Charles Chiniquy is still assailed in modern times. In his blog article, Charles Chiniquy – Illinois Schismatic: The First American Catholic Apostate, April 28th, 2011, Pat Hickey makes unsubstantiated and erroneous statements about the celebrated clergyman. I found the article online some time ago. His website would not allow a full response so I thought I would make a few comments here instead.
Hickey quotes my words in the Wikipedia article on Charles Chiniquy, which is fine, but didn’t cite Wikipedia or myself as the source. Of Rev. Chiniquy, he stated, “the activist priest was accused by more than a few women in written complaints to Bishop Bourget of using the confessional to force sexual advances on them.” Where this information comes from and what real evidence exists to show these serious accusations were true? Hickey cites an entirety of three websites in support of what he states, no books, journals or other print sources. Anthropologist Caroline B. Brettell wrote of Chiniquy in her 1985 article “From Catholic to Presbyterians: French-Canadian Immigrants in Central Illinois”, published in the Journal of Presbyterian History. In a personal letter to myself in 1989, regarding a newspaper article report on a public presentation she gave on Chiniquy, she wrote:
In response to a question from the audience I was forced to mention that Chiniquy WAS ACCUSED of sexual dalliances (your reference to ‘indecent comments against women and reputation as a womanizer‘). I never said that these were true or could be documented. I am, however, interested in the accusations (as a form of rhetoric in a situation of social conflict) and these can indeed be documented.
Of Chiniquy’s time in Illinois, her article stated:
There is evidence that some of the accusations brought against him in Illinois were sheer fabrication. One woman, for example, in the course of one of the numerous suits brought against Chiniquy after the schism, retracted her story that Chiniquy had made suggestive remarks to her in the confessional and claimed that she had been put up to it by a local Catholic priest. In a letter to Bishop Bourget of Montreal, a Kankakee woman named Josette Michaud, who claimed to have ‘resisted the schism so far,’ criticized the behavior of those priests sent out as emissaries who ‘say all sorts of abominations against the private character of M. Chiniquy.’ ‘These are not,’ she continued, ‘true priests of the Good Lord because they have neither the truth on their lips nor charity in their hearts.’
As a relevant, effective critic of the Catholic Church, attempts to smear Charles Chiniquy continue today. Caroline Brettel, though, whose knowledge of Chiniquy have to be preferred over Hickey’s, declared that none of the accusations of sexual wrongdoing were true or could be documented. It is too bad that people like Hickey make such accusations without proof.