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

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    What a mess! I wonder how those two young men who were caught in the middle felt? I see here the brokenness of man[kind] in our Church. I want to ask “why does it have to be so hard?” That narrow space Deblieu and Maunier had to walk on – they have given themselves to God, made their vows [for life] before God, three times, but the Church, those representing the the ‘law’ of the church, saying no those vows don’t count because they were only made before God and not before a competent authority! God was being trumped by a law? I am saying this not to make fun of the church but because this is how it seems to be, then 2,000 years ago, 200 years ago and still today.

    Eugene was standing firm – he was going with the vows made before God. He did not however entirely close the door because he wrote that he was standing firm, “as for me, unless the good God gives me other insights, I will do nothing”. Prayer, discernment.

    I am seeing here how all of us, certainly how I, must follow our hearts, must follow that call that comes really from God. It might be repeated, spoken aloud by others around us, but in the end it is that small voice deep within that invites us, that prods and pushes us, that drives us and fills us with fire and life. And yes there will be others to pray and discern, to support and perhaps walk with us, but as is clearly seen here, opposing forces may well say they speak in the name of God.

    I find myself intrigued and want to know more, how does the story end? Who wins? And even as I write this I laugh at myself. I am hopefully not missing the point of today’s writing and reflection, for I feel that in a way I share that small space that Deblieu and Maunier were in, how did they manage it and under obedience what were they called to do? What was Eugene’s last word? Yes I do want to hear the rest of it.

    Today, although not walking into battle, I must face my fears, wrap myself in the surety of God’s love and the many gifts I have been given and live out the commitment that I have made, in my heart and in my life. I will ‘do’ the many things that I must today and in that way be true to the small private vow, the commitment that I have made. Not recognized by any other except perhaps myself and God.

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