Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu - Persecution

Persecution

Woodcuts showing the persecution of Catholics in Hawaii, c. 1839. Juliana Makuwahine was lashed onto a tree for her belief and Kimeone was bound in chains until Captain Laplace released him.

Christian missionaries were influential in shaping the modern society of the kingdom after the deaths of Kamehameha I and Kamehameha II. The missionaries, largely Congregationalists from New England, baptized the queen regent Kaʻahumanu and persuaded her to create religious policy favoring the suppression of the Catholic Church in Hawaiʻi. 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 Kaʻahumanu and they left Honolulu Harbor on December 24, 1831. They landed off the coast of California and worked in the California Missions near the present-day City of Los Angeles.

Native Hawaiian converts of the 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, both the vicar apostolic (Rouchouze) and prefect apostolic (Bachelot) 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 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 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, 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 Catholic Church in Hawaiʻi for the construction of their first permanent church.

Read more about this topic:  Roman Catholic Diocese Of Honolulu

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