Claude François-Marie Petit-Benoît de Chaffoy was born at Besançon on February 7, 1752. After completing his studies with the Sulpicians and his ordination, he was vicar general for Bishop Durfort at Besançon before emigrating to Switzerland in 1791. He was appointed bishop of Nîmes by royal edict of August 18, 1817 and confirmed in that office on September 24, 1821. On the occasion of the jubilee of 1825-1826, he had missions preached in most of the parishes of the diocese. This was the occasion when he invited the Missionaries of Provence to establish themselves in Nîmes. (See: Nîmes)
Father de Mazenod met with him in 1821 and twice in 1825, initially at Nîmes in the month of April, then at Paris in the month of June, after the Oblates had established themselves in Nîmes. On June 19, he wrote to Father Mie, the superior: “This commendable Prelate, so filled with desire for good, asks nothing better than to employ you, in keeping with what you seem to wish in your zeal.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 6, no. 183, p. 174)
On October 22, 1825, Bishop Chaffoy sent a letter of approval of the Rules. The Founder wrote to him a few times in 1827 to ask him not to make the priests preach continually and to ask him to allow them to purchase a house: “Possession of property is the surest guarantee of stability,” he specified. On March 10, 1828, the Founder accepted to send one priest as chaplain to the prison: “We so much consider you our father,” he confided, “that we believe we should refuse nothing which it pleases you to suggest. You think that our priests could do some good in the detention centre. So let it be. With your blessing, it will be impossible for them to fail. Obedience has produced as many miracles as faith.”
On the occasion of the July Revolution of 1830, the Oblates were compelled to leave Nîmes. They never returned because of opposition on the part of Abbé Laresche, Bishop de Chaffoy’s vicar general.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Oblate Writings I, vols. 6, 13, 18 and 19, passim.
Mgr BAUNARD, L’épiscopat français... 1802-1905, Paris, p. 415-416.