Article body

I. Augustine in Québec : From Marie de l’Incarnation to Bishop Laval

The two books by the Dominican Benoît Lacroix recollecting the faith of his father and mother, mix deeply loving nostalgia and bitter reflection. For him the traditional and popular religion of Québec as practiced between the foundation of New France in 1534 and the Quiet Revolution in 1960 was a continuation of medieval life in the French provinces from which the settlers mostly came. He judges, moreover, that in the circumstances of the British occupation, cut off from metropolitan France, this predominantly rural society which had rejected the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the French Revolution, actually became more and more medieval. By his account the Middle Ages did not end in Québec until 1960.[1] Fr Lacroix was trained as a medievalist, was professor for thirty-five years in the Institute of Medieval Studies of the Université de Montréal, and made serious studies of popular religion in Québec ; in consequence, his assessment has doubtless something to it, especially when the way people lived their religion in rural Québec is being considered. His thesis depends, however, on an opposition between the religion of the people and that of the clergy, at war with superstition, struggling to reform religious life and to enforce the changing norms of the church. There are important questions as to whether this model for the study of religion works well for French Canada given the merging of clerical and popular Catholicism in Québec after 1840, a matter of some importance to our subject.[2] Unfortunately, the nature of popular religion in Québec lacks definitive treatment,[3] but, as interesting as that question is, it is, happily, not directly ours. When the Québec church and society are considered institutionally, and in respect to the motives and character of their common foundation, we must look beyond the Middle Ages. What is specific to the church in France, to its intimate union with the Catholic monarchy in the seventeenth century, and to the particular religious mentality of the individuals who built the church in New France must be considered. Crucially for our research, that French century is dominated by Augustine.

Some of these specific features have nothing directly to do with the theological and spiritual Augustinianism of that century in France, where Augustine was reincarnated diversely in the Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle, Descartes, Malebranche, the Jansenists, Fenelon, and Pascal, just to make a beginning with outstanding figures and movements.[4] For example, the demonstration by Marcel Trudel that the seigneurial regime in French Canada was not feudal, will not help us find Augustine in Québec[5] — although, because it bears on the absolutism of the seventeenth-century monarchy, and thus, by way of the near total barring of Huguenots and the complete exclusion of Jansenists from New France, it gives us hints about where we ought not to look.[6] Discussions of the never total Gallicanism which the Québec church inherited from France, both by way of the policy of the Most Christian King and his colonial officials who exercised Royal Government in New France after 1663, and by way of the mentality of the clergy after a bishop and secular clergy (including the Sulpicians) supplanted the initial domination of the generally Ultramontane religious orders like the Jesuits, bring us a little closer.[7] They help explain features of the Québec church and of its relations to the state at crucial points in its history, and they indicate how much was carried from seventeenth-century France to its daughter in the new world. Seventeenth-century Augustinianism went on board the ships and crossed the Atlantic.

Perhaps nowhere else would the scholar searching for the place of a fourth-century theologian in the life of a state start his quest on the façade of the parliament building. Yet in Québec this is an excellent place to begin because, as far as I know, it is only in Québec, and with great significance for its character, where that façade, despite its expected array of explorers, soldiers, and politicians, is dominated by the founding religious figures. The façade of the Hôtel du Parlement de Québec makes a corporate testimony and teaches a public lesson about the history of its spiritual life ; the lecture is about Catholicism in that Augustinian century.[8] A good place to commence is at the top, where in the tower and higher than all the other statues we find two women, Marie de l’Incarnation (1599-1672) and Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700), mothers of New France. Both church and state have honoured them — they are now numbered among the saints of the Catholic Church (Marie de l’Incarnation 1980, Bourgeoys 1982) — and what they have in common and that in which they differ are important. Both belong among the dévots et dévotes, the adherents of the Catholic Reform in France with its religious intensity accompanying a so-called invasion, effervescence, or efflorescence of mysticism[9] tied to self-humiliating service, austerity, and missionary impulse. This spirit was pervasive among those explorers and founders of New France who are numbered with these two women on the façade : e.g. Maisonneuve, Brébeuf, and Viel.[10] More specifically also common to them is their membership in the sillage of the so-called “French School” of spirituality inaugurated by Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629), with his unification of Augustine and the Pseudo-Denys ; Jean-Jacques Olier (1608-1657), who appears beneath their feet, is another leader of this School. Among the many evidences of her following of Bérulle and Olier is the devotion of Marie de l’Incarnation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.[11] This devotion, inaugurated and developed within the French School, will have a pervasive presence in Québec Catholicism. It has Augustinian roots, combining the characteristic incarnational Christocentricism with the Amor Dei. It left its mark on the Chapelle des Ursulines de Québec which has an altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus sculpted in 1729, surmounted by a painting by Charles LeBrun, “Notre-Seigneur révélant son Coeur à des religieuses.”[12] Marguerite Bourgeoys[13] and Marie de l’Incarnation differ but complement one another. Marie de l’Incarnation did her work from within the cloister, arriving in 1639 as an Ursuline and founding an Ursuline order in New France with constitutions suitable to the new world. Marguerite Bourgeoys, more defiant of religious convention, arrived in 1653 without “religious” status, and moved out into the world, founding the first canonically erected order of active “sisters” in the French world, the Congrégation de Notre-Dame de Montréal.[14] Both models had powerful futures, crucial for the development of Québec Catholicism.

Marie de l’Incarnation has one more thing to teach us about Augustinianism in Québec before we leave her to move down the façade of the Hôtel du Parlement. When she arrived at Québec in 1639 she was accompanied not only by two other Ursulines but by three Augustinian Canonesses.[15] These became the founders of the most prominent institution in Québec City associated with Augustine’s name, and of the order of the Augustines de la Miséricorde de Jésus de l’Hôtel Dieu de Québec. Any notion that we have found the means of Augustine’s influence in New France with these cloistered women is, however, mistaken. They were “Hospitalières,” crucially important for the development of medical care in Québec, but, Augustine’s doctrine is not their work. From them we learn a necessary lesson : Augustine is never found pure and by himself in this period, especially not in the Québec from which the Jansenists were excluded — if we regard them to be the faithful Augustinians they took themselves to be.[16] In our period, he is mixed with Denys in Bérulle, or with Aquinas and others in continuations of various forms of scholasticism,[17] and, as we shall shortly see, in Québec, because of the polemic against Jansenius and his followers, the material in Augustine’s works which opposes what the Jansenists found there will be rehearsed.

On the parliamentary façade the first Bishop of New France, François de Laval (1623-1708), Seigneur de Montigny, is at one end of the line of four male ecclesiastics who stand below the nun and the sister. Having the characteristics of the dévot movement : self-abnegating, severely austere, moved to humiliating service and missionary impulse by a mystical interiority, he adds nothing essential to what we found already above him in the ladies who were already in New France when he arrived in 1659. However, three points need noting. First, Laval was initially appointed not as part of the Gallican church but as a missionary bishop under the immediate jurisdiction of Propaganda Fidei in Rome and consecrated at St. Germain-des-Prés in Paris because it was exempt from the jurisdiction of the French Church. Eventually he received letters-patent from Louis XIV and in 1663 New France became a royal colony. In consequence, Laval and his successors had to learn to work with royal governors with a strong sense of the inferiority of the church to the regal power.[18] The struggle between Ultramontane and Gallican tendencies characterises the church in Québec and belongs to her education in how to deal with civil power ; what she learned was essential to her enormous success. Second, Laval aimed in New France to renew there the first centuries of Christianity and seems to have hoped that his provisions for his foundation in 1663 of the Seminary would contribute to this. Third, he begins a line of ascetic bishops, who retained important features of the spirituality of the seventeenth-century founders of the church in New France and did much to shape the character of their clergy.

The establishment of seminaries, intended to reform the clergy, began with the Catholic Reformation. The intensity and effectiveness of that reforming spirit in Québec is indicated by the fact that in the same year in which Bishop Laval founded the Séminaire de Québec, the Sulpicians, a community of secular priests devoted to founding and directing seminaries for the education of secular priests and to pastoral work, arrived in Montréal where they established a seminary as their home and as the centre of their pastoral ministry. We shall need to say a good deal more about them in due course. Laval’s Seminary combines the two functions of being a home for the clergy, including the bishop, and of educating the future priests. All the priests of the Diocese were appointed to the Séminaire de Québec and it was their permanent center, “‘la cure de toutes les cures’, bref, un Séminaire qui tient lieu de presbytère général pour le Canada.”[19] At the same time, it was a Grand Séminaire, i.e. it taught theology completing the training for the priesthood ; its Petit Séminaire was essentially a school for boys — it now educates girls as well. Laval’s Grand Séminaire remained the only one for French Canadians until the establishment of the Grand Séminaire Saint-Jacques at Montréal in 1825 by Mgr Lartigue in his own residence. That was a rather insecure institution which never had many students and where the bishop himself did a good deal of the teaching, giving it a determinedly Ultramontane character.[20] The Grand Séminaire de Montréal was not founded until 1840 by Mgr Bourget (1799-1885, Bishop of Montréal, 1840-1876) who entrusted it to the Sulpician Community there “en toujours et irrévocablement.”[21] In Québec, 177 years earlier, Laval had hoped that, by having a common home, his priests would not need parishes and benefices, and, thus, would, like the early church, hold all things in common.[22] Thus, in his Seminary, the members of the diocesan clergy, “chanoines, curés, desservants, en font tous partie et ne forment qu’une seule famille sous la conduite de l’évêque.”[23] The plan proved to be utopian in many ways and Laval’s successor destroyed his great experiment in communal life. Despite the failure of his plan to restore the primitive church in Québec by “having all things in common” (Acts 5.31), Laval did establish the pattern of life in the Seminary. It is in that paradigm and in what was taught there where we shall find much which is Augustinian.

The evidence is that Laval was successful in fixing the character both of seminary life and of the clergy in Québec. Despite the need from time to time to restore its discipline, Lucien Lemieux judges, in agreement with other scholars and the direct evidence, that asceticism and prayer were characteristic of those who conducted Laval’s Seminary.[24] They were faithful models of fidelity to the prayer, meditation, and spiritual exercises which occupied so much of the daily life of those in their care, and their mutual charity, asceticism, submission to the spiritual regime, self-renunciation, and integrity of morals was genuinely exemplary.[25] Indeed the example was so effective that even the English Lord Durham in his report of 1839 praised the Christian virtues universally recognised in the Catholic clergy, qualities which made them so pastorally effective that the Catholic church supplied what the French Canadians lacked because they did not possess their own civil institutions — momentous words ![26] The bishops took care that the pious practices inculcated in the Seminary were maintained outside it and they were especially concerned that young priests who were prevented by the urgent needs of the parochial church from spending many years in study maintained a daily pattern modelled on its strict regime.[27] This was the kind of life which the Augustinianism of the period with its deep sense of human sinfulness, introspection, and miniscule self-examination inspired not only in the Jansenists but also in the anti-Jansenists in Québec and elsewhere, who were determined not to be outdone in the sanctification of life by their heretical rivals. In both Montréal and Québec there was the same emphasis on the virtues of humility, modesty, and obedience, the same spirit of mortification. In effect in both centers there was the same rigorism, characteristic of the French School in general and of the Sulpicians in particular, accompanied by the same horror of Jansenism.[28] In the course of the nineteenth century, the number of collèges classiques, seminaries, petits et grands, increased greatly, as did their curricula and resources, but the spiritual and moral regime remained fixed in seventeenth-century patterns.[29] The character of prayer at Le Grand Séminaire de Montréal at least until 1964, conformed to the seventeenth-century pattern :

On favorisait la méthode d’oraison de Saint-Sulpice, issue de l’École française de spiritualité, qui préconise les trois “regards” : 1) regard sur Jésus Christ, Verbe Incarné, pour s’imprégner de ses sentiments et de sa volonté ; 2) regard sur soi-même, pour regretter ses fautes, s’offrir au Père et être transformé par l’Esprit Saint ; 3) regard sur les humains pour les sauver. Le but de cet exercice spirituel était de devenir homme de Dieu et missionnaire, comme l’ont été “les grands” de l’École française, notamment Jean-Jacques Olier […].[30]

