Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Catholic Far Right in Quebec: Thumbnail Sketches

grondin_pope

CQV’s gilles Grondin meeting with Pope John Paul II

The following was initially written in 1998, and somewhat updated in 2000. It should be considered a historical document, not an up-to-date history. The years since 2000 have surely witnessed major changes in the milieu. Nonetheless, it will hopefully be of some use.

 

As Quebec was going through its Quiet Revolution, Roman Catholicism was experiencing changes of its own. Conflicts that had been simmering for centuries were reaching the boiling point. In order to bring things up to date and resolve certain issues, the world’s bishops held a series of meetings known as the Second Vatican Council, lasting from 1962 to 1965. It was at Vatican II that the Church toned down its war of attrition against the modern world. It was here that Catholicism ceased to attack democracy as heretical, acknowledged the rights of non-believers and allowed the use of languages other than Latin in Mass.

For the first time in centuries, the Catholic Right seemed – if only ever so briefly – to be alienated from official Church doctrine.

Contre-Reforme Catholique and Old Nazis

Adrien Arcand, while a staunch Catholic, was first and foremost a Jew-hating anti-communist whose polemics were rarely religious in nature. After his death, however, religion began to be more and more important in the PUNC, even as the latter became more and more insignificant.

In 1970 some Party members were involved in establishing a Quebec branch of the Contre-Reforme Catholique, a far-right Catholic sect led by the Canon Georges de Nantes[1] in France. The CRC is anti-communist, anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic, de Nantes’ ideal political system being an absolute monarchy, and his heroes being Salazar, Franco and Pétain[2]. He has stated that “Instead of the Masonic trilogy Freedom-Equality-Brotherhood, the national revolution will be based on real values: Work-Family-Fatherland…”[3]; note that the “Masonic” trilogy is the credo of the French Revolution, the “authentic” one being that of the Vichy.

Not long after the creation of a CRC centre in the town of Shawinigan, a war of words broke out between the followers of de Nantes and the PUNC’s new leader Lanctôt. Although the former had voiced his approval of fascism (“[a] salutory response to parliamentary democracy and the bolshevik threat”[4]), the loyal PUNCists felt he was insufficiently respectful towards the memory of Arcand, Hitler and other patriots[5]. De Nantes often offended the PUNCists by saying that Nazism and Communism were the same thing. The PUNCists continued to honour Hitler as a great leader of the Christian West, and accused the CRC chief of “germanophobia”[6].

Since this split, the CRC in Quebec seems to have remained small but stable. It publishes a regular bulletin, often examining the historic role of Freemasonry and other conspiracy theories. Its position on independence remains the same as the PUNC’s, namely that “It is Democracy, not Federalism, that has made French Canada Sick”[7]. CRC leaders, including de Nantes, have visited Canada to speak on subjects ranging from the Shroud of Turin to the defence of Paul Touvier (a Vichy war criminal). While aware of other Catholic-fascist currents, as a group it does not involve itself in politics. Indeed, when the Cercle Jeune Nation folded in 1995 the CRC sneered that it had received its just deserts for being too democratic, remarking that the religious absolutists had won out over the political pragmatists thanks to a simple majority vote!

Lefebvre in Quebec[8]

While the CRC and the PUNC were both very critical of the post-Conciliar Church – so much so that de Nantes was officially suspended from his duties as a priest in 1966 – neither disavowed the Vatican. Indeed, under the present Pope’s reign the PUNC has returned to its prior ultramontantism, seeing in John Paul II an anti-communist to rival Duplessis’ memory!

Not all right-wing Catholics have always been so obedient. In 1975 a Montreal priest, Father Yves Normandin, was booted out of his parish at Saint Yvette’s because he insisted on saying Mass the pre-Vatican II way, in Latin. Normandin was joined by Father J-Real Bleau, whose anti-abortion book L’avortement was distributed by the PUNC.

Bleau and Normandin were welcomed with open arms by a community of traditionalists hell-bent on resisting the new changes in the faith: Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre’s Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). The leading critic of Vatician II in France, in the seventies Lefebvre became a hero to traditionalists around the world. In his words, “The Council consummated the marriage between Church and Revolution… only bastards will be born of the adulterous union … We cannot dialogue with freemasons and communists, because you don’t dialogue with the Devil!”

