Hugh Turley and I begin Chapter 19, “Pope Francis and Thomas Merton,” of our 2018 book, The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton: An Investigation, this way:
On September 24, 2015, Pope Francis became the first pope to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. He singled out four Americans to mention as model citizens, Abraham Lincoln, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, and Thomas Merton.
Three of them were advocates for peace. Lincoln, by contrast, embarked upon a war of choice to bring the residents of seceding states back into the Union, a war that would become the nation’s deadliest. Lincoln’s contemporary, Pope Pius IX, hardly shared Pope Francis’ admiration for the unreligious president. Although the Vatican officially favored the Union cause, Pope Pius IX was deeply disturbed by the carnage of the war. Lincoln, however, rejected the pope’s efforts to mediate an end to it. The pope was also concerned over the Union’s cynical use of desperate Irish Catholic immigrants as virtual cannon fodder in the Union army.
I have only recently discovered quotes attributed to Lincoln that, if accurate, would make the lauding of the man by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, whenever it might have been done, far less appropriate than we thought it was when we wrote our book.
The initial speaker here and the supplier of the quotation marks is the Presbyterian minister and former Roman Catholic priest, Charles Chiniquy, writing in his 1884 book, 50 Years in the Church of Rome: The quotes come from two meetings Chiniquy claims to have had with Lincoln in the White House, the first in late August of 1861 and the second some time after a December 8, 1863, letter from Pope Pius IX to Confederate President Jefferson Davis had been made public:
“I am so glad to meet you again,” he said: “you see that your friends, the Jesuits, have not yet killed me. But they would have surely done it when I passed through their most devoted city, Baltimore, had I not defeated their plans, by passing incognito a few hours before they expected me. We have proof that the company which has been selected and organized to murder me was led by a rabid Roman Catholic, called Byrne; it was almost entirely composed of Roman Catholics; more than that, there were two disguised priests among them, to lead and encourage them. I am sorry to have so little time to see you: but I will not let you go before telling you that, a few days ago, I saw Mr. [Samuel F.B.] Morse, the learned inventor of electric telegraphy; he told me that when he was in Rome, not long ago, he found out the proofs of a most formidable conspiracy against this country and all its institutions. It is evident that it is to the intrigues and emissaries of the Pope that we owe, in great part, the horrible evil war which is threatening to cover the country with blood and ruins.
“I am sorry that Professor Morse had to leave Rome before he could know more about the secret plans of the Jesuits against the liberties and the very existence of this country. But do you know that I want you to take his place and continue that investigation?”
“I am sorry, that the twenty minutes I had consecrated to our interview have almost passed away; I will be for ever [sic] grateful for the warning words you have addressed to me about the dangers ahead of my life, from Rome. I know that they are not imaginary dangers. If I were fighting against a Protestant South, as a nation, there would be no danger of assassination. The nations who read the Bible, fight bravely on the battle-fields [sic], but they do not assassinate their enemies. The Pope and the Jesuits, with their infernal Inquisition, are the only organized powers in the world which have recourse to the dagger of the assassin to murder those whom they cannot convince with their arguments or conquer with the sword.
“Unfortunately, I feel more and more, every day, that it is not against the Americans of the South, alone, I am fighting, it is more against the Pope of Rome, his perfidious Jesuits and their blind and blood-thirsty slaves, than against the real American Protestants, that we have to defend ourselves. Here is the real danger of our position. So long as they will hope to conquer the North, they will spare me; but the day we will rout their armies (and that day will surely come, with the help of God), take their cities, and force them to submit, then, it is my impression that the Jesuits, who are the principal rulers of the South, will do what they have almost invariably done in the past. The dagger, or the pistol of one of their adepts, will do what the strong hands of the warriors could not achieve. This civil war seems to be nothing but a political affair to those who do not see, as I do, the secret springs of that terrible drama. But it is more a religious than a civil war. It is Rome who wants to rule and degrade the North, as she has ruled and degraded the South, from the very day of its discovery. There are only very few of the Southern leaders who are not more or less under the influence of the Jesuits, through their wives, family relations, and their friends. Several members of the family of Jeff Davis belong to the Church of Rome. Even the Protestant ministers are under the influence of the Jesuits without suspecting it. To keep her ascendancy in the North, as she does in the South, Rome is doing here what she has done in Mexico, and in all the South American Republics, she is paralyzing, by a civil war, the arms of the soldiers of Liberty. She divides our nation, on order to weaken, subdue and rule it.
