the struggle before the surrender of womanly self-respect in the confessional.
There are two women who ought to be the constant objects of the compassion of the disciples of Christ, and for whom daily prayers ought to be offered at the mercy-seat—the Brahmin woman, who, deceived by her priests, burns herself on the corpse of her husband to appease the wrath of her wooden gods; and the Roman Catholic woman, who, not less deceived by her priests, suffers a torture far more cruel and ignominious in the confessional-box to appease the wrath of her wafer-god.
For I do not exaggerate when I say that for many noble-hearted, well-educated, high-minded women to be forced to unveil their hearts before the eyes of a man, to open to him all the most sacred recesses of their souls, all the most sacred mysteries of their single or married life, to allow him to put to them questions which the most depraved woman would never consent to hear from her vilest seducer, is often more horrible and intolerable than to be tied on burning coals.
More than once I have seen women fainting in the confessional-box, who told me, afterwards, that the necessity of speaking to an unmarried man on certain things, on which the most common laws of decency ought to have for ever sealed their lips, had almost killed them! Not hundreds, but thousands of times I have heard from the dying lips of single girls, as well as of married women, the awful words: "I am for ever lost! All my past confessions and communions have been as many sacrileges! I have never dared to answer correctly the questions of my confessors! Shame has sealed my lips and damned my soul!"
How many times I remained as one petrified by the side of a corpse when, these last words having hardly escaped the lips of one of my female penitents, she was snatched out of my reach by the merciless hand of death, before I could give her pardon through the deceitful sacramental absolution! I then believed, as the dead sinner herself believed, that she could not be forgiven except by that absolution.
For there are not only thousands, but millions, of Roman Catholic girls and women whose keen sense of modesty and womanly dignity are above all the sophisms and diabolical machinations of their priests. They never can be persuaded to answer "Yes" to certain questions of their confessors. They would prefer to be thrown into the flames, and burnt to ashes with the Brahmin widows, rather than to allow the eyes of a man to pry into the sacred sanctuary of their souls. Though sometimes guilty before God, and under the impression that their sins will never be forgiven if not confessed, the laws of decency are stronger in their hearts than the laws of their cruel and perfidious Church. No consideration, not even the fear of eternal damnation, can persuade them to declare to a sinful man sins which God alone has the right to know, for He alone can blot them out with the blood of His Son shed on the cross.
But what a wretched life that of those exceptional noble souls, which Rome keeps in the dark dungeons of her superstition!...