lion with leprosy as Fr. Damien did, save and except Dr. Fitch." (George Fitch, believing that leprosy derived solely from syphilis, did not believe in its contagiousness in and of itself.) "Fr. Damien took no precautions whatever, In the kindness of his nature, he never forbade lepers entering his house; they had access to it any time, night or day. I named his house `Kalawao Family I louse and Lepers' Rest,' free beds, free board for the needy; this designation I believe could not be improved upon, it exactly fitted the daily prevailing conditions." Another man who knew Damien at Kalawao, John Wilmington, himself suffering from leprosy, observed the same sort of thing: that Damien was careless about what he did and what he touched, his attitude being that "the body decayed rapidly no matter what, and that only the soul counts."
No doubt what Mouritz and Wilmington said was true, but the question was, when did it become true? Mouritz did not arrive at the settlement to stay until late in 1884, by which time Damien was on the brink of authoritative diagnosis of his disease. From then on, there could have been no reason for the priest to shun contact with the diseased of the settlement. Wilmington, for his part, did not come to Kalawao until 1888, by which time Damien's condition was very bad, his body decaying rapidly no matter what. So in the sojourn of both Mouritz and Wilmington, Damien was already, in medical fact, one of the people of Kalawao.
Certainly, when Damien landed at the settlement in 1873, he was cautious about contact, sleeping under his pandanus tree rather than sharing a hut, keeping the diseased out of his house once it was built. just the same, Mouritz later remarked disapprovingly upon the site Damien had chosen for his house--close in the lee of the graveyard of St. Philomena's. The cemetery was rocky ground; graves were hard to dig; coffins were piled two, three, and four deep. The bodies decomposed slowly; the surrounding air was filled with "foetid and foul vapors"; "the odor around Damien's home was similar to a charnel house."
But then Damien was hardly the most fastidious of men. He was born and raised a peasant, and remained one when he became a
priest. Bad smells were nothing new to him. Sweat and hard work and often-worn clothes and dirt on the hands were also intimately familiar, perhaps even necessary to him as part of his sense of himself. He was a haphazard housekeeper, as he once remarked to Pamphile with a kind of perverse pride; and he was a haphazard groomer of himself, not the sort of man to make a ritual of washing his hands before he ate. Then again, the settlement at large was no place to keep clean, if for no other reason than that the water supply was never comprehensive, always erratic, sometimes downright inadequate. Damien was everywhere, working hard all the time. There was not always a tap or even a calabash of water to be found where he found himself. If the whole of Kalawao promontory was, in a loose sense, a hospital, there was no possible way of maintaining hospital hygiene everywhere.
The crux of the matter was that Damien was Kalawao's priest. Because he was the kind of man he was, he was the kind of priest he was. And, as man and priest, he could put up with Kalawao and serve its people. With parishioners like his Hawaiians, touch was all-important. With a priest like Damien, in whom belief was unaffectedly incarnate, faith was made physical. To mortify the body, to die to himself, to risk physical leprosy in order to cure moral leprosy—this was to be a good priest. If it meant touching the untouchable, then that was what had to be done. The touch of the priest was the indispensable connection between parishioner and church, sinner and salvation.
And so at some point—a point that only he would ever be able to identify, and that he never communicated except by way of his unrecorded daily acts—he made his decision to touch without reserve the people of Kalawao, his family in Christ. It must have been early in his ministry there, very likely a matter only of months. Certainly by the time G. W. Woods saw him in 1876 he was eating poi from the common calabash, sharing his pipe with Hawaiians, dressing sores confidently, and playing unselfconsciously with diseased children.
Somewhere along the way—in the confines of the confessional,
A PECULIAR GOLGOTHA
in the touch of hand on body during the administering of extreme unction, or perhaps in the sharing of a meal, or in an embrace of greeting or farewell—leprosy passed from parishioner to priest. If it went unremarked at first, an imperceptible transformation of Damien's flesh and blood, still it made him what he, from the beginning, said out of priestly charity that he was: one of his congregation, "we lepers."
