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Saunière found guilty of trafficking in Masses?

The charges were dropped after Saunière gave evidence

There is NO evidence Sauniere made his money by trafficking in Masses and that's official.

Sauniere the Marguillier
Alet and Sauniere on Trial
by Nicolas Mazet
October 2004

Béranger Sauniere was subject to a hearing on July 7th, 1910, to answer to the charges of acquiring masses, which he could not say or pass along. The official charges were:

  1. Mass Trafficking,

  2. Disobedience of his Bishop,

  3. and to have spent lavishly without records of monies thought to have come from masses acquired.

Sauniere was suspended for a period of one month. But, it only applied to the diocese. (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 206) Sauniere never showed up for any hearing and upon learning of the sentence levelled against him sought to have the entire case re-tried. He was thinking of hiring the services of a lawyer, Louis Mis of Limoux, and registered him with the trial authorities as his lawyer. But his final decision rested with Dr. Huget of Agen who was versed in ecclesiastical law whereas M. Mis’ knowledge of ecclesiastical affairs was limited. (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 208)

On the 15th of October, he was slated to appear again but failed to do so and left his lawyer, Abbe Huget, to represent and defend him. Only this time, the third charge was lessened to simply lavish spending – the source of which was not implied as in the first trial. The sentence was handed down on November 5th, leaving doubt because Sauniere himself did not understand the charges against him. The argument supporting the decision included facts that dealt with the third charge against Sauniere – but of the first trial. Mentions of irregular accountability was deemed due to negligent culpability on Saunière's part vis a vis his Bishop. He was found guilty of disobedience towards his Bishop because his records were irregular or non-existent. Sauniere was told to spend ten days in an Ecclesiastic retirement home or a Monastery of his choice.

So to recap, charge number one was dismissed because Sauniere presented an argument that led him to believe that he had not partaken in trafficking of masses. He was found guilty of charge number two and had to spend ten days in reclusion in the place of rest of his choice. As for charge three, he was told to meet with his Bishop, or a representative, and forward all financial records within ten days of the said sentence and present them by way of his lawyer. As well the previous One-Month suspension was revoked. (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 211)
The problem with this entire situation is that Sauniere had officially resigned. He did not need to go through an Ecclesiastical court for any charges laid against him, as he was officially no longer a priest. From that point on, be it a suspension, forced reclusion, or anything else an ecclesiastical tribunal brought forth against him, he would not be bound by it. In fact Saunière's actions lead to the idea that he wanted a criminal trial instead of an ecclesiastic one.

Sauniere had ten days to appeal. He didn’t. Instead he waited until December 17th, to write to Rome to make a formal complaint. The sentence would stand but Sauniere, playing the fool, stalled by saying he had misunderstood, then he had a friend from Couiza, a doctor, issue him a medical certificate saying he was not in any capacity to travel anywhere let alone to Carcassonne. The authorities agreed to give him until mid-May to recuperate.
Sauniere continued to say he had no records for his source of revenues. All of it was in his head. After a few months of delays, Sauniere presented a list of expenditures thinking this would appease the authorities. Instead he found himself summoned again to appear an answer to the charges but without his lawyer, Abbe Huget, as, according to the tribunal, he could not represent Béranger second time on November 27th, 1911: highly unusual for any legal situation. Sauniere never presented himself and was sentenced in absentia on December 5th.
The issue regarding the third Charge brought against him surfaced as the Tribunal stated that the Charge had been changed and therefore Sauniere could be charged again. They wanted to know who had given money to Sauniere, not just his sources of revenue or the amounts of such revenues. (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 222) Although it could be seen as the Bishopric’s attempt to undermine the anonymity of donors, it was probably due to Mgr. Billard’s actions that brought on such policy.

The sentence itself was a little bit odd considering that it failed to recognize Saunière's sources of revenue, which he had outlined in a detailed financial account containing 61 itemized entries – with explanatory notes. Some of the items happened 25 years prior to the trial and since he kept no financial records, he had to rely on his memory and/or, invention. He was finally sentenced to a 3-month suspension, which would extend until he reimbursed all donations given to him. (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 223) Since Sauniere kept no financial records per say, how could he reimburse them? In effect, this was a perpetual suspension, as Sauniere could not provide what he did not have: a detailed registry of all donations. It was also considered immoral to divulge the names of donors, anonymous or public, unless they were to establish altars, calvaries, chapels, hospital wings, etc…
On February 3rd, 1911, the Bishop published an article in La Semaine Religieuse, warning its readers that Sauniere was effectively suspended and banned from practicing the sacraments or any act affiliated with cult. The suspension lasted until Saunière's death in 1917. No article ever appeared outside the Diocese regarding the suspension.

One of the most interesting documents written by Sauniere was a questionnaire he was asked to fill out by his lawyer. In it, Sauniere is specific that he did not do anything out of the ordinary in regards to building a house or taking part as other priests had done the same thing. He also complained that other priests were nothing more than globetrotting tourists while he was breaking his back, embellishing the church, spending his savings and all he got was a court case. (Captier, p. 187)

Béranger admitted outright that he sought masses outside the Diocese even though he was told not to. But the amounts ascribed to him are pure nonsense. There was no way he could find that many masses. Records show that Sauniere had 3434 masses from 1899 to 1909. That’s an average of 344 masses a year, or less than 1 mass per day; the maximum allowable, supposedly was 3 a day. Yet the accounting that was presented to Sauniere, to counter his testimony, established the amount at 18000 a year for 10 years, amounting to 180000 francs. (Captier, p. 186) They never took into consideration his base salary which established him as poor. They never took into consideration the 300 francs per month paid to him by members of the Denarnaud family who stayed with him which he included in his financial records in the tribunal’s possession. The tribunal only accounted for revenues, not once acknowledging the fact that Sauniere had expenditures even though his documents showed that he did – substantially reducing the Tribunals figures.

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