“Surely we have some brave and reliable Roman Catholic officers and soldiers in our armies, but they form an insignificant minority when compared with the Roman Catholic traitors against whom we have to guard ourselves, day and night. The fact is, that the immense majority of Roman Catholic bishops, priests and laymen, are rebels in heart, when they cannot be in fact; with very few exceptions, they are publicly in favor of slavery. I understand now, why the patriots of France, who determined to see the colors of Liberty floating over their great and beautiful country, were forced to hang or shoot almost all the priests and the monks as the irreconcilable enemies of Liberty. For it is a fact, which is now evident to me, that with very few exceptions, every priest and every true Roman Catholic is a determined enemy of Liberty. Their extermination in France, was one of those terrible necessities which no human wisdom could avoid; it looks to me now as an order from heaven to save France. May God grant that the same terrible necessity be never felt in the United States! But there is a thing which is very certain; it is, that if the American people could learn what I know of the fierce hatred of the generality of the priests of Rome against our institutions, our schools, our most sacred rights, and our so dearly bought liberties, they would drive them away, tomorrow, from among us, or they would shoot them as traitors. But I keep those sad secrets in my heart; you are the only one to whom I reveal them, for I know that you learned them before me. The history of these last thousand years tells us that wherever the Church of Rome is not a dagger to pierce the bosom of a free nation, she is a stone to her neck, and a ball to her feet, to paralyze her, and prevent her advance in the ways of civilization, science, intelligence, happiness and liberty.”
“This war would have never been possible without the sinister influence of the Jesuits. We owe it to Popery that we now see our land reddened with the blood of her noblest sons. Though there were great differences of opinion between the South and the North, on the question of slavery, neither Jeff Davis nor any one of the leading men of the Confederacy would have dared to attack the North, had they not relied on the promises of the Jesuits, that under the mask of Democracy, the money and the arms of the Roman Catholics, even the arms of France, were at their disposal, if they would attack us. I pity the priests, the bishops and the monks of Rome in the United States, when the people realize that they are, in great part, responsible for the tears and the blood shed [sic] in this war; the later the more terrible will the retribution be. I conceal what I know, on that subject, from the knowledge of the nation; for if the people knew the whole truth, this war would turn into a religious war, and it would, at once, take a tenfold more savage and bloody character, it would become merciless as all religious wars are. It would become a war of extermination on both sides. The Protestants of both the North and the South would surely unite to exterminate the priests and the Jesuits, if they could hear what Professor Morse has said to me of the plots made in the very city of Rome to destroy this Republic, and if they could learn how the priests, the nuns, and the monks, which daily land on our shores, under the pretext of preaching their religion, instructing the people in their schools, taking care of the sick in the hospitals, are nothing else but the emissaries of the Pope, of Napoleon [III], and the other despots of Europe, to undermine our institutions, alienate the hearts of our people from our constitution, and our laws, destroy our schools, and prepare a reign of anarchy here as they have done in Ireland, in Mexico, in Spain, and wherever there are any people who want to be free, etc.”
“When [General George] Meade was to order the pursuit, after the battle [of Gettysburg], a stranger came, in haste, to the headquarters, and that stranger was a disguised Jesuit. After a ten minutes’ conversation with him, Meade made such arrangements for the pursuit of the enemy, that he escaped almost untouched, with the loss of only two guns!
