A DELICATE DECISION

A letter from Tempier had brought him disturbing news regarding the health of the old bishop: “You might as well know that all these upheavals have depressed our prelate. There is a great change in him; at the age of 82, one does not bear up under such staggering blows.”

All I ask is that they do not harass my uncle and if it troubles him to accept the resolutions at which I foresee they will arrive, let him leave for Italy. It is not at his age that one can stand up to the struggles of the kind for which preparations are underway.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 19 August 1830, EO VII n 357

Pressure was being applied on the old Bishop to make a decision about whether to recognize the new King or not. Leflon notes: “Father de Mazenod’s family traditions, his ultra-royalism, his Bossuet-inspired belief in the legitimacy of the Bourbon kings, and his ardent love for them, naturally prejudiced him against the son of Philippe Egalité, while the revolution which he considered essentially satanic horrified him instinctively.”  (Leflon 2, p. 344.)

The background to the situation in Marseilles:

“The common people as a whole had remained loyal to the legitimate monarchy and to the Church, and were thoroughly opposed to the revolution. Any acts of aggression against the bishop’s palace, religious houses, mission crosses, even noisy or tumultuous demonstrations, would have provoked an immediate reaction on the part of the dockers, calkers, fishermen and fishwives, etc.; since there were only a few demonstrators who could be recruited, it was far wiser to refrain from such tactics. It would take almost a year before any of these things were attempted and their consequences discouraged their repetition. Bishop Fortuné, therefore, was at odds only with the local authorities, that is, the divisional commander of the military, the prefect, and lastly the mayor who was determined to force recognition of the new king upon the old bishop, and to enforce legislation unfavorable to the clergy. However, these same authorities had to reckon with public sentiment which was mostly antagonistic toward the new government, especially among people living in the port districts. On the other hand, the prelate enjoyed the support of his flock, among whom were those who were quick to use their tongues and fists.” Leflon 2, p.343

I leave everything to Providence but reiterate my concern for my uncle. I think that it will be necessary for him to choose a course that depends on the opinion he will embrace. If he adopts the affirmative on his own initiative, there is no obstacle to his remaining; but if it is in the negative, I think that it would be as well that he leave as soon as possible, for how will he have the strength to bear all the consequences?

Letter to Henri Tempier, 21 August 1830, EO VII n 358

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One Response to A DELICATE DECISION

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Many thoughts have passed before me this morning, not the least of which is a glimmer of understanding of why Eugene and Henri Tempier did in the coming years. This past week I have caught much clearer pictures of what was taking place in France politically and what was to become the stance of the Church in the midst of growing chaos. And I cannot help but reflect on those similarities that are taking place in today’s world, between Church and State, affecting the hearts and consciences of so many and what will be their individual and combined stances.

    Here it is quite clear on what is Eugene’s response to the possible stances that his uncle might take. His response is filled with love as he reads quite clearly what is happening politically and the possible ramifications of what will happen even further down the road. Eugene states no matter what his uncle Fortuné decides he will put all of it in God’s hands. He then advises what might be a possible way for his uncle to survive the possible consequences of his action – a possible solution for his uncle to work around the obstacles and be true to himself and his beliefs.

    So many similarities to what is happening in our present time and how we are often feel as if we are being pulled apart as decide on the stance we wish to take and how we will do that, while continuing to be non-judgmental and compassionate. I am reminded of the movie “Silence” and how one man found the strength to do what he did and to live in silence with the Lord from that point on. He was judged by so many but I always thought the movie was not about a man who committed the sin of apostasy, but rather a man who found a way to continue to love God and which he remained true to until his death.

    This reflection today as we head into the weekend reminds me to look at all sides of the equation and the best stance for me to take in a given situation. It reminds me that I am not called to judge, but rather to love with compassion. Not always easy.

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