Wednesday, November 2, 2016

When Two Priests were Grotesquely Tortured to Death by Representatives of "America's Indigenous Peoples"

Saints Jean de Breboeuf and Gabriel L'Allemand were French Jesuit missionaries who worked with the Huron Indians in Canada. In the Spring of 1649 they were kidnaped, tortured and killed by an Iroquois raiding party.

They were canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930 as two of the "North American Martyrs."

This following well-known account is taken from The Seige of Quebec and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham by Sir Arthur George Doughty and George William Parolee, which in turn quoted The Jesuit Relations, a contemporary chronicle of missionary activities. 

It goes without saying that the vicious actions of a particular group of Iroquois need not lead us to condemn all of Iroquois culture, let alone all "Native American" culture. And of course, the two priests had had longtime friendly relations with the more benign Hurons.

On the other hand, that this sort of thing was not exactly rare (a constant risk for missionaries and others) was one obvious reason why Indians in general were given the appellation, "savages."
This is what these savages old us of the taking of the Village of St. Ignace, and about Fathers Jean de Breboeuf and Gabriel L'allemand:
"The Iroquois came, to the number of twelve hundred men; took our village, and seized Father Breboeuf and his companion; and set fire to all the huts. They proceeded to vent their rage on those two Fathers, for they took them both and stripped them entirely naked, and fastened each to a post. They tied both of their hands together. They tore the nails from the fingers. They beat them with a shower of blows from cudgels, on the shoulders, the loins, the belly, the legs and the face - there being no part of their body which did not endure this torment." The savages told us further, that, although Father de Breboeuf was overwhelmed under the weight of these blows, he did not cease continually to speak of God, and to encourage all the new Christians who were captives like himself to suffer well, that they might die well, in order to go in company with him to Paradise. While the good Father was thus encouraging these good people, a wretched huron renegade, - who had remained a captive with the Iroquois, and whom Father de Breboeuf had formerly instructed and baptized, - hearing him speak of Paradise and Holy Baptism, was irritated, and said to him, "Echon", that is Father de Breboeuf's name in Huron, "thou sayest that Baptism and the sufferings of this life lead straight to Paradise; thou wilt go soon, for I am going to baptize thee, and to make thee suffer well, in order to go the sooner to thy Paradise." The barbarian, having said that, took a kettle full of boiling water, which he poured over his body three different times, in derision of Holy baptism. And, each time that he baptized him in this manner, the barbarian said to him, with bitter sarcasm, "Go to Heaven, for thou art well baptized." After that, they made him suffer several other torments. The 1st was to make hatchets red-hot, and to apply them to the loins and under the armpits. They made a collar of these red-hot hatchets, and put it on the neck of this good Father. This is the fashion in which I have seen the collar made for other prisoners: They make six hatchets red-hot, take a large withe of green wood, pass the 6 hatchets over the large end of the withe, take the two ends together, and then put it over the neck of the sufferer. I have seen no torment which more moved me to compassion than that. For you see a man, bound naked to a post, who, having this collar on his neck, cannot tell what posture to take. For, if he lean forward, those above his shoulders weigh the more on him; if he lean back, those on his stomach make him suffer the same torment; if he keep erect, without leaning to one side or the other, the burning hatchets, applied equally on both sides, give him a double torture. 
After that they put on him a belt of bark, full of pitch and resin, and set fire to it, which roasted his whole body. During all these torments, Father de Breboeuf endured like a rock, insensible to fire and flames, which astonished all the blood-thirsty wretches who tormented him. His zeal was so great that he preached continually to these infidels, to try to convert them. His executioners were enraged against him for constantly speaking to them of God and of their conversions. To prevent him from speaking more, they cut off his tongue, and both his upper and lower lips. After that, they set themselves to strip the flesh from his legs, thighs and arms, to the very bone; and then put it to roast before his eyes in order to eat it. 
While they tormented him in this manner, those wretches derided him, saying, "Thou seest plainly that we treat thee as a friend, since we shall be the cause of thy Eternal happiness; thank us, then, for these good offices which we render thee, - for, the more thou shalt suffer, the more will thy God reward thee." 
Those butchers, seeing that the good Father began to grow weak, made him sit down on the ground; and one of them, taking a knife, cut off the skin covering his skull. Another one of those barbarians, seeing that the good Father would soon die, made an opening in the upper part of his chest, and tore out his heart, which he roasted and ate. Others came to drink his blood, still warm, which they drank with both hands, - saying that Father de Breboeuf had been very courageous to endure so much pain as they had given him, and that, by drinking his blood, they would become courageous like him.

1 comment:

  1. The Iroquoian Nations were no more "savage" than any other people at that stage of development. Not long before then they had been literally of a stone-age culture, and I doubt that strangers preaching an unfamiliar and undesired religion to stone-age Europeans would have fared any better. It was a time of war, and in all wars, atrocities occur. In the Iroquoian code of conduct, prisoners of war were routinely totured to death. Brebeuf and Lalemant CHOSE to stay with their Huron friends, and by so doing ought to have known what to expect. After all, they had both witnessed the Hurons torture Iroquois captives to death. One may wonder if the Black Robes had martyrdom in mind all along? As the saying goes, "be careful of what you wish for... you might get it!