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TOULON, France (ChurchMilitant.com) - Liberal cardinals have ganged up to persecute a faithful bishop who is known for his support of traditionalist Catholics and who presides over a flourishing French seminary.
Bishop Dominique Rey of the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon announced Thursday that Rome had blocked him from conducting the ordination of six deacons and four priests at the end of June.
The sanction follows a "fraternal visit" to the diocese by the archbishop of Marseilles and the metropolitan archbishop of the province, Jean-Marc Aveline, at the behest of Rome.
In a letter to the priests of Fréjus-Toulon, Bp. Rey said Rome ordered the review of the diocese because of "questions that certain Roman dicasteries were asking about the restructuring of the seminary and the policy of welcoming people to the diocese."
Aveline's visitation was followed by a meeting with Cdl. Marc Ouellet, former archbishop of Quebec and prefect of the Congregation for Bishops — one of the Vatican's most powerful offices, which oversees the selection of bishops.
Clerical sources in the French diocese told Church Militant that Bp. Rey had incurred Rome's wrath because some felt he was welcoming too many traditionalist clergymen into the diocese.
One member of the clergy explained that "traditionalist Catholicism is part of the French Catholic panorama, with many religious communities offering the Traditional Latin Mass" and "almost 50% of priestly vocations coming from traditionalist communities."
A professor of theology in the diocese elaborated on how numerous other vocations came from clergy associations like the Community of St. Martin, which has a classical formation but does not celebrate the TLM.
The academic noted:
In recent years, Bp. Rey modelled his diocesan seminary along the lines of the St. Martin model. He welcomed traditionalist seminarians, but always asked them to be open to the New Mass. He helped to found communities that were charismatic, yet tied to the Old Rite.
Bishop Rey himself is from the charismatic Emmanuel Community and is very open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. This isn't understood in Rome, where the liberal ideology is closed to the working of the Holy Spirit and open to the spirit of the age, like the LGBTQ+ movement.
Ouellet's hatchet job on Rey was supported by at least three other prelates — Cardinal-elect Arthur Roche, Cdl. Kevin Farrell and Abp. José Rodríguez Carballo, Church Militant has learned from informed Vatican sources.
Roche, the newly appointed prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, is a key figure carrying out Pope Francis' restriction of the TLM, following the promulgation of the pontiff's Traditionis Custodes, which severely limits the celebration of the Old Rite.
Farrell, head of the Vatican Dicastery on Laity, Family and Life, was a close companion of and auxiliary bishop to disgraced homopredator and ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The Irish-American prelate was also close to serial pedophile and rapist Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ.
Carballo, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, has been known to target faithful religious orders. In 2019, he banished the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament of Saltillo, Mexico.
"What is scandalous about all of this is that all three prelates have criticized 'clericalism'" a priest from Toulon told Church Militant. "What do they think they have done by stopping ordinations? They have told these young men, 24 days before their ordination, that Rome has blocked everything. The families who had planned to travel are devastated."
The cleric noted the contrast with priests and bishops in Germany who bless same-sex couples but face no repercussions from Rome while "a good and fatherly bishop working like a missionary in secular France is being punished for his faithful service to the Church."
Carballo earlier blamed "clericalism" for clerical sex abuse in an interview with Spanish weekly Vida Nueva. "Clericalism is dying, not because we've done anything to kill it, but out of the sheer numbers," Farrell said, claiming priests had "no credibility" to prepare laypeople for marriage. Ouellet has called clericalism a "deviation" from the priestly vocation.
Sources in Rome have also said that the illicit "priesting" of Dom Alcuin Reid, a traditionalist liturgical scholar, may have been used as a pretext to block the ordinations.
Reid, who heads the monastic Community of St. Benedict in Rey's diocese, was refused ordination by several bishops and illicitly ordained by an unnamed bishop described on the monastery's website as "a senior prelate in unimpeded communion with the Holy See."
However, in a communiqué dated May 13, the monastic community makes clear that Rey himself refused to ordain Reid and that he refrained from conducting the ordination out of fear of reprisal from the Vatican.
Rey's office clarified that the bishop had in "no way given his permission for this ordination, nor had he sent a 'dimissorial' letter [testifying that an individual is suitable to be ordained by another bishop]" to the unknown bishop.
In fact, Rey immediately suspended Dom Alcuin and prevented him from celebrating the sacraments after news of the secret ordination became known.
Bishop Rey could not ordain Reid because he had been told by the Australian bishops back in 2010 that there was a moral impediment. The bishop provided Alcuin with a chaplain and hoped the community would grow, a Toulon priest said.
A 2010 newspaper article (later deleted after Reid threatened legal action for libel) alleged that Reid had engaged in gay grooming and homosexual misconduct when he was a seminarian in Melbourne in the 1980s.
The article noted that several bishops had urged Reid to seek laicization and that his faculties as a deacon were removed in 1991.
Observers in France also think Rey's success may have sparked jealousy among his fellow bishops. While every diocese in France, including Paris, is struggling for vocations, the seminary in Fréjus-Toulon has 50 seminarians.
The diocese itself has 250 active priests, half the number of active priests in the Paris diocese. Further, the age pyramid of Fréjus-Toulon is the opposite of the other French dioceses, with 75% of priests under 64 years and 30% under 44 years.
Rey has also been involved in evangelizing Muslims, and at least 10% of Catholics in his diocese in recent times hail from an Islamic background. The bishop recently ordained two Muslim converts to the priesthood.
Even the left-wing British newspaper The Guardian translated and reprinted a story from liberal French media Le Monde, holding Rey as a model of active evangelism "by working with different religious communities, whether French or foreign, large or small, charismatic, traditionalist or missionary."
The diocese is "active in worship, prayer or explicit evangelization — for instance, by going door to door or being present on beaches and in nightclubs," The Guardian noted.