Confession and penance play a large part in the religious life of the common people. The priests exercise great ingenuity to preserve the confessional. The better educated classes have long ago deserted the confessional, but it still holds sway over the common people and hangs like a dark shadow over the immoral deeds of the priests. Along with it flourishes the performance of penance. These two hand-maidens in wrong-doing often thrive in an absurd way.

In Penedo, the capital of the State of Alagoas, a new wharf was being built and the money granted by the Government was not sufficient to complete the work. The contractors approached the two monks who were to hold a mission in the city during February, 1904, and offered to pay them $500 if they would instruct the people to, in penance, carry across the city the stones which had been brought from the interior. A large quantity of building material had been brought down by rail and needed to be transported across to the wharf. The monks agreed, gave instructions accordingly, and in one week the people carried these stones across the town to the wharf. The transfer of these stones would have cost $2,500. At least 10,000 people engaged in this colossal act of penance. They came from two counties. Thus the contractors, by a little skillful manipulation, made penance save them considerable money.

In some of these penances the people wear crowns of thorns on their heads and cords about their necks and go barefooted through the streets of the city in their pilgrimages to the church. All, that through these means they may find some ease for the conscience which accuses them of evil.

What shall I say of the priests? I believe I will say nothing. I declined steadily to soil the pages of my note book with the records of the immoral deeds of these men. I will let speak for me an educated Brazilian, a teacher in an excellent school in Pernambuco, who is not a professing Christian, but who, like a great many of his class, admires Christianity very sincerely. When Mr. Colton, International Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association, passed through Pernambuco in June, 1910, he was given a banquet by some of the leading men, which event offended so grievously the Catholic authorities that they published in the "Religious Tribune," their organ, a bitter diatribe on the Young Men's Christian Association. The professor, to whom I referred, who is now one of the leading judges in the state, published the following answer to this attack. He is in far better position to speak authoritatively about the Brazilian priests than I am. His article ran as follows:


"The official organ of the diocese of Olinda could not on this occasion control its great animus. It threw aside its old worn-out mantle of hypocrisy, it precipitated itself furiously and insolently against the Y.M.C.A. It not only does not forgive, but does not fear to excommunicate the local and State authorities who appeared at the banquet nor the directory of the Portuguese reading rooms who lent their hall to said Y.M.C.A.

"After affirming that the evangelization of Brazil means its unchristianizing the clerical organ begins to call the members of the Association and Protestants in general wolves in sheep's clothing.

"But we ask, to whom does this epithet apply better? To us who dress as the generality of men, thus leaving no doubt as to our sex and freeing our consciences from the ignominious Roman yoke, direct ourselves by that straight and narrow way which leads to salvation; or to this black band which secretly and maliciously makes of a man its prey from the moment in which he sees the light of day until the moment in which he goes to rest in the bosom of the earth? To us, Who having no thirst for dominion, seek to cultivate in man all the noble attributes given by the Creator, to us who teach clearly and without sophistry and gross superstitions the plan of salvation as it is found in the word of God; or to this legion of corrupt and hypocritical parasites, corruptors of youth, whose character they seek to debase and villify by means of the confessional?

"The only object of the wolf in dressing himself as a sheep is to devour the sheep. And these shaven heads know perfectly well why we cite the chronicles of the convents; they know from personal knowledge who are responsible for the greater part of the illegitimate children, and they have no doubt about the permanency and progress of prostitution.

"But they have effrontery, these priests!

"What has the priesthood done in Brazil in about 400 years? The answer is found in facts that prove the absence of all initiative of will, of strength, of energy and of activity. Brazil has only been a field for torpid exploitation by these gain-hunting libertines. And what of the attacks against private and public fortunes?

"Happily, for some years, the public conscience has been awakening and the people are beginning to know that a priest, even the best of them, is worthless.

"Freed from an official religion, the Brazilian people have really made progress in spite of the hopelessness of Romanism that perverts all things and resorts to ail sorts of schemes to preserve its former easy position

"We, pirates? Ah! deceivers. Then we, who present ourselves loyally without subterfuge, proclaiming the divine truths, speaking logically, without artifices or superstitions, are pirates? You noble priests are noble specimens of Christian culture, I must confess! You are such good things that France has already horsewhipped you out of the country, and Spain, whose knightly race is regaining the noble attributes obliterated by the iron yoke of Romanism, is about ready to apply to you the same punishment.

"There is no doubt that the priest is losing ground every day. All their manifestations of hate and satanic fury are easily explained.

"One easily recognizes the true value of the explosion of vicious egotism found in the official organ of the diocese of Olinda. The priest this time lost his calmness and let escape certain rude phrases as if he were yet in the good old times when he could imprison and burn at his pleasure. Console yourselves, reverend lord priests, everything comes to an end, and the ancient period of darkness and obscurity exists no more in Brazil."

What is the net result of such religious life as we have been portraying? The common and more ignorant people accept without very much questioning the teachings and practices which we have explained. The better educated people, especially the men, have lost confidence in the priesthood. Scarcely an educated man can be found who believes in the moral uprightness of the priest. The chief hold the Church has upon the better classes is a social and not a religious one. Births, marriages, deaths, alike are great social events, and upon such occasions, because it is custom to have a priest, the better classes of people even call in the services of the priests, in whom they have no confidence. The effect upon the beliefs of these better classes is most distressing. Spiritism, materialism and atheism are rampant, and one could well believe that these people set adrift without spiritual guides are in a worse condition than if they were still devout believers in the ancient practices of the Roman church. They are far more difficult to reach because they have imbibed the philosophies of spiritism, materialism and atheism. An atheist in South America is just as difficult to approach as he is anywhere. The devout Catholics are easier to reach with the gospel. The devout Catholic has at least one element which must always be reckoned with in dealing helpfully with an immortal soul. He has reverence, which thing many of those people who have been swung away from their faith have not. I take no comfort in the fact that the people in large numbers are deserting the Roman Catholic church and are being set adrift without any form of religion. One could wish that they might be held to their old beliefs until we could reach them with the virile truths of the gospel of Jesus.

We come back to it - the gospel is not preached in Brazil except as it is preached by the Protestant missionary. The need is just as great for gospel preaching in this country as it is in China.

One day after I had finished speaking to a congregation in Castello, back in the interior from Campos, an old English woman came up to me and expressed her great pleasure over having the privilege of hearing once more the gospel preached in English. I had spoken in English, and the missionary had interpreted what I had to say into Portuguese. She had heard the sermon twice. She had been in Brazil thirty-odd years. She and her husband had lived in the far interior. They had recently moved down to Castello that they might be near the little church where they could have the opportunity of worshiping God. She told me that back in the town in which they had lived they had left two sons who were engaged in business for themselves. These two sons had been born in Brazil, and yet in all their lives THEY HAD NEVER HEARD A GOSPEL SERMON. Yes, these people are without the gospel and this is our justification for carrying to them the message of life. For them Christ died, and to them, because they have not heard, He has sent us that we might bring His precious message of eternal salvation, for "How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?"