The strategy of discrediting authorities to confuse people is common in our society. Is it true death of authorities or just a kind of smart move to form new generations with new mind setting? Let us seek some enlightenment in the words of Francisco Palau OCD in his Letter 17.
Barcelona, April 5, 1854
Most distinguished Sir:
On the second day of the month at 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, two municipal guards showed up in the parish church of St. Augustine’s accompanied by an assistant with a ladder who to your orders, climbed up to the top of the gate of the church and ripped away a signboard of more or less of four palms dimension, fixed and gilded on it very legible letters, this inscription: “School of Virtue.” This commission brought this said inscription to the City Hall. This signboard was nailed in the façade of the mentioned parish church by my order. In view of this act I beg to state the following:
The title School of Virtue befits perfectly to all Catholic churches, because in all of them there is a pulpit (teaching chair) instituted by Christ and his Apostles; in all of them there are legitimate and competent members; such are: the bishops, parish priests and other authorized priests to preach the Gospel and to teach the Christian doctrine. In all of them there are disciples and pupils, and these are all the baptized excluding the excommunicated. Where there is a pulpit, teachers and pupils, there is a conference hall and school. In all the churches Catholicism is taught, defined, described and virtues preached. In sound logic it is deduced here, by legitimate consequence, that the title “School of Virtue” is an exclusive attribution to all the churches, in the same way that those others: temple of the Holy Spirit, house of prayer, etc. etc.
I leave it to Your Excellency for consideration, judge it if it is the competence of a mayor, or of any other civil authority or municipality to fix and ripped away such inscriptions.
Most distinguished Sir, I was commissioned by the ecclesiastical authority to teach in all feast days the Christian doctrine and to preach the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the parish church of St. Augustine’s, with the object of reminding the faithful of this religious teaching; using the faculty designated by the church’s ministry, I ordered this signboard to be fixed at the façade of the church where I teach the mentioned inscription.
This sacred title has been ripped away from its proper place. This act is sacrilegious, because it is stealing a sacred object; I say stealing, because it has been ripped away and taken against the will of the owner that is the ecclesiastical authority. It is most sacrilegious, an insult done in the house of the Holy Spirit. Similarly, the act was highly sacrilegious because it was done at the time the street was witnessed by the people. Is there or could there be any reason to justify the act of this nature? You will tell me: “the School of Virtue no longer exists; it has been suppressed by His Excellency Captain General; it was my duty to destroy the title that it designated, consequently, its suppression.” To this I must respond:
The School of Virtue had always existed, exists and will always exists until the end of time in all the Catholic churches, perhaps under different forms, because always there has been, and there will be in them pulpit, teachers and pupils. The School of Virtue still exist as such and is under my responsibility in the parish church of St. Augustine’s. The bishop could change the teachers and method of teaching and this will never abolish the School of Virtue, but only its form and method. To teach in catechetical form, or conferences, or discourses or sermons is accidental to a school, and this is what the bishop could do and will do, if he judges it convenient. But it will never abolish the ministry of teaching that a parish must have.
To authorize, modify, change, suspend, suppress, dissolve the religious instructions that are given in the churches and consequently to fix and to rip away from the gate of the designated churches, has never been an attribution of any military, civil or municipal authority; but only of the Episcopal authority. This is nothing else than one of the most sacred dogmas that the Catholic, apostolic, roman church have always believed and will believe. The suppression of the School of Virtue, as such under my charge in the parish church of St. Augustine’s, announced officially to the ecclesiastical authority, done ex plenitudine potestatis by an military general, is a transgression. I do not intend to criticize in the most minimum the ordinance and means that, regarding the circumstances, the military, civil and municipal authorities has taken in order to suspend in such condition the functions of the churches. Our most worthy prelate and all the clergy have always respected and have conformed to their orders. To what we are opposing is to acknowledge legal and valid the suppression of the School of my charge, done by His Excellency Captain General of this province without any intervention of the bishop of the diocese. Even though we look at the suppression as invalid, we have conformed to her and we have obeyed to a strong physical and irresistible force. This obedience is an imperative duty that prudence dictates in circumstances analogous to the actual events. We will always obey as we have done until now; but as our silence sanctions the acts that will directly transfer the superior attributions that belong to the ecclesiastical authority to the authorities of the time, such sanction will give occasion to the catholic people to believe that its spiritual and religious life is governed not by Jesus Christ and his apostles, not by the bishops and his legitimate pastors, not by the Holy Spirit, but by the power of this world, in such case our inviolable religion imposed on us the obligation to protest and to take the risk even though how serious and dangerous it is.
The School of Virtue no longer exists on the ground of facts because a physical irresistible force has suppressed it. To this suppression I conform, because the laws of obedience as such ordered me. The School of Virtue existed by rights because the bishop, the competent authority has not communicated to me the suppression and has protested against it.
The School under my charge is identified with the parish church. It is nothing else than the faithful of both sexes convoked and assembled on feast days to listen to the explanations of the Christian doctrine. It is a catechesis adjusted to the classes of the people. It has no other statutes than that of the rules of the church in the ministry of preaching and under this point of view its authorization, modification, suspension or suppression is the duty of the prelate of the diocese.
In view of all these clarifications, I beg of Your Excellency to order that the signboard “School of Virtue” be reinstalled. As such I expect from the religiosity, justice and uprightness of Your Excellency.
May God keep you many years.
Most distinguished Sir.
Francisco Palau, Priest
WHAT WAS HAPPENING
On 2 April 1854, on orders from the mayor, municipal policemen pulled out the signboard „The School of Virtue” from the gate of the church of St. Augustine. Three days later Fr. Palau dictated this letter of protest against the Mayor’s interference in church matters. But he did so without clearing the matter with Bishop. The Mayor complained to the Bishop, who reprimanded Fr. Palau, but asked the matter to be dropped. It was not. The Mayor gave his own version of the facts to the Captain General and Fr. Palau was confined to Ibiza.
„All Churches are the schools of virtues”, and its teachings will continue always, because there will always be a pulpit, a teacher (priest) and the students (the faithful ones). Teaching is one of the main functions of the Church, called to evangelize always, in all times and conditions. The thing is that nowadays we observe certain crisis of authorities (even death of authorities, as it was named by some modern authors). The children are being openly invited to challenge the authority of their parents, especially when they want to teach some traditional values and virtues. The greatest moral authorities of our times, like for example Saint Pope John Paul II, are being accused and discredited because their teachings are opposed to the new vision of the man and society. „I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Zech 13:17: Mt 26:31). This is the mechanism we observe in our society: to discredit the authorities, so people will get confused and it will be easier to formed them according to the „all kinds of strange teachings” (Heb 13:9). Because the teachings of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church are challenging, difficult, demanding. And to say the truth, there are few real shepherds, real authorities capable of attracting nowadays people and inspiring them to demand more of oneself, to be better, o be more mature. „All Churches are the schools of virtues”: may our communities be places where we teach with true authority come from our faithful witnessing to the values of the Gospel.