CHALLENGING THE STATE’S INTERFERENCE IN THE FREEDOM OF THE CHURCH

When Pius VIII became Pope in March 1829, he had written a pastoral letter to all the bishops of the world. The Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs in France, Bishop Feutrier, had forbidden the bishops of France to publish it until the government gave them permission to do so. Eugene, who was convalescing in Grans at the time, wrote to his uncle in Marseilles about his response to yet another attack on the freedom of the Church.

I should like to know if you are willing to comply with the preposterous directive from the Ministry. Assuming that the Pope’s encyclical letter will not be printed, I cannot believe that anyone can be forced to remain silent when the Supreme Pastor, exercising his prerogative as teacher of the Church, instructs the bishops to protest certain disorders which He has denounced. On the contrary, it is my opinion that the flock should be given the food just as it was received from the shepherd.

Letter to Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod, 9 August 1829, quoted in Leflon 2 p. 324

To Fr Tempier he shared the draft of the letter he had written to the Minister on behalf of Bishop Fortuné:

“My Lord, I not only had cognizance of the encyclical of our holy Father Pius VIII, but it was addressed directly to me as to all Bishops of the Catholic world for, thanks be to God, I am in communion with the apostolic Holy See”.
We will consider whether such a draft of the letter, as I had planned it, ought not to be recorded in the main register of the diocese in witness to the Bishop’s fidelity in order that his successors may know of it, for I had proposed to tell the Minister that, in obedience to the voice of the Superior of the bishops and in compliance with his directives, I was warning my people about all these things which his care impelled him to denounce as dangerous to their souls.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 16 August 1829, EO VII n 336.

As the State and the Church were locked in an ever-increasing conflict, which was to last several years, we will see that Eugene could not remain inactive – at a high personal cost to himself

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One Response to CHALLENGING THE STATE’S INTERFERENCE IN THE FREEDOM OF THE CHURCH

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I keep going back and reading again Eugene’s words – for surprisingly I am not unaware of what I will call the betrayal of Bishop Feutrier or the pettiness of the government in telling the bishops that they are not to read out the letter of the Pope because they the government had not ‘approved’ it. I keep reading of how Eugene ‘responded’ rather than ‘reacted’ to it all. There is a depth of calmness and steadiness that seems to guide him.

    As have so many in the history of mankind, St. Paul stood up long before St. Eugene for what he believed to be right (before and after meeting Jesus). There have been others too who have dared and risked and stood up to the governments of the lands they are living in. Only yesterday I completed reading the book “Indian Bishop of the West – Vital Justin Grandin 1829-1902” by Frank Dolphin. Another man, a son of St. Eugene who dared and remained true to his calling, to his ordination and to his being a shepherd to his flock. He took it as seriously as did St. Eugene and I think of the number of letters that he wrote to the government concerning the rights and treatment of ‘his Indians’, placing himself in their midst, as one of them. JPIC was not a ‘catch phrase’ then but it was certainly what both Eugene and Bishop Grandin lived.

    I ask myself what this looks like within my own life. Nothing so great as speaking for a whole people as did both St. Eugene and Bishop Grandin, and yet there have been small occasions when I needed to decide if I was going to accept the status quo and give into the ‘power’ no matter what it looked like or where it came from. Those steps which were but small indentations in the sands of my journey were still steps and I had to step through my own small fears and doubts in order to be true to God’s call to me. I am a little surprised for I would not have thought that I could walk in the footsteps of one such as Eugene and yet although my feet and stride are not as long as Eugene’s, still I do walk them. Thank you Lord for such a grace.

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