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Troubles from the Past: — The following is transcribed from “The Holy See and the Nascent Church in the Middle Western United States, 1826-1850” by Robert Trisco, 1962 (pp.386-388)

[NOTE: The Church has always had problems with certain individuals. The clergy were no exception. The example below was intended to show how Papal power did not always extend to the lowest levels of the Church. My intention is to show that there were, and always will be difficult situations when it comes to the clergy. This example concerns the Rev. Charles Picot.]

…Seven years later 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.123 Probably because other priests of the diocese had also com- plained 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.124 Instead of replying directly, Flaget sent the whole case back to Chabrat. The coadjutor then has- tened to inform the Propaganda that everything in Picot’s letter was either false or falsely expressed. He had not publicly de- clared 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.125 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.126 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, for his name never recurred in the Catholic direc- tories. 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 incli- nation but also the obligation to act. If it could strengthen the competent local authority or prevent obstructions of jus- tice, however, it was ready to intervene for the common good of all the faithful.

123 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.
124 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 P’rona- ganda requested Antonio Garibaldi, the Charge d’Affaires of the Holy See in Pans, to deliver the letter (ibid., fol. 508r-v).
125 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
126 The Propaganda to Chabrat. March 28, 1837, A.P.F., Lett. Vol 318 fol 248r. Picot s second appeal has not been found.
127 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.’

Also See: — The bibliography on this website (under Picot)
ACHR, Pastor at Vincennes, Imprisoned for debt in 1833, 15:16, 26:254; Brown, A History of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods; Kleber, The History of St. Meinrad Archabbey 1854-1954, 22; McAvoy, The Catholic Church in Indiana 1789-1834; Schauinger, Cathedrals in the Wilderness; Trisco, The Holy See and the Nascent Church in the Middle Western United States 1826-1850; USCHS, M9:200; Webb, Catholicity in Kentucky, 349


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