English-speaking Canadians, puzzled by Quebec politics, often conclude the clergy must be calling the tune. A distinguished historian examines the background and validity of this venerable proposition

Donald Creighton May 9 1959


English-speaking Canadians, puzzled by Quebec politics, often conclude the clergy must be calling the tune. A distinguished historian examines the background and validity of this venerable proposition

Donald Creighton May 9 1959


The Church

English-speaking Canadians, puzzled by Quebec politics, often conclude the clergy must be calling the tune. A distinguished historian examines the background and validity of this venerable proposition

Donald Creighton

The idea of the French Canadians as a priest-ridden people, constantly and minutely subject to priestly control, has had a long history. For our English-speaking grandfathers and great-grandfathers, this was a favorite charge to hurl at their French-Canadian fellow citizens. It was a charge which took some time to develop nevertheless; and for a long time after the conquest, English Canadians did not much indulge in the habit of wagging their heads sorrowfully or angrily over “clerical control” in Quebec.

With the coming of the industrial revolution in Great Britain and the political revolutions in France and North America, a slow but decided change became noticeable. The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw the beginnings of both a more evangelical protestantism and a more complacent belief in the wonders of material progress. These two forces, in their very different ways, could be profoundly hostile to the clergy of French Canada; and to them was added a third and perhaps still more powerful influence, the growth of democracy and nationalism, the spread of popular belief in the wisdom and desirability of the liberal national state.

In British North America, as the nineteenth century went on, French Canada was increasingly under pressure. Attacks were made upon what were called her antiquated customs and her abysmal lack of material progress. Responsible people either frankly or indirectly advocated that, in the general interests of national solidarity, her entire society should be submerged in a common, English-speaking community. The siege was pushed vigorously; and, as the pressure grew, the clergy, the keepers of the ultimate citadel of French Canada’s mind and spirit, were often given a place of special prominence in the offensive. Lord Durham implied their importance. George Brown protested against it. D’Alton McCarthy deplored it. It became the theme of a good many editorials — the subject of a good many resolutions in Orange lodges, equalrights associations, and Protestant protective associations.

All these people forgot a fundamental fact of great importance in French - Canadian affairs. French Canada is not a unity, a bloc. Its politics are divided, complicated, and contradictory. English Canadians have an inveterate tendency to forget this. They keep on complacently assuming that French Canadians act politically with one head and a single mind just as, in their turn, French Canadians keep on complacently assuming that English Canadians act politically with one heart and a single mind.

There are times when French Canadians appear to be imagining either that, on the Twelfth of July, every citizen in Ontario puts on an orange-and-true-blue costume and goes out and marches in the Orange parade or that the vast majority of Ontarians are Freemasons of a particularly dangerous anticlerical and revolutionary kind found mainly in France and not at all in the English-speaking world. There are even times when, utterly forgetting the nonChristian communions, to say nothing of the enormous number of English-speaking Roman Catholics, the French Canadians seem to be imagining that all other Canadian citizens but themselves are militant evangelical Protestants.

These are obvious delusions; but exactly

corresponding delusions exist in the minds

of English-speaking Canadians respecting

politico - religious

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continued from page 28

“If conquest is a dreadful fate, French Canada has shared that fate with some very great nations”

affairs in Quebec. Faced with the puzzle of politics in French Canada, they have a sad habit of taking refuge in the oversimplified explanation that French Canadians vote at the nod of the priest. They forget that, if this large assumption were true, the hierarchy would have to agree, the parish priests would have to be acquiescent, the whole body of the laity would have to follow obediently, and that, if any debate or dispute arose, the papacy would have to pronounce strongly on the side of uniformity and submission.

All this, on the face of it, is highly improbable. Yet English Canadians had some ground for their over-confident assumptions. The Roman Catholic clergy had always played, and continued to play, a part of very great importance in the life of French Canada. This was an obviously natural state of affairs in a community so deeply and devoutly Catholic; but in addition, there were certain special historical reasons for the continuing prominence and influence of the clergy.

