FORNEL, JOACHIM, priest, canon, promoter and then judge of the Officiality; b. 17 March 1697 at Quebec, son of Jean Fornel, merchant, and Anne-Thérèse Levasseur; d. sometime after 1753 in France.
Joachim, the older brother of the merchant Louis Fornel, entered the Petit Séminaire of Quebec on 14 July 1712, “at 15 years of age,” say the annals of the institution, as “a student in the fourth form.” He received the tonsure from Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*] on 4 Oct. 1717 and was ordained a priest on 18 Aug. 1720. On the day after his ordination Abbé Fornel was named parish priest at Ancienne-Lorette. He returned to Quebec in 1724 to join the chapter on 4 January, and on 14 October he became promoter of the Officiality of the diocese.
In 1726 Bishop Saint-Vallier, who obviously appreciated his abilities, gave him the task of restoring order in the parish of Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), which was served by the Recollets of the province of Brittany [see Bénin Le Dorz*]. Although Fornel was invested with a vicar general’s powers, the governor, Saint-Ovide [Monbeton], refused to receive him, since he was satisfied with the Recollets and considered the accusations against them unfounded. The bishop’s delegate did not insist, but instead of returning to Quebec he decided to go to France. At the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères in Paris, where he stayed, Joachim Fornel made an excellent impression. The superiors consequently recommended to their confrères of the seminary of Quebec that they make use of him, as of other equally gifted Canadians, “to give lectures on religion” to the seminarists. “It is altogether likely,” wrote the directors in Paris, “that they would be delighted to do so, since they retain a store of affection and gratitude for a house that has educated them and brought them up.”
Joachim Fornel did indeed return to the seminary of Quebec in 1727, but it was to support a faction there against the new superior, Jean Lyon de Saint-Ferréol. From that time on, until his final departure for France in 1742, the irrepressible canon would be involved in all the disputes which were to trouble the church of Quebec. He had, moreover, early given signs of his taste for wrangling. In 1719, when he was still only a minor cleric, he had ventured to send a letter to the Jansenist monk Georges-François Poulet*, whom the bishop had had expelled from the diocese the preceding year. In it he denounced and railed at the Jesuits: for their relentless opposition to the secular clergy (which they accused “of not declaring in favour of the constitution [Unigenitus]”), for the ethics “of the most abominable sort” which they allowed to be taught in their Quebec college, and for the little zeal they showed in “condemning after the Pope their Chinese superstitions.” At the time of the redistribution of the parish districts in 1721 Fornel, who had just taken charge of Ancienne-Lorette, protested in a petition to the council of Marine the boundaries assigned to his parish. Indeed he had some reason to complain, and in 1727 his successor, Louis Chevalier, had the ruling modified.
Fornel’s opposition to Lyon de Saint-Ferréol’s superiorship as well as certain addresses he made to nuns against the bull Unigenitus, decidedly his pet aversion, attracted the attention of the authorities to him again. Governor Charles de Beauharnois, whom his early conduct had strongly antagonized, did not hesitate to write to the minister of Marine, Maurepas, that such a man was “a plague in a country as sound as this one.” His was not, however, the feeling of the members of the chapter, for in 1728 they trusted Fornel to go to France and make known Bishop Saint-Vallier’s death and the circumstances surrounding his burial [see Étienne Boullard*; Claude-Thomas Dupuy*; Eustache Chartier de Lotbinière], and also justify the chapter’s conduct. Upon his return to Canada in 1729 Joachim Fornel threw himself anew into controversies, to the great despair of the coadjutor, Dosquet*. Together with his colleague Joseph-Thierry Hazeur, he upheld the cause of the parish priests named for life by the chapter during the vacancy of the see of Quebec, whom the bishop was asking to resign; he rebelled against the dean, Louis Bertrand* de Latour, whose chief fault, in his eyes, was not being a Canadian. Fornel succeeded, however, only in bringing upon himself from the minister a lettre de cachet in 1730 authorizing the coadjutor to send him to France to explain his actions. The threat produced an effect, and Bishop Dosquet esteemed it preferable not to use the court’s order. “I am not surprised,” noted the representative of the chapter in France, Pierre Hazeur* de L’Orme, to his brother Joseph-Thierry, “that M. Fornel is not as ardent as in the past. . . . He is careful of what he does and says. He is intelligent and will always do well when he wants to.” Furthermore, at Maurepas’s suggestion the bishop offered Fornel in 1732 the office of parish priest of Saint-Pierre-de-la-Rivière-du-Sud (Saint-Pierre-Montmagny), which he accepted. Two years later he was also serving as parish priest of Saint-Thomas (Montmagny). Fornel held these two offices until 1736, although he returned regularly to Quebec to attend the meetings of the chapter. His confrères still esteemed him and appointed him secretary of the chapter on 2 Sept. 1740 and judge of the Officiality on 28 November. They also seem to have had particular appreciation for his oratorical gift, since they had asked him to pronounce Bishop Saint-Vallier’s funeral oration in January 1728, and he gave one for Bishop Lauberivière [Pourroy*] on 26 Aug. 1740. But a reading of these two laborious exercises tempts one, like Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu, to consider their author a “great talker” and “a man who writes volumes to say trifling things.”
In 1742 three canons, Pierre de Gannes de Falaise, Jean-Baptiste Gosselin, and Joachim Fornel, asked permission of the chapter to go to France to recover their health. Fornel sailed in October of the following year, but without having taken leave of the dean or having obtained his exeat from Bishop Pontbriand [Dubreil]. Deprived of his stipend, he was continually obliged to seek employment. In his discouragement he thought several times of returning to Canada, but each time sickness or war postponed his departure. Finally, at Bishop Pontbriand’s request, he resigned himself to relinquishing his canonry on 24 April 1752; he was replaced by Pierre-Joseph Resche, against whom he had 11 years earlier led an intrigue over the succession to the office of parish priest of Château-Richer. In return he asked the chapter to grant him the title of honorary canon “as a veteran priest and a former canon of more than 25 years’ standing.” When the canons of Quebec had approved his request and decided “that it would be entered in the registry,” Joachim Fornel thanked them for this gesture of kindness towards him in a letter of 13 April 1753. He never returned to Canada.
AAQ, 12 A, Registres d’insinuations B; 12 A, Registres d’insinuations C; 10 B, Registre des délibérations; 11 B, Correspondance, VIII, 42, 43; 1 CB, Vicaires généraux, I, 105; 1 W, Église du Canada, I. ASQ, Lettres, M, 52, 60; T, 60; mss 2; Polygraphie, II, 24, 29; Registre B, 122–31; Séminaire, XIV, 5, no.7. BN, mss, Fr., 20973, ff.133ff. “Lettres et mémoires de l’abbé de L’Isle-Dieu,” APQ Rapport, 1935–36, 330, 331, 338, 339, 340, 370. Caron, “Inventaire de documents,” APQ Rapport, 1940–41, 472; 1941–42. P.-G Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–1760, I, IV. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 239. Gosselin, L’Église du Canada jusqu’à la conquête. P.-G. Roy, Toutes petites choses du régime français (2 sér., Québec, 1944) 2e sér., 58f. (Roy writes that Fornel died in France on 14 May 1769 but provides no source for the statement). Henri Têtu, “Le chapitre de la cathédrale de Québec et ses délégués en France,” BRH, XIII (1907), 301, 302, 304; XIV (1908), 13, 14, 15, 19, 80, 145, 173, 174, 202; XV (1909), 14, 42, 69; XVI (1910), 141, 162, 324, 361.