Vatican puts bishops on alert over heretical Quebec sect

'Army of Mary' still active despite banishment in '80s

Ottawa Citizen, May 5, 2000
By Bob Harvey

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.


To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.