IF HE IS INNOCENT, WHY SHOULD HE BE PUNISHED?

Bishop Arbaud focused his discomfort with the Oblates on the superior of the community, Father Guibert, whom Eugene vehemently defended. The underlying cause of the Bishop’s unhappiness was not Fr Guibert – but he became the scapegoat to express it. It is a long letter to reproduce, but I do so because it shows how Eugene defended his Oblates when they were unjustly accused – just as he was the first to reproach and correct them when they were wrong.

If Father is to blame, he should be punished, but your letters prove the opposite. If he is innocent, why should he be punished? However, through what ordeals has he not been put? A model of obedience, he has scrupulously obeyed everything, without allowing himself to make the least observation. Now, you are going further and want me to take him away from the house which he is directing with piety, wisdom and discretion. You are asking too much, Your Lordship!
You are wrongly imputing a crime to Father Guibert for not turning away from the novitiate the men of your diocese who come to present themselves there. You know the Church’s rules in that matter of vocations …
Why do you want to oblige me to recall such a valuable man whom you have praised to me on every occasion? Why deprive him of a climate that is very good for his precarious health? Why force me to deprive the young men that he is instructing in the ways of perfection of the priceless benefits of his good direction?
I deny the calumnies of those who say that he is displeasing to your clergy. The one who slandered him could have discovered the opposite this very year itself during the clergy retreat at N.-D. du Laus. Out of 22 priests, twenty chose him for director. No, Your Lordship, Father Guibert is not well enough known. This excellent priest is not only mentally gifted, but eminently virtuous and, because of that, should be precious to a Bishop like yourself.
I hope that you will render him your good graces which he has done nothing to lose. If my letter weren’t so long, I would quote you an example which would show you the uprightness and simplicity of his soul …

Letter to Bishop Arbaud of Gap, 20 February 1833, EO XIII n 81

This letter is the beginning of a conflict that would simmer and lead to the Oblates being expelled from the shrine some years later. Under them the shrine had flourished, pilgrims were coming in large numbers, and it was financially viable. The Bishop now wanted this thriving ministry returned to him and also to use the refurbished house as a retirement home for his priests.

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One Response to IF HE IS INNOCENT, WHY SHOULD HE BE PUNISHED?

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    “The underlying cause of the Bishop’s unhappiness was not Fr Guibert – but he made Fr. Guibert the scapegoat to express it.” This hit me in a different way this morning. Fr. Guibert became the scapegoat – actually it was another who cast this upon him and he allowed for it to happen. I think of Jesus who became a scapegoat for the Scribes and Pharisees, for the Romans who did not want any problems or changes to their systems – they all ‘had their own agendas’ and moved out of that. Jesus, innocent, who all the while continued to preach and be about his Father’s business. I think again of the Trappist monks in Algeria in the movie “Of Gods and Men” who became the scapegoats for the fundamentalist terrorists and who all the while continued to go about their business with the people of the village. And here we have Fr. Guibert who we know from all accounts continued to do his job and to do it very well. Even Eugene himself who was being scapegoated by a few petty and ugly little men in the government who had their own agendas at the time that Eugene wrote this letter.
    I am seeing it all within a different light this morning. The words scapegoat, victim, sacrifice and perseverance have begun to take on a different appearance for me. And I know that I myself have made others the scapegoat during my life time and there have been times when I became the scapegoat for others
    How to combat that within myself. For me – rigorous self-honesty, prayerful self-examination and openness to others who love me and are honest with me of how they see me behaving – these are my defences to not act out against another. And in all that I do to keep my focus, my stance on God. Jesus, Saints Peter and Paul, Eugene and Fr. Guibert kept their focus on God in the most real of ways. It sounds so ‘easy’ and so ‘pious’ but that is the only way to handle it when it happens. “Stand at the foot of your crucifix…” and from there look up to meet and see through the eyes of the Crucified Saviour – I think that can be the only stance.
    It will be only with exacting fidelity to his practice and way of being that it will work. Perhaps then too emotions will not get in the way of reason so much. I look at how Eugene defended one of his Oblates. He did not lash out but rather seeing through the eyes of the crucified Saviour and being a co-operator of that same Saviour he found the words to highlight the goodness of Fr. Guibert. It took a long time but he ensured that the goodness of Fr. Guibert shone a light on what the Bishop was saying.

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