Abraham Lincoln once said: "History is not history unless it is the truth." Most people would obviously agree with this.
Unfortunately, it is extremely rare to ever see truthful history written by any of the various anti-Catholic authors who have claimed that the murder of Abraham Lincoln was the result of a conspiracy by the Catholic Church. The writings of Emmett McLoughlin are an excellent example.
McLoughlin is the author of the book, An Inquiry Into the Assasination of Abraham Lincoln (Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1963). It is one of the more well known books pertaining to this subject.
McLoughlin's basic thesis is that the Catholic Church was a "silent partner" in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and he strongly implies that Pope Pius IX was a tacit co-conspirator or perhaps even the actual instigator of the plot. According to McLoughlin:
"On one side were dictatorship, slavery, secession, monarchy, European imperialism, Jesuit chicanery and a Church-dominated assault on the Monroe Doctrine, all of which found spiritual leadership in the one person: Pope Pius IX. On the other side were freedom, emancipation, Freemasonry, democracy, Latin American struggle against foreign domination, all embodied in the one person: Abraham Lincoln" [McLoughlin, p. 88].
How's that for a balanced and objective view of the nineteenth century? Given such an analysis, what could be more natural than that the Pope would have Lincoln assassinated! One fell stroke, and the whole world drops into the hands of the Antichrist like a ripe melon. Evil triumphs! The end is at hand!
Somehow the history books seem to have missed all this. Let's take a closer look and find out why.
First of all, McLoughlin himself has zero credibility. According to the dust jacket on his book, he was once a Catholic priest, but left the priesthood when his superiors objected that his extracurricular activities were interfering with his clerical duties. Among his outside commitments were:
It would seem that McLoughlin's superiors had a point. Presumably, these are all honorable and worthy activities, but they aren't exactly what the priesthood is designed for. If McLoughlin wanted to be a politician, then he should have run for office -- not joined the priesthood.
So here is a man who takes vows of obedience, and then promptly breaks them when his superiors give him instructions he doesn't like. So much for keeping one's word. This is the same guy who verbally attacks some Irish Catholics who deserted from the American army and fought for Mexico during the Mexican-American War. McLoughlin approvingly quotes a characterization of them as men who had been "deluded by priests of their faith to violate their oaths" [McLoughlin, p. 41]. (Is that worse than being a deluded priest who violates the oaths of his faith?)
The fact is, of course, that the Mexican-American War was extremely unpopular in the United States, and was bitterly opposed by men as different as Abraham Lincoln (!) and Henry David Thoreau. Desertion under such circumstances, especially in the chaos of the frontier, was commonplace, and Irish Catholics were not the only Americans who fought on both sides. McLoughlin's hypocritical attempt to use this incident to smear Catholics rings hollow when the situation is considered in its historical context -- especially coming from someone who is an admitted oath-breaker himself.
Another blatant absurdity is McLoughlin's ominous description of the alleged "fourth vow" of the Jesuits: "a second vow of absolute, complete, and utter obedience to the pope and to the General of the Order .... Most Jesuits themselves do not know which of their fellows have taken this final vow, and it is well-nigh impossible to find out the wording of it" [McLoughlin, p. 29]. This from a man who, as we shall see, goes out of his way to lionize another secretive organization -- one which also extracts oaths of obedience whose wording is fiercely protected from outside scrutiny.
Clearly, Catholics and especially Jesuits are the villains of McLoughlin's piece. So who are his heroes? Let's see:
"The American Union was a full-grown independent state, a completely heretical offspring, descended from a centuries-old family tree of heretics and apostates -- Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Henry VIII, De Molay, Elizabeth, John Smith, Wesley, and others" [McLoughlin, p. 22].
Apparently, in McLoughlin's eyes, heresy and apostasy are good things. But it gets worse.
"America was an ever-stronger nation, built almost exclusively on Protestant principles and traditions, founded and molded in great part by leaders who drew their strength not only from their Protestant churches but from their fellowship and inspiration in that great supra-national body which the Popes feared and hated so much -- Freemasonry" [p. 22].
He returns to this theme again and again, referring to "the many Freemasons who had signed the Declaration of Independence" [p. 23] and to "Protestant America, stronghold of Freemasonry" [p. 24]. He even admits that it was a Mason who fed him books "confirming the Catholic involvement" in the assassination of Lincoln [p. 8]. (Anyone surprised?) We are also told on the flyleaf that McLoughlin produced a recording entitled, Freemasonry -- America's Sleeping Giant.
