Father damien an open letter to the reverend dr. hyde of honolulu

FATHER DAMIEN

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE REVEREND DR. HYDE OF HONOLULU

SYDNEY,
FEBRUARY 25, 1890.

Sir, – It may probably occur to you that we have met, and visited,
And conversed; on my side, with interest. You may remember that
You have done me several courtesies, for which I was prepared to be
Grateful. But there are duties which come before gratitude, and
Offences which justly divide friends, far more acquaintances. Your
Letter to the Reverend H. B. Gage is a document which, in my sight,
If you had filled me with bread when I was starving, if you had sat
Up to nurse my father when he lay a-dying, would yet absolve me
From the bonds of gratitude. You know enough, doubtless, of the
Process of canonisation to be aware that, a hundred years after the
Death of Damien, there will appear a man charged with the painful
Office of the DEVIL’S ADVOCATE. After that noble brother of mine,
And

of all frail clay, shall have lain a century at rest, one shall
Accuse, one defend him. The circumstance is unusual that the
Devil’s advocate should be a volunteer, should be a member of a
Sect immediately rival, and should make haste to take upon himself
His ugly office ere the bones are cold; unusual, and of a taste
Which I shall leave my readers free to qualify; unusual, and to me
Inspiring. If I have at all learned the trade of using words to
Convey truth and to arouse emotion, you have at last furnished me
With a subject. For it is in the interest of all mankind, and the
Cause of public decency in every quarter of the world, not only
That Damien should be righted, but that you and your letter should
Be displayed at length, in their true colours, to the public eye.

To do this properly, I must begin by quoting you at large: I shall
Then proceed to criticise your utterance from several points of
View, divine and human, in the course of which I shall attempt to
Draw again, and with more specification, the character of the dead
Saint whom it has pleased you to vilify: so much being done, I
Shall say farewell to you for ever.

“HONOLULU,
“August 2, 1889.

“Rev. H. B. GAGE.

“Dear Brother, – In answer to your inquires about Father Damien, I
Can only reply that we who knew the man are surprised at the
Extravagant newspaper laudations, as if he was a most saintly
Philanthropist. The simple truth is, he was a coarse, dirty man,
Headstrong and bigoted. He was not sent to Molokai, but went there
Without orders; did not stay at the leper settlement (before he
Became one himself), but circulated freely over the whole island
(less than half the island is devoted to the lepers), and he came
Often to Honolulu. He had no hand in the reforms and improvements
Inaugurated, which were the work of our Board of Health, as
Occasion required and means were provided. He was not a pure man
In his relations with women, and the leprosy of which he died
Should be attributed to his vices and carelessness. Other have
Done much for the lepers, our own ministers, the government
Physicians, and so forth, but never with the Catholic idea of
Meriting eternal life. – Yours, etc.,
“C. M. HYDE” (1)

(1) From the Sydney PRESBYTERIAN, October 26, 1889.

To deal fitly with a letter so extraordinary, I must draw at the
Outset on my private knowledge of the signatory and his sect. It
May offend others; scarcely you, who have been so busy to collect,
So bold to publish, gossip on your rivals. And this is perhaps the
Moment when I may best explain to you the character of what you are



Father damien an open letter to the reverend dr. hyde of honolulu