Journal of Undergraduate Research


Le Mauvais Curé, priests and parishioners, eighteenth-century France






In France during the 18th century, parish priests had a very particular relationship with their parishioners. While the parishioners were dependent on the priest to receive the different Catholic sacraments, the priests, usually underpaid, depended on the parishioners to provide them with food and money. In the small town of Mareuil-sur-Ay, Champagne-Ardenne, France, in the mid-eighteenth century, the parishioners were not pleased when their beloved priest Antoine Corbier died and was replaced by Nicolas-Hyacinthe Vernier. While the parishioners had been very satisfied with Corbier’s work, they soon became quite unsatisfied, shocked, and even angry at Vernier’s attitude, lifestyle, and his inability to provide them with the Catholic sacraments. Indeed, according to the six-hundred-page record of the court case, the complaints of the parishioners of Mareuil seem justified. They describe him as lazy, very strict, unwilling to care for the poor and the sick, impatient, and they accuse him of having affairs with several women—including the village’s schoolmistress. The testimony against Vernier seems damning enough to “fire” him, but the mystery of the court case lies in the fact that Vernier was reinstated as curé of Mareuil. When questioned by the court, Vernier defended himself by constantly denying the accusations, accusing the parishioners of not being pious or worthy enough to receive the sacraments, and blaming his poor health.

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