The kerfuffle in Thiberville, France seems to be resolved, for now

I read on Fratres that the dust up in France over the replacement of a pastor (who coincidentally celebrated Mass with the 1962 Missale Romanum) is, for the time being resolved… in favor of the people who wanted the pastor to remain.

I am informed by the Forum Catholique article that Bishop Nourrichard has backed off, after having seen the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, recently appointed to France by the Pope. This Nuncio was previously in Canada, and this much-loved prelate was known to our Canadian TAC Bishops, as Bishop Peter Wilkinson has told me.  

The new priestly team appointed by Bishop Nourrichard will not minister in Thiberville and the 12 other churches of the parish group, and Fr. Michel is to be allowed to continue his ministry.  

Bishop Nourrichard spent the day last Thursday in Paris with the Nuncio. The scandal of Thiberville had taken on international dimensions.  

Many priests in France in France and elsewhere have refused to be moved from their parishes. What is now happening is that Benedict XVI wants parishes and the stability of their priests to be respected by diocesan bishops.  

The tide has turned. Deo gratias! And may this be an encouragement for us all.

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46 Responses to The kerfuffle in Thiberville, France seems to be resolved, for now

  1. Tito Edwards says:

    Deo gratias!

    Many parishes in the U.S. may see an opening to keep their orthodox priests! (and possibly the dissident Catholics will do the same to keep their dissident priests, such as in Linz).

  2. Tradster says:

    Careful, this can cut both ways with bad priests also refusing to budge, with a vocal minority of liberal loudmouth laity and pantsuit sisters supporting them.

  3. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I agree with Tradster. I know a dissident priest who has reshaped a parish to conform to his image over nearly twenty years. It’s painful to see, and the only hope is that the archdiocese will decide he’s been there too long.

  4. Prof. Basto says:

    I understand that when one is a parish priest, i.e., the pastor of the parish (parocho), then the bishop is canonically not free to move him at will, but the Code of Canon Law allows him some stability.

    For the removal of a parish priest (parocho), there is a legal process, provided for in the Code of Canon Law. Only through this process can the Bishop impose the removal of the pastor.

    That’s why many parishes aren’t headed by actual parish priests; instead of appointing full pastors, the bishop appoints priests to act as parochial administrators, that are not the same as the full parish priest.

  5. Nathan says:

    I’d defer to Dr Peters on this, if he’s reading the comboxes today. I thought the question interesting when it popped up re Thiberville a few weeks ago. I went to the New Advent electronic version of the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia, which said that (without juridical procedings against a parish priest) that a bishop could not remove a pastor/parish priest of a canonically constitued parish without the priest’s consent. The article then went on to say that in England and the US (perhaps because of the Protestant majority and history)there were no canonically contituted parishes, so bishops have a wider range of options for moving pastors.

    Although I tried to find a relevant clause in the current Code of Canon Law, I’m not conversant enough with it to search smartly.

    Is there still the restriction on removing pastors? Do the US and England (and perhaps other countries, especially in the missions) still not have canonically contsituted parishes, perhaps for the same reasons that the US cannot have chapters of canons?

    In Christ,

  6. dcs says:

    Careful, this can cut both ways with bad priests also refusing to budge, with a vocal minority of liberal loudmouth laity and pantsuit sisters supporting them.

    But would it be fair to foist such a priest on a non-liberal parish? Wouldn’t some other solution be better?

  7. j says:

    I am a little concerned that two issues are being mixed.

    The first is the degree to which Pastors should be stable appointments. There are certainly arguments on both sides – stable Pastors can lead to stable Parishes, and further the development of faith, on the other hand, long tenure can cause Parishes to be cults of personality, particularly in the post-VII Church. A worthy discussion.

    The second is the perceived (and probably accurate) antipathy to the E.F. that this particular Pastor’s ouster has been said to involve. This has been made irrelevant by Summorum Pontificum. There is no doubt that there is a stable group at this Parish, and provision of the E.F. must continue, regardless of the Pastor. Only if the people abandon the Parish (whether to follow the former Pastor or for other reasons) does the E.F. perish.

  8. DavidJ says:

    I fear the cult of personality. I’d rather lose a good priest at my parish due to a rotation of pastors than see a parish become heterodox due to the permanent influence of a priest who is, shall we say, less than orthodox?

  9. from 1st Maccabees Chapter 2:>>>>
    As he finished saying these words, a certain Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein according to the king’s order.
    24
    When Mattathias saw him, he was filled with zeal; his heart was moved and his just fury was aroused; he sprang forward and killed him upon the altar.
    25
    At the same time, he also killed the messenger of the king who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar. >>>

    I know, I know. We’re not like that anymore. But the Holy Father has
    reached out to us laity — going around obstructing prelates. — If the pope
    allows this priest to remain, and he will, there can be no stronger
    rebuke to the rainbow clad bishop, nor to the passivists on this blog who
    predicted no good will come from Thiberville. Will we help the pope?
    or will we wait for him to die so we can get back to the seventies way?
    Some people equate prudence with passivity.

    k.c.