Until the later nineteenth century the seminaries in Québec and Montréal, and the several reproductions of these metropolitan institutions set up in the various dioceses of Québec, were only rarely places of theological research or speculation. Francophone universities and university theology were not started until one hundred and fifty years ago, when, in 1851, moved primarily by the example of the Archbishop of Paris, who had established what would eventually become the Institut Catholique there, Mgr Bourget began urging the use of the Séminaire de Québec as the basis for a university.[31] The result was that Université Laval received a Royal Charter in 1852, a Papal Brief authorising degrees in theology in 1853, and a Pontifical Charter in 1876. Because the Seminary and the University were inseparable by the terms of the Royal Charter, the Superior of the Seminary became the new Rector of the University.[32] From its foundation, it, and its offspring the Université de Montréal — whose seed was planted when in 1878, Laval established a Faculty of Theology in Montréal,[33] — like all Francophone education in the Province, was under the control of ecclesiastics, and, as much as possible, was staffed by priests or religious. Until the 1960s, university theology and philosophy were determinedly Ultramontane and Thomism was, as Raymond Klibansky put it, “omnipresent and omnipotent.[34]

The reason for the lack of theological research and speculation was first of all that these did not belong to the spirit of the dévots et dévotes and their seminaries.[35] When the seminaries became attached to university faculties of theology their view of priestly formation did not change ; they did not aim to produce an intellectual clergy and in fact they did not.[36] Their primary aim was instead to inculcate and interiorise the habits of religion, and this purpose had not changed when more than one hundred and seventy-five years after Laval’s foundation in Québec, Mgr Bourget created his Grand Seminary in Montréal.[37] So far as the bishops had urgent theological concerns they sought to improve their priests as confessors.[38] Moreover, given the character of the regimes in the seminaries,[39] the missionary work to which they were committed,[40] and enormous pastoral demands of establishing and maintaining the Catholic religion in Québec, those who taught in the seminaries simply had no time for this kind of reflection. The seminarians were ordained as rapidly as possible, having spent the minimal possible time in theological study and the senior among them were employed as regents — junior teachers, mentors, and disciplinarians — in the Petit Séminaire. During their regency the seminarians were subjected to an even more demanding spiritual regime and often did parochial work as well.[41]

Because of the conception of the church and of the priesthood developed in Québec Catholicism, the secular clergy and the religious were required to do much more than maintain and staff pastoral care. In principle the educational establishment should be as clerical as possible, so for example between 1853 and 1897 the percent of the teaching posts held by clergy and religious increased from 10.5 to 44.3.[42] Moreover, the hospitals and other social service institutions were also in the hands of religious — remember the hospitalières who accompanied Marie de l’Incarnation and who founded the first hospital in North America, a project in which they were followed by other religious communities in New France soon thereafter. Given these demands, in a society expanding in population and needing increasing levels of education, care, and service, there could never be enough priests and religious. During the period before the Conquest, despite considerable success both in recruiting from Europe, and, in the cases of the female religious and secular priests — except the Sulpicians — from within Canada, the growth in the clergy never kept pace with the growth in the population.[43] Even at the height of the identification between Francophone Québec and the Catholic Church when the Québec had the greatest density of priests and religious in the Catholic world, the perpetual shortage of clergy continued.[44] The lack of priests worsened after the Conquest when, except for the Sulpicians, religious like the Jesuits were expelled — they were forced to close their college in 1759 — and their return was prevented until 1842, when the Jesuits and other orders were permitted to respond to the desperate need of the Québec church.[45] Cut off from France, so far as the professors were able to deepen their knowledge they were forced to be autodidacts.[46]

In Québec, continuing the practice of the Ancien Régime until the second half of the nineteenth century, the lectures were dictated in Latin from manuscripts excerpted from the approved manuals and as far as possible memorised and repeated by the students.[47] Thus, theology was defined by the textbook. Moreover, one was prescribed from 1731 at the Seminary in Québec, where it was in use for well over a century,[48] and during the first years of the Grand Seminary in Montréal.[49] Happily for me, one of the surviving copies of this textbook, which was never placed in the hands of students, but employed as a work of reference from which the professors prepared their lectures, is possessed by my College in Halifax, the oldest institution of higher learning in English Canada and in several ways the English and Protestant equivalent of the Seminary of Québec. The character of the life of the professors and of the students was as distant from that in Québec as it could be, but the Library of King’s College was the only rival for excellence in British North America to that of the Seminary. The textbook used at the Québec Seminary is part of a remarkable collection of seventeenth and eighteenth-century French theological publications which the King’s Library began acquiring from its foundation in 1789. The acquisitions started with the scholarly French editions of the Church Fathers, including Augustine, which were among the first purchases made for it at the direction of its Anglican episcopal founder, Charles Inglis. Some of the volumes added later once belonged to Catholic missionaries in Québec and Acadia. During the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries the scholarly editions, works of ecclesiastical history, of moral teaching, of pastoral care, and of positive theology produced by the French were prized by Catholics throughout Europe and by Anglicans.[50]

The Compendiosae Institutiones Theologicae ad Usum Seminarii Pictaviencis was, as the title indicates, a compendium, issued under the authority of the Bishop of Poitiers for the use of the seminarians in his diocese. By 1763 it was not only in use in Québec but also in most of the seminaries in France.[51] It appeared in many editions continually expanding in size. The first edition of 1708 was in two volumes, the one at King’s published in 1727 is in five duodecimo tomes ; the final version possessed in Canada is that of 1778 in six.[52] The Bibliothèque du Séminaire de Québec possesses these and other editions, often in several copies.[53] It identifies itself as scholastic theology, which it distinguishes from positive theology — positive theology treats the Councils, the works of the Fathers, and selected parts of ecclesiastical history — because of the ground it covers, that it is both theoretical and practical, and because it argues disputatively for its conclusions.[54] Its method is that of a very attenuated scholasticism, organised in terms of treatises — on subjects like Faith, Holy Scripture, the Holy Trinity, Law, the Sacraments in general and in particular, censures —, of questions, and of articles. The articles contain determinative responses and conclude with replies to objections. Nonetheless, the remnants of medieval scholasticism are not what attracted its users. Indeed, Dr Neveu writes of “the rarity, not to say penury, of the works of speculative theology published in France in the xviith, and more especially xviiith, century,” and continues :

This desertion of Scholastic philosophy for another form of expression, which was more historical, gave French ecclesiastical culture its chief claim to originality. To simplify the position, one might say that the humanist tendency, marked by the emerging of the philological criticism of texts, together with a more soteriological spirituality, stemming from the Devotio Moderna, than in the past, overcame the Scholastic theology […]. [Its] form was gradually abandoned together with the theological style, for the sake of positive theology. It was based not on logical precision but rather on harmonizing the sources of the ecclesiastical tradition of the first six centuries : Fathers, Councils and Synods, ancient liturgies.[55]

In fact, Pictaviensis is a mixture of both approaches. It is very learned and numbers its Loci Theologiae in the order of their authority as : 1) Scripture, 2) Tradition as the unwritten “verbum Dei” handed on, 3) Definitions of General Councils, 4) Constitutiones S. Pontificum accedente Ecclesiae consensu, 5) the Unanimous consensus of the Fathers and Doctors, 6) Concilia particularia a SS. Pontificibus approbata et Ecclesia consensu confirmata.[56] There are significant differences between this list and that of the manual which replaced it when an Ultramontane theology was desired, and we shall compare the lists when we treat that later work by J.B. Bouvier.

Despite the protests of Pictaviensis this work has little of the character of a medieval scholastic summa. Much less is included in theology than an Augustine or a medieval would expect, thus, for example, there is virtually nothing on the creation apart from an anthropology oriented to the principles of moral action and sin. Demonstrations of the proof for the existence of God and other such demonstrations are excluded because they belong to another discipline, natural theology. Apart from what must be said about God, Christ, and the Incarnation, the theology is pastoral and ecclesiastical. All of Tome two is concerned with our obligations, divided into a treatise on laws and a second on precepts. More than half the work as a whole is concerned with the sacraments — included, as related to penance, are questions as to censures, the consciousness of sin, the obligation of restitution — and questions as to contracts, benefices, simony, and common prayer. The reason for all this comes out in what was for me the most surprising, not to say shocking statement in the work, one made near its beginning.

Like Aquinas, Pictaviensis feels obliged to argue for the necessity of this science. For Aquinas, as for Augustine at the start of the Confessions, the need lies in the nature God gave to the human : “mankind is ordered to God as to an end which exceeds the comprehension of reason (homo ordinatur ad Deum sicut ad quendam finem qui comprehensionem rationis excedit)” (ST, 1.1.1), perhaps the most profound and most problematical statement in the whole Summa Theologiae. For Pictaviensis, as for the spirituality of the French School, theology is not in the university nor founded in human nature but in the seminary and the founded in what is necessary to the priests of the church : “Theology in respect to its substance has regard to what is necessary to the Church and her Priests (Theologia secundum suam substantiam spectata est Ecclesiae eiusque Sacerdotibus necessaria.)”[57] It is up to the priest to build up, conserve, and to defend the faith, to form the morals of the faithful by the law of God, and to administer the Sacraments. Theology provides what he needs. This definition of theology does in fact describe how it functioned in the Catholic Church in Québec.

In the Treatise on Holy Orders what distinguishes the priest is spelled out ; he is bound to the altar and the confessional :

Per Sacerdotium datur potestas conferandi Corpus & Sanguinem Christi, ac praeterea peccata remittendi et retinendi : quae quidem potestates non Christianis omnibus, sed solis rite ordinatis competunt. De fide est tota propositio.[58]

The Bishop is a high priest with greater powers and wider jurisdiction. Essentially all bishops are equal : Licet omnes Episcopi charactere et Ordine sint aequales, parem tamen non habent omnes inter se Jurisdictionem.[59] This reduction of the Pope to a bishop like the rest but with greater jurisdiction brings us to the never expressed but general Gallicanism of the Compendiosae Institutiones. This shows itself in items like the Loci Theologiae, the order of treatises — when, for example, Scripture precedes the church —, but above all in its treatment of Papal infallibility when it arrives at the treatise De Ecclesia. Throughout the tract, the reception by the consensus of the church of Pontifical Constitutions defining the faith is always stressed.[60] Augustine is cited and quoted frequently on the church. At a crucial point a statement taken from his writings against the Donatists, by a convoluted reasoning, is led to the following rejection of infallibility in respect to what lacks the consensus of the church : Quae tamen non ita accipienda sunt, ac si solum Romani Pontificis judicium, non accedente Ecclesiae consensu, semper sit infallibile.[61] This leads to two pronouncements, the one positive, the other negative :

Dixi 1. Constitutiones quibus quaestiones fidei definiumtur, & quae toti Ecclesiae proponitur, accedente Ecclesiae consensu, esse infallibiles […]. Dixi 2. Accedente Ecclesiae consensus nam si non accedat huiusmodi consensus non sunt infallibilis auctoritatis.[62]

I suppose that Augustine would have been surprised to have found himself a partisan in this debate, but, given the authority he had in the French Church, it was unlikely that he could have been kept out. One hundred and fifty years later when the Catholic Monarchy and the Doctors of the Sorbonne as the permanent council of the Gauls had succumbed to the Revolution, and Napoleon had carried revolutionary secularism across Europe levelling the institutions created by the old alliances of church and state, the theology taught in Québec would no longer place these stringent limits on what Rome could define on her own.