New France began its existence as a missionary station and a fur-trading outpost; and while other social groups — seigneurs, merchants, professional men, soldiers, and civil servants — found their growth frustrated by historical circumstances of one kind or another, everything seemed to enhance the importance of the priesthood and the religious orders. Historians still argue the problem of how far a true and vital bourgeoisie may be said to have had a real existence in New France in the decades immediately before the conquest. 'I here can be little doubt that the seigneurs, those unhappy landlords in a colony which never developed a profitable staple crop for export, had failed to achieve the position of leadership in the community which Colbert and Talon and the other French imperial planners had confidently expected them to occupy nearly a century before. It may be that, even before the conquest, the clergy of New France had shown that they could keep and maintain the position of weight and influence which their heroism, devotion, and sufferings had won them at the beginning of the French effort in North America.

Then came the conquest. And the conquest changed much. Sometimes it almost seems to be assumed that it changed everything. Some French-Canadian historians have accused other French-Canadian historians of regarding the conquest as an uniquely horrible event which has solely and irrevocably determined the entire destiny of French Canada. It perhaps might be remembered that, if conquest is the most dreadful and shattering fate that can befall a people, French Canada has shared the experience with some very great and very creative nations. England was repeatedly invaded and conquered in historical times. So was Scotland; so was Ireland. The quarter part • of the United States which was once comprehended by the Confederacy of 1861-1865 is today inhabited by the descendants of a conquered people. France was completely defeated and occupied in both the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries; and in medieval times the rule of the alien English kings extended for generations over great areas of the present republic.

Years ago, an acquaintance of mine, holidaying near Bordeaux, met a French gentleman who talked learnedly of the “vieux temps de notre roi Edouard III”; and it was not until the British visitor got back to his hotel that he realized,

somewhat belatedly for a student of history, that the French gentleman must obviously have been referring to Edward III, king of England.

Conquests, like other calamities, do not spare even the best political families.

And yet, as a result of special circumstances of time and place, it is possible that conquest for French Canada was a more poignant experience than it was for those greater peoples who had gone through, or were to go through, the

same catastrophe. France's cession of her North American dominions to Great Britain occurred at a time when Western civilization was no longer in an unformed and primitive state, but had reached a highly mature level. It permanently detached New France from the benefit of French political guidance, the stimulus of French capital, the enrichment of French immigration. A relatively small French-speaking community was left alone, abandoned on a continent which was destined to be completely dominated by an English-speaking population.

Without question these overwhelming facts helped emphatically to shape the life and thought of the small society of the St. Lawrence valley. If this little people hoped to survive and preserve its collective soul — and the impulse to survive was strong and irrepressible— then it would have to face a prolonged and terrible struggle. The mass of the French Canadians would prove willing volunteers. But they needed leaders. Who was to lead them?

In part, at least, it would have to be the clergy. Without their help, in some form

and measure, the cause was virtually lost. The great events of 1759-1763 had, if anything, enhanced the importance of their position. The conquest did not “decapitate” French-Canadian society; but it probably reduced still further the power and influence of middle-class groups, who, even during the French regime, had not proved strong enough to give real leadership to their fellow citizens. The soldiers were sent back as prisoners of war; the civil servants returned to Europe. Most of the seigneurs remained in Canada; but if they stayed on the land,

their position was an embarrassed one; and although the bulk of the Frenchspeaking merchants continued to busy themselves with the fur trade as in the past, they soon found themselves acting as the partners, and not infrequently subordinate partners, of a new and aggressive company of English-speaking fur traders. The clergy stuck by their flocks. For a while there was some difficulty of recruitment of their ranks; but on the whole the conquest probably affected the priesthood less than it did any other social group in New France.

As, gradually, the conquest became a distant memory and the nineteenth century went on, the French-Canadian clergy began to realize that subjection to an English-speaking and officially Protestant power was by no means entirely disadvantageous to the religious functions to which they were dedicated. Catholic emancipation did not come in England until 1829; but the passage of the Quebec Act in 1774 proved that the liberal Great Britain of the late eighteenth century was prepared to extend its growing tolerance to a newly acquired Roman Catholic dependency.

