Eugene’s ministry had led to the founding of the Missionary Oblates specifically to heal the destructive effects of the 1789 Revolution on the religion of the people and to rebuild the ravaged Church. Now, nearly 30 years later, strong elements in the French government were showing signs of wanting to undermine this reconstruction. A worried and outraged Eugene wrote to Tempier about an incident in the parliament in Paris.
Before leaving Vitrolles, I gave the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament… I admit that I went at it wholeheartedly and fervently, for I had just learned of the horrible blasphemy proliferated by a newspaper and repeated in consequence in the whole of France, against the Savior of men and the shameful weakness, not to say impiety of the stewards of the Chamber of Deputies who had removed from the monogram “Jesus Hominum Salvator” [ed. Jesus, Savior of Humanity), JHS, the J and the S, thus apparently reducing Our Lord Jesus Christ simply to the status of a man. I still shudder in thinking of it. I suppose that you know of the event and perhaps I am mistaken but here it is in a few words.
During the procession of Corpus Christi, they made as usual a tabernacle at the palace where the Chamber of Deputies holds its sessions. The decorator had placed, by way of ornamentation, the monogram which is found everywhere but which the Jesuits have adopted for their coat of arms…
A certain M. Dupin, deputy, let forth loud cries on seeing this emblem; he was mocked but as the whole of Paris had come to see with its own eyes the sorrowful image which recalls to men that they have been redeemed by Our Lord Jesus Christ, they quietly effaced the J and the S; thus the monogram presented nothing more than the figure H, which could be interpreted: man. It is then that they wanted to raise it up a hundred cubits so as to make resound in every place the praises of this man, yes, but of this man-God who has redeemed the ungrateful, the abominable, the revolting men from the slavery of the demon, of the demon who possesses them and whom they deserved to have still as master and executioner during the whole of eternity.
A strong outburst of indignation – but as always in his life, the storm was followed by calm! Always the man of action, Eugene, regretted being away from Marseille at this time when decisive protests and action were needed against another measure of the government against religion. Beaudoin explains that on June 10th, King Charles X had signed the “Decrees of June”. The second of these concerned the minor seminaries. It limited the number of students, forbade the acceptance of non-boarders and demanded of the professors that they affirm in writing that they did not belong to any Congregation not legally established in France.
I am going to try and calm myself in order to speak of business …. It is quite painful to me not to be at my post in a circumstance when some resolution must be taken if, as it is said, the decree on the minor seminaries deserves to be censured.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 21 June 1828, EO VII n 303
“Human rights, of course, must include the right to religious freedom, understood as the expression of a dimension that is at once individual and communitarian – a vision that brings out the unity of the person while clearly distinguishing between the dimension of the citizen and that of the believer.” Pope Benedict XVI