When the question of Deblieu and Maunier’s departure from the community came up, Eugene insisted that they had taken vows as Missionaries and could not walk away from this commitment to God. The advisers (doctors of Church law) of the Bishop of Fréjus however concluded that these were private vows that had no standing in the Church, and so the Bishop could dissolve his men of these obligations. Eugene, however, saw these vows as binding in the eyes of God, and would not change his opinion.
The doctors of [Fréjus] will decide what they wish; the Bishop will do what pleases him; I, if God does not give me other insights, will not unbind this guilty one…
Vows made at the foot of the altar and in the presence of Jesus Christ whom one takes as witness, vows renewed in circumstances that not one of us is able to forget, after considerations and protestations which have never been made by anyone, vows ratified a third time in the greatest joy and peace which is shared with everyone, such vows are not pronounced by surprise and without reflection.
I repeat, let whoever dispense from them who wishes; as for me, unless the good God gives me other insights, I will do nothing.
Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 9 October 1823, EO VI n. 114
Leflon corrects the picture: “Furthermore, the Missionary Society was not a canonically established religious society; it had, of course, been approved by the vicar-general, Guigou, in 1816 and 1818, but only as a community of diocesan priests. Neither the Rule nor the vows pronounced in 1818 were approved by any competent authority. Thus, they were merely private vows like all others made at that time, when Canon Law recognized only solemn vows as religious vows. Consequently, the right to dispense from them belonged to the bishop to whom these secular priests had promised obedience.”
Leflon II p. 246
“Commitment is an act, not a word.” Jean-Paul Sartre