do you think better of it?”

“I request your Eminence will forward the letter at once. And since
you have already shown me so much kindness, I am encouraged to open
my mind still further to you. I wish to send these two other letters
to Rome; one to Cardinal Polidori, Prefect of the Congregation of
Discipline, and the other to Monsignor Acton, the secretary, to request
from the pope my secularization. I wish to quit the Order to which I
belong: it brings me too much before the public. I have no ambitious
desires, and would rather lead a quiet life, as a simple priest,
without any office whatsoever in the Church. I feel myself called by
God to preach according to his Word; and in the performance of that
duty I would willingly spend the remainder of my existence. I should
also resume the delivery of my scientific lectures. I have another
strong reason for relinquishing this Order, in which I can never hope
to enjoy any tranquillity, since with my own eyes I have witnessed
the irregularities that are practised in the different monasteries I
have visited. It has, moreover, the additional dishonour of having
provoked the pope to dismiss the Father General Olivieri.[83] At Rome,
in that most abominable monastery of the Minerva, all who have any good
about them are sure to be persecuted, as was the case with my friend
Brocchetti. I can no longer live among such people. I shall request my
passport, and leave them.”

“And where will you go?”

“I cannot tell: probably I shall remain some time in Naples, if they
will leave me alone. I foresee a secret persecution hatching up against
me. I shall live entirely to myself, if I am allowed to do so, and
shall attend solely to study and preaching.”

The Cardinal did all in his power to dissuade me. He averred I was
tempted by the devil, that I was relinquishing a very desirable
position, that I should give great offence at Rome, and only bring
ruin on myself. He added, that he should immediately set about writing
letters in opposition to mine, to throw all possible impediments in my
way; and said many other things, just as they came into his head. I let
him talk on, and pursued my own measures.

In this state of affairs I left Capua, with abundance of courteous
expressions on the part of his Eminence, which it is needless to
repeat. In a letter that he wrote to Cardinal Caracciolo, Archbishop
of Naples, he reiterated all the personal compliments he had paid to
me; of which letter the archbishop kindly sent me a copy; and I still
preserve it among other papers.[84] Cardinal Serra, moreover, on my
taking leave of him, made me some presents, and favoured me with two
appointments–one to preach during Lent in 1837, in another of his
churches; and the other to confess, _in perpetuo_, in the whole of his
vast diocese, which he told me was a distinguished privilege that he
never before had granted to any one.

This authority to pardon sins, which the bishops take upon themselves
to grant, is a great abuse in the Church of Rome. It is a gross
imposition, a monopoly, a very usurpation. I do not here enter into
the question of auricular confession; I confine my remarks, for the
present, to the privilege of granting absolution for sins, which the
bishops confer on their friends. To myself it was given in its utmost
latitude, for an unlimited period, and for every species of crime. In
general, the power is not granted for any length of time. In Rome, it
is seldom for more than six months, in Naples, for three only. When it
is granted for a year, it may be annually renewed, on application to
the bishop. It is seldom conceded without the party’s being examined
on the doctrine of casuistry at least, and never for every description
of sin. Every bishop has his own list of reserved cases; that is to
say, of some particular sins, not comprised in the general list of
pardonable offences; and for these the confessor is obliged to seek
the assistance of the bishop. There are some indeed, which the bishops
themselves cannot absolve, the pope always reserving to himself, in
these graver matters, the power of absolution; and the confessor is
obliged on such occasions to apply to his holiness himself, who, in
his turn, refers him to the grand penitentiary; since neither the pope
nor any of the bishops receive a confession; which office is always
confided to their inferiors; being considered one of far less dignity
than that of consecrating a church, blessing a cemetery, or baptizing
the bells.

It is a sure sign that a priest who is appointed confessor to a
diocese, is a particular friend of the bishop, since, on the slightest
disagreement between them, or the least feeling of ill will, he is
forthwith suspended from his office. I must here observe that I always
enjoyed the friendship of those prelates who from time to time granted
me this great privilege in their several jurisdictions; since not a
single one of them ever suspended me in the execution of my office,
even at a time when I began to be suspected of entertaining heretical
opinions. It was also an honourable distinction in my favour, that
none of the bishops by whom I was appointed ever thought it necessary
to subject me to the usual examination. Neither did I ever solicit
the office, it having been invariably bestowed on me as a mark of
their individual good will. I have a whole bundle of these diplomas,
many bearing the signature of cardinals, and one from the Archbishop,
the great chaplain of the King of Naples, for all the royal churches
in the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Some were presented to me out of
compliment; as, for instance, by the Bishop of Nocera, on the occasion
of his returning my visit to him, in the year 1836, when his first act
was to present me with the office of confessor. The same also took
place with the Archbishop of Sorrento, the first time I was in his
company, which was at dinner in his own house. It is astonishing to
see the exceeding politeness and courtesy with which these worthies
bestow on their subordinates the power to pardon the most grievous
offences against the Majesty of Heaven. Would they, with equal grace
and condescension, have granted it for offences committed against
themselves? A circumstance that took place between one of these
dignitaries and myself, will throw a little light on the subject.

I went one day to Sorrento, to endeavour to promote a reconciliation
between the archbishop and a poor priest of Meta, whom the archbishop
had, for a number of years, hated and persecuted to such an extent as
to create a great scandal through the whole diocese. The chief cause
of offence complained of by the archbishop was, that the priest had
written some satirical lines upon him, and had also spoken of him with
little reverence. The priest had subsequently heartily repented of the
act, and had in every possible manner implored forgiveness for the
offence: he had written many letters in the humblest style, and had
frequently got persons of character and respectability to intercede
for him. It was, however, all in vain. The archbishop was obstinate,
and persisted in holding the priest in suspension from the performance
of all ecclesiastical duty within his diocese. The last hope remained
with me, and out of compassion for the poor fellow, I undertook the
task, as well as for regard towards the Archbishop, who, before
being acquainted with me, had spoken of me with kindness; in return,
therefore, I was equally anxious to be useful to him. My visit to him
took place after we had exchanged two or three polite notes, and was
apparently the result of a desire for greater mutual acquaintance, but,
for my own part, my principal object was this affair of the priest.
As the Archbishop had no idea of the kind, I waited for a favourable
opportunity to introduce the subject, which soon presented itself on
his Grace’s bestowing on me the diploma of a Confessor.