  10. Penta says:

    And why can’t the US have chapters of canons?

  11. I’ve never liked the Great Pastor Shift. My cynical streak strongly suspects that a big reason for periodically shuffling pastors — which seems to me to have just started in recent decades — was to make it easier to transfer sex offenders without arousing comment.

    Maybe keeping priests where they are instead of moving them around constantly will lead to actually doing something about really bad ones (i.e., ones who preach heresies, embezzle funds, or engage in other sorts of misconduct) instead of just making them somebody else’s problem.

  12. These things can “cut two ways,” as it were, canonical questions notwithstanding for now. But two things:

    (1) Whatever else, this makes me feel good (especially as I’m not in the Church yet, still praying, hoping, searching); it’s good to see a “win” here. Another small sign the tide is slowly turning.

    (2) If lib parishes keep lib priests, and more trad parished trad/conservative priests, my sense of it is that lib parishes would slowly wither, while trad/conservative parishes would thrive and grow, and that for theological, sociological reasons. Liberalism, by aping culture, makes itself superfluous. Presents nothing different or intriguing. Further, at least in the US, the seminarians and young priests I know are quality people, so it might also be a waiting game.

  13. Nathan says:

    Penta: “And why can’t the US have chapters of canons?”

    Good question. Here’s what the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia says: “In countries like England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and the United States, ecclesiastical government does not conform strictly to the disciplinary decrees of the Council of Trent; hence, though in such countries canons may be appointed, they have not the canonical rights or status that belongs to a canon in the full sense of the word.” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03252a.htm)

    I think that when I wrote the comment I was thinking of Cathedral chapters. Again, the Catholic Encyclopedia: “In the United States, cathedral chapters have not as yet been constituted. In 1883 Propaganda consulted the American bishops on the advisability of erecting them, but the prelates judged that the time was not yet opportune.”

    The canons of Cathedral Chapters, as I understand it, may vote to elect Vicars-general of a diocese and have other diocesean governmental duties outlined in canon law. Orginally, both canons regular and cathedral canons’ daily function was to sing the Divine Office in a cathedral or collegiate church. I’ve never seen a Cathedral Chapter in the US, and I’ve only heard of one group of canons–the Canons Regular of St John Cantius in Chicago. I could be wrong, but I do not think they exercise any governmental duties in the Chicago archdiocese.

    Any thoughts as to why the US has never been allowed Cathedral Chapters would be pure speculation on my part, though.

    In Christ,

  14. catholicuspater says:

    Maybe we should also recognize that the two dear ladies who had the guts to confront the bishop and speak truth to power deserve our thanks and gratitude. The actions of those little ladies turned this into an international ecclesiastical incident, and their righteous indignation highlighted for all to see the tremendous injustice being committed by the local prelate.

    While some were advocating for “silence” and “obedience,” those two courageous gals put into practice St. Thomas Aquinas’ teaching that subjects ought to rebuke their prelates even publicly when the faith is in danger. [I am not convinced that this was the best approach.]

    That’s alot different than “better red than dead,” or “peace at any cost.”

  15. Penta says:

    Nathan: Thanks for the info!

    Personally: Much though I may recognize that keeping a pastor in place can be a great good…There’s also a part of me that tries to apply lessons from the secular world to the Church.

    That part of me screams that it is a very very very bad idea to keep pastors (or, heck, any priest) in one position for more than a few years. There are the obvious problems of things becoming too focused on that priest, yes. However, more significantly comes problems of governance (broadly defined to include “controls” issues – financial or otherwise – among not merely priests but also lay personnel)…And something that many may forget:

    Personnel development. Ambition is natural and, to a degree, healthy and essential in *any* organization. If you have pastors serving for decades in one parish, do priests under them just wait and hope morbidly that somebody dies/gets promoted/otherwise-exits their position? (Echoes of the traditional Royal Navy toast for Thursdays of “A bloody war or a sickly season”!)

    Does not sound to me like a healthy situation for presbyteral morale. Never mind that variety in experiences would tend to make for better priests, besides.

  16. Clinton says:

    “There is no doubt that there is a stable group at this Parish, and provision of the E.F. must continue, regardless of the Pastor. Only if
    the people abandon the Parish (whether to follow the former Pastor, or for other reasons) does the E.F. perish.” — j. @ 3:07pm.

    There are so few priests in France that, on average, each priest serves more Catholics than live in the entire village of Thiberville. In
    effect, the good people of that village, by having a priest “all to themselves”, are taking up a disproportionately large part of the
    diocesan resources. The people of Thiberville rejected their Bishop’s attempt to group them with 12 other villages served by a team of
    priests. Their current priest remains even though he had agreed to be transferred 2 years ago.

    But what happens when this priest retires, becomes too frail, or is called to his reward? I do not think that His Excellency will be
    disposed to find Thiberville another priest to be theirs exclusively. They’ve rejected their Bishop’s attempt to “cluster” them with those
    other 12 villages. The people of Thiberville have treated their Bishop with naked contempt already. I would not be a bit surprised if
    the chancery were to omit assigning a new priest at all and simply closed that parish down. It would be all too easy to rationalize.