“You’re right,” continued the President, “when you say that his letter of the Pope has entirely changed the nature and the ground of the war. Before they read it, the Roman Catholics could see that I was fighting against Jeff Davis and his Southern Confederacy. But now, they must believe that it is against Christ and His holy vicar, the Pope, that I am raising my sacrilegious hands; we have the daily proofs that their indignation, their hatred, their malice, against me, are a hundredfold intensified. New projects of assassination are detected almost every day, accompanied with such savage circumstances, that they bring to my memory the massacre of the St. Bartholomew and the Gunpowder Plot. We feel, at their investigation, that they come from the same masters in the art of murder, the Jesuits.
“The New York riots were evidently a Romish plot from beginning to end. We have the proofs in hand that they were the work of Bishop [John Joseph] Hughes and his emissaries. No doubt can remain in the minds of the most incredulous about the bloody attempts of Rome to destroy New York, when we know the easy way it was stopped. I wrote to Bishop Hughes, telling him that the whole country would hold him responsible for it if he would not stop it at once. He then gathered the rioters around his palace, called them his ‘dear friends,’ invited them to go back home peacefully, and all was finished! So Jupiter of old used to raise a storm and stop it with a nod of his head!
“From the beginning of our civil war, there has been, not a secret, but a public alliance, between the Pope of Rome and Jeff Davis, and that alliance has followed the common laws of this world’s affairs. The greater has led the smaller, the stronger has guided the weaker. The Pope and his Jesuits have advised, supported, and directed Jeff Davis on the land, from the first gun shot at Fort Sumter, by the rabid Roman Catholic Beauregard. They are helping him on the sea by guiding and supporting the other rabid Roman Catholic pirate, [Admiral Raphael] Semmes, on the ocean. And they will help the rebellion when firing their last gun to shed the blood of the last soldier of Liberty, who will fall in this fratricidal war. In my interview with Bishop Hughes, I told him, ‘that every stranger who had sworn allegiance to our government by becoming a United States citizen, as himself, was liable to be shot or hung as a perjured traitor and an armed spy, as the sentence of the court-martial may direct. And he will be so shot and hanged accordingly, as there will be no exchange of such prisoners.’ After I had put this flea in the ears of the Romish bishop, I requested him to go and report my words to the Pope. Seeing the dangerous position of his bishops and priests when siding with the rebels, my hope was that he would advise them, for their own interests, to become loyal and true to their allegiance and help us through the remaining part of the war. But the result has been the very contrary. The Pope has thrown away the mask, and shown himself the public partisan and protector of the rebellion, by taking Jeff Davis by the hand, and impudently recognizing the Southern States as a legitimate government. Now, I have the proof in hand that that very Bishop Hughes, whom I had sent to Rome that he might induce the Pope to urge the Roman Catholics of the North at least, to be true to their oath of allegiance, and whom I thanked publicly, when, under the impression that he had acted honestly, according to the promise he had given me, is the very man who advised the Pope to recognize the legitimacy of the Southern Republic, and put the whole weight of his tiara in the balance against us in favor of our enemies! Such is the perfidy of those Jesuits. Two cankers are biting the very entrails of the United States today: the Romish and the Mormon priests. Both are equally at work to form a people of the most abject, ignorant and fanatical slaves, who will recognize no other authority but their supreme pontiffs. Both are aiming at the destruction of our schools, to raise themselves upon our ruins. Both shelter themselves under our grand and holy principles of liberty of conscience, to destroy that very liberty of conscience, and bind the world before their heavy and ignominious yoke. The Mormon and the Jesuit priests are equally the uncompromising enemies of our constitution and our laws, but the more dangerous of the two is the Jesuits the Romish priest, for he knows better how to conceal his hatred under the mask of friendship and public good: he is better trained to commit the most cruel and diabolical deeds for the glory of God. Till lately, I was in favor of the unlimited liberty of conscience as our constitution gives it to the Roman Catholics. But now, it seems to me that, sooner or later, the people will be forced to put a restriction to that clause towards the Papists. Is it not an act of folly to give absolute liberty of conscience to a set of men who are publicly sworn to cut our throats the very day they have their opportunity for doing it? Is it right to give the privilege of citizenship to men who are the sworn and public enemies of our constitution, our laws, our liberties, and our lives?