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church in both England and the Netherlands was organized as a mission church, suitable for countries officially non-Catholic; but, whilst the establishment of English territorial titles — such as the Archbishopric of Westminster — for Catholic sees created a positive furor of opposition in England in 1850, such titles had been tacitly accepted for generations in British North America. The Protestant kings or queens of England and the Protestant governors of British North America showed no intention of demanding those controls over the church and its activities which the “Most Christian” kings and emperors of France and the “Most Catholic" kings of Spain had been accustomed to claim as a right in the past.

The Catholic church was not an official or established church; but at the same time it was not hemmed in by such limitations and restrictions as had been carefully set out in the Gallican IJbertics of the old French kings or in the Concordat of Napoleon. It had acquired a large measure of control over marriage, the family, and education, the fields over which, in addition to faith and morals, it had traditionally claimed jurisdiction; and, with the coming of the religious orders, including the return of the Jesuits, the body of the clergy had increased still further in numbers and activities. It was steadily growing in confidence.

It was at this point, when the first half of the nineteenth century was well past, that the church first began to be charged with exerting an “undue influence" upon the life and thought of the community. The federal union of the provinces had just been established in Confederation; and, to the clergy of French Canada, the future, both at home and abroad, must have looked doubtful, hazardous, and frightening. Abroad, F>ope Pius IX was in the heat of his struggle to assert the centralized authority of the church against the forces of nationalism and liberalism with which it had been contending ever since the days of the French Revolution. At home, the achievement of Confederation had for the first time put the fate of French Canada into the hands of a new national parliament in which French Canadians were, and would likely remain, a definite minority.

Things had been bad enough in the days of the united Province of Canada, when George Brown, a new Lord Durham, had clamored for representa-

tion by population with the obvious intention of swamping the distinctive culture of Canada East. But now a new Dominion of Canada, in which a large part of British North America was already comprehended, had come into being. A new national legislature, in which representation by population was a fact, had been established. And did not all this mean a greater peril to the collective soul of French Canada than it had ever faced before?

There was danger at home. There was perhaps even greater danger abroad. But

at Rome the good Pope Pius IX was making head heroically against the pernicious forces of liberalism and nationalism which, ever since the French Revolution, had been staining Europe with impiety, violence, and destruction. Pius IX was a great pope; and more than ever the clergy of French Canada were looking up to him for inspiration and guidance in the peculiarly difficult circumstances in which they found themselves. Their connection with the papacy had, in fact, become the chief link which bound French Canada to Europe.

The political connection with France had, of course, been broken more than a century before; the commercial relationship with France had since then remained trifling in importance; and the cultural association with French society and civilization, though it was growing more intimate again, was limited by inhibitions of thought and feeling, as well as by prohibitions of distance and inaccessibility. The French nation, even during the conservative Second Empire, was founded on the revolution; and toward the French Revolution, which she

had never experienced, French Canada maintained an attitude of detachment, doubt, and even suspicion.

No such feelings weakened or troubled the connection between the clergy of Quebec and the papacy in Rome. Just as the French - Canadian priesthood had maintained its position of prominence in the local community, so the link u'hich bound it to Rome had become the lifeline between French Canada and western Europe. Both by temper and conviction, the clergy were ultramontanist -— that is, they were ready and eager to defend the centralizing authority of the papacy against the particular conventions and liberties of the local national churches. In Europe, ultramontanists had inevitably opposed the kings and emperors who ruled the national states and who regarded themselves, and were popularly regarded, as the natural champions of the liberties of the various national churches.

In French Canada, however, and for very obvious reasons, this was not so. The simple internationalism or antinationalism which characterized the ultramontanists of Europe was no necessary corollary of the French-Canadian clergy's attachment and devotion to the papacy. Their attitude to nationalism, which was a highly complex one, was largely and very naturally a product of their own peculiar local situation. In Canada, the federal and provincial governments, far from attempting to direct and control the church for their own purposes, continued to observe a neutrality that was more or less benevolent. There was therefore no particular reason why the French-Canadian clergy should feel a strong animosity to Canadian nationalism on religious grounds.

Besides, in Quebec itself, there was another and a different kind of nationality, a semi-official nationality, a nationalité at once Catholic and French, in which they were deeply interested and of which they instinctively felt themselves to be the guardians.

