Monday, January 23, 2006

Happily Évreux After

I'm stunned that we didn't hear loud party noises coming from the Right Fringe of The Fold last week.

Then again, it's not their style to party much -- be reminded that this is the onetime-fan club who were hating Ratzinger within two weeks of his election.

Thank you, Archbishop Levada.

They're always up to something over in the suburbs of Catholicism (I couldn't tell you what; it's barely visible even from my place just Right-of-Center), but it seems our Old School friends missed celebrating an anniversary that should be one of the glories of their path toward domination, unless the celebrations were kept unusually quiet -- an adjective which, as you don't need me to remind, applies to ecclesiastical conservatives only under the most exceptional circumstances.

Allow me to explain.

On 13 January 1995, John Paul II fulfilled the wildest fetishes of his ad intra base by forcibly removing Bishop Jacques Gaillot from his post as head of the French diocese of Évreux. Gaillot had a history of political activity on the French Left -- which, as you know, makes the US Democrats look like Pat Robertson -- advocated the ordination of married men and of women, and saw helping those who needed a hand as more important than screaming at people.

To answer a question that might be popping up in some of your heads: Yes, Popes can remove bishops -- the Code gives the Roman Pontiff "supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power" in the church. So, for the most part, Big Boss can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, wherever he wants, no explanation necessary.

(We interrupt our normal programming for a special announcement: Roger Mahony is still the Archbishop of Los Angeles.)

The Roman statement announcing the act taken in the Évreux case, however, done against Gaillot's will and enacted by the then-prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, said simply that the prelate "did not show himself prepared to carry out the ministry of unity which is the first duty of a bishop."

(Shhhh! Don't tell the Americans that unity is the bishop's first duty -- they'll start getting foamy-mouthed again and throw a Republica -- er, "Magisterium Rally.")

Given the circumstances of his ouster, Gaillot couldn't take the designation of "bishop-emeritus" of his diocese as he didn't voluntarily submit his resignation under the provisions of Canon 401, which regulate the renunciation of office. So, as all bishops must have some sort of diocesan title to their name, he was given a titular see, Partenia, located in what's now Mauretania.

Leaving Évreux, his farewell homily included this notable salvo:
Any Christian, any community, any Church who does not follow first and foremost the paths of people's distress, has no chance of being heard as a carrier of the Good News. That any woman or man, any community, any Church who does not become first and foremost a friend for everybody, will not be able to find the path of their heart, the secret place where the Good News can be welcomed.
Sounds suspiciously like Deus caritas est to me.....

But did Gaillot fade quietly into that good night? Course not -- he created a website for what he termed his "virtual diocese," an initiative roughly akin to the SSPX of the Left, of course with the all-important difference that Gaillot is not an excommunicated schismatic and accepted the last ecumenical council, etc. etc. etc. as valid.

The reaction in France at the move was, as one would expect, all outrage all the time, all directed straight at John Paul. It was speculated then that only if Gaillot had been the candidate of the Left in the country's 1995 presidential election would the Socialist bloc have been able to defeat the Gaullists led by Jacques Chirac.

Imagine how that would've gone over in Rome.... That's like Drinan to the 50th power.

Well, anyway, it's surprising that the Right has so soon forgotten the event that has to be seen as the apex of the last pontificate's overarching disciplinary emphasis vis a vis the local churches and the bishops -- you know, the stuff that gets conservatives relaxed and happy before they go to bed.

Which leads me to this closing proposition: If Fellay & Co. ever find it in themselves to ditch their rabid anti-Semitism, ecumenical ill-will, rejection of the validity of the liturgical renewal and ressourcement ecclesiology, affinity for the practice of Cafeteria Councils, etc. etc. etc. and end up with an apostolic administration (an event cumulatively known as "hell freezing over"), then to compensate the rest of the church for having to deal with all their baggage again and in the interests of balance, Gaillot (never a schismatic) should be rehabilitated as well and given, I don't know, the apostolic administration of the Society of Pope Paul VI or something, so that everybody can be taken care of and properly nourished as they see fit.

Say what you will about Jacques Gaillot, but at least he was ordained to the episcopacy by papal fiat to begin with....