    So j., I can think of one other way in which the E.F. would perish in Thiberville. Those folks may have won the present battle, but I
    suspect that by their actions they have lost the war. I hope they feel it was worth it. Tick tock.

  17. David2 says:

    I think that Clinton mis-describes the situation in Thiberville.

    Specifically, the issue here is not Thiberville having a priest “all to themselves” – indeed, the reports I have seen suggest that l’Abbe Michel serves several churches within the parish including the church at Bournainville-Favrolles, described as “one of his other parish churches”.

    All of the articles I have read suggest that the parish of Thiberville extends well beyond the village itself, and encompasses a dozen or so other churches and chapels in the area. If that is the case, then Clinton’s analysis is simply wrong.

    The issue here, as I understand it, is more one of “team ministry” whereby a priest is replaced by a liberal priest and his team of lay people and sisters in polyester pants.

  18. David2 says:

    I just checked the Forum Catholique site. Fr Michel serves Thiberville and 14 other villages:

    Thiberville and the 14 other villages Fr. Michel serves form the most vibrant and missionary Catholic ministry – the only one still alive – of the Diocese of Evreux: the church at Thiberville is full at all Masses, and the other churches are served in turn, catechism classes, active participation of the faithful, loads of altar boys, confraternities, all the churches magnificently restored, funerals celebrated by the parish priest himself, etc. These parishes where the communion of all Catholics is lived wonderfully well is a model of application of the Pope’s wishes.

  19. Clinton says:

    David2, you are correct. The good Father Michel is made of steel, or possibly has the gift of bilocation. Accounts vary in the number
    of churches where he serves–but the figures are all in excess of a dozen. In the thread following Fr. Z’s first post on this debacle
    pelerin @ 12:03pm mentioned that Fr. Michel served at many churches and chapels–a fact that did not stick with me.

    It is ominous, however, that Bishop Nourrichard, in his Jan. 8th letter regarding the events in Thiberville, mentions that one of the
    reasons for his decision had been that the village was less than 5000 in population. Even if the state owns the parish church where
    the incident occurred, Bishop Nourrichard is not obliged to staff it when Fr. Michel is no longer in the picture. In fact, when the good
    abbe Michel is no longer there–be it because of retirement, infirmity or death–it is the Bishop who will decide how he is replaced,
    and how that replacement could include church and chapel closures and mergers with other parishes. Barring a change in the Diocese
    of Evreux–whether the Bishop changes his heart or the diocese gets a new Bishop–Thiberville is at his mercy. God help them if
    he is a small, vengeful man.

    Not today. God willing, not in the near future. But, inevitably, at some point the people of Thiberville will have to replace Fr. Michel.
    And when that time comes, it will be to the Bishop that they must go, hats in hand. Will he look at them and remember them
    howling “Tu nous enmerdes!” as they did in the video? Will they still believe they acted rightly on that January day in 2010?

    So, David2, I was wrong to believe that Fr. Michel served Thiberville only. But I don’t think I’m mistaken to believe that the people of
    that village have handed their Bishop a powerful incentive to be ruthless when that parish falls vacant.

  20. Marc says:

    The issue is not that Thiberville is somehow “selfishly” refusing to give up its parish priest, or that Fr Michel is refusing a new assignment. As posted by others Fr. Michel is actually covering already a large sector. The reason this is important is that Fr. Michel has been extraordinarily efficient: While the diocese, like most in France has embraced new practices focused on rotation, relying on lay workers etc, and seen the numbers of practicing catholic plummet, Fr. Michel has taken another path. When he arrived in Thiberville 23 years ago, Mass was no longer celebrated in the church (unheated in the winter), and there were very few parishioners. He convinced the mayors of all 12 villages to restore the churches in exchange for at least one Mass per fortnight. He decorated them, restored sacramental life, visited parishioners, organized catechism, restored local religious holidays and processions etc. The result, is not only that all his churches are packed, but his parish has 30% of the confirmations of the diocese, religious vocations, real church life. This is in stark contrast with the results of other parishes. Fr. Michel celebrates Mass ad orientem in French with Chant, and on Sunday afternoon in the Extraordinary Form.

    He is a living proof of the fruits that can result from a balanced Reform of the Reform, and a condemnation of the failed “man-oriented” experiments of the liberals in the French episcopate, and is not forgiven for this.

    Nothing is resolved as he still is the target of much hatred, but his case is now in Rome, so let’s hope that this will be a turning point for the Church in France and elsewhere.

    Marc

  21. Clinton wrote>>The people of Thiberville deserve much, much better than to put themselves in the same boat as Donna Quinn or that parish in
    Brisbane. Yet if they disdain the legitimate authority of their Bishop, if their obedience crumbles the moment they hear the word “no”,
    then IMHO they are all birds of a feather<<<

    Dear Clinton,

    IYHO there is no difference between opposing a Bishop when he is wrong than
    opposing him when he is right? The papal nuncio does not back your position.
    He demanded no apology from the peasants of Thiberville — on the contrary,
    accession to their demands was squeezed out of the local bishop.
    Will you now oppose the papal nuncio when he is right?

    causa finita est

    k.c.

