A Secret Letter to Leo XIII

Eamonn Clark, STL

I apologize for my absence these past weeks. Hopefully, I will be able to begin posting more regularly again. I have been and continue to be working on something very big which I hope to share soon enough. You won’t be disappointed.

Today, I share with you some fruits of the time I recently spent in the Apostolic Archives (formerly the “Secret Archives”). Below, I present, without commentary, an unsigned letter which was sent to Leo XIII about a certain Archbishop Langénieux. My translation and transcription (from Italian). Some parts are/were a little difficult.

AAV, Index 1302, b. 11, sf. 68, n. 1-4

Necessary and secret information for the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII

In France, everyone knows that the Bonapartist party makes continuous applications to the Holy See so that Monsignor Langénieux, Archbishop of Reims, may be elevated to the dignity of Cardinal.

If, hypothetically, this promotion took place, it would only be the effect of the favor, and would produce only bad results.

And what everyone notices that M. Langénieux was a close friend of Monsignor Darboy Archbishop of Paris, who was always an enemy of the Holy See. These two ecclesiastics and M. Degury Curé della Maddalena often went to Napoleon III to urge him to bring down the Temporal Power of the Pope.

M. Langénieux preached Lent at the chapel of the Tuileries palace where he flattered the Emperor a lot, and to thank the preacher he invited him to have lunch with him at the Court, and restored the decoration of the Legion of Honor with a beautiful goblet. At the same time, Archbishop Darboy appointed M. Langénieux to the care of souls in one of the largest and richest parishes in Paris, that of Saint Augustine.

During the government of the Commune, while the good priests as true soldiers of Jesus Christ remained with fidelity and courage in the service of their churches, the Curé Langénieux abandoned his parish, and went to hide in the house of a Bonapartist family, to the chagrin and detriment of his parishioners.

After the re-establishment of social order in France, the Bonapartists were looking for a Church there to celebrate, on August 15th – Saint Napoleon – according to their expression, as they had always done under the empire, but from which they received a clear and irrevocable rejection by several respectable Curates of the Capital.

M. Langénieux, who knew refusal well, went in person to see two rich ladies, who are the most influential in the Bonapartist party, and told them that he was very willing to place his parish church entirely at their disposal. This offer was accepted instantly and with great pleasure; all the Bonapartists, carrying a bunch of violets on their chests, went to the church of Sant’Agostino, and the Curé Langénieux sang the Solemn Mass in music to celebrate Bonaparte. At the end of the Mass, the Bonapartist men and women went – quickly – to the sacristy to shake hands with the Curé Langénieux, who had been so amiable and complacent towards them.

The house of God was thus profaned on the day of the greatest Feast of Mary Most Holy. This profanation caused an immense scandal in the city of Paris, and bad publicists took advantage of it to write against all the clergy and the Holy See.

This serious inconvenience was renewed in the following two years.

For the sake of brevity, the description of other mistakes committed by M. Langénieux. They are known to all the Parisian clergy, who would bring them out if need demanded it. It is only added that Langénieux often goes to Paris to see the imperialist families with whom he is in continuous and intimate correspondence. The two Buonapartist Ladies said: “Our dear friend Curé Langénieux will soon be named Bishop, then Archbishop, then Cardinal; we are powerful enough to obtain this favor from the Archbishop of Paris Monsign. Guibert, and of the Holy See; we need it to boost our political party, and to make everyone believe that the Pope is on our side.”

M. Langénieux, in fact, was immediately appointed first Vicar General of Paris, to the prejudice of the other priests who had already been Vicars General for a long time before him. Shortly thereafter, he was proclaimed Bishop of Tarbes, and then promoted to the Archbishopric of Reims.

As, in France, a priest-curé has never been seen to make three leaps up the hierarchical career in less than two years, so the members of the clergy say that M. Langénieux is a Bonapartist jumper and that if, in addition, he reached the end of his excessive ambition, by all he would be called the Cardinal of the powerful Bonapartist ladies.

In order for a Prelate to be promoted to the sublime dignity of cardinal, it is absolutely necessary that he has already rendered great services to the Holy See, to the Church, and to the person of the Pope; he also must not belong to any political party. Now, what good has M. Langénieux done for the Holy See, for the Church, and for the Pope? NOTHING!!! and it is a manifest fact that he is constantly toiling for the chimerical restoration of the empire, which has done so much harm to the infallible Vicar of Jesus Christ, and which he would do even more if he returned to the throne of France.

Non potest arbor mala bonos fructos facere. [A bad tree cannot produce good fruit.]

In France there are several Bishops and Archbishops, who have bleached their hair in the exercise of the holy ministry for the salvation of souls, and who with admirable zeal have written many pastoral letters, many pamphlets, and also great and luminous works to defend the holy cause of the Holy See. It would therefore be an act of justice if the Supreme Pontiff deigned to give those excellent Prelates the Cardinal’s Hat before M. Langénieux, who is still young, and must henceforth deserve it through a completely different conduct from that which he has held to this day.

 The bad results of the hypothetical promotion of Monsignor Langénieux would be the following.

The Bonapartists are so small in number that they will never be able to succeed in their mad enterprise. The French, generally speaking, abhor the Bonaparte dynasty because it has always been their scourge. The so-called son of Napoleon III finds himself exiled from France, and is a man without wit, without intellect, without courage; if, by chance and by an impossible plebiscite, he were called to the throne, after six months he would be driven out by a terrible revolution, which would massacre all the clergy and burn the churches, because the majority of votes would be attributed by the revolutionaries to clerical influence similar to that of 1849, 1850, and 1852.

No doubt the Republicans will rule France for a long time; and to displease the Pope they would suppress the budget of Catholic worship, if the Pope gave the cardinal’s hat to Monsignor Langénieux, the active and intrepid Bonapartist.

Pius IX, of holy memory, did not want to receive the ex-empress Eugenia in private audience, but when begged repeatedly and deceived by the Bonapartists domiciled in Rome, and by Cardinal Bonnechoses, Archbishop of Rouen, he received iher Immediately afterwards; out of a spirit of unjust vengeance, the republican government of France began to persecute the Religious Corporations there, and now it continues with the intention of harming the Church and afflicting the Pope.

When the republican government will be used by the application of its bad laws, the Princes of the Royal Family of Orleans, who have become legitimate heirs to the throne after the death of the Count of Chambord, will definitively take over the reins of power to govern their country. Then, they would probably never take care of the restoration of the Temporal Power of the Pope, if M. Langénieux were to be named Cardinal, because they would consider such appointment as a great service rendered by the Holy See to the good partisan party. The whole of Europe knows that the Brothers(?) Principi (Princes?) have been too badly treated by Napoleon III. Unfortunately men do not forget offenses and do not forgive.

Ecclesiastical history tells M. Langénieux, Archbishop of Reims, that the greatest persecutors of the Catholic Religion have always been, and will be, the high ranking members of the Catholic clergy with ambitious spirits.

Experience teaches that the best way to prevent is to predict. This is so true that the Holy See in its infinite wisdom has, at all times, refrained from making promotions which could be considered as favorable to any political party whatsoever.

Three years ago, the ensign of Mac-Mahon, a spirit of the Bonapartist ladies, asked the Supreme Pontiff for the cardinal’s hat for Monsignor Langénieux, Archbishop of Reims, and immediately received a negative answer from Pius IX, who is today in the Kingdom of the Blessed.

He who has taken the liberty of writing this sheet with good intention humbly begs the Holy Father Leo XIII to affix that he deign, as a matter of charity, to ensure that it is not read by any other person.

Paris, December 10, 1878