“Then I am authorized, in virtue of this, to receive confessions of all
offences committed against God, and to grant pardon and absolution to
whoever repents?”

“Unquestionably; and, moreover, I invest you with power to do so, in
all reserved cases, for the term of a year.”

“This is certainly a very desirable power, and one for which I have for
some time been particularly anxious. I can then absolve in those cases
reserved for your Grace?”

“Yes; and for those referred to the Synod of the diocese.”

“It is well; I shall then absolve whoever truly confesses, however
great his sin may be.”

“To be sure; it is to the greatest sinners that God extends the
chiefest mercy, and we, as his ministers, should receive them with open
arms,” observed the Archbishop.

“How gracious the Lord is to pardon so freely,” I continued; “I am
lost in admiration whenever I reflect on the manner in which Jesus
Christ pardoned the poor woman, and also the publican in the parable,
immediately on his asking it. Alas! how difficult we find it to follow
his blessed example! how reluctant we are to pardon those who have
offended ourselves! notwithstanding Jesus Christ has told us, ‘If ye
forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your
trespasses.'[85] And it avails us little if we do so once or twice, or
even ten times; for Christ commanded Peter to forgive seventy times
seven; which signifies to forgive without limitation; as it is written,
‘If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent
forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and
seven times in a day turn to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive

At these words I fancied I perceived in the countenance of the
Archbishop an acknowledgment of the sacred nature of this duty, and
accordingly I thought it best to seize the opportunity without further
preparation. “Monsignore,” I exclaimed, “these divine assurances
encourage the poor priest Lasteria to ask anew of your Grace pardon
for the offence he acknowledges he has committed, and of which he now
thoroughly repents.”

“No,” loudly roared out the Archbishop, “it is not true that he
repents; he only feigns to do so, that I may be induced to pardon him.
To all others I am willing, but to this person I can never extend that

“Monsignore, the poor man came to me yesterday with tears in his eyes.
‘I hope,’ said he, ‘that my Archbishop will at length consent to pardon
me, for the love of God, and that the blessed God may also pardon him
his sins. Oh! what comfort shall I experience if he restores me to his
favour! if you obtain permission for me to go and make my peace with
him, I shall then be content to die.'”

“I cannot receive him; neither will I pardon him, till I am thoroughly
convinced of his repentance and humiliation.”

“What then must he do?”

“Go into a monastery, and remain there till I recall him.”

“And for what purpose?”

“To undergo penance.”

“God makes no such condition to us. We should be badly off, if for
every offence we had to undergo a suitable penance! If God pardons,
on the sole consideration that Jesus Christ has made satisfaction for
us, as faith teaches us to believe, can we find any excuse for not
pardoning those for whom Christ has suffered? On what condition does
Christ pardon our sins? What penance has he enjoined?”

“What! do you deny then that the Church has a right to impose penance?”

“I find that the custom is very much lessened. The question, however,
at present, has nothing to do with the Church. It is altogether a
personal offence, and you have yourself full power to remit—-”

“No, no, I cannot remit, the offence has been too public.”

“All the better. Your Excellence will grant the more public and solemn

“It appears to me that you are come here to preach me a sermon, rather
than to pay me a visit.”

“Exactly; it is the visit of a Preacher. Ought I to waste my time
in vain speeches or idle compliments? I avail myself of the present
opportunity to discuss an affair of equal importance to your Excellence
and to the priest; and I declare it is for the regard I entertain for
both parties that I interest myself in it. If the priest, on his part,
has need of your pardon, it cannot be denied that it would be equally
advantageous for your Excellence to grant it him, to put a stop to all
the idle talk of the neighbourhood, as well as to the imprecations of
the numerous relatives and friends of the priest, who form a large
party in Meta and Sorrento.”

“What a capital advocate you are!”

“Have I then gained my cause?”

“Tell your client to do as I have said–let him go into a monastery,
and then he may send to me again, and I may perhaps take his petition
into consideration. Now let us talk of something else.”

In this way it was that the Archbishop closed the door upon all hope of
reconciliation: he refused his brother the forgiveness which he asked
of him for the love of God. A year after, the cholera put an end to
his life…. How fearful are thy judgments, Lord! Here was a man who
willingly pardoned all sins committed against God, but who knew not how
to pardon a single fault against himself. Such is the character of the
higher Clergy in the Romish Church; indulgent in the extreme to all
those who do not stand in the way of their interests or their ambition,
they are implacable in their hatred, and cruel and fierce in their

No sooner had I taken up my abode in Naples, after the termination of
my preaching at Capua, than I was exceedingly courted by the Bishops
and the Superiors of the Order. I had on every side the offer of a
pulpit in their churches. I chose before all others the Lent discourses
for 1836, in the principal Church of the Dominicans, as a testimony of
my good will towards them. In 1837 I was again engaged by the Cardinal
of Capua. In 1838 I officiated for the Cardinal of Naples; and in 1839
I preached for the Papal Nuncio, in his church of St. James.

