SECTION THREE: The Care and Impartiality with Which Monsieur Vincent Acted Concerning Ecclesiastical Benefices
Since Cardinal Mazarin had been appointed by the queen as the head of the Council for Ecclesiastical Affairs, he gave as much time to it as his other duties allowed. When he summoned the council he asked for advice on the giving of bishoprics. Monsieur Vincent gave it with both respect and freedom. He spoke his opinions, before God, about the ability or lack of it, the merits or the deficiencies, of those who had been proposed. No regular day was set for the meeting of the council, and the meeting depended on the time available to the prime minister, who was often taken up with other important matters of state. For this reason, His Eminence often decided by himself, with the queen’s agreement, on the abbots and even bishops he judged helpful for the interests of the king. When, he believed they presented no difficulty, he did not think it necessary to have them considered by the council.
All the same, there were many such lesser offices to be filled, either of the regular or secular clergy, or many resignations or changes to be considered, or other matters to regulate to prevent abuses or to put things in good order. Because of this, Monsieur Vincent, who was responsible for these, had much to report on at each meeting of the council.
In awarding benefices he felt it proper to look to the clergy attached to the court and to the chaplains of the army in preference to others, if he found them well qualified. He felt the officials in the service of Their Majesties who lived decently among the corruptions of the court deserved special consideration. Because some were not all they should be, however, and some already were well provided for, but still asked for additional benefices and pensions, sometimes the most unworthy were better off than the more qualified. To bring a remedy to this disorder, he drew up a list of the chaplains, confessors, clerks, cantors, and other ecclesiastical officials of the house, chapel, and musical department of Their Majesties, adding the amounts they already were paid, or those not paid at all. He wanted to be sure to do all he could to have the available support evenly distributed among all.
In Normandy, grants from the king, administered by the pastors, supported the responsibility of rearing minors placed in foster homes. Monsieur Vincent was careful in awarding these benefices when they became vacant by resignation or death, to make sure they were given to the most deserving. He was convinced those responsible for naming those in care of souls were responsible before God, not only for all the evil done by unworthy pastors, but for all the good not done by those less deserving, to whom benefices might have been given, rather than to the others.
At the time several gentlemen crippled in their military service sought pensions drawn from ecclesiastical sources, as recompense for their service during the wars. Monsieur Vincent was happy to recommend them to the queen and to the cardinal. He was not happy, however, that these pensions were to be taken from Church funds, for these veterans were not and never had been connected with the Church.
On the one hand, this faithful councillor had his eyes open not to be taken by surprise in this matter of benefices, to the prejudice of the service of God and the honor of the Church. On the other, he was careful to oversee, as much as depended upon him, the just distribution and use of ecclesiastical goods. The fathers called them the patrimony of the poor, and the price of the redemption from sin.