“The more faithful to the Gospel we remain, the more hatred we experience”. Isn’t the history repeating itself constantly?
Bishop of Barcelona
Barcelona, April 2, 1854
In response to the contents of the official communication dated today Your Excellency has deigned to communicate to me, I must answer what follows:
We could not but be surprised to know that the civil authority has suspected the School of Virtue had a part in the occurrence that took place in this capital.
The School of Virtue, Your Excellency, from the beginning has been the cheeks of the bit of a bridle of the most grievous, arduous attacks and, before they attributed to it the discontent of the workers that prevailed today in this capital, it has been imputed with other crimes in its teachings and practices. While the authorities had not listen to such accusations we believe it is prudent to answer them with silence or with contempt; since today the civil authority seem to take them into account, the justification on our part is an imperative duty.
Your Excellency, I had the honor to preside on all the conferences of the School, and I reviewed all the theories that it had declared; by consequence all responsibility falls on me, and hence I could very well vouch that never has it declared a single subversive phrase, on the contrary, the School has been occupied in catechizing the society of Barcelona in its diverse classes, it has not done more than to clarify those fundamental doctrines that the Catholic Church always taught; teachings on order, peace and tranquility. In these past days the conferences treated and discussed on the ecclesiastical fasting, on penance and Eucharist; and today we have proposed to deal with that of the sacrifice of the Mass, having its sermons on the exhortation to pray for the conversion of sinners, for the prosperity, peace and harmony of the ruling princes, for the extirpation of heretics and the aggrandizement of our holy catholic faith.
In the attacks that various times the press had directed us, we had invited our adversaries to state only one phrase contrary to the religious orthodoxy. Regarding the persons that composed the School of Virtue, their names and their works are the perfect justification.
Your Excellency, no doubt, the governor has been badly-informed of what is the School of Virtue. It is no other thing but the Catholics assembled in the parish church of St. Augustine’s in order to listen to the explanation of the Christian doctrine, in a way adapted to the capacity of all the classes. Its activities have been always public. We have not carried out any within closed doors. The audience has been the most important and respectable of this city. All the social classes of Barcelona are the faithful witness of all our teachings and activities. It has been assisted and attended constantly by the learned and the uneducated, the rich and the poor, manufacturers and workers. Let them answer for our principles.
I did not propose, Your Excellency, until now other thing than to help and cooperate with the worthy parish priest of St. Augustine’s in the activities that concern my ministry and, putting my capacity as a preacher of the Gospel, I have chosen the forms (save the ecclesiastical discipline) that I believed most convenient, and adapted the method of Catechesis; and if I have taken some name, it is only to know to whom I will direct my questions. And from here comes the title of the School.
Nevertheless, so that Your Excellency will know those who cooperated most in this Catechesis, I am forwarding their names in the enclosed list. All of them are persons of utmost integrity. In various occasions they have unequivocally proven their love for public peace and tranquility. They have constantly resisted in their respective classes all attempts of disorder, disturbance and trouble. Their honour has been hurt and afflicted and being so sure that the suspicions are unfounded, I voice their feelings, and I cannot but demand to your Excellency, an act of justice.
And is: 1st To summon them to the competent tribunal. 2nd To announce the accusations of so atrocious crimes to whom it correspond. 3rd That the accusers be known so that they will take the responsibility of the accusation in case the School of Virtue will be proven innocent. 4th That the accused be granted the competent right to defend.
Your Excellency, in the name of all the pupils of this School I demand for the right granted to all Spanish citizens compelled to justify themselves. In this manner and only in this manner the authority would know if the School or its accusers instigated this riot. The government of this province having insisted that the statutes be drawn up, the School being a religious instruction dependent only on voluntary work and without any retribution, which I have so far contributed until now, I do not see it feasible to bound myself with statutes to continue it. Nevertheless, if it is deemed convenient to give it a form of a religious society, I wish to obey even to the slightest insinuations of an authority, I conform myself always to your dispositions.
To dissolve the School is no other thing than to deprive a preacher of the Gospel from adopting the catechetical form or conference in his preaching. The assessment on the forms and methods of religious instruction that is conducted in the churches is one of the attributes of the bishops. On my part I am and will always be humble and obedient to the orders of Your Excellency.
This is all I can say in response to the official communication that Your Excellency has just addressed to me.
May God keep Your Excellency many years.
Francisco Palau, Priest
WHAT WAS HAPPENING?
On 23 March 1854 a general strike pitted the working class against the civil and religious authorities. The Captain General, Ramon M. La Roch, blamed the clergy and particularly the School of Virtue, for the discontent and revolt of the workers. He decreed the suppression of the association or confraternity that bore this name. He communicated the order to the Civil Governor, Melchor Ordoñez y Viana, who forwarded it to Bishop Costa y Borras on 31 March 1854. the Bishop acknowledged receipt of the order but added that he did not think any of te associations under his authority could jeopardize public order. He also communicated the order to Fr. Palau. This is the letter´s response to the Bishop.
The Church sometimes disturbs. It disturbs when it doesn’t know its place and puts itself in the middle of things and issues that it shouldn’t. It disturbs when it identifies itself with some politic or ideological group showing lack of understanding and tolerance towards those who have different ideas or makes different options in life. It also disturbs when the sins of its members put in doubt the truth of its teachings. But it disturbs the most when it is right where it should be: showing the way of the Gospel in the middle of the confusion, calling things by its name, defending life and human rights, praying for those who persecute, calling for forgiveness and dialogue. Like in times of Fr. Palau, the more faithful we are to the Gospel, the more hatred we experience. Situation didn’t change. And let us hope that we will remain faithful, in spite of the pressure and persecutions.