Thursday, January 21, 2010

When the shepherd becomes a wolf...

...the flock has a right to defend itself.

Actually, according to Dom Prosper Gueranger, that right is more of a duty. Gueranger was referring to the protest registered by the layman Eusebius against the heresy of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who in his Christmas Day sermon in the year 428 denied the Divine Maternity of our Blessed Lady before the entire congregation.

In the recent brouhaha in the church of Saint-Taurin, Thiberville, in the French diocese of Evreux, we see the lay faithful doing just what Eusebius did nearly sixteen centuries ago by rising up in wrath against their perfidious bishop and ejecting him from their church.

The bishop of Evreux, Mgr. Christian Nourrichard, removed the orthodox and traditionally-minded pastor, Abbé Francis Michel, and re-assigned him to a ministry among liberals. The faithful of Saint-Taurin were doubly upset since not only did they lose their priest thereby, but his traditional sacerdotal ministry was to be replaced, in true modernist fashion, by that of a ‘team’.

It might be objected that Mgr. Nourrichard’s crime was not of the same order as that of Nestorius; it cannot be claimed, for instance, that he openly denied a defined doctrine of the Church, and he violated no law, either civil or ecclesiastical.

Nonetheless, what the bishop was doing amounted to taking away the people’s bread in order to feed them with stones instead, a move in which we cannot help but discern ideological partiality in the post-conciliar religious wars within the Church.

“Or what man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone? Or if he shall ask him a fish, will he reach him a serpent?”—Mt. 7:9-10.

Mgr. Nourrichard’s contempt for the faithful of Saint-Taurin is emblazoned forth on the silly chasuble he chose for the occasion—rainbow colours more suited to a children’s birthday party than to the most holy sacrifice of the Mass. Furthermore, he cannot have been ignorant of the significance of the rainbow to the homosexualist movement, and the consequent scandal to the faithful on that account. What kind of statement was he attempting to make with such provocative gestures? The faithful of Saint-Taurin seem to have been in no doubt as to their bishop’s intentions.

Happily, the flock would not meekly submit to this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Their resistance was offered immediately and with great heat, as may be seen in the remarkable video footage below:

And this:

And this, courtesy of the French network TFI:

After a meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio, we are informed that Mgr. Nourrichard has “changed his mind”, and that Abbé Francis Michel is to remain in charge of Saint-Taurin, at least for the foreseeable future.

Concern has been expressed in certain quarters of the blogosphere regarding the reaction of the congregation to Mgr. Nourrichard’s behaviour. Some commentators were unhappy that the bishop was booed and heckled in the sanctuary, and that voices were raised in anger before the very altar of God. Likewise, concerns have been raised regarding obedience to legitimate authority. It is a difficult question, and we must not lightly toss aside the obedience and filial respect we owe to our spiritual shepherds. Melancholicus has considered the matter carefully over several days but in the end must come down on the side of the congregation of Saint-Taurin. For Mgr. Nourrichard’s actions do not constitute the exercise of lawful authority so much as the abuse of it. Recalling Dom Gueranger, when the shepherd becomes a wolf, the flock has a right to defend itself. The flock likewise has a right to bread rather than stones, and fish rather than serpents. We have scriptural precedents for dramatic, even violent, resistance to attempts to weaken or destroy the sacredness of holy religion: Mattathias slaying the apostate Jew on the altar of sacrifice (I Macc. 2:23-4), and the Lord Jesus driving forth the moneychangers from the Temple (Mt. 21:12-13), to recall but two such.

What the faithful of Saint-Taurin did was necessary. It may indeed be regrettable; but what is most regrettable is that they had to do it in the first place—for which Mgr. Nourrichard, and he alone, bears the responsibility.

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