Gaspard Jauffret was born December 13, 1759 at La Roquebrussanne (Var) at that time in the diocese of Aix . Following his studies at the major seminary in Aix and his ordination to the priesthood, he went to the diocese of Paris to exercise his ministry. In 1802, Cardinal Joseph Fesch, Napoleon’s uncle, appointed him his vicar general in Lyon. In 1806, he became chaplain to the Emperor who appointed him to the see of Metz on July 15, 1806. At the beginning of 1811, Bishop Jauffret felt that he could accept, without a papal bull of approbation, the archbishopric of Aix. This was in contravention of the commitments made in the Concordat of 1801. For several years already Napoleon was in conflict with it on several points. Consequently, the Pope refused to canonically install bishops appointed by the Emperor. Bishop Jauffret remained in Aix for about two years and then returned to Metz where he continued to work at organizing the diocese, concentrating on works of teaching and charity. Death overtook him on a journey to Paris, May 12, 1823.
Eugene de Mazenod mentions Bishop Jauffret about ten times in his letters, especially from 1811 to 1814. On November 6, 1811, writing from Paris, he asked his mother to visit the new archbishop who would come to Aix when he received the papal bulls. On January 9 of the following year, Abbé de Mazenod wrote to the bishop to wish him a happy new year. Lacking canonical installation, Bishop Jauffret administered the church of Aix by virtue of powers delegated by the chapter. He appointed a vicar general and exercised a few acts of jurisdiction. At the beginning of 1814, Fr. Guigou, who had been elected vicar capitular after the death of Bishop Cicé in 1810, along with other canons lodged a complaint. As a result, the chapter decided to rescind everything that had been done from the time of the initial election of the capitular vicar. On April 23, 1814, Abbé de Mazenod wrote to Forbin-Janson in Rome. The canons “reaffirmed the first election, the only legitimate and canonical election and they were very careful not to make any new appointments. I strongly urged that this is the way it should be…” Abbé de Mazenod defended the authority of Fr. Guigou to the point where, in a letter to Forbin-Janson on July 1, 1814, he wrote: “The Bishop of Metz, according to what they are telling me from Paris, looks upon me as his most formidable adversary, not only with regard to Aix – there could be some foundation to that – but in Paris as well, which is absolutely false.”
Napoleon abdicated in the spring of 1814 and, at Aix, they awaited the appointment of the new archbishop, this time, an archbishop recognized by the Pope. On November 21, 1814, Abbé de Mazenod wrote to Forbin-Janson in Paris: “When will you send us an archbishop? The friends of Bishop Jauffret (and almost all of the priests of Aix are his friends because they remember that he was their classmate, etc., and treated them as his equals and bosom buddies to the point of making a person sick) delude themselves in thinking he will return. If that is the case, I will not become his grand vicar because he is convinced that I am his most formidable adversary. I admit that I am not a member of his party and I will never be among those who will ignore the rules of the Church and who will be as lacking as he was in his ability of doing good […] In the meantime, there is a scandalous hue and a cry against the present administration which does not suit their taste. Nevertheless, Abbé Guigou whom you know is a man very capable of running things. […] He conducted himself impeccably in all this ticklish matter; he showed himself “Roman” to the point of putting himself in jeopardy and I have always seen him walk a straight path.”
Before making an unfavorable judgment against Bishop Jauffret’s administration, the canons and the Abbés Guigou and de Mazenod had, it seems, made a rather substantial study of administration by the chapter and the chapter’s powers. The Founder conserved a copy of the 28 page study.
In his diary in 1838 and 1839 Bishop de Mazenod recalled these events and said that, in 1812, Bishop Jauffret had offered him a prestigious position in the diocese, but he had responded by saying: “My entire ambition is to devote myself to the service of the poor and the youth.”
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.