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Chapter four

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perhaps a little too much water and not enough wine: a worthy man, but not a particularly strong one, not able to muster any sort of well-timed decisiveness, not a commander of confidence—in short, not a leader for difficult times likely to be made more diffi­cult by Fouesnel.

Koeckemann and Fouesnel were able to agree that a great part of their public difficulties sprang from the fact that Damien kept getting his name in the papers. Publicity for priests was certainly a thorny question. Damien in his early years had self-consciously shied away from it; but then, simply by going to Kalawao, he— God's athlete—had done something which condemned him to wide notice. lie was singleminded about the settlement—that was his world—and his life there was hard. His work was almost exclu­sively the subject of whatever letters he wrote; and from time to time, because of the wide interest in what he was doing, parts of his letters got into print. He did not write letters specifically for publication; and in his early years at Kalawao he always professed surprise, even amazement, to find that his private correspondence had been given to editors to print.

Among those who upset him in this way was Pamphile, not long after Damien landed at Kalawao; and Damien scolded him for it. That particular published letter, which appeared in a journal unexceptionable from the Congregation's point of view, its own Annales des Sacrés Coeurs, annoyed Fouesnel (then still pastor of the church at Wailuku whose blessing Damien had attended on the eve of his departure for Kalawao). As Fouesnel read it, Damien, out of a kind of vanity, seemed to be alleging that he was abandoned on Molokai; whereas, said Fouesnel, the mission had always looked after that post, and Damien had not been refused anything since he went there. Granted that there was some "po­etry" in the letter, still it was enough to shock the bishop; and one of the other priests had "sermonized" Damien about it, to "make him give up the idea of writing down everything that comes into his small-brained head."

Those were strong words. Perhaps Fouesnel was already devel 


oping a special animus against Damien. Certainly, ten years later, writing to Damien as provincial to priest, or about him to others, Fouesnel dipped his pen in the strongest and sourest wine imagi­nable. His was the prohibition against travel to Honolulu in 1886 that Damien found "policeman"-like; and when Chapman's char­ity money began to find its way to Kalawao and the news of it was reported in the Honolulu papers, Fouesnel, intent on restraining Damien, found it impossible to restrain himself.

Fouesnel, evidently, was not against publicity for the mission on principle—just what he regarded as excessive attention to Damien. "It is," he wrote once, "absolutely as if we had nothing here but Molokai and its lepers." Bishop Koeckemann held the same view; and he expounded it at length in his letters to Damien in 1887. "As I have a sort of passion for justice to be done to everyone, even to my enemies and the enemies of good," he wrote early in the year, "I see with displeasure that the newspapers which admire you exaggerate and put things in a false light, with­out taking account of what the government and others do—the mission also has its share." A few weeks later, Koeckemann came back to the subject: "Allow me to add some prosaic reflections to so much poetry about the lepers of Molokai.... From what I can see in the papers, the world is under the impression that you are at the head of your lepers, their procurer, their doctor, their nurse, their grave-digger, etc., as if the government counted for nothing. That might rightly offend the king, Mr. Gibson, etc.

. As for the Catholic mission, and its ecclesiastical and religious authorities, it must stand aside, and take criticism, indirect and sometimes direct, so that the hero can shine more brilliantly. I do not see how the glory of God and the honor of religion gain by that. Suum cuique dare justitia est to give each his due is justice. The strict truth will yield you enough glory. Don't allow holes to be made in the bag that holds your incontestable merits.''

Damien could hardly help being taken aback by all this: first the publicity itself, then the attacks on him for having unwittingly generated it. He himself would have said that he had encouraged


charity, not courted publicity. He did not want renown. If renown came nonetheless, he wanted God's cause to benefit. And if in fact he did deserve the sympathy of the world, as even Koeckemann conceded, and the world sent him gifts to be dispensed at the settlement, why should his superiors criticize him? "From stran­gers, gold and incense; from my superiors myrrh." Damien could not understand it.