No major contradiction existed in the mind of the French-Canadian priesthood. Its two prime purposes, one purely religious and one politico-religious, could be reconciled without serious difficulty. The clergy could follow the leadership of the papacy with enthusiasm and conviction: and, over in Europe, the papacy was beginning a struggle of which they heartily approved. After the revolutions of 1848. it seemed as if Pius IX were deliberately taking a stand against the forces of liberalism and revolution which had been unloosed during the protracted troubles of 1789-1815. For some years, a group of liberal Catholic apologists, of whom Lamenna:s, Lacordaire and Montalembert were perhaps the best known, had argued forcefully and persuasively that the best way in which the church could meet the defiance of the revolution was by breaking its traditional alliance with conservative political authority and by supporting the liberal democratic movement wherever it showed itself.

To this general program of the Catholic liberals, Pius IX launched, in 1864. a comprehensive and devastating reply in the apparently sweeping generalizations of the Syllabus of Errors, The Syllabus, as its name suggests, was a list of brief general propositions, each one of which was an index reference to some previously published, much lengthier encyclical or brief, and explicable, to a considerable extent, by the circumstances in which the previous encyclical had been issued. Pius IX had, in fact, undertaken wrhat was essentially the negative task of rebuking the popular dogmas of the liberal and confident nineteenth century.

In the notorious proposition 80. he ended his refutation by declaring that it was an error to say that “the Roman Pontiff can and should reconcile himself, and accommodate himself to progress, liberalism, and modern civilization.” Naturally enough, the Syllabus dismayed the Catholic liberals. It puzzled many other Catholics. It profoundly shocked the rest of the world. The apparently uncompromising nature of the document impressed even its author, Pius IX. He called it “raw meat needing to be cooked.”

The ultramontanists, however, were delighted with it in its raw state. They were immensely heartened. In Quebec, as in France and elsewhere, they instantly began to apply the resounding generalizations of the Syllabus to the evil manifestations of the modern spirit in their own locality. To Bishop Bourget of Montreal and Bishop Laflèche of Three Rivers, and their followers, both clerical and lay, there was no doubt that an essential and serious campaign must be undertaken at once in Quebec.

For over ten years a group of highly objectionable young men—A. A. Dorion. J. B. E. Dorion, L. A. Dessaulles, Joseph Doutre, R. Laflamme—had been making themselves conspicuous by editing radical newspapers, getting themselves elected to the legislature, and speaking and debating in a doubtless pernicious organization called the Institut Canadien. These young men — they were known as rouges in politics — were apparently both anticlericals and republicans. They seemed to profess erroneous views about the proper relation of church and state, and of religion and education. Their first newspaper, L'Avenir, edited by the enfant terrible, J. B. E. Dorion, recalled, by its very title, the journal in which Lamennais had expressed his dangerous propositions.

The papers of the rouges

Surely these deluded young men, by their own open acknowledgement, were the dreaded Catholic liberals whom the Syllabus and the previous briefs and encyclicals had proscribed. Surely it was the plain duty of pious Catholics to silence them and to arrest the spread of their infamous doctrines. Bishop Bourget, in whose diocese was the parent society of the Institut Canadien, and Bishop Laflèche began the pursuit with resolute militancy. The various newspapers of the rouge group—L’Avenir, Le Pays, and Le Défricheur—failed in fairly short order, no doubt largely because of clerical censure and proscription. The library of the Institut was attacked: its Annuaire, in which a notorious lecture on “toleration” had been printed, was also attacked. One member of the Institut, Joseph Guibord, was even pursued as far as the grave. His body was refused Christian burial on the ground that he had died without renouncing his membership in the Institut; and the resultant court case, brought by Guibord’s friends to establish his right to burial in consecrated ground, traveled as far as the judicial committee of the Privy Council before it was finally settled in their favor.

