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French bishop suppresses controversial religious community

Bishop Dominique Rey

Eric ESTRADE | AFP

Valdemar de Vaux - published on 06/25/22 - updated on 06/25/22

After illicit ordinations in April were revealed, the bishop of Toulon suppressed the public association of the faithful known as Monastère Saint-Benoît.

On June 2, Rome asked the bishop of Frejus-Toulon, France, Bishop Dominique Rey, to postpone the diocesan ordinations planned for the end of the month.

Since June 2, the Vatican has not spoken. However, the decision to suspend the planned ordination of four priests and six deacons just three weeks before it was scheduled is rare. Among the explanations put forward since then, which remain speculations, one seems to be the question of the reception in Toulon by Bishop Rey of many members of new communities with a lack of discernment or accompaniment.

Alcuin Reid, who arrived in 2009 in the Var, is a Benedictine from Melbourne, attached to the traditional liturgy. Before that, he worked in an abbey in the south of England. It would seem that, in both places, his presence was not well received. Nevertheless, Bishop Rey gave him permission to found an “international monastic community” under the name of Monastère Saint-Benoît, recently established in Brignoles. The goal was to live according to the ancient Rule of the father of Western monasticism, while remaining attached to the extraordinary form of the rite. It is not, however, an abbey in the proper sense of the term, but a public association of the faithful erected in 2019, with a rather flexible canonical form and under the patronage of the bishop of the diocese.

Obstinate disobedience

Bishop Rey, like other bishops, has created many public associations of the faithful. In fact, they make it possible to give a framework to works carried out by the laity and thus to promote numerous missionary initiatives. However, the Vatican seems to think that the creation of these groups should be better supervised: this is the purpose of a decree published on June 15 by Rome, which asks that any erection of a public association of the faithful be validated by a written document from the Holy See.

Five days before this decree, on June 10, Bishop Rey issued without much publicity a decree suppressing the association Monastère Saint-Benoît. Besides not bearing the expected fruits, the presence of Alcuin Reid and his community raised other questions. These questions proved to be correct: on April 20, the Australian was ordained a priest — and another member a deacon — in an illicit manner, without the authorization of the bishop of Toulon on whom they depend. As soon as the matter was made public by those concerned themselves, Bishop Rey suspended them. Faced with their “obstinacy in disobedience” and their refusal to explain themselves, notably by not providing the identity of the ordaining bishop, their association was dissolved.

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