So much for what was clear about Damien's case, and what must necessarily remain obscure. In the fact that a priest had caught leprosy there was something at once ghastly and moving—a mingling of what Robert Louis Stevenson called horror and moral beauty. When Damien professed himself to be happy and content, and said he would go on working in the hope of being useful for many years, this was something that in one sense had to be said: there seemed little else for someone in his position to say. But, in another sense, his priestly resignation and personal resilience seemed exceptional and admirable, even heroic—particularly in view of the fact that another Sacred Hearts Father was diagnosed as having leprosy at the same time as Damien, by the same doctors, and was all but broken by the news.
Father Grégoire Archambaux, a man in his mid-sixties, had been in the field on Maui since 1852, most of the time at the port town of Lahaina. He was volatile, sensitive, "far from robust," as one of his colleagues said, subject all his life to debilitating attacks of asthma. Like a good many of the Maui priests, who did occasional double duty on Molokai, Archambaux had visited Kalawao. The first time was in 1876. His natural sympathies were lively and openly expressed; and his earliest sight of the ravages of the disease affected and appalled him simultaneously. "In different degrees they are all leprous. One of them tried to hide his face with his hand. Do not be afraid, my child, I said to him, and he took his
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hand away. Oh frightful sores! Oh horrible emptiness! It was no longer a face! Unfortunate youth! And emotion seized me." Going with Damien on his rounds, Archambaux got violent headaches; and in church he burst into tears.
Father Grégoire was at the settlement only to preach a retreat. The Hawaiians asked him to stay on. Ile could not; his own parishioners at Lahaina needed him. But at least he "did not hesitate to tell them in a loud voice: if by misfortune your young, robust, zealous and charitable priest should be stolen away from you by death, no, no, you would not be abandoned." The people of Kalawao, said Archambaux, had ''too much of a claim on our compassion and our love" for that. If his legs would carry him, "you will see me come back to live among you."
In October, 1884, he came back as a priest, but as a priest with leprosy. The month before, worried about his health, he had gone to Honolulu for a medical examination by Eduard Arning; and the electric needle had shown his body to be partly insensitive, his face almost completely so. Arning thought Archambaux had probably had the disease for as long as ten years. The sores would soon start to appear. He should be isolated as soon as possible.
Archambaux arrived at Kalawao distressed and bewildered. Damien, himself newly diagnosed, looked after him. "I intend," he wrote to Arning, "to give him a lotion of Bi. chl. Hydr.—to keep his skin clean—as y have done for my self. Would it be good to give him the arcenic pill y am take my self?"
To Damien's eye, at least, Archambaux's general health seemed unimpaired; but he began to have desperate attacks of asthma, and he came to believe that if he stayed at the settlement he would suffocate long before he died of leprosy—if indeed he did have leprosy, which he could not altogether bring himself to accept. In the blackness of his thoughts, he carne to speak wildly of his superiors as "murderers" for having condemned him to Kalawao. He petitioned urgently for release, on the grounds of his asthma; and at the turn of 1885, when he had been at the settlement only a few months, Walter Murray Gibson wrote to Arthur Mouritz, authorizing Archambaux's departure for Lahaina.
A PECULIAR GOLGOTHA 155
This was certainly a bending of the segregation laws, of the kind that the rigorous political and moral opponents of Gibson liked to use in evidence against him. It was an even more sensitive case because Gibson's enemies were Protestants, and the beneficiary of the bending was a Catholic priest. More serious still, the integrity of the Sacred Hearts mission was put in question by the medical condition of Archambaux's colleague at Lahaina, Father André Burgerman, Damien's old uneasy, unconformable companion of several years before at Kalawao. Burgerman, according to Father Léonor Fouesnel, was still much as he had been: still erratic in his relations with his superiors, still running "like a madman from one end of the district to another, giving much more care to bodies than to souls, working hard, especially physically, spending an insane amount on buildings." All this activity, all this contact with Hawaiians, was the work of a man who himself very likely suffered from leprosy. Not that he had been declared as such, because he had never been examined by doctors for the disease. But, Fouesnel wrote, "he says so himself'; and Burgerman took pride in his medical knowledge.