Journals and libraries were a part of education and therefore involved faith and morals. The ultramontanists could argue that their intervention in this sphere had been quite legitimate; but the crushing of the Institut and the silencing of the rouge newspapers failed to content them. They moved openly into politics. In 1871, a group of ultras in the Quebec Conservative party published a document called the Catholic Programme, an authoritarian and reactionary guide for electors. In the next decade,

the Programmistes came to be called Castors (Beavers), from the pseudonym which the author of one of their cleverest and most vigorous pamphlets had taken; and from the beginning these Castors, the extreme right wing of the Conservative party in Quebec, enjoyed a good deal of important support. Bishops Bourget and Lafièche endorsed the Programme. “It is a great happiness for me,” Bishop Bourget declared, “to see the formation of a school which identifies itself heartily with the teachings of the Holy See, which approves all that the Pope

approves and condemns all that the Pope condemns; which consequently rejects liberalism, false philosophy, rationalism, indifferentism and all the monstrous errors which like venomous serpents creep into the ranks of society.”

Encouraged by these pronouncements of their superiors, the ultramontanist curés began to spread the principles of the Programme, in an often simplified but very telling fashion, through the parishes at election time. Not a few of them discreetly reminded their congregations that while heaven was bleu (bleus

were the conservatives in Quebec), hell was rouge. One curé in the Berthier election went even further. “If you want to go to hell," he was alleged to have .said quite frankly, “you have a fine chance. Go and vote Liberal.”

At this point, the vigorous diversity of French-Canadian politics, which English Canadians have an incurable tendency to forget, became manifest once again. Quebec was by no means united in submissive acceptance of the Programme and the views of Bishops Bourget and

“The Castorssaid Chapleau, “are like true beavers: useful only when their hides are sold”

Laflèche; and soon, from all sides, were heard the sounds of criticism and dissent. In the first place—and it was a fact of fundamental importance — the hierarchy was not united on ultramontanist grounds. Bishop Bourget and Laflèche wielded a potent influence; but they could not get the unanimous approval of the other bishops. In particular, that important official, Archbishop Taschereau of Quebec, declined to associate himself closely with their punitive campaign. He refused to act upon the principle that political liberalism in Canada was necessarily identified with Catholic liberalism in Europe and hence must be vigorously suppressed. The body of the clergy accordingly divided on the issue; and the laity were very definitely not of one mind. In the first two general elections of the 1870s, the first of which was a Conservative victory and the second a Conservative defeat, the Liberals managed to hold between forty and fifty percent of the seats in the Province of Quebec. In the general election of 1878, which triumphantly returned Sir John Macdonald and in which the Castors’ Programme was pushed with great vigor, the Liberal holdings were drastically reduced; but even so, the rouges managed to retain twenty seats out of the total of sixty-five. Moreover, the Liberals courageously attacked in the courts some of the most vaunted and notorious of the Conservative victories on the ground that they had been won by the “undue influence” of the clergy. One of the early decisions of the newly established Supreme Court was a judgment quashing a disputed election in Quebec.

“No absolute rights”

The federal Liberals in Quebec, of whom Wilfrid Laurier had become the most eloquent spokesman, thus continued to resist the Castors; but the Quebec Liberals were not the only defendants of moderation against the ultramontanist onslaught. The moderate Conservatives, pupils of the school of the departed Sir George Cartier, were just as eager to oppose domination by the ultra Tories as were the Liberals to resist extinction. J. A. Chapleau, the provincial Conservative leader who joined Sir John Macdonald's federal cabinet in 1882, was a speaker as eloquent as Laurier, and more fiery and impassioned; and he and his great opponent in their different ways united to defend the middle grounds from the attacks of extremists.

In his great speech in 1877 on political liberalism Laurier sought to prove that Canadian political liberalism did not derive from anticlerical and revolutionary European liberalism, but from the English liberalism, “slowly broadening down" of Burke, Fox, Grey, Cobden and Gladstone. “Each one,” he declared in an important passage defining the liberties of the individual, “has the right not only to express his opinion, but to influence, if he can . . . the opinion of his fellow citizens. This right exists for all and there can be no reason why the priest should be deprived of it . . . This right, however, is not unlimited. We have no absolute rights amongst us . . . The right of interference in politics finishes at the spot where it encroaches on the elector’s independence. The constitution of the country rests on the freely expressed wish of each elector. It intends that each elector shall cast his vote freely and willing-

ly as he deems best.” Laurier defended political liberalism and the liberties of the modern liberal state.

