A Short History of the Order of Saint Charbel – 1 February 2022

Bishop Malcolm L. Broussard, Jr.

Father Malcolm was ordained a Catholic Priest on 20 May 1978 in Houston Texas at Saint Christopher’s Catholic Church. He was 30 years old. As a diocesan Priest for the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, Fr. Broussard was assigned to several Parishes for the first nine years of his priestly ministry in the Diocese.

Meanwhile in Australia, the Founder of the Order of Saint Charbel, with his travelling companions in 1985, had the opportunity to meet with His Holiness Pope John Paul II in a private audience. He was able to speak face-to-face with the Pope and explain briefly his purpose. He received the verbal support of the Pope to proceed with his work for God. This main work included the establishment of a new Religious Order for the whole Church. The Founder at this time was making various journeys around the world. In May 1987, he came for a short conference at the home of a family in Fort Myers Florida in the USA. Fr. Broussard was in Houston and knew about the Founder from the testimony of others who encouraged him to go to Florida. He travelled to Florida and was able to meet the Founder for the first time and came to realise that he was the Founder of a new Religious Order in Australia. Fr. Broussard was deeply affected by this realisation and wanted to be associated with this Order of Saint Charbel. The Founder had planned to give a Retreat in New Brunswick Canada also in May 1987 — Fr. Broussard discovered that he could attend this Retreat. He did so, and gained a deeper understanding of the nature and purpose of the Order. He wanted to join. Meanwhile, he had to return to his Parish ministry in Houston, Texas. In the coming months, providentially a “door” was opened for him to come to Australia on a (6) month visitor Visa.

On 12 September 1987 Fr. Broussard arrived in Australia and joined the newly established Order of Saint Charbel. The Order proposed itself as a “new form of consecrated life”. In order to be approved by the Holy See in the Vatican, as a Catholic Religious Order, it was necessary to have a Rule and Constitution. At that point, there was only a  six page “shell” document. A Rule and Constitution would establish the nature and purpose of the Order, as well as its governance and relationship to the Church Hierarchy. The Founder asked Fr. Broussard to devote his time to writing the documentation needed for this effort. Through study and research comparing the Franciscan Rule and the Rule of Saint Benedict with the charism of the Founder of the Order of Saint Charbel, progress was made. It was soon realised that the Order could apply to the Holy See for approval according to the norms of Canon 605 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. This canon governed “new forms of consecrated life”, which was exactly how the Order of Saint Charbel identified itself. 

During this same period of time, in March 1988, Fr. Broussard decided to apply for Permanent Residency to remain in Australia. He relied upon the legal services of a good immigration lawyer to help him do everything properly. In May 1988, Fr. Broussard’s application for Permanent Residency was rejected. He appealed to an independent Immigration Review Panel within the Australian Immigration Department for a redress. On 13 September 1988, the Immigration Review Panel unanimously recommended that the earlier decision of rejection be maintained. In October-November 1988 Fr. Broussard decided to appeal to the Federal Court on a matter of law — that he was treated unfairly by the Department of Immigration. Time passed and a lot of legal correspondence took place between Fr. Broussard and the Department of Immigration.

To make matter worse, in July 1989 Fr. Broussard received a formal suspension notice from the Bishop of Galveston-Houston removing his faculties to priestly ministry. The basis for the  suspension was that Fr. Broussard had left his Parish without permission and did not want to return to the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. In Australia, Fr. Broussard continued his priestly ministry without interruption. In October 1988, the documentation for the Order of Saint Charbel was drafted and put into a readable format. Father Miroslaw Gebicki, was at this time one of of the Charbelite Priests in the Community at Nowra. He was sent to Rome by the Founder and he hand delivered the important documents to the Holy See — specifically, the Congregation for Religious Institutes and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Then the wait for a reply began.

Finally, on 13 December 1989, in the Federal Court in Sydney Australia, the case was heard for Fr. Broussard’s final appeal. The Judge ruled in favour of Fr. Broussard, that he was deprived of procedural fairness and the Judge directed the Department of Immigration to redo his application properly. A period of two more years passed until a letter was received by the Lawyers for Fr. Broussard that the Department of Immigration was dropping the case. Thus in 1991 the “door” was opened for Permanent Residency. In 1992 Fr, Broussard received his Permanent Residency in Australia. He was told that he could apply for Australians Citizenship after two more years. Consequently, in 1994 Fr. Broussard was sworn in as an Australia Citizen before the Mayor of Shoalhaven in Nowra, NSW.

