American Catholicism

Awful Disclosures, of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery of Montreal...

Containing, also, Many Incidents Never Before Published.



This volume embraces not only my "Awful Disclosures," but a continuation of my Narrative, giving an account of events after my escape from the Nunnery, and of my return to Montreal to procure a legal investigation of my charges. It also [illegible] all the testimony that has been published against me, or every description, as well as that which has been given in confirmation of my story. At the close, will be found a Review of the whole Subject, furnished by a gentleman well qualified for the purpose; and finally, a copious Appendix, giving further particulars interesting to the public.

I present this volume to the reader, with feelings which, I trust, will be in some degree appreciated when it has been read and reflected upon. A hasty perusal, and an imperfect apprehension of its contents, can never produce such impressions as it has been my design to make by the statements I have laid before the world. I know that misapprehensions exist in the minds of some virtuous people. I am not disposed to condemn their motives, for it does not seem wonderful that in a pure state of society, and in the midst of Christian families, there should be persons who regard the crimes I have mentioned as too monstrous to believed. It certainly is creditable to American manners and character, that the people are inclined, at the first sight, to turn from my story with horror.

There is also an excuse for those who, having received only a general impression concerning the nature of my Disclosures, question the propriety of publishing such immorality to the world. They fear that the minds of the young, at least, may be polluted. To such I have to say, that this objection was examined and set aside, long before they had an opportunity to make it. I solemnly believe it is necessary to inform parents, at least, that the ruin from which I have barely escaped, lies in the way of their children, even if delicacy must be in some degree wounded by revealing the fact. I understand the case, alas! from too bitter experience. Many an innocent girl may this year be exposed to the dangers of which I was ignorant. I am resolved, that so far as depends on me, not one more victim shall fall into the hands of those enemies in whose power I so lately have been. I know what it is to be under the dominion of Nuns and Priests; and I maintain, that it is a far greater offence against virtue and decency to conceal than to proclaim their crimes. Ah! had a single warning voice even whispered to me a word of caution--had even a gentle note of alarm been sounded to me, it might have turned back my foot from the Convent when it was upon the threshold! If, therefore, there is any one now bending a step that way, whom I have, not yet alarmed, I will cry beware!

But the virtuous reader need not fear, in the following pages, to meet with vice presented in any dress but her own deformity. No one can accuse me of giving a single attraction to crime. On the contrary, I intend my book shall be a warning to those who may hereafter be tempted by vice; and with the confidence that such it will prove to be, I commend it to the careful examination of virtuous parents, and am willing to abide by their unbiased opinion, with regard both to my truth, my motives, and the interest which the public have in the developments it contains.

I would now appeal to the world, and ask, whether I have not done all that could have been expected of me, and all that lay in my power, to bring to an investigation the charges I have brought against the priests and nuns of Canada. Although it was necessary to the cause of truth, that I should, in some degree, implicate myself, I have not hesitated to appear as a voluntary self-accuser before the world. While there was a hope that the authorities in Canada might be prevailed upon to bring the subject to a legal investigation, I traveled to Montreal in a feeble state of health, and with an infant in my arms only three weeks old. In the face of many threats and dangers, I spent nearly a month in that city, in vain attempts to bring my cause to a trial. When all prospect of success in this undertaking had disappeared, and not till then, I determined to make my accusations through the press; and although misrepresentations and scandals, flattery and threats, have been resorted to, to nullify or to suppress my testimony, I have persevered, although, as many of my friends have thought, at the risk of abduction or death.

I have, I think, afforded every opportunity that could be reasonably expected, to judge of my credibility. I have appealed to the existence of things in the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, as the great criterion of the truth of my story. I have described the apartments, and now, in this volume, have added many further particulars, with such a description of them as my memory has enabled me to make. I have offered, in case I should be proved an impostor, to submit to any punishment which may be proposed--even to a re-delivery into the hands of my bitterest enemies, to suffer what they may please to inflict.