Koeckemann took Damien's figure of speech as an affront to episcopal dignity and authority. "After gold and incense, myrrh has not been to your taste, and you have spat it in my face with an ancient deposit of gall in your heart. Let us hope that there is no more left. For my part, I have never ceased to admire your heroism and to publicize it on every suitable occasion. If I have counted too much on your humility, I am sorry. For my own personal merit I am always too much honored, but for the glory of God, good order and the good of souls it is not desirable that the bishop should be singled out as hindering the good. That pains me."

Fouesnel also talked about gold, incense, and myrrh, lecturing Damien on his Christian duties. Damien should not think of hav­ing his own way all the time; he must be ready for opposition. "And if you wish to imitate our Divine Savior, in voluntarily re­ceiving gold, and sweetly breathing the incense which is lavished on you, you must uncomplainingly take the myrrh and receive it, to temper a little the human feeling of receiving the two other things."

At the same time, Koeckemann and Fouesnel were writing in agitation to the father-general about their difficulties with this unmanageable priest. Damien, said Koeckemann, devoted him­self so exclusively to the settlement that he seemed to think the "government, the mission, the Sisters should concentrate all their efforts on the lepers too, and be at his orders." In his impatience, Damien had written "to the four winds, exaggerating the material misery of the lepers, making insinuations if not open criticisms against the mission, against the government, and even against the


Sisters." And then from all sides compliments came back to him, so many "that he seems in danger of losing the balance of his head, which has always been hard enough."

Fouesnel's language in his letters to Paris was even more sourly impassioned. The charity money from Chapman, he told the fa­ther-general, was raised on the strength of "falsehoods" written by Damien, who claimed that he was "consoler, provider, nurse, shrouder and burier of the lepers, and he is no such thing." Damien was imperious, capricious, and vain. He "merits great praise for the sacrifice he has made of his life and liberty," but "unfortunately, this praise has come to him, he has swallowed it, he has become intoxicated and now he is becoming dangerous."

Walter Murray Gibson was also writing about Damien, not only defending the Board of Health in the Honolulu press, but confid­ing to his diary that he was "very much annoyed with Father Damien. He has written abroad representing the lepers as ne­glected by the Government.... Bishop Hermann is very much dissatisfied, and says Father D. has obtained money on false pre­tences—and now his Father D. disregards me and the Board of Health, and undertakes to manage the leper settlement without consulting me in the least."

Gibson, the politician, the old fox, thought he could see a way out of everybody's troubles. All money that came to Damien should be handed over to Bishop Koeckemann; it would be spent by the mission in consultation with the Board of Health; and the Board would officially acknowledge all gifts. It was a suggestion which might have worked, and which certainly would have given Gibson more control over the situation. It carne, however, too late: positions were already being taken, harsh words being exchanged in all directions. Damien, so his superiors said, was a man who found it hard to retrace his steps. They themselves, though they did not say so, might have found it hard to retract some of their remarks about Damien. When Chapman's money first began to arrive, Damien had written from Kalawao, asking how it should be handled, especially since the gifts were directed to him, to be used


as he saw fit. A bank account had been set up; the money could be disbursed. But eventually Fouesnel, in his mounting bad tem­per against Damien, said he wanted nothing at all to do with the money. Beyond directing Damien to make a will leaving every­thing to the bishop, Fouesnel washed his hands of Chapman's charity.

One extremely harsh letter of Fouesnel's must have crossed on its way to Paris a letter to Damien from Father Janvier Weiler of the mother house of the Sacred Hearts. Weiler's letter also con­cerned publicity; and it could not have been more different from the letters Damien was getting from his local superiors. "If you could send me some photographs of the leper settlement, such as: a general view, the church, hospital, lepers, etc., I would be very grateful," wrote Weiler, "and with your permission I would send them to the Missions Catholiques, which speaks too rarely about our missions and about Molokai in particular. If the Jesuits had a Molokai, the news would never dry up, and alms would keep pace."

