Vatican puts bishops on alert over heretical Quebec sect
‘Army of Mary’ still active despite banishment in ’80s
The Ottawa Citizen
29 January 2001
The Army of Mary has suggested that its founder, Marie-Paule Giguere, is a living reincarnation of the Virgin Mary.
The Vatican’s top doctrinal watchdog says Canadian bishops must take action against a heretical Quebec group that the Catholic Church fears may break away with up to 25,000 members around the world.
In a letter to Bishop Gerald Wiesner, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said the Army of Mary lost its status as a Catholic association in 1987 because of “gravely erroneous” publications that suggested its founder, Marie-Paule Giguere, is a living reincarnation of the Virgin Mary.
Although members of an affiliated group, Les Fils de Marie, are working as priests in Alexandria-Cornwall and Antigonish, N.S., the Army of Mary was banned from all Quebec parishes 13 years ago.
Yet the Army of Mary has continued its activities despite orders from the Vatican and the Archbishop of Quebec, said Cardinal Ratzinger.
“This has been the source of tension and harm, not only in Canada,” he said in his letter.
Cardinal Ratzinger said it may be time for Canadian bishops to warn parishioners that the Army of Mary can no longer be called Catholic.
“At the same time, all activities that are to be undertaken by the dissolved movement are to be discouraged in ecclesiastical settings,” the cardinal said.
Bede Hubbard, associate general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Bishops, said the conference is still discussing the recommendations made by Cardinal Ratzinger in a letter dated Feb. 29.
“The Roman Catholic church is not quite as monolithic as some people might think,” said Mr. Hubbard.
“It moves slowly, and considers the good will and reputation of the people involved, and tries to allow everyone to regain as much of their self-respect and dignity as possible,” he said.
The Army of Mary is based in a large new facility in Lac Etchemin, 60 kilometres southeast of Quebec City, but priests belonging to an affiliated group, Les Fils de Marie, have been ordained by Bishop Eugene LaRocque of Alexandria-Cornwall, and Bishop Colin Campbell of Antigonish, N.S.
Rev. Roch Page, dean of canon law at Ottawa’s Saint Paul University, said Bishop LaRocque and Bishop Campbell have simply made the church’s problems with the Army of Mary worse by ordaining the priests.
In 1997, the Vatican appointed Bishop Gilles Cazabon, of Saint Jerome, as administrator of Les Fils de Marie, the worldwide association of priests, seminarians and brothers associated with the Army of Mary.
Father Page said Bishop Campbell’s ordination of four members of Les Fils de Marie last summer was illegal under the church’s canon law. He said Bishop Campbell should have sought permission for the ordinations from Bishop Cazabon, but refused to do so.
Bishop LaRocque refused to ordain one of the four later ordained by Bishop Campbell, because the man did not have Bishop Cazabon’s approval, said Father Page. The five members of Les Fils de Marie now working in Alexandria-Cornwall parishes were ordained before Bishop Cazabon’s appointment.
Bishop Campbell was not available for comment yesterday.
Bishop Campbell’s ordination of members of Les Fils de Marie also drew the attention of another Vatican watchdog last fall.
Eduardo Cardinal Martinez Somalo, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Sacred Life, wrote to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Sept. 30 to say Les Fils de Marie continue to refuse Vatican directives to obey Bishop Cazabon, in spite of visits from Vatican officials.
Cardinal Martinez Somalo said Pope John Paul II himself had personally confirmed Bishop Cazabon’s authority, and reminded Canadian bishops to refer all matters regarding Les Fils de Marie to Bishop Cazabon.
Father Page said the members of Les Fils de Marie are good priests, and bishops in Canada are desperate to obtain francophone priests, because of their scarcity in today’s Quebec.
But he said Les Fils de Marie were founded by Mme. Giguere, 79, and probably believe the doctrinal errors she teaches.
He said several members of Les Fils de Marie left the Italian diocese where they were ordained rather than publicly renounce Mme. Giguere and her teachings.
The Army of Mary refused to comment yesterday but has claimed in the past to have up to 25,000 members around the world, plus 80 brothers, seminarians and priests in Les Fils de Marie, as well as 80 celibate women who are members of Les Filles de Marie.
Les Filles de Marie also have a convent in Green Valley, in the diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall.
Madame Giguere founded the Army of Mary in Quebec City in 1971, and claims to have been receiving visions from God for 40 years.
Archbishop Maurice Roy of Quebec City granted the Army official church status as a pious association in 1975, but that status was removed in 1987 by his successor, Archbishop Louis-Albert Vachon, after a committee of theologians examined writings by the group and agreed they contain grave errors in doctrine. Yet the 1975 decree granting the Army recognition as a pious association is still on the Army’s Web site.
Father Page represented Archbishop Vachon as the case made its way through the church’s courts in Quebec and Rome. The Vatican twice confirmed Archbishop Vachon’s decision.
Father Page said he expects the current archbishop of Quebec, Maurice Couture, will likely take further disciplinary action against the Army.
Open letter to the paper The Casket
Galileo Galilei – Army of Mary
History repeats itself?
