Lay Morals HTML version

Father Damien
February 25, 1890.
Sir,--It may probably occur to you that we have met, and visited, and conversed;
on my side, with interest. You may remember that you have done me several
courtesies, for which I was prepared to be grateful. But there are duties which
come before gratitude, and offences which justly divide friends, far more
acquaintances. Your letter to the Reverend H. B. Gage is a document which, in
my sight, if you had filled me with bread when I was starving, if you had sat up to
nurse my father when he lay a-dying, would yet absolve me from the bonds of
gratitude. You know enough, doubtless, of the process of canonisation to be
aware that, a hundred years after the death of Damien, there will appear a man
charged with the painful office of the DEVIL'S ADVOCATE. After that noble
brother of mine, and of all frail clay, shall have lain a century at rest, one shall
accuse, one defend him. The circumstance is unusual that the devil's advocate
should be a volunteer, should be a member of a sect immediately rival, and
should make haste to take upon himself his ugly office ere the bones are cold;
unusual, and of a taste which I shall leave my readers free to qualify; unusual,
and to me inspiring. If I have at all learned the trade of using words to convey
truth and to arouse emotion, you have at last furnished me with a subject. For it
is in the interest of all mankind, and the cause of public decency in every quarter
of the world, not only that Damien should be righted, but that you and your letter
should be displayed at length, in their true colours, to the public eye.
To do this properly, I must begin by quoting you at large: I shall then proceed to
criticise your utterance from several points of view, divine and human, in the
course of which I shall attempt to draw again, and with more specification, the
character of the dead saint whom it has pleased you to vilify: so much being
done, I shall say farewell to you for ever.
'August 2, 1889.
'Rev. H. B. GAGE.
'Dear Brother,--In answer to your inquiries about Father Damien, I can only reply
that we who knew the man are surprised at the extravagant newspaper
laudations, as if he was a most saintly philanthropist. The simple truth is, he was
a coarse, dirty man, head-strong and bigoted. He was not sent to Molokai, but
went there without orders; did not stay at the leper settlement (before he became
one himself), but circulated freely over the whole island (less than half the island