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Tiki Central Forums » » Bilge » » Kamehameha III issues the Edict of Toleration, June 17, 1839
Kamehameha III issues the Edict of Toleration, June 17, 1839
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Joined: Feb 15, 2003
Posts: 3006
From: San Diego, Ca.
Posted: 2005-06-17 07:48 am   Permalink

The Roman Catholic Church was suppressed was in the Kingdom of Hawaii during the reigns of Kamehameha and Kamehameha II. During their administrations, the religious traditions of ancient Hawaii were preferred. Later in the history of the Kingdom of Hawaii, during the regency of Kaahumanu and the child king Kamehameha III, the Congregational church was the preferred denomination. Under threat of the French government seeking to protect the work of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Kamehameha III issued an Edict of Toleration on June 17, 1839 allowing for the establishment of the Hawaii Catholic Church.

The first Roman Catholic mission to the Kingdom of Hawaii was established upon the arrival of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a religious order called the Picpus Fathers, founded by Peter Coudrin during the French Revolution.

The first Picpus Fathers departed from Bordeaux aboard the La Comète on November 21, 1826 and stopped in Valparaíso in Chile on February 8, 1827. The Picpus Fathers resumed their trip on February 25. They entered port at Honolulu Harbor on July 7. Having originally been refused entry by Protestant advisors to the king, the Picpus Fathers did not disembark from their ship until July 9. Among the first Picpus Fathers were Abraham Armand and Alexis Bachelot of France, as well as Patrick Short of the United Kingdom. They were joined by six lay brothers.

Fathers Armand, Bachelot and Short concelebrated the first Mass in the Hawaiian Islands on Bastille Day, July 14, 1827, in honor of their religious order's French heritage. They performed the first baptism on November 30.

The Picpus Fathers were quick to plunge into the Hawaiian society. They learned the local language, went into the Native Hawaiian community and began preaching to them. They distributed Hawaiian language Bibles and taught the lessons of Jesus from the gospels. Hundreds of Native Hawaiians developed a devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary as taught by their kindly Catholic missionaries and chose to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. Among the first converts were the royal governors of Oahu, Boki and Kuini Liliha. They would both become pivotal members of the Catholic underground.

Christian missionaries were influential in shaping the modern society of the kingdom after the deaths of Kamehameha and Kamehameha II. The missionaries, largely Congregationalists from New England, baptized the queen regent Kaahumanu and persuaded her to create religious policy favoring the suppression of the Roman Catholic Church in Hawaii. Kamehameha III agreed and enacted its expulsion from the kingdom. Fathers Bachelot and Short were forcibly boarded onto the brig Waverly by the chiefs loyal to Kaahumanu and they left Honolulu Harbor on December 24, 1831. They landed off the coast of California and worked in the California Missions near present-day City of Los Angeles.

Native Hawaiian converts of the Roman Catholic Church claimed to have been imprisoned, beaten and tortured after the physical expulsion of their missionary priests. The persecution was prescribed, according to the Bishop Museum, by the Protestant ministers claiming that such treatment was ordained by God. Commodore John Downes of the United States Navy frigate USS Potomac expressed American disappointment of the king's decision resulting in the brief end of physical harm for the converts.

In 1835, the apostolic vicar and prefect working from Valparaíso dispatched Columba Murphy, a religious brother from Ireland affiliated with the Picpus Fathers, to evaluate the situation in the Hawaiian Islands. While other Picpus Fathers were denied entry into the kingdom, the king permitted Murphy to disembark from his ship due to his investigative role and the fact that Murphy, a mere brother, could not minister the sacraments. On September 30, 1836, Arsenius Walsh, a Picpus Father, arrived in Honolulu to continue Murphy's work. Murphy had left earlier to report back to his superiors. The royal government refused Walsh's entry. However, the captain of the French Navy ship La Bonite persuaded the king to allow Walsh to stay. The royal government agreed to permit the Picpus Fathers to work freely in the Hawaiian Islands as long as they only attended to foreign Roman Catholics, not Native Hawaiians.

On April 17, 1837, Fathers Bachelot and Short returned to Honolulu thinking the deal made with Father Walsh would apply to them. On April 30, the royal government forced them back onto their ship. The American and British Consuls compelled the king to allow Bachelot and Short to disembark. As a result, the captains of British Navy and French Navy vessels escorted Bachelot and Short into Honolulu. Short would leave the Hawaiian Islands again in October.

France, which claimed to be a defender of the Roman Catholic Church, dispatched the French Navy frigate Artemise which sailed into Honolulu Harbor on July 10, 1839. Captain Cyrille-Pierre-Théodore Laplace was ordered by his government to:

Destroy the malevolent impression which you find established to the detriment of the French name; to rectify the erroneous opinion which has been created as to the power of France; and to make it well understood that it would be to the advantage of the chiefs of those islands of the Ocean to conduct themselves in such a manner as not to incur the wrath of France. You will exact, if necessary with all the force that is yours to use, complete reparation for the wrongs which have been committed, and you will not quit those places until you have left in all minds a solid and lasting impression.

Fearing an assault on his kingdom for the religious persecution, Kamehameha III issued the Edict of Toleration on June 17, 1839. A major disappointment for the Protestant ministers, Roman Catholics became free to worship in the kingdom with the proclamation:

That the Catholic worship be declared free, throughout all the dominions subject to the king of the Sandwich Islands; the members of this religious faith shall enjoy in them the privileges granted to Protestants.

As an act of reconciliation, Kamehameha III donated land to the Roman Catholic Church in Hawaii for the construction of their first permanent church which would become would become the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

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Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Freelance, Ph.D., Th.D., D.F.S

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