In reality, no more than a handful of letters by Damien were ever published during his lifetime, in whole or in part. It was his situation itself that stirred up such interest, especially after he caught leprosy. If Damien himself had never written a word, Chapman would still have been able to raise a great deal of charity money for him—thus embarrassing Gibson, and in turn embar­rassing Koeckemann and Fouesnel. So when Fouesnel ordered Damien to submit everything he wrote for reading at IIonolulu before it was sent overseas, this was not really getting at the prob­lem. And, in any case, as Damien pointed out, he had always sent his letters unsealed to his superiors for mailing; they were sup­posed to read them; so that if Fouesnel objected to some of the things he saw in print over Damien's name, and wanted to blame Damien, then he should at least blame himself as well.

Fouesnel, to be plain, was out of his depth. Koeckemann was too. They had been led into a world of affairs too complex for them. It was true, at the same time, that Damien's own attitude toward


publicity was undergoing a subtle change. He was more than cautious in those troubled years about what he said in private letters, often stipulating that he did not want to see himself in print; but he was ready enough to recommend the book Charles Warren Stoddard had published about the settlement; and he could hardly help being impressed by the amount of money Hugh Chapman was able to raise for him. As long ago as 1880, he had written to Pamphile about charity and publicity: "During the first years of my ministry, I often received considerable alms through our Procurator in Paris, but not having played the part of a public beggar, the charity of our benefactors over the sea seems to have lost sight of the poor lepers of Molokai." Now he was a public beggar, one of the most notable public beggars in the world, with­out at all having meant to become one. It had somehow happened to him. Painful things had happened simultaneously: he seemed to have lost irremediably the approbation of his superiors. But the settlement needed the money that was coming in; and it would be pointless to forfeit that as well. Regardless of what his superiors thought of him, he could not afford to give up his work, or the means to do that work as well as possible. Charity, publicity, and criticism; gold, incense, and myrrh—all were likely to continue in large supply at Kalawao.


While all this was going on, Walter Murray Gibson's political ene­mies were preparing to get rid of him. It took revolution, minor and bloodless but conclusive: some mass meetings by reform- minded haole at Honolulu; a certain amount of public parading by armed haole militiamen; some pointed demands. Kalakaua was to be constitutionally muzzled; Gibson must resign; a new cabinet must be formed of men who had the confidence of the business community. June 30, 1887, was the critical day. Within two weeks, Gibson, half-seriously threatened with hanging and more than


half-seriously tried for embezzlement, but acquitted, was gone from the kingdom, to a brief exile in San Francisco, where he died, of tuberculosis, in January, 1888. He ended his life a Catholic con­vert; and his body was brought back to the islands for a Catholic funeral and burial. Among the living, the Protestants were in power. What that might do to the Sacred Hearts mission, to Kala­wao, to Damien's work, was problematical.


For leprosy directly, the revolution of 1887 meant extensive changes in the personnel of the Board of Health, and a tightening- up of the administration of the segregation laws. Gibson, as presi­dent of the Board, was gone. Fred Hayselden, who had been secretary, went out of office and under the threat of the hangman's noose with Gibson, who happened to be his father-in-law. The broom of reform swept clean: Arthur Mouritz, who was a Gibson appointee, lost his job as resident physician at Kalawao. At Kakaako, Masanao Coto, the Japanese doctor, did not find the reform government congenial to work for; and eventually he re­signed.

Beginning in the fall of 1887, the Board's new president was Nathaniel B. Emerson, conscientious physician, friend in his own way of the Hawaiian, missionary son, and good Protestant. In his first report to the legislature—the new postrevolutionary reform legislature, a distinctly haole body—Emerson took sharp aim at the departed Gibson and his works, or rather his lack of works. "The laxity that has for many years prevailed in regard to the execution of the law requiring the segregation of lepers has acted very disastrously, both in distributing the germs of the disease broadcast throughout the land, and in nurturing a feeling of oppo­sition to the law itself, which at times has threatened to take the form of violence." There was to be more of that over the next few years, particularly on the island of Kauai, where an examining


physician was killed, and a diseased Hawaiian took to the hills with his family and shot a pursuing sheriff dead. Emerson was prepared in advance for such eventualities. He discounted them in favor of the sort of "great regard for humanity" which "obliges one to look far ahead and contemplate the inevitable consequences of falter­ing in the unpleasant duty of segregation." Within "certain bounds," the interests of the nation must be considered as para­mount over those of the individual; and "these demand that not a single life ... be squandered in obedience to a false sentimental­ity."


