Trust or not to trust… That is a question! Do I need to believe in everything I see and hear? Do I have an obligation to seek the truth?
Barcelona, April 3, 1854
The Excellency Bishop, my worthy prelate, have communicated to me an order from this governor that the School of Virtue, which is under my direction in the parish church of St. Augustine’s remained suppressed.
Yesterday, Your Excellency summoned Fr. José Gras, Fr. Alejandro Pi, and Fr. Luis Sagüés, and were interrogated whether they belong to this School, and they responded to you affirmatively; Your Excellency told them that as pupils, they were the cause of these troubles because in their lecture they greatly encouraged the working class not to work in the event that the workers were expecting in this capital; consequently, making them responsible of all the disorders that in the future will turn up induced by the same School.
On the same day, for the same reason Your Excellency summoned Fr. Pablo Ferrer, Fr. Juan Casellas and Fr. Eduardo Mª Vilarrasa, charging them of the same responsibility like the first ones and imputed on them of the same crime.
These are indisputable facts, and in view of them convinced of your good zeal of fairness in justice that for so many reasons has given to this capital, persuaded that these processes spring forth from the bad information about the School that is in my charge as a director and responsible of it, appeal to the allegiance of Your Excellency to expound the following:
The School is accused of a crime, the most atrocious crime that according to the civil law of all countries deserved to be expiated with the utmost penalty. The accusation is serious since it is attributing to religion a disorder that all the people have timely fixed their attention.
To be accused is not to be a criminal. Your Excellency is as interested as I am in public peace, (therefore) direct all your actions with activities to discover the source of evil. You do not want to be deceived or to be overtaken by sarcastic language or miss the target you wish to hit. You are obliged by your high mission to ascertain the crime, inasmuch as God has entrusted your sword to prevent, repress and punish, and at the same time to protect, save and defend the innocent. In these matters I have a simple means to justify myself of the charges they have made. Let us bring the case to its proper ground.
Because there is always a need to teach Christian doctrine and to preach the holy Gospel to the people, I volunteered to the parish priest of St. Augustine’s as coadjutant in the ministry of preaching. Duly authorized by my bishop, I held on to my duty as a preacher of the parish, to adapt the form and method I deemed most convenient. I chose the catechetical form. So that the people will receive the fruit of my work, I adjusted the teaching of the doctrine to all classes, condition and ranks. I took the names of all those who voluntarily compromised to answer my questions, and the others attended the class as listeners. Since I did not have the intention until now to constitute a confraternity, congregation or religious association, I thought I was dispensed from drawing up statutes, or to apply to the civil authority for a special authorization; inasmuch as to teach the Christian doctrine and to preach the Gospel in the church, the authorization of the bishop is sufficient. The religious instruction that was given on all feast days in the parish church of St. Augustine’s was not distinct from the ones of the other parishes, except in its methodology the catechetical form. Until now this method does not require any special permission from the authority. The words that we have used to express the logic have been very common, such as the moral conferences, lecture hall, and school; since the end of the preaching is to act upon virtue and to eradicate vice, it is not strange to this discipline the title of School of Virtue. With due permission we have written the textbook entitled Catechism of Virtues of which I am sending Your Excellency a copy.
The success of the venture has been beyond our expectations. I began preaching in November 1851, and had continued without any interruption on all feast days. The functions of this School have always been in the parish church of St. Augustine’s. The doors were always open, inviting the public to attend. The conferences were held in the huge basilica of St. Augustine’s. We taught constantly in the midst of a remarkably great audience. The most respectable of this capital have attended and listened to our teachings, and if regarding them we are accused, the public of Barcelona is our tribunal. To them we appeal. We have always announced in the daily newspapers our functions in anticipation, sufficiently explained and we had been faithful in the performance. We have publicly questioned the people on the Catholic doctrines and we have adjusted our style to the capacity or comprehension of all.
Our end, Your Excellency, has been no other than to explain, support and defend the Catholic doctrines, to restrain the people, and to clarify those truths that are the foundation of all the social-religious structure. We made the best of all occasions that showed up in order to preach peace, obedience, and fraternal love. At the end, we have described with thousand colours those virtues that are the sacred bond of the moral body; and regarding these we summoned the people of Barcelona as witnesses. Yes, to all the people and to all classes, because very few did not hear the lectures regarding the virtue and vice that we have given and explained.
Your Excellency, do not push aside and ignore the fact that the doctrines the Catholic Church teaches are for the revolutionary, subversive descent of the public order, suspicious, and godless, and from the first days of our preaching it has not ceased to launch the most vehement attacks. We have always responded and defended ourselves. The issue is public and Your Excellency will not be misled in the judgement of her because there are millions of eyewitnesses who will testify against these unfounded and absurdity suspicions on the School. Yes, we had struggled, always created by wayward, corrupt men, always ready to disturb public order. We have combated, but the enemies of the authority have always been ours, and with her we have always made and will always make public cause.
How lamentable will it be for us that Your Excellency will direct attacks against your own colleague, friends and supporters! I do not believe such breach of concord is possible, because I am convinced that Your Excellency will take sensible and prudent public information, and the prejudice will vanish, and then Your Excellency, could at least support with strong hands our efforts inspired with doctrines on peace, love, fidelity and obedience to the authorities.
For in case that a misunderstanding have been contracted to the effect contrary to any expression of the many things we have spoken and taught regarding the order of the doctrines, Your Excellency will have the amiability of refreshing our memory and we will explain it in all consciousness that are affected. If we are attacked in matters of actions, Your Excellency will not find among the revolutionaries a single person from those that performed in my School, much less any fact that could be suspected of rebellion.
In view of all that I have expounded, I expect from the uprightness of Your Excellency that far from ascribing such stigma on the School under my charge, and in consequence against religion, blot out the blemish, and let the responsibility fall on the real culprit and the guilty.
May God keep Your Excellency more years.
Francisco Palau, Priest
WHAT WAS HAPPENING?
On the Bishop’s advice, Fr. Francisco Palau sent this explanation to dispel the prejudices that the Governor had expressed in an interview with members of the School of Virtue. In case the Governor was acting on wrong information, he relates the genesis and characteristics of the institution. There may have been misunderstandings, but he is certain that not a single member of the School, not a single act of the same, deserves suspicion.
All of us we have obligation to seek the truth. In the middle of all the news we receive daily, all the images that bomb us through social media, sometimes it is hard to get the true image of the events. There are organizations interested in feeding us with misinformation, because it is easier to manipulate people’s conscience, actions and decisions. By one hand, we were still taught to trust others, believe in what they say. By the other hand, we see now that it is not always healthy to believe in everything we see or hear. What can we do? There is a rule of „limited trust” while driving a car. It says that generally we need to trust in driving skills of our companions on the road, but stay aware, awake and prudent in every moment, just in case. Let us apply the same rule to the world of information. Let us not allow to be manipulated by misinformation, let us not believe easily, but let us be prudent and alert, always wanting to seek the truth, not only confirmation of our beliefs.