The events that surrounded the condemnation of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), a great pioneer of modern science, by the Catholic Church can shed light on the actions that have recently been taken against the Army of Mary, rejected by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in a Doctrinal Note published on August 15, 2001, after having received a recognitio from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on August 10, 2001. The Note and many other articles related to this event have been published ad nauseam by various medias in the ensuing weeks.
Galileo was condemned by the Church because he wrote a book in which he demonstrated and proved that the Sun was the center of the solar system, that the Earth was a planet gravitating around the Sun and rotating on its axis, that the Milky Way was made up of stars, that Jupiter had moons, etc…
For so many centuries, the Church had put to good use the Aristotelian philosophy to organize its knowledge and understanding of the world in which we live, of human life and even of God and His Revelation. For many, Aristotle, the Greek and pagan philosopher (d. 322 BC) was “infallible”. Among other things Aristotle had held that only perfectly spherical bodies could exist in the heavens and that nothing new could appear there. The “champions” of Aristotle had also stated that the belief in a moving Earth was heretical.
Galileo had the “misfortune” of perfecting the telescope and was able to see that the Moon had craters and mountains, that Jupiter had moons, that there was something bizarre surrounding Saturn. He began to write a book in which he compares the two different systems of representing the sky: Earth centered and Sun centered. This book, which was retitled Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, was published in 1632.
Galileo was summoned to Rome by the Inquisition to stand trial for “grave suspicion of heresy” in 1633. It is sad to note that those who were accusing him of heresy never even bothered to look through his telescope, were not really interested in the facts presented nor were they interested in the Truth; they wanted Galileo silenced. The trial itself was a parody and basic elements of justice were ignored. As a result, Galileo was compelled to abjure on June 22, 1633 and sentenced to life imprisonment, which was commuted to permanent house arrest. The Dialogue was ordered to be burned, and the sentence against him was to be read publicly in every university. He died on January 8, 1642.
The Doctrinal Note published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops describes the Army of Mary, its foundress, its members and me, the writer of this article, as “posing dangers for the Catholic Church in Canada” and “threatening the integrity and unity of the Catholic Faith”.
Only two Bishops did not sign the Doctrinal Note: Bishop Eugene LaRocque of Cornwall, ON, and Bishop Colin Campbell of Antigonish, N.S. It should be noted that they are the only two Canadian bishops to have taken the time to talk with the Foundress, to visit the facilities and to enquire about the activities of the Army of Mary and of its various branches and among others, the Community of the Sons of Mary, the religious community to which I belong. They are the only two bishops also to be courageous enough to publish, in a statement, their comments about the Doctrinal Note. In his statement published in the Casket, on August 22, 2001, Bishop Campbell states: “I have well founded doubts about whether the Army was given the proper forum in recent times to respond to the accusations”.
The truth is this; the Army of Mary has been accused, tried, judged and condemned without any respect for justice and truth. I dare any bishop who has signed the Doctrinal Note and also the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to say when and where the leaders of the Army of Mary have been interrogated, asked to explain or comment on issues or statements that needed clarifications. The answer is simple … it has never been done! How can an investigation be fairly conducted without hearing what the people being accused have to say? The Great Jubilee was celebrated only last year; how is it possible that such an unfair process could still take place today in the Catholic Church? How could an entire episcopal conference with the exception of two members blindly uphold a condemnation that was reached based on such a biased and unfair investigation?
I choose to believe that Truth and Justice will always prevail in the end. For Galileo, Truth and Justice had to wait until 1979, when Pope John Paul II opened an investigation into Galileo’s condemnation. On October 31, 1992, the Papal Commission acknowledged the Vatican’s error and Galileo was rehabilitated. “From the Galileo case, we can draw a lesson which is applicable today in analogous cases which arise in our times and which may arise in the future… it often happens that, beyond two partial points of view which are in contrast, there exists a wider view of things which embraces both and integrates them” (John Paul II, 31 Oct. 1992).
My goal in writing this article is not to create a scandal or to throw dirt on any Church authorities. As Paul publicly pointed out to Peter that something was false in his behavior (Gal 2:11), my goal is to draw attention on the fact that an injustice has been committed in the Catholic Church in Canada and that it does not need to wait three centuries to be rectified. I believe that the Galileo principle mentioned by the Holy Father could be applied to solve this situation in an open, honest and charitable forum.
I feel privileged to have been a member of the Army of Mary for more than 20 years. I also have been a Catholic priest for 14 years. God’s Providence has allowed me to observe with a “very special telescope” some aspects of the wonderful things He still does in the Church and in the world today. To those who, for whatever reason, sincerely believe that “nothing new can appear in the heavens”, I most eagerly extend the invitation to look through the “telescope” and see for themselves. Let me conclude using the words of Galileo. “Facts which at first seem improbable will, even on scant explanation, drop the cloak which has hidden them and stand forth in naked and simple beauty” (Discourses concerning two new sciences,1638).
Fr. Bruno Ruel, O.FF.M
Pastoral Unit of Isle Madame