Now, in these circumstances, I would ask the people of the United States, whether my duty has not been discharged? Have I not done what I ought--to inform and to alarm them? I would also solemnly appeal to the Government of Great Britain, under whose guardianship is the province oppressed by the gloomy institution from which I have escaped, and ask whether such atrocities ought to be tolerated, and even protected by an enlightened and Christian power? I trust the hour is near, when the dens of the Hotel Dieu will be laid open--when the tyrants who have polluted it will be brought out, with the wretched victims of their oppression and crimes.

* * * * *


Early Life--Religious Education neglected--First School--Entrance into the School of the Congregational Nunnery--Brief Account of the Nunneries in Montreal--The Congregational Nunnery--The Black Nunnery--The Grey Nunnery--Public Respect for these Institutions--Instruction Received--The Catechism--The Bible

Story told by a fellow Pupil against a Priest--Other Stories--Pretty Mary--Confess to Father Richards--My subsequent Confessions--Left the Congregational Nunnery

Preparations to become a Novice in the Black Nunnery--Entrance--Occupations of the Novices--The Apartments to which they had Access--First Interview with Jane Ray--Reverence for the Superior--Her Reliques--The Holy Good Shepherd, or nameless Nun--Confession of Novices

Displeased with the Convent--Left it--Residence at St. Denis--Reliques--Marriage--Return to the Black Nunnery--Objections made by some Novices--Ideas of the Bible

Received Confirmation--Painful Feelings--Specimen of Instruction received on the Subject

Taking the Veil--Interview afterward with the Superior--Surprise and horror at her Disclosures--Resolution to Submit

Daily Ceremonies--Jane Ray among the Nuns

Description of Apartments in the Black Nunnery, in order.--1st Floor--2d Floor--The Founder--Superior's Management with the Friends of Novices--Religious Lies--Criminality of concealing Sins at Confession

Nuns with similar names--Squaw Nuns--First visit to the Cellar--Description of it--Shocking discovery there--Superior's Instructions--Private Signal of the Priests--Books used in the Nunnery--Opinions expressed of the Bible--Specimens of what I know of the Scriptures

Manufacture of Bread and Wax Candles carried on in the Convent--Superstitions--Scapularies--Virgin Mary's pincushion--Her House--The Bishop's power over fire--My Instructions to Novices--Jane Ray--Vacillation of feelings

Alarming Order from the Superior--Proceed to execute it--Scene in an upper Room--Sentence of Death, and Murder--My own distress--Reports made to friends of St. Francis

Description of the Room of the Three States, and the pictures in it--Jane Ray ridiculing Priests--Their criminal Treatment of us at Confession--Jane Ray's Tricks with the Nuns' Aprons, Handkerchiefs, and Nightgowns--Apples

Jane Ray's Tricks continued--The Broomstick Ghost--Sleep-walking--Salted Cider--Changing Beds--Objects of some of her Tricks--Feigned Humility--Alarm--Treatment of a new Nun--A nun made by stratagem

Influencing Novices--Difficulty of convincing persons from the United States--Tale of the Bishop in the City--The Bishop in the Convent--The Prisoners in the Cells--Practice in Singing--Narratives--Jane Ray's Hymns--The Superior's best Trick

Frequency of the Priests' Visits to the Nunnery--Their Freedom and Crimes--Difficulty of learning their Names--Their Holy Retreat--Objections in our minds--Means used to counteract Conscience--Ingenious Arguments

Treatment of young Infants in the Convent--Talking in Sleep--Amusements--Ceremonies at the public interment of deceased Nuns--Sudden disappearance of the Old Superior--Introduction of the new one--Superstition--Alarm of a Nun--Difficulty of Communication with other Nuns

Disappearance of Nuns--St. Pierre--Gags--My temporary Confinement in a Cell--The Cholera Season--How to avoid it--Occupations in the Convent during the Pestilence--Manufacture of War Candles--The Election Riots--Alarm among the Nuns--Preparations for defense--Penances

