Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod and the Marseilles diocesan administration had decided not to pronounce the political oath demanded by the functionaries of the State and which, besides, had not been required of the clergy. In his letter of September 29th to Cardinal de Rohan, the Pope expressed himself as being contrary to their position. The Pope had recognized King Louis Philippe, referring to him by the French king’s customary title “His Most Christian Majesty.”
Eugene was not happy, but invited Fr Tempier to submit to this decision and thus to remove at least this point of dispute with the civil authorities
Do not compromise yourselves further with the authorities of your country.
Then Eugene gives us a thought-provoking glimpse into obedience to the Pope, where he did not agree with the decision:
If the Pope states that you can do something, you remain free to do it or not, but a bishop cannot forbid it. It is no dishonor to modify one’s opinion when the head of the Church gives his instructions.
If the decision of the Pope is what they have told me, my opinion is no one should give an order, but simply let this decision be known and abstain from forbidding what it authorizes. One must be consistent in one’s positions. The Pope, doctor of the Church, has pronounced himself, let that suffice for our consciences
Eugene, however, distinguishes between an infallible pronouncement of the Pope, and the expression of a political opinion that can be followed or not:
It is not a question, it is true, of a point of dogma. It is not therefore a question of infallibility, so each is free not to do it. But also, it is permitted to each to conform himself to the decision of the first authority there is on this earth!
Then Eugene rationalized on the content of the oath required by the French political authorities:
According to the charter, the oath can no longer be considered as something sacred; it is a formality that is required, a transitory promise meant only to last as long as this temporary state of affairs subsists. It is incontestably this our legislators intend, and with the principle of the sovereignty of the people, one cannot interpret it otherwise. It is all a question of agreement amongst men, especially as to what the terms are worth.
You will agree with me how delicate the matter is; when conscience can be more facile than honor, one is often embarrassed; one must therefore not be precipitate.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 28 October 1830, EO VII n 369