In this manner passed over the six years that I remained in Naples.
My occupation was not confined to the city, it extended to the
neighbouring parts. Besides the duty during Lent, every Sunday and
Festival, throughout the year, I preached in various churches, and
occasionally on other days of the week. I have frequently delivered
two or three sermons in the course of the same day. A part only of
these discourses was prepared beforehand, as it was impossible for me
to write even one half of what I preached; but in general I found no
difficulty in getting through my task, as I had accustomed myself from
an early period to extempore delivery, which had now become easy and
familiar to me; sometimes, however, not being exactly in the mood,
I could not express myself with equal fluency as at others. Still
I think it is the preferable mode for evangelical preaching, as
notwithstanding a few trifling inconveniences, arising from occasional
repetition and inexactitude, its simplicity presents a great advantage;
since with regard to expression, the less it is studied, the more it
is true, persuasive, and touching: moreover, he who is completely
master of his subject need not fear that he will want words or proper
arrangement; according to the opinion of Horace–

—-“Cui lecta potenter erit res,
Nec facundia deseret hunc, nec lucidus ordo.”

My preaching was originally commenced, as is customary with all
students in religion, with the study of rhetoric; and was limited by
certain rules, which teach the manner of arranging the various parts
of an oration: hence I at first experienced a sort of vain glory in
my pursuit, and panted to acquire the fame of an eloquent orator;
but I afterwards changed my style, when I became convinced that a
sacred speaker ought to be governed rather by the influence of the
Holy Spirit than by rules of art; I therefore applied myself more to
prayer than to study, and my discourses became less brilliant, but more
efficacious. Any one who had heard me preach at these different epochs
would readily have perceived the change I speak of, though he might
not have understood the reason of it. My first attempts aimed at great
elegance of style, and I was ambitious to be thought an able writer. My
sermons at the Court of Lucca were of this character: I was then about
twenty years of age, and had not yet been ordained priest. Persons
of high distinction were among my auditors; among whom I may reckon
Lazaro Papi, the Marquess Cesare Lucchesini, Professor Gigliotti, and
the famous personages, Teresa Bandettini and Costanza Moscheni. I was
honoured with their friendship, and they approved of my pulpit-labours.
Alas for me! How little at that time had I been educated in the school
of the Redeemer! The favour of men was all I sought after. By degrees,
however, I began to perceive that all this was vanity.

From Lucca I proceeded to Rome, and from thence to Viterbo. My
preaching had much improved; it had less display, and was more suitable
to its design. I reserved my flowers of eloquence for panygeric
orations, (which in my then darkened state greatly occupied me,) and
began to be more grave and sedate in my style. On my removal to Naples,
these feelings increased, as I thought, more deeply on matters of
true religion, and my sermons assumed an evangelical tone, which was
agreeable to persons of talent; and I was perfectly indifferent as to
the opinion of those who disliked it.

The last of my Lent duties, that at the church of St. Giacomo, at
Naples, was the actual commencement of my new style. I gave a series
of thirty-seven discourses, in which I not only avoided all papistic
doctrines, but set forth those contained in the Scriptures themselves;
such as justification by faith, the sole mediation of Christ, his only
priesthood, and single sacrifice, &c. These were entirely new views
in a country where nothing else was taught than the efficacy of works
of merit, the intercession of saints, the pretended dignity of the
priests, the great value of the mass applied to souls in purgatory, and
the necessity of worshipping the Madonna.

I saw very clearly that my advocating anew the practice enjoined in
the ancient and holy teaching of our forefathers, would excite the
fiercest animosity against me. I began to hear it rumoured about that
my sermons were more Protestant than Catholic; I received several
anonymous letters on the subject; and as at that time I preached every
Sunday in the church of St. Peter the Martyr, I saw many priests among
my congregation, who had very much the look of spies. Notwithstanding
all this, I stuck to my argument, and continued to preach in the same
style the doctrine of early Christianity; bringing texts from Scripture
alone, in support of my propositions, rarely citing the Fathers, and
never the Theologians of the Romish Church.

The altered character of my discourses soon gave rise to many
conferences among the bigots of the Neapolitan clergy, and to many
letters from Rome. The Cardinal Archbishop asked me one day if it
was true that these conferences and letters had reference to the new
doctrines I was advocating.

“They are new,” I replied, “in the same manner that the moon every
fresh month is called new, though she is nevertheless as old as the

“But they assert that you no longer preach the necessity of good works,
faith alone being sufficient.”

“That is not exactly the case; I stated that works are not good, unless
they are the fruits of faith, and that others are of no avail; as St.
Paul says, ‘Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,'[87] which signifies all
disorder and deviation from the right road.”

On another occasion the good Cardinal reproved me because I had
asserted in one of my sermons, that the most beneficial mode of
confession was that which was made to God; and the best penitence a
sincere renewal of the heart, and a humble return to Him.

“It is very true,” was my reply, “and if your Eminence calls upon me to
prove it, I am ready to do so from the Holy Scriptures.”

“There is no necessity: your proposition may be true, abstractedly
considered–that is to say, viewed theoretically; but in practice you
would not find it so useful.”

“I understand; it would not be so useful to the priests and the
confessors, but greatly more so to the people. If everybody was in the
habit of confessing to God alone, what necessity would there be for
such a host of priestly confessors? But the question is, not what we
ourselves prefer, but what we ought to teach the people. I wish to God
that every one would confess to his priest less, and to his God more;
as our fathers had the grace to do in former times.”

I paused, but the Cardinal, not having a reply ready, remained silent.
I therefore continued:

“Your Eminence has already shown me so much kindness, that I am
encouraged to lay open my mind more fully. Is it not a fact, that in
no other place is there so great a herd of confessors as at Naples?
What now is their real object? Your Eminence will tell me that it is
to listen to a recital of sins, and to give absolution for them; but
I maintain that their real object is to get money; and it is more
notoriously the case in Naples than elsewhere. The predecessor of your
Eminence, Cardinal Ruffo, when he conferred the office of Confessor on
any one, used to say, ‘There, my dear fellow, there’s a good fifteen
ducats a month for you, if you know how to go to work!’

