The Archbishop of Sens-Auxerre says,
In almost twenty years of episcopate, I have buried one hundred and twenty priests, and I have ordained only one in the dioceses of Yonne and the Jura.If you go to the source, the Archbishop, Monseigneur Yves Patenôtre, chatters on about lay involvement and all that one might expect from a French bureaucrat, basically, 'It ain't my fault'.
I once went to his Cathedral to see the relics of St Thomas Becket, confession was offered on one or two days of the week the rest of the time counselling was offered in the same slot by Mademoiselle ...... .
It is very easy to say, "If I were Pope, I would ...." Well, I hope Pope Francis would get rid of Bishops who allow their diocese to die and rather than donning sack cloth and ashes and cry out to heaven for help, excuse themselves, finding some cunning pastoral plan to cover up their failure.
There was a rather silly myth going around among some English bishops a decade or so ago that the absence of priests was the way God was showing the Church that it needed to empower the laity. So rather than a priest bringing Viaticum to the dying or Communion to the sick, or presiding over non-sacramental prayer the laity took his place, and invariably lay women. In France it is quite normal for lay led funerals, as women 'tend to be more compassionate than men', they tend to do it. I am not sure if it is happening in parts of France yet but there are certain parts of the world where the usual minister of baptism or marriage is not a priest but a catechist, male or female, more likely female. In many places it is a way of introducing female priests by stealth.
Sens-Auxerre is one of those diocese in France where practice has always been a little poor but presumably this Bishop's predecessors managed to attract the 120 priests which this bishop has buried. The problem is that the absence of priests, though bad in itself and a source of great evils, indicates a lack of health in the Church. In France things are certainly not all bad, Paris is doing comparatively well, Frejus-Toulon has as many ordination as the rest of France -excluding Paris- as the rest of France put together. The absence of priests indicates a deep disease, a loss of faith.
Perhaps Monseigneur Patenôtre needs to examine his conscience: has he actually been teaching the Catholic faith over the last twenty years, has he demanded his priests do the same? In France more than anywhere else ideology or theological speculation replaces faith.
It is important to note that Mgr Rey, the bishop of Frejus-Toulon, was a priest of the diocese of Paris (1984) and a member of the Communauté de l'Emmanuel, which was founded as recently as 1972.
Why does Paris differ from the rest of France: Cardinal Lustiger. Not surprisingly, he was never elected president of the French bishops' conference, despite presiding over Paris for over a quarter of a century.
The Pastor in Valle Adurni wrote a series of seven blog posts about the Church in France which are well worth reading.
Those are grim figures indeed though I have no idea how they compare with dioceses here in Britain.
I recently read that France had 25,000 Priests in the year 2000. Today the country has 13,000 and it was estimated that in 10 years time the figure will be 6,000. I have heard of single Priests being in charge of over a dozen country churches. They spend more of their time on the road than in their churches.
On kto there was a fascinating film some time ago showing the work of two or possibly three Priests who looked after eighteen different county parishes. They needed an enormous calendar board in their presbytery to record where and when they had to be each day.
I don't know anything about Mgr Patenotre (a great name for a Bishop!) but surely an open necked shirt teamed with a pectoral cross is not an image which encourages respect for a Bishop.
Googling this particular Bishop I see that he has 95 Priests in his diocese of whom only 18 are less than 60 years old. There is not a single seminarian in the diocese which is somewhat ironic as I see that the Bishop was the director of the seminary in Reims from 1970 - 1976.
Seeing a lack of vocations as a sign of God that the sacred task of the shepherd should be handed over to the sheep?!? Why do so many Bishops seem to want to be politicians, or peace corp reps rather than Shepherds of the flock of Our Lord? St Ignatius of Antioch would surely find such a Shepherd most strange.
On ChurchMilitant.TV a study called 'Dispatches' http://www.churchmilitant.tv/platform/index.php?ssnID=266&vidID=sting
show the figures for the United States. They are basically horrible. The numbers predict that within the next 40 years the Catholic Church will all but have disappeared from that land.
I have been to churches in that part of France - the village has a service once a month, and the main town has just two churches remaining open. Nearby Vezelay is a bit weird too. But isn't SSPX keeping things going?
The hermeneutic of rupture Church in France is in meltdown. As far as I can see, that section of the Church which holds to continuity is small but growing steadily, as is borne out by a rapid scan through the internet.