So, with Archambaux and Burgerman at Lahaina, the mission seemed to have two leprous priests in the open field, an extraordinary situation. Fouesnel, writing to the father-general about it, was surprisingly brief and offhand. Lahaina, he said, was full of leprosy; the two could do as they pleased in the district.
Whatever the disposition of these two cases, the prospect of leprosy spreading within the mission was appalling. Burgerman probably diseased, and now Damien and Archambaux reliably diagnosed within weeks of each other,—"Phis news has staggered us," wrote Fouesnel. He himself knew something about leprosy. Four days a week, he went to Kakaako hospital to preach, hear confession, and serve communion; and, like Damien, he was aware of the difficulty of administering the holy wafer without touching the tongue of the communicant. "What a scourge this disease is," wrote Fouesnel. "May God preserve the mission from being destroyed in this way." The provincial council of the mission at Honolulu took protective steps of its own. Priests ought not to
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distance themselves from the sick, or shun the victims of leprosy: Damien's vocation asserted this, triumphantly and tragically. And yet, by no means every Hawaiian victim of the disease was segregated at Kalawao. Potential contagion was everywhere, as the sad case of Archambaux showed. Fouesnel and his fellow council members agreed that priests whose work brought them into contact with the disease must wear gloves; wash with carbolic acid after contact; and breathe "camphorated vinegar" in the confessional.
Archambaux had come and gone quickly. His departure left Damien closeted alone once more with Father Albert Montiton, the "energumen," installed again after his return from Honolulu in his church at Kalaupapa. Always something of a problem for the mission, Montiton was now more so than ever, because to all appearances his skin disease had cleared up; he was cured; and in the thinking of the mission's superiors, a healthy priest really ought not to be left at the settlement. There were posts vacant in the field, several of them—the mission was chronically short of workers—but Bishop Koeckemann hesitated to turn the energumen loose on the islands at large. Montiton, after all, said the bishop, "has never been able to make peace with his superiors, his colleagues, or with the faithful, or with outsiders." Koeckemann remarked that he would shed no tears if the father-general allowed Montiton to go back to his old field of work in the Tuamotu Archipelago.
Montiton would have found this agreeable enough. He began to talk generally in those terms, then to make up his mind firmly to the idea. But when a possible replacement for him at Kalawao was considered, a new problem arose. Damien heard indirectly that Bishop Koeckemann was thinking of returning Father André Burgerman to the settlement, Damien would not have been able
A PECULIAR GOLGOTHA 157
to stand this, and said so: he could not bring himself to be either the penitent or the confessor of Burgerman.
But if Montiton left, and Burgerman did not come, Damien would be alone, and he found that idea intolerable too. He had managed before to survive spiritually for long periods without a confessor—indeed, he had been in this unsatisfactory case most of his priestly life, from Puna to Kalawao. It had been difficult enough when he was healthy. Now he was ill, mortally so, and his need of a companion was desperate. He told the bishop that he hoped Montiton would not be allowed to leave so easily. His argument was urgent: a confessor was necessary to him; separation from Montiton would cause him great pain. Writing to Koeckemann only a few weeks after the letter to his mother in which, out of calculated kindness, he had made a light affair, a near-nothing, of his accident with the scalding water, he said: "I am disabled, probably for life. My terrible foot, which you saw at Honolulu, is far from being cured; though the wound has formed a scar the inflammation and the swelling of the large nerve on top of the toe continues." He had had to give up all thought of climbing the pall. "I walk dragging my leg—to go to the hospital and back, which is less than five minutes—is a fatigue that makes me cry all night." Beyond that, there were some final questions to be faced. "If I am really attacked by this terrible disease it has to be clearly recognized that death is coming near little by little—without occupying myself too much with my body—I have especially to concern myself with my soul." For that, Montiton would serve. Damien, in fact, was now willing to think well of him, despite their chronic disagreements. "Oh well, Father Albert has really been a good guide for me; his direction has done me some good—and I would be happy to have him as a confessor until I am on my deathbed."