Dr Neveu brings before us an Augustinianism present in French theology of the period, which consists of a great deal more than scholarship about the Fathers and church history, it helps explain characteristics of the dévots et dévotes of New France and of the theology of the Compendiosae Institutiones, and it conveys a presentment of the Revolution. He tells us that this French theology :

[…] was at the same time modernist and reactionary […]. One passes imperceptibly from the respect for a testimony of tradition to obedience to a norm. The church in its modern age must repeat the forms and language of its youth […]. This appeal to Primitive Christianity certainly found an echo in the heart and imagination of the faithful. In France in the xviith Century this move toward Antiquity was above all frequent among the “appellants” who literally took themselves for the first Christians, with clandestine meetings, incarcerations, poverty […]. The super-Augustinian stress on Adamic perfections before the Fall paradoxically mixes with the revaluation of primitive nature, and with the models which were to give the French Revolution its curious neo-Classical as well as its rustic colouring, soon to be brightened by the scarlet touch of the blood of the massacres.[63]

Despite the primitivist idealism of many of its founders, who hoped that the purity of its Catholicism would make it a truly new France, French Canada will not go down the revolutionary path to which the followers of Rousseau found the map in such ideas. Nonetheless, the Augustinianism of the Compendiosae Institutiones is precisely a form of that modern opposition of nature and the supernatural through the use of the notion of “pure nature” whose dubious origins in Augustine, development, and dangers Henri de Lubac has done so much to expose, with such momentous consequences for theology in our time.[64] In treating the Grace of Christ, the Compendiosae Institutiones declares when answering the question “An status naturae purae sit possibilis” : “Concludimus contra Baium et Jansenium : statum naturae purae esse possibilem.”[65] A century and a half later, as we shall see, this peculiarity of modern Augustinianism will still stand.

A survey of all five of the volumes of the 1729 edition, embracing many subjects on which Augustine cannot be made to say anything, e.g. the sacrament of Confirmation or the penalty of the Interdict, finds that he is the theologian whose authority is most invoked and that he is frequently quoted at length.[66] Nonetheless, several places where he is absent or scarcely present surprise. For example, he is rarely cited either in the treatment of the Sacrifice of the Mass or, astonishingly, in the treatment of the Trinity. The Trinity is understood in a generally Augustinian way, and indeed, the presentation is even more Augustinian than Thomist, insofar as, for example, it comes close to providing rational proofs for the Trinity — they are persuasive though not deductive — nonetheless, other Fathers than he are usually used as authorities and significantly, as we shall see later, his authority is coupled with that of Hilary.[67] Above all Augustine appears in the treatise on grace and those overwhelmingly abundant treatises which deal with aspects of penance.

His presence and his absence can be explained not only by the genuinely remarkable Scriptural, Patristic, and historical learning of the work — there were lots of other authorities at hand — but by its polemical purposes. It is clearly written with two enemies in mind : the Protestants and the Jansenists. In respect to the first, the Scripture and the consensus of the Fathers are the predominant authorities and they are cited first. Both Scriptural and Patristic learning in this period owed an important part of their impetus to polemic across the religious divide, and having been acquired, the weapons are bound to be used. It is worth noting that Bérulle’s Congregation of the Oratory “laid special stress on scriptural scholarship,” and the war against the Calvinists was central to him.[68] This context helps explain the order of the treatises in Tome I : the treatments of faith and Holy Scripture precede the De Ecclesia.

In respect to the second, Augustine, to whom the Jansenists claim to be faithful must be marched out against them, and, indeed, he comes out frequently and well armed.[69] Moreover, because the Jansenist Augustine is the predestinarian and anti-Pelagian Doctor of Grace, the Augustine of the Compendiosae Institutiones is emphatically the Augustine of moral responsibility and the freedom of the will. Tome III probably has the most citations and quotations from Augustine because it contains the treatise De Gratia Christ, in which he figures from the beginning, and scarcely ceases to speak throughout. In Tome IV, in the treatise De sacramento poenitentiae, there is a long quotation from his comment on Psalm 51 brought in on whether sin forgiven still leaves a punishment to be paid (p. 491). Tome V cites Augustine often, mostly because it contains a treatise De cognitione peccatorum ad sacramentum poenitentiae ministrandum necessaria, which certainly owes its presence to the condemnation of the Jansenist Saint-Cyran for “contritionism.”[70] Augustine appears at the beginning on the definition of sin (p. 221) and later, he speaks from the De Civitate Dei on why we are not able to judge the weight of our own sins. In the same treatise Augustine’s De Trinitate is quoted at length on why all would be damned without grace (p. 291) ; the De Libero Arbitrio is used on the question of invincible sin (p. 313) — where he is not very sympathetic — and, at p. 315, he is cited on the purpose of justice. Thus, crucially, although the Augustine of the Compendiosae Institutiones is opposed to the characteristic doctrines of the heretics of Port Royal, he is no less demanding than they. We have in the Compendiosae Institutiones a means of understanding both the rigorism and sense of mission of the Catholic Church in New France.

Along with Jansenism, another form of seventeenth-century Augustinian rigorism not cultivated in Québec, was the rational introspection and deductive scrupulosity of Descartes.[71] Not surprisingly given the ecclesiastical censures and prohibitions to which his ideas and books had been subjected, his publications are not found among the 5 000 titles enumerated in the catalogue of the Bibliothèque of the Seminary there produced in 1782.[72] He was educated by the Jesuits and belonged to the same circles as the Jansenists, Olier, and Bérulle ; many of the Jansenists associated themselves with his new philosophy, but their enthusiasm was not reciprocated.[73] Apparently Bérulle himself urged Descartes to construct a new philosophy, and, as Stephen Menn puts it, “to begin with metaphysics and with metaphysics as conceived in Augustinian terms, as a discipline of reflection on God and the soul.”[74] Many besides Malebranche — whose books were in the Bibliothèque — in Bérulle’s Oratoire seem to have recognised Descartes as a true heir of Augustine.[75] According to Zbigniew Janowski “Cartesianism was so widespread in the Oratorian colleges that a royal decree was needed to curb the zeal” and their Superiors were forced to forbid it being taught.[76] Not only were many attracted to Descartes precisely because his philosophy seemed authentically Augustinian but some were led to read Augustine by their Cartesian studies.[77] This route to Augustine was not taken in Québec where Descartes was mainly known through theological polemic ; certainly at its very roots the Leonine Thomism which came in with the Ultramontanism of the nineteenth and twentieth-century church was a polemic against Cartesian (and Malebranchean) “rationalism.”[78]

II. From Laval to Jean-Jacques Olier

With this survey of the Augustinianism which the theology and philosophy at Laval’s Seminary either imposed upon the church in Québec or excluded from it, we are ready to continue our survey of the façade of L’Hôtel du Parlement de Québec. We now move to our right along the row of four statues, bypassing the Jesuit martyr, Jean Brébeuf, and Nicolas Viel, Récollet and the first martyr of Canada, 1625, arriving at Jean-Jacques Olier who terminates it. His presence there is surprising because he is the only figure of all twenty-two on the façade, finished in 1969, who never came to Canada.[79] His feet did not touch our soil, having been dissuaded from carrying out an intention he had formed in 1636.[80] However, after one hundred years of discussion about who from among the greatest personages of Québec history merited representation, Olier survived, although his statue was among the last installed and others fell out of the original plan. The extraordinary importance which brought him to Canada in bronze, if not in flesh, begins with his proposal in 1639 of “Les messieurs et dames de la Société de Notre Dame de Montréal pour la conversion des sauvages de Nouvelle-France.”[81] Just one year later, the Associates of the Société were granted the Seigneurie de Montréal.

Olier’s spiritual life developed under the influence of the Oratoire de France, which Bérulle founded to reform the church by the elevation of the secular priest reshaped in a Christocentric theology and spirituality, self-consciously revolutionary. Enacting what was central to the revolution, in 1641 Olier founded a seminary which moved with him when he became Curé of the Parisian Parish of Saint-Sulpice in 1642. There he built the present Église Saint-Sulpice ; in the north transept of this severe but magnificent church I first encountered his austere visage. Next to the church he constructed a building for his Séminaire and, in 1645, founded the Compagnie des prêtres de Saint-Sulpice, which transformed both the church in France and throughout a great part of the Catholic world by its direction of seminaries. At the time of his death, Olier had already founded four diocesan seminaries.[82] He bequeathed his sense of the crucial importance of this institution to those who governed the Grand Séminaire de Montréal. In the official history of its first 150 years published in 1990, we are told that “Pour les directeurs, le Séminaire est le moyen providentiel de se sanctifier et de faire oeuvre d’Église.”[83]

Once one has acquired an eye for him in Québec, Olier keeps turning up. In consequence of his part in the foundation in the Société de Notre Dame, Olier is depicted in stained glass in the actual Basilique de Notre-Dame de Montréal on the liturgical south side, where he is represented celebrating the Mass in Paris in 1640 founding Ville-Marie. Ville-Marie became the advance post for Montréal itself. Although, in 1641, a contingent of 54 persons sent by the Société de Notre Dame de Montréal arrived in Québec, and, in the following year, actually established Ville-Marie in Hochelaga at the foot of the mountain,[84] the responsibilities of the Seigneurie were too much for them.[85] However, where Olier’s Société de Notre Dame proved insufficient, his Compagnie des prêtres de Saint-Sulpice succeeded. In the year of his death, Olier sent four of his Messieurs de Saint-Sulpice to Montréal. In 1663, they themselves become the Seigneurs of Montréal, thus uniting spiritual and secular rule in what would become the greatest city of Québec.[86] In the courtyard of the old Séminaire next to Notre-Dame de Montréal, Olier’s bust is carved in bas-relief to the right of the door. The accompanying plaque reads : Le Séminaire de Saint Sulpice fondé à Paris par Mr Jean-Jacques Olier 1641, établi à Ville-Marie Mr Gabriel de Queylus, supérieur, 1657, Seigneurs de l’Île de Montréal 1663. The original Séminaire was not a house of formation, but the place where the Sulpicians lived in community and devoted themselves to parochial work which was the ultimate end to which the inspirer of Olier’s work, Bérulle, had set them.[87]

Along with the bishops of New France and of the post Conquest colony of Lower Canada, the Sulpician Seigneurs established a pattern for the relations of church and state in Québec, where the church accepted no inferiority. Although Saint-Sulpice in Paris continued Olier’s support of Notre-Dame de Montréal, in 1764, the Parisian Sulpicians ceded the Seigneurie to the Séminaire de Montréal, certainly assisting the legal situation of the Community after the Conquest.[88] The Gallican and aristocratic attitudes of the Montréal Sulpicians, almost universally recruited from France — before the Conquest they did not bring any Canadians into the Community and were very slow to do so afterwards[89] — both made it easy for them to recognise the British conquerors and also to demand recognition of their legitimacy from the populace. In addition, their characteristic conservatism made them skilled and tenacious protectors of their own rights and those of the Catholic Church.[90] Their Seigneurie continued, and, although threatened from time to time, was effective, and prospered financially and in many other ways, after the British victory.[91] Officially modified, it was confirmed in 1840, by means of what the Superior of the Seminary told Britain was “the most Catholic and Papist law that it had sanctioned in over three hundred years.”[92] The Sulpicians lost their seigneurial income gradually because, along with other seigneurs caught up in the demand for reform, they were legally required to allow their rights to be commuted into freehold by those who wished to purchase their obligations from them and who had the means to do so. Having represented 90 % of the income of the Community in 1834, the seigneuries only contributed 1 % in 1890. Nonetheless income from this original endowment was still producing something and remnants of the seigneurial rights remain well into the twentieth century.[93] Some, indeed, contend that the Sulpician Seigneurie still has a survival in law.[94] Although this question can arouse some curiosity, what is infinitely more interesting is the way that the character of the Sulpician Community bequeathed it by its aristocratic founder enabled it to make the transition from major Seigneur to major capitalist while it still retained its spiritual power in Québec society.[95]

Olier’s bust appears again in Montréal ; it dominates the great staircase rising out of the entrance hall of the present Grand Séminaire on Sherbrooke Street as much as his spirit dominated its life. Although from the beginning the Sulpicians engaged in educational work, which they expanded at every opportunity, they were not able to start until 1767 what would become their “Petit Séminaire” in 1806.[96] It was not until almost one hundred and eighty years after their arrival in New France that Bourget asked the Sulpicians to found the Grand Séminaire, which they built on their Domaine of the Fort de la Montagne, where they had conducted an early and unsuccessful mission to the Indians.[97]

Olier’s influence far surpasses the actual reach of his Compagnie in Québec, and so his bust also greets those entering the gates of the Bishop Laval’s Séminaire de Québec. Despite the loss in Québec of a model of life which resembled that of the Sulpicians in Montréal, there was still much in common between the purposes and spiritualities of the two seminaries. They had a need for one another, and there was a degree of interchange of personnel. To give only some of the examples : Jean-Charles Chevalier quit the Sulpicians to “s’agréger au séminaire de Québec” in 1738 where he rendered “de bons services pendant plusieurs années” ; Bertrand de Latour, a Sulpician became Grand Vicaire of the Diocese of Québec in 1729 ; and Jean-Baptiste Marchand, educated at the Séminaire de Québec from 1774 to 1786, became a Sulpician and head of the College in Montréal.[98]

The intellectual and spiritual regimes in Québec and Montréal seem to have been much the same. Olier was read in Québec, where his books are found in the Seminary catalogue of 1782, as was well as in Montréal.[99] What prevailed among Sulpicians in France as well as in Lower Canada in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is described as :

[…] une formation ecclésiastique assez semblable, marquée d’études théologiques sclérosées, d’une spiritualité entretenue grâce à des exercices de dévotion, d’un régime de vie régulier et rigide, d’un esprit de soumission.[100]

Although the theological resources available to able seminarians improved in the nineteenth century, especially after the seminaries were linked to the faculties of theology in Québec and Montréal, the spirituality seems to have remained the same at least until the 1960s. Above all it was a way of life which was inculcated. The dryness of the theological content, which aimed to convey the immutable certainty and transcendent mystery of the truth, and the background of the clergy which was mostly rural and non-intellectual even if drawn from the wealthier part of the population,[101] meant that the priests came out of the seminaries well formed practically for the energetic promotion of the church’s work, but without the habit of theoretical reflection.[102]

In the formation of priests, Olier was a moderate as compared with the Jansenists. They demanded public penances, corporal disciplines imposed on oneself, “exterior disciplines.” He, in contrast, “did not exclude normal exterior mortification, regulated by obedience, but above all he encouraged interior mortification : abnegation of our own will and fidelity to the regime (abnégation de la volonté propre et fidélité au règlement.)”[103] This was the character of the spirituality which the Sulpicians brought from their own Seminary to the Grand Séminaire de Montréal.