  22. Clinton says:

    Marc, I do not deny that Fr. Michel would seem to be an inspiration for us all. Would that we had many, many more priests just like
    him! As David2 pointed out, I was mistaken in assuming that the good abbe was operating simply in the one village. However, if
    he celebrates Mass at one altar or a dozen, he is still mortal. In the end, the Faith he has built up in that part of Normandy will have to
    be entrusted to the hands of another priest — one appointed, very likely, by Bishop Nourrichard.

    k.c., I was not present at that conversation between the Nuncio and +Nourrichard. I hope that +Nourrichard was told off for handling
    this so very, very badly. I hope that the Nuncio isn’t a cynical man who merely advised the Bishop to apply the biological solution
    to his headache. The two men had a conversation, Fr. Michel remains for now. That is all I know about that. I don’t “oppose” the Nuncio,
    but I don’t think it’s safe to assume that Rome has spoken and the matter is closed. As Marc stated it is only now that the case is being taken up by competent authority.

    I will be delighted if Rome rules that Fr. Michel may remain at his post. But the fact remains that even in that happy event, the issue
    is not resolved. Resolution will only come when it is decided how Fr. Michel is to be succeeded. And that is a matter entirely in the
    hands of +Nourrichard. Then the people of Thiberville may come to regret their behavior to him, however justifiable it may have seemed.

    In all of my posts I’ve maintained that it is indeed possible for a Bishop to act wrongly. Rome, in her wisdom, has created avenues where
    aggrieved Catholics may appeal acts they consider unjust. I don’t know if the people of Thiberville have been pressing their case for
    the last couple of years or if they only now seek redress from Rome. Taking a grievance to Rome is not disobedience, thank God.
    But what if Rome’s reply is not sweet to the ears of Thiberville? Will they obey?

    I can understand Fr. Michel keeping a low profile right now. Someday, I’d like to hear his take on this debacle.

  23. cmm says:

    Fr. Michel serves an area with small villages and a total population of 5000. The diocese has a population of 600000 and has about 50 active priests, so on average each priest serves a population of 12000. Although he is covering a large area, that is actually well below the norm in that diocese!

    One thing that makes him special, though, is that he appears to attract parishioners well beyond his allocated area. And has almost a quarter of the confirmation candidates of the diocese even though his area has less than 1% of the population! And that, in the various websites I looked at, I could not find any report of discontent within his parish, not even a small minority. So, officially he does much less than his quota, but in reality he is doing much much more and the local laity seem to be unanimous about him. That’s really quite remarkable!

  24. Clinton wrote>>>I will be delighted if Rome rules that Fr. Michel may remain at his post. But the fact remains that even in that happy event, the issue
    is not resolved. Resolution will only come when it is decided how Fr. Michel is to be succeeded. And that is a matter entirely in the
    hands of +Nourrichard. Then the people of Thiberville may come to regret their behavior to him, however justifiable it may have seemed<<<

    Dear Clinton,

    You remind me of the people who watch the pope make everyone kneel for Holy Communion and say its not clear to them whether he wants people to kneel for Jesus or not!

    there is such a thing as ‘willful ignorance’! You say the result of their ‘tete a tete’ is ambiguous? Or the nuncio does not represent the Pope?

    Finally you retreat and say even if the Pope rules for the people, then Bishop Nourrichard may still win? because he might have discovered the secret to eternal old age and will survive: the pope, Fr. Michel, and maybe even those altar boys scampering out of the church?!

    k.c.

  25. dcs says:

    Taking a grievance to Rome is not disobedience, thank God.

    Nor is refusing to comply with an unjust command. When a superior commands something that is not within his authority, one is not obliged to obey the command. One may do so out of prudence, but that is a separate virtue from obedience. Therefore if the bishop’s decision to transfer Fr. Michel was unjust (and it was, since a pastor can only be removed for a grave cause and Fr. Michel’s appointment was indefinite), then his subjects (i.e., Fr. Michel and his parishioners) are no bound to obey it.

    You might find this helpful:
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3104.htm#article5

  26. Clinton says:

    kc. , I believe that Fr. Michel’s case is being brought before competent authorities in Rome. It is only when the case is resolved that we
    can truly say that Rome has spoken and the matter is closed. I am not privy to the substance of the conversation between the Nuncio
    and the Bishop. If Rome has already spoken through the Nuncio, why would there still be a case proceeding?

    I did not say the result of their conversation was ambiguous, kc.. They had a conversation, and Fr. Michel remains for now.
    I did not say that the Nuncio does not represent the Pope. That is to laugh. However, I don’t believe that the Nuncio has ended the
    matter by fiat. If I had to guess, I’d say he asked the Bishop to back off and let things cool down while Rome takes up the case.
    As it is, I haven’t seen either party issue a public account of the meeting, so I can only speculate on what was actually said.
    If thinking this is the case constitutes “willful ignorance” as you so charitably suggest, so be it.

