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into the moral influence of that religious practice, as perfectly void of interest. It has been observed, with great truth, that the most philanthropic man would feel more uneasiness in the expectation of having his little finger cut off, than in the assurance that the whole empire of China was to be swallowed up, the next day, by an earthquake. If ever, therefore, these lines should meet the eye of the public in some distant country (for ages must pass before they can see the light in Spain), I entreat my readers to beware of indifference about evils from which it is their happiness to be free, and to make a due allowance for the feelings which lead me into a short digression. They certainly cannot expect to be acquainted with Spain without a sufficient knowledge of the powerful moral engines which are at work in that country; and they will, perhaps, find that a Spanish priest may have something to say which is new to them on the subject of confession.
"The effects of confession upon young minds are, generally, unfavourable to their future peace and virtue. It was to that practice I owed the first taste of remorse, while yet my soul was in a state of infant purity. My fancy had been strongly impressed with the awful conditions of the penitential law, and the word sacrilege had made me shudder on being told that the act of concealing any thought or action, the rightfulness of which I suspected, would make me guilty of that worst of crimes, and greatly increase my danger of everlasting torments. My parents had, in this case, done no more than their duty according to the rules of their church. But, though they had succeeded in rousing my fear of hell, this was, on the other hand, too feeble to overcome a childish bashfulness, which made the disclosure of a harmless trifle an effort above my strength. The appointed day came at last, when I was to wait on the confessor. Now wavering, now determined not to be guilty of sacrilege, I knelt before the priest, leaving, however, in my list of sins, the last place to the hideous offence-I believe it was a petty larceny committed on a young bird. But, when I came to the dreaded point, shame and confusion fell upon me, and the accusation stuck in my throat. The imaginary guilt of this silence haunted my mind for four years, gathering horrors at every successive confession, and rising into an appalling spectre when, at the age of twelve, I was taken to receive the sacrament. In this miserable state I continued till, with the advance of reason, I plucked, at fourteen, courage enough to unburden my conscience by a general confession of the past. And let it not be supposed that mine is a singular case, arising either from morbid feeling or the nature of my early education. Few, indeed, among the many penitents I have examined have escaped the evils of a similar state; for, what a silly bashfulness does in children, is often, in after-life, the immediate effect of that shame by which fallen frailty clings still to wounded virtue. The necessity of confession, seen at a distance, is lighter than a feather in the balance of desire; while, at a subsequent period, it becomes a punishment on delicacy-an instrument to blunt the moral sense, by multiplying the subjects of remorse, and directing its greatest terrors against imaginary crimes.
"These evils affect, nearly equally, the two sexes; but there are some that fall peculiarly to the lot of the softer. Yet the remotest of all-at least, as long as the inquisition shall exist-is the danger of direct seduction from the priest. The formidable powers of that odious tribunal have been so skilfully arrayed against the abuse of sacramental trust, that few are found base and blind enough to make the confessional a direct instrument of debauch. The strictest delicacy, however, is, I believe, inadequate fully to oppose the demoralizing tendency of auricular confession. Without the slightest responsibility, and, not unfrequently, in the conscientious discharge of what he believes his duty, the confessor conveys to the female mind the first foul breath which dims its virgin purity. He, undoubtedly, has a right to interrogate upon subjects which are justly deemed awkward even for maternal confidence; and it would require more than common simplicity to suppose that a discretionary power of this nature, left in the hands of thousands-men beset with more than common temptations to abuse it-will generally be exercised with proper caution.* But I will no longer dwell upon this subject for the present. Men of unprejudiced minds will easily conjecture what I leave unsaid: while to show a hope of convincing such as have made a full and irrevocable surrender of their judgment, were only to libel my own.