During these years of the 1990’s time passed without much contact from the Holy See, but when a letter did arrive — it always had the same reply for the Founder: that he must place himself under direction of the local Bishop of Wollongong, NSW.  During these years, several more attempts were made to hand deliver the Order’s documentation to the Holy See. It became a circular argument in which the Founder could never receive procedural fairness — he could never make an integral testimony to God’s Work in his life. He was effectively cut-off from due-process within the meaning of Canon 221 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

There was never any fairness shown by the Holy See — they simply washed their hands of any involvement. However, the diocesan policy statements from the Bishop of Wollongong since 1984 were completely against the efforts of the Founder to establish a new form of consecrated life. Nevertheless, it was during this decade that the Communities of the Order flourished. In December 1993 a large Chapel which could seat about 200 people was completed in the Community. It had a large community room underneath the Chapel. The Holy Masses were celebrated by Fr. Broussard. Daily Meals for the Community were set in motion for the downstairs Community room. During this decade the membership in the Nowra Community, also known as the “Motherhouse” increased to about 180 persons. A Primary School was setup for grades 1 through 8 and approved by the NSW Board of Education. The lived experience of so many families, priests and religious sisters practicing the ideals of Catholic religious life brought about many changes in the self-understanding of the Order. The Founder made many revisions to the Constitutions of the Order and lots of policy directions to help organise the various jobs and responsibilities needed for the communities to have a balanced and ordered life. A major goal was to become more self-sufficient with the basic necessities of life. Things like cooking, food purchasing, menu planning and scheduling of activities for so many members became very important. The maintenance of the property and all of the homes and amenities was always needed. It was a time of great activity and common sharing of life experiences.

Towards the end of the decade, and with more correspondence to and from the Bishop’s Office, there was a continual negative refrain — that the Order of Saint Charbel was not approved by the Catholic Church — and that all Catholics should not associate themselves with it. However, in 1998 the Founder issued a request to the Bishop of Wollongong to open an official investigation into the claims of the Founder and the legitimacy of the Order of Saint Charbel as a Catholic religious organisation. From 1998 to 2002 the Bishop issued a number of Decrees against the Founder and the Order, however on 21 October 2000, he convened an Ecclesiastical Commission to conduct an interview of the Founder for the purpose of determining whether his Catholic claims were authentic. Fr. Broussard was allowed to be present. The chairman, Fr. Kevin Matthews verbally issued (63) questions — one after another — to the Founder requiring his verbal answers. Fr. Kevin would not allow the Founder to know the questions in advance — so, the answers to difficult questions were given on the spot and necessarily with only partial answers. This in itself was a failure of procedural fairness, because it did not allow the Founder to provide adequate and precise answers to each question by knowing the questions in advance.

The Ecclesiastical Investigation of 21 October 2000

The event took place in the Presbytery of Saint Michael’s Catholic Church in Nowra. In summary, Fr. Kevin Matthews had an agenda to fulfil — all of his questions were choreographed to bring about the planned result — that the Founder was a charlatan and seriously misguided and the Order of Saint Charbel was not Catholic and was an  heretical association of equally misguided people. All of the questions were prefaced by a strong statement biased against the Founder and his motives. The questions asserted falsehoods and “fake news” as if it were fact — requiring the Founder to accept the “fact” in his replies. This was a terrible injustice as it did not allow the Founder to explain the truth — but forced him to accept the false assumptions in the questions. This was so  unreasonable — that at the end of the Interview, the Founder requested to make a final statement giving his thoughts on the proceedings. Upon arrival at home, the Founder wrote an affidavit giving the fuller and more correct answers to each of these (63) questions. This signed affidavit was submitted to Fr. Kevin Matthews a few days later by post-mail.

It was clear that this investigation was a sham — the outcome was pre-designed to show a negative, ugly and non-Catholic view that the Founder was a charlatan and the Order of Saint Charbel was an ill-conceived, un-Catholic organisation that good Catholics ought to avoid. The Bishop of Wollongong could now say that he had conducted his “ecclesiastical investigation” and its findings proved the Bishop’s assertions all along.