“The very moment that Popery assumed the right of life and death on a citizen of France, Spain, Germany, England, or the United States, it assumed to be the power, the government of France, Spain, England, Germany, and the United States. Those States then committed a suicidal act by allowing Popery to put a foot on their territory with the privilege of citizenship. The power of life and death is the supreme power, and two supreme powers cannot exist on the same territory without anarchy, riots, bloodshed, and civil wars without end. When Popery will give up the power of life and death which it proclaims on its own divine power, in all its theological books and canon laws, then, and then alone, it can be tolerated and can receive the privileges of citizenship in a free country.
“Is it not an absurdity to give to a man a thing which he is sworn to hate, curse, and destroy? And does not the Church of Rome hate, curse, and destroy liberty of conscience whenever she can do it safely? I am for liberty of conscience in its noblest, broadest, highest sense. But I cannot give liberty of conscience to the Pope and to his followers, the Papists, so long as they tell me, through all their councils, theologians, and canon laws, that their conscience orders them to burn my wife, strangle my children, and cut my throat when they find their opportunity! This does not seem to be understood by the people today. But sooner or later, the light of common sense will make it clear to every one that no liberty of conscience can be granted to men who are sworn to obey a Pope, who pretends to have the right to put to death those who differ from him in religion.”
There are quite a few things that are profoundly disturbing in the foregoing passages, but this is what really jumped out at me:
I understand now, why the patriots of France, who determined to see the colors of Liberty floating over their great and beautiful country, were forced to hang or shoot almost all the priests and the monks as the irreconcilable enemies of Liberty. For it is a fact, which is now evident to me, that with very few exceptions, every priest and every true Roman Catholic is a determined enemy of Liberty. Their extermination in France, was one of those terrible necessities which no human wisdom could avoid; it looks to me now as an order from heaven to save France.
He is speaking, of course, about the bloody French Revolution of 1789-1799, and like much of the rest of what we see here, there is only a loose sort of connection with the known historical facts. To be sure, many of the horrible excesses of the revolution were directed at the Catholic Church, but the revolutionaries did not execute “almost all” the priests and monks, and when they did kill them the favored weapon was the guillotine. Punishment was directed primarily of the hard core traditionalists who refused to swear allegiance to the new revolutionary state, and it often took the form of exile to Guiana in South America. The really shocking thing here, though, is that dear old Honest Abe sounds here like he would have whole-heartedly approved if every last one of them had been killed, because it was just one of those “terrible necessities.”
Could these really be the words of the “wise” and “moderate” man who penned the last paragraph of his second inaugural address, now engraved in stone upon his memorial?
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish, a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
The Lincoln of our newly discovered quotes comes across more like a 19th century Joseph Stalin than the wise looking granite figure seated in the Parthenon copy at the west end of Washington’s Mall. Could it possibly be accurate? Well, consider the fact that, as Lincoln nemesis, Thomas DiLorenzo, has recently informed us in an article entitled, “Why the Marxist Left Loves Lincoln,” Karl Marx, himself, was a twice-weekly columnist from 1852 to 1862 for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, the “mouthpiece of the Republican Party” and that Lincoln and Marx corresponded with one another. Bearing that fact in mind, it becomes much easier to see Lincoln regarding himself as the noble, progressive bearer of the flag of the Republic against the country’s Ancien Régime, as represented by leaders of the Confederacy.
But isn’t the man really off into historical cloud cuckoo land with his characterization of the Confederacy as little more than the creation of a Catholic Church determined to destroy our great experiment in democracy? Did he not know that, even in his own day, the South was the most overwhelmingly Protestant part of the country, General Beauregard and Admiral Semmes, notwithstanding?
Consider the really bad history, though, in the ringing first line of what was Lincoln’s most famous utterance, his Gettysburg Address, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
It was the very basis upon which he made war upon the seceding states, and it is a complete fiction, as I point out in “Mencken and More on Lincoln’s Speech.” Doing the math, he’s talking about 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence, that is to say, the secession manifesto of 13 colonies of the British Empire in North America. It was very far from a “new nation” at that point. Even when the colonies created their United States of America in 1789 when the Constitution became effective, it was universally regarded as a voluntary union. None of the colonies would have signed on had they regarded it as arrangement to which they would be permanently attached by military force.
