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(Charles) Laurence Picot

With the close of 2012 I want to focus on an individual that some may want to forget about. Along with all the “Indiana Saints” mentioned on this site, there are always going to be some who don’t quite shine as brightly as the others. At the same time, we know that the circumstances in the earliest days of the Church in Indiana could be and almost always were “trying” to say the least.

One such person who didn’t “shine” was Father (Charles) Laurence Picot. He was native of Brittany, like so many others, including our own Bishop Brute. Picot arrived at St. Joseph Seminary in Bardstown in 1828. He had already done most of this studies and he was ordained a sub-deacon by Bishop Flaget on September 12, 1830, and then diaconate a few weeks later, and priesthood on December 5, 1830 1. For one reason or another, Picot’s time in Indiana ended with him being removed from ministry, and yet, one can see that he, at least, attempted to minister to the people of the region.

Father Robert Trisco wrote:

…in the Diocese of Bardstown the offender was a priest named Charles Laurence Picot. It was he who first appealed to Gregory XVI against the coadjutor. Bishop Chabrat, who had suspended him for a dispute over business matters with another priest. After they were reconciled, Chabrat lifted the suspension but refused to let him say Mass, and calling the Negro slaves, had him thrown out of the house. Another time the bishop had laid violent hands on him, pushing him down the stairs and injuring him; finally, he denounced and defamed him before a large congregation without stating his motives. Driven by the necessity of earning his living, Picot had undertaken the teaching of French in a school of which the president was a Protestant minister. Since Bishop Flaget in France had not answered his letters and the Archbishop of Baltimore refused to intervene while Chabrat even barred him from the Easter communion, he had recourse to Rome. 2 Probably because other priests of the diocese had also complained of Chabrat’s arbitrary treatment, the Propaganda took up the case in earnest; it sent Flaget a copy of the appeal and asked him to tell whatever he knew of the matter and to suggest some way of answering. 3 Instead of replying directly, Flaget sent the whole case back to Chabrat. The coadjutor then hastened to inform the Propaganda that everything in Picot’s letter was either false or falsely expressed. He had not publicly declared the reasons for inflicting ecclesiastical censures on the priest, because one had to be extremely cautious and prudent in that region lest he be sued in the civil court for defamation of character. To the Congregation, however, he exposed all Picot’s faults which had warranted the suspension. 4 Though the Holy See would have dismissed the appeal at that point, Picot renewed it. The Propaganda, therefore, sent it back to Chabrat and directed him to act according to his own judgment or to Flaget’s advice. 5 In Chabrat’s eyes the delinquent priest was thoroughly unworthy of the sacred ministry and could never be restored to his office unless he completely reformed his habits. It is unlikely that he ever did, 6 for his name never recurred in the Catholic directories. Correcting and punishing transgressors of ecclesiastical law was (and is) surely the least agreeable function of the Holy See. When the offending member of the Church was lower in rank than a bishop, Rome lacked not only the inclination but also the obligation to act. If it could strengthen the competent local authority or prevent obstructions of justice, however, it was ready to intervene for the common good of all the faithful. 7

Also See: “” The Bibliography entry for Fr. Picot on this website.

Sister Mary Salesia Godecker, in her biography of Bishop Brute says:

Bishop Flaget then appointed the Reverend Lawrence Picot, who immediately took possession of the pastorship (Vincennes). On June 12, 1831, Picot visited Edgar county, Illinois, where he found 20 Catholic families who had not seen a priest for six or more years. At this place several adults received Holy Communion and twenty children were baptized. Protestants together with three of their ministers attended these services. Thus we learn that at the beginning he really tried to continue the zealous work of the pastor who had resigned. 8

She goes on to describe how Picot also visited the Miami Indians in September of 1832, traveling over 1400 miles in that year. Things somehow deteriorated since we find Picot leaving as pastor of Vincennes in July of 1833. Some other sources say he left in October 1833. Sister Godecker goes on to describe what happened after Bishop Brute arrived.

“Numerous good priests were needed to further the work of the Divine Master in this new diocese but Bishop Brute realized that one suspended clergyman was too many. Reverend Mr. Picot had from the very beginning sought admission into the diocese, but acting at the counsel of those who knew this clergyman the bishop persisted in his refusal. Shortly after the consecration of the Bishop of Vincennes Reverend Mr. Picot was canonically suspended by Bishop Flaget of Bardstown. The unfortunate clergyman then became more impetuous than before and persisted in his request to be received at Vincennes. Disregarding the bishop’s refusal by letter, he came in person and remained with the bishop for about ten days, but finding himself unsuccessful he finally left as he had arrived unannounced.

