the Czarist police department and published with detailed
His biographer informs us that, without a word to anyone, he began to preach and hear confessions. Being absolutely without resources, he was reduced to distribute indulgences and little objects of piety, and at the end of every sermon to send his green hat round the audience. His talent for preaching stood him in good stead, and after every sermon gifts were showered upon him, and a crowd accompanied him home.
The priest of Potosi being just dead, Don Bernardino took his place without permission, and set himself up in the double character of parish priest and Bishop to hold a visitation throughout the diocese.
Some people took this conduct as evidence of his saint-like humility in condescending, though a Bishop, to officiate as a mere priest. The Archbishop had a different opinion, but, as Don Bernardino had a great following, he thought it best to dissemble his resentment. Cardenas himself, by his imprudence, furnished the Archbishop with an excuse to get him out of the bishopric.
A rich Indian, whom Cardenas confessed upon his death-bed, left him ten thousand crowns. Not content with that, he influenced one Diego Vargas to change his will and leave him money. On this the Archbishop wrote to him, requesting that he would go and govern his own see. He had to go, but left the town, which he had entered without a farthing, with a long train of mules carrying his money, plate, and furniture. Why he did not instantly go to Asuncion is not quite clear, for in America it was the custom, owing to the great distance from Rome, that Bishops, on receipt of the royal order of appointment, got themselves chosen by the chapter of their diocese to govern provisionally. Instead of doing that, he went to Tucuman, and thence to Salta, where he arrived in 1641.
In Salta, his first visit was to the Jesuit college, where he laid his case before the Jesuit fathers, and showed them several letters, one from the Cardinal Antonio Barberini dated in 1638, and another from the King without a date, naming him Bishop of Asuncion. On the strength of these two letters he asked the Jesuits if he could get himself consecrated without the Papal Bulls. Charlevoix alleges that they dared not refuse to answer in the way he wished. Why this was so is not so easy to make out, as, even with his green hat and wooden cross, he could not at that time have been a formidable personage. Their written opinion he sent at once to the rector of the Jesuit college at Cordova, asking for his opinion and that of the doctors of the university. The answer reached him in Santiago del Estero, and was unfavourable. On reading the letter, Cardenas fell into a most unsaint-like fury, and tore it up without communicating it to anyone, not even to the Bishop of Tucuman, Don Melchior Maldonado. This was not strange, as he had counted on this Bishop to consecrate him.
Notwithstanding what was at stake, he went on in the diocese of Tucuman just as he had done in that of Charcas, preaching, confessing, and celebrating Mass. Don Melchior Maldonado, a quiet man of no pretensions, wrote him a letter in which he said: `You came into my diocese like a St. Bernard; such is the reputation you have for holiness and preaching that my people pay me no respect, and only look on me as a man of common virtue and mediocre talents. Although I hope I am not jealous, still, I must remind you that you act as if you were St. Paul.'
A Bishop of common virtue and of mediocre talents is, of course, a Bishop lost, and one can well conceive that poor Don Melchior Maldonado was placed in an unpleasant position during the stay of Cardenas in his diocese. Such were Don Bernardino's powers of persuasion that at last the Bishop consecrated him. The ceremony was hardly over, when a letter arrived from the Rector of the University of Cordova advising Bishop Maldonado against the consecration. Unluckily for Paraguay, it was too late to undo the action, and Cardenas was now in a position to take possession of his see. Poor Melchior Maldonado, Bishop of Tucuman, had, as it happened, laid hands a little hastily upon the candidate. The Council of Trent pronounced upon the case, and found `that the consecration of the Bishop of Paraguay had been a valid one as touching the sacrament (ordination), and the impression of the character, but that it had been void as regards the power of discharging the functions attaching to the dignity, and that the Bishop and his consecrator had need of absolution, which the same holy congregation thinks ought to be accorded with the good pleasure of the Pope.' As the same holy congregation had previously declared the taking possession of the diocese by Cardenas had been illegal, it is difficult for ordinary minds to grasp their real opinion of the case.
Finding that he had failed with the University of Cordova, Don Bernardino took his way to Santa Fe, from whence he wrote an insulting letter to the poor rector. The letter was conceived in such outrageous terms that the Bishop of Tucuman wrote in expostulation, saying he expected to see something extraordinary happen in Paraguay if he gave way to such excess of passion.
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