Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tarring and feathering a Jesuit

Father Johannes Bapst S.J., (*La Roche, Fribourg, Switzerland 1815, †2 November, 1887, Mount Hope, Maryland) did what the Jesuits were famous for, missioned in distant, hostile lands, taught and ran schools, preached the Gospel, administered the Sacraments, and courted martyrdom. He was a missionary amongst civilised, north american indians (Passamaquoddy and Penobscot), irish immigrants, and was berated and tortured by yankees.

On the last day of 1846, he was ordained in the old country. In 1848, he was in Old Town, Maine, ministering to indians, whom had been without a priest for twenty years. In 1850 he went to Eastport. He had missions about the state, and brought converts to the faith. He was pastor in Bangor from 1853-1860 and was known about the state.

Now, at the time, one of the opposition (to the Democrats) parties called itself, the American party; people of the time, and posterity, knew them as the Know-Nothings. They were one of the constituent parts of the future Republican party. They were an one issue party. They were extremely opposed to catholicism, catholic immigration and catholic schooling. In Ellsworth, Bapst and the catholic community protested against forced, protestant, bible study in school.

On the 3rd of June 1854, the residence, where he was staying in Ellsworth, was attacked. The 5th of June, the town council ordered him to be stripped, tarred and feathered, and ridden on a rail to the woods, if he were to remain or be found in town again. That happened on the 14th of October. In addition, he was relieved of his wallet and watch. Now, sometimes the hot tar causes death, sometimes that was the intention. The feathering is for added mirth to the torturers and crowd. The riding on the rail, is both for physical pain and a diabolical, extension of performance art. If the victim survives the severe burns, he is permanently scarred, physically, emotionally and mentally. The next day, Sunday, he said mass twice. He would return to Bangor. Some papers referred to the event as the Ellsworth Outrage.

Father John Bapst did survive. He was the first president of Boston College from 1863 to 1869, and became the jesuit superior of Canada and New York. His success and achievement began to fail. His mind became unclear, he screamed awake from nightmares, that, attackers were coming through the windows. He was instituitionalised.

This is why torture is such a great and insidious evil. The experience is so humiliating, painful, alienating and devastating. A few moments, or minutes, are carried by the victim for the rest of his life, effecting and affecting, not only himself, but, also, those he encounters. For those who have families, the pain is shared and transferred. Anyone who allows, tolerates, advocates, enjoys or inflicts torture is a moral monster.

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