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-66 If inhumation around churches is to be allowed, can cities be perfectly salubrious ? If priests and laymen, distinguished by piety, are to be buried within, who shall judge of this piety, or who presume to refuse their testimony? If the quality of founder or of benefactor is a title, what rate shall fix the privilege ? If the right is hereditary, must not time multiply the evil to excess, and will not our churches at length be crowded as now, beyond endurance ? If distinctions in ranks, are to exist after death, can vanity know any limitation, or judge ? If these distinctions are to be procured for money, will not vanity lavish riches to procure them? and would it be proper for the Church to prostitute to wealth, an honour only due to such as have been rendered worthy by the grace of God? We are disposed, dearly beloved brethren, to show all possible moderation in this necessary reformation ; though charged to be strict in the fulfilment of our pastoral duties, we are allowed a discretionary power, and can consult your habits, your opinions, and even your prejudices, and all that may conciliate your interests with the glory of God; but woe to us, if, blinded by weakness, we lose sight of the experience of past ages, and suffer things still to continue, that have till now served, and can only serve, to perpetuate the disorder!
“ The only real means of reform is to reestablish the ancient rules and observances, as did Pope Urban IV. when he wished to abolish the indecent custom, which had insensibly crept into the Church of St. Peter at Rome, of burying together the pious and the profane, the saint with the sinner, the just with the unjust; and to unite to the detriment of Christians and the destruction of the respect due to the Church, what God would eternally separate. And St. Charles Borromeas ordered that the neglected custom of interring in cemeteries should be resumed entirely. The same was done in the last century, by the Bishop of Senlis ; and some few having appealed from the ordinance, it was confirmed by the Parliament of Paris. The civil law could not but agree on this point with our religious canons, because the preservation of the lives of the members of a community is a duty of the first magnitude ; and it suffices to enter our churches to be convinced of the baneful effects of the fetid exhalations in them.
“ Some of our dearly beloved brethren may blame the rigour of our ordinance ; but can they make any reasonable complaint ? Churches were not intended for sepulchral monuments ; and so little was such a use of them ever expected, that according to the remark of a celebrated canonist, there is no prayer in the liturgy relating to such a ceremony, while there are some expressly intended for the benediction of burying grounds. And do you think that titles, whose abuses would continually cry out against them, are to prerail over the dignity of our temples and the sanctity of our altars?
“ Would you insist for this privilege on account of the standing, the offices, the rank
you hold in society? We have every reason to believe, that those who have the greatest right to the distinction will be the least eager to obtain it. Exceptions are odious and multiply pretences and objections. Who will dare to complain, when the law is general; and what law can more justly be general, than one that relates to the grave?
“ Would you say that we are depriving a holy life of its rewards and prerogatives? If the voice of the public testified to the sanctity of your career, how joyfully would we receive your bodies into our temples, as those of the martyrs were welcomed by the primitive church! But piety, while meriting and obtaining the honours reserved for the saints, is far from assuming them as her right: and while she feels that peculiar benedictions have been passed upon public burying grounds, she acknowledges that the most magnificent obsequies are of no use to the sinner.
“ Would you reproach us with depriving you of a right, bought by the donations of your ancestors ? But do you think that those virtuous men, from whom you are proud to derive your descent, wished to leave to their posterity à right to disturb our holy mysteries, and to spread pestilence among their fellow-citizens ? Then take back their gifts, if these are to be construed into titles in fee simple. Our rules for the future must not be violated; and the church will satisfy your avarice, rather than your pride.
“We will not suspect our worthy coadjutors in the clerical function of regretting the privilege so long granted to their holy habits. We are obliged daily to sacrifice ourselves for the happiness and weal of our people, and will therefore think the less of the renunciation of a gratification that might be harmful to them. Our most precious advantage is the power we enjoy of being examples to them in all that is useful and religious; and great indeed will be our pleasure, if our example engages others to allow, without murmur or complaint, the reestablishment of a law equally necessary for the good of society and of religion.
" Ye whom the vows of the cloister have united under the yoke of the Lord ! will you object to the retrenchment of your funds that this ordinance must produce ! No; for you wish not to support existence at the expense of the lives of others. We will do all for you that just toleration will allow ; but you yourselves would blame us, if, rather than deprive you of a source of revenue, we were to authorise your chapels to continue, or to become, centres of infection and death. Render your temples worthy of the presence of the Deity ; gain the attendance of the faithful by assiduous and fervent prayer; inspire confidence by the decorum of your conduct, and the purity of your manners, and you will find the gratitude of the pious lavish alms upon you to supply the loss you have cheerfully undergone for the public weal.
“And you, right worthy magistrates, who are charged with the care of the laws, be assured that it is with no view to pass the bounds of our powers that we revise our canons. We know that interment is a civil affair. We would direct nothing relating to it without your agreement and participation. Then, let the perfect accordance of our measures blend our united decrees into one authority; and while we speak in the name of God, whose ministers we are, secure obedience to our mandates in the name of the king; for this affair touches not only the credit of the church, but the interest of the people. We have investigated and examined the request of our venerable chapter ; the petitions from divers parts of our diocese, the procès verbaux of the inspection of many parishes, from which it appeared that the abuse of church interment was carried to its height; and, finally, the reports and opinions of physicians on the pernicious consequences of this custom ; and therefore we, as far as in our power lies, and in full confidence that the civil authorities will sanction our ordinance, have ordained and enacted, and do ordain and enact, &c."