Lefebvre was supported by fascists around the world, including Blas Pinar’s New Forces Party in Spain, Italy’s MSI and France’s Front National. He repeatedly made racist comments about Jews and Muslims, and was particularly incensed with the Pope’s ecumenical dialogue with these non-believers. In Quebec, Lefebvrists accused the government of being controlled by Communists.

The SSPX attracted Catholics who opposed multiculturalism, democracy and freedom, and were horrified that the Church was giving up its historic battle with these scourges. It eventually managed to set up twenty six Churches in Canada, eight of which are in Quebec. According to Father Jacques Emily, the Society’s Canadian leader since 1983, roughly one thousand people regularly attend mass at these churches, and the group receives donations from three or four times as many people across the country.

Between 1993 and 1995 the Lefebvrists maintained a study group at Laval University in Ste-Foy, a favourite recruiting ground for Catholic traditionalists. The Cercle d’etudes des jeunes catholiques traditionalistes (CEJCT) organized lectures by far-right luminaries from Canada, the United States and Europe, including several leading members of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National. The Cercle enjoyed the generosity of the university’s chaplaincy services, i.e. free meeting space, photocopies, typing plus the prestige of being able to use the university logo on its propaganda. Many of its lectures were held on campus[9]. These tours were often orchestrated in concert with other Catholic-fascist groups, most notably the Cercle Jeune Nation, the Centre d’information nationale Robert Rumilly and the RPPQ.

White Hats, Blue Hats

If some Catholic reactionaries were tempted by the SSPX, the CRC and other even more esoteric anti-conciliar groups, most stayed with the Church hoping to combat the Catholic moderates from within. This was the position taken by the White Berets, aka the Pilgrims of St-Michael, best known for their newspapers Michael Journal and Vers Demain, which have a combined press run of almost 100,000[10].

The White Berets are the last Catholic remnant of the Social Credit craze of the 1930s. Social Credit is a political-economic philosophy developed by Major C.H. Douglas. It aims to harmonise class society and curb the power of bankers, the only capitalists the Major actually considered to be exploitative.

Douglas believed that the bankers worked for a cabal of Jews and Freemasons who intended to impose world Communism. Unlike fascists, who are also prone to believe such nonsense, the Creditists never attained state power anywhere in the world. In those countries where they did maintain an electoral presence the loyal Douglasites were marginalized or simply expelled. Canada was a pioneer in mainstreaming Social Credit, probably due to the fact that Alberta elected a Socred government in 1935, one where pragmatists and professional politicians had no intention of letting a bunch of “kooks” discredit them.

Louis Even and Gilberte Côté-Mercier were Quebec’s Social Credit pioneers. In the first issues of Vers Demain they exposed the judeo-masonic-communist conspiracy and called for the institution of Douglasite reforms. Although initially supported by a section of the clergy, eventually the Church would attack the upstarts for being too violently hostile towards the rich. Not only that, but in the words of the Archbishop of Rimouski, the Socred plan for a universal monthly dividend to be paid to all consumers would reward sloth and encourage vice.[11] For his part, Adrien Arcand rejected Social Credit out of hand because he believed that Major Douglas’ mother was Jewish.

Nevertheless, Mercier and Even continued to publish their newspaper and spread the good word. Vers Demain took part in Robert Rumilly’s campaign to vilify the CBC, and cheered for Pétain and de Bernonville. All opponents, including those who had left Even and Côté-Mercier’s group to start a Social Credit political party, were accused of being in league with international Freemasonry. The group kept in touch with other hardcore Douglasites, including Pat Walsh and Ron Gostick.

In the 1960s the White Berets underwent a transformation from being a political group to being a primarily religious one. Major Douglas’ doctrines were not tied to any one Christian denomination, but Even and Côté-Mercier now infused them with a string dose of hysterical Catholicism. The Judeo-Masonic boogey was now replaced by a Satanic elite called the Illuminati, and faithful Catholics were called upon to save the world under the leadership of Jesus and his mother Mary.

In 1973 the Pilgrims allied themselves with the Bayside Ministry, an equally imaginative religious group led by Veronica Lueken in New York. The Baysiders believed that the Virgin Mary spoke to Lueken, who in turn would relay supernatural revelations about what was really going on in the world. Lueken (or the Virgin Mary, depending on your belief-system) revealed that Pope Paul VI had not really abolished the old Latin Mass and was not really tolerating liberal Catholicism. According to Lueken/“Mary”, Satanic conspirators in the Church had kidnapped Paul VI and arranged for an actor to take his place. It goes without saying that this was all part of a scheme to destroy Christianity[12]. Anything her conservative followers disapproved of could be blamed on this actor and his Satanic paymasters.