    I am certainly ignorant as to how my commonsense observation that this matter is not truly resolved until the succession is decided
    constitutes a ‘retreat’. Consider also that if Bishop Nourrichard does not outlast Fr. Michel, he will certainly leave behind a chancery
    full of men who think much as he does. No, I do not refer to the Bishop as ‘winning’, kc., because this is not a game.

    dcs, of course one may refuse to comply with an unjust command. I’ve stated on a couple of posts regarding Thiberville that I
    believe that if a person is aggrieved by an act of his Bishop’s, he is entitled to take their grievance to Rome. Once Rome
    rules, however, I believe both parties must abide by the decision. If that decision does not fall the way it was hoped, the person
    must obey Rome and his Bishop. This matter in France is not yet resolved, Rome has not yet ruled definitively. I do not share your
    certainty, dcs, that the Bishop will be found to have exceeded his powers. Two years ago, Fr. Michel made an agreement with +Nourrichard to be transferred. The agreement was witnessed. I don’t know if that agreement will affect the decision Rome
    makes, but it gives me pause. In short, I believe that if Rome finds for the Bishop (and it might happen), then Fr. Michel and
    his parishioners are bound to obey. I hope it doesn’t happen like that, but it is a possibility.

    Father Z., I hope I haven’t abused your hospitality by posting so much on this. I don’t seem to be communicating as clearly as
    I’d like, and I apologize if I’m being a bore. Those videos were appalling, and I hope I never have cause to see their like again.

  27. Clinton said>>If Rome has already spoken through the Nuncio, why would there still be a case proceeding?<<

    Dear Clinton,
    You are persistent! If Rome hasn’t spoken, then why has the local bishop’s decision
    been overruled? Why are they not celebrating the rainbow Mass in Thiberville?

    more Clinton<< Those videos were appalling, and I hope I never have cause to see their like again.
    <<
    This is the crux of it! What is more appalling to you, Clinton?
    a) people chewing gum during Communion (a common North American Catholic practice)
    b) Thiberville?

    a) people strolling off with Hosts and stuffing them into hymnals or whatever (a common North American Catholic practice)?
    b) Thiberville?

    a) people taking Communion in the hand and then flicking of the Precious Fragments
    from their hands like dried up boogers (Standard North American Catholic practice)
    b) Thiberville?

    a) fluffy sermons devoid of the four last things?
    b) Thiberville?

    I am afraid you are going to tell me everything is equally ‘bad’. That’s where we
    fundamentally disagree!

    k.c.

  28. Clinton said>>No, I do not refer to the Bishop as ‘winning’, kc.,
    because this is not a game.<<

    Dear Clinton (an addendum)
    Do you think winning only applies to ‘games’?
    What about battles? That’s what this is!

    brick-bat by brick-bat!

    k.c.

  29. Clinton says:

    kc., I believe you misunderstand the role of a Nuncio. He represents the Pope to the state of France, but has no authority
    to order the Bishops in the matter of assigning priests. Fr. Michel remains only because +Nourrichard permits it. The
    authority that can order the Bishop to act has not yet spoken. The case proceeds. The matter is not yet closed.

    As for the rest of your questions–I am appalled at the idea of a congregation booing their Bishop as he begins Mass,
    howling obscenities in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament (hint: “tu nous enmerdes” isn’t a line from “Tantum Ergo”),
    and raising their hands to a successor of the Apostles. Did that mob genuflect on its way out? Is it reverent to
    disrupt a Mass? Thiberville was not a proud moment, it was sacrilege.

  30. dcs says:

    I’ve stated on a couple of posts regarding Thiberville that I believe that if a person is aggrieved by an act of his Bishop’s, he is entitled to take their grievance to Rome.

    He is entitled to more than that: he can resist the act itself. This may or may not be prudent.

  31. Clinton wrote>> believe you misunderstand the role
    of a Nuncio. He represents the Pope to the state of
    France, but has no authority to order the Bishops
    in the matter of assigning priests.<>> The nuncio is the Vatican’s ambassador to the
    United States. ….
    In addition, he acts as a liaison between the Holy
    See and the Church in the United States.<<<

    So, the nuncio
    represents the Pope to the gov’t [what you said]
    AND the local church [what you denied].
    in other words. You’re wrong (again.)

    When was the last time you registered a complaint (thru
    proper channels) about sacrileges in your local parish?
    Oh, that’s right! You don’t see sacrilege in the
    way North American Catholics comport themselves. You only
    get huffy about French peasants not following
    rubrics during a near riot!
    What are the rubrics for cleansing a Temple?

    k.c.

  32. cmm says:

    One last remark to dcs: you say the bishop’s decision was not just because Fr. Michel’s appointment was indefinite.

    Actually, Fr. Michel’s parish disappeared as part of the re-organization of the diocese, and got merged with the neighboring parish. So the decision of his transfer went hand-in-hand with the merge. Nothing unjust about that a priori!

