MERLAC, ANDRÉ-LOUIS DE, a young priest whom Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*] brought from France in 1688 and made his vicar-general (grand vicaire); fl. 1667–98.
On 9 Feb. 1690 the bishop appointed Merlac canon and precentor or “chief cantor” – whose function, according to Langevin, was “the supervision of the chanting, ceremonies, and the external aspects of worship” – of the chapter of the Quebec cathedral. The chapter had been established by Laval in 1684 and the first precentor had been Jean Dudouyt. Because of the initial opposition of the other canons he was not installed as canon until 29 Aug. 1692.
In 1690 Merlac replaced Louis Ango* Des Maizerets as chaplain or superior of the Hospitallers, the nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu. In this position he was unpopular and failed to justify the bishop’s trust in him. In 1694, after his departure, the chronicler of Les Annales expressed relief and thanked God “for having spared us the misfortunes that might have arisen, had the depravity of this wretched priest been able to lead astray some of our nuns, who in their simpleness listened to what he had to tell in order to captivate their minds and ruin them. With this in mind, the nuns put down in writing some atrocious remarks that he had made to them, so that the Mother Superior found herself obliged to ask Monsignor the Bishop to remove this undignified minister from this community.” The bishop agreed and Merlac left for France on 2 Oct. 1694. Joseph de La Colombière* was appointed superior of the Hospitallers de l’Hôtel-Dieu in the same year.
Merlac was accused by Glandelet*, syndic of the chapter of Quebec and an opponent of Mgr de Saint-Vallier, of distributing “certain suspect and dangerous books touching the new doctrine” (Jansenism). Examples were listed and Merlac was further accused of questioning certain points of Catholic doctrine. An editorial footnote in Les Annales connects Merlac with a reference in Laval’s letter of 1696 to Saint-Vallier in which the latter is reproached for having taken away from the seminary priests their parochial duties and having entrusted these to priests whose very bad conduct Saint-Vallier could not have ignored.
In assessing this criticism it must be noted that Merlac’s unpopularity also arose from the fact that he was a protégé of Mgr de Saint-Vallier and that he was caught in the various disputes between the bishop on the one hand and the chapter and the Seminary of Quebec on the other.
In 1698 Merlac was living in France. He did not return to Canada.
ASQ, Chapitre, 31, Mémoire de Glandelet, 1690, “Prétentions de Mgr de Québec sur le Séminaire de Québec . . . ,” 9, 57–59, et passim; Lettres, O23, pp.13, 19, et passim. Juchereau, Annales (Jamet). Jug. et délib., III, 747–49, 754, 756., Auguste Gosselin, L’Église du Canada depuis Monseigneur de Laval jusqu’à la conquête (3v., Québec, 1911–14), I, 51, 55, 124; Henri de Bernières, premier curé de Québec (Les Normands au Canada, Québec, 1902), 137–41. Edmond Langevin, Notice biographique sur François de Laval de Montmorency, 1er évêque de Québec (Montréal, 1874), 193, “Notes historiques sur le chapitre de la cathédrale de Québec, 1684–1794.”