The Pilgrims devoted all of their resources to promoting Bayside, reprinting the “conversations” with the Virgin in their newspapers and making repeated trips to the Queens’ World Fair grounds where these celestial meetings allegedly took place. The alliance lasted for only three years, though, for in 1978 Lueken claimed that Mary wanted all female Baysiders to wear blue berets. For years the Pilgrims had been wearing white berets, and they found this new dress code to be highly unreasonable towards their female members, even if it did come from the Mother of God herself. When Lueken refused to give the Pilgrims a special exemption they turned their backs on her[13].

Nothing over the past twenty years has been nearly as amusing as this White Beret rebellion. About one hundred Pilgrims continue to live in a religious community in Rougemont just south of Montreal, and the movement has about 2,000 supporters elsewhere in Quebec[14]. Their main activity consists of protesting against taxes and spreading their newspapers far and wide. Louis Even died in 1974, leaving Gilberte Côté-Mercier the group’s sole svengali. Consistently opposed to Quebec independence, the pages of Vers Demain and Michael Journal occasionally include articles by Ron Gostick, the late Pat Walsh and their colleague Murray Gauvreau.

Family Values and Catholic Schools

In the years following Vatican II most reactionary Catholics did not reject the Church or the authenticity of the Pope. The most comfortable place for Catholic rightists was in those movements that had received papal benediction. Seeing as the Vatican maintained that Catholic children had a right to a Catholic education, in Quebec it was to this cause that most right-wingers flocked.

Vatican II had coincided with the 1963-4 Parent Commission’s suggestion that the Church give up control of Quebec’s school system to the provincial government. Right-wingers would fight a thirty-year battle to retain control over how children are taught.

One part of this campaign has been to defend Quebec’s religious school boards. This battle has finally been lost, the government instituting a linguistic system in the year 2000. Another part of the Catholic Right’s gambit has been to elect reactionaries to the Catholic school commissions. At least in Montreal this strategy proved remarkably successful. In fact, the Association of Catholic Parents of Quebec has kept control of the Montreal Catholic School Commission (MCSC) for the past three decades. Despite the conversion to a linguistic system this year, all signs indicate that these reactionaries will continue to control the new commission as they did the old.

The Association of Catholic Parents has exercised its political power through a front group, the Regroupement Scholaire Confessionel (trans: Confessional School Assembly; RSC). The RSC’s president is Michel Pallascio, son of the ACPQ’s vice-president Isabelle Pallascio. Controlled by the RSC, the MCSC has been a constant obstacle to AIDS education and condom distribution in Montreal high schools, and has repeatedly been accused of racism. In 1988 it fired an employee because of his Spanish accent.  The year after that it sent parents a questionnaire asking whether they thought immigrant children should be forced to go to separate schools.  In 1990 it considered punishing students who spoke languages other than French on school grounds. That same year Michel Pallascio suggested to the provincial government that it favour immigrants with “Judeo-Christian values”, a statement that won him the public support of SOS Genocide, the MIREF and the Mouvement pour la Survie de la Nation[15]. Pallascio reiterated these remarks in 1996, stating that the Judeo-Christian tradition should take precedence over all others because it is “a fundamental component of the heritage and collective identity of the welcoming culture.”[16]

Hard nationalists associated with Raoul Roy’s CRI and the Cercle Jeune Nation have repeatedly expressed their support for Pallascio and the RSC. Pierre Messier, an important member of the racist MIREF, was an RSC candidate in the 1994 school board elections. And, of course, the RSC is very popular with the Catholic reactionary Right. School commissioner Maurice Prévost, for instance, is also the treasurer of the Centre d’information nationale Robert Rumilly.

For a Franco-Pétainist School System!

If the RSC is a model of far-right realpolitik, with reactionary school commissioners staying in office by toning down their rhetoric, not everyone has opted for such a pragmatic approach. Father Achille Larouche, the same priest who worked with the Cahiers de Nouvelle France, the Cercle Jeune Nation and both the original and copycat Centre d’information nationales, has opted for another, complementary, strategy: that of maintaining a no-nonsense Catholic-fascist presence on the religious right.

