The Revd Jean-Jacques Le Roy is the pastor of a Catholic church in the Breton region of Côtes d’Armor.

He was assigned to the Church of Saint Efflam in Plestin-les-Grèves (pop. 3,600) three years ago. Since then, not only has the workload been challenging him, the statues have also got on his nerves.

Early in November 2015, Father Le Roy, 55, could take it no longer. He pushed a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the floor. He shouted:

One less!

The regional newspaper, Ouest-France, has a photo of the broken statue.

Ironically, this happened at the end of a visit from the sacred art commission of the Diocese of Saint-Brieuc.

Le Roy made no secret of his dislike for sacred art in the 19th century Saint-Sulpician style. Many Catholics will recognise the style, which was used through the 1930s and is still popular today. (These examples of stained glass and a prayer card image give an idea of what it looks like.) The name comes from the style of religious images sold in shops near Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris.

Ouest-France says that, in 2014, whilst Le Roy was preparing a couple for their marriage ceremony, he took time out to rant about the ugliness of a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Le Roy’s breaking the statue last month upset his parishoners. Several wrote letters of complaint to the Diocese of Saint-Brieuc.

The Reverend Gérard Nicole, Vicar General of the diocese, told Ouest-France that, whether Le Roy liked traditional statuary or not, that was no reason to destroy it. He added:

It’s understandable that people are shocked.

Nicole scheduled a meeting between Le Roy and the bishop, the Most Reverend Denis Moutel, to discuss the vandalism.

Or was it an accident?

Le Roy said later that he had only wanted to see if the statue was resting against the wall on its pedestal and happened to push it with too much force. Hmm.

He added that stress was a mitigating factor:

In a ministry like ours, we’re always being called upon. There aren’t many priests. We have a lot of fatigue, nervousness, stress. It all came together at that moment.

Nevertheless, the diocese and local council must determine which of them owns the statue. This arrangement dates back to France’s 1905 law separating church and state. Asset lists specify the ownership of important art and buildings.

If it turns out that the commune owns the statue, the diocese will have to reimburse it for the loss.