Olier is clearly a pervasive and important figure in the formation of New France, with him we terminate our survey of the Augustinians on the façade of L’Hôtel du Parlement. Olier points us to Cardinal de Bérulle. Through the way Augustine and Denys were united in Bérulle’s political theology we come closer to the foundations of the relations of church and state in Québec and their impact on the Canadian constitution.

III. Bérulle’s elevation of the priest in Québec : iconography, operation, and idea

Michel Dupuy tells us that the thought and spirituality of Bérulle was at least as much, or even more, Augustinian than it was Dionysian :

Ce n’est pas à Denys, c’est à Augustin […] que Bérulle se réfère le plus souvent […]. Il lui emprunte la clef de voûte de son oeuvre, l’idée même de religion comme retour à Dieu et trouve chez lui, plutôt que chez Denys, le principe de son exemplarisme, le parallèle entre les processions divines et les missions […].[104]

Probably because of the hermeneutic in which he receives them, Bérulle reads the two Fathers so as to emphasize what they have in common, and it is how his following of Augustine blends with a Dionysian mysticism and above all with a Dionysian notion of hierarchy which is important to our investigation. The fact is conceded that for Bérulle “Augustin est incontestablement la grande source des écrits théologiques,” the question is as to whether Denys dominates his political thought.[105] It is crucial that, according to Pierre Cochois, Bérulle seems to have been the last great “hiérarque dionysien.”[106] The treatment of the hierarch in the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy in the sixth-century mystical theologian whose Christianity was fundamentally shaped by the Neoplatonic Academy in Athens gives no hint that the state even exists, let alone working out relations of secular and sacred.[107] Nonetheless, the opposite was true of his Latin reincarnations in general — so in the Unam Sanctam of Pope Boniface VIII he is identified with the Roman Pontiff and in Richard Hooker with the English Monarch — and of Bérulle in particular.[108] His Oratoire was next door to the Louvre, a situation which not only permitted Bérulle’s political engagement, but was also reflected in the images he used to express religious acts.[109] Indeed Bérulle was determined to reverse the prevailing relations of church and state.

There is important iconographic evidence that the Sulpicians and others thoroughly transmitted Bérulle’s revolution to the new world. We may add this to the evidence we have already accumulated showing that the spirituality of the French School had successfully implanted itself in clerical and religious Québec. Jean Simard’s study of religious iconography shows the purpose, sources, and success of a new clerical imagery in France and Québec :

Le premier but de l’Oratoire comme de Saint-Sulpice et de la Congrégation des eudistes […] était la réforme sacerdotale par l’institution des séminaires. L’École française voulait être à la prêtrise ce que les franciscains étaient à la pauvreté et les jésuites, à l’obéissance. Or, aucun ordre régulier n’avait encore travaillé avec autant d’insistance à la réforme du clergé et aucun ordre régulier n’avait pris pour chef le Christ “grand-prêtre de l’ordre ecclésiastique”. C’était là la spécialité de la famille religieuse issue de Bérulle. […] Voilà donc une iconographie typiquement cléricale, par opposition aux diverses iconographies monastiques. […] Une bonne partie de cette iconographie reprend en effet les scènes traditionnelles de la vie du Christ ou de la Vierge, mais en leur donnant une signification sacerdotale ou cléricale, parfois en modifiant l’organisation du sujet, comme c’est le cas de la Pentecôte de Le Brun. La Vierge est montrée comme “source du sacerdoce” parce que les langues de feu tombent d’abord sur elle avant de se distribuer sur les Apôtres […]. Cette iconographie mystique et cléricale, a joué un rôle incontestable dans la formation du clergé français, non seulement au xviie siècle, mais aussi jusqu’à une époque toute récente.[110]

In no other part of the church was the Berullean revolution, effectively evident in iconography, able to be carried through more completely than in French Canada. As we have seen, the religious regime in New France was in great part created by dévots et dévotes, who either shared the same spirit or had come under the influence of Bérulle and Olier. In the new world a renewed Catholicism could adjust the union of church and state, so that the church would not be the subordinate partner. When after the Conquest, the ecclesiastical authorities quickly sacrificed the attachment to France for the preservation of Catholicism, and when their successors whether Gallican or Ultramontane, continued the same policies, they acted from a priority of values which had been present from the beginning.[111]

Micheline D’Allaire describes the context of the Sulpician mission to Canada in a way which other historians will echo :

Pour comprendre la venue des Sulpiciens au milieu du xviie siècle, il importe de rappeler le contexte socio-religieux de l’époque où les éléments catholiques les plus convaincus connurent un regain d’activité qui se manifesta, entre autres, dans la fondation d’ordres religieux, tel celui des Sulpiciens ; dans la fondation, aussi, de sociétés laïques vouées à tonifier le catholicisme. Cette époque mystique marquée par une Église dynamique et missionnaire […].[112]

In 1938, Gérard Yelle, a Sulpician Professeur at the Grand Séminaire de Montréal and in the Faculty of Theology at the Université de Montréal, published a book on the Christocentric mysticism of Bérulle and dedicated it to Émile Yelle (1893-1947), formerly Professeur and Supérieur of the Grand Séminaire, who had became coadjutor bishop of Saint-Boniface.[113] In his Préface to the book, Bishop Yelle asks whether the doctrine of Bérulle has a special interest to Canadians. He answers by asking some rhetorical questions :

[…] le Cardinal de Bérulle et sa doctrine christologique ne représentent-ils pas l’esprit qui a poussé la France du dix-septième siècle à étendre le royaume du Christ dans l’Amérique du Nord ? À tous les fervents des origines religieuses du Canada ne suffit-il pas de rappeler quelques noms ? Ces mystiques entendirent bientôt l’appel du Nouveau-Monde, surtout après l’apparition des “Relations des Jésuites” : l’Esprit-Saint soufflait.[114]

Bishop Yelle then recites a litany of names, which includes, among others, either by name, community, or work, nearly every one of religious figures represented on the façade of L’Hôtel du Parlement.

Mgr Camille Roy (1881-1943), the Rector of Université Laval, preached the sermon for the celebration in Montréal during 1941 of the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the founding of the Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice in Paris by Olier. Himself a son of the Seminary of Québec, he spoke warmly of the spiritual unity between the institutions Laval had created in Québec and the Sulpicians in Montréal, addressing the “messieurs” as continuing the work of Christ “éducateur de ses premiers prêtres.”[115] He gives a good outline of Olier’s teaching on the priesthood (“le prêtre participe au sacerdoce éternel du Christ”), of the character of Sulpician formation (“vie intérieure chez le prêtre ne peut se former et se soutenir que par oraison”), and of the coupling of prayer and action in Olier and his spiritual sons.[116] This is preceded by a brief history of the movement of which Olier’s work is part. At the fountainhead Camille places “M. de Bérulle, qui en 1611, fonde l’Oratoire et, par lui, restaure le sens pratique de la religion.”[117] By way of Olier, at the Canadian terminus of the movement, Camille locates the parochial ministry and the missionary activity of Montréal Sulpicians.

It is crucial, then, that the seventeenth-century mysticism underlying Québec Catholicism “pushes.” The effective devotion of Olier and Laval, and of the centers they founded, to the formation of the parish clergy meant that, when the parish system was in place, the spirit of an époque mystique et rigoriste governed throughout New France.[118] The practical effectiveness of the ecclesiastical programme was greatly assisted at the beginning by its alliance with the seigniorial regime. Leaving aside that many of the seigneurs partook of the spirit of the spiritual fathers and mothers of New France, the benefit to the church of the seigniorial system is indicated by the fact that in 1760, it held 26.3 % of the land area comprised in the seigneuries and 6 % of their number. The Sulpicians with their three and a part (l’Île-de-Montréal, le Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes, Saint-Sulpice, and two properties on the Yamaska) possessed only 3.1 % of the total number of seigneurial holdings, but in area their holdings were the third largest of those possessed by ecclesiastical communities and of course extremely valuable.[119] The church did better out of the system than did the lay seigneurs, not only because the communities held them corporately and were not required to pay death duties but also because, except for the Jesuits, they retained their seigneuries after the Conquest, whereas, because of it and other pressures, the noble seigneurs declined subsequent to the fatal thirty minutes on the Plains of Abraham in 1759.[120] The revenues from their seigneuries, from properties in France granted to ecclesiastical institutions in New France, revenues from motherhouses in France, from bequests, and from parochial tithes, meant that the church in New France generally, and the Seminaries particularly “while not fabulously wealthy, did enjoy a measure of economic stability.”[121] What was the dominant spirit so generally prevalent and practically effective ?

I have already remarked, when considering the programme of education at the Séminaire de Québec, on how the pedagogical methods of Ancien Régime continued there. It turns out that a like conservatism prevailed among the Sulpicians. Recently the remarkable French historian of ancient philosophy, philosopher, and former priest, Pierre Hadot described with distaste his formation under the Sulpicians in France before and during the last World War. For the faults in priestly formation he endured, he reproaches them for remaining stuck in their seventeenth-century origins : “[…] ils vivaient encore au temps de leur père fondateur, Jean-Jacques Olier, personnage assez bizarre.”[122] “Toutes les situations envisagées dans ces examens de conscience supposaient en fait la vie quotidienne du xviie siècle.” More importantly for our inquiry, the spirituality in which the Sulpicians raised Hadot involved an extreme Augustinian and Berullean opposition between nature and grace. There was “confiance aveugle dans la toute-puissance de la grâce.” All power to act is reduced to what Hadot calls a “surnaturalisme” which he defines : “[…] c’est l’idée selon laquelle c’est surtout par les moyens surnaturels que l’on peut modifier sa manière de se comporter.”[123] So far as the doctrines of grace and the nature and formation of the priesthood were concerned, as also in Québec, not much changed in three hundred years.

Changelessness at the centre can be practically effective, enabling practical adroitness. When analysing the success of the Sulpician Seminary in Montréal as a corporate institution in negotiating the changes in political regime and the transformation of their wealth from that of seigneurs of New France to capitalists in industrial Montréal, a Canadian historian attributes that pragmatic flexibility to “the centrality of Sulpician religious belief.” Brian Young writes :

Products of the Counter-Reformation, the Sulpician’s faith in God, the promise of Heaven, and the reality of Original Sin ensured strength and coherence to the community. The religious bedrock was buttressed by a sound constitution, a skilful recruiting policy, and an administrative structure that diluted the essential social exclusiveness and authoritarianism of the institution with the equality implied by membership in a closed organization. The dominance of the symbol of the Virgin and the reality of Man as fallen in their world-view was combined with their power over the sacraments to give the Sulpicians the superiority, confidence, and toughness to wage perennial war […].[124]

Two documents from the Bibliothèque du Grand Séminaire de Montréal indicate the continuity among the Sulpicians of Montréal of the ideas which gave them this confidence in their priestly superiority. They are both published by a Supérieur général de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice : the first in 1886, and the other one century later.