In 1979 Larouche set up the Ralliement Provincial des Parents de Quebec (RPPQ; trans.: Quebec Provincial Parents’ Rally) to resist secularism, particularly in the school system. Since 1987 the RPPQ has published a newspaper, Nation Nouvelle, on whose masthead one can read the Petainist slogan “Work, Family, Fatherland” alongside the theocratic “God comes first”. Nation Nouvelle has published several articles by members of the Cercle Jeune Nation and the Centre d’information nationale Robert Rumilly. It has also benefited from steady support from Father Edmond Robillard and Lionel Eymard of Carrefour Chretien magazine.

One gets an idea of the common ground that exists between the RPPQ and so-called “hard nationalists” from the December 1995 Nation Nouvelle headline: “We Don’t Want an Atheistic Immoral State Favouring a Suicidal Immigration.”  A more standard text, though, would deal with Freemasonry, secularism and the rights of Catholics. For instance this hyperbolic and longwinded headline: “It is true that we practiced NAZISM in Quebec, that we are guilty of a NAZISM worst than Communism (if this is possible), not regarding ‘anglophones’, but regarding our Catholic Faith.”[17] [17] Other articles praise Petain, Franco and Salazar (none of whom are guilty of anything resembling Nazism…) Every issue includes reprinted texts from Catholic-fascist magazines in France. Like Father Larouche himself, the RPPQ opposes abortion, democracy, sex education and the “invasion” of Quebec by “non-assimilable” immigrants.

“Pro-Life”

Although most religious reactionaries have concentrated on the school question, some have chosen to intervene in the fight against abortion rights. There is no space here to provide a history of the anti-abortion movement in Quebec, but a few points are worth mentioning.

The nationalist movement in the sixties and seventies included a number of strong feminists. Regardless of their subsequent political journeys, this did help establish the same kind of basic opposition to sexism and support for feminism within the nationalist camp. As in so many other progressive movements, though, this anti-sexism was often mere tokenism. Another dimension of nationalist discourse, the concern with the French Canadian birthrate, was intrinsically at odds with the individualistic right of a woman to control her own body.

Predictably, natalist concerns led some nationalists to accuse pro-choice women of betraying the interests of the nation. In the mid-eighties Reggie Chartrand, a famous streetfighter from the RIN/FLQ era, epitomised this misogyny in a booklet entitled “God is a Man because He is Good and Strong! The revolt of a man against feminism”. With the help of lawyers from the far-right Association des juristes catholiques du Québec (trans: Quebec Association of Catholic Jurists), Chartrand initiated a lawsuit against Doctor Henry Morgentaler, Canada’ most famous abortion provider. Although his legal action would fail, along with his scandalous booklet it guaranteed that him a place as the most infamous example of contemporary nationalist-Catholic co-operation.

Today, the chief opponent of abortion in Quebec is Gilles Grondin, a former associate of the World Anti-Communist League and founding member of the Centre d’information nationale Robert Rumilly. Grondin’s group is called Campagne Québec-Vie (CQV); it is a member of the pan-Canadian Campaign Life Coalition (CLC). Apart from lobbying the government, the CQV’s main activity is organizing annual anti-abortion vigils in conjunction with other CLC-affiliates. Members of the Saint-Paul Latin Community, the MLNQ and similar groups have attended these vigils in Montreal.

The CQV’s newspaper, Vitality, has advertised conferences organized by the Jeune Nation/RPPQ network. Articles have purported to “expose” conspiracies of Freemasons, one-worlders and others bent on destroying Christian civilization.  The CQV’s brief to the PQ’s Commission on Independence argued that there was an international conspiracy to destroy traditional Quebec society by encouraging high immigration and reducing the French Canadian birthrate.

Le Lys Blanc

Unique among Quebec’s Catholic-fascist publications for its fanzine-like quality, Louis-Michel Guilbault’s Lys Blanc combined monarchism, Lefebvrism, anti-Semitism and in-your-face fascism. Published regularly between 1994 and 1996, almost all of the articles were written by Guilbault. He exposed what he saw as the Jewish, pagan and homosexual nature of Nazism, and attacked Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National for being insufficiently Catholic and authoritarian. Another text vacillated between the absurd and the fantastic, comparing Adrien Arcand to Jesus Christ! Supplementing these original thoughts were reprints from Catholic anti-Semitic classics, exposés of B’nai B’rith and Freemasonry, and even a translated article by the neo-Confederate Southern League.