Chapleau, in one of the greatest speeches of his career, fell upon the Castors openly and overwhelmed them in a torrent of biting invective and moral castigation'. “For the rest,” he cried, “they (the Castors) resemble true beavers in only one trait. They do their work with mud; they destroy the dams of good mills to make their lodges; and they are useful only when their hides are sold . . . There is no worse exploitation than religious exploitation. No one has the right to employ for his personal ends the great and powerful sentiment which dominates all others in this fine country of Canada.”

Even this was far from being all. The French-Canadian clergy and laity themselves stoutly resisted the ultramontanist; but, at the same time, their fine defense was powerfully aided from Rome. The ultramontanist bishops, checked and discountenanced at home, hoped to strike down their enemies with thunderbolts from abroad. Appeals were sent to Rome; pilgrimages were made to Rome; arguments were copiously and endlessly rehearsed at Rome. The papacy, in its turn, dispatched calming pronouncements; and, on several occasions, it sent out apostolic delegates to investigate the situation, report and act. The final results of all this protracted argumentation and investigation were extremely unsatisfactory to the Castors and their friends. Both during the last years of the pontificate of Pius IX and the first years of that of his successor, Leo XIII, the papal decisions, however temperate and qualified, seemed to go uniformly against the ultramontanists. Clergy and laity were reminded that liberal political parties, in Canada as elsewhere, need not necessarily be confounded with Catholic liberalism, and that the individual citizen must vote, in the end, as his conscience dictated.

This prolonged struggle for the soul of French Canada, this “Holy War” as it was called, had profound consequences. It had been a veritable "Thirty Years’ War,” for it had lasted more than three decades; and it ended, in 1896, on favorable ground on which a victory might have been expected in a crushing defeat for the Catholic hierarchy. The occasion was the federal general election of 1896. in which the Conservatives were finallydefeated and Laurier triurçyphed. The issue was the famous Schools Act of 1890 in which the province of Manitoba had established a provincial system of nonsectarian public schools to which everyone, irrespective of religion, was obliged to contribute.

Since Manitoba refused to amend this controversial statute in the interest of the Roman Catholic minority, the Conservative government proposed, as it had a perfect constitutional right to do, to introduce remedial federal legislation in parliament. Laurier and the Liberals opposed these coercive methods on Ottawa's part; but the French-Canadian bishops supported them with conviction and enthusiasm. They flung the full, united weight of their influence behind the Conservatives. “I fully expect,” Laurier wrote to a friend, “that the active hostility of the church may crush us just now; it will very soon make us stronger. At all events it must have this effect, if there is any manhood left in Canada. I do not

disguise from you. however, that I am passing through a very severe ordeal.”

There was “manhood left in Canada,” more than Laurier perhaps suspected in that dark hour of doubt. Canadian manhood gave Laurier victory in the general election of 1896, not merely in Canada as a whole, but in Quebec itself. The bishops could claim that they had espoused an educational cause which was a legitimate non-political concern of the church; but the issue had to be fought out to a finish in terms of secular, party politics. The divided and distracted Conservatives had lost ground in the nation as a whole. In the province of Quebec, ¡hey mistakenly relied upon the dwindling power of the ultramontanist Castors. Chaplean, then lieutenant-governor of Quebec, was pressed to re-enter the federal cabinet; but he remained pointedly aloof from the conflict. Laurier gathered up the moderate men and the moderate votes which might, in other circumstances, have gone to the Conservatives. The “Thirty Years’ War” had been lost and won.

The election of 1896 forms a height of land which, at this distance, appears clearly against the horizon. It was not so easily discernible at the time; and indeed certain important features of the historical landscape are much the same on both sides of the great divide.

The clergy obviously continued to hold an important place and to exert an important influence in Quebec; and for some time after the beginning of the century, politico-religious issues, in which the priesthood and the religious orders were profoundly concerned, kept arising to trouble the calm of the community. The papal decree Ne Temere, which declared that a marriage between two Roman Catholics or a “mixed marriage” between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant should be performed only by a Catholic priest, came up for vehement debate in 1911; and the question of whether the decree had any force in Canadian law greatly exercised the citizens of Ontario for some time.