The Traditions de la Compagnie des prêtres de Saint-Sulpice pour la direction des Grands Séminaires concludes with a text on the conception and formation of la vie sacerdotale. The first article of the first chapter, entitled “Le Sacerdoce considéré en lui-même” shows that Bérulle’s notion of the priesthood, conveyed by Olier, was still operative in the formation of priests in Québec at the end of the nineteenth century, by which time thousands of priests had been inculcated with this conception of their office in Montréal alone. Mr Icard writes, beginning with a quotation from Scripture and then quoting Olier at length :

Jésus-Christ vit éternellement, son sacerdoce n’a pas de fin : Unus mediator Dei et hominibus, homo Christus Jesus… eo quod maneat in aeternum, sempiternum habet sacerdoctium (1 ad Timoth. II,5 ; — Ad Hebr., VII,24.) […] “C’est Jésus-Christ qui vit dans les prêtres en plénitude. […] Le prêtre est celui qui continue la vie de Jésus-Christ notre chef. C’est lui en qui Jésus-Christ vit pour communiquer l’esprit de la grâce et la vertu à chacun, selon son état. Le prêtre est ainsi comme un Jésus-Christ vivant.” Jésus-Christ vit en lui, pour rendre gloire à Dieu par oblation du saint sacrifice, pour éclairer les âmes, leur communiquer le Saint-Esprit en les réconciliant avec Dieu […].[125]

Exactly the same kind of language can be found repeatedly in Bérulle.[126] What is characteristic of Bérulle in what is taken from Olier and glossed by Icard are the mutually implicated emphases on Christ as priest and mediator because he offers the Eternal Sacrifice, on the priest as mediator of grace in the church because he offers the same sacrifice, and on the elevation of the priest above all others in the church and the world. Of the respect owed to the priesthood, Icard says, glossing Olier :

Les saints docteurs se sont sentis impuissants à rendre par des paroles ce qu’ils en pensaient […]. L’intelligence humaine ne peut approfondir tout ce qu’il y a de grandeur dans ce ministère d’un homme, qui a reçu de Dieu le pouvoir de rendre présente sur l’autel la personne adorable de Jésus-Christ, et donner la vie surnaturelle aux âmes, en leur communiquant le Saint-Esprit.[127]

The second published in 1987 by Raymond Deville, Supérieur général des prêtres de Saint-Sulpice, is an anthology of texts selected from the writings of Olier, and was, when written, the latest in a series of recueils épuisés issued from time to time by Olier’s successors. It is remarkable both for a change in emphasis, which almost certainly reflects the changes in the church effected by Vatican II, and also for what remains the same. The change in the selection which concerns the priest is that it concerns the “spirit of the resurrection” rather than sacrifice of Christ and of the priest. Indeed, the whole text, taken from an address of Olier on the 17th of September 1642, is placed under the title : “Vivre selon l’état de la résurrection.”[128] The conclusion of the text brings us back to Bérulle’s elevation of the priest, though this time through the kingship of Christ :

Notre Seigneur est fait roi au jour de sa résurrection, aussi bien que grand prêtre, et pour cela il est oint. […] Les prêtres doivent aussi considérer qu’ils entrent en part avec Notre Seigneur de ces dignités éminentes par leur divin caractère et par leur onction. […] Les prêtres sont rois par la participation qu’ils ont de la dignité de jésus-christ ressuscité […] Ils ont puissance de juger les causes de dieu même et de remettre les crimes contre sa propre Personne […], <ce> qui est une puissance royale et divine, les prêtres sont ainsi rois.[129]

By the end of the nineteenth century, at the latest, when this spirituality had been combined with the Ultramontane mentality and policy of the bishops for more than half a century, submission to ecclesiastical authority — which for Bérulle means the authority of the priesthood because the bishop is understood as a high priest — had become the foundation of the Catholicism of Québec. Louis-Adolphe Paquet (1859-1942), an enthusiastic Leonine Thomist, who began his education at the Petit Séminaire de Québec, continued it at the University of Propaganda Fidei in Rome, and after his return to Canada combined the direction of the Grand Séminaire de Québec (from 1902) with being the Doyen of the Faculté de théologie at Laval (from 1904), pronounced the following in a sermon at the consecration of bishop in 1899. After invoking reason as a principle of “purely natural order,” he goes on to what enables the superior end of humanity :

Et voilà pourquoi Notre Seigneur a fondé sa religion sur le grand principe de l’autorité ; et voilà pourquoi le catholicisme repose sur ce principe comme sur une base essentielle […]. Au centre, et dans une majesté à laquelle aucune grandeur humaine n’est comparable, se dresse le pouvoir pontifical […]. L’Évêque tient de Dieu lui-même un pouvoir discrétionnaire dont il sait se servir pour le plus grand bien des âmes. […] [L]a lumière, la vérité et la grâce, descendent à flots continus du Pape aux évêques, des évêques aux prêtres, des prêtres aux fidèles, tandis que le respect, l’estime, la reconnaissance, montent de tant d’âmes croyantes, par les prêtres et les évêques, jusqu’au Vicaire de Jésus-Christ.[130]

IV. Bérulle’s Copernican Revolution

Having established media by which Bérulle’s revolution reached New France, the remainder of this paper aims : (1) first (a) to present the doctrine of Bérulle on which his plan for the reform of the relations between church and state rests,[131] (b) to outline that plan, (c) to indicate what it he takes from Augustine ; (2) second, to give some evidence which suggests that, in the post-Conquest church in Québec, some features of this plan were effected. I do not aim to show that the leadership of the Québec church actually knew Bérulle’s views on church and state, although this was possible and even in some cases likely, or that they self-consciously acted in order to implement them. Certainly, elements of his spiritual teaching were known at the beginning and his teaching about the elevation of the priesthood became known and was explicitly attributed to him as theological scholarship developed in Québec during the later nineteenth and throughout the twentieth centuries. Most importantly, this doctrine was known and inculcated through its mediation by Olier during the history of the Québec church from the foundations of the Seminaries in Québec and Montréal at least until the 1960s. I hope to indicate that Bérulle’s idea of the priesthood, as well as the relations of church and state which belonged to it, were made effective, not only in iconography, as Jean Simard has shown, but also through the policy of the secular clergy in Québec.

As I have indicated above, Bérulle is recognised as :

[…] à l’origine de la spiritualité sacerdotale et de l’action réformatrice qui ont peu à peu donné au clergé français la physionomie particulière qu’il a conservée plusieurs siècles,[132]

and was self-consciously the instrument of a Copernican revolution in theology and religious life, with enormous consequences.[133] From now on, Christ would be the centre of both, the sun around which the universe moved.

Meditating on the states of Jesus, on the dogma of the Trinity, and on the Hypostatic (i.e. the personal and substantial) Union of God and man in Christ, Bérulle harvested new fruit from an old tree. Like Aquinas, but with different results, Bérulle contemplated Chalcedon’s definition of the Union : since Christ was one Person with two natures, in order to be one with the person of the Divine Word the humanity of Christ must surrender its own proper human personality. The Hypostatic Union, as surrender of the human personality, is sacrifice. Christ makes the sacrifice of his human personality. Thus, from the eternal origin of the Incarnation, as divine person Christ is priest and, in this eternal priesthood, he is always both sacrifice and sacrificer. Despite efforts to reconcile this doctrine with that of Aquinas, who alone among the High Scholastic theologians quotes Chalcedon,[134] Bérulle’s teaching is a radical departure and has enormous consequences for the doctrines both of the Eucharist (which becomes the participation in an eternal sacrifice) and of the priesthood.[135] Bérulle’s focus is on the necessity of abnégation, anéantissement, and dénuement of the human on the model of Christ’s sacrifice of his own human personality for the sake of true union with God. Within the Mediaeval controversies such a doctrine would have seemed to verge on heresy. In contrast to Bérulle, Thomas Aquinas tirelessly repeats : “Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.” He specifically rejects a notion of the incarnation which involves the assumption of a personality which was annihilated.[136] One scholar trying both to map the differences and to keep Bérulle and Thomas as close together as possible concludes that they meet together in Augustine : “[…] quand saint Thomas est augustinien, Bérulle est thomiste.”[137]

Through meditating on the servitude of the divine humanity in the very fact of the Incarnation itself, Bérulle came to see the whole life of Jesus as sacrifice. He was astonished by the intimacy of the union revealed by this theological reality, humanity merged with divinity, maintaining no personality of its own. For, with the surrender of the human personality, comes access to the divine subsistence itself. Yelle’s Le Mystère de la sainteté du Christ selon le Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle quotes Bérulle :

Le secret de ce nouveau mystère […], oeuvre des oeuvres de Dieu […] est le dénûment que l’humanité de Jésus a de sa subsistence propre et ordinaire, pour être revêtue d’une subsistence étrangère et extraordinaire à cette nature divisée et séparée.[138]

Yelle shows that, by entering Christ’s dénuement, we enter into the trinitarian relation between God and his Son. For the sake of union with the internal self-activity of God, Christians are to imitate Christ’s total abnegation in every aspect of their lives. By unity with his sacrifice, we will pass with the greatest possible intimacy into the most interior mystery of the life of God.[139]

This doctrine of Bérulle is not only radical in itself. It is altogether revolutionary when such sacrificial living is first made a necessity for priests, is then inculcated through the seminaries established as a result of the Council of Trent, and, finally, is, through the ministries of priests formed in this way, made accessible to all believers. Bérulle judged that the sorrows and joys of a perfectly intimate service and union were shared by Christ with us. He wished to make union with the sacrifice of Christ, at once both divine and humanly concrete, accessible to all Christians. Along with others in this period, Bérulle sought an everyday mysticism. To effect this, every priest must become both a mystic and a spiritual director. Thus, as also with the Protestant Reformation, what had been reserved for the monastery would transform the whole Christian people.

In his later teaching, Bérulle promotes a total identification with the whole life of Jesus as sacrifice. This was a profound modification of the Dionysian mysticism in which Bérulle had been educated, a negative way widely judged to abstract from Christ generally, and especially from his humanity.[140] Crucial changes in the Dionysian teaching on the hierarchy would also be required. In accord with the hierarchy of the pseudo-Denys, Bérulle teaches that the priest’s office is to dispense the doctrine and the sacraments. There is, however, an important difference between Bérulle and Denys. For the Cardinal, it is the historically transmitted authority of the priest, not his illumination — as it was with Denys — which gives him spiritual power. Bérulle developed a strongly hierarchical spiritual system inspired by this typically Latin understanding of spiritual power.[141] However, in contrast to mediaeval and earlier patterns, Bérulle follows Denys in teaching that the spiritual state of the priest is at the origin of all the sanctity in the church of God.

Bérulle required yet another deep transformation of Dionysian hierarchy, one specific to himself, but based in the Augustinian side of his thinking. As I have concluded elsewhere :

[…] there is in Augustine a gracious Christocentric humanism which is able to invert the natural subordination of humans to angels, indeed to overthrow the hierarchy of creatures generally, and which certainly functions at some points in western intellectual and institutional history to reverse Dionysius.[142]

Bérulle’s Copernican and Augustinian spiritual revolution occurred in 1614, when he

inaugurated the feast of Jesus’ solemnity and proclaimed, against Dionysius the Areopagite, a “reversal of the hierarchies” […]. Henceforth, […] all the hierarchies of angels will adore Jesus, the God-man.[143]

This reversal refounds hierarchy in a new way : at the head of the human hierarchy is the priest, not the bishop, nor the prince.[144] Priesthood is at the apex, for priesthood has access to the point of union between the divinity and humanity of Christ. Priesthood has contact with the sacrifice at the heart of divinity, the sacrifice of the human personality of Jesus to his divinity.