“Now I happen to know that his hint was not thrown away: the least
industrious among them get their fifteen ducats, and as to the
others!–ask the confessors of the nuns what they gain by their
business. I do not mean to say that they require payment for an
absolution, that would be too barefaced. They do not sell, but they
accept gifts; if not for themselves, for the souls in purgatory,
or for some miraculous image, for which they require masses and
other oblations. Is it not true that they impose, as a penance, the
obligation to cause a number of masses to be celebrated? And to whose
pecuniary benefit, if not the confessor’s? And in cases of deathbeds,
how vast is the speculation of these gentry! Let your Eminence look
to the operations of the Jesuits in this line of business; to the
Missionaries, to the Liguorini, to the Theatines, the Franciscans, the
Dominicans, and other worthies of the same class, who despoil houses,
impoverish families, and frequently turn mother and children out of
doors, destitute and forlorn. These evils, as your Eminence knows
far better than I do, are the results of the practice of confession.
I would that your heart were equally pained as mine is, by the
reflection. Although I have not the authority of a bishop in this
place, still, if I were silent on the occasion, I should consider
myself as guilty of favouring the practice. Much more is required
of him who is in reality the pastor of this flock, who has assumed
the office of watching over it, and to whom are addressed the words
that were spoken to Timothy: ‘I charge thee … preach the Word; be
instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all
longsuffering and doctrine.'”[88]

Cardinal Caracciolo wrung my hand, and exclaimed, with a sigh: “Oh!
what a hard trial it is to be a bishop! What a burthen on one’s
shoulders! I see many evils in the Church, and would fain apply a
remedy to them, but I know not how.”

Naples, in point of religion, is an extraordinary country; the
inhabitants themselves believe that they have more than the whole
world besides; and such indeed would be the fact, if superstition were
synonymous with religion. No people upon the whole earth are more
superstitious. All the old superstitions of Greece and Rome have taken
refuge among them. Idolatry is the foundation of their faith; they
have no idea of worship without some statue or picture to bow down to.
A God that is not visible to the eye is altogether unknown to them,
or exists as a king whom no one is allowed to approach. The God of
the Neapolitans has consequently a vast number of ministers, to whom
supplication is made. At the time I am speaking of, they had no less
than fifty Patron Saints, and I have no doubt the number is now greatly
augmented. Every one of these saints has his own state ministers. At
the head of them all is St. Januarius, who acts as their president.
But this does not exclude St. Gaetano to be prayed to, as a sort of
Minister of Finance, who is considered to be in the department of the
Divine Providence. The ministry of Grace and Justice appear to be
divided between St. Anthony, St. Vincent, and St. Andrew Avellino. The
Jesuits endeavoured to foist St. Francis Xavier and St. Louis Gonzaga
into this office as well, but they are not considered to have succeeded.

St. Januarius, who, like John Bull, may be looked upon as the prototype
of his countrymen, both with respect to their good and bad qualities,
has a sort of jealous feeling towards others, and more particularly
towards the Jesuits; since it appears he considers them as likely to
interfere with his dignity. He is sometimes thought to be a little
vindictive, choleric and presumptuous; on which account the Neapolitans
occasionally reprove him, and not over gently, in their devotions.
I scarcely think a pure and spiritual religion would be possible in
this country, where all is so material and so sensual. I have often
considered the problem, and am inclined to doubt its practicability,
at least with respect to the present generation. They are a people
perpetually on the look-out for miracles, and consequently flock round
their saints and their madonnas, since the priests assure them that
they perform wonders in that way. In their belief, a religion without
its daily stock of miracles is no religion at all. I have sometimes
heard them discoursing together respecting the Protestant religion,
and they have declared that they could not see how there could be a
religion without saints to work miracles. They are a people who do
not readily believe anything but what is incredible, and repugnant to
common sense; so that the more improbable the miracle is, the more
willingly it is credited. _Il prodigio o è grosso o è niente_, is a
common saying with them; small doings are not worthy of great saints.

In the midst of this ignorant race, born and educated in the grossest
errors and prejudices, there exists a class of persons who do not
believe in the superstitions of the vulgar, as they call these
pretended miracles of St. Januarius and other saints; neither in the
inventions of purgatory and similar stories; having read in some book,
or heard some one affirm, that they are no better than fables; but,
unhappily, they also extend their unbelief to all that is related of
Christ and of his Apostles, and in fact assert that all these writings
might be tied together, and thrown into the fire, as old and worthless.

These are the learned, people of genius, who go to church merely to
gratify the sight, or to delight the ear with harmony; and who kneel
before the reliques and the images in a procession, for the sake of
appearance, as they term it. They go to confession at Easter, to
deceive the priest into a belief of their piety, and receive the
communion that they may escape censure. As lying and hypocritical as
they are unbelieving and immoral, they form a very extensive class,
most injurious to society in a thousand different ways; chiefly because
being, as they are, without faith in religious matters, they are
equally void of it in social affairs: and being weak-minded, through
continual falsehood, they are mean in all their undertakings; timid and
pusillanimous, with a mixture of irritability and rashness. In morality
they are monsters of depravity, and this miserable land abounds with
such persons more at this present time than ever; in the face of its
glorious sun it is covered with the thickest darkness.

Between these two extremes of the direst superstition and utter
unbelief, is there for these people no middle path of religion, of
pure early Christianity? God alone knows. I have sometimes persuaded
myself that there must be such; I have again doubted, and again I
have returned to my former hope–at any rate I will not despair of
it. Christian charity, and trust in God’s mercy and providence, alike
forbid me so to do.


[75] “The Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Cardinals require a most
illustrious and a most reverend reformation.”

[76] In the cemetery near to these bones, a broken stone was found, on
which was to be read the following inscription:–_Lumena in Pace_ ☧ Fi
… Don Francesco, on the authority of the sacristan, had no doubt the
word _Filumena_ was signified by the Fi….

[77] Matt. xi. 28.

[78] John xiv. 6.

[79] Matt. xv. 14.

[80] The same question might be asked with respect to the late
pretended miracle of the image of the Virgin at Rimini moving its eyes.
A shameless imposture, honoured by Pio Nono with the institution of an
annual festival in its commemoration!

