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BISHOP OF CARCASSONNE: - There are so many exemplars of deceit and greed who have worn the mantle of Bishop or Arch-Bishop. It continues to the present day to say the least but fortunately some of these men of the cloth are being exposed in court and not just in the hiding places of their fine churches where they have conducted all manner of ghastly and abusive acts throughout the ages. Bishop Ussher of Armaugh is one who comes to mind but I will put another place and person forward for your consideration.
Huge amounts of money can be made by priests who recognize rich people lose their faculties as they near death and feel guilty for acts they have been part of in their life. The Catholic Church had instituted celibacy for the express reason of making it so no priest could pass his fortune to any offspring (and they treated illegitimates as if they had no legal standing while also making any adoptees the subject of rumor or charges about sexual impropriety). This meant that the priest or cleric would in fact have to leave his estate to the church. I like reading the reports of Gregory of Tours. Make no mistake about it, there are financial opportunities galore in these spiritual high places, and some of the good priests found ways to circumvent the Church even after the celibacy laws were made. There are two Bishops of Carcassonne that deserve our inspection. It is possible that Saunière was especially gifted in getting old people's money but I doubt he could have raised the amounts he spent and whatever amount he left with his concubine Marie, through such efforts. The first Bishop may have taught Sauniere some things about these illicit affairs and they may have had a public fight to keep attention away from some of their mutual hanky-panky.
"In Sauniere's garden is a statue erected to commemorate the visit of the Bishop of Carcassonne, Mgr. Billard.
Mgr. Billard had an affinity for very rich families, especially the older members of those families. He was brought to court by members of a family from Coursan for having coerced their matriarch into signing over all her belongings to the Bishop. She was declared of 'Unsound' mind. Curiously, Mgr. Billard arranged to have the will signed over to himself as Monsieur Billard, not Monseigneur (Mgr.) Billard. His Notary was from Rouen; where the actual execution of the will took place. (Jarnac, Archives, p. 464 to 468).
Apparently, Billard conducted himself in this fashion with several families and their patrons. It is certainly not inconceivable that Billard may have shown Sauniere how to do this for himself, as well as others. One priest in particular accused the Bishop of Simony and having stolen over 1 Million Francs from the Diocese pension fund. After an investigation by the Vatican, it found that Billard had seriously mismanaged his diocese and was forced to give 200 000 francs to the monastery of Prouille. (Jarnac, Archives, p. 464) He passed away on December 3rd, 1901.
Mgr Billard's replacement, Paul-Felix Beauvain de Beausejour was named Bishop of Carcassonne on May 13th 1902. Mgr. Beausejour found a diocese that was close to ruin due to Mgr. Billard's mismanagement. Mgr Billard had let subordinate priests administer their parishes as they saw fit as long as they stayed out of trouble and did not undermine his authority.
It was 4 years before the newly appointed Bishop asked Sauniere to explain his source of income. Apparently, several complaints had been lodged against Berenger Sauniere locally but their origins were never revealed; and some were simply inquiries into Sauniere's character from other countries such as Italy, France, Belgium and Switzerland. (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 193)
The Bishop's first move was to transfer Saunière to Coustouge parish as of January 22nd, 1909. In retaliation, Beranger Saunière tendered his resignation ten days later, on February 1st, 1909.
The mayor of Rennes-le-Chateau complained to the Bishop in a letter dated February 6th, 1909, that Rennes-le-Chateau supported it's priest, Berenger Saunière, and that in the event the priest was moved, the villages of Esperaza and Rennes-le-Chateau would 'desert the Church,' (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 194) Saunière's replacement would be met with empty seats. The Mayor also mentioned to the Bishop that the Presbytery had been leased for another 5 years therefore, his replacement would have to seek shelter elsewhere. He could not refuse the new priest but he could make it so that the outsider would not have an easy time of it. (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 196)" (10)
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