The Founder continued as usual. The Order of Saint Charbel also continued to flourish in these years.

A Federation with Bishop Bartholomew Schneider, T.O.R

In 2001 interest in the Order of Saint Charbel continued to grow worldwide. Bishop Bartholomew Schneider took an interest in the Order after reading the 1996 revision of the Rule and Constitutions of the Order of Saint Charbel. After much correspondence with the Founder, it was decided by mutual consent to form a federation of the two Religious Orders — Bishop Schneider’s Order of Nuns with the Order of Saint Charbel. A number of statutes were agreed upon including the sharing of personnel — the visitation to each other’s Motherhouse for a period of time. Also the agreed upon sharing of common devotions; and continued mutual collaboration in the works and practices of each Order. This arrangement was successful as a beginning and first step.

As time passed, the Founder and Bishop Schneider agreed on the importance of Consecrating Fr. Malcolm Broussard as a Bishop for the Order of Saint Charbel towards the end of 2002. It was not possible for Bishop Schneider to come to Australia, so it was arranged that Fr. Broussard should travel to Bavaria Germany to be consecrated in March 2003. After a week of Retreat in the nice German town of Neumarkt-Sankt Veit — at a family home with a beautiful Chapel — Fr. Broussard was Consecrated a Catholic Bishop in the Thuc lineage on 30 March 2003. He became the first Bishop of the Order of Saint Charbel and indeed a “Mission Bishop” who would promote the main goals of the Order. It was truely a wonderful experience and included friends from Germany and Austria. Bishop Malcolm Broussard returned to Australia to his very happy community.  

“The Thuc Lineage”

In a letter to the Sacerdotal Fraternity of Monseignor Pierre-Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc (Chaillac, France), dated May 3, 1994, Cardinal Cassidy of the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians wrote the following significant words:

“‘the situation of the members of this fraternity is an internal affair to the Catholic Church. The fraternity is not like another Church or ecclesiastical community in the meaning the this ‘dicastery'(?), but an internal affair of the Catholic Church.’

“Of course, the Mass and Sacraments administered by the priests of the Fraternity are valid. The Bishops are validly ordained–although non licitly (without pontifical mandate). What is asked is the reconciliation with the Catholic Church and this is something greatly desired by the Bishop of Rome. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any sign of this being realised in the near future …” (Excerpt of the letter of Cardinal Edward Cassidy, No. 1336/94)

This quotation from Cardinal Cassidy is quite accurate. It is clear that Bishop Pierre-Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc understood the need for a Papal Mandate — but he understood it in the broader sense. Namely, in the circumstances then prevailing, he could justify consecrating Bishops without Papal Mandate. From then onwards continuing his example, the “Thuc Line” of Bishops remains to this day. The important point is as the Cardinal rightly points out -– the “Thuc Line” is an internal affair of the Catholic Church. Thus it is not a sect. We are advised that this same theme was re-iterated by Cardinal Antonelli in Libreville, Gabon on May 22, 1996; and by Cardinal Jerome Hamer on May 26, 1996.

Bishop Bartholomew Schneider, T.O.R. is a Thuc Line Bishop. He was consecrated on August 15, 1999 as a “Mission Bishop” by Bishop Athanasius Maria Seiwert-Fleige in Bonn, Germany. Both Bishops firmly believed in the Papacy of Pope John Paul II and accepted his Primacy over the entire Church.

At that time, Bishop Schneider maintained a Monastery in Spain for the Priests in which he was the presiding Abbot.  In residence were two Cistercian Priests. He founded a Congregation of Religious Sisters whose Motherhouse is also in Spain. They are identified as the “Little Sisters of Saint Francis of Assisi”.

Since 1988 Bishop Schneider (at that time as a Priest) made several petitions to the Holy See regarding the regularisation of his status in the Church. In particular, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith received his many appeals -– however, there was never a reply. Cardinal Mayer, O.S.B. did reply several times, however, his advice was always to direct all requests to Cardinal Ratzinger. Not until 2001 with the meetings of Cardinal Ratzinger and Bishop Athanasius — their hopes were kindled again and a “door” was opened for Bishop Schneider. In January/February 2002 the two Bishops went to Rome culminating in a meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger. Bishop Schneider also met with Cardinal Hoyos who received him very cordially.

