Bérenger Saunière: His 1885 Suspension from the Priesthood

Paul Smith

Because of his political sermons against the Republic during the 1885 elections Bérenger Saunière was suspended from the priesthood between 1 December 1885 and 1 July 1886.

In a letter dated 15 November 1885, Monseigneur Billard wrote to the Minister of Public Worship (René Goblet):

"In your memorandum of 30 October 1885 you gave me the names of four ecclesiastics in my diocese who you say have been guilty of reprehensible speech and actions during the election period.

You must believe me, Minister, when I say that these priests had no intention of attacking either the form or the composition of the Government which, in any case, are not really the targets of the article.

Abbé Saunière, like his colleagues, believed he was only doing his duty in acting as the authorised defender of religion when he gave advice to the electors in his parish in the teeth of the anti-Christian and anti-Concordat programmes that were being put forward by some of the parliamentary candidates.

I dare to hope, Minister, that your wise counsels will be in agreement with my own and that the reprimand imposed on the four ecclesiastics referred to above will seem to you to be sufficient reparation for a purely accidental train of events".

The Minister of Public Worship replied on 2 December 1885:

"Monseigneur Bishop,

The explanations that you have had the honour of providing me with in an effort to justify the actions during the election period of the four priests of your Diocese have not succeeded in modifying my view of the actions of which they are accused, actions that you defend while at the same time acknowledging the material accuracy of my allegations.

On the other hand you have not shown any intention of satisfying my desire to have these people transferred in order to save them from the sanctions that they deserve. It is therefore my duty today to take stern action within the limits of my disciplinary powers.

The ecclesiastical post-holders listed below will therefore be deprived of the income associated with their posts with effect from 1 December of this year:



Saunière, priest in charge, Rennes-le Château
Tailhan, priest in charge, Roullens
Jean, priest in charge, Bouriège,
Delmas curate, Alet.


The Minister of Public Worship"

La Semaine Religieuse de Carcassonne dated 13 December 1885 responded:

"To the long list of priests who have been victims of a systematic persecution have been added, since the last electoral period, the names of four priests from the local diocese: Jean, Tailhan, Delmas and Saunière. The Prefet of the Aude notified them of the Ministerial decision depriving them of their stipends with effect from 1 December 1885. In vain their Bishop sought to defend them against the allegations by providing the Minister of Public Worship with a firm but dignified explanation of their conduct. He had the misfortune to see the Minister take no notice at all of it. The informers have triumphed.

"Can they not comprehend the seriousness of their error, given the consequences that will inevitably unfold in their parishes..."

Taken from Les Cahiers de Rennes-le-Château N°1, pages 7-13 (1984)
* These were the groundbreaking researches of Abbé Bruno de Monts (1910-2003)