One wonders to what extent this decision will negatively impact on the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, not to speak of its effect on tradition-minded parish or assistant priests.
The following is a quick translation of the Osservatore Vaticano article, courtesy of our friend Natasja Hoven of Katolsk Observator:
Everybody knows the very famous case, in the diocese of Évreux. This diocese is one of the most ill-fated in France. After Mgr Gaillot and Mgr David, the not so genial Mgr Nourrichard administers the collapse of a land which in times past was Christian, a land where churches are closed one after the other, catechism is deserted, vocations discouraged and finances dried up.
In this desert, a priest, abbé Francis Michel, maintains the most flourishing of parishes, Thiberville. This parish priest, not coming from a traditionalist milieu but profoundly traditionalist, in anticipation had applied the motu proprio Pope Benedict XVI, that is, turned towards the Lord. since many years back. In his church the masses are celebrated according to the form in our days called “the extraordinary form” and also masses according to the “ordinary” form, but in a manner in conformity with the wishes of
And what was the result? Thiberville and the 14 parishes which abbé Michel is serving formed the most living Catholic ensemble and the one with the greatest missionary zeal of the diocese of Évreux : the church of Thiberville is full at all the masses, assuring the service “in turn” for the other churches ( desserte « tournante » des autres églises), there we find sound catechism, active participation of the faithful, abundance of ministrants, confraternities, all the churches magnificently restored, funerals celebrated by the parish priest himself … Those parishes where the communion of all the Catholics are lived in an exemplary way are a model for the application of the pope’s wish.
This is exactly what the “spirit of Vatican II”, with 40 years of delay, is not able to stand. At the end of December of last year, Mgr Nourrichard informed the parish priest … that his parish was abolished and brought together with a “parish ensemble”. By this procedure, the parish of Thiberville would no more have a parish priest of its own, as he was “withdrawn”.
We all know what followed: On January 3rd the bishop went to Thiberville with his collaborators in order to announce “with distress” the decision “beyond recall”. However he met with the revolt of the whole canton, which refused the end of the Catholic faith in this corner of the Norman land. A church full to the brim, on the first row of which were present the mayor and the county councilor together with the whole municipal council, acclaimed their parish priest and hindered the bishop to announce that he was suppressing the parish and its parish priest.
An appeal was then (twice) presented within the prescribed delay, before the Congregation for the clergy. The case was overwhelming for the bishop. It is necessary to understand that such an appeal is a delaying appeal: things remain as they are as long as the Roman decision does not intervene. In similar cases the Roman decision usually comes very late, when emotions have calmed down.
On the other hand everybody knows that Rome strongly disapproves of parish regroupings that are legally indefinable, this being a problem which retains the keen interest of the Roman canonists. Since the Council the rights of the parish priest have diminished. The traditional principal of the irremovability of the parish priest remaining (as in the popular saying: “the parish priest is the pope of the parish”). But the bishops’ conferences of each country have received the faculty of disregarding this right. This is how it is in France: the parish priests are from now on nominated "ad tempus", which is something that notably puts off balance the structure of the traditional diocesan life: the post-conciliar French bishop actually has much more power over his priests through the nomination “game” than the traditional bishop had. Moreover, it frequently happens that bishops do not nominate parish priests but only “parish administrators”, which makes the priests even more dependent on the diocesan administration.
In this case there was thus now the situation where there was a slow process while the Congregation of the Clergy examined the case, and thus there was a recovering of calm and common sense told that the Catholic life would continue in the parishes of abbé Michel and that the unjust – legally – and disastrous – pastorally – decision of the bishop could be nothing but reversed.
And then it was exactly the opposite that happened! The appeal that was presented in the end of February received a reply less than a month later …: On March 26th abbé Michel was informed … that his appeal was turned down and purely and simply rejected! The decision is signed by Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the clergy: the parish of Thiberville does not exist anymore and thus has no parish priest.
Even in Rome one is dumbfounded. But everybody understands that the pressure exercised by the French bishops’ conference has had an uncommon force. The most eminent French instances have made it a question of principle. And they have won.
At least as yet. This decision is certainly going to be subject to appeal, and other means may be used. There is a rumor already on this matter. I will tell you more about it as soon as possible …
However it remains that for the good people of God, the negative sign that has been given is catastrophic.