Thuc Lineage of Bishop Bartholomäus Schneider, T.O.R.

Bishop Ngo Dinh Thuc Pierre Martin (born in 1897; died in 1984). Ordained a Roman Catholic priest on 10/20/1925 in Viet Nam. Consecrated a Roman Catholic bishop on 05/04/1938 at Hué, Viet Nam, by the Apostolic Delegate in Indochina, Msgr. Antonin Drapier, O.P., Titular Archbishop of Neocaesarea in Pontus, assisted by Msgr. Isidore Dumortier, M.E.P., Titular Bishop of Lipara, and by Msgr. Dominique Ngo Ngoc Can Titular, Titular Bishop of Zenobias. Msgr. Ngo was Titular Bishop of Saesina, 1938-60, Archbishop of Hué, Viet Nam, 1960-68, and Titular Archbishop of Bulla Regia, 1968-1984.

Bishop Thuc Consecrated:

– Bishop Clemente Ferdinand Dominguez Gómez (Spain)

Bishop Clemente Consecrated:

– Bishop Alfred Paul Athanasius Maria Seiwert-Fleige (Germany)

Bishop Athanasius Consecrated:

– Bishop Bartholomäus Schneider (Spain)

Bishop Schneider Consecrated:

– Bishop Malcolm L. Broussard, Jr. (Australia) on 30 March 2003

The Main Goals of the Order of Saint Charbel

The Rule and Constitution (1996) of the Order of Saint Charbel establishes the main purpose for its existence:

“The Order of Saint Charbel is such a lifestyle, established to fill the needs of the Church; to renew the Religious Life which has diminished; to replace the vocations which have been lost; to provide the conditions which enable the family to flourish. The Order is to be a beacon for a world plagued with division and confusion – one which has no sense of direction or stability.” (Preface by the Founder, 1996 edition – Rule and Constitutions)

Practically, this is achieved through embracing four major goals:

1. “Re-evangelisation of the Mystical Body of Christ, particularly through preaching the Word of God in its entirety, as authoritatively taught by the Magisterium, through teaching the Faith at all levels of the Church’s life in the modern world.”

2. “Re-unification and reconciliation of Christianity, particularly East and West, beginning with individual persons and encompassing all ecclesial communions.”

3. “Promotion of the Family as the “Domestic Church” which, in God’s Plan, is the basic cell of Society and a subject of rights and duties.”

4. “Promotion of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which proposes consecration to Jesus through Mary, as an effective means for Christians to live faithfully their baptismal and Religious commitment.” (Preface by Fr. Malcolm Broussard, 1996 edition – Rule and Constitutions.”

The Ordinations and Consecrations of Bishop Malcolm Broussard beginning in 2004 to the Present.

In total Bishop Broussard has ordained thirty-four (34) men. Some of these he has also consecrated as Bishops. Secondly, some of these men prefer to remain unlisted here — therefore several are missing from this list. Some have also left the Order of Saint Charbel and are not listed here.

NameOrdination / ConsecrationCountry
Bishop M Broussard (Active)1978 / 2003Australia
Bishop J (Active)2004 / 2006Canada
Bishop V (Active)2004 / 2007Australia
Bishop J M (Active)2004 / 2014Australia
Bishop G (Active)2004 / 2006Australia
Bishop M M (Active)2005 / 2007France
Bishop S (Active)2004 / 2007Canada
Bishop J (Active)2004 / 2013Canada
Bishop P (Active)2004 / 2013Canada
Bishop S M (Active)2005 / 2014Canada
Bishop J P (Active)2007 / 2013Canada
Fr. M J (Active)2004Australia
Fr. C (Active)2007Ireland
Fr. D (Active)2016USA
Bishop E (Deceased)2004 / 2006Australia
Bishop J (Deceased)2004 / 2007Australia
Bishop J (Deceased2004 / 2004Australia
Bishop P M (Deceased)2004 / 2007Australia
Bishop I (Deceased) 2005 / 2007USA
Bishop J (Deceased)2005 / 2007Ireland
Bishop M D (Deceased)2005 / 2007Canada
Fr. R (Deceased)2004Australia
Fr. V M (Deceased)2004Australia
Fr. A (Deceased)2007USA
Fr. B (Deceased)2007Ireland