Montiton would not stay, for Damien or anyone else. He did not take kindly to Damien's petition to the bishop to keep him at the settlement; in fact, he called it "intrigue," and loosed some verbal "thunderclaps" at Damien. In mid-March, 1885, he packed his bags and left for Honolulu to arrange passage back to the South
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Seas; and once he was conclusively away from the Hawaiian Islands, he wrote to the father-general that a single priest was sufficient for Molokai, and that in any case Damien liked to be alone.
On Damien's side, at least, this was not true. The fact that he could no longer climb the pali and serve the healthy districts tormented him. At the settlement itself, Montiton's departure doubled his work, at a time when a five-minute walk fatigued him. And in the absence of a regular confessor, he was forced back upon the imperfect arrangement of the early days: a visit every two or three months from a Maui priest who would preach in the healthy districts and then come down the pali.
Never, so Damien wrote to Pamphile in November,1885, eight months after Montiton's departure, had he been so alone, so isolated. He chided Pamphile for adding to his loneliness by not writing, and then wondered about the reason. "I often think of you —and I am surprised at every mail not to find a letter from you. I start to say to myself—why, is Father Pamphile dead? Has last year's illness taken him off, or what?"
Unable to heal himself, able only to speculate about his brother's illness, worried about the sickness of his own spirit, Damien kept up his preaching and his visits to the diseased at Kalawao and Kalaupapa. "I usually go from one church to the other in a carriage," he told Pamphile. "On Sunday I usually celebrate z Masses. I preach four times, and give communion twice. I have my two little pharmacies—and always my little bottles of medicine in my pocket on my house visits, and I try in this way to imitate my patron saint. Sometimes, by doing good to the body of our unhappy sick one arrives little by little at the soul."
As for his own soul, Damien—alone, contrary to the Rule of the Congregation—was reduced to making a solitary confession. "I resign myself to Divine Providence, and find my consolation in the only companion who does not leave me—that is to say, our Divine Savior in the Holy Eucharist—it is at the foot of the altar that I often confess myself and seek relief from spiritual pain. Before Him and before the statue of our Holy Mother I sometimes whisper, asking for the conservation of my health."
A PECULIAR GOLGOTHA 159
Toward the end of 1885, Damien asked tentatively to be allowed a room at Kakaako branch hospital in Honolulu, where he could spend a few days at a time when his conscience demanded confession. But the vice-provincial, Father Fouesnel, expressly forbade Damien to visit the capital. Damien had made the trip only a handful of times in the past, before his disease was diagnosed, and then only when he could combine some useful business for the settlement with an overdue confession. Now he was told, as a matter of religious obedience, that he was not to think of this contact with the outside world again. With the receipt of Fouesnel's edict, a sort of blackness laid itself over Damien in his loneliness. He took to speaking of Kalawao as a "tomb."
If Damien found it hard to let go of the idea of a visit to Honolulu, his superiors, on their side, found it hard to condone such thinking. They had to consider the work of the mission as a whole, and that meant considering at the same time the politics of religion. For a priest, a well-known priest, whose leprosy was confirmed, to leave the settlement and appear at the capital— this was to court political trouble. Not only the bishop and the vice-provincial saw the situation in this light: Walter Murray Gibson did too. And since his was the unsteady political regime which might suffer, he opposed any visit by Damien. Fouesnel wrote again to Damien in February, /886, once more forbidding him to come to Honolulu. Fouesnel gave the order the weight of a ruling by the mission's provincial council, adding his own view that if Damien made the trip it would be an embarrassment to the whole mission, proof that Damien was—strong words from the vice-provincial—excessively "egoist," "without delicacy or charity." Damien was wounded. This "absolute refusal, expressed in the voice of a policeman rather than a religious superior, and in the name of the bishop and the prime minister, as if the mission would be quarantined if ever I showed myself at
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Honolulu, gave me, I admit frankly, more pain than everything I have had to suffer since my childhood."
It was not, he insisted, that he wanted to go to Honolulu to stay. A few days sequestered at the mission, or at Kakaako if necessary, to be confessed, and to try whatever treatment was available there —that was as much as he asked.
