Summorum Pontificum and the Battle of Thiberville, France:
“At Thiberville, the Bishop of Evreux wants to suffocate the Motu Proprio…”
This is not what St. Ignatius meant when he said, “Where the Bishop is, there is the multitude . . . ”
Background on today’s story from 01.02.2010:
Communiqué: At Thiberville, the Bishop of Evreux wants to suffocate the Motu Proprio
The Diocese of Evreux is one of the most damaged in France. After Bishop Gaillot and Bishop David, Bishop Nourrichard is presiding over the bankruptcy of a formerly Christian land, where the churches close one after the other, catechism classes no longer attended, vocations discouraged, finances dried up.
In this desert, a priest, Fr. Francis Michel, is in charge of the most vibrant parish, Thiberville. It happens that this parish priest, who is not a product of the traditionalist world, but who is deeply traditionally-minded, a Catholic, anticipated the application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI, many long years ago. Masses are celebrated in his church is the form now called “extraordinary”, and other Masses in the “ordinary form”, but in a way that complies with the wishes of Benedict XVI and “turned” towards the Lord. The result? 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.
Beyond all the other reasons advanced, this is why the Bishop wants to abolish worship at Thiberville. The ideology of the “spirit of the Council”, 40 years late, has to be applied. After many episodes, Bishop Nourrichard is going to try to bury this ministry: next Sunday, 3rd January, he will go to Thiberville with his advisors and, during the 10 am Mass, he will announce with “pain” his decision without appeal: the parish of Thiberville will no longer have its own priest, who is “removed”, and the parish will be joined to a “pastoral sector”, that of Bernay. The death of parochial Catholicism rather than questioning the ideology.
At Thiberville and in the surrounding areas, everybody is worried. First of all, they really like Fr. Michel and then because the Bishop isn’t going to replace him. All the local authorities of the region and all the parishioners will be present to express their support to this highly popular priest, who might have badly expressed himself at times, but whose main fault, for his Bishop, is to be too “Papalist”.
Sunday 3rd January, the Catholic protest of God’s people will be calm to ask for the Pope’s wishes to be applied at Thiberville.
The support committee for Fr. Michel
Everyone has been watching this fervent parish in Normandy where the parish priest is far from being extreme. He is simply a Catholic loyal to the Pope. The whole parish community of brave country folk came to protest its anger against the planned euthanasia of a vibrant parish by one of the most “progressive” and anti-clerical bishops in France, Bishop Nourrichard of Evreux.
The bishop arrived at Thiberville this morning with Fr. Vivien, his Vicar General and parish priest of Bernay, to announce the removal of a priest he judged to be too Catholic for his taste. The church was packed. The local Mayor and his council were there in the front pew.
The Bishop began his Mass, which was an improvised mess. Parents took away their children who were serving Mass and the local authorities got up and left the church. All that remained of the hundreds of persons was a small group of 21 and only 3 from the parish of Thiberville. The Bishop was confronted with the anger of the simple country people he despises. They don’t understand the Council – he said. The people suggested that His Lordship would do well to revise his catechism!
Fr. Michel announced that he would celebrate Mass at Bournainville-Favrolles, one of his other parish churches. The crowd of people followed, and the church wasn’t big enough for everyone. It was a reform of the reform (ordinary form) Mass, facing God. The Bishop was in a rage, but was prevented from approaching the sanctuary of the church. During this time, Fr. Michel announced that he remained the parish priest, something a Roman decision would certainly confirm as soon as an appeal is made against the Bishop’s decree. In canon law, a sentence becomes effective only after the definitive judgement.
Everything happened before the French television and local journalists. There were also Parisian journalists one would not call traditionalists, yet they were amazed by the Bishop’s complete mismanagement of the situation he had provoked, and that he should logically resign his See.
Let us continue to support this brave priest in our prayers, and I will try to contact him shortly to tell him about our own combat.
Sunday evening update:
There is another side, however, to this story. Fr. Michel has been pastor of this parish for more than 20 years, and the policy in French dioceses is to move priests every five or six years, to prevent people from becoming attached to their priest. The stability of the parish priest is a thing of the past, and people have to get used to dealing with an administrator, a bureaucrat, rather than a spiritual father.
I have known priests who have been in their parishes for thirty or forty years. This makes the difference between a “hireling” and a pastor. Never have bishops and priests been less pastoral than over the past forty years! A petition to support Fr. Michel has collected 4,000 signatures.
It is unfortunate that there has been open conflict between Fr. Michel and his Bishop. He might win an appeal to the Apostolic Nuncio here in France, a conservative and a Ratzinguerian, or directly to the Roman Curia. If such a thing had occurred before 2005, the diocesan Bishop would win every time however unjust and anti-pastoral he was – and resistance has been the only way, as I have seen in other parishes. Perhaps under Benedict XVI, episcopal tyranny in the dioceses will have its limitations. A bishop’s authority is limited by the purpose of his episcopal charge. If authority is used for anti-Christian purposes and for maintaining the ideology of the “hermeneutic of rupture”, then that authority can be resisted and disobeyed.
It is a difficult one. The disobedience of a priest to his Bishop is a serious matter. So is the fact of an anti-Catholic bishop! This crisis in western Catholicism is going to continue until either something is done about the method for vetting and selecting candidates for the Episcopate, or until the old diocesan and parochial structures are dead and the mission must begin anew. This episode goes to show that many people have ceased to attend church because of the dictature of relativism and that clergy which would prefer to die than return to classical Catholicism and loyalty to Rome.
The battle of Thiberville is not won, but people are being woken to the reality!
“Well, this is one way to implement the Moto Proprio, is it not?”
I don’t know… Something just doesn’t sit right within the belly when a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church is physically blocked from entering the sanctuary of a church within his own diocese. And that, by a majority of fellow Christians he’s charged with responsibly caring for as his own as well…
All this proves a point not in vogue today: It is impossible to remain in the true faith without remaining in true union with the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Pope…
Live by it.
Read here for further coverage
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