We see some more bad history in the interpretation of the Pope’s letter to Jefferson Davis. The last word on that subject can be found in a recent Internet posting entitled, “Pope Pius IX and the Southern Confederacy in the Civil War”:
An examination of the [Dec. 8, 1863] letter bears out that it was not meant as an indication that the pope was choosing sides. It was certainly a sympathetic letter, expressing a desire for peace that the pope shared with the Confederate president. However, there is nothing in the letter wishing victory for the Confederacy or condemning the Union. Nonetheless, the letter was published by the South across their states, and presented as if it were recognition of their cause from Rome.
The passages from Lincoln suggest that he was misreading the letter in the same way that it was being misrepresented in the South, although, in a less than purely legalistic sense, the letter might well have been interpreted as a show of favoritism toward the Southern cause, and for good reason:
Pope Pius IX was a revered figure in the post war South. General Robert E. Lee kept a portrait of him in his house, and referred to him as the South’s only true friend during her time of need. Both Davis and Lee were Episcopalians, as were many Southerners before the War, a denomination which had many things in common with Catholicism before the 20th century influence of Modernism of course. Davis was frequently visited by Southern Catholic nuns during his imprisonment, who delivered messages for him and prayed for his release. He eventually was released, having never stood trial, on the grounds that he committed no real crime. It is believed the majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court at that time acknowledged the right of secession.
That passage is from “Pope Pius IX and the Confederacy,” on a traditionalist web site called “The Catholic Knight.”
Returning to the Lincoln quotes, the antagonistic relationship between New York’s Archbishop Hughes and Lincoln that we see here is also quite inconsistent with what is generally regarded to be the historical record. The following passage is from “Onward Catholic Soldiers: The Catholic Church During the American Civil War” by Mark Summers:
While precise statistics on Catholic service in the Civil War are unknown, the vast majority of the Irish and thus Catholic community sided with the Union over the Confederacy. While the Irish devotion to the Union cause can largely be attributed to circumstance of settlement rather than conviction, there were leaders among the Irish Catholic episcopate that loudly championed the Federal Cause. Archbishop Hughes of New York rallied Catholic northerners to his side, calling for the national flag to be displayed at churches, and advocating conscription, a practice that would prove to be unpopular with the Irish Catholic working class. Archbishop Hughes defended the draft, saying it was “not cruel…this is mercy…this is humanity.” He believed that “anything that will put an end to their drenching with blood the whole surface of the county, that will be humanity.” He also went on a diplomatic mission to Europe to ensure neutrality among the papal and Catholic majority nations.
Also, from his Wikipedia page, Hughes hardly comes across as the sort of hidebound conservative who would have needed to have been whipped into line by Lincoln with the threat of hanging as a traitor in order for him to be a good Unionist.
The easy thing to do, at this point, would be to dismiss all these supposed Lincoln quotes as the fabrications of the Reverend Charles Chiniquy. After all, he wrote them as though they were verbatim quotes some two decades after his conversations took place. How could he have remembered everything Lincoln said so precisely? And if there was ever a man with an anti-Roman Catholic axe to grind, it was the Canadian-born Chiniquy. Since these were private conversations between him and Lincoln, there was no one alive who could contradict them, and who better to lend weight to the anti-Catholic argument that he wanted to make than the admired and martyred president? From his Wikipedia page, we gather that Chiniquy was a bit of a dodgy character, also running afoul of the Presbytery of Chicago over administration of charity funds and a college.
On the other hand, I encountered the excerpts in the long appendix to the book, Rome’s Responsibility for the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln by Thomas H. Harris, published in 1892. The appendix is all taken from Chiniquy’s book. Harris was a member of the U.S. military commission that tried the hanged the conspirators convicted of assassinating Lincoln. Harris, who seems to share Chiniquy’s animus towards Catholics, introduces the appendix as follows:
The following is an excerpt from 50 Years in the Church of Rome, by Charles Chiniquy. Minister Chiniquy was a former Roman Catholic priest, who was saved by the grace of God. He was freed from the superstitions of Rome and became a beloved minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ and one of the most famous Protestant preachers of his time. For example, his 80th birthday was attended by 2,000 friends and followers, including many prominent citizens and ministers, who gave speeches lauding Chiniquy. His birthday celebration was reported on the front page of the Wednesday, July 31, 1889, edition of the Chicago Tribune. Incidently [sic], Chiniquy’s 80th birthday was five years after the publication of his book, 50 Years in the Church of Rome. When Chiniquy died, his obituary appeared on the front page of the Tuesday, January 17, 1899, edition of The New York Times, with a eulogy praising his many accomplishments. Chiniquy was a friend of Abraham Lincoln. Their friendship began when Lincoln, who was a practicing lawyer, represented Chiniquy in litigation. Chiniquy was a Catholic priest at that time, and Abraham Lincoln agreed to represent him by an agent of the corrupt Roman Catholic Bishop [Anthony] O’Regan of Chicago.
From this passage, we gather that Chiniquy was held in somewhat higher esteem than we might believe from just reading the Wikipedia page.
But taking the other side of the matter again, it is very difficult to believe that a slick politician like Lincoln would ever have said such incendiary things to anyone outside of his immediate family. He was a master at manipulating public opinion for his own benefit, and he must have known that had these remarks reached the general public at the time the results could have been devastating. He stood to lose the support of every Catholic, and his apparent endorsement of the worst excesses of the French Revolution would have threatened any following that he might have had among anyone of a politically conservative or even moderate bent.
Possibly, there is some middle ground between the belief that what we have here is a complete fabrication by Chiniquy and the conclusion that these were Lincoln’s actual beliefs as reflected in his statements to Chiniquy at the time of the latter’s brief visits to the White House. Lincoln certainly knew his audience, and Chiniquy was a man with a large following. He was a man of influence with whom Lincoln would have wanted to curry as much favor as possible. The way to do it would have been to appeal to his prejudices and tell him the sort of things that he wanted to hear. Maybe, then the politician Lincoln was primarily interested in motivating Chiniquy to do everything in his considerable power to drum up support for Lincoln and his war. At the same time, there could have been an understanding between the two, either tacit or explicit, that Lincoln’s actual words would not be passed along for a considerably long time because of the sensitivity of the subject.
A possible large joker in the deck supplying at least a grain of truth to the Lincoln and Chiniquy charges is the matter of Lincoln’s assassination. It is a fact that those who were convicted and hanged for the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln were Roman Catholics. Even more incriminating of the Church is that John Surratt, one of the accused conspirators and the son of the H Street rooming house landlady, Mary Surratt, one of those hanged for the crime, was able to escape to Canada and then to Europe, ending up as a Soave guard in the Vatican under an assumed name, with the help of several Catholic priests. Chiniquy and the author Harris see the powerful hand of the treacherous Jesuit Society at work.
The Jesuits were a known conspiratorial organization. If one does a Web search using the words “Jesuits, Illuminati, Alumbrados” all sorts of possibilities come into play. In my article, “Life in the Confederate Army,” I note that both Lincoln and Jefferson Davis seemed insufficiently wary of war in the manner of their handling the Ft. Sumter conflict. It could hardly be clearer that Lincoln wanted war, but it also appears that Davis was insufficiently afraid of it. It’s enough to make one wonder if both of them might have been manipulated by an unseen hand wanting to bring about the conflagration that transpired. When one brings the Jesuits into the picture, we’re also into the world of the Illuminati and from there it’s only a short step to the nefarious controlling banker world. It works even better as an explanation for Lincoln’s assassination, if not for the Baltimore plot prior to his inauguration. By financing the war from the Union side through the printing of greenbacks rather than using the traditional European method of borrowing from the powerful banks, Lincoln could have made himself a marked man for assassination.
Such speculations as these we shall have to leave as grist for a possible future article.