The primary divine saving act is that sacrifice of Christ’s human personality accomplished in the Hypostatic Union. Grace flows to us from our real access to the very interior of divinity through our entry into the divine act of union. In contrast, for Aquinas, grace comes to us as a consequence of the Hypostatic Union, and its effect is communicated to us through the humanity of the God-man. Rather than maintaining Thomas’ placing of the humanity of Christ as medium between us and God, Trinity, Incarnation, and Eucharist are radically connected for Bérulle through the Incarnation, which he called “l’état suprême.”[145] “Bérulle parle de ‘[…] la Trinité et l’Incarnation : les deux états du Verbe divin, son émanation éternelle et son émanation temporelle’.”[146] In his thought, the trinitarian self-return of God embraces the humanity so that the humanity itself has a trinitarian remaining, exitus, and reditus structure within the divine life.[147]

In this way Bérulle both accepts and modifies the inherited Christian Neoplatonism. The divine work is envisaged as a cycle. The Incarnation must repeat, retrace, the Trinity. Bérulle considers the Incarnation as a second Trinity. The first of the two Trinities is that of subsistences (Persons) within the unity of the divine essence. The second trinity is that of an essence within the unity of the subsistence of Christ as a divine-human person.[148] Crucially for what we are considering, this second trinity is in history. We humans are included in and exist within this second, personal subsistence, the subsistence of the divine Word. Through the medium of the Hypostatic Union and the Incarnation, creatures come to exist in God himself, they have for their subsistence the divine Word which has united humanity to Himself. This is a radical incorporation within the divine activity because the divine Word, in which the creature subsists, exists itself as a relation within the uncreated essence of God. Insofar as here Bérulle puts another unification of God and the creature in the place of the self-relation of Augustine’s divine-human trinity of being, knowing, and loving this is a move away from Augustine.[149] Nonetheless, we are justified in seeing something fundamentally Augustinian in the result. In place of Augustine’s mental Trinity Bérulle has substituted an immediate inclusion of the human in the divine trinitarian exitus-reditus. The consequences are both to replace the Dionysian angelic mediation with the characteristic Augustinian face to face relationship between humans and God and also to push both the divine and the human into history, another characteristically Augustinian move. Much more is Augustinian, including the sweeping view of universal history,[150] and, above all, the reorientation toward Christ and the humanity of the mediator. In Augustinian terms, one might say that Bérulle has unified the De Trinitate, the Confessions, and the De Civitate Dei.

The Berullian schema is, thus, simultaneously, on the one hand, radically incarnational and historical, with great concentration on the humanity of Christ communicated in the Eucharist through the act of the priest. It is also, on the other hand, transcendentally deifying. For, by relation to the priestly sacrifice, the Christian is carried into the mystery of the divine intercommunication itself.

The relation of the individual soul to all this must be worked out institutionally, as well as inwardly. The sacrifice of Christ demanded a life of servitude on his part and will demand a complete self-negation, an anéantissement, in his followers. This revolution in spirituality by Bérulle was enormously effective in transforming the conception, preparation, inward and practical life of the Catholic priest. Moreover, since the priest is now spiritual director to his whole flock, each member of which is called to this life of union, the French School transformed the life of the laity as well. Bérulle’s revolution has enormous political consequences to which we must at last turn.

V. The Consequences of Bérulle’s Revolution for Church and State

In recent years, there has been a great advance in studies of Bérulle accompanying and following the new edition of his work, which began to appear in 1995 issued by Les Éditions du Cerf and the Bérulle’s Oratoire de Jésus. Part of this new work is an important book treating the questions in Bérulle of most interest to us, Père Stéphane-Marie Morgain’s La théologie politique de Pierre de Bérulle. Its preface by Robert Descimon demands our attention. It concludes by appreciating Morgain’s attention to the metaphysical character of Bérulle’s reflection.[151] Descimon points to the significance of the idea contained in Bérulle’s self-conscious use of Copernicus. When doing so he describes Bérulle’s position in the Augustinian language of the two cities and uses his characterisation of how they are related. This exhibits an important aspect of the ways in which Bérulle adapts the “exemplarism” he took from diverse sources “allant d’Augustin à Bonaventure” :

Avec les années 1620, Bérulle intègre ces images au système copernicien : le Christ-soleil est le centre du cosmos, le roi-soleil est le centre du royaume. […] [C]ontrairement aux protestants, contrairement aux catholiques royaux, Bérulle ne saurait reconnaître une légitimité en soi propre au royaume. La cité terrestre a vocation de représenter la cité céleste, des relations hiérarchiques liant les deux cités et déterminant l’harmonie de la société.[152]

For Descimon this vision was tragic in France, but he has not considered New France, where perhaps there was an opportunity for a different result. Descimon’s conclusion is also his beginning. He interprets the general mysticism of seventeenth-century France and Bérulle’s mystical theology in search of unity as if both arose out of the “unhappy consciousness” which the Protestant destruction of the spiritual unity of France had induced.[153] Bérulle’s response to this was neither the violence of the League, nor the Royalist turn to the King’s rule as supplying what was lost religiously by placing the church within the state. Rather Bérulle, and the dévot party, persisted in the determination to place the state within the church.[154] The dévots et dévotes will serve the King publicly ; secretly they work for God.[155] Obedience was owed to the King ; fidelity belonged to the church.[156] Père Morgain is clear that Bérulle had a deep but unrealisable need to unite the two.[157] The question, both in New France and, subsequently in Lower Canada, was how. Obedience to the Crown and fidelity to the church is not a bad formula for what developed in Québec especially after the Conquest. What was common between Bérulle and the Québec church is the practical impossibility of giving total reality to the dream of sacerdotal rule. In Québec what set the limit also enabled a remarkable success.

Bérulle’s strong turn to Neoplatonic language generally, and to that of the Pseudo-Denys specifically, belongs his quest for :

[…] une nouvelle harmonie cosmique et organique dans laquelle l’homme agirait en relation constante avec la société céleste, sous la conduite et l’influence d’un souverain soumis à la loi divine interprétée par l’Église.[158]

The trouble is that, as we have indicated above, the being of God has two existences and these correspond also to two societies :

Two Mysteries, two Communications, two Plenitudes and two Societies which we have to contemplate, serve, love, and adore, according to the documents of the Christian Religion, and which are solidly and divinely founded and established in these two points which the Faith distinguishes and adores in God […] : in the Essence which founds the communication […] of the most holy Trinity, which is the end, the cause and the exemplar of all societies, Divine, human, and Angelic ; and in the Subsistence, which founds the second society, Divine and adorable of the Word with humanity, and of humanity with the three Divine Persons.[159]

Bérulle’s solution to the conflict is to apply his logic of abnegation or servitude to the prince. The governor of the secular society is to offer his reign to Jesus. The King is urged : “Reign for Jesus Christ, just as you reign by Jesus Christ. Submit your power to his empire and refer it to his service.”[160] Urging the King to be the servant of Christ is to advise him to imitate Christ, who, in his humanity, is a slave :

La relation qui établit chez Bérulle la notion de souveraineté, tout en exaltant la figure du prince, fait de lui un serviteur de Dieu, un esclave au sens absolu que le mot vient de prendre chez le fondateur de l’Oratoire. […] [L]e Christ anéanti dans sa condition d’esclave est glorifié par Dieu du fait de son obéissance.[161]

The Sun-King should will himself to be eclipsed by Christ, who in Bérulle has become the Copernican Sun of the whole universe.[162] This would also place him within the church. For Bérulle, when the dual societies operate on the earth, the church contains the state. We return to the notion of a second terrestrial trinity, when Morgain writes :

Nous le voyons désormais, l’Église est pour Bérulle une “procession” immanente, une continuation imitative dans le temps et dans l’espace de la réalité trinitaire. C’est pourquoi il reprend l’image du cercle parfait pour redire le retour de l’humanité à Dieu par le moyen de l’Incarnation et de l’Église.[163]

The encircling church brings us back to the priest and the whole Berullean and Sulpician enterprise. Bérulle’s writings reiterate his teaching on the indispensable function of the priest — reminding us of the work of Bérulle’s Oratoire and of Olier’s Compagnie — as Morgain puts it :

[…] ils disent aussi quelque chose d’important sur le modèle ecclésiologique sur lequel Pierre de Bérulle façonne celui de l’État et la sujétion des souverains à Jésus et à son représentant. “L’État de Jésus est un royaume auquel les royaumes et États doivent servir.” De cette manière, il s’oppose ouvertement à la théologie protestante qui avec Luther affirme l’origine du pouvoir séculier et son autonomie de la sphère ecclésiastique.[164]

Summing up his analysis, Morgain declares :

The Berullean credo is invariable. The state is resolutely in the church. It is in reference to her and to her chief, the Vicar of Christ, that one must situate obedience to the sovereign […].[165]

The result could be directly practical. In a letter to a Priest of the Oratory, Bérulle writes of a weakening of the church which happened “through the corruption of the ages.”[166] It began in the weaker part of the church, the people, which receives holiness from the other part, the clergy. The result was a division between the three elements of her life, which had been joined together : authority, holiness, and doctrine. Now, “authority has remained in prelates, holiness in religious, and doctrine in the schools.”[167] These must be reunited, and the reunion must take place from the side of the prelates and priests, to whom all three attributes apply and who are called to restore them in the whole church.

Augustine was central to the questions about the relations between church and state in the Middle Ages and was certainly no less at the center of this urgently consequential debate during the Augustinian century in which Bérulle functioned.[168] The exemplarism he took from the Augustinian tradition is essential to the way Bérulle related the City of God and the Earthly City and was determinative of how church and state would stand to one another for him and his followers. For Bérulle, as Morgain puts it, Augustine’s City of God is placed within a Platonic logic in such a way that “la cité terrestre est image de la céleste, le gouvernement des hommes de celui de Dieu, la royaume d’ici-bas ‘ordonné’ à celui d’en haut.”[169] He sums up his conclusions about the role played by Augustinian ideas in the political theology of Bérulle in this way :

En adoptant le concept de Cité, Bérulle se réfère au livre de la Cité de Dieu d’Augustin qui alimente et soutient la vision dualiste de la société médiévale. Aux termes qui opposent et unissent le Ciel à la Terre, la Cité d’en haut à celle d’en bas, l’exemplarisme de Bonaventure ajoute la vocation de la Cité terrestre à reproduire l’image de la Cité de Dieu et à celle-ci de vivifier celle-là.[170]

Noting the Platonic context and the Bonaventurian hermeneutic in this passage is crucial. Bérulle’s Augustine has been integrated with Denys in advance of his reception by the founder of the Oratory. The result here is like that in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries — allowing for the changes in the character of both church and state which the intervening centuries have wrought. Bérulle’s doctrine is constructed out of the same elements which produced the so-called “Augustinisme politique.” This political theology subordinates the state to the church so completely that the secular city is only an instrument of the church and, in principle at least, the secular authorities ought to act “at the nod” of the ecclesiastical hierarch. In fact, such a principle was clearly incapable of practical implementation in seventeenth-century France and Bérulle did not actually develop a full-blown “Augustinisme politique.” His heirs in Québec showed equal realism.

Before leaving Bérulle’s political theology for the practicalities of New France, it is important to note what I have attempted to show elsewhere in the sillage of Henri de Lubac and others : whatever the advocates of the so-called “Augustinisme politique” imagined about its origins, in fact they are not in Augustine.[171] As de Lubac put it : “l’augustinisme politique […] serait plutôt l’inverse de l’augustinisme véritable.”[172]

VI. The Work of Restoration in Post-Conquest Québec

An immediate result of the Conquest was a loss of religious clergy, who either returned to France or who were no longer able to be replenished from the home country. The Jesuit College disappeared in Québec and the Séminaire de Québec was left as the sole educator of young men in the city, with the consequence which became general in Québec for a long period, i.e. that to receive an education in Francophone Québec young men had to live according the same austere and religiously rigorous regime prescribed for future priests. One effect of this was to make entry into Holy Orders the natural result of education, thus facilitating ecclesiastical recruitment.[173] The church in Lower Canada depended more than ever on the effectiveness of the two figures who frame the Jesuit and the Récollet on the Façade of the L’Hôtel du Parlement : Laval and Olier. Dealing with the conquerors fell on the secular clergy and their success depended upon the spirit of the church in Lower Canada their seminaries had formed.