So the real heroes of American history, according to McLoughlin, are the Freemasons. And of course we all know that Freemasons don't take any secret oaths or vows ...
But we're just beginning to scratch the surface.
Let's see how McLoughlin handles his sources. On pp. 19-20, he gives us a sordid tale of how the evil Catholic Church tried to crush poor Father Chiniquy, and how the brave Abraham Lincoln came to his rescue and became his life-long friend and intimate, with the result that Chiniquy was able to warn Abe of the Church's plots against his life and hear in return Abe's words of wisdom about the schemes and iniquities of papism.
"Abraham Lincoln's defense in the court in Urbana, Illinois, in 1857, of the rebellious ex-priest, Charles Chiniquy, from the schemes of Bishop O'Regan of Chicago, was reason enough to bring down upon the Great Emancipator the full fury of the Vatican. The brilliant defense by Lincoln served to lift the veil behind which there lurked the greed and immorality of bishops and priests alike. This event is related in detail in the ex-priest's book, and it is confirmed by Sandburg in his monumental study of the life of Lincoln" [p. 20].
Chiniquy's ordeal, we are told, was begun "at the instigation of the bishop" and involved "the usual morals charge" which was "vigorously pressed by representatives of the Church" until Honest Abe came to his rescue. The result was "an enduring friendship during which the ex-priest visited Lincoln in the White House and frequently warned him of the Church's antagonism and of its threats to the very life of the President" [p. 8]. Predictably, these warnings elicited (according to Chiniquy) long elocutions from the President about the evils of the Catholic Church, etc., etc., etc.
This is the event which, according to McLoughlin, made Lincoln "an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church" and provided a major part of its motivation for targeting Lincoln for murder, just as "the Vatican's hired inquisitors and personal agents" had done "on countless occasions before" [p. 19]. Sounds pretty bad for the Catholics, doesn't it? But let's backtrack a bit and see how this stacks up against reality.
First of all, let's see what Carl Sandburg actually said about this incident in his "monumental study" cited by McLoughlin: Abraham Lincoln, the Prairie Years.
"Lincoln and Leonard Swett took the defense of Father Chiniquy, a French Catholic priest in Kankakee County, who was accused by one of his parishioners, Peter Spink, of falsely accusing Spink of perjury. Father Chiniquy said he could prove his case; he would contest to the last. So a change of venue was taken to Champaign County ... The trial dragged on for weeks, and finally the jury went out, and came back unable to agree on a verdict.
"Again, at the next term of court, the case was to be called ... Lincoln had between-times been at work on a peaceable settlement, and as the gossips and onlookers were getting ready to hear again all the ins and outs of the scandal, he brought into court a paper that wiped the case off the books. It read: 'Peter Spink vs. Charles Chiniquy. This day came the parties and the defendant denies that he has ever charged, or believed the plaintiff to be guilty of perjury; that whatever he has said from which such a charge could be inferred, he said on the information of others, protesting his own disbelief in the charge; and that he now disclaims any belief in the truth of said charge against said plaintiff.' And they split the court costs and paid their lawyers and everybody went home" [Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, the Prairie Years (1926), pp. 2:52-53].
So, far from being a battle to the death between Father Chiniquy and Bishop O'Regan, what we have here is a nasty little personal spat in which Chiniquy accused a parishioner of being a perjurer, got sued for it, claimed to have the truth on his side and to be willing to defend himself to the last -- then crumpled, and cut a deal in which he denied everything that he had formerly trumpeted as God's holy truth.
To put it simply, Chiniquy either lied at the beginning, or he lied at the end. No matter which way you cut it, Chiniquy was a liar.
And that suggests he may well have been lying about a lot of other things as well -- including his supposed chats with Abe Lincoln in the White House. If in fact Chiniquy had these long talks with Lincoln about the evils of the Catholic Church, and if in fact Lincoln knew he was being stalked by agents of the Vatican who were conspiring to split the union and overthrow democracy in America, then why in the world did he send a personal envoy to Rome to urge Pope Pius IX to create an American Cardinal? [John McKnight, The Papacy: A New Appraisal (Rinehart & Co., 1952), p. 334.]
So Chiniquy is a worthless source -- but McLoughlin relies heavily on him. Worse, McLoughlin falsely states that Chiniquy's account of his involvement with Lincoln "is confirmed by Sandburg", when in fact Sandburg's version largely refutes Chiniquy's account, confirming only that there was a court case, that Chiniquy was represented by Lincoln, and that the trial was held in Urbana.
