France: Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort Re-elected President of the Bishops of Fr

July 11, 2022

Gathered in the Spring Plenary Assembly in Lourdes in April 2022, the bishops of France elected the new president of the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF), for a three-year term. Msgr. Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, Archbishop of Reims, was re-elected president.

Msgr. Dominique Blanchet, Bishop of Créteil, was re-elected vice-president; Msgr. Vincent Jordy, Archbishop of Tours, was elected vice-president; until that date he had chaired the Episcopal Commission for Catechesis and the Catechumenate, he took office on July 1, 2022.

Eric de Moulins-Beaufort was ordained a priest on June 29, 1991 for the Archdiocese of Paris, and was successively appointed chaplain of the Montaigne Collège (1992-1993); director of the Paris Seminary and instructor at the Cathedral School and at the Paris Seminary; and chaplain at Lycée Louis-le-Grand (1993-1995). He was then pastor of the parish of St. Paul and St. Louis (2000-2005).

In 2005, he became private secretary to the Archbishop of Paris, Msgr. André Vingt-Trois, until 2008. From 2009 to 2011, he was extraordinary professor at the Notre-Dame Faculty and at the Studium of the Paris Seminary. In May 2008, he was appointed auxiliary bishop and vicar general of Paris, consecrated bishop on September 5, 2008. Then, appointed Archbishop of Reims on August 18, 2018.

During his first term, Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort believed he could resolve the crisis of sexual abuse in the Church with the establishment of the Sauvé commission and the publication of its report containing questionable and disputed conclusions. In addition, during the Covid-19 pandemic, he imposed a series of drastic health restrictions for the exercise of worship and attendance at Sunday masses.

On December 6, 2021, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort received the Legion of Honor from Gérald Darmanin. The Minister of the Interior and Worship then praised “the courage and determination” of the newly decorated, as a man “of conviction and dialogue,” “in the face of the difficulties encountered by the Church concerning the acts of pedophilia.”

The Primacy of Ecological Conversion

During his closing speech at the Plenary Assembly of the Bishops of France, on April 8, 2022, Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort dwelt at length on “the climate emergency and the urgency of the measurable degradation of biodiversity.” Evoking interdependence, he brought together “the love of Christ which presses us” with the obligation “to make us close to distant brothers and sisters, the first, who suffer and will suffer from the effects of climate change.”

He stressed the importance of “seeing that the least of our actions: feeding ourselves, dressing ourselves, moving around, informing ourselves, getting together, triggers a series of causes, many of which permanently damage the ‘common home.’” It is therefore up to the bishops to continue their “ecological conversion” [sic] with the dioceses and parishes, which “we will follow our collective progress with care.”

Denouncing “ecological sin” [sic], Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort maintained that the original goodness of God in His creation “finds itself polluted and disfigured by the needs of our societies, by the capture exercised by the most wealthy societies and the wealthiest individuals in various societies.”

“In addition to our personal faults in waste or excess consumption, for example, we belong to structures of sin.… We want to proclaim to all that other ways of living as humans are possible and that they can be joyful, uniting us more to our Creator and Saviour.”

To better understand what ideas haunt the mind of Msgr. de Moulins-Beaufort, it is helpful to return to – as we have already done (see reference below) to the study published in the Nouvelle Revue Theologique [New Theological Review] of April-June 2019 (Volume 14, no.2), where the French bishop explained how, according to him, the Church should face the challenges of the 21st century.

We freely reproduce some extracts from the article published three years ago, during the first election of Bishop de Moulins-Beaufort at the head of the French Episcopal Conference. It is still current.

The solution to the crisis caused by the massive dechristianization of France is, according to Bishop de Moulins-Beaufort, to be sought from the view of Vatican II: “Other [thinkers], more subtle, perhaps also more lucid [than supporters of a restoration which he describes as illusory], propose an interpretation based on the Second Vatican Council.”

Among whom the president of the CEF distinguishes a name: “The most important French-speaking author on this subject is undoubtedly the Jesuit Christoph Theobald. In particular, in 2017 he published a book called Urgences pastorales [Pastoral Crisis] (Bayard).”

“Here is the proposal of this author, considered significant by Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort: ‘While the Church and the world seem to be moving inevitably apart, Fr. Theobald establishes a possible point of convergence or meeting, in an ‘elementary faith, attached to the fundamental goodness of life,’ whose deployment is necessary for the pursuit of each individual existence, a faith whose appearance is never guaranteed in the face of trials, and from there he tries to understand the mission of the Church.”

“After the considerable work of evaluation and resumption of the concept of ‘mission,’ he proposes that ‘mission’ should be understood as ‘service to the life of others,’ ‘humble hospitality,’ making the riches of Christ available to everyone, without a spirit of recuperation.”

Hence this recent – and minimalist – reminder at Lourdes: “to make us close to distant brothers and sisters, the first, who suffer and will suffer from the effects of climate change.” Hence also this insistence: “seeing that the least of our actions: feeding ourselves, dressing ourselves, moving around, informing ourselves, getting together, triggers a series of causes, many of which permanently damage the ‘common home.’ Hence, finally, the need for “ecological conversion” and the fight against “ecological sin”

Clearly, especially not a restoration as wished by St. Pius X [instaurare omnia in Christo, “to restore all things in Christ,” Ep. 1:10], but the proposal of an “elementary faith attached to the fundamental goodness of life,” a very small common denominator for all in an advanced liberal society, where the mission of the Church is to be humbly hospitable, “without a spirit of recuperation.” As Francis often says: “No proselytism!”

We are far from Jesus Christ sending the disciples on a mission in a pagan society: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Mt 28:19-20)

Msgr. de Moulins-Beaufort’s apostolic timidity is the reflection of the attitude of many French bishops; it is expressed in the Nouvelle Revue Théologique article with infinite precautions: hypotheses, euphemisms, and understatements… No too-clear statements! Nothing is catastrophic, everything is a “challenge”!

Thus of Islam: “We must understand that France has always been more diverse than the French know or feel. Islam adds another complication. It seems to me that, in a country like ours, we face a double challenge:

“Can Islam nurture fraternal relationships, even in jealousy or competition, without necessarily aiming to absorb everyone? [As Moliere says in “The Misanthrope,” Act I, scene ii: “Ah! In what gallant terms these things are phrased!”

“Can Islam nourish the experience of liberty in the personal dignity that is the best of our lived experience in our countries, and that is the chief quality of fervent Catholics? [In other words, when will Islam carry out its conciliar aggiornamento by adopting Dignitatis Humanae?]

We better understand why, last year, Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort received the Legion of Honor from the hands of the Minister of the Interior and Religious Affairs, who hailed “the courage and determination” of a man “of conviction and dialogue.”