He kept after the idea. Dr. Arthur Mouritz supported him, writing in June, i886, to Bishop Koeckemann to say that he—Mouritz —had suggested the trip to Honolulu in the first place. Damien's outlook, said Mouritz, was unfavorable as he was then situated. His leprosy was making rapid progress; and his life was so cheerless and arduous that a little relaxation and some nursing would be beneficial. Rudolph Meyer, too, made some inquiries on Damien's behalf, without getting any clear permission. Meyer himself could see the advantages of a visit; but, as he soon found out, Gibson did not want Damien in Honolulu, and Fouesnel was still not in favor of it. If Damien went, Meyer said, it would be on his own responsibility.
This was the problem: Damien, as a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, was under a vow of obedience to his religious superiors. On July z, he wrote to Bishop Koeckemann saying that until Koeckemann got the provincial to revoke his "severe order," no visit would be possible. Over the next few days, some messages were passed back and forth between Kalawao and Honolulu; Damien came to believe that he saw a kind of opening in the wall of prohibitions; and he left the settlement for Honolulu, arriving there on July to.
Without question, he had forced the issue upon his reluctant superiors. This troubled him, He was worried, so one of the Catholic nursing sisters at Kakaako heard him say, that he might be at Honolulu "fraudulently"; and he spoke later of having made the trip "almost contrary to obedience." But evidently his superiors admitted the legitimacy of his needs, at least tacitly. There was no remonstrance, no chastisement; Damien was not considered to have overstepped his vows.
A PECULIAR GOLGOTHA 161
Gibson, on his side, made no public move against Damien; in fact the premier and King Kalakaua visited Damien at Kakaako. Gibson, however, wrote in his diary: "He is a confirmed leper— was advised not to come—but was determined to visit the Sisters. I begin to doubt the genuineness of his religious vocation." To have some conversation with the Franciscan Sisters was certainly one thing Damien had in mind. He wanted to try to convince their mother superior, Marianne Kopp, to send a contingent to the settlement. Gibson, with his involved pious affection for Mother Marianne, watched developments with mixed emotions. "At Convent this morning," he wrote in his diary on July 12. "S. M. [Sister Marianne] and Sisters touched by the misfortune of the `noble priest'—are deeply moved. I doubt not the charity of S. M.'s noble heart." Damien himself Gibson could not come to like unreservedly. But then anyone who made a claim on Mother Marianne would meet with Gibson's displeasure. "I sent Father Damien some wine & many other things for his use and comfort. S. M. rewarded me with tender thanks. I called on Father D and still I have some misgivings—he talks too much." Two days later, Gibson was recording in a pleased way that "S.M. told me she was completely wearied out with Father Damien's talk—will be content when he returns to Molokai." Without any question, a life at Kalawao was one of strain; and equally without question, one result of a prolonged sojourn there might be a certain insensitivity to the subtle permissions and prohibitions of religious sociability at the capital. Probably Damien, having been without the refreshment of conversation for months, indeed for years overall, and likely to be denied it altogether in the future, wanted to get as many words said, as many impressions registered as possible, in the few days he allowed himself at Honolulu.
Damien left again for the settlement on July 16. Gibson went back with him on the steamer, to spend a day politicking among the voters of Kalawao. The premier got what he considered an "unsatisfactory reception," prompted, he felt, "by the Opposition from Honolulu."
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One other thing in Damien's mind when he went to Ionolulu was that he would be able to try a new treatment being used on leprosy patients at Kakaako. An elaborate regimen involving diet, medication, and hot baths, it was the specialty of a Japanese doctor named Masanao Coto. King Kalakaua had learned about the Coto method during his visit to Japan in 188r. Two years later, a white man named Gilbert Waller, struck with leprosy, was allowed to leave the islands and go to Tokyo to be treated, rather than be sent to Kalawao to die. IIe carried a letter of introduction front Walter Murray Gibson to the Coto family, physicians for generations. By 1885, Waller was back on the American mainland, believing himself convalescent, and certain that the Coto method could cure. The "knowledge and experience" possessed by the Cotos, wrote Waller to Gibson, was "the result of the study of Japanese and Chinese Physicians for over a thousand years," and there were hundreds of cases to prove their competency. He urged the Board of health to try it out.