BÉDARD, JEAN-CHARLES, Roman Catholic priest and Sulpician; b. 4 Nov. 1766 in Charlesbourg, Que., son of Pierre-Stanislas Bédard, a farmer, and Marie-Josephte Thibault; d. 2 July 1825 in Montreal.
Jean-Charles Bédard, the fourth of 13 children, belonged to a respectable family that gained distinction in the judiciary, church, and politics [see Pierre-Stanislas Bédard]. After finishing his studies at Quebec, he was ordained priest on 19 Dec. 1789. The next year, on the advice of Joseph-Octave Plessis, who was then secretary to the bishop of Quebec, he requested admission to the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Montreal. He was made a member on 28 Sept. 1792 and spent the rest of his life there, serving as assistant bursar and bursar. Having also been named curate and master of rituals in the parish of Notre-Dame, he preached regularly and worked in close collaboration with Claude Poncin*, whose biography, as yet unpublished, he wrote. In addition he always took a lively interest in astronomy, physics, and mathematics.
During the final years of his life Bédard suffered greatly from the conflict between his Sulpician colleagues and Jean-Jacques Lartigue*, a Canadian Sulpician who had been appointed auxiliary bishop in Montreal on 21 Jan. 1821 by Archbishop Plessis of Quebec. Anxious to retain their influence in Montreal, the Sulpicians looked very unfavourably on the advent of an auxiliary bishop. When Lartigue took refuge in the Hôtel-Dieu of Montreal after the seminary expelled him in February 1821, Bédard was one of the few Sulpicians to visit him. He tried to intervene between the two sides but only brought upon himself the disapproval of his Sulpician superiors. Thus in June 1824, after much hesitation, he gave to Jean-Henry-Auguste Roux, his superior, and to his colleagues a document entitled “Déclaration et observations . . . au sujet du gouvernement ecclésiastique du district de Montréal,” in which he expressed his opposition to the measures taken by the seminary to block Bishop Lartigue’s installation. He examined in turn what was “permitted,” “fitting,” and “useful” with regard to the ecclesiastical administration of the District of Montreal, refuting along the way objections raised by Augustin Chaboillez, to whom he had previously sent two letters. The Sulpicians reacted strongly to their colleague’s memoir; distressed, Roux protested his favourable sentiments towards Lartigue and Plessis. Both bishops approved of the step taken by Bédard, who in their view was sacrificing himself “for the good cause,” was laying himself open to “many snubs,” and was forcing “his naturally timid disposition to an extraordinary degree by asserting himself so openly” on their behalf. Plessis pressed to have the document, which in his view was excellent, brought to the attention of the authorities in Rome. Bédard agreed only after informing Roux. At the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Paris it was held that in writing it Bédard had committed “a mistake that is inexcusable.”
Overwrought by all these events, after making a final attempt in October 1824 to secure a reconciliation between Lartigue and the seminary, Jean-Charles Bédard died on 2 July 1825, “in as godly a manner as he had lived,” according to Bishop Lartigue.
AAQ, 26 CP, VI: 109. ACAM, 901.137. ANQ-Q, CE1-7, 5 nov. 1766. Arch. du séminaire de Saint-Sulpice (Paris), Circulaires des supérieurs, I, Garnier Mollevault, 19 mars 1826; Saint-Sulpice, dossier III, no.12. ASSM, 24, dossiers 2–3; 27; 49, dossier 25. Allaire, Dictionnaire, 1: 36. [F.-M.] Bibaud, Dictionnaire historique des hommes illustres du Canada et de l’Amérique (Montréal, 1857). Gauthier, Sulpitiana, 168. Louis Bertrand, Bibliothèque sulpicienne ou histoire littéraire de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (3v., Paris, 1900), 2: 62–63. Lemieux, L’établissement de la première prov. eccl., 179–83. Édouard Fabre Surveyer, “Pierre-Stanislas Bédard (1734–1814) et sa famille,” BRH, 59 (1953): 153–56. Léon Pouliot, “L’abbé Jean-Baptiste-Charles Bédard, p.s.s.,” BRH, 44 (1938): 172–73. P.-G. Roy, “Les sept frères Bédard,” BRH, 44: 65–67.