Talk to us

CathNews, the most frequently visited Catholic website in Australia, is your daily news service featuring Catholics and Catholicism from home and around the world, Mass on Demand and on line, prayer, meditation, reflections, opinion, and reviews. And, what's more - it's free!

Mother Marie Ferréol (Crux/YouTube)

In response to a decision by a French court to award damages to a nun dismissed from her religious order after 34 years of service, the Vatican has lodged a formal protest with the French embassy to the Holy See complaining of violations of religious freedom. Source: Crux.

“Such a sentence by the Tribunal of Lorient,” the note said, referring to the municipality where the case was heard, “could raise not only questions regarding immunity, but, since it regards internal discipline and membership in a religious institute, could also give rise to grave violations of the fundamental right of religious freedom and of the right of free association of Catholic faithful.”

The case pivots on Mother Marie Ferréol, who had been superior of a small traditionalist community of French religious women founded in 1943.

The community, called the Institute of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Spirit, numbers about 100 sisters and operates five schools.

According to media reports in France, the community originally became the subject of controversy between 2011 and 2014, when several members reportedly were subjected to exorcisms at the hands of the community’s chaplain, who was also a practitioner of “agape therapy,” a psycho-spiritual approach which has been denounced by the French bishops as potentially abusive.

A Vatican intervention at the time resulted in the removal of the chaplain and some of the sisters responsible for the controversial practices, but, according to observers, left behind a growing rift between more traditional members of the community and sisters more disposed to post-Vatican II reforms.

A second Vatican intervention in 2020, led by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, resulted in the dismissal of the 57-year-old Mother Ferréol, who was perceived as leading the more traditionalist camp.

In turn, Mother Ferréol filed suit with a French civil court, claiming she’d in effect been fired without cause. 

On April 3, the court in Lorient sided with Mother Ferréol, ordering Cardinal Ouellet, the community and two other Vatican-appointed officials who conducted the investigation to pay about 200,000 euros ($330,000) in damages and fines.


Vatican lodges religious freedom complaint over verdict involving French nun (Crux)


Holy See Press Office declaration on dismissal of nun in France (Vatican News)