    Of course there is the particular context that made the bishop’s decision unwise, to say the least, but I don’t think that you can base your argument on regulations. The bishop was well within his right.

    My summary of this story:
    1. Fr. Michel is a well-liked, successful, traditional parish priest. His parish is the most popular of the diocese.
    2. The Bishop made decisions, motivated by real diocese-wide management issues, and most likely by a personal dislike of Fr. Michel’s style. His merge/transfer decisions would have destroyed Fr. Michel’s relationship with his parishioners. Those decisions are unwise but legal, and he is within his right.
    3. After a 2-year conflict involving everyone, the bishop came to announce his final decisions in the local church at Mass. He was dressed to maximize conflict.
    4. Regardless of the rest of the story, no one can approve of the attitude of the parishioners, who rebelled in a shameful scene of chaos and swearwords, right there at Mass!
    5. Fr. Michel is appealing to Rome against the bishop’s decision. While waiting the Bishop, after consulting with the nuncio, has temporarily allowed him to celebrate Mass, baptisms and funerals in Thiberville.
    6. Is Rome going to support Fr. Michel in spite of the unsightly revolt that he helped organize and of the outrage to episcopal authority that he encouraged, or support the Bishop in spite of his legal but destructive decisions and of his unpastoral attitude? Time will tell…

  33. Clinton says:

    cmm, that is a fine job of summing it up. I wouldn’t change a word.

  34. Marc says:

    While I would normally not support or condone in any way the type of behavior seen in the Thiberville church, I cannot fail in this case to see some important facts:

    In a traditional Mass, especially a TLM, the start of the Mass with the priest at the foot of the Altar reciting the prayers before climbing to the Altar imparts an immediate sense of the Sacred action taking place. In such a context, I doubt the parishioners would have dared to interrupt. If you look at the video of the event, you have a very different situation. When someone comes dressed as a clown, and starts what looks more like a meeting than a Mass in a very emotionally charged context, it is easy to let the important issues at stake take precedence and feel that you are not interrupting anything sacred. In other words, I think the parishioners did not see the event as an interruption of Holy Mass or as disrespect to the institution of the Bishop, but as the moment to air their legitimate anger at a grossly unfair pastor at a town hall meeting. It did happen in the church, but again, the way the bishop was dressed made it difficult to take him seriously in this traditionally styled church, and made him look like an out-of-step “intruder” on “their” territory. (It does not help that +Nourrichard’s diocesan newspaper publishes attacks on the Holy Father and articles denying the real presence in the Eucharist).

    Had the bishop dressed appropriately, used proper liturgy, events would have been very different. Traditional catholics have often been decried for paying “too much attention to external factors such as rites and the ways priests are dressed”, but liturgy expresses what it means. If you do not look the part, do not act like a bishop, do not be surprised people lose sight of who you are. And the dismal statistics of the Church in France and other countries show that the fruits of the “pastoral” approaches that followed Vatican II have been disastrous.

    In this context, Fr. Michel is one of the few that kept a sane approach (and again, mostly within the bounds of Paul VI liturgy!) He should be commended and promoted, not persecuted. I believe there will be a before and an after Thiberville because this time it is just too obvious.

    Marc

  35. cmm with my redactions in brackets>>>>1. Fr. Michel is a well-liked,
    successful, traditional parish priest. His parish is the most popular of
    the diocese.
    2. The Bishop made decisions, motivated by real diocese-wide management issues, and most likely by a personal dislike of Fr. Michel’s style.[cmm and clinton, when will you
    get it? This is not a question of style or taste. it's belief! lex orandi!]
    His merge/transfer decisions would have destroyed Fr. Michel’s relationship with his parishioners [and instituted the reign of the rainbow people!]. Those decisions are unwise but legal, and he is within his right[if anything is clear from this discussion
    and the bishop's meeting with the nuncio -- this is at least an open
    question].
    3. After a 2-year conflict involving everyone, the bishop came to announce his final decisions in the local church at Mass. He was dressed to maximize conflict.
    4. Regardless of the rest of the story, no one can approve of the attitude
    of the parishioners,[no one except the Pope's ambassador and half the
    followers of this blog including me] who rebelled in a shameful
    scene of chaos and swearwords right there at Mass!,[stop the goody-2-shoes
    stuff! Was God's name blasphemed? No! ooooo they used the sh-- word! so
    did the St. Paul 'right there' in the B-i-b-l-e!]
    5. Fr. Michel is appealing to Rome against the bishop’s decision. [in this
    one assertion you may be correct, but I have searched and not found
    Fr. Michel's report or appeal. maybe cmm has it? Summorum Pontificum grants
    Fr. Michel the right to celebrate the traditional mass, with or without
    the ordinary bishop's approval. No appealing needed]
    While waiting the Bishop, after consulting with the nuncio,
    has temporarily [just until hell freezes over] allowed him
    to celebrate Mass, baptisms and funerals in Thiberville.
    6. Is Rome going to support Fr. Michel in spite of the unsightly revolt
    [that's what it's all about, they didn't play nice!] that he helped
    organize and of the outrage to episcopal authority that he encouraged
    [pure speculation] or support the Bishop in spite of his legal but destructive decisions and of his unpastoral attitude? Time will tell…[if Rome were as scandalized
    as cmm and Clinton, Masses would cease at Thiberville until things were
    resolved. But Masses do continue with Fr. Michel still celebrating
    because things are already resolved!]

    k.c.