The Priests of the District of Montreal have free access to the Black Nunnery--Crimes committed and required by them--The Pope's command to commit indecent Crimes--Characters of the Old and New Superiors--The timidity of the latter--I began to be employed in the Hospitals--Some account of them--Warning given me by a sick Nun--Penance by Hanging

More visits to the imprisoned Nuns--Their fears--Others temporarily put into the Cells--Reliques--The Agnus Dei--The Priests' private Hospital, or Holy Retreat--Secret Rooms in the Eastern Wing--Reports of Murders in the Convent--The Superior's private Records--Number of Nuns in the Convent--Desire of Escape--Urgent reason for it--Plan--Deliberation--Attempt--Success

At liberty--Doubtful what to do--Found refuge for the night--Disappointment--My first day out of the Convent--Solitude--Recollections, fears, and plans

Start for Quebec--Recognized--Disappointed again--Not permitted to land--Return to Montreal--Landed and passed through the city before day--Lachine Canal--Intended close of my life

Awake among strangers--Dr. Robertson--Imprisoned as a vagrant--Introduction to my mother--Stay in her house--Removal from it to Mrs. McDonald's--Return to my mother's--Desire to get to New York--Arrangements for going

Singular concurrence of circumstances, which enabled me to get to the United States--Intentions in going there--Commence my journey--Fears of my companion--Stop at Whitehall--Injury received in a canal boat--Arrival at New York--A solitary retreat

Reflections and sorrow in solitude--Night--Fears--Exposure to rain--Discovered by strangers--Their unwelcome kindness--Taken to the Bellevue Almshouse.

Reception at the Almshouse--Message from Mr. Conroy, a Roman priest in New York--His invitations to a private interview--His claims, propositions, and threats--Mr. Kelly's message--Effects of reading the Bible

Proposition to go to Montreal and testify against the priests--Commencement of my journey--Stop at Troy, Whitehall, Burlington, St. Alban's, Plattsburgh, and St. John's--Arrival at Montreal--Reflections on passing the Nunnery.

Received into a hospitable family--Fluctuating feelings--Visits from several persons--Father Phelan's declarations against me in his church--Interviews with a Journeyman Carpenter--Arguments with him

A Milkman--An Irishwoman--Difficulty in having my Affidavit taken--Legal objection to it when taken

Interview with the Attorney General of the Province--Attempt to abduct me--More interviews--A mob excited against me--Protected by two soldiers--Convinced that an investigation of my charges could not be obtained--Departure from Montreal--Closing reflections The truth of the work demonstrated

APPENDIX--Reception of the work--Affidavits--Criticisms of the press, &c.


Here is the reprint of one of the most formidable books against Nunneries ever published. It has produced powerful impressions abroad, as well as in the United States, and appears destined to have still greater results. It is the simple narrative of an uneducated and unprotected female, who escaped from the old Black Nunnery of Montreal, or Hotel Dieu, and told her tale of sufferings and horrors, without exaggeration or embellishment. Though assailed by all the powers of the Romish priesthood, whom she accused, and by the united influence of the North American press, which, with very small exceptions, was then unenlightened by the discoveries of the present day, the book remains unimpeached, and still challenges the test of fair and open examination.

Many an American female, no doubt, is now living, who might justly acknowledge that she was saved from exposure to the suffering, or even the ruin, often the consequences of a Convent education, by the disinterested warning given in this book; while its author, disheartened at length by the powerful combination of Protestants and Papists against her, led to distrust even the few who remained her friends, destitute of the means of living, and alternately persecuted and tempted by her ever watchful and insidious enemies, died some years since, under condemnation (whether just or unjust) for one of the slightest of the crimes which she had charged against them--thus falling at last their victim.

American parents have here a book written for the salvation of their daughters; American patriots, one designed to secure society against one of the most destructive but insidious institutions of popery; American females, an appeal to them of the most solemn kind, to beware of Convents, and all who attempt to inveigle our unsuspecting daughters into them, by the secret apparatus of Jesuit schools. The author of this book was a small, slender, uneducated, and persecuted young woman, who sought refuge in our country without a protector; but she showed the resolution and boldness of a heroine, in confronting her powerful enemies in their strong hold, and proved, by the simple force of truth, victorious in the violent conflicts which were waged against her by the Romish hierarchy of America and the popular press of the United States.