Emerson happened to be speaking in this last instance of keikua, Hawaiian helpers at the settlement; but he might just as well have been talking about Sacred Hearts priests, at least the two of them at Lahaina thought to be suffering from leprosy: André Burger- man and Grégoire Archambaux. Even before the revolution, Le­onor Fouesnel was giving the matter some anxious thought. "How long will the authorities allow Father Grégoire and Father André to stay out of isolation? I do not know; but I am convinced that if Mr. Gibson was removed, they would immediately be sent off with the others."

Fouesnel was thinking, in turn, not only of the law and its possi­ble effects on the mission's workings, but of Damien's position at Kalawao. If Fouesnel and Bishop Koeckemann had been lately bedeviled in their relations with Damien by national politics, Damien was eternally bedeviled in his relations with them by his lack of a regular confessor. He had been without one ever since Albert Montiton left the settlement early in 1885, abandoning Damien to the infrequent visits of Father Columban Beissel from Maui. It was a bad arrangement; everyone recognized that; and without much question, it contributed to the ill-feeling between Kalawao and Honolulu. Just before the storm over Chapman's


charity money broke, Damien had written to Koeckemann, asking to be put down as a member of a religious association under the name of J. Damien De Veuster, "leprous sinner who confesses so rarely." Between arguments over money, publicity, and authority, Koeckemann and Fouesnel considered the problem of Damien's isolation; and came up, time and time again, with no solution. It was hard on Damien to have to live as he did; but it was just as hard on Father Beissel to have to risk seasickness between Maui and Molokai, and then risk his neck on the pali trail: he needed "a terrible courage and a health of iron" to keep it up, said Fouesnel. The mission was so "terribly short" of workers that there was no one to be spared for Molokai. And when a new priest, assigned in advance to Kalawao, arrived in the islands late in 1887, he turned out to have a "repugnance" even for the thought of the work; and the bishop could not make him go there.

The politics of leprosy offered a solution: the rigor of the post­revolutionary Board of Health, combined with the palpability of Grégoire Archambaux's disease. In the fall of 1887, Archambaux got a letter from the Board, directing him to report to Honolulu for a "definitive" medical examination. He knew what that meant, and so did his superiors. He decided that, rather than subject himself to a disagreeable inspection at the hands of the Board's physicians, he would go straight to the settlement. "We count on your great charity," wrote Fouesnel to Damien in November, "to take good care of Father Grégoire." On the same day Fouesnel wrote to the father-general: "The bishop, to get around the hard and headstrong character of Father Damien, is sending today Father Grégoire's nomination as priest of Kalaupapa ... making him independent of the priest of Kalawao."

At least, as Fouesnel observed, this finally gave Damien a confes­sor. But for how long was uncertain. Koeckemann thought that incarceration at Kalawao would kill the sensitive Archambaux before leprosy did; and Archambaux was sure of it. His "ardent" imagination began to work. Writing a note to a colleague at Christ­mas,1887, he spoke of himself as in a sense already dead. "As for


me, in the moral state in which I find myself, I am led to leave to the living the trouble of wishing themselves a long and happy life." His weekly letters to Fouesnel became "cries of despair"; he carne to need far more wine each day than his superiors thought proper; his asthma returned, and with it the black imaginings of his earlier enforced stay at the settlement—the fixed idea that his superiors had sent him there to be rid of him.

For a second time, the asthma that threatened to kill him was his means of escape from Kalawao. In February, 1888, the Board of Health relented sufficiently to allow Archambaux to be brought on doctor's orders to Kakaako branch hospital. It was not too unpleasant there, he wrote to Damien; he had a little room; he was reconciled to being caged. He said his prayers, and read, and went to Mass at the Sisters' chapel on the hospital grounds. Obviously, a priest's cell at Kakaako on the Honolulu waterfront was much less of a cage to Archambaux than the open settlement had been. He no longer felt smothered, suffocated, dead before dying. His asthma went away—away to the other side of the world, he said, mournfully fanciful. "Perhaps it is gone ... in the immense extent of the great ocean that surrounds us, across North America, the Atlantic, my homeland, your Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, and has drowned in the frightful labyrinth of the northern seas... _ That is why I have never seen it again, goodby to it for ever! I can only be better off for it."


