The La Correspondance de Rome was a quarterly published in Rome about 1850 under the direction of Abbé Chaillot and some other young French priests in residence in Rome. This periodical was useful in the sense that it made known in France the decisions of the Roman dicastries. However, in the comments they wrote to accompany these documents, the editors gave the impression that they were official spokesmen for the church’s authority. In addition, without verifying the allegations that were made, they collected and published information about French priests in conflict with their bishops. As a result, there was a certain amount of hostility on the part of the French episcopacy with regard to this publication.
On July 14, 1851, in La Correspondance de Rome Bishop de Mazenod’s administration was denounced as not being in conformity with the norms of the law. The bishop’s name did not appear in the article, but the seven questions asked on the legitimacy of his actions as a bishop left no doubt as to who the bishop in question was. Among other things, the question was asked as to whether it was permissible, without permission of the Holy See, to have under the same roof the diocesan seminary and the members of a religious congregation, to use for the upkeep of a religious congregation legacies made to the seminary, of assigning additional assistant priests to parishes which ostensibly did not need them, to put all revenue from stole fees into a common fund to be shared equally among the priests, etc.
On August 12, the parish priests and the pastors of Marseilles wrote a letter to the Pope denouncing the slanders levelled at the bishop as well as at the clergy since the article gave the impression that there was friction and conflict going on between the bishop and his clergy. On August 14, as well, Bishop de Mazenod wrote a letter challenging this article which “deeply wounded the dignity of the bishops to whom it insolently dictates.”
One year later, Bishop de Mazenod had to intervene once again because of an anonymous article entitled, “Journalism in the Church. A memoir addressed to the episcopacy.” This article denounced the Roman publication as a new tribunal of the Church where the bishops were no longer called to order by their metropolitans or by the Pope, but by a journalist and his subscribers. Since the memoir quoted the article from La Correspondance de Rome concerning the diocese of Marseilles, the rumour spread abroad that this article, which allegedly expressed the mind of almost the entire French episcopacy, had, at least, been instigated by the bishop of Marseilles. The bishop of Marseilles was genuinely upset by this because, on the one hand, he had studiously avoided any involvement with the press and, on the other hand, this article gave more exposure to the audience of La Correspondance de Rome . Consequently, he felt compelled to inform the bishops that he had nothing to do with this article, that he did not know the writer of the article and, as far as he was concerned, he and his clergy had addressed themselves directly to the Pope.
The irritation of the bishops with regard to La Correspondance de Rome escalated to the point that the ambassador felt obliged to speak on their behalf to the Pope. The Pope, after affirming that he had always studiously avoided reading that periodical, stated that he would be in favor of suppressing it. In June of that year, Pius IX did, in fact, order its suppression. The whole issue seemed to be settled, but Cardinal Gousset, the Archbishop of Rheims, in a controversy with Bishop Dupanloup, wrote a June 30, 1852 letter to all the bishops of France in support of La Correspondance de Rome and L’Univers and gratuitously accused the adversaries of these two publications of being anti-Roman. (See article: L’Univers) He sent his letter to all the bishops except to Bishop de Mazenod and his confederate, Bishop Guibert. For the bishop of Marseilles, being suspected of having anti-Roman tendencies was an insult and was at variance with his whole life. On July 21, 1852, he wrote the cardinal a long letter, a sorrowful letter because he had to, of necessity, speak of himself and laid out for the cardinal what he had done his whole life through for the Pope, the Holy See and Rome. The cardinal did not answer his letter. On September 20, no longer being able to stand being suspected of harbouring anti-Roman tendencies, Bishop de Mazenod felt obliged to make the bishops of France, before whom he had been accused, aware of his letter to Cardinal Gousset. However, he begged his colleagues in the episcopacy not to let the press know about it. He wish was respected. The dust stirred up by La Correspondance de Rome controversy died down and the periodical was never revived.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
LEFLON, Jean, Eugene de Mazenod, vol. III, Paris, 1965, p. 341-357.
[MITRI, Angelo, o.m.i., C. J. Eugenii de Mazenod. Inquisitio historica..., Rome, 1968, p. 439-514 (publication of all the documents concerning this question.)