The publishers have thought the present an opportune period to place this work again in the hands of American readers, with such information, in a preface, as is necessary to acquaint readers of the present day with the leading circumstances attending and succeeding its original publication. They have examined most of the evidence supporting the truth of the narrative, of which the public can judge as well as themselves. The details would be voluminous, even of those portions which have been collected since the heat of the controversy which the book long ago excited. Suffice it to say, that undesigned and collateral evidence in corroboration of it has been increasing to the present day; and that the following brief review of some of the early events will afford a fair specimen of the whole.

In the year 1835, Maria Monk was found alone, and in a wretched and feeble condition, on the outskirts of New York city, by a humane man, who got her admitted into the hospital at Bellevue. She then first told the story in outline, which she afterwards and uniformly repeated in detail, and which was carefully written down and published in the following form:--she said she was a fugitive nun from the Hotel Dieu of Montreal, whence she had effected her escape, in consequence of cruelty which she had suffered, and crimes which were there committed by the Romish priests, who had the control of the institution, and to which they had access, by private as well as public entrances. Having expressed a willingness to go to that city, make public accusations, and point out evidences of their truth in the convent itself, she was taken thither by a resolute man, who afterwards suffered for an act of great merit; but she was unable to obtain a fair hearing, apparently through the secret opposition of the priests. She returned to New York, where her story was thought worthy of publication; and it was proposed to have it carefully written down from her lips, and published in a small pamphlet. Everything she communicated was, therefore, accurately written down, and, when copied out, read to her for correction. But the amount of important material in her possession, proved to be far greater than had been supposed, and many pages of notes were accumulated on numerous topics brought up to her attention in the course of conversation and inquiry. All those were submitted to persons fully competent to decide as to the reliability of the evidence, and the strictest and most conscientious care was taken to ascertain the truth.

There were but very few Protestants in the United States acquainted with the condition or history of convents in different countries, the characters of those who control and direct them, the motives they have for keeping them secret, the occupations often pursued within their walls, in short, the shameful practices and atrocious crimes of which they have been proved to be the theatres, in modern and ancient times, by Romish ecclesiastics and even popes themselves. The public were, therefore, quite unprepared to believe such accusations against men professing sanctity of life, and a divine commission to the world, although Miss Harrison and Miss Reed of Boston had published startling reports respecting the character of the priests and nuns in that vicinity.

The following were some of the considerations which were kept in view by those who proposed the publication of the narrative:--

"If the story is false, it must have been forged by the narrator or some other party. There must have been a motive in either case; and that may be either to obtain notoriety or money, to injure the reputation of the priests accused, or ultimately to remove the unfavorable impressions thrown upon them by their former accusers, by first making charges of atrocious crimes, and then disproving them. On the other hand, the story may perhaps be true; and if so, the world ought to know it. In the meantime, here is an unprotected, and evidently unfortunate young woman, of an interesting appearance, who asks to be allowed to make her complaint, voluntarily consenting to submit to punishment if she does not speak the truth. _She must be allowed a hearing._"

It is but justice to say that the investigation was undertaken with strong suspicions of imposture somewhere, and with a fixed resolution to expose it if discovered. As the investigation proceeded, opinions at first fluctuated, sometimes from day to day; but it became evident, ere long, that if the story had been fabricated, it was not the work of the narrator, as she had not the capacity to invent one so complex and consistent with itself and with many historical facts entirely beyond the limited scope of her knowledge. It was also soon perceived that she could never have been taught it by others, as no part of it was systematically arranged in her mind, and she communicated it in the incidental manner common to uneducated persons, who recount past scenes in successive conversations.