Perhaps part of the reason for his troubles had to do with the problems he encountered in trying to make his way in Vincennes. Martin Griffin, of “American Catholic Historical Researches” printed this article in the January 1898 issue of “American Catholic Historical Researches”

Imprisoned For Debt:, 1833.

VINCENNES AUGU8T 18th, 1833.
Dear Frind and Revd. Sir:
I was convinced many a time that you were truly a friend of mine by many a token you gave me of your friendship, and as such I have always been led to impart to you my concern. If you have not heard it as yet, I inform you that on the 10th of August, I was put in Jail by some of your friends of Vincennes for debts of the church. This is a similar affair to that of the matter you heard of last summer. the Trustees had contracted-they refused to pay, and the plaintiff sued me, and a judgment went against me, for more than $50, for which I was executed-no property found-and then put to jail by W. Miense and W. Johnson. The Sisters went security and I was released from confinement, whilst all that went on none of the trustees, none of the congregation, made a motion towards my release. I have written to the Bishop. to come on. If he had staid longer on his last visit I intended to have all settled, but you know how it went, some say I ought to take an appeal, some say I ought to sue Miense tor false imprisonment, but I tell you that I [am] so much harassed and tired that I am sick with it, I have to turn a beggar to raise the sum, and be done with them all. It is with this view I address you these few lines. If you cannot do much by yourself I would request you most humbly to address some supplioation to your friends in our behalf, and in such case as this, the least assistance from you would certainly deserve an eternal gratitude from one who is most respectfully,
Your Humble Servant,

L. PICOT, Priest. Missionary

To Rev. Robert Abell. From the Original.
Father Picot was Pastor at Vincennes from 20th March, 1831, to October 6th, 1833. as his entries in the registers prove. 9

  1. “Bishops and Priests of the Diocese of Bardstown” by John A. Lyons (1976) []
  2. Picot to Gregory XVI, Bardstown, April 14, 1836, ibid., Vol. 11 fol 700r- /Olr. He had been ordained by Flaget in 1830. On his earlier ministry in Indiana see McAvoy, op. cit., pp. 179, 182. []
  3. The propaganda to Flaget – Jun 28, 1836, A.P.F., Lett., Vol. 317 fol 508v_9v. Not knowing exactly where in France Flaget then was the Propaganda requested Antonio Garibaldi, the Charge d’Affaires of the Holy See in Pans, to deliver the letter (ibid., fol. 508r-v). []
  4. Chabrat to the Propaganda, Bardstown, September 25, 1836 A P F Scr nt., A.C., Vol. 11, fol. 778r-v; ‘ Dominus Picot saepesaepius … sollicitavif’ auri et argenti cupidissimus, multa fecit quibus despectus et contemptibilis factus est; saepissime a nobis rogatus ut ex hac dioecesi discederet, omnino recusavit et in hac civitate in domo cujusdam Calvinistici ministri, qui nobis et reli-‘ giom est infensissimus, gallicam linguam puellas docet, choreas frequentat irotestantmm multaque alia non minus scandalosa perpetrat. Indignus plane iqui sacerdotali fungatur officio, et ni fallor, perditissimus apostata ‘ The letter was signed also by Bishop David and four priests []
  5. The Propaganda to Chabrat. March 28, 1837, A.P.F., Lett. Vol 318 fol 248r. Picot s second appeal has not been found. []
  6. Chabrat to the Propaganda, Bardstown. June 26, 1837, A.P.F., Scr. rif., A.C., Vol. 12, fol. 131r-v: ‘ Nuper Protestantibus odio in Catholicos flagrantibus se turpiter sociavit, adeo ut coram magistratu civili, praestito juramento, testi- monium scripto exaratum dederit, quo Episcopi, Sacerdotum et monialium castitas falsis accusationibus et turpissimis insinuationibus impetitur. … Immo vero vel ipsi Protestantes eum contemnunt, parumque illi credunt vel juranti.’[]
  7. “The Holy See and the Nascent Church in the Middle Western United States, 1826-1850” by Robert Trisco, 1962 pp.386-388 []
  8. Godecker, Simon Brute de R̩mur РFirst Bishop of Vincennes, p.188[]
  9. American Catholic Historical Researches, Volume-15, No.1, January 1898, p.16[]

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