[81] 1 Tim. iii. 1.

[82] Matt. xx. 25, 26.

[83] For six hundred years it had never happened that the General of
the Order had been dismissed by the Pope. It was the contrivance of a
few ambitious friars, among whom Monsignor O’Finan, Bishop of Killala,
in Ireland, was the most active.

[84] See the letter in the Appendix.

[85] Matt, vi. 15.

[86] Luke xvii. 3, 4.

[87] Rom. xiv. 23.

[88] 2 Tim. iv. 1, 2.

SEPARATED from human ties, apart from the laws of nature, there
is no race of beings, in my estimation, so useless to society, so
immoral, and so absurd, in a religious point of view, as they who call
themselves monks. The Jesuits are monks, as well as those instituted
by St. Francis of Assisi; both have the same very small degree of
worth, and the same defects. I used to believe that the monks reckoned
among their virtues kindness, gentleness, humility, and moderation;
I imagined that they were full of charity towards their neighbour;
and believing nothing of them but what was good, I thought when I
entered into their society I should be living among saints. Who would
have supposed that all their imaginary virtues should fade before my
eyes, from the moment I became bound to them by vows which prevented
my return? Every day the pleasant delusion became less and less, and
bitter experience continually operated to undeceive me, at various
periods of my sojourn among them.

I had paid strict attention to the proceedings of the Dominicans, both
in Rome and Tuscany; and from what I had observed I was led to form a
resolution to escape from them, and to renounce their society for ever.
The request I had made to the Court of Rome from Capua, with respect
to my secularization, had at first been received with dissatisfaction;
but finally, on my reiterated applications, backed by a letter from
Cardinal Polidori, the Pope granted my petition in the terms in which
it was made, and for the reason I had stated; which was that the Order
had become odious and insufferable to me.

Monsignor Acton informed me that the permission was made out, and at my
disposal. He besought me, however, on the score of our old friendship,
not to put it in execution, but to wait and see whether I could not
find in the city of Naples a better race of monks, with whom I might
associate happily, and pass my future days in tranquillity. I also
received letters to the same purpose, first from Cardinal Polidori,
and afterwards from Cardinal Gamberini, both friends of mine, in which
they urged me to delay my projected secularization, until I had assured
myself that my repugnance to remain in the Order could not be overcome.
Cardinal Polidori informed me that such appeared to be the wish of
the Pope, who seemed anxious, he said, that I should not act upon the
permission he had granted me, till I found myself absolutely obliged to
do so.

The good Acton took a great interest in my behalf on this occasion;
writing to the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples and to others, and also
several times to the Apostolic Nuncio, now Cardinal Ferretti, who was
equally kind in endeavouring to persuade me to seek an asylum among the
monks of Naples, after leaving those of Rome.

“Are you not of opinion, yourself, Monsignore,” said I to him, “that
these monks of Naples are _birbanti_, (vagabonds,) as well as those of

“Nay, I think they are worse,” replied he. “But it is precisely on that
account that you ought to stay among them. If we did not do all we
could to keep a few good persons among this class of gentry, we should
have a community of a character qualified to inspire us with fear,
and to compromise us utterly. I believe the monks of Naples are more
ignorant and more turbulent than any others; and I repeat, it is for
that very reason I request you to place yourself among them, where you
will be most useful, both through your example and your teaching.”

“But they will drive me to despair.”

“In that case, then, you must leave them.”

“But why, in the mean time, should I be made to endure such a

“To do good; to be useful to your brethren, for the glory of God—-”

“Well, be it so. I will consent to make the experiment, commending
myself to Him.”

In the meanwhile, the Dominican monks had had recourse to all their
powers of persuasion to induce me to take up my abode among them.
Solicited on one side to enter the monastery of St. Dominic, and on the
other that of St. Peter the Martyr, I chose the latter. The monks could
hardly show me civility enough in their demonstrations of friendship
and regard. They even declared me _figlio di quel convento_,[89] and
though I declared I had no desire for any situation beyond that of
Preacher or Professor among them, they forced upon me the office of
Vice-Prior, and subsequently that of Prior itself; and if I had not
vigorously opposed the measure, they would even have elected me their

Behold me then once more domiciled among the monks; not, however, as
one of their society, nor with the intention of remaining permanently
among them. They were not aware that I had the Pope’s _rescritto_[91]
in my pocket, in virtue of which I could turn my back upon them
whenever I chose; and I must acknowledge, the idea that I could do so
was a source of great satisfaction to me; it rendered me more tolerant,
and at the same time gave me courage to do my duty: indeed, I accepted
the Priorate for no other reason than to be better enabled to be of
service to the community. I began with looking into the state of their
finances, and with augmenting their income. But my principal endeavour
was to benefit their moral and religious condition, as far as I could
hope to do so among a set of people who had been educated in principles
diametrically opposed both to sound morality, and pure and true
religion. Nevertheless, the ascendency I acquired over their minds, and
the friendship they felt for me, greatly seconded my views; to say the
truth, they were far more docile than I had anticipated, and if I had
been at liberty to carry out my system as I could have wished, I do not
doubt that I should have formed them into a good and regular community.

But there were in other monasteries, belonging to the same Order, many
despicable monks, who united in their own persons every vice that can
be found in human nature. These appeared to hate the faintest trace
of honesty or virtue, and were always ready to plot, to calumniate,
and to stick at nothing to promote their own interest. I frequently
took occasion to reprove them, and threatened, more than once, to
make public their infamous proceedings, unless they thought proper to
desist from their practices. But all my remonstrances were in vain,
and at length I lost my patience: I fought manfully against them for a
long time, but the General of the Order, Ancarani, was on their side,
and lent them his powerful protection: I therefore felt that I had
nothing more to do than to hold out, to the end of my year of Priorate,
and then to give in my _rescritto_ to the proper officer; which I
accordingly did, in the month of August, 1839, and finally separated
myself from the Order.