"From the peculiar circumstances of my country, the training of my mental faculties was an object of little interest with my parents. There could be scarcely any doubt in the choice of a line of life for me, who was the eldest of four children. My father's fortune was improving; and I might help and succeed him with advantage to myself and two sisters. It was, therefore, in my father's counting-house that, under the care of an old trusty clerk, I learned writing and arithmetic. To be a perfect stranger in literature is not, even now, a disgrace among the better class of Spaniards. But my mother, whose pride, though greatly subdued, was never conquered by devotion, felt anxious that, since from prudential motives I was doomed to be buried for life in a counting
Though I will not abate one tittle from the statements of this reverend Spaniard, I think it proper to observe that the degree of delicacy, or its opposite, in a confessor-besides the individual influence of virtue, and, more than virtue, good-breeding-must greatly depend upon the general refinement of the peo ple among whom he exercises his powers. Such is the state of manners in England, that few or none, I will venture to say, among its Catholic females, will probably be aware of any evil tendency in auricular confession. I would not equally answer for Ireland, especially among the lower classes. Since these letters, however, would not have seen the light without my consent, I must here, once for all, enter my protest against the supposition of their being intended as an attack on the large and respectable portion of our fellow-subjects who profess the Roman Catholic faith. That I firmly believe in the abstract tendency which the author of these letters attributes to Catholicism, I cannot, will not deny. Yet we should not confound Catholicism in the rank luxuriance of full growth, with the same noxious plant gradually tamed and reclaimed under the shade of Protestantism. Thus, while I am persuaded that the religion of Spain, Portugal, and Naples, is the main obstacle to the final establishment of liberty in those countries, I positively deny the inference that Catholics must, in all circumstances, make a wrong use of political power.
VOL. II. No. 7.-1821.
house, a little knowledge of Latin should distinguish me from a mere mercantile drudge. A private teacher was accordingly procured, who read with me in the evening, after I had spent the best part of the day in drawing copies of the extensive correspondence of the house.
"I was now about ten years old, and though, from a child, excessively fond of reading, my acquaintance with books did not extend beyond a history of the Old Testament-a collection of the Lives of the Saints mentioned in the Catholic Almanac, out of which I chose the Martyrs, for modern saints were never to my taste-a little work that gave an amusing miracle of the Virgin for every day of the year*-and, prized above all, a Spanish translation of Fenelon's Telemachus, which I perused till I had nearly learned it by heart. I heard, therefore, with uncommon pleasure, that, in acquiring a knowledge of Latin, I should have to read stories not unlike that of my favourite the Prince of Ithaca. Little time, however, was allowed me for study, lest, from my love of learning, I should conceive a dislike to mercantile pursuits. But my mind had taken a decided bent. I hated the counting-house, and loved my books. Learning and the church were, to me, inseparable ideas; and I soon declared to my mother that I would be nothing but a clergy
"This declaration roused the strongest prejudices of her mind and heart, which cold prudence had only damped into acquiescence. To have a son who shall daily hold in his hands the real body of Christ, is an honour, a happiness which raises the humblest Spanish woman into a self-complacent consequence that attends her through life. What, then, must be the feelings of one who, to the strongest sense of devotion, joins the hope of seeing the dignities and emoluments of a rich and proud Church bestowed upon a darling child? The Church, besides, by the law of celibacy, averts that mighty terror of a fond mother-a wife, who, sooner or later, is to draw away her of ten or twelve, age child from home. A boy, therefore, that at the either dazzled by the gaudy dress of an officiating priest-by the importance he sees others acquire, when the bishop confers upon them the clerical tonsure or by any other delusion of childhood, declares his intention of taking orders, seldom, very seldom escapes the heavy chain which the Church artfully hides under the tinsel of honours, and the less flimsy, though also less attainable splendour of her gold. Such a boy, among the poor, is infallibly plunged into a convent; if he belongs to the gentry, he is destined to swell the ranks of the secular clergy.
"It is true that, in all ages and countries, the leading events of human life, are inseparably linked with some of the slightest incidents of childhood. But this fact, instead of an apology, affords the heaviest charge against the crafty and barbarous system of laying snares, wherein unsuspecting innocence may, at the very entrance of life, lose every chance of future peace, happiness, and virTo allow a girl of sixteen to bind herself, for ever, with vows -not only under the awful, though distant guardianship of heaven,
Sce an account of this little work at the end of this article, page 35.