  36. Clinton says:

    Marc, I’ve read something elsewhere that may play into what you describe. It seems that the crowds that Fr. Michel’s Masses
    drew to the church in Thiberville included many people from outside the village. The village econony benefited from the influx
    of visitors, as many also spent money in Thiberville while there for services. In short, even those villagers who otherwise do
    not darken the door of a Catholic church were intensely interested in the outcome of the Bishop’s announcement, and would be
    put out by any change of the status quo.

    I doubt that such villagers would be so utterly unfamiliar with the inside of a church that they wouldn’t know they were behaving
    abominably. But it is possible that for such people, respect for the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, the Mass in progress
    and the person of the Bishop might mean little or nothing. Sound plausible?

  37. Marc says:

    Clinton, “the Mass in progress”? That’s the point: there was hardly a Mass in progress. All that one could see was a man dressed in clownish clothes, starting a meeting. Nothing like a Mass as parishioners knew it. They just could not recognize a Mass in this event. I do not believe that most people in the church were outsiders. The issue is not commerce: remember 40 of the diocese’s 170 confirmations or so come from Thiberville. This is a religious event. And because of this, because the Bishop removed himself from any credible religious perspective but acted as a vengeful manager of “his possession”, the anger of the faithful was in this particular case understandable and ultimately right. I might have used personally other words, but it does not really matter. The parishioners of Thiberville, (and not the shopkeepers) did a tremendous service to the Church by not resigning themselves to their spiritual immolation. After all their souls are at stake, and this is much more important than proper appearances towards a pastor that does not care for them. In one of the videos, you can see Father Jean Vivien, the would-be new curate of Thiberville and close associate of +Nourrichard: he delightfully tells the TV crew that Fr. Michel “disobeyed” so much and so often, that he had to know that this was coming to him. He cannot disguise his revolting glee.

    I have long hesitated to blame clergy. After all, they followed their vocation, are living for the Church, gave up marriage and material goods… Who am I to criticize them? But then, I see that Dominicans in the Netherlands openly advocate “eucharistic celebrations” led by lay people and even non-catholics, that +Nourrichard’s diocesan newspaper says the Pope should learn to shut up, and that it is superstitious to believe in the real presence in the Eucharist, and countless horrors by clergy…

    So, the real guide is indeed the well know, well established Magistery of the Holy Church, in communion with the Holy Father. However, as a man, even the Pope can have failings: some of the behavior of Paul VI, who otherwise gave some of the most admirable testimony of Christian life and faith, is difficult to understand: the attempted “abolition” of the TLM, the persecution of those who only asked to be allowed to keep it alive such as Mgr Lefebvre and even all those who sought to keep some sense of tradition, were appalling to Cardinal Ratzinger and millions of Catholics, and Benedict XVI has clearly reversed the tide. So Mgr Lefebvre formally disobeyed, and gravely with the episcopal consecrations, but had he not, I doubt we would have the TLM today anywhere as almost all the traditional communities, monasteries, and societies today have their origins in or near the SSPX…

    It’s a tough world, and Thiberville may help turn the tide…

  38. Clinton says:

    Marc, I based my theory on some comments made by the mayor of Thiberville. I’m guessing that the parishioners far outnumbered
    the interested non-churchgoers. I merely suggest that the presence of those for whom the church was just another room full of
    people might explain some of the worst of what we saw.

    +Nourrichard was installed as Bishop of Evreux in 2006. I don’t think he’s been there long enough for the sorry state of the diocese to
    be entirely his doing. But he has been there long enough to make himself loathed. I’m not clear on how episcopal appointments are
    made in France–I think the state is somehow involved and can veto appointments–but perhaps the deep old files that make decisions
    there could see to a transfer to someplace more suitable to his talents. I’m thinking of a place where his fascinating taste in vesture
    might go unremarked–yes, make him Bishop of EuroDisney! And for the now-vacant see of Evreux, it would seem sensible to
    appoint a shepherd known and beloved by the flock, someone who has demonstrated zeal and effectiveness, someone who has
    demonstrated understanding of the Pope’s Marshall Plan for the Church…Fr, Michel.

  39. Marc,

    is there a link to the Evreux diocese’s newspaper article on the Real Presence?

    Clinton,

    >>>it would seem sensible to
    appoint a shepherd known and beloved by the flock, someone who has demonstrated zeal and effectiveness, someone who has
    demonstrated understanding of the Pope’s Marshall Plan for the Church…Fr, Michel<<<

    Amen!