As she declared from the first that she had been trained to habits of deception in the Convent, and accustomed to witness deceit and criminality, no confidence could be claimed for her mere unsupported declarations; and therefore a course of thorough cross-questioning was pursued, every effort being made to lead her to contradict herself, but without success. She told the same things over and over again in a natural and consistent manner, when brought back to the same point after intervals of weeks or months. In several instances it was thought that contradictions had been traced, but when called on to reconcile her statements, she cleared up all doubt by easy and satisfactory explanations. The course pursued by the priests of Canada and their advocates, was such as greatly to confirm the opinion that she spoke the truth, and that they were exceedingly afraid of it. The following were some of the contradictory grounds which they at different times assumed in their bitter attacks upon her, her friends, and her books:

That she had never been in the nunnery.

That she had been expelled from it.

That she had fabricated everything that she published.

That several pages from her book, published in the New York "Sun," were copied verbatim et literatim from a work published in Portugal above a hundred years before, entitled "The Gates of Hell Opened."

That there never was a subterranean passage from the seminary to the nunnery.

That there was such a passage in that direction, but that it led to the River St. Lawrence.

That the drawings and descriptions of the nunnery, and especially of the veiled department, were wholly unlike the reality, but applied to the Magdalen Asylum of Montreal.

That several objects described by her were in the nunnery, but not in those parts of it where she had placed them. (This was said by a person who admitted that he had been lost amidst the numerous and extensive apartments when he made his observations.)

That the book was fabricated by certain persons in New York who were named, they being gentlemen of the highest character.

That the book was her own production, but written under the instigation of the devil.

That the author was a layman, and ought to be hung on the first lamp-post.

That the nunnery was a sacred place, and ought not to be profaned by the admission of enemies of the church.

After a committee had been appointed to examine the nunnery and report, and their demand for admission had been published a year or more, the editor of _L'Ami du Peuple_, a Montreal newspaper, devoted to the priests' cause, offered to admit persons informally, and did admit several Americans, who had been strong partisans against the "Disclosures." Their letters on the subject, though very indefinite, contained several important, though undesigned admissions, strongly corroborating the book.

One of the most common charges against the book was, that it had been written merely for the purpose of obtaining money. Of the falseness of this there is decisive evidence. It was intended to secure to the poor and persecuted young female, any profits which might arise from the publication; but most of the labor and time devoted to the work were gratuitously bestowed. Besides this they devoted much time to efforts necessary to guard against the numerous and insidious attempts made by friends of the priests, who by various arts endeavored to produce dissention and delay, as well as to pervert public opinion.

The book was published, and had an almost unprecedented sale, impressing deep convictions, wherever it went, by its simple and consistent statements. In Canada, especially, it was extensively received as true; but as the American newspapers were soon enlisted against it, the country was filled with misrepresentations, which it was impossible through those channels to follow with refutations. Her noble sacrifices for the good of others were misunderstood, she withdrew from her few remaining friends, and at length died in poverty and prison, a victim of the priests of Rome. Various evidences in favor of its truth afterwards appeared, with which the public have never been generally made acquainted. Some of these were afforded during an interview held in New York, August 17th, 1836, with Messrs. Jones and Le Clerc, who had came from Montreal with a work in reply to "Awful Disclosures," which was afterwards published. They had offered to confront Maria Monk, and prove her an impostor, and make her confess it in the presence of her friends. She promptly appeared; and the first exclamation of Mr. Jones proved that she was not the person he had supposed her to be: _"This is not Fawny Johnson!"_ said he; and he afterwards said, "There must be two Maria Monks!" Indeed, several persons were at different times represented to bear that name; and much confusion was caused in the testimony by that artifice. The interview continued about two hours, during which the Canadians made a very sorry figure, entirely failing to gain any advantage, and exposing their own weakness. At the close, an Episcopal clergyman from Canada, one of the company, said: "Miss Monk, if I had had any doubts of your truth before this interview, they would now have been entirely removed."