but the odious and immediate superintendence of man-ranks, indeed, with the most hideous abuses of superstition. The law of celibacy, it is true, does not bind the secular clergy till the age of twenty-one; but this is neither more nor less than a mockery of common sense, in the eyes of those who practically know how frivolous is that latitude.* A man has, seldom, the means to embrace, or the aptitude to exercise a profession for which he has not been trained from early youth. It is absurd and cruel to pretend that a young man, whose best ten or twelve years have been spent in preparation for orders, is at full liberty to turn his back upon the Church when he has arrived at one-and-twenty. He may, indeed, preserve his liberty; but to do so he must forget that most of his patrimony has been laid out on his education, that he is too old for a cadetship in the army, too poor for commerce, and too proud for a petty trade. He must behold, unmoved, the tears of his parents; and, casting about for subsistence in a country where industry affords no resource, love, the main cause of these struggles, must content itself with bare possible lawfulness, and bid adieu to the hope of possession. Wherever unnatural privations make not a part of the clerical duty, many may find themselves in the Church who might be better elsewhere. But no great effort is wanted to make them happy in themselves, and useful to the community. Not so under the unfeeling tyranny of our ecclesiastical law. For, where shall we find that virtue which, having nature herself for its enemy, and misery for its meed, will be able to extend its care to the welfare of others?—As to myself, the tenor and colour of my life were fixed the moment I expressed my childish wish of being a clergyman. The love of knowledge, however, which betrayed me into the path of wretchedness, has never forsaken its victim. It is probable that I could not have found happiness in uneducated ignorance. Scanty and truly hard-earned as is the store on which my mind feeds itself, I would not part with it for a whole life of unthinking pleasure : and if the necessity of circumstances left me no path to mental enjoyment, except that I have so painfully trodden, I hail the moment when I entered it, and only bewail the fatality which fixed my birth in a Catholic country."
(To be continued.)
A little Work, that gave an amusing Miracle of the Virgin for every Day in the Year. P. 88.
I learn from the original manuscript that this book is the Ano Virgineo, which, as a curiosity, I picked up during my travels in Spain, though, unfortunately, I have since lost it. The moral tendency of this and similar books may be shown by the following story-technically named an Example-which I will venture to give from memory-A Spanish soldier, who had fought in the Netherlands, having returned home with some booty, was leading
The secular clergy are not-bound by vows. Celibacy is enforced upon them by a law which makes their marriage illegal, and punishable by the Eccle siastical Courts.
a profligate and desperate life. He had, however, bled for the Faith; and his own was perfectly orthodox. A large old picture of the Virgin Mary hung over the inside of the door of his lodgings, which, it seems, did not correspond in loftiness to the brave halberdier's mind and demeanour. Early every morning he used to sally forth in pursuit of unlawful pleasure; but, though he never did bend his knees in prayer, he would not cross the threshold without a loud Hail Mary! to the picture, accompanied by an inclination of the halbert, which, partly from his outrageous hurry to break out of the nightly prison, partly from want of room for his military salute, inflicted many a wound on the canvas. Thus our soldier went on spending his life and money, till a sharp Spanish dagger composed him to rest, in the heat of a brawl. "He died and made no sign." The Devil, who thought him as fair a prize as any that had ever been within his grasp, waited only for the sentence which, according to Catholics, is passed on every individual immediately after death, in what they call the Particular Judgment. At this critical moment the Virgin Mary presented herself in a black mantle, similar to that which she wore in the picture, but sadly rent and slit in several places. "There are the marks," she said to the affrighted soul, "of your rude, though certainly wellmeant civility. I will not, however, permit that one who has so cordially saluted me every day, should go into everlasting fire." Thus saying, she bade the evil spirit give up his prisoner, and the gallant soldier was sent to purge off the dross of his boisterous nature in the gentler flames of purgatory.-My friend Don Leucadio assured me that a portion of the book from which I recollect this story, was, for many years, read every evening in one of the principal parishes at Seville. He observed the same practice at a town not far from the capital of Andalusia; and, for any thing he knew to the contrary, it may have been very common all over Spain. Such is the doctrine which, disowned in theory by the divines of the Roman church, but growing out of the system of saint-worship, constitutes the main religious feeling of the vulgar, and taints strongly the minds of the higher classes in Spain. The Chronicles of the Religious Orders are full of narratives, the whole drift of which is to represent their patron saint as powerful to save from the very jaws of hell. The skill of the painter has often been engaged to exhibit these stories to the eye, and the Spanish convents abound in pictures more encouraging to vice than the most profligate prints of the Palais Royal. I recollect one at Seville in the convent of the Antonines-a species of the genus Monachus Franciscanus of the Monachologia-so strangely absurd, that I hope the reader will forgive my lengthening this article with its description. The picture I allude to was in the cloisters of the convent of San Antonio, facing the principal entrance, so late as the year 1810, when I last visited Seville. The subject is the hair-breadth escape of a great sinner, whom St. Francis saved against all chances. An extract from the Chronicles of the Order, which is found in a corner of the painting, informs the beholder how that the person whose