In November, 1887, not long after the desolate Archambaux ar­rived at Kalawao for the second time, Damien wrote to Pamphile: "Although leprosy has a strong hold on my body and has disfigured me a little, I continue to be strong and robust." The terrible pains in his feet had disappeared; and—a great consolation to him—his hands were not yet contorted, so that he could still say Mass every day. He was able to work hard; and there was much to do. In the


last months of Gibson's regime, the number of leprosy cases at Kalawao had fallen as low as about five hundred, with the old sufferers dying off and not being replaced by new ones—that Gib­sonian laxity in segregation. But now Nathaniel Emerson's Board of Health was sending freshly diagnosed patients to the settlement by the shipload: many of them, in Damien's opinion, spiritual as well as physical "lepers." With no one actively able to help him but Dutton, Brother Joseph, his load was heavy. And, as he said, he felt time running out. Still, he wanted Pamphile to know that he shouldered the burden willingly, and that it was the less onerous because he shared fully the life of the people of Kalawao. "Thus the sacrifice of my health, which God has been pleased to accept, fructifying a little my ministry among the lepers, is after all quite light and even agreeable to me." He believed himself to be—or so he told Pamphile—"the happiest missionary in the world."

Damien perhaps found it necessary to write to his older brother in this vein. But at the same time, Arthur Mouritz, who up to the moment he lost his government appointment at the settlement early in 1888 saw more of Damien than anyone else, found him dejected, disconsolate to the point of melancholia. His body was being invaded more and more by the disease: "The skin of the abdomen, chest, and back, both extensor and flexor surfaces of the arms and legs showed tubercles, masses of infiltration, deep macu­lation in varying degrees of extent and severity. The mucous membrane of the nose, palate, roof of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx became involved; the skin of his cheeks, nose, lips, fore­head, and chin became excessively swollen, deep copper-colored macules and deep infiltration alternately prevailing; his body be­came emaciated." By the fall of 1887, Mouritz said, Damien had begun to lose faith in the Goto treatment, and had essentially "given up all hope of getting any relief or stay of his leprosy." His physical weakness "became apparent to himself; the slightest ex­ertion brought on a difficulty of breathing." And his temper, "which previously had been alternately cheerful and irritable, became preternaturally calm, and permanent gloom settled down


upon him." Mouritz, the medical man, had observed "despair and anguish" as a common condition at Kalawao. With Damien, he noted two forms: "First—Melancholia Attonita, where he re­mained motionless and silent with his eyes fixed into space. Second —Melancholia Religiosa,' strange to say, occasionally troubled


Mouritz thought Damien's face, "although dreadful and distress­ingly disfigured by masses of leproma and general leprous infiltra­tion, showed unmistakable signs of grief and anguish."

If Damien had the delusion of being unworthy of heaven, it was perhaps because his superiors were leading him to believe it of himself. Koeckemann and Fouesnel continued to show a steady hostility toward Damien, unchanged throughout 1887 and into 1888. Charitable gifts kept arriving for him from Hugh Chapman and others; the world press continued to laud him; and the bishop and the provincial continued to blame him for what the world made of his heroism. Fouesnel, in particular, was unrelenting. His letters to Kalawao became even more severe, if that was possible. He told Damien in mid-1888 that, given the circumstances, the unsatisfactory relation between provincial and priest, he had "re­solved to have nothing more to do with you, until new orders." He was writing now only because business forced him to; and, busi­ness taken care of, he went on to lecture Damien, who had been asking again for a colleague to live with him and confess him. "Be patient," said Fouesnel, "as soon as you are helpless, you will have someone." Haughtiness on Damien's part would be unavailing: it would bring him myrrh even from those who had been prodigal with gold and incense for him. "Make a meditation on humility before writing to your superiors."

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