A new epoch in my life now commenced. I had never really been a monk,
although I had lived so long among them. I therefore gladly threw off
my monk’s dress, and relinquished all the titles it had conferred on
me, except that of Doctor of Theology, which, as one not belonging
to the Order, I considered I had a perfect right to retain; it being
granted to persons who had acted as Professor in certain sciences, for
a determinate period, and subsequently gone through an examination;
both of which I had satisfactorily done.

This degree is equally open to the laity as the clergy, on the
fulfilment of the necessary stipulations; and once conferred can never
be taken away; not even on account of heresy, since it is a title not
granted for a man’s belief, but for his ability. The obligation to
teach is not made a preliminary condition, it is a subsequent duty;
and the doctrine of the Roman Church is, that even if the Doctors
themselves go into perdition, they still retain their degrees. I do not
feel proud of the title as it was when I received it; but I confess
I do as it has been, since my embracing the reformed religion. In
the first instance, all my labour was in favour of Rome; now my most
strenuous endeavours are in opposition to her doctrines. But even up
to that time I had always regarded myself as a Doctor of the Holy
Scriptures, and they, and they only, have occasioned the change in the
aspect of my degree.

But how, it may here be asked, did I, on my secularization, get over
the monastic vows which, it has been alleged, I took? I must inform my
readers, that the Dominicans, contrary to the practice of all other
monastic bodies, in their religious profession make but one single vow,
which is that of obedience. My profession, therefore, was nothing more
than a promise to be obedient to the Superior of the Order, and was
couched in the following terms: “I, brother Giovanni Giacinto Achilli,
promise obedience to God, to the most blessed Virgin Mary, to the
Patriarch St. Dominic, and to you, most reverend Father General of the
Order of Preachers, according to the rules of St. Augustine, and the
constitution of the Order of Preachers.”

Now it cannot be urged against me that I promised more than I
expressed. Had I belonged to any other Order I must have vowed
three things: obedience, chastity, and poverty. The Dominicans
require obedience only. Some theologians pretend that in this
obedience everything else is included; but this is neither legal nor
philosophical. No one is obliged to do more than he has promised,
even when that promise is valid and pleasing to God; which I do not
consider to be the case with respect to the vows of the cloister.

But when I obtained my secularization, the Pope, who can do everything,
dispensed with my vow; and consequently released me from obedience to
the Order of Dominicans. The only condition was that I, as priest,
should continue subject to the bishop of the place I inhabited. I
do not mention this because I desire to justify myself in the sight
of Rome, for I consider that the vows of the Monastic Orders are
impious in themselves, as being contrary to the laws of nature, and in
opposition to the eternal decree of God: I only wish to state what at
that time were my relations and my ties to that Church which I have now

My relinquishing the Dominican Order was the signal for numerous
desertions. Many of my friends were not slow to follow my example;
among them I may mention two celebrated men, the Rev. Father Talia
and the Rev. Father Borgetti; equally respected on account of their
years and their learning, as for their personal probity. Neither will
I conceal the name of another, for whom I had the sincerest regard;
the Rev. Giovanni Martucci, who at that period, although very young,
was Professor of Natural Philosophy. These persons, disgusted, like
myself, at the falsehood with which they were surrounded, no sooner
saw me throw off the cloistral habit, than they, also, demanded their
rescript, and quitted the Neapolitan brotherhood. The worthy old
men wept for joy, that the Lord had graciously, before their death,
liberated them from the society of the prevaricators.

I remember Father Talia, who was exceedingly esteemed among the clergy
of Naples, expressed himself in the following terms before the Cardinal

“I do not believe your Eminence will suppose that I am actuated by an
overweening desire for liberty, in emancipating myself from the Order
of these monks; I would rather persuade you that my doing so has been
occasioned by the pure love of truth and virtue, which the monks
altogether refuse either to acknowledge or to practise. Your Eminence
may say that I am an old man, and as such might have been contented to
finish the remainder of my days in the cloister; but I would observe
that my spirit is not affected by age, and that before I terminate
my earthly career, I, though old in body not in mind, would fain
leave behind me to the youth of the present generation, an example of
Christian courage; showing that when an institution becomes corrupt, it
is one’s duty to abandon it, early or late, as it may be; for as the
homely proverb expresses it, ‘Better late than never.'”

To this the Cardinal replied that he was willing to admit that the good
Father had his own reasons for quitting the Dominican habit; that he
could not suspect a man like him to be actuated by light-mindedness;
and that his friendship towards him would always remain the same:
insomuch that the good old man felt himself not a little comforted with
these kind assurances.

The monks, however, and more particularly those to whom our desertion
from the Order was a bitter reproof, were by no means humbled; on the
contrary, they were exceedingly irritated at our proceedings, and
set themselves to consider how they could most persecute and injure
us; in which intent they were greatly encouraged by the assistance
they derived from Rome; I mean from the head of the Order, which
unfortunately was at that time represented by the Monk Angelo Ancarani,
a man of the most dark and gloomy character that ever disgraced
humanity. His history might all be told in these few words: he was,
during forty-five years, an Inquisitor of the Holy Office.

We, meanwhile, united ourselves in stricter bonds of friendship;
mutually aiding each other, and defending ourselves, as well as we
could, from the continual attacks of our malicious adversaries, who
never let a single day pass without some effort to annoy us, by their
false and calumnious reports.

We exhorted each other to patience and endurance. Nevertheless our
dear friend Martucci, although of a pacific disposition, and always
ready to forgive, could not forbear exclaiming: “Oh, these wretched
monks! never was there seen a race so perverse and evil-minded as they
are!” And I likewise, who had proposed to myself to endure everything
with fortitude and resignation, could not at all times bridle the
indignation I felt at their malicious attacks.

