The War of the Magicians, Part One

After brilliant studies at the seminar of Montauban, Joseph-Antoine Boullan (°1824) was ordained priest in 1848 and appointed to the parish of Saint John in Montauban. Two years later he went to Rome where he obtained his doctorate in theology. He joined the Missionairies of the Precious Blood and took part in several missions to Italy, before settling down as superior of the congregation in Trois-Epis, near Turckheim in Alsace. He published a translation of the Divine Life of the Blessed Virgin of the famous visionary Catherine Emmerich and he came in 1854 to Paris where he collaborated on several religious journals.

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In March 1856 Boullan assumed the spiritual direction of a young woman from Soissons, Adèle Chevalier. After being told by several doctors that there was no hope left, during a pilgrimage to Our Lady of La Salette she had been miraculously cured of blindness and pulmonary congestion. The news was soon to spread throughout the diocese and the bishop of Soissons had delegated his Vicar General to conduct an investigation. His report was clear and precise: "After careful consideration of the circumstances which led to the recovery of sight and the healing of the lungs, I do not hesitate to believe in a supernatural intervention by the Mother of God."

From that time, sister Chevalier was in communication with the Virgin and - inspired by a divine grace - frequently receiving revelations from a mysterious voice. The monks of La Salette asked the bishop of Grenoble permission to entrust her to the direction of abbot Boullan, whose scientific and mystic theology was well known to them. Immediately, Boullan had great faith in the supernatural qualities of the penitent. It was decided that he would travel to Rome to present the miracle to the Pope and the Sacred College.

This mission would not be the only one. Around the same time, Boullan had to deal with the case of Miss Mary Roche, who had been entrusted to him by the bishop of Rodez. She also claimed to have a divine mission and to receive heavenly inspiration of a prophetic nature. Events of the utmost gravity had been announced to her: one prophecy applied to the Pope who would meet a violent death and another to the French Emperor who, if he did not follow the orders Marie Roche gave him, would perish through the hands of his officers to make room for Henry V. Marie Roche was also taken to Rome by the abbot and presented to the Sacred College.

Claiming to have received from the Virgin a revelation in which she ordered him to found a religious Society for the Reparation of Souls, Adèle wrote down the rules of the Society which also were dictated to her in a divine manner. In his journal Les Annales de la Sainteté au XIXe Siècle Boullan later explained that he tried "to offer to God a satisfaction or reparation - by special prayers and the physical or moral sufferings Christians accepted and even sought - in order to restore the balance that was distorted by the offenses against the divine majesty, committed by sinners who were not repentant".

With the approval of several senior prelates, the Society was installed at Bellevue Avenue in Sèvres, in the department of Seine-et-Oise. In fact, however, the community served only to conceal the amorous relationship between the abbot and sister Adèle. Soon, bizarre practices were recorded, with which Boullan tried to heal the nuns who where attacked by strange diabolical diseases. The abbot exorcised one of the sisters who was tormented by the Devil by spitting in her mouth; another had to drink his urine mixed with that of sister Chevalier, and a third was ordered to eat poultices made of faeces. Clerics asked abbot Boullan and sister Chevalier how they could reconcile - for money - the favour of the Blessed Virgin, and finally some very worldly women consulted them in matters of conscience. In 1860 he was reputed to be responsible for the disappearance of the child that was the fruit of his forbidden love for Adèle Chevalier. Some even said the child was sacrificed upon the altar.

Complaints were filed to the police and the bishop of Versailles, especially concerning the money Boullan made with his strange therapies. An investigation was opened against Father Boullan and sister Chevalier, who were accused of fraud and indecency. The Court of Versailles dismissed the latter, but sentenced Boullan and Chevalier to three years in prison on the first accusation, which Boullan served from 1861 to 1864 at Rouen.

In the summer of 1869, Boullan found himself again behind prison walls - this time in Rome. An ecclesiastical trial opened before the Holy Office, due to a conflict of jurisdiction between Versailles - where Boullan had his congregation authorized - and Paris, where he resided since his release from prison. In the monastic cell which had been assigned to him while awaiting his trial, he wrote down a confession in a secret document, now known as The Pink Book. Boullan was absolved by the Holy Office and returned to Paris, but he caught the attention of the Archdiocese again by the heretical views he developed in his journal, including a theory of "mystical substitution, whereby the souls of reparation" had the mission to sin so that others would not. This concept of course opened the door to all sorts of debauchery. Moreover, and under the guise of exorcism, he taught people who were tormented by diabolical obsessions some methods of auto-suggestion and self-hypnosis to cure them, by having sex - in mind - with the saints and even with Jesus Christ. He also showed them what postures and occult methods they should adopt to enable supernatural entities - and particularly his own astral body - to visit and possess them...

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