A CONFLICT BETWEEN THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT AND THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH

We have been following the progress of the conflict between the government and Eugene. We saw how he had been summoned to Rome in the middle of 1833 and perhaps you are finding some of the events confusing. Thus, Yvon Beaudoin takes up the story and recounts the main happenings starting with Eugene’s arrival in Rome.

“The Roman authorities gradually disclose to him the truth of the situation: the French Government wants no more of him in France. Behind the seemingly serene atmosphere that has prevailed at Marseilles for the space of a year, both Prefect and Mayor and civil and military authorities have been watching the Prelate’s every move, twisting his words, denouncing him to Paris and accusing him of engaging in politics, of perhaps even having been involved in the assassination of the chief of police of Marseilles. In their reports, the French Ambassador at Rome and the Internuncio at Paris had put pressure on Gregory XVI to recall the Bishop of Icosia to Rome or to despatch him to Africa.

It will take Bishop de Mazenod four months to prove his innocence and get the Pope’s permission to return to France at the beginning of December 1833, against the wishes of the Ambassador.

“Comparing one prison with another, ”

writes the Bishop to Father Tempier on September 8, 1833 (EO 461),

“I would as soon try the one threatened by our fine ministers…. They are costing me my time, my money and my health. May God forgive them! It has put me in an ugly mood.”

He continues working alongside his uncle, even though officially he is no longer recognized as vicar-general of Marseilles.

In fact, the Minister of Worship had written to Bishop Fortuné on September 13, 1833:

“Bishop de Mazenod, having neither solicited nor received the authorization of the Government to accept the conferring of a bishopric in partibus, is legally disabled, in virtue of articles 32 and 33 of Law 18 of Germinal 18, Year X, from exercising any ecclesiastical function in the kingdom or of continuing to fulfil those of vicar-general, which ought to have ceased from the moment of his installation as Bishop of Icosia. 1 have therefore had to order the Prefect of Bouches-du-Rhône to withhold the release of any mandate in his favour.”

The assertions of the Minister posed the problem in all its gravity. It was no longer simply a personal matter between the Bishop of Icosia and the Government, but a question of principle wherein the independence of the Church itself was not being recognized.”

Yvon Beaudoin EO 8 pages XXV-XXVI

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One Response to A CONFLICT BETWEEN THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT AND THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    After much thought and reflection this morning I look at Eugene, the Church and the French government. I think of how Eugene (after the French Revolution) had been called to serve the Church and build her up. Once again he needed to defend her and show how she was not subject to the government’s need for total control. In light of the government’s need continue trying to rob the Church of her independence from all governments Eugene had to find a way to ‘stand his ground’, how the Church must stand her ground and the image is that of David standing before Goliath.

    I look at Eugene this morning and how it was about much more than simply his own well-being and ability to do as he pleased – it was about his Church and of God. The thought of Jesus crosses my mind and how he had to stand before the power of the government and the high priests – how he died but also how he was resurrected. Eugene who wrote: “How… did our Lord Jesus Christ proceed…?”

    Yesterday we – members of the Oblate/Mazenodian Family, gathered together in communities throughout the world for liturgies in celebration of the anniversary of the approval of the OMI Constitutions and Rules, the Church’s approval and all that is entailed in that. It was a sharing of prayer and celebration. It was not ordered, but rather we were invited – it all sprang from our hearts. We stood together in the freedom to serve the Church as we are called – the freedom and independence that Eugene and those founding Oblates struggled and suffered to defend.

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