Booing the Bishop

American Catholics can sometimes bring a particularly democratic flavor to our faith; we historically don’t like being told what to do, and we clearly have no problem telling our bishops just what we think of them.

But even this little democratic Catholic was stunned by the reaction that French bishop Christian Nourrichard of Evreux received from parishioners at the church of Saint-Taurin, Thiberville, upon telling them that he would be removing their much-beloved priest of 23 years from the parish.

Damian Thompson of the Telegraph sets the scene as a clash between a conservative parish and liberal bishop, saying that Father Michel “had an outstandingly successful ministry” at Saint-Taurin, but that “the bishop favours instead one of those team ministries where, as in England and America, the role of the priest is largely replaced by that of self-obsessed lay ‘ministers’.”

The video is in French, but I think the parishioners in the beginning of the clip are speaking a pretty universal language:

Thompson clearly believes the parishioners are being wronged in this situation — and they very well may be — but I’m still amazed at their behavior. For as much as American Catholics enjoy the “liturgy wars,” I simply can’t imagine someone booing a bishop during Mass: Even if there’s no respect for the office, at the very least there should be some for the Eucharist. Surely there’s a more appropriate time and way to protest.

What do you think? Do we owe our bishops any deference out of respect for their office, even if we find the office-holder unworthy of it? Is it ever appropriate to protest during a Mass, even if only by silence or walking out?



Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at

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