  40. Marc says:

    kc,

    http://evreux.catholique.fr/contenu/documents/eglise_evreux/EE%202009_17.pdf page 20 for the denial of the real presence which is “to be intended as symbolic only”, and

    for the attack on Benedict XVI “who should learn to shut up”:
    http://evreux.catholique.fr/contenu/documents/eglise_evreux/EE%202009_17.pdf p. 26

  41. robtbrown says:

    Marc, I’ve read something elsewhere that may play into what you describe. It seems that the crowds that Fr. Michel’s Masses
    drew to the church in Thiberville included many people from outside the village. The village econony benefited from the influx
    of visitors, as many also spent money in Thiberville while there for services. In short, even those villagers who otherwise do
    not darken the door of a Catholic church were intensely interested in the outcome of the Bishop’s announcement, and would be
    put out by any change of the status quo.

    I doubt that such villagers would be so utterly unfamiliar with the inside of a church that they wouldn’t know they were behaving
    abominably. But it is possible that for such people, respect for the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, the Mass in progress
    and the person of the Bishop might mean little or nothing. Sound plausible?
    Comment by Clinton

    Couldn’t you say the same thing the about Lourdes? No doubt there are lukewarm Catholics or non believers there who benefit financially because of the shrine. Ditto Chartres, Ars, Nevers and any pilgrimage site.

    And my understanding is that the concordat between the Church and the French govt was abrogated 100 years ago. The govt, therefore, has no say in episcopal appointments.

  42. robtbrown says:

    Although the reaction of the laity is unfortunate, nevertheless, in light of the 30+ years of programmed persecution of Latin leaners (which included attempts at desensitizing them), there is a certain holy inevitability to the events.

    If moving the pastor was a part of that program, then IMHO the bishop is rightly criticized.

    If the pastor was moved without considering the effect on the laity, then the competence of the bishop is to be questioned.

  43. robtbrown says:

    2. The Bishop made decisions, motivated by real diocese-wide management issues, and most likely by a personal dislike of Fr. Michel’s style. His merge/transfer decisions would have destroyed Fr. Michel’s relationship with his parishioners. Those decisions are unwise but legal, and he is within his right.
    Comment by cmm

    It don’t think it’s that simple. It is not correct to assume that a pastor has no right to remain in his position.

    From the CIC:

    Can. 522 It is necessary that a parish priest have the benefit of stability, and therefore he is to be appointed for an indeterminate period of time. The diocesan Bishop may appoint him for a specified period of time only if the Episcopal Conference has by decree allowed this.

  44. Marc says:

    As for episcopal nomination, the French Government indeed has no formal role except in Alsace and Lorraine where the Concordat is still in force because these regions were part of Germany when the Concordat was abrogated in 1905, but the system has relied heavily on co-optation with the existing bishops proposing candidates through the nuncio. Although the Pope is free to appoint whom he choses, this right has been more theoretical than practical for way too long. The Holy See seems to have recently reasserted its authority, and the nomination of a new “ratzingerian” nuncio is expected to lead to a new crop of bishops.

  45. Clinton says:

    robtbrown, re: your 11:04 am comment… I’m sure that there are many non-Catholics and non-practicing Catholics that benefit
    financially from the shrines of Lourdes, Fatima, etc. However, my point is that +Nourrichard’s removal of Fr. Michel would have had
    a negative impact on the boost the village’s economy is experiencing. If the Church ever threatened to close down, say, Lourdes,
    there would be people protesting — and the crowds would include some who were upset not because of the loss to the Faith, but
    because of the loss to their pocketbooks.

    I’m sure the crowd in the church in Thiberville was, for the most part, made up of loyal parishioners. But, as I said before, I merely
    suggest that the presence of some folk for whom a church is just another room full of people might explain some of the worst of
    what we saw.

    Marc, that’s good news regarding the French government’s inability to interfere in episcopal appointments. That would make it so
    much simpler if it’s decided to move Bishop Nourrichard somewhere his failings can do less damage.

  46. Clinton says:

    I don’t think cmm disputes that Canon Law provides for the stability of a parish priest in his parish. And it would be yet another
    astonishing example of incompetence on the part of the Bishop if he was unaware of the relevant Church laws. However, we must keep
    in mind that two years ago Fr. Michel agreed to be transferred. I have no idea if that agreement affects his ability to claim the
    protection of Canon Law now — does he get to change his mind and take it back? The Bishop thinks not, as does, I assume, his stable
    of canon lawyers.

    Also consider that by dissolving the parish of Thiberville and merging its churches and chapels with that cluster of other parishes, the
    Bishop would sever Fr. Michel from Thiberville –not by removing the priest from the parish, but the parish from the priest.
    It would be hard for Fr. Michel to claim a right to stability with a parish that no longer exists. I’m not a canon lawyer, and my
    information on this is all filtered through news accounts, but it is possible that this is a perfectly legal workaround for the Bishop.

    +Nourrichard has been working up to this moment for several years. While he appears to be a fool, I don’t think he is such a great
    fool that he wouldn’t act without believing he had Canon Law behind him. It’s up to Rome to sort that out now.