But the worst is yet to come.
McLoughlin makes a big deal about Pope Pius IX's alleged atrocities against the freedom-loving people of Rome. For example, he writes:
"Pius IX did more than fulminate against the people who merely wanted the rights that Lincoln endorsed as self-evident. He executed hundreds of patriots. He jammed 8,000 of them into the Papal jails in which 'many were chained to the wall and not released even for exercise or sanitary purposes.' The English ambassador called the dungeons of Pius IX 'the opprobrium of Europe'" [McLoughlin, p. 94].
So where does all this "information" come from?
McLoughlin footnotes it to the work by John McKnight that we have already cited above, entitled The Papacy: A New Appraisal, published in 1952 by Rinehart and Co. There are two footnotes in this passage, both referring to page 481 of McKnight's book. So we turn to that page and discover ...
There is no page 481. McKnight's book ends at page 437.
Just to make sure, we checked McKnight's index and looked up every single reference in the entire book to Pius IX, no matter how trivial. We also checked the British edition, published in 1953. Same results.
Nowhere does McKnight say any of the things about Pius IX that McLoughlin claims. Not even close.
Here is what McKnight actually says about Pius IX:
"As domestic prelate under Leo XII and as archbishop of Spoleto and Imola, this churchman had seen with his own eyes the misgovernment of the papal domains ... and he had striven to alleviate suffering by episcopal charity ... A month after his election, Pius IX amnestied two thousand political prisoners and invited exiles home. Shortly, he launched administrative reforms, named the liberal Cardinal Gizzi his secretary of state, appointed commissions to reform education, broke down the doors of the centuries-old Jewish ghettos, and permitted public discussion of political matters, including the independence and unity of Italy.
Enthusiasm in Italy knew no bounds ... This enthusiasm spread to France, Austria, Germany, England, America. As Pius moved toward constitutionalism, liberals everywhere acclaimed him their champion" [pp. 199-200].
So much for Pius IX with his overflowing jails and torture chambers, his opposition to Italian patriotism, his death sentences and dungeons. As McLoughlin's own cited source demonstrates, it's all rubbish. It simply never happened.
But there's more.
In 1848 Pius granted his territories a written constitution, with an elected bi-cameral legislature, an independent judiciary, freedom from arbitrary arrest, and freedom of the press. The people of Rome, in response, staged a spontaneous demonstration of joy and thanksgiving.
But despite this astonishing liberalization, it was not enough for the radicals, and they turned against him. His prime minister was publicly butchered. Six thousand armed men gathered in the plaza and began peppering the seat of government with bullets, killing a bishop as he stood at the window. A field gun was brought up and aimed at the building, which by now was defended only by the pope, a cardinal, a few priests, and a hundred Swiss guards.
After several tense days, the pope fled by night; a radical junta seized power, and a "republic" was declared. In the ensuing elections, a large majority of the electorate refused to vote at all, out of sympathy for their exiled pope; of those that did vote, a large proportion wrote the name of Pope Pius IX on their ballots. The sympathies of Rome's population were clear: They wanted their pope back.
But the supposedly "democratic assembly" nevertheless voted 120 to 10 to depose the pope and to establish a "pure democracy". Not one single government recognized the new "republic" as legitimate; all supported Pius, and so did his people. [E. Hales, Pio Nono: A study in European politics and religion in the Nineteenth century (London, 1954), 71-72, 90-98, 129.]
Finally the French intervened, chased out the radicals, and returned Pius to Rome. He remained more or less in control, despite the difficulties of Italian wars and politics, until 1870, when the French withdrew and King Victor Emmanuel II sent five divisions against the multinational volunteer force which was the only defense the Vatican had left. The walls were breached with cannon; Rome fell to the forces of Italian nationalism; and Pius IX spent the rest of his life as a prisoner in the Vatican [McKnight, 202-205].
So much for the myth of the evil Pius IX locking horns with the saintly Abraham Lincoln over the future of the world. Like many similar charges against the Catholic Church, it simply never happened. Abe Lincoln and Pope Pius IX were on good terms with each other.
In fact, until Pius was overwhelmed by the storms of Italian political fanaticism, he was considered an enlightened ruler -- not only by his own people but by almost everyone else as well. He loved Italy, and at least for a time Italy loved him.
The bad reputation he received in later years is mostly slander conjured up by political radicals who needed a devil to fight against, and by the traditional enemies of the Catholic Church who always prefer to believe that the man at the top, no matter how saintly he may truly be, is really the Antichrist in disguise.