To Rt. Rev. José Domingo Costa y Borras:
Bishop of Barcelona
Barcelona, February-March 1852
His Most Excellency Monsignor:
I have taken notice of the letter from Montauban that was addressed to you. My situation did not permit me to respond as promptly as I would desire. Here goes my answer.
It seems that the said Monsignor is not in good terms with me; he has launched a false accusation against me with the purpose of obliging me to cede and relinquish the property near Montauban which I bought together with my brother. This matter seems not clear and contradictory. I left the diocese in February 1851 and up to that date I have not been with Miss Christiá and there was nothing extraordinary in matters of interest; these divergences existed after I finally left his diocese. How, then, could the Monsignor demand from me to do justice to a woman who had been declared an enemy over a controversy that did not exist?
Here is the story of my journey. I left Lérida for Paris in the month of March 1847 with an ordinary passport and my Bishop’s recommendation. This is registered in document nº 1. I was in the dioceses of Perpignan, Toulouse, Carcasona and Montauban in the years 47-48-49-50 and 51. I did not go at that time to Paris because it did not coincide to my purpose. I travelled to France as a foreigner and transient; and for this trip I thought that the letter of recommendation of my Bishop of Lérida and valid passport were sufficient. I returned to Spain in April 1851. I celebrated Masses in those places with the required permissions per transitum, as the signatures registered to the document attached herewith.
As soon as I arrived in the diocese of Montauban, the Viscount of Serres himself brought my letters of recommendation from Lérida to the Bishop: (I celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Countess of Cahuzac). The Viscount attested that I could celebrate and to continue celebrating Mass in this chapel, for which the Countess had special written permission from the Bishop. Meanwhile, rumor spread that the Bishop did not want that I would celebrate; with the purpose of informing me and to ascertain the facts, I wrote to the neighboring parish priests and these responded that they have not received any order from the Bishop. Then I wrote to the vicar general; the reply is attached herewith, nº 2. I sent him what he asked; those were the letters of recommendation from my Bishop, inspected from Perpignan, Toulouse and Carcasona, which they returned without rescript. I did all I could to find out the motive of the complaint that they could have against me, but I could not, except for vague rumors… So I refrained from celebrating Mass.
I wrote to the parish priest of Canton asking him to inquire from the person concerned, and if in the contrary I could receive the sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist. He was told (I could not obtain any reply to my letters) that he had not issued any censure against my person and that I could receive communion, but in order to celebrate Mass I needed his special authorization. At this time, I thought I was not authorized or do not have permission to celebrate Holy Mass, but not being bound with any censure, I could celebrate in the other dioceses with due authorization from the bishops.
During this time that I abstained from celebrating Mass, I received Holy Communion in one of the neighboring parishes on Sundays’ Solemn High Mass. This act is quite public and contradicts what is said about the parish priests having been ordered not to give me absolution (in confession). I celebrated Mass in Gerona in April 1851, as clearly attested in document nº 1. This is in reference to the Holy Mass. In the letter addressed to your Excellency, it is said that I was prohibited to celebrate Mass, but this is not true, because I could never find out whether I had been censured; on the other hand, the Bishop himself said the contrary. The truth is, he did not want to inspect and endorse my letters of recommendation, for which reason I believed I did not have the due permission to celebrate; but not suspended or excommunicated, nor bound with any censure. Now that it is already affirmed let them prove and say when and for what motive. The reason alleged in the letter therefore did not exist; if it does at all, it can only be after my return to Spain.
With reference to Miss Teresa Christia, it is not precise that she was or has ever been a Carmelite of the Primitive Rule, certainly she was in the convent of St. Claire of Perpignan; she said this with the purpose that the case will rebound more being a Carmelite, and I would have influenced her if she was. Likewise, the rumor that circulate around that I made her leave the convent is void of truth. To prove this, it is enough to make it clear that the time she left the convent, it has been for more than three years that I was not residing in Perpignan; I have repeatedly said that I resided in the diocese of Montauban. How then could I make her follow? She left with the permission of the Bishop of Perpignan and from there she went toward the castle of the Countess of Cahuzac, where she remained with this dignified, honorable family held in esteem throughout France, as already said, until she bought a property with her fortune and constructed a house where she lives now.
Your Excellency knows that the Holy See considers the congregations of women in France, as pious families, but not properly as religious orders. Miss Teresa Christiá was authorized by her Bishop, and the Bishop of Montauban presented her to me as an apostate.
I declare as solemn false charges that I took advantage of the credulity of the five girls of Cahors. Talk to the companions of Miss Christiá and these were only two; from two to five lacks three. Of these two one traveled to Lérida; I sent for her; her name is Juana Gratias, and from her mouth Your Excellency will hear and will see that this is absolutely void of truth and a ridiculous calumny to say that these five virgins crossed the whole of northern Spain begging alms so as to pay the purchase of that property. This implies Your Excellency that the property was purchased with alms, whereas it is claimed elsewhere that it was rather paid by the money of Miss Teresa Christiá.
To assert that I have deceived and fanaticized Miss Christiá in matters of interests is a calumny; in all the relations I had with her, we acted according to the law of justice. She sold a part of her properties that she had in Perpignan and purchased a property in the diocese of Montauban and there incurred considerable expenses, constructed a house where she lives; she owns this and the other properties she had in Perpignan. When I left… I gave her forty-two ounces of gold. She acknowledged having received… and in return…
WHAT WAS HAPPENING
The bishop of Montauban had written to the bishop of Barcelona a letter that, according to Fr. Palau, contained more venom than that contained in some papers against the Society of Jesus and his own “School of Virtue”. Bishop Costa y Borras had the courtesy to pass on that letter to him so that he could justify himself. There are two redactions of Fr. Palau’s reply. This one is held to be the final one. Whatever this central issue of his letter, it throws light on the last years of his stay in France and the radical turn that Teresa Christia gave to his relationship with his erstwhile director.
It is happening that we read this letter in the historical moment in which some countries are really struggling for freedom, or better said, many citizens are struggling for freedom in their countries. We have an example of Hong Kong. And we have example of the Philippines with the newly signed “Anti-terrorism Act”. Many persons are seriously worried that basic human rights and justice won’t be respected anymore. That, just like I the times of Fr. Palau, there won’t be any need for justificable reason to put an uncomfortable person in trial. No need of warrant to arrest someone or to put vigilance. There are many controversies around this Act. The CBCP pointed out some of them in their recent statement and Pastoral Letter. The Bishops called us to Pray. Sometimes prayer is the most powerful resource we have to make justice and peace flourish in our land. And that the innocent might remain in their right to defend themselves properly, like Fr. Palau did.