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TOULON, France (ChurchMilitant.com) The Vatican has imposed draconian restrictions on a French bishop who upset Pope Francis by welcoming traditionalist Catholics into his diocese.
The bishop of Fréjus–Toulon, Dominique Rey, who was blocked from ordaining six deacons and four priests at the end of June, has revealed that the Vatican's Dicastery for Bishops prohibited him from receiving new priests into the diocese.
Henceforth, a presbyteral council, and not the bishop, would make decisions regarding the reception of new priests, Rey told 150 diocesan priests at a meeting on Thursday. The Code of Canon Law (canon 495) prescribes a council of priests as an advisory body to the bishop.
Rey told his clergy that Rome continued to remain silent on the fate of the candidates who had their ordinations suspended in June, thus exacerbating a "climate of uncertainty" in one of France's most flourishing dioceses.
The Dicastery of Bishops, headed by scandal-plagued Cdl. Marc Ouellet, also ordered Rey to stop receiving new communities into the diocese. Rey, who belongs to the Emmanuel Community, has incurred Rome's wrath by offering hospitality to lay and clerical traditionalist and charismatic communities.
Bishop Rey will also be compelled to force traditionalist priests to agree to concelebrate at the Chrism Mass and be available to celebrate the Ordinary Form as required, in accordance with the responsa ad dubium to Pope Francis' Traditionis Custodes — a motu proprio severely restricting the Traditional Latin Mass.
Ouellet's dicastery is further ordering Bp. Rey to establish an audit of the communities in the diocese. The audit will be overseen by "visitators" with canonical, pastoral and spiritual competencies.
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A priest close to Rey lamented the "neutralizing" of the French bishop, telling Church Militant:
On the one hand, Rome is hamstringing, neutralizing and punishing a faithful bishop who is a runaway pastoral and missionary success. On the other hand, Rome is tacitly approving and applauding German and Flemish prelates and priests who are rebelling against Church teaching and blessing same-sex couples.
While every diocese in France, including Paris, is struggling for vocations, Rey's 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. Almost 50% of priestly vocations come from traditionalist communities.
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, Church Militant reported.
The bishop told his priests that he has "recognized errors of appreciation and discernment in the reception and follow-up of certain communities," but he has "also highlighted the missionary fruits and the fruitfulness of the different charisms and pastoral initiatives of the diocese."
"I have considered the remarks, the mistakes made, without questioning the work of missionary communion to be built together," he said, explaining how he had responded to a review ordered by the Vatican.
"The place of the traditionalist world in our seminary and in the diocese also constitutes one of the sensitive points raised by the Dicastery for Bishops," Rey explained earlier in a letter.
Several members from different communities expressed their gratitude to Bp. Rey at the meeting, saying, "Thank you, bishop, for your welcome, your kindness and your fatherhood."
"We had [a] very nice fraternal day with the priests of the diocese with less than 10 years of priesthood," Rey tweeted. "[We hope] to meet again and start again better, united in the service of the gospel."
In 2012, the Guardian, a left-wing British newspaper, reprinted a story from the liberal French news outlet 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.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who has been a possible papal candidate in recent conclaves, refused to accept responsibility for a priest in the archdiocese of Quebec who raped a 17-year-old maid in the rectory, Church Militant reported.
In August, a female intern accused Ouellet in a class action lawsuit of inappropriately touching her, kissing her at an ordination party and sliding his hand down her back to touch her buttocks.
The abuse occurred when the victim was an intern with the archdiocesan chancery from 2008–2010.
The victim says that she complained to Pope Francis in January 2021 and launched a lawsuit only after the pontiff failed to act.
On Aug. 18, the Holy See Press Office issued a statement noting that "there are no elements to initiate a trial against Cdl. Ouellet for sexual assault."