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Character Interviews

Interview with Maison and Reynard

Rouget Maison

Interviewer:- Everyman Reader:-  “Describe yourself in a few words.”

“I think that you could say that I’m a man of my time. But this is a special time, where, maybe for the first time ever, ordinary people (not sure if I belong in that category) actually will have a choice in their actions, not just thoughts and words, in how they want the world to go.”

Please explain, what sort of choices?

“It boils down to whether you believe the world should be run by the few (monarchy, bishops and aristocracy) for the few or by the many for all. I know what I stand for.

And yet you could be the son of a Bishop or aristocrat!

I really hope not. Especially the Bishop. (nb. Who made Rouget watch the torture and execution of Damiens when he was three) Anyway a man isn’t totally constrained by his birth or ancestry. He can work against the interests of his own class. Look at the Duc D’Orleans.

Yes, let’s. You take bribes from him, don’t you?

Not exactly. As I was saying The Duke works against the system. So do I. His money helps me pursue the goals of freedom and fairness.

Do you trust the Duke. Or Mirabeau, that other Revolutionary Aristocrat?

   I trust no-one completely. That would include the man who would be King in his cousin’s place- even as a constitutional monarch. As for Mirabeau- time will tell.

Are you faithful to your wife?

Next Question.

You have the reputation of the greatest crime solver in Paris. Is that reputation deserved?

That’s not for me to say. What I would say is that a senior policeman is only as good as the team he leads. My team is excellent.

They certainly seem better paid than other Paris policemen. Is that due to some of the Duke’s money being passed on?

I am lucky. I have some private funds of my own that I inherited; my wife is from a wealthy background and, as you say, I have other sources of income that I use for the benefit of my team and the people of Paris.

You have an extensive network of Informers. Isn’t that typical of the Ancien Regime?

The difference is that my people inform me of real crime- murder, robbery, extortion and rape. Not so-called crimes against the state. The people, citizens if you like, benefit from the best policing I can give them. How true is that in other districts?

Do you really think that you, Orleans, Mirabeau and Danton can create a world that’s any different? 

We must try. For the first time for centuries, maybe ever, we have a chance. History will not forgive us if we pass it by.

You’re going to be up against some very powerfful and dangerous opponents. Does that worry you? 

Of course it concerns me. I knew when I became a police Inspector that danger would be part of the job. I knew when I went in with the Duke that I was gaining powerful allies- but also potentially powerful enemies. The real worry is making sure I know who is in which category.

Abbé Pierre Rene Reynard – Parish Priest of Saint-Merri church

Abbé Pierre, you are Parish Priest of St-Merri in Paris. Are you a native of Paris?

I am. I was born in 1735 in Issy, south-west Paris. My father was a successful businessman. I was the youngest of six children. Three boys and three girls.Sadly only one sister is still alive – Catherine.

Have you always lived in Paris?

Apart from a few years, yes.

Where did you live during those years?

I travelled extensively in my late teens.

Why was that?

My father travelled a great deal and sometimes took his children – well, his sons at least – with him. He encouraged us to get involved in business and I enjoyed travel around France and all over Europe. I seemed to have a certain business ability and was soon making a great deal of money for him.

Did you get to keep much of the money? It is said you have “private means”?

As a Diocesan priest (as opposed  to a member of a Religious Order) I haven’t taken a vow of poverty  but money, of course, is hardly my motivation. It does, however, enable me to assist those who are in need.

Such as Helene Gilbert and her family?

Indeed. It’s hard to believe that she became my housekeeper ten years ago on the tragic death of her husband. She has looked after me very well since then. I would say I have gained far more than I have given in that case!

Why did you become a priest?

When I was 18 I became quite friendly with an exceptionally intelligent young woman who introduced me to the spiritual writings of Abbé de Caussade. He believed that God’s will was revealed to man through our everyday experience. Man,he wrote,” has communion with God above all in the sacrament of the Present Moment.”Although I never met him, he became my spiritual mentor. I decided then to become a priest like him.

Where did you study to  be a priest?

It so happened that the great Seminary of St Sulpice was in Issy. I began my studies when I was 20. My mother was delighted as she was a devoted, traditional Catholic.

And your father?

Less so. He wanted me to continue his business activities. We did not have much to do with each other once I entered the seminary.

What did you do once ordained?

I decided I wanted to work in a parish and persuaded my superiors to send me to a small rural parish south of Paris with Abbé Francois- a very holy man. I  remained there for a few years but then returned to the seminary to train priests. I seemed to have a gift for teaching and was moved around various seminaries. However my first love was for parish work and eventually I became Parish Priest at St-Merri.

You walk with a pronounced limp. Can you explain how this happened?

I was involved in an altercation with a stage coach and broke my leg. It never fully mended.

It is said that this incident turned you against the Higher Clergy as the coach belonged to a Bishop who showed little regard for you?

There was a certain lack of Christian charity I thought. But I try to be forgiving! Even towards members of the Higher Clergy.

You have never sought advancement?

No – it has never attracted me. I have never wanted to become a Bishop! Or even a Canon. I am perfectly happy being a Parish Priest.

It is also said that you have a reputation for being the priest chosen by the ladies to hear their confession?

I do seem to have a certain affinity with the female sex when it comes to spiritual matters.

Some say it goes beyond the spiritual?

I have heard that said but it is pure surmise on their part. I confess I find women generally far more spiritual than men.

Just spiritual?

Spiritual is quite sufficient.

And what are your thoughts on the current political situation?

I believe passionately in social justice as did Our Blessed Lord. And I believe that the Church is the best protector of social justice – for all its faults. “Love your neighbour as yourself” and “Forgive others as you would wish them to forgive you” remain the truest guidelines for living that you could have.

But current radical or revolutionary ideas?

My fear is that they will lead to ever greater violence. I believe in peaceful evolution rather than revolution. 
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