As Eugene reflects on the conflict with the surrounding bishops regarding the status of the Oblates in their dioceses, it becomes the opportunity for him to clarify his thoughts of the meaning of their vows. Firstly he points out that the Oblates in the diocese had never made any act of revolt or defiance to the bishop, but rather that they have tried to cooperate with him at all times for the good of the people of his diocese.
A bishop does not have the right to prevent us from making vows especially when those who make them do not seek to revolt against the orders that he can give them, and while waiting for the Holy See to pronounce itself. He cannot dispense those who do not have recourse to him for that, still less can he declare them null. I regard all that they threaten us with as an abuse of power. What reason have we given to the complaints of His Grace the Archbishop? There are no priests in the diocese who have lived in a greater spirit of submission and in a more absolute state of dependence. Can anyone accuse us of a single act of insubordination or revolt?
In fact, their choice of religious life and making vows was intended to make them more dedicated and God-focused missionaries:
What? Because, in order to live more saintly lives and render ourselves more worthy of our ministry, we wish to follow and practice the evangelical counsels, we become criminals? We would have jeopardized the prerogatives of the episcopate? We would deserve to be anathematised and proscribed? That would be giving too much scope to the Promitto.
He then affirms the validity of the vows and his intention to live his commitment to God through them
What does it matter to me if they regard my vows as null? They are not so, notwithstanding; now, if they are not so, who will prevent me from renewing them a thousand times a day? Yes, until the Holy See decides to the contrary, I believe myself to have the right to deprive myself voluntarily of the ability to have recourse to the authority of the bishop to dispense me of the vows that I willed to contract in perpetuity, I believe that the bishop cannot annul my engagement; that if he claims to dispense me and I am convinced that there are no legitimate reasons, I shall regard his dispensation as without effect.
I will faithfully keep my vows while trying to conform my exterior conduct to what the bishop prescribes in order not to disturb the public order.
Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 29 October 1823, EO VI n. 117
Clearly, in order to prevent this confusion in the future, Eugene would have to approach the Pope to make their status official in the Church. This was to happen two years later on 17 February 1826. In the history of the Church the question of the authority of the Bishop over the religious congregations in his diocese has not always been clear. Our present Rule of Life gives “communion” as the keyword for living this relationship in a diocese.
Our love for the Church inspires us to fulfil our mission in communion with the pastors whom the Lord has given to his people; we accept loyally, with an enlightened faith, the guidance and teachings of the successors of Peter and the Apostles.
We coordinate our missionary activity with the overall pastoral plan of the local Churches where we work, and we collaborate in a spirit of brotherhood with others who work for the Gospel. CC&RR Constitution 6
“As I visit Oblates around the world I see how close we are to the poor, how our lives are marked by simplicity and approachability. I am convinced of the necessity of our charism in the life of the Church. We bring people close to the Church, to the Body of Christ, and in our closeness to the poor we receive Christ too.” Fr. Louis Lougen OMI, Superior General