One young Frenchman I met recently freely moves between the NO and the EF but with a clear preference for the EF. French Catholics have less hang up about the Soc Pius X than in UK and will happily go to their Mass. He is now studying for the priesthood and whatever order, my guess is that the Traditional Mass will figure in his repertoire.
I suspect that this model i.e., rapid decline in heterodox Catholicism, and steady growth in orthodox Catholicism, both laity and clergy, based on sound liturgy, will be the pattern over the next fifty years throughout Europe, giving us the smaller but Catholic Church that Benedict predicted.
I spoke to one retired British bishop who had seen a similar drop in numbers. He seemed incapable of admitting his role in the mess not that I was looking for such an admission but a smidgeon of realism wouldn’t have gone amiss. What is sad about the old (and it’s a fate that awaits us all) is that far from becoming wiser they risk regression into childish thinking. Wisdom is acquired through practice and not by white hair.
The apostate bishops, of which there are many, are quite happy to have presided over the collapse of vocations to priesthood, religious life, the collapse in baptisms and confirmations, and the loss of faith and morals of the majority of baptised. If the bishops refuse to teach, sanctify and govern in accordance with the Deposit of Faith, this is what necessarily results.
The reason for fewer priests is the fault of the laity we act like we do not need them. In those areas where the Priests are busier than a one armed paper hanger vocations flourish. In those places where the sacraments are not flourishing priests are getting fewer and fewer. Is this not to a thinking catholic more true than many other reasons
c'mon. You know better. You can't dump on the women on this one. Dump on a STUPID bishop who can't even be bothered to wear proper clerical dress. He looks like a hippy who found a big cross in a charity shop and is wearing it for a joke.
If women are stepping up to the plate to offer what help they can, let's remember that too many men either a)WORK A LOT to keep bread on the table and b) are less religious, as a rule of thumb than women. French men think it's cool to be "atheist" or "agnostic." I'm tired of women getting dumped on for everything wrong with the church.
Fr Blake, this story reminds me of the problems that French clergy had at the beginning of the nineteenth century when they had to pick up the pieces after the depredations of the French Revolution. I have been compiling a history of the Weymouth parish and found some letters that had been transcribed from public archives. These were letters from priests serving in Weymouth to the local Bishop.
The earliest priests were emigré Fathers who had fled the French Revolution. Of note was Abbé Pierre Dubuisson, who was already 73 years old when he came to Weymouth in 1820. But he was called back to France in 1822 by the Bishop of Bourges. He paid a preliminary visit in early 1822 and in his letter to Bishop Collingridge wrote
“In the course of my journey I visited my former parish . . .and was quite stunned to find my poor parishioners stuck in vice and ignorance for want of a priest for many years. There are 6 parishes joined together without a single priest among them. They kept neither Holy Days nor Sundays at all. More than half of them are grown up without any knowledge of their religion.
“The Archbishop of Bourges insists upon me to take of not only my former parish but also two other parishes. . .The length of the 3 parishes exceeds more than 7 miles and the population 2000 souls.
“My pity has overcome all my feelings. I will cheerfully go, although I will meet many difficulties. All the priests houses have been sold, the churches have been stripped of all their silver plates and ornaments; the parishioners must provide houses for the priest, repair the churches and furnish all that is necessary for Divine Service.
“But a great many of them are far from being disposed to contribute and it will require some time before the very many necessary things will be supplied. The salary which comes from the Government is only £30 per year”
When Abbé Dubuisson returned to France in 1822, he would have been 75 years old - he remarkable heroism to take up this challenge so late in life. Rest in Peace, Abbé Pierre!
History shows that the heroic efforts of priests like Abbé Pierre bore fruit. We pray for similar heroism in our days.
He is seventy three. Another two years to retirement.
On his present "batting average", that means another twelve priests "to go" (but probably more) before he retires
And that will leave only 83 priests left in his archdiocese when he retires. Most of them will probably be over 60 years of age
It is interesting to compare this Bishop's record with that of the parish of St Eugene-Ste Cecile in Paris. According to 'Paix Liturgique' (English letter No 40) the parish has had over THIRTY priestly or religious vocations in just NINE years.
And how does this parish differ from other French parishes?
The parish celebrates Mass in both forms with a sung EF on Sunday morning. The singing of the Schola is superb and the ancient vestments used there are magnificent. They must be doing something right!
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