The book of Mr. Jones was published, and consisted of affidavits, &c., obtained in Canada, including those which had previously been published, and which are contained in the Appendix to this volume. Many of them were signed by names unknown, or those of low persons of no credit, or devoted to the service of the priests. Evidence was afterwards obtained that Mr. Jones was paid by the Canadian ecclesiastics, of which there had been strong indications. What rendered his defeat highly important was, that he was the editor of _L'Ami du Peuple_, the priests' newspaper, in Montreal, and he was "the author of everything which had been written there against Maria Monk," and had collected all "the affidavits and testimony." These were his own declarations. An accurate report of the interview was published, and had its proper effect, especially his exclamation--"This is not Fanny Johnson!"

The exciting controversy has long passed, but the authentic records of it are imperishable, and will ever be regarded as an instructive study. The corruptions and crimes of nunneries, and the hypocrisy and chicanery of those who control them, with the varied and powerful means at their command, are there displayed to an attentive reader, in colors as dark and appalling as other features of the popish system are among us, by the recent exposures of the impudent arrogance of the murderer Bedini, and the ambitious and miserly spirit of his particular friend, the Romish Archbishop of New York.

Among the recent corroborates of the "Awful Disclosures," may be particularly mentioned the two narratives entitled "Coralla," and "Confessions of a Sister of Charity," contained in the work issued this season by the publishers of the present volume, viz.: "_The Escaped Nun_; or, Disclosures of Convent Life," &c. Of the authenticity of those two narratives we can give the public the strongest assurance.

After the city of Rome had been taken by siege by the French army, in 1849, the priests claimed possession of a female orphan-asylum, which had something of the nature of a nunnery. The republican government had given liberty to all recluses, and opened all _secret institutions_. (When will Americans do the same?)

Subsequently, when the papists attempted to reinstate the old system, the females remonstrated, barred the doors, and armed themselves with knives and spits from the kitchen, but the French soldiers succeeded in reducing them by force. During the contest the cry of the women was, "We will not be the _wives_ of the priests!"

In one of the convents in that city, opened by the republicans, were found evidences of some of the worst crimes mentioned by Maria Monk; and in another were multitudes of bones, including those of children.

A strong effort will probably be made again, by the parties exposed by this book, to avoid the condemnation which it throws upon convent--the strongholds of superstition, corruption, and _foreign influence_, in the United States. The Romish publications, although greatly reduced in number within a few years, will probably pour out much of their unexhausted virulence, as it is their vocation to misrepresent, deny, and vilify. They will be ready to pronounce a general anathema on all who dare to reprint, or even to read or believe, such strong accusations against the "holy retreats" of those whom they pretend are "devoted to lives of piety." But we will challenge them to do it again, by placing some of their iron bishops and even popes in the forefront.

In the year 1489, in the reign of Henry VII, Pope Innocent VIII published a bull for the Reformation of Monasteries, entitled, in Latin, "_De Reformatione Monasceriorum_," in which he says that, "members of monasteries and other religious places, both Clemian, Cistercian, and Praemonstratensian, and various other orders in the Kingdom of England" --"lead a lascivious and truly dissolute life." And that the papist reader may receive this declaration with due reverence, we copy the preceding words in Latin, as written by an infallible pope, the man whose worshippers address him as "Vicegerent of God on earth." Of course his words must convince them, if ours do not: "Vitam lascivam ducunt, et nimium dissolutam." "Swine Priory," in 1303, had a Prioress named Josiana, whose conduct made the name of her house quite appropriate. In France, in the Council of Troyes, A. D. 999, the Archbishop said, "In convents of monks, canons, and nuns, we have lay abbots residing with their wives, sons, daughters, soldiers and dogs;" and he charges the whole clergy with being in a deprived and sinful state. But the particulars now before us, of such shameful things in Germany, Italy, &c., for ages, would fill a larger volume than this.

Now, let the defenders of nunneries repeat, if they dare, their hackneyed denunciations of those who deny their sanctity. Here stand some of their own bishops and popes before us; and the anathemas must fall first upon mitres and tiaras! Americans will know how much confidence to place in the pretended purity of institutions, whose iniquity and shame have been thus proclaimed, age after age, in a far more extensive manner than by this book. But we can at any time shut their mouths by the mere mention of "_Den's Theology_," which they must not provoke us to refer to.


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