The most infamous slanders were preferred against the two good old men,
and the excellent Martucci; for my own part I had less to complain
of. It appeared that they had a dread of my numerous friends, who
always stood forward in my defence. Still, in a crafty and insidious
manner, as is customary with the Jesuits, they endeavoured to ensnare
me to my ruin. I was informed that such was their intention; but as
I am naturally averse to think evil of any one, I could not persuade
myself of the truth of the allegation. Indeed, I held the monks and the
priests in so little esteem, that I fancied as I never troubled my head
about them, they also were very ready to forget me, altogether.

I occupied a handsome house in the Toledo; had two good servants,
plenty of books, such as were necessary in my general studies, and a
small circle of most excellent friends. I had in other places been
annoyed by idle visits from people I cared nothing about; I determined,
therefore, to make myself a more rigid monk now, in my own house,
than I had ever been in the monastery. In the midst of my favourite
pursuits, enwrapt in the most delightful contemplations, undisturbed by
the continuous roar of the city[92] without, while within an unbroken
silence prevailed–feeling that I was in the midst of the busy world,
but enjoying a pleasing solitude–I was tranquil and happy: as a man
who rests after a wearisome labour, or a tired warrior, who tastes
the blessing of peace. I sought after, I wished for nothing more than
peace, and tranquillity of conscience. And I may truly say I possessed
it, since God gave it to me; but my invidious enemies sought to deprive
me of it. Oh, evil minded men! cease to persecute him who is protected
by the providence of God.

Affairs were in this state when I received a kind visit from my uncle,
Dr. Mencarini, of Viterbo; who, as he had a great regard for me, was
desirous to assure himself of my well-being, after my secession from
the monks. He proposed to me that I should return with him, and settle
at Viterbo, where he assured me every one, from the Bishop down to the
humblest labourer, would be glad to see me; but I had left Rome with
the resolution to remove myself as far as possible from its walls; and
I too soon found that Naples was not sufficiently distant to ensure
my deliverance from the machinations of the city that I abhorred, and
which had become my most bitter enemy.

I had often revolved in my mind the idea of abandoning Naples, and even
of quitting Italy altogether if an occasion should present itself.
But how could I hope to bring myself to such a determination, without
the severest shock to my feelings? It appeared as if nothing short
of absolute necessity could impel me to desert my native country. As
yet, however, this necessity had not become evident to my judgment.
I imagined I could continue to enjoy my newly awakened liberty of
conscience, in the secrecy of my own breast; whereas of this very
liberty the natural consequences were my emancipation from the
cloister, my separation from Rome, and my withdrawal from all that had
hitherto formed the duties of my ecclesiastical office!

Who was there that did not know that I had altogether given up the
practice of confessing, while the bishops still continued to send me
their diplomas, for the performance of that ceremony? As to the mass,
I scarcely ever celebrated it; and after several months’ neglect I
remember I said it once, from the weak and unworthy motive, I blush to
acknowledge, that it might not be supposed the bishop had forbidden me
to do so. My preaching, too, afforded the most convincing proof that
I was no longer in agreement with Rome. How then could I continue such
a system in the Roman States or at Naples? How could I hope to remain
unobserved, when so many eyes of monks and of priests were upon me?

I began to see how utterly impossible it was that my reformation might,
as I had fancied, take place without its being publicly known, and
consequently without its drawing down upon my head all the hatred and
the persecution of Rome. I have since bitterly condemned this weakness
in myself, as being contrary to the Spirit that had enlightened me. To
a character naturally frank and open, deceit is detestable; and I might
have known that without deceit, without disguising the truth, neither
by the Church nor by the government should I have been permitted to
continue in the country.

Perhaps the idea of this reconciling of adverse principles, or in other
words, of serving “two masters,” arose in my mind from seeing that many
persons without any belief whatever, without observing any of the forms
of religion, were permitted to live free and unmolested, not only in
Naples; but even in Rome itself. In Naples there are many priests whose
conversation is that of infidels, but who nevertheless celebrate the
mass, and hear confessions; and many others who, having abandoned the
mass, and every ecclesiastical rite, unblushingly live with other men’s
wives, and openly declare their unbelief. Nobody, however, takes any
notice of them; the bishop does not consider it to be his duty, since
having left the work of the ministry, they are in a certain degree
independent of him; and the government makes it a rule not to interfere
with priests, unless they are charged with civil offences; taking no
cognizance of their morality, still less of their faith. I therefore
naturally concluded that I, likewise, should be allowed to live quietly
at Naples, provided I conducted myself as a good citizen, and professed
the faith of a Christian. The fact is, that if I had believed in
nothing at all, I should have given offence to no one; if I had even
adopted the language of Voltaire, I should have merely raised a laugh;
but in speaking the language of the Bible, I attacked the priesthood,
and incurred its hatred and its persecution.

The case, I may say, is precisely the same at Rome; where for heretics,
that is to say Protestants, there is the Inquisition always ready; but
as for unbelievers and atheists, so long as they are obedient to the
pope, and outwardly reverential towards the Church, they are rather
favourites than otherwise, and nothing stands in their way of receiving
a cardinal’s hat. Well may she be called by St. John, “the mother of

It was a providential circumstance that I had occasion to leave Naples,
on account of some important business which called me to Rome in the
year 1841. I set off with the intention of returning at the end of a
fortnight; but He who is my Master and my Guide ordered otherwise: it
was according to his good pleasure that whilst I was on the point of
leaving Rome to return to Naples, I was arrested by an invisible enemy,
and that enemy was the Inquisition.

I look upon this event as one of the most fortunate of my life; if it
had not befallen me, I should certainly have returned to Naples, to the
quiet comfort of a private life and a peaceful home; enjoying a little
world of my own, in the middle of a great city, and living solely for
myself. But this was too mean and limited a sphere to satisfy me; I
felt that I was not destined to live for myself alone, intent only on
my own gratification; but to be useful to others, to contribute to
the wants of a people, and to lend my aid towards the salvation of a
nation. I had an important mission to accomplish; I considered it was
given to me by God. Was it in the power of man to take it away?

