Born at Béziers (Hérault) on December 31, 1757, Ferdinand Bausset-Roquefort studied at the seminary of Saint-Sulpice and was ordained to the priesthood in 1782. He lived in England and Italy during the Revolution. He was a canon and honorary vicar of Aix from 1802 to 1807, then bishop of Vannes from 1807 to 1817. Transferred to Aix in 1817 because of difficulties related to the concordat, he was only installed on November 13, 1819. He enjoyed a considerable fortune and helped out many of the diocesan works. He died on January 29 of 1829.
On November 26, 1802, shortly after his return from exile Eugene wrote to his father that Abbé Bausset would be named a canon and Fortuné would have been named a canon if he had been in Aix. Eugene did not mention canons again until the time when Abbé Bausset was appointed bishop of Vannes in 1808.
On September 17, 1815, Bishop Bausset who was travelling through Aix administered the sacrament of confirmation to the members of Eugene’s youth group. The bishop’s nephew was one of these members. (Oblate Writings I, vol. 16, p. 145 and 167) On September 15, 1815, Father de Mazenod told his father that the bishop of Vannes could be transferred to Aix. (Oblate Writings I, vol. 15, no. 134, p. 112.) This information was confirmed in 1816 and the Founder was very happy about this because the parish priests in Aix were opposing his works in any way they could. He wrote to Charles de Forbin-Janson that, in order to defend himself better, he would accept to become vicar general for the future archbishop. In July-August, he added: “Our house will always be quite a fine establishment and of major importance for the whole of Provence. I hope then that the future archbishop will protect it.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 6, no. 9, p. 17 and 22)
In 1817, Bishop de Bausset was appointed archbishop of Aix. Father de Mazenod went to Paris during the summer with a view to obtaining government approval of his institute and, on July 25, told Father Tempier that his stay would be prolonged. “It will be prolonged until I have met and seen our new archbishop; it is with him that I must deal regarding our affairs.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 6, no. 18, p. 28) The institute did not receive government recognition, but the Founder wrote to Father Tempier on August 5: “we are […] authorized to continue the functions that we have so happily begun.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 6, no. 19, p. 29)
The meeting with Bishop de Bausset took place only at the beginning of October. It was a cordial encounter and the bishop announced that he would appoint Father de Mazenod as vicar general. His attitude subsequently became more guarded. “I conclude,” the Founder reflected, “that my person is an embarrassment to him.” A few days later, he added that Bishop de Bausset “because of his fear of the parish priests of Aix will not appoint me as vicar general.” He even rebuked him for his conduct with regard to the parish priests. In a fit of discouragement, on October 19, Father de Mazenod wrote to Father Tempier and his missionaries asking them whether they should continue this work. (Oblate Writings I, vol. 6, no. 25, p. 39-41)
Bishop de Bausset did not arrive in Aix until November 8, 1819. He met with Father de Mazenod on November 9 and his missionaries on November 10. In the afternoon of that same day, he even visited the house of the Mission. Initially, relations were good. During the March-April mission of 1820, the archbishop permitted Father de Mazenod to remove the grills of the choir in the cathedral to allow the men to utilize that space. He also defended him against the attacks of the canons who were miffed about this. During the ceremony of the setting up of the mission cross in June of 1820, the bishop participated in the procession and entered the Mission church where he gave the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Relations with the bishop were less good from 1822 to 1826. In 1822-1823, Bishop de Bausset seems to have come under the influence of the parish priests of Aix who laid the blame for the re-establishing of the diocese of Marseilles at the door of Father de Mazenod. In a meeting in October of 1823, it would even seem that the bishop called Father de Mazenod a “hypocrite, wretch, whitened sepulchre.” (Eugene de Mazenod to Father Courtès, May 5, 1822; 23-25 October, 1829 in Oblate Writings I, vol. 6, no. 83, p. 90 and no. 116, p. 124 and 125) After the appointment of Fathers de Mazenod and Tempier as vicars general to Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod at Marseilles, some of the priests left the institute. Like the bishops of Gap and Digne, Bishop de Bausset stated that their vows were not valid. The Founder stated that their vows could not be annulled by the bishops and that they did not acknowledge the value of his missionaries who have always shown themselves to be obedient and have been of much service to them. (Oblate Writings I, vol. 6, no. 117, p. 125) He admitted that he was “grieved, but not dejected.”
Father de Mazenod complained once again about the attitude of the archbishop in 1825-1826. The archbishop did approve the rules of the missionaries, but shortly afterward added his signature to a letter written by Bishop Arbaud, the bishop of Gap who asked the Holy See not to approve the rules of the institute. According to them, these rules were contrary to the rights of the bishops and the civil laws of France. The Founder did not need to defend himself on this count because the effect this letter had on the cardinals in Rome was quite the opposite of what Bishop Arbaud hoped. (Oblate Writings I, vol. 7, p. 1, 3, 5-9)
Afterwards, Father de Mazenod mentions yet again Bishop de Bausset a few times in his letters to Fathers Courtès and Suzanne. These priests seemed to get along well enough with the bishop who, in 1827, even wanted to have Father Suzanne as his secretary, but subsequently refused permission to four of his priests to enter the Oblate novitiate. (Oblate Writings I, vol. 7, no. 272, p. 134 and no. 273, p. 135)
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.