News from Thiberville

Father Michel in his parish church at Thiberville

Only the French and Bishop Moyer in Pennsylvania!!!

See and the thread if you read French.

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!

* * *

Update of January 4th: – A French layman, a friend of mine, says on the Forum Catholique a day later:

The Bishop has manifestly lost two battles:

On the terrain he has shown to his whole diocese that he had lost the love of his flock, rich and poor alike, that he is not welcome.

Not one moment did the Bishop say that he should reconsider his position, that he without doubt badly communicated with his faithful. No, the faithful stalled. The new pastor confirms on the TV that it will be difficult to make the faithful understand: they are stupid. Both [Bishop and Vicar General] did the worst thing in terms of winning trust in the parish.

In the media: the reports do not take the side of the Bishop, who normally represents order and stability, and who seems to be in his rights. No, they remain neutral and say that the people and the secular authorities are against him [the Bishop]. On the internet, had it not been for his status as Successor of the Apostles, he would have been lynched by a number of Catholics. Curiously, searches on Google show that nobody shows him any support. The Episcopal Conference remains discreet and not even any progressive group flies to his rescue. However, a Bishop who gets booed and whistled at in church, refused a single step further forward – is extremely serious and unusual, above all when shown on television.

The churches of the pastor of Thiberville seem to be fairly full. The parish priest is well accepted and has the support of the Mayor. We suppose that the situation is viable financially. As one cannot call on the Police without the consent of the Mayor, one cannot imagine why things should change, even if the Bishop attempts a canonical and civil lawsuit. We enter into a situation of long duration like at Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet or Port-Marly[1]. The example of Niaffles can also show us how force is effective to fight against an Episcopate that reminds me of the Communist Party: long-winded ideology without purpose and gallons of black ink.

Indeed, the events of 20 years ago behind the Iron Curtain are reproduced in the Church! The Old Guard will crumble, and there will be freedom of conscience to worship God. If things were functioning normally in the diocese, the Bishop’s position would be legitimate, with the parish priest’s commensurate duty to obey. As things stand, if this priest is removed, the parish will be dead within less than one month.

I hardly see how Rome can ignore this one!

[1] A church in central Paris occupied by traditionalists in 1977 and the other, near Versailles, occupied in 1987.

Author: Fr. Anthony Chadwick

Father Anthony Chadwick was born in the north of England into an Anglican family. He was educated in one of the Church of England’s most well-known schools, St. Peter’s in York, at which he was nurtured in the Anglican musical tradition. After several years studying and working in London he studied theology at university level in Switzerland, Italy and France. Still living in France, he has been a priest of the Traditional Anglican Communion (under Archbishop Hepworth) since 2005. Fr. Chadwick is charged with chaplaincy work among dispersed Anglicans in the north of France, is married and lives in Normandy. His interests outside the Church and directly religious matters include classical music, DIY and sailing. As a non-stipendiary priest, he earns his living as a technical translator.

2 thoughts on “News from Thiberville”

  1. The new Apostolic nuncio for France is Canada's former nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Ventura. It will be very interesting to observe how the character of the episcopacy in France develops in the coming years.

    Archbishop Prendergast of Ottawa wrote on his blog:

    "Archbishop Ventura was named to Canada in June 2001,… . Since that time he has endeared himself to the bishops of Canada by his fraternal support, delightful candour and commitment to his ministry of representing the Holy Father and the Holy See among us."

    "(Archbishop Ventura) has assisted Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in renewing the episcopacy of our country. His is quite an accomplishment: seventy nominations and transfers (with a few more in the pipeline) —all in the space of eight years!"

    By the sounds of things, Archbishop Ventura has his hands full with the French.

Leave a Reply