On hearing that the Inquisition had laid hold of me, the monks of
Naples began to chant their hymn of victory: “He who made war against
us,” said they, “is fallen; he who branded us with dishonour is fallen,
to rise no more. The Inquisition will root out from the earth the very
memory of his name.”

Thus they rejoiced over my apprehension. Two or three of them were in
correspondence with the Holy Office, through the General, Ancarani,
and communicated whatever malice came into their heads concerning me.
But their accusations were so palpably gross and untrue, that Ancarani
himself, skilled as he was in the art of fabricating a charge for the
Inquisition, could not make use of them: one of his letters, relating
to this business, fell into the hands of a friend of mine; it was to a
certain Father Avezzana, a Dominican, belonging to the Monastery del
Vomero, at Naples. Among other passages were the following:–“I fully
believe all you say, but it must be related in a different manner for
the cardinals to believe it…. You should endeavour, in stating a
fact, to state it so as to make it tell; to have effect: another time
consult with Father de Luca and Father Travaglini.”

In May, 1848, when I came through Naples, on my way from Malta to
London, and stopped there a few days, another friend showed me a
letter from the same Ancarani, directed to a lady, evidently one of
his _devotées_, since the letter began, “_Carissima_ Figlia in Gesù
Cristo,” in which he prayed her to use her influence with the Marquess
d’Andrea, Minister _del Culto_, to compel certain persons to depose
against me; especially as to what occurred at the time of Lent, in
the church of St. Giacomo, where the Marquess himself, and others of
the ministry frequently came to hear me. It appeared, however, that
d’Andrea did not trouble himself about the matter, if indeed the lady
ever solicited him on the occasion. This letter my friend found between
the leaves of a book which belonged to an ex-Dominican nun of the
Montfort family.

I relate all this to show what kind of men these monks are, and how
they act in concert with the Inquisition. In the conducting of my
process, among the various documents relating to my cause that I was
enabled to get a sight of, I saw many papers in their handwriting, and
some in that of Ancarani’s secretary, Father Spada, a Sicilian; who,
although I do not believe him to be naturally a bad man, was capable of
going to any extreme in the way of his business, even to the burning of
heretics, if required by his patriarch, St. Dominic, or by any one who
might be considered his representative.

Among other papers produced by the monks, I saw a letter from my
uncle, Mencarini, written at Naples while he was staying in my house,
addressed to the Bishop Scerra, at Rome. In this letter, which was
couched in the most friendly terms, he spoke of the base and unworthy
conduct of Ancarani, and several others among the brotherhood; all of
whom he designated as instruments of the Inquisition: and he advised
the Bishop, as Secretary to the Congregation of Discipline, to put a
stop to such proceedings, lest I should be so far irritated by them as
to make disclosures that might cover them with confusion. I believe
this letter had been intercepted at the office, and had so fallen
into the hands of Ancarani, who had it copied by his secretary; for I
cannot suppose that the Bishop, who was so friendly towards my uncle
and myself, would have had the weakness to send it–being strictly
confidential–to be copied for the use of the Inquisition. If that
were the case I should be obliged to class him with Ancarani himself,
and with others, who, for right or wrong, have sold themselves to the

Another circumstance is worth relating. The two principal agents in my
accusation were Ancarani and Cardinal Lambruschini.

“We ought to burn this heretic alive;” said Ancarani, at one of the
sittings of the Inquisition: at another he was a little more moderate,
and only suggested my being sent to the galleys for life. The Cardinal
asserted that I was not only a heretic, but a conspirator as well. In
a meeting of cardinals at the Holy Office, this dreamer assured their
eminences and the pope, that he could bring proof that I was a heretic
in religion, a Freemason, a Carbonaro, a member of a secret society,
and I know not what besides.

Several of the cardinals who were personally acquainted with me,
opposed his remarks; but he was obstinate in his assertions, declaring
that he had papers in his possession, and expected others from Naples,
which would prove the truth of what he advanced. It appears, he was
furnished with the fabricated documents of the monks instigated by
Ancarani, and expected to receive more of the same description. But
above all he hoped to gain possession of my private papers; for which
object he had directed the papal nuncio at Naples to make a diligent
search in my own house, and to forward all that he could lay his hands
upon to Rome.

The nuncio could not refuse the Secretary of State’s order, but he was
obliged to act through the agency of the police, which was refused,
when it was understood I was in the hands of the Inquisition; for the
Neapolitans have the greatest horror of that establishment, and, to
their honour, would never allow of it among themselves; rising up in
open revolt every time the pope or the bishops endeavoured to introduce
it. It is an interesting fact, that the minister of police refused
the pope’s nuncio permission to break into my private dwelling, and
possess himself of my papers. I have been assured that he said to the
nuncio, “I have no charge to prefer against Signor Achilli; he has
lived in Naples quietly, and in obedience to the laws, and has gained
great credit as a preacher. The police has no reason to suspect him of
belonging to any secret society.”

Cardinal Lambruschini made but a sorry figure before the Inquisition
after this event; I fancy he was not very ready to come forward any
more with his papers and precious documents.

I have frequently had occasion to observe how remarkably all those who
at that juncture sought to oppress and calumniate me, have come to
shame and confusion, without any effort on my part towards hostility
or revenge. God himself has defeated and humbled them, and covered
them with infamy in the sight of mankind. Ancarani died loaded with
execrations. Lambruschini is still, for his greater punishment, among
the living. Many others from Naples, and other parts, who persecuted
me, have been signally visited with the chastisement of the Almighty.
To Him be all honour, glory, and praise. Amen.


[89] “An adopted son of the monastery.” A great mark of esteem and
favour among the Dominicans, including many separate privileges.

[90] The head of all the religious houses of the same order in the

[91] An answer to a petition.

[92] Every one who has been at Naples knows how incessant is the noise
and bustle of the Toledo.