Much more prolonged and violent was the agitation over the notorious regulation 17, limiting French as a language

of instruction and as a subject of study in the schools of Ontario, which was issued by the provincial government in 1912. In the resulting controversy, which lasted with increasing intensity for the next eight years, the clergy, both Englishand French-speaking, certainly played a prominent part. On the one hand were some Irish Roman Catholics, headed by Bishop Fallon, who had declared that the bilingual school system “teaches neither English nor French, encourages incompetency, gives a prize to hypocrisy, and breeds ignorance.” On the other hand, many of the French-speaking lower clergy, and some of the bishops, gave moral support to Henri Bourassa and his nationalists in their defense of the French language.

In his encyclical in the autumn of 1916, Pope Benedict XV attempted to pacify these angry controversialists who were more English (or Irish) and more French than they were Catholic. “Nevertheless,” he proclaimed, “let the Catholics of the Dominion remember that the one thing of supreme importance above all others is to have Catholic schools and not to imperil their existence . . .”

Some of the ardent French-Canadian nationalists took this implied admonition a little impatiently. Earlier, Bourassa had quoted with approval Daniel O'Connell’s saying, “I take my theology at Rome, but I take my politics at home”; and now there were no doubt a number who silently echoed this sentiment. The solidarity of Quebec in the general election of 1917 may be attributed, not only to the general opposition to conscription, but also to the fact that the battle over conscription happened to coincide with the struggle over education in the French-speaking districts of Ontario. Laurier himself seems to have been privately convinced that the priests were one of the strongest elements of opposition to conscription in World War I.

And yet, despite all this, the clerical intervention of 1896 remains a peak from which the ground has gradually sloped away in modern times. The world has passed from the nineteenth to beyond the middle of the twentieth century. Religiously, if not politically, we now seem a very long way away from those

two oddly contrasted pronouncements which characterized the year 1864 in Canada, the Syllabus of Errors and the Seventy-Two Resolutions of the Quebec Conference on British North American union. Even for the most spirited ultramontanist, the idea of an official established church, informing and controlling all aspects of organized society, has become a dream which must be abandoned. It is impossible of realization in the face of the advance of the modern democratic and secular state which has special privileges for no communion but observes a benevolent neutrality toward them all.

The alternative, but not contradictory idea, of a free church as a free state, which was perhaps realized first and most completely in the United States, has gradually become the fundamental basis of the religious settlement in most countries of the Western world. Under this liberal regime, which the ultramontanists dreaded in the nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church had made remarkable progress, progress which might be favorably compared with that of the old days when the monarchies of western Europe gave the church powerful but extremely jealous support. In Canada, where in addition the church has enjoyed certain special privileges, growth had certainly been as steady and nourishing as elsewhere. In Canada, by a series of characteristically Canadian compromises made even in the province of Manitoba, the church, through the separate school system, possessed a large measure of influence over education; and these benefits were lacking in more rigidly neutral countries such as the United States.

The vast change in the conception of the proper relation between church and state was perhaps the most important element in the new situation: but it was not the only way in which the passage from the nineteenth to the twentieth century could be expressed.

The church had accepted, not ungratefully, its new position in the modern world; but, in the meantime, French Canada was also passing through a gradual alteration in its own character and in its relations with the rest of Canada, industrialism and urbanism have undeni ably modified the traditional rural way of life, so beloved earlier by FrenchCanadian speakers and writers, in which the family, the home and the parish formed an invincible trinity. Urbanism, industrialism and modern education have brought forward new social groups and classes to share with the clergy the leadership which the latter w'ere obliged to exercise alone so long. And the clergy, as w'ell as the intellectuals, professional men, and industrial workers with whom they are now associated, have taken a more practically realistic attitude to their needs as French Canadians in the modern world.

If provincialism in Quebec is still vigorous, the old separatism, at which Mercier and Bourassa hinted in moments of nationalist impatience, has at least declined; and the grandiose messianic dream, to which the clergy seemed occasionally to subscribe, of Quebec as a civilizing and Catholicizing force, not merely for Canada but also for the whole of North America, has been tacitly abandoned.

Along with the intellectuals, the civil servants, the other new social groups, the clergy of French Canada have co-operated in a number of cultural and educational enterprises for the benefit of ail Canada. They have kept the deep respect of the nineteenth century; they have won a new prestige in the twentieth-century world. -k