Guilbault himself is a follower of the SSPX, and even lectured to the Lefebvrist CEJCT at Laval University. It would seem that his ‘zine was mainly read in the microscopic Catholic-fascist scene, and even there it was by no means an important player. Nevertheless, it is worth including in this study because its politics show that the combination of reactionary Catholicism and unapologetic fascism is not a thing of the past. The desktop fanzeenish nature of this publication, its brief presence on the internet and Guilbault’s plans to produce fascist and racist CD-ROMs show how the most backwards looking ideologues nevertheless embrace the most up to date technologies. Furthermore, Guilbault’s unconventional and ambitious approach make him a likely headache for tomorrow’s anti-fascists…

Back from Lefebvrism

The participation of Louis-Michel Guilbault, Jean-Claude Dupuis and other fascists in the Society of Saint Pius X has already been noted. Such examples notwithstanding, It should be pointed out that at this point the majority of Catholic fascists have remained loyal to the official Church. Since the ascension of the conservative John Paul II to Peter’s throne, much of the traditionalist foment has been recuperated.

A key part of John Paul’s strategy was the legalisation of the old Latin Mass in 1985. The priests Yves Normandin and J.-Réal Bleau, who had been deprived of their church in 1975 due to their refusal to celebrate the Vatican II Mass, returned to the fold following these developments. In doing so, they broke permanently with the SSPX. They brought with them a number of followers who were eager to return to the official Church. This traditionalist community was given its own parishional status, being known as the St-Paul Latin Community.

The return of Normandin, Bleau and their devotees to the official Church has been part of a global trend throughout John Paul’s papacy. The conservative pontiff isolated the SSPX, and in 1989 Lefebvre himself was excommunicated. Following this official short sharp shock, the Vatican established the Fraternity of Saint Peter, a special international religious devoted to tempting members of the SSPX back to the Church. The St-Paul Latin Community is affiliated with this Fraternity.

In Montreal, some suspect the St-Paul Latin Community of including a number of racists from a variety of far-right organizations. Special religious services have been celebrated for dead Nazis and fascists. When European fascists come to Quebec on speaking tours organized by the Cercle Jeune Nation and the RPPQ, they have been known to speak at the Saint-Cunégonde Church where the Latin Community meets. Predictably, investigations have revealed that a number of the Latin parishioners have attended these lectures even when they are held elsewhere.

FOOTNOTES

[1] “La C.R.C.” Serviam v5 #2.

[2] Camun, Jean-Yves & Monzat, René – Les Droites nationales et radicales en France, Presses Universitaires de Lyons1992, p. 169.

[3] “Idéologie: le fascisme contre le democratie,” by Joseph Algazy, Golias #27-28, automne 1991, p. 147.

[4] Ibid., p. 148.

[5] “Adrien Arcand notre maitre,” by Paul Maureau, Serviam v8 #2.

[6] “Point Final,” by F.D., Serviam v8 #3, mai-juin 197_.

[7] “Le Canada Français et le référendum,” La Renaissance Catholiqe #31 nov. 1995.

[8] For more information about Marcel Lefebvre, see “Who the Hell is marcel Lefebvre”, Demanarchie v3#4. _web link_

[9] Ibid. _web link_

[10] Cuneo, Michael – The Smoke of Satan: Conservative and Traditionalist dissent in contemporary American Catholicism NY: Oxford University Press 1997, p. 156

[11] ANQCRR P303, S6, SS19, “Objet: le crédit sociale” 2/4/48.

[12] Cuneo op cit., pp. 159-162.

[13] Ibid., pp. 156-8.

[14] “La droite catholique au Québec: essai de typologie,” by Jean-Guy Vaillancourt & Martin Geoffroy, Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 25/1 (1996) p. 31

[15] “Pallascio a de nombreux appuis chez les ultra-nationalistes,” by Eric Trottier, La Presse 17/11/90.

[16] “Pallascio pitches Judeo-Christian values,” by Irwin Block, The Montreal Gazette 18/9/96.

[17] “C’est vrai que nous avone pratiqué le NAZISME…” by Achille Larouche, Nation Nouvelle v1 #10 juin-juillet 1990, p. 2.



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