These two seminaries were thrown back on their own resources, in the circumstance that “de toutes les institutions religieuses de la Nouvelle-France, c’est le Séminaire de Québec qui a subi le plus de dégâts par la conquête.”[174] While they resisted English efforts to unite them, the seminaries, nonetheless, cooperated in ways not taken before, and, as they become more Canadian they become more alike. The Sulpicians lost something of their aristocratic aloofness, and acquired more of the capacity to identify with their parishioners, a characteristic of the priests educated at the Québec Seminary who were drawn from the colony.[175] No doubt some move in that direction was necessary ; after all the position of the religious communities and the seminaries as seigneurs did attract some hostility from those upon whose work they lived. Where that was lacking the hostility of the bourgeois and of the patriots appeared.[176] Trudel writes about advantages the church acquired as the result of its response to the situation after the Conquest, which forced a :

[…] homogénéité du point de vue de l’origine. Pendant une trentaine d’années, le recrutement de France […] restera nul, parce qu’il était interdit ; l’Église va se renouveler à même ses ressources autochtones et à la fin du siècle, elle est une Église tout à fait canadienne. Avantages aussi d’une autre homogénéité, celle d’une Église composée presque uniquement de prêtres séculiers : elle le demeurera plus d’un siècle. Enfin, ce clergé séculier […] devient pour longtemps le seul organisme intermédiaire entre le gouvernement et la masse des habitants, le seul groupe qui puisse exercer une influence décisive sur le peuple.[177]

In this situation the Berullean programme for bringing civil society within the power of the secular clergy had a great opportunity opened to it.

The first reflex of the Catholic clergy was to obey the regime which the God of the battle had placed over them. In 1763 after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the Bishop of Québec ordered the singing of the Te Deum in thanksgiving for the benefits of peace. Obedience did not come easily, but it came :

La soumission ne se fait donc pas pour autant sans regrets. Mais le sentiment français doit s’effacer devant le sentiment catholique. […] Dans l’esprit et l’intérêt de l’Église, la religion avait priorité sur la langue et la culture. Telle allait être la trame de l’histoire de l’Église catholique au Canada français : alliance de l’État et de l’Église, loyalisme envers les autorités constituées, primauté de la religion sur d’autres caractéristiques culturelles.[178]

Later the attacks of the Americans, with their revolutionary programme which would have brought the separation of church and state, produced a less forced unity between the Catholic Church and their British governors. The bishops were fiercely hostile to the revolutionary Americans and were essential to the success of the resistance to their invasions and seductions. The loyalty of the Montréal Sulpicians to the British was outstanding, persisting throughout the eighty years of the existence of the colonial regime. In Québec, the High Anglican slogan “No Bishop, no King” was effective ; extraordinarily, however, the bishops were Catholic, the monarchs Protestant ! In the second decade of the nineteenth century, when efforts were made to deprive the Sulpicians of their property, Governor Prevost designated the Séminaire as a center of loyalty in Montréal. In 1838, after the insurrection of 1837-1838, General Colborne wrote that the Séminaire a “plus contribué à abattre la rébellion que tous mes régiments.”[179] Lemieux judges that this reflects French attitudes derived from the Ancien Régime and reaction against the French Revolution. The Sulpicians of French origin still dominated the Séminaire and there is real evidence of opposition between them, on the one hand, and the Sulpicians born in Canada, on the other. This came out strongly in problems between the Community and Jean-Jacques Lartigue (1777-1840), a Sulpician born in Montréal who had become Auxiliary Bishop of Québec with responsibility for Montréal.[180] Nonetheless, these were more matters of a diversity of background, conflicts of interest between the hierarchy, on the one hand, and the Sulpicians as seigneurs and as possessors of Montréal as their parish, on the other, than they were fundamental differences of policy. When it came to questions of the role of Catholic culture in the society, there was unity.

This unity appeared in the 1840s when the second Bishop of the Diocese of Montréal — erected in 1836 and initially given to Lartigue —, Ignace Bourget, undertook an aggressive advance of the Catholic Church in his Diocese. The foundation of the Grand Séminaire, directed by the Sulpicians, was part of his programme. He also united with them in a campaign in respect to popular culture which set the diocesan clergy and the Sulpicians not only against the English-speaking Protestants, but equally against French Canadian liberals.[181] The long-term result is summarized, in this way :

Les oeuvres culturelles sulpiciennes eurent, de toute évidence, une fonction d’affirmation religieuse et sociale du clergé, de même que de récupération des élites ; en cela, elles s’intégraient bien dans l’ascension continue du clergé dans la vie socio-culturelle québécoise après 1840.[182]

Bourget’s programme continued that of Lartigue. They were “résolus à nier à l’État tout pouvoir dans le champ éducatif.”

The Ultramontanism of the two first bishops of Montréal became dominant in the Québec Church in their period ; it “reconnaît au Pape une autorité directe sur l’Église et la soustrait du pouvoir de l’État dans le domaine spirituel et moral dont l’éducation fait partie.”[183] In order to secure these ends, Bourget fought determinedly to stamp out the remnants of Gallicanism in Québec. He suspected both the Sulpicians in Montréal and the Seminary in Québec of retaining its taint and demanded to be assured by Bishop Turgeon of Québec that all Gallicanism had been purged there.[184] Bourget did not confide his own seminary to the Sulpicians until he had assured himself that their direction of it could be trusted, but in 1858 he was still not satisfied that the Sulpician professors were completely of the Ultramontane persuasion. Replacing the Compendiosae Institutiones Theologicae of Poitiers with a new textbook was required.

Soon after the foundation of the Grand Séminaire, the Institutiones Theologicae ad Usum Seminariorum of Jean-Baptiste Bouvier (1783-1854) replaced the Compendiosae Institutiones as the prescribed text in Montréal. It had first appeared in 1834 and underwent at least 15 editions. The rest of Québec followed Bourget’s course, despite protests that a number of things in it were foreign to the laws of Canada and the customs of the dioceses — objections of a Gallican character.[185] The text of Bouvier, Professeur at the Seminary in Mans, was chosen by Bourget precisely because it was “Ultramontane in tendency.” It was used at the Montréal Seminary until 1863 when it was replaced with the text of a Jesuit at the Gregorian in Rome, a work which could be guaranteed to be in accord with the ideas moving at the centre of the church.[186]

Unlike the Compendiosae Institutiones the Institutiones Theologicae was put into the hands of the students. Ecclesiology has the priority in Bouvier’s manual : whereas the Compendiosae Institutiones began with treatises on Faith and on Holy Scripture, the first volume (of six) of the eleventh edition of Bouvier, is comprised of two treatises, Tractatus de Vera Religione and Tractatus de Vera Ecclesia Christi. The treatise as a whole is unreserved in its assertion of the holiness, indefectibility, and universality of the Roman Church as the true church and of the monarchy of the Pope within it. The third and final part of the tractate on the church deduces a plenipotential Papal monarchy and infallibility ; nonetheless Bouvier proceeds with some restraint. Having raised a question Pictaviensis took care not to open : the power of the Pope in the temporal realm, Bouvier proceeds both to a substantial history of Gallicanism and to a condemnation of it.[187] An extended discussion enumerates four possible positions on the temporal power and analyses them. Bouvier rejects the Gallican position and others which he views as extreme, but ultimately he arrives at the following prudent judgment :

Haec de tanta quaestione, olim tam vehementer agitata saepe tam imperfecta ponderata, et nunc ad praxim non pertinente, sufficere videntur.[188]

In other words, we do not need to settle this difficult question on which theologians have often cast more heat than light because Papal rule over secular monarchs is at present excluded in practice. As we shall see, despite his Ultramontane enthusiasm, Bishop Bourget, to whom Bouvier owed his status at the Grand Séminaire, agreed with him about the practical situation.

When Bouvier moved on to his treatment of Papal infallibility he expanded its sphere and deleted the conditions on which Pictaviensis had so determinedly insisted. We are told Omnes catholici tenent Romanum pontificem errare possein controversiis quae cum quaestionibus fidei vel morum non sunt colligatae.[189] The Gallican limitations — the need for the Pope to teach either in harmony with a general council or with the consensus of the church — are gone. Bouvier argues at length and against the Gallican position and even notes that the same French bishops who upheld the rights of the Gallican church against the Pope were pleased to agree with the Roman condemnation of the Jansenists. Portentously, at the end of argument he concedes that, since the matter has not been defined, it does not pertain “ad fidem catholicam,”[190] and the doctrine can be rejected without falling into heresy. Nine years from the publication of this edition, that would change !

The method of Bouvier’s work is generally the same as that of the Compendiosae Institutiones : within a series of treatises, divided into parts, subdivided into chapters composed of articles, propositions are discussed in relation to objections or problems and solved by way of syllogisms based on authorities. In De locis theologicis his authorities are listed in the order of their weight : Scriptura sacra, Traditio — defined as Pictaviensis had before him —, Auctoritas Ecclesiae — which includes the counciliar decisions, indeed councils are frequently cited and Trent is everywhere quoted at length —, Decreta summorum Pontificum — which are also prominently cited throughout the work —, Testimonia SS. Patrum, Consensus theologorum, Ratio naturalis, Philosophia — for which Aquinas’ use of Aristotle is cited —, and Historia.[191] The list is longer than in the preceding textbook, councils are less emphasised, the limits on Papal infallibility have disappeared. The testimony of the Fathers is divided into two kinds, the second of which explains why both in Bouvier and in the Compendiosae Institutiones Augustine is almost absent from the treatise De trinitate. The Fathers are infallible when they are unanimous, as well :

[…] si aliquis Pater in certa materia agnoscatur ab Ecclesia et proponatur ut suam exponens doctrinam, sola eius auctoritas certam facit sententiam : talis est auctoritas S. Aug. in materia gratiae et praedestinationis, S. Athanasii et S. Hilarii in mysterio SS. Trinitatis […].[192]

Deferral to any of the Fathers is qualified by the use of an assertion of Aquinas (Summa Theologiae, 2-2.10.12) that no opinion of a father, for example, Augustine or Jerome, stands against the authority of the church. The Summa Theologiae of Aquinas plays a far greater role in Bouvier than it did in the Compendiosae Institutiones.

With the employment of Aquinas as if he represented the consensus, and with the weight put on the decisions of councils, especially Trent, and on Papal decisions, this work shares with the Compendiosae Institutiones that it is not so much theology tout court, as it is ecclesiastical theology. It is seminary theology where the centre has shifted from the priest to the Pope. It provides an outline of the dogma of the Roman Church together with refutations of the opposition, whether that be Muslim, Protestant, heretical, like the Jansenists, dissident, like the Gallicans, or freethinking, like Voltaire. Even these qualifications do not, however, adequately express the limitations of this theology as compared to the works of the Fathers or the summae of the medieval doctors.

Given the introduction by way of De locis theologicis we would not expect Augustine to play an outstanding role in the first volume and indeed he does not. That volume sets the pattern, one dictated not only by the consensus about Augustine’s expertise, so to speak, but also by the limited character of this summa of Roman ecclesial dogma. In fact its apparent dry attention to the content of theology is deceptive. Like the Compendiosae Institutiones of Poitiers, to which it often refers and approvingly, almost all the speculative content of theology has disappeared. There is nothing left of the Hexaemeron at the heart of Patristic and Medieval theology, and, in consequence, that enormous and essential aspect of Augustine’s thought has evaporated. The treatise on the Trinity is miniscule and once again Augustine is virtually absent from it because it is, as we have been told, not his field ! When I tried to think of what characterises Bouvier, sales and operators manuals came to mind. This is not so much theology as what those who must justify the Catholic Church as the true medium of the true religion, and who must operate the great sacramental machine, especially the penitential apparatus, need to know. In such a framework, Augustine remains the most quoted of the Fathers, but this is largely because, thanks to the Jansenists, he is the foremost expert on sin who must be demonstrated to be on the side of the ecclesiastical administration. Conformably to this way of understanding Bouvier’s manual, it does not attempt solutions to merely speculative problems.

In Tome II Augustine makes modest appearances in the treatises on faith and the Incarnation, and is almost absent on the Trinity, but comes into his own, as one would expect, in the long treatise on grace which begins with a “Pars historica” setting out erroneous positions, including those of the Pelagians, Protestants, and Jansenists. The long and complex “Pars dogmatica” begins, as Pictaviensis did, with an Article De Statu Natura Purae. Its first Proposition asserts Status naturae purae est possibilis ; its demonstration in five pages includes quotations from the De Libero Arbitrio (3.20), the Contra Julianum (4.16), and the De Genesi ad Litteram (6.25) ; the De Civitate Dei is cited in the Solvuntur objectiones where Aquinas is also cited. Augustine is the only theologian quoted.[193] The second Article is De Statu Justitiae Originalis and contains four propositions on the state of Adam before the Fall.[194] The Dogmatic Part includes two sections briefly describing positions Bouvier attributes to the Molinists, the Thomists and others. Bouvier sums up this excursus by telling us that he will not attempt a resolution : Gravissima igitur semper subsistet difficultas circa concordiam gratiae efficacis et liberi arbitrii, quam solvere non tentabimus. He concludes by agreeing with Augustine, De Spiritu et Littera, chapter 34 warning against presumption.[195] Augustine is not absent from the remaining two treatises in Tome II which consider the sacraments in general and Baptism, but he is not universally present as he was in the treatise on grace.

Tome III continues the treatment of the sacraments, and Augustine is virtually silent for hundreds of pages until he makes a significant but not overwhelming entrance when we reach the De Poenitentia. The theologian with the greatest presence for a major part of this treatise is St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) whose Probablism provided relief to Jansenist rigorism and had important implications for the work of the confessor.[196] When Bouvier was writing his manual, the ideas of Liguori exercised the Bishop of Québec and the theologians at his Séminaire.[197] In Tome IV Augustine makes contributions to the consideration of human acts, of the resurrection, and of conscience. As with the Compendiosae Institutiones, he is made to be a rigorist on the question of invincible ignorance — because we are guilty for not seeking to know. On the conscience Augustine De Baptismo, 1.3 becomes an advocate of Tutiorism, which requires obedience to the law when there is a question as to whether we might have freedom in respect to it.[198] In accord with the same pattern, the last major appearance of Augustine in the last two volumes is in Tome V, where the treatise De Peccatis is found.

In sum, Augustine no longer dominates Bouvier’s manual in the way he did the Compendiosae Institutiones, but so far as he appears he plays the same roles and presents the same rigorist picture. We have moved away from the Augustinian century of which the Compendiosae Institutiones was a late product ; the preoccupations of the Roman and the Québec churches are with how to conceive and construct themselves in the face of a hostile or at least a foreign secular civil power. Bourget seems not to have been mistaken in moving his new Seminary to adopt the Institutiones Theologicae.

By the end of Bourget’s episcopate he had succeeded against Gallicanism by using all means, including identifying it with Catholic liberalism in his attacks.[199] The first two bishops of Montréal were equally resolved not to permit the programme either of the Americans or of the liberals in Québec to separate church and state. The collaboration of the state was used in order to secure the superiority of the church in the fields of education and of social welfare, both very widely understood. Collaboration and obedience served fidelity.[200] However, as with Bérulle, obedience was in one place, fidelity in another ; the secular state, excluded from what really mattered to the church, received the obedience due to it, but the faithful heart was with the church.

Whether Gallican or Ultramontane in their sentiments the Catholic priesthood in Québec lacked nothing of the self-esteem necessary not only to keep the heretical British Protestant state within its limits, but also to make it serve the interests of the church. Crucially, the clergy had not been wasting their time when at work in their parishes. Their sense of the royal and supreme dignity of the priesthood was very sufficiently, if not universally, shared by their flock, as liberals in Québec would discover repeatedly both in the nineteenth and in the twentieth centuries. Holiness had been united with authority in the church in Québec from the beginning. In line with the Berullean schema for the restoration of the attributes of the church, an early place of battle would be schooling, and, though the contest was real, the Catholic Church won.[201]

VII. Forming the Canadian Confederation : Triumph and Fall

In the second half of the nineteenth century when in the rest of the Western world church and state were separating, the church in Québec was taking the opposite path : “[…] cette Église a émergé comme Église nationale et comme puissance politique.”[202] In fact, as one history of the late nineteenth century and first forty years of twentieth century puts it, the legal separation of church and state is deceptive : “De fait, le Québec est une société cléricale, et l’Église, une puissance politique.”[203] In the second third of the twentieth century, the government would be controlled by a populist Catholic, even more conservative than a great part of the ecclesiastical leadership. This was the ultimate victory, however, and concealed or even exacerbated weaknesses ; a deluge of internal and external defeats followed.

The successes of the church in Québec were not achieved by direct confrontation with the various governments. From the Conquest and even after Confederation, these were often dominated by British and Protestants, whose policy was to break down the social cohesion of French Québec and to assimilate it to the dominant demographic and economic North American reality. Rather, sidestepping a head-on collision, the Catholic Church sought to maintain or to gain control over social life. Some French Canadian “Catholics, both clerical and lay,” dreamt of establishing “a near-theocracy in Québec.” In fact, although the church “enjoyed immense power and had an influence on all aspects of the lives of Catholic Quebecers, their dreams were never realised [in part] […] because state recognition was an essential element in the material basis of church power.”[204]

The church “created an institutional space” even within the “‘foreign’ territory” of cities, the place the British thought the assimilation would occur. She provided “services by French Canadians for French Canadians from the cradle to the grave.”[205] It is not insignificant that this essential triumph of the conquered was in Montréal, the former Sulpician seigneurie, where the income and personnel of the Seminary and other religious foundations were used to establish the educational, health, social service, and charitable network. This network was an institutional reality when the negotiations leading to the Canadian federation were held. The success of the Catholic Church in resisting the British plan helped determine the constitution of Canada, and enables us to explain why government responsibility for the social programmes by which Canadians define themselves today — health care and subsidized higher education —, as well as those like agriculture which were of great importance earlier, lies with the provinces. At the time when the principles of the Confederation were being worked out :

Avec ses 78 % de francophones et ces 85 % de catholiques, la province de Québec est la seule majoritairement française et catholique et c’est en partie pour protéger ces caractères particuliers que les pères de la Confédération ont accepté une union fédérative plutôt que législative et qu’ils ont confié les questions locales (droit civil, éducation, bien-être…) aux administrations provinciales.[206]

It is the central government which has specifically limited powers in the Act which established the Confederation. Section 91 of the British North America Act enumerates the powers possessed by the Federal Government, the rest belong to the provinces. Commenting on Sections 92 to 95, specifying the far more extensive jurisdiction of the provinces, a history of Québec puts it :

The areas placed under provincial jurisdiction were to a large extent those in which the church was interested : education, public health, property and civil rights — in short, the areas that most affected people’s daily lives.[207]

Thus these sectors were removed from the control of the English-speaking majority in the Federal Parliament.[208]

This was not, however, the only problem for Québec Catholicism : “[…] because the Québec government was itself subject to pressures from Montréal’s powerful English-Canadian élite, the church had to ensure an arms-length relationship vis-à-vis the provincial state.”[209] Here the unhappy wisdom of Bérulle, and the prudence of the post-Conquest bishops and of the Sulpician Seminary showed the way. Not only despite, but even on the basis of, his Ultramontane ideology Bishop Bourget did in fact respect the rights of the Protestant and Anglophone minority in Québec : sacerdotal possession of the two swords did not pertain “nunc ad praxim” to the home front even if the Zouaves marched vainly off to defend the Papal States. Significantly, in conflicts with the civil power, Rome herself urged moderation, having repeatedly to send emissaries to restrain those in the Québec episcopate who wanted confrontation.[210] The entry of Québec into Confederation could not have taken place without the support of the Québec Catholic bishops, who certainly had several motives. These included their perpetual fear of absorption by the United States, with the consequent separation of church and state, and their hope for the expansion of Catholic life within a majority French and Catholic province.[211] To prevent what they feared, and to gain what they hoped, they had to allow the constitutional protection of the English and Protestant minority. Thus, with Catholic support, the Fathers of Confederation protected the Catholic educational system of the Francophone majority simultaneously with that of Protestant minority by Section 93.3 of the British North America Act.[212] The two religious groups were regarded as if they were identical with the two linguistic communities. Ultramontane ideology was not invoked to create a totalitarian “near-theocracy in Québec” but rather “in order to maintain the autonomy of the public space.” The alliance between the church and the state enabled the Québec Francophone Catholics to make this into a sphere in which they at home ; they were maîtres chez nous.[213]

The political theology of the Québec episcopate was made explicit in pastoral letters, manuals, and courses which appeared from 1875 until the beginning of the next century. The church is a perfect society, i.e. complete in herself. She is distinct from and independent of the state and superior to it. She uses the secular power to her superior ends but, crucially, she does so indirectly. Despite their high ecclesiology, the bishops did not assert an “augustinisme politique” ; the power of the church could not be exercised directly. The church could and should create her own space from which the state must be excluded ; indeed, she had a right to use the resources provided by the state to do this. In order to protect this relation, she cooperated first with the British and then with Canadian governments and parties to prevent an American form of the separation of church and state occurring either by invasion from the south or by liberal subversion from within. When all was said and done, however, the juridical independence of the state must be recognised. Indeed, the bishops discovered that when they tried to manipulate the government too forcefully and crudely, they suffered defeat, and not the least of the reasons for these defeats was dissension both within the church and within French Canadian society.[214] The lessons about how to work with the British learned during the first decades of the Conquest, for which the Gallican tendencies of the church in general and of the Sulpicians in particular made them adept, had from time to time to be relearned during the decades of Ultramontane triumphalism.

From the beginning of the Confederation of 1867, the Catholic Church in Québec possessed human and financial resources superior to those of the Provincial government and, until the collapse of the identification between church and society in Francophone Québec, the Catholic Church was without doubt the largest employer in the Province.[215] The limit of the church’s capacity to maintain this regime lay in the facts, both, on the one hand, that economic forces, technological developments, and government decisions were ultimately beyond her control, and, on the other hand, that, given the enormity of the task she set herself, her resources could never be sufficient. We may compare this to the internal weakness which Descimon tells us could not escape the Catholic royalists of Bérulle’s time : “Louis XIII n’y croyait en rien.”[216] The Catholic Church in Québec succeeded remarkably with a Berullean programme for a very long period. Its influence in daily life at the time of Confederation was in essentials sustained throughout the first third of the twentieth century.[217] After this, internal division, and even more, the inadequacy of her enormous means to the always ever larger and changing needs in the areas of her responsibility, show the approaching end of the regime[218] — it is worth noting that the Provincial government which assumed the responsibilities it once left to the church now finds itself in the same situation.

Success and weakness were intertwined. The astonishing manifestations of her political and social power in the second third of the twentieth century conceal these, but underneath the apparent triumph the church was losing the perpetual battle to recruit the enormous numbers of priests and religious she required.[219] It did not help both that the principles, character, and much of the content of seminary education had not changed in 400 years,[220] and, that, probably as a result, she could not imagine another programme than more and more intensive clericalization of the church and of the social services it provided. The limits of Bérulle’s revolution, of Olier’s programme, and of theology governed by the needs of the priesthood had been reached. As Fernand Ouellet puts it :

The Quiet Revolution, which led to the declericalization of Québec society and renovated its intellectual infrastructures, was not a guaranteed success, even in 1960. If the clergy had not suffered from internal weaknesses, the transition would have taken much longer than two decades. One should not forget that the number of clerics was at its height in 1961 […] with one priest for every five hundred faithful and one religious for less than every hundred Catholics. Who would have predicted that in under twenty years these numbers would collapse faster than anywhere else ?[221]

Far more important weaknesses than the problem of resources, problems which now touch the attachment of French Canadians to the church, emerged.[222] These may demonstrate, and the Second Vatican Council seems to indicate, that the theology and spirituality of the French School which moved so many of the founders of New France have come to the end of their power to make a modern church, though the evidences of its great success define the landscape of Québec. The Augustinianisms confected in seventeenth-century France are showing their age — and not only those composed by the dévots et dévotes. Postmodernism in contemporary philosophy presupposes that we are at last also beyond Descartes.