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Apparently, Billard conducted himself in this fashion with several families and their patrons. It is certainly not inconceivable that Billard may have shown Sauniere how to do this for himself, as well as others. One priest in particular accused Bishop of Simony and having stolen over 1 Million Francs from Diocese pension fund. After an investigation by Vatican, it found that Billard had seriously mismanaged his diocese and was forced to give 200 000 francs to monastery of Prouille. (Jarnac, Archives, p. 464) He passed away on December 3rd, 1901.
Mgr Billard’s replacement, Paul-Felix Beauvain de Beausejour was named Bishop of Carcassonne on May 13th 1902. Mgr. Beausejour found a diocese that was close to ruin due to Mgr. Billard’s mismanagement. Mgr Billard had let subordinate priests administer their parishes as they saw fit as long as they stayed out of trouble and did not undermine his authority.
It was 4 years before newly appointed Bishop asked Sauniere to explain his source of income. Apparently, several complaints had been lodged against Berenger Sauniere locally but their origins were never revealed; and some were simply inquiries into Sauniere’s character from other countries such as Italy, France, Belgium and Switzerland. (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 193)
The Bishop’s first move was to transfer Saunière to Coustouge parish as of January 22nd, 1909. In retaliation, Beranger Saunière tendered his resignation ten days later, on February 1st, 1909.
The mayor of Rennes-le-Chateau complained to Bishop in a letter dated February 6th, 1909, that Rennes-le-Chateau supported it’s priest, Berenger Saunière, and that in event priest was moved, villages of Esperaza and Rennes-le-Chateau would ‘desert Church,’ (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 194) Saunière’s replacement would be met with empty seats. The Mayor also mentioned to Bishop that Presbytery had been leased for another 5 years therefore, his replacement would have to seek shelter elsewhere. He could not refuse new priest but he could make it so that outsider would not